Crowley-centric merged crossover 'verse with GO background and setting for the SPN Apocalypse storyline, with Crowley as nexus of both. 1987 to 2007; how Crowley survived the aftermath of the Adam Young incident and rose to prominence beside Lilith. Crowley's lasted a long time being what he is - a better class of demon, if there is such a thing - by not letting Hell get to him. By tempting and not being tempted, by standing on neutral ground, by just doing his job.

In this part, general angelic/demonic cast of both Good Omens and Supernatural, specifically Aziraphale, Azazel and Lilith; Crowley/Lilith.

Title from Shakespeare, the original author, and Chiodos, who inspired its usage here with "The Undertaker's Thirst for Revenge is Unquenchable." Several classic rock songs are quoted offhand in here. Whole fic will spoil up to 5x20; footnotes available at the end. If you'd like to see a neater version of this with active footnotes, check out the tags of my journal at Livejournal, thinkatory, and find the tag for All The World's A Stage, or go to Archive of Our Own and search the title there. Cheers!

...And All The World's A Stage

Crowley gave him a sideways look.

"Your people been in touch?" he said.

"No. Yours?"

"No."

"I think they're pretending it didn't happen."

"Mine too, I suppose. That's bureaucracy for you."

"And I think mine are waiting to see what happens next," said Aziraphale.

Crowley nodded. "A breathing space," he said. "A chance to morally re-arm. Get the defenses up. Ready for the big one."

They stood by the pond, watching the ducks scrabble for the bread.

"Sorry?" said Aziraphale. "I thought that was the big one."

"I'm not sure," said Crowley. "Think about it. For my money, the really big one will be all of Us against all of Them."

"What? You mean Heaven and Hell against humanity?"[1]

This would be an appropriate time to note that Crowley hates it when he turns out to be right, usually because it means that something very bad is heading straight towards him.


1987

It takes Hell a week to get its act together and finally pull Crowley back into the Pit. By then they find him alone at his flat, with his houseplants and a new car[2], because Aziraphale had been dragged back to Heaven three days previous. He is the epitome of "resigned to his fate," because Hell is pretty blessed infamous for not forgiving and definitely not forgetting.

The two demons set him down outside of the Malebolge, and Crowley appraises his life so far as they stare him down. All things considered, he had a pretty good run.

Beezlebub stalks out of the Malebolge, dismisses the demons with a wave of his hand, and Crowley's newfound optimism vanishes at seeing the look on his face. He's just a little too pleased with himself. It doesn't bode well. "It izz good to see you, Crowley."

It's worse than smugness. He's cheerful. A good mood on Hell's ranking officers has never meant anything good for Crowley. He tries a smile, gingerly. "Good to be back home," he returns.

"Oh yezz, you have quite a future ahead of you." Beezlebub gestures casually, apparently calling Alistair forward from the shadows. "We will have zzo much fun."

Out of nowhere, he decides that the thing he's going to miss the most are the sunglasses.[3] "Yes, I'm sure," he says, deciding to go down upbeat if nothing else.

Alistair flicks out his razor in the same way anyone else would take out a ballpoint. "About time you got here. I've had some time to think, and I've come up with some really good ones just for you, Crowley."

"Well, I have to say I've always admired your craftsmanship," Crowley says to Alistair.[4]

Beezlebub turns to Alistair, gestures grandly to Crowley as though offering a gift. "He izz yourzz."

It's at this point that Crowley starts looking for an exit in earnest, which turns out to be pointless, because there's someone standing in front of the only door.

"Now, now, what's going on here?"

Even Beezlebub, Hell's most order-obsessed bureaucrat, seems surprised at Azazel's arrival. "I did not exzzpect you to accept my invitation for the entertainment, Azazel."

"But it should be worth a watch," Alistair cuts in with a smirk, and continues to lovingly sharpen his razor.

Azazel's yellow eyes flick from demon to demon, seemingly unimpressed with everyone there, which is really something considering he's dealing with the VIP of the Malebolge. "Yeah, about that. Why?" he asks.

The scrape of Alistair's razor stops at that. Crowley chances a look around and both Beelzebub and Alistair seem as surprised as he is that anyone needs an explanation for why he needs a good torturing. "Becauzze it is due to hizz failure that Our Father is still imprisoned!" Beelzebub points out.

Azazel shrugs at that. "It was a stupid idea anyway," he says, and glances behind him. "Don't you think so, sweetheart?"

"I told you not to call me that, Azazel."

No blessed way. But she's right there and Crowley is glad he's meatsuit-free because otherwise he might have just shit his pants.

"Lilith," Alistair says reverently.[5]

Lilith ignores him, and turns her milky-white gaze on Crowley to appraise him. She abruptly turns to Beezlebub. "Let him go."

Beezlebub glances at Crowley, obviously trying to think fast. "My Lady - "

She smiles. Her smile is the worst thing Crowley's ever seen. "Did you really think you could free Our Father without my help?" she asks Beezlebub.

Beezlebub looks as scared as Crowley is and now Crowley's actually starting to enjoy this. "My Lady, we had no choice. Until now you were trapped so deep - "

Lilith rolls her eyes in nothing short of outright boredom, waves a hand at Beezlebub and Alistair, and they vanish.

"I thought they'd never leave," Azazel says.

Crowley thinks for a moment that there must have been some sort of mistake, as he is most definitely in the wrong company. He wishes he hadn't thought that because the second it flickers across his mind, Lilith is looking at him again.

"It wouldn't have worked," she says delicately, continuing the conversation.

Azazel shrugs. "It could've worked."

"No," Lilith says, a quick glare stopping Azazel from going on. "He needs me. My love needs me to free him. No Antichrist, no cambion; only me."

Azazel sends Crowley a long-suffering look, which is so unbelievably insane of him to have done around Lilith that Crowley isn't quite sure that he got it right until he goes on. "Of course, sweetheart. My Lady," he amends, when Lilith sends him a withering look.

Crowley is really starting to wonder if he's supposed to be there. "Sorry," he says, already sure he's going to regret this, "but any chance of either of you letting me out of here? I have reservations at half past seven, is the thing -"

Lilith pins him to the wall without a gesture, just a look, and walks towards him. "Crowley," she pronounces, touches his face - his real face. "Did you betray us?"

There's only one thing to say to that. "Me? No, I did no such thing. Working in your interests all along. Knew it wouldn't work out."

"It could've worked," Azazel repeats again, with emphasis, and glances away from Lilith, shrugs her off. "It was supposed to happen in America. We lost control of the situation. That's your fault, Crowley."

"Yes, well - " Crowley says quickly, mind scrambling for a good answer to that.

"There's only one plan that matters," Lilith interrupts, her fingers stroking under Crowley's chin. He's trying to think of better last words than Yes, well. "And it is written."

Azazel leans against the wall that Lilith's pinned Crowley against with a single touch. "Let's get to the point. You," he says, pointing at Crowley, "held the angel off. You gave Our Father time to break through. And even though the Antichrist decided to change our plans, the tremors through Hell set our lovely Lady free. Now we're finally in a position to get to it."

Crowley feels very much like he's on the wrong side in a James Bond film. "Sorry?" he says. "Get to what?"

"The End of the World as you know it, of course," Lilith says, syrupy-sweet and far too pleased with herself. She forces him to look her in the face. "And I have work for you."

"Oh, good. Been looking for a new market," Crowley babbles.

She pats his cheek. "But you're mine now. You have to do whatever I say, or I'll give you back to Alistair. Deal?"

He doesn't let himself think twice about that one. "Only fair," he says, nodding.

Azazel looks as though he would laugh if Lilith wasn't just feet away. "Welcome to Sales, kid."

Now that sinks in - Sales - and Lilith presses a kiss to Crowley's cheek. "You'll do just fine," she coos. "I can tell."

You don't argue with Lilith, so he just nods again. Lucky for him, the first five minutes of terror are the worst part.[6]


Still 1987

Upside: Crowley is alive and topside.

Downside: He's in America.

It's not that he minds the States, exactly; it's just that old habits die hard and he rather likes tea, football[7], the food, the complete lack of sun[8], and the iron fist of bureaucracy. It all reminds him very much of home, with the added fun of materialism to boot, but when Lilith tells you to do something, you do it, so the States it is.

Of course, rather than just the occasional deal and overall malingering, he's now a crossroads demon by trade. It's all very inconvenient, it turns out - whenever the customer feels like throwing their soul into the Pit for something that is likely not worth the cost? No matter what hour, Crowley must, of course, be there.

Add in that Lilith is a very... aggressive sales manager, and it all comes off as very Glengarry Glen Ross.

He likes to drive. He has to learn to drive on the opposite side of the road (these madmen, Americans, changing every rule they can think of), but that's worth it for the peace of mind the occasional drive gives him - the illusion that he could flee.

It never strikes him that this is actually a brilliant idea, until midway through an idle drive through LA traffic, Aziraphale appears in his passenger seat.

"Oh dear," he says, fussing with his coat. "I never did get the hang of this sort of thing."

Crowley glances over just to be certain it's actually him and not someone masquerading as him, but even with the new vessel, there's no mistaking the angel. "The Powers That Be haven't clipped your wings, I see. I thought they might have done."

Aziraphale seems unnerved, but Crowley can't blame him. If Heaven is even remotely as vigilant as Hell, they've both been under a lot of pressure. "I must say I was surprised to hear news of you on Earth," the angel says. "I'd supposed you'd be undergoing some terrible fate in the depths of Hell for some time."

"I have friends in low places," Crowley dismisses. It's easy to lie with sunglasses on, and even more so when there's a likelihood of someone listening in.

"Back to the usual, then?" Aziraphale prompts, still very stiff-backed in the comfortable seat. "Temptation? Moral degradation?"

Crowley figures the truth isn't enough to get him into trouble in this case. "Sales, actually. Deals."

"Ah." Crowley knows that tone. That tone is definitely disapproval. "I'm not sure I see a difference."

"It's free will, angel." He sends Aziraphale a look over his sunglasses. "They initiate. We give them what they want."

Aziraphale concedes the point with a nod. "Naturally. I do recall, though, you once telling me that much of the evil on Earth is instigated by humanity itself, and not by Hell's legions? By no means am I saying I agree with this, but you do recall saying that, or the like," he adds hastily.

An angel is fact-checking him. This is a little irritating, especially as it's not likely this is going to lead to anything complimentary. "Couldn't say it better myself. And?"

"These 'deals' are just an appeal to human greed. Of course it's an individual human's choice to sell his or her soul for some sort of gain, but it's not something that they could do without Hell's intervention," Aziraphale points out.

"Yes, obviously," Crowley says, putting on his best bored tone. "I'm sorry, I seem to have missed the point."

He doesn't even have to look at Aziraphale to know the expression he's wearing - this sort of chiding, disappointed look most often seen on schoolteachers' faces when giving a talking-to to promising students. "Just doing your job, as always," the angel says. "You were always very good at it."

Crowley could tell the truth, but he likes being where he is as opposed to where he should be, and besides, he reminds himself, he's just an angel.[9] "The times, they are a-changing," he says, not without irony.

"Yes," Aziraphale says stiffly. "I can tell."

Crowley looks over to give the angel a nonchalant look of disbelief, but he's already left the car. With a sigh, he reaches for the tapes and stuffs one into the tape deck without bothering to look at it.

"Biiiiicycle! Biiiiicycle!" Freddie Mercury croons through the speakers, not at all to his surprise.

He leaves it on. He's growing fond of Queen.

Things really are changing.[10]


1998

Crowley's priority has as always been to stay out of Hell and survive the process, so he keeps looking, but there's no obvious way to get out of Lilith's clutches. He has no choice; he settles in, to pass as one of them and observe and learn what Hell's worst are really up to.

After all, he knows a lot about this Apocalypse stuff, having essentially been in the eye of the storm for the first try at it. Even so, he's having a difficult time placing Lilith's part in the grand scheme. All she seems to be doing is making a lot of deals. He starts wondering if she's trying to fill the Pit with souls that'll make good demons, but no. There are already a lot of bastards in Hell.

He's positive there's an endgame here, but he doesn't see it.

Five years in, Lilith starts dropping in more and more to see him. She gives him holidays, tells him to delegate to the others, and suddenly he's got responsibility. The whole idea puts him off a little, because it starts to sound like a promotion, but all it turns out to mean is that he gets to check out the pretty little girls his fellow sales demons are wearing before they head out the door.

By that time a decade's passed since he last saw Aziraphale[11], he's only making deals with very important people, and Lilith wanders into his house like she owns it.

If Crowley were to be totally honest, which he rarely is, he is not sure what to think. For centuries on end his life hasn't changed much at all, but it's been ten years (practically the blink of a demon's eye, in the scheme of things) and everything has managed to change.

He's becoming fond of scotch. It helps him relax.

It's a scorching summer night in the middle of July and the phrase "hot as Hell" is definitely not applicable, but if it climbs another ten degrees he might let poetic license take over just this once. He blasts the air conditioning and rests comfortably in his lush living room watching television, bored out of his mind.

He's thinking about taking a drive and goes to finish his drink, and that's when Lilith takes a seat on the couch beside him, all blonde and legs and the most evil thing walking the earth.

"I thought you might show up," he says, and sets down his glass.[12]

She takes it for the compliment it's supposed to sound like. "Oh, Crowley," she murmurs. Her fingernails course into his hair, and for a split-second, he lets himself almost enjoy it. "Did you miss me?"

She's been gone for months, making deal after deal while he stays back here handling contracts written in something much worse than blood. He hasn't missed the way his skin (his real skin) crawls when she's always so blessed close, but there's something about her voice. Her voice. Like she learned something from Lucifer when he twisted her into this.

Crowley isn't looking at her. He's lasted a long time being what he is - a better class of demon, if there is such a thing - by not letting Hell get to him. By tempting and not being tempted, by standing on neutral ground, by just doing his job.

The voice of alarm in his head sounds like Aziraphale. He stops, draws back from Lilith's breath against his cheek, and she looks up at him from under her eyelashes, her white eyes cloudy, gaze sharp. "Crowley?"

There's an old refrain playing in his head. He has no choice but to be evil. He is evil. He's a demon.

For some reason that doesn't seem to be enough to convince him that what he's thinking this time isn't very, very bad. "What have you been up to, then?" he asks her, lazily sipping at his scotch.

"You know." Lilith stretches out, rests against his side, still casually touching him. He remembers her touching his face back when she and Azazel freed him, the terror she stoked in him without even trying, but now she's just a fact of life - a terrifying one, but nevertheless. "Deals."

"Yes, I know that much, I handled the paperwork, didn't I?" Aziraphale was right about one thing. His hands feel irreparably dirty every time he passes along another contract. This is what you were created to do. Even so. "Did you have fun?"

She reflects on that. "I picked one myself. A girl," she says after a moment. "She wanted her parents dead because her daddy was a very bad man. Ten years, for that - that's real potential, don't you think? She'll be one of my best, Crowley."

He tries to not think too hard about what happens when the deals are up. "No doubt," he says, non-committal. "You do have an eye for that sort of thing."

She nods, and draws his face down to hers. "I picked you, didn't I?"

He doesn't reply, because there's nothing he can say to that. He's trying to remind himself that she was once human and chose to become this. That she's the absolute prime fucking example of what he finds so horrifying about the free will that Aziraphale seems to so admire in them. He's trying to remind himself that she chose to be this way, like the greedy bastards he capitalizes on, but even he isn't immune to her.

It's really remarkable that Crowley managed to hold out this long, he has to admit. There are whole myths built around the fact that men want to fuck Lilith, at their own risk.

"I think," Lilith muses, in front of him, all repulsive and alluring, "that you may be my favorite."[13]

As might be obvious by now, Crowley's favorite sin is pride. Pride made him keep his Bentley in one piece as it burned, it made him defend the world that he'd become so very good at twisting to Hell's will, it made him become a different sort of demon than he started as just so he could keep on living, proud and a complete and utter bastard.

And pride, it turns out, is what makes him finally fall.

It moves him, pushes him forward just enough to kiss her. She's been waiting for years, more than ready. The sick part is that this isn't Lilith's charms, this isn't a ploy, a cover for him, he really, really wants this, and his skin is still crawling at how wrong it is (how wrong she is) even when her skirt is hiked up around her hips and he can't stop himself.

And then, when she's wrapped around him like a bloody cobra, he lets go completely. Even though she forces him down like he's nothing, though she could rip him into fleshy little pieces as soon as look at him, somehow, that's the best part. The danger, the pain, the blood, the filth, the nothing in her eyes, her kiss, her murmured words; logic says this shouldn't be the best fuck of his life, but it is. No question.

After, Lilith and Crowley lounge on the floor of his living room for some time, comfortably naked in more ways than one; he smokes a cigarette and indulges in listening to her draw out sweet words in that voice of hers, watching her pose at him, and taking part in the two-demon show she's putting on for him.

Funny thing, he thinks, she's the best salesman Hell's got.[14] Then again, she learned from the best.

"I don't know how we could do it without you, Crowley," she says, resting her forehead against his.

"You said it yourself. The deals make themselves," he reminds her.

Lilith tilts her head. "Not these deals."

He raises his eyebrows at her, curious as to what the blessed host that actually means, but just a single look into her eyes, really, reminds him who he's talking to. "I do what I can," he says, false modesty at best.

Much to both their surprise, the phone rings. There's reason to be surprised; the phone hasn't rung in ten years.[15]

She gives him a reproachful look as he goes to stand and fetches his trousers. "It could be business," he tells her.

"It probably isn't," she says, but doesn't move.

He pulls on his trousers and answers the phone. "Yes, what?" he says wearily.

"Why exactly have you put Enochian warding all over your property? Do you know how much trouble I had to go through to find this phone number?" Aziraphale demands. "You've changed it. Twice."

The really surprising thing is Aziraphale is demanding. Then, of course, he realizes that he has Aziraphale on the phone with him after ten years of metaphorical radio silence. Crowley looks at Lilith, still naked on his living room carpet, and then says into the phone, "I'm afraid I can't help you with that."

"Wait," Aziraphale says quickly, before he can even think about hanging up, "please just WAIT."

This is not going to turn out well. "What do you want?"

"Be at the Ritz tomorrow at 5."

"I think you have the wrong number," Crowley says, and hangs up on him.

Lilith releases a light sigh. "You left me for that?"

Oh, he needs a scotch. "So sorry," he says, barely sincere. Before he can think of something else to say to ward her off, she's rising to her feet, approaching him with a smirk, and with a single touch he's in over his head all over again, worse than before.


Still 1998 (the next day, actually)

It takes some effort, but Crowley manages to slither out of Lilith's grasp and get to England again. He hasn't realized how much he's missed it, and it hasn't changed much, but that's really no surprise. The Ritz is still the Ritz, and the English are still very much the English.

Aziraphale, though, is markedly different, he can tell that just by a glance at him as he approaches the table. Crowley supposes he'd be one to talk, wouldn't he, and leaves it alone. "This had better be good. You have no idea what sort of risk I'm taking for this lark," he says to the angel before he even takes a seat. "We don't all get to flit around on a wing and a prayer."

"I would very much like to carry on like this, for old times' sake, but I'm in much the same position, I'm afraid," Aziraphale says, pulling his chair closer to the table. He's stiff and nervous and curt in this way that reminds him of, oh, all the other angels Crowley's met, which shouldn't be unnerving, but it is. "Let's get on with it, shall we?"

"Of course," Crowley says, and lounges back in his chair. "I'm sorry about the Enochian warding, I have to say I wasn't expecting any visits from a friendly angel."

Aziraphale just looks at him for a moment as though he's said something completely idiotic, and that's when Crowley knows for sure that something has definitely changed Up There. "There were Revelation signs in Nebraska recently. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that?"

Ah. He doesn't have a good answer for that. "No," he says honestly.

There's a look in Aziraphale's eye like he really wants to say something else, but he's sticking to some sort of script. Arguably, they both are. "Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure," Crowley retorts, and turns to the approaching waiter to evenly snap, "We're not ready to order yet. Now do you mind clearing out?"

Aziraphale doesn't look away from Crowley, and the strangest part about that is that Crowley finds himself waiting for the angel to chide him, or even tell him off, for being a bastard. Instead he says, "We know that Lilith's free."

"Yes, well-spotted," Crowley says, and is once again very grateful for his sunglasses. "What about her?"

"We don't have much time, you could be a bit more cooperative," Aziraphale says, a touch severely.

"If she's up to something, she hasn't bothered to tell me about it." The really terrible part is that's the truth. Lilith and Azazel might be up to something, but he has no specific details, only hints. Even that's not safe to say aloud; it's never a good idea to underestimate the reach of either demon, from the depths of Hell to agents scattered across the planet.

"Crowley," Aziraphale says in a sort of strained whisper, tightly, urgently. "We had an agreement."

"An arrangement," Crowley corrects. Aziraphale's expression changes, just barely, but he keeps going. "And things have changed, angel."

"I suppose they have. That's all," Aziraphale says abruptly, and stands. "Goodbye, Crowley."

Aziraphale vanishes and Crowley doesn't get the chance to return the sentiment, again, not that he even has the slightest clue what to say. No one notices that his dinner partner has disappeared into thin air, and that, Crowley supposes, is the least of the denials occurring at the Ritz tonight.

He drinks until he has the courage to go home and pretend that none of this happened.


Late 2006

Crowley finds the twenty-first century laughably bleak. In the past, humanity had found refuge from their troubles[16], but if there's ever been proof that things are headed downwards - maybe literally - this century is it.

Admittedly, much of it is the fault of Crowley and his lovely sales team. His job has always been to make humanity more likely to land in Hell's clutches, and from the looks of it, he's apparently very, very good at it. They're practically queueing up to step into the Pit.

He chooses to laugh at the fact because the other option is just too terrible to think on for long.

It's not easy for Crowley to get really, truly drunk, but he can do it if he tries. Lilith is the very definition of languorous, stretched out comfortably on the bed beside him. It's only when he sets down his glass and looks over at her that he sees blood on the sheets, and realizes that the night's entertainment must have gotten a bit out of hand.

"Is that you, pet?" he asks lightly.

She sends him an questioning look, and he nods to the streaks of blood on the sheets between them. She sighs, rolls onto her stomach and considers her bloody fingernails. "Me again," she says, and claps her hands together like a pleased little girl, hardly apologetic.

"Ah." As Lilith idly licks his blood from her perfectly manicured fingernails, Crowley slouches forward with a grunt, because that explains the pinch in his shoulder; she's managed to seriously claw him up again. This is life as Lilith's concubine. "I'll be back in a moment - "

He's just sat up when he feels her power grasp around him, pull him back, and he doesn't resist, involuntarily shuddering as she yanks him closer by his bleeding shoulder. "No need to be so prim, Crowley. By now I think I know how you like me."

Lilith, the first demon, she drinks the blood of children, she tortures, maims and murders for a giggle, and she makes Crowley hate himself for loving her - of everything and everyone here, Above, and Below, he loves her.

They kiss once and then again, his blood still on her lips and her nails sharp against his lower back. There was once a spark of something good in him, but he couldn't find it now if you dared him. He's not sure he would want to.

"Oh, you crazy kids," Azazel says from the doorway, and puts his hands up. "Take your time, I'll be watching Oprah."

Crowley could almost keep it up in Azazel's presence, but the mention of Oprah ends it.[17] He heaves a sigh and moves to his side of the bed, shrugging off an annoyed look from Lilith as she sits up. "What is it?" she demands.

The surprising thing: once he shows his face, it's quickly obvious that Azazel isn't in a good mood. December approaches, but the arrogant glow of the events of the summer - the end of the smug campaign of John Winchester by, rather appropriately, a deal - lasted for the bastard quite a while.

Crowley clears the alcohol out of his system. He'll want to be sober for this one.

Azazel's looking at him. "He needs to go," he says frankly to Lilith.

"Some trousers and I'll be on my way," Crowley concurs, moving to leave the bed, but Lilith grips his wrist.

"No," she says evenly - it echoes with power. He could move, but he really doesn't want to. Azazel is just staring at her. "Talk."

Azazel wears a sour look, which just doesn't look right on his face at all, and Crowley's bored of the whole thing already, so he cuts in. "Unless you're here to deliver John the Baptist's head on a plate, I could really not be bothered to care, so carry on."

There's a pause where he can feel Lilith smiling next to him, and Azazel just says, "I have no idea what you see in him." Crowley supposes flat-out mockery is better than the acerbic bit he'd been trying (those are his lines, after all). Then Azazel's lip curls, and his face darkens as he catches Lilith's gaze. "He isn't breaking."

Playtime is over. Lilith shakes her head, her bloodstained fingers gripping, staining the sheets. "He has to," she retorts.

"He isn't," Azazel snaps off.

The air of the room starts to simmer with the first taste of her real anger, and Crowley is starting to wonder why he chose to stay. "Lilith," he starts, just barely.

She ignores him. "It is written," she spits at Azazel. "If he won't break, then someone else will."

"Sister, you've been saying that for years, you're just looking for the perfect candidate before you start our campaign. Yeah, well, I found him, and he's not breaking," Azazel pronounces.

Candidate. Crowley knows his corporate buzzwords, and this one's been out in the ether for a few years now. He lights up a cigarette and shrugs when Azazel looks at him, taking a drag before he speaks. "There's a sucker born every minute, didn't you know?" he says.

"This is a grown-up situation, Crowley. Stay out of it," Azazel advises, and opens his mouth to go on. Crowley takes the opportunity to interrupt, perhaps unwisely, but he's just that kind of bastard.

"It sounds to me like you're looking for a particular sort of man for... a very important job," he says delicately. "Let me tell you that if, in fact, there is a sucker born every minute, it means that there's a really unfortunate amount of them out there, and any number of particular suckers just waiting for you to take advantage of them. And all they'll need is the right pitch."

Crowley wonders if he's just let his mouth get him in serious trouble, but then Lilith's hand is on his shoulder and she says, her voice pitched just perfectly to make Azazel stand up straight: "The deals sell themselves."

"Yeah, right." Azazel's yellow-eyed glare is set, his teeth on edge in this way that makes Crowley much less hesitant to really, really like the cold, evil bitch curled up against his side. "I'll keep you posted."

Lilith smiles, wide, all teeth and half-laughing as she retorts. "We'll just see who gets there first, won't we?"

For a second, Azazel stares at the two of them, and Crowley imagines he's jealous. Why shouldn't he be? "Of course, my Lady," Azazel says, just barely avoiding scathing in his tone, and leaves.

Once they're definitely alone, Crowley glances over at her casually, as though he planned that whole thing. "There's a reason I have them out searching for the best of the best," he says, "isn't there?"

Lilith's mouth is on him, her teeth grazing his neck, and his grip on the conversation loosens. "There's a reason for everything, Crowley," she murmurs.

He nudges her away with his shoulder, and she looks at him, curiously appalled. He leans in to kiss her again, hard, roughly handling her to get her pinned underneath him, to get her close attention before he says it.

"Tell me everything."

She doesn't. But he knows her now, the way that she lies, and he learns enough. Now he understands.


Spring 2007

It isn't supposed to be like this, when you're all but immortal, when you've lived for millennia. When you've managed to go from being Hell's most wanted to Lilith's right hand in just twenty years, it means that you probably should've at least suspected that the bitch would wind herself around everything in your life and leave no escape.

He's supposed to be smarter than this. He is smarter than this.

It's been twenty years since Crowley's really experienced despair. In the scheme of things that isn't a long time, but he still wishes he couldn't taste it in the back of his throat, like the greasy sizzle of Hell. It reminds him where he came from - despite millions of commendations for turning human souls over to management and all of the power he wields now, he's just another scaly bastard trying to claw his way out of the Pit by any means necessary.[18]

Everything changes after she murmurs half-truths against his skin, preaches to him with the fervor of the faithful, and for the first time in his very long life there are more reasons to stay in a very dangerous situation than there are to run.

Once He's back, He'll put it right. We'll finally get the world we were meant to have, she said. The world we deserve.

It's completely absurd but his hand fumbles on the top of the bottle of scotch when he thinks of Lucifer, in fear but also in jealousy, and that's when he knows it's all gone entirely wrong.

He'd made the mistake of listening to her, of thinking he could set her agenda forward without ever knowing the specifics. He'd sent his girls out to find the best, most desperate souls they could find, challenged them to get them to Hell in five years or less, and dismissed their bitching. All because of a snatch of conversation. All we need is a righteous man, she'd said.

Idiot. He's an idiot.

It isn't about morality. It's the seed of Seth. The lot's always been angel-suit fodder, and Heaven's always gone out of its way to ensure the line won't die off. It figures that John Winchester, who shrugs off Alistair's blade like it's nothing, is literally made of tougher stuff.

There's only one reason that a son of Seth would sit on Alistair's rack this long. It's not about a challenge or even about Azazel's grudge. It's about breaking him, and the first seal along with him.

For the first time in a very long time he considers reaching out to Aziraphale. But it's been ten years since they've spoken, twenty or more since they've had a real conversation. Heaven may not even be paying attention to human affairs anymore; besides his lunch with Aziraphale no one's seen an angel since the Adam Young incident.

He passes a few months, gets a new car, refurbishes the house, buying things even though it won't matter when Lilith and Azazel bring on the end of the world. It's about being comfortable, about casually sauntering alongside the idea of Hell on earth no matter how terrifying it is. Earth's bad enough sometimes without adding Hell on top of it.[19]

One night there's the strangest bloody sensation, like something's broken open, like someone's trepanned his skull and it takes him ten solid minutes for his vision to adjust, to let the body's instincts kick in and the terror to set in. Something's gone very, very wrong.

Just as Crowley starts thinking about getting to his feet - he's been on his hands and knees staring at his oriental rugs in horror since it happened - he hears delicate footsteps down the corridor. He feels Lilith there before he sees her, and is glad he didn't speak before he saw her; she's wearing a nine-year-old girl in a pink flowery dress spattered with blood. It's nothing he hasn't seen before, but it changes the dynamic more than a little bit.

He pulls himself together in that instant. He has to. "So good to see you, pet, I thought you had another week of holiday," he notes mildly.

She touches his face, her hand still damp with blood, and suddenly wraps her arms around his neck. He pulls her into an embrace, into his lap, not yet courageous enough to reject her even if he wanted to. "I have the best news, Crowley, the best news. Can you guess?"

He broke. It's the only possible thing. Could he have felt the rejoicing of Hell from here? "I'm no good at guessing games, darling, you know that," he says. "Now come on, tell me."

"Didn't you feel it? It was wonderful." She presses her cheek to his. "We opened the Gate. We opened the Gate and they're free. I'm so happy, we're all going to be together from now on, one happy family, and once our Father joins us - "

"The Gate," he repeats. He doesn't mean to say it out loud, it just comes out of his mouth because it's never occurred to him. Samuel Colt and his tricks, that was all Aziraphale, but that was a long time ago.

Lilith is too excited to acknowledge his interruption, all but quivering in his lap, he realizes now that he's gone from the blindness of terror to the vivid clarity of horror. "But that's not all," she says, with a wide, toothy smile.

Crowley touches his forehead to hers, puts his hands on her shoulders to calm her. "Tell me," he says quietly.

She leans in and kisses him on the mouth, though he recoils, and smiles beatifically as she says, "We win."

He's still lost. "What do you mean?"

"Azazel is dead and my plan is on its way. It is written, Crowley, it's all happening like it's supposed to. Oh, I'm so happy," she gushes, and kisses him again. "Soon He'll be back!"

He might be one of Hell's worst but he's not a fan of the little girl thing, and gently edges her back. "What happened?" he repeats.

She presses her hand to his forehead, his eyes shut and quiver under his eyelids as he sees the contract, the real one, the terms, the name emblazoned on top. "Dean Winchester," he says slowly, as she withdraws her hand.

Lilith nods. "We don't have John anymore, but we have his little boy. That family's the gift that keeps on giving! It's all going according to plan, all thanks to us." She kisses his cheek.

"Us," Crowley repeats, then it dawns on him. Desperate, righteous men, into Hell in five years or less. This was actually his work. Well then. "Guess He'll thank us when He gets up here, won't He," he says, with all the capitalization but none of the faith.

"He'll thank you," she agrees, beams at him and crawls out of his lap. "Okay! I have to go change and then we can celebrate."

He kisses her cheek. "Hurry back," he says, and a bit of her grownup smirk sneaks into the little girl's face before she vanishes.

He goes to the computer twice, flicks the monitor on, off, on, off, and spends a half hour pacing and calculating the risk of tracking down an angel at a time like this. By the time he's given himself a headache overthinking it all, Lilith is back, ten years older, brunette, terrible and beautiful and alongside him the bringer of the Apocalypse.


[1] Scene from Good Omens pg. 387-340, according to 2006 US Harper edition.

[2] He would have fled outright if he hadn't bought the car. Hell loves cars, but invented keying them.

[3] Really. He liked his sunglasses. No need for them on flat on his back on Alistair's rack, though.

[4] Absurd sarcasm is the last refuge of the seriously damned.

[5] Only a bastard like Alistair would use Lilith's name as a prayer.

[6] After that, you barely notice it anymore.

[7] American football doesn't have enough crowd violence for his taste.

[8] Enough so that his plants were put off by the move, until he reminded them who was in charge.

[9] An angel who he'd known, liked and worked with longer than anyone in Hell, but still an angel.

[10] Literally everything changed thanks to the Antichrist six months ago. Maybe even them.

[11] A curt little conversation over Starbucks coffee, cut off when the angel gets as close to cursing as he's heard in years and vanishes.

[12] Whenever things quiet down, she usually does, like she's got a sense for whenever he might wander off.

[13] Believing a demon when they say anything is generally an idiot's move, but favoritism would neatly explain a lot about the last ten years, namely why he isn't dead or worse.

[14] Even better than him, and he doesn't say that lightly anymore.

[15] Naturally, the angel looking for help from him again. He put up Enochian warding the next day.

[16] In religion, charismatic leaders, arts, and sciences. As with all humans, most caused just as much trouble as they solved.

[17] Oprah has to be one of Aziraphale's. There's even a book club.

[18] Admittedly, a major promotion and an active, albeit bloody, sex life aren't the worst means he could be stuck with.

[19] And don't try to argue it. He's been to Gary, Indiana.