In the Beginning, before the Heavenly Host was torn asunder, there was a Principality named Aziraphale and a Cherub. The Cherub had had a name as well, but it has since been lost, stricken from Creation, ceased to be. How Aziraphale and the Cherub first came to know each other was not important. Perhaps the Cherub had overheard Aziraphale speaking with others of his Choir and had been unable but to interject. Perhaps Aziraphale had come across the Cherub hanging the stars in the sky and had asked, in a tone that suggested he knew he was being a bother, but he couldn't not, if there was anything he might do to help. The point was not how they came to know each other, merely that they did. In time they came to know one another better than any other.

They never spoke of the nature of their relationship, for they had no need to. Words were new and fragile things, and the love between them was tangible. It curled over them like heavenly warmth and shone between them like divine light. The Cherub brought curiosity and Aziraphale brought faith and together they shared in wonder at the Almighty and Her creation.

The Cherub was always asking questions, and Aziraphale loved the questions as dearly as he loved the Cherub himself. But while Aziraphale answered in faith, the Cherub became filled with doubt. He took Aziraphale's hands in his own and said, "Come. There are others of us who have questions too, and we go to the Almighty to beseech answers."

Aziraphale shook his head. "I have my faith and I have you, dearest. I have no need of answers."

"Come with me," the Cherub insisted.

"I cannot follow where you go," Aziraphale said. "Stay."

"I cannot stay here in doubt," replied the Cherub.

They stood at an impasse, neither able to deny their natures nor each other. "Come back to me?" Aziraphale finally asked.

The Cherub smiled with all four of his mouths and pressed his forehead to Aziraphale's. "Always."

He Falls.

He plummets down and down and down, his divinity ripped out from within him. Flames burn at his wings, turning them to dark and ash. A spark leaps from his wings to his mind, consuming his Heavenly name, dancing across his memories. Still he falls. He plunges deep, deep, deep beneath the Earth. His body twist and cracks and shrinks and changes.

He lands, a great wriggling thing upon the ground. He lies there stunned until approached by Lucifer, standing straight and tall. No, not Lucifer anymore. It's the dragon, the rebellious son, the first and First of the Fallen, who pulled the rest down with him, the King of Hell. Satan.

Satan looks upon him, prideful and avaricious. "Rise, Crawley," he Proclaims.

Though he would not have been able to only a moment before, Crawley rises, taking on another new form. Neither an angel nor a serpent, but a demon in human shape. Satan is satisfied. "You will serve me well," he says before walking to the next stunned form on the ground.

Crawley doesn't know if it was an accident or intentional that the second sentence was merely a sentence and not a Proclamation. He does know it was a mistake. Just not one he can take advantage of yet. He waits.

In time he's approached by Beelzebub, Prince of Hell and Dagon, Lord of the Files. "The demon Crawley," Dagon prompts.

"Demon Crawley," Beelzebub says, a faint buzzing underscoring her words. "What do you remember of before?"

Crawley hesitates. From the outside it looks as though he is struggling with his memory. "I remember Eden," he answers after a minute.

"Excellent. The humans should be arriving soon if they aren't there already. Get up there and make some trouble," Beelzebub commands. Dagon dutifully records the assignment in her files. "Make sure you go in disguise. There are angels about."

Crawley obligingly turns back into a serpent before slithering his way to the surface. He hadn't been lying when he said he remembered Eden. He just hadn't been telling the truth either.

Here's what Crawley remembers: he remembers strolling side-by-side in the Garden, taking in the beauty of Creation. He remembers crafting nebula just so to match a pair of eyes. He remembers long conversations about all the wonders that were and those yet-to-come. He remembers laying together basking in love for a timeless eternity. He remembers a request asked and a promise made.

Here's what Crawley remembers: Aziraphale. Just Aziraphale.

Aziraphale is in the Garden as well, Crawley knows that from the first. He curls up in tree branches and drinks in the sight of him and doesn't dare approach. He can't bear to let Aziraphale see what he's become. Not until Adam and Eve are banished from Eden and Crawley realizes that soon it'll be too late. He swore to Aziraphale he'd come back to him, and that's more important than his shame. Aziraphale is more important than anything.

As Aziraphale is standing on the wall of the Garden, watching the humans go, Crawley slithers up alongside him and shifts back to his human-shaped form. He strikes up the conversation casually like he's done countless times before. Aziraphale turns, looks, and… doesn't recognize him. Crawley feels as though he's falling all over again. Aziraphale is looking for him under a face, a name, a feeling of Grace all of which no longer exist, so he looks right at Crawley and doesn't see.

Crawley doesn't tell him. Even if he could force the words out of his throat, Aziraphale would never believe him; he'd think it was some kind of demon trick. Instead he plays at being the affable demon. It isn't hard. He'd already been planning on doing as much in the face of Aziraphale's rejection. This was just a different kind of rejection than he'd been expecting.

Aziraphale reveals he's given the flaming sword bestowed upon him by God away to the mortals as they were being kicked to the curb by that very same God. Then rain started falling, and Aziraphale reached out a wing to cover Crawley, a demon and someone he believed he'd only just met. Both actions were so unexpected and so perfectly Aziraphale it made Crawley feel like crying. Then Aziraphale left, and he may have done just that, just a little.

Crawley never meant to Fall. He doesn't have any memories from Before that aren't connected to Aziraphale, but there's enough tied up in those to be sure of that much at least. He never meant to Fall. He only ever asked questions. What was so wrong with that? He hadn't been questioning the Almighty, he had just wanted to understand. It's all just be a bunch of arbitrary rules as far as he can tell.

So he's not exactly enthused when he hears God had gone to Moses and handed down more arbitrary rules to follow. Still he sits and listens to them all anyway, because even though he's not enthused about it, Aziraphale is. He's so pleased things are being made clearer for the humans, sure that it'll be easier for them to do right now that they know what they should and shouldn't do. Crawley refrains from pointing out that was the whole point of the apple in the first place. He sits and lets Aziraphale continue his excited ramble about the Commandments. Because Aziraphale is enthused and engaged, and the dead look in the back of his eyes is finally disappearing.

Crawley can still picture Aziraphale's haunted expression during the Plagues like a vivid stain in his mind. He'd sat next to him behind a doorway painted in lamb's blood and watched that expression all night, wishing he could wrap him up in four fiery wings and hold him safe inside a cocoon of love. But this isn't Heaven where love can be a solid thing of light and warmth, and Crawley only has the two wings now, dismal things the color of ashes. Even if he had tried, Aziraphale would have only pushed him away. Instead he sits here now and listens and lets Aziraphale bask in the surety of his faith.

One of God's Commandments – stupid arbitrary rules – is to have no other gods before Him. Crawley watches Aziraphale, feeling himself full to bursting just at the sight of him happy, and thinks, Ah yes, that would explain it.

Aziraphale finally asks him about it a century or three after the thing with Moses. They're in Anatolia – Crawley was supposed to be passing through and then popping off to Japan, but Aziraphale apparently has business in the Hittite Empire, so Japan can wait. They're both tipsy, but not yet drunk when Aziraphale says, "Can I ask you a personal question?"

Crawley quirks an eyebrow upward because "you have all of me" is the kind of thing to send Aziraphale scurrying away, no matter how true it is.

"Well not a personal personal question," Aziraphale corrects. "More of a general question about demons really. I just thought you might take is personally."

"You've got me curious now," Crawley says. "What's this general personal question?"

Aziraphale looks down at his goblet, his finger ringing the edge of it. "I wanted to know… that is, do demons remember their time as angels?"

Crawley's heart nearly stops. Not that it would matter much if it did, but it's the principle. "Why do you want to know?"

"I've been rude, oh I'm sorry. Forget I asked," he stammers.

"Aziraphale," Crawley says firmly, and after a moment Aziraphale looks up at him. "It's fine, really, I just… why do you want to know?"

Aziraphale's lips press together. "Before The Great War happened I had a… friend."

"A friend." Crawley echoes.

"No, that makes it sound so small. He was my, my… my best friend."

Crawley lips curl up. The words should still be too small, but Aziraphale's stammering sincerity makes them perfect. "Your best friend, then. What about him?" He doesn't let himself hope. It happens anyway.

"Well, shortly before the war he went and joined with what turned out to be the wrong side. I wasn't there when it happened, but I know he Fell. So of course he couldn't come back to Heaven, but I've been on Earth for over twenty-five hundred years now, and I've not seen him once even though he promised, he swore to me that…"

"Angel." Crawley swallows. Aziraphale's eyes are closed, and his lashes are soaked in tears, and Crawley thinks, Now, it has to be now. "Aziraphale, I-"

Aziraphale's eyes snap back open. He smiles, and it's the most unconvincing thing Crawley has ever seen. "I'm being ridiculous. He Fell, so he's a demon now. He's wouldn't be the same as he was before, even if he did remember. Even if he were here right now, it wouldn't… it wouldn't matter."

Crawley's heart does stop then and falls completely out of him. It wouldn't matter. Well then. That's that isn't it? Except Aziraphale still looks broken, and his heart climbs right back up inside his chest to demand he fix it.

"It depends on the demon," Crawley says. "How much they remember from Before, that is. I'm pretty sure Satan actually remembers everything. He's definitely the only one who still knows his old name. Most of the rest of us just have scraps and pieces. I" – loved you, ardently, completely, passionately, and still do – "worked on the stars some. Then there are some demons that wouldn't even know they used to be angels if you didn't tell them."

He pauses there, but he can tell it's not enough. "I'm sure if your best friend remembered you he'd be here. Right now even," he adds, because he's a pathetic longing thing really. "Who wouldn't want to come back to you if they could?"

Aziraphale's lips twitch like he thinks Crawley is joking. He isn't, but it's better that Aziraphale thinks he is. "Thank you, my dear. You really are very nice."

That, out of everything, is what shatters him. "I'm not nice. I'm a demon." He spits the last word out. It wouldn't matter. He downs the rest of his wine in one gulp and stands up. "See you around, angel."

Crawley never meant to Fall, but the truth is she's not entirely unique in that. Technically in the beginning none of them meant to Fall, since none of them knew that was a possibility. But even setting that aside, Crawley's not the only one. What's different about Crawley is even after Falling and having time to get used to being Fallen, she still doesn't want to be a demon. She just doesn't have much of a choice. Besides which, she doesn't like any of the other options better.

She could be an angel again – well, no she can't, that's the point, but hypothetically. Honestly though, she tried the angel thing once before already, it hadn't worked out too great for her, and she's only taken a dimmer view of that whole lot since then. Still, if she could be an angel again, she supposes she would, for Aziraphale's sake. It's not as though she likes the idea any worse than being a demon. Maybe a little worse; Hell might be terrible, but there's something to be said for demons and their honesty and consistency of purpose.

If not angel nor demon, then that only leaves human, and they are her favorite of the bunch. Humans are just so clever and creative and as a group they have an infinite capacity for just about everything. That doesn't mean Crawley actually wants to be one of them. She has no interest in mortality, immortal soul or no, and that's not to mention the lack of occult powers. Aziraphale might be more inclined to bend the rules for a human than a demon, but the two of them could never be equal like that, so it's right out.

What she really wants to be is something new entirely. Seeing as that's even less likely than her turning human or back into an angel, she supposes she stuck being a demon. Still, if she has to be a demon, then she's going to be her own kind of demon. Granted, she's been doing that since the beginning really, but, well… it's about that honesty of purpose, isn't it? If she isn't going to be Hell's kind of demon, not any more than she has to be to keep herself in one piece, then she can't go around using the name Hell gave her. Simple as that.

Crawley to Crowley isn't a big change, just a vowel shift, but it's not about the magnitude of the change, but the fact of it. Crowley can tell Aziraphale doesn't get it, but in fairness she doesn't really explain, and they're both a bit distracted at the time. It's alright, she didn't do it for Aziraphale anyway; she did it for herself.

Crowley has always asked questions, since the Beginning. He doesn't remember, but he thinks even before he met Aziraphale, he must have been asking. Whenever he had asked questions Before, Aziraphale had always discussed them with him. After, Aziraphale refused to do so, instead toting Heaven's party line, insisting it was all for a reason and part of the plan and ineffable. But even as he was shutting Crowley down, he still listened. So Crowley kept asking.

Demons don't sleep as a general rule. Crowley has very little regard for any sort of rules, however, and sleeps on the regular anyway.

While demons don't sleep, they can't dream; they simply aren't built that way. But, once again, Crowley doesn't let that stop him. He doesn't dream like humans dream, randomly firing neurons putting together nonsensical stories. Instead his dreams are vivid memories playing out in his head. It's almost like living through the moment all over again.

When Crowley dreams, he dreams of Aziraphale. Sometimes of their times together on Earth, but more often he dreams of Heaven, when Aziraphale loved him back. They're a respite for his soul, or whatever his demonic equivalent is, these brief relived moments. But he always wakes up again, because as much as he loves an Aziraphale who loves him back, he prefers the Aziraphale of the waking world who can continue to grow and change and surprise him.

Until 1862, when Aziraphale denies Crowley the one real thing he's ever asked of him. When Aziraphale calls their relationship fraternizing and tells Crowley he doesn't need him. Aziraphale storms off, and Crowley is just so tired. Tired of hoping, of longing, of waiting and waiting and waiting. He goes home, and goes to sleep.

In 1933 Crowley wakes up, goes to the bathroom, buys a car, and sits in the new car across the street from the bookshop for two hours. Aziraphale passes by the front window once. He looks happy.

Crowley goes back to sleep.

Crowley wakes up again in 1940 to find the Germans have taken to bombing London. Since he doesn't much fancy being discorporated in his sleep, Crowley figures he's stuck awake until he can sort this mess out. (Part of him knows he doesn't have to stay in London. The humans' "world" war doesn't actually span the entire globe, and if nothing else no one would drop a bomb on him if he popped off to the moon to nap until everything blows over. The trouble is even if Crowley isn't in London, Aziraphale still will be. And maybe Aziraphale can take care of himself, his bookshop is still in London too, and the Globe, and all of it. Even ruddy St. James's Park. Crowley is just going to have to stay awake and sort everything out.)

He joins up with British Intelligence, figuring that's the quickest way to sort things out without resorting to a lot of very large miracles he would have to explain to Hell later. He's not entirely sure how he's going to explain being a part of British Intelligence, but he's sure he can come up with some sort of lie. Or maybe he'll just go back to sleep and hope they keep ignoring him. The point is, he joins British Intelligence, and that's how he ends up hot-footing it across consecrated ground to rescue Aziraphale from a group of Nazi spies. He saves the books too, because he knows Aziraphale is going to forget to, and saving his stupid books is part of the reason Crowley even stayed awake in the first place.

"Lift home?" Crowley offers, painfully casual like their last meeting never happened, and miraculously Aziraphale accepts. It's the best miracle that's happened all evening, specifically because it's not a miracle miracle brought about by occult powers, but a mundane miracle caused by people, or a person-shaped being. Those kind are much more rare in Crowley's experience.

The careless offer and the swaggering away as though he's not waiting on tenterhooks for the answer are the limit of Crowley's bravado, so the ride home is quiet. That is, if one discounts Aziraphale's litany of complaints and terror.

Crowley pulls up to the sidewalk in front of the bookshop. He doesn't turn the car off. He doesn't look at Aziraphale. He doesn't breathe, but it's not as though he needs to do that anyway.

"Well that was more terrifying than the Nazis and the bombs combined," Aziraphale says.

Crowley's lips twitch. He doesn't say anything.

Aziraphale huffs. "Does this mean you're done with your little nap, dear?"

Crowley sputters, completely wrong-footed by this conversation. Aziraphale was supposed to have left as soon as they arrived, but instead he's sitting in the car asking after Crowley's sleeping habits, which he shouldn't even know anything about in the first place. "Who said anything about me napping?"

"Certainly not you," Aziraphale replies primly. "I had to figure it out for myself."

"How?" Crowley says. He's afraid to ask why.

"I stopped by your flat after about a year," Aziraphale answers.

"You stopped by my flat?" His voice has gone all funny and high-pitched.

"I was worried," Aziraphale says, an explosion of emotion and concern that sounds remarkably like I gave it away to Crowley. "You have me meet you so you can ask me to get you, well you know what, and then suddenly you disappear completely. What was I meant to think?"

"You weren't meant to think about me at all," Crowley says.

Aziraphale gives him a look that states in no uncertain terms that that was the most profoundly stupid thing Crowley has ever said, and Aziraphale is being incredibly gracious in overlooking it. "You haven't answered my question: are you done with your nap or not? Only it's a bit much having to do your paperwork on top of my own."

"My paperwork."

"You were asleep for nearly eighty years. I know how upset Heaven would be with me if I got that far behind; I can only imagine what Hell would have done to you. I haven't been doing any actual temptations mind, but I know you like to take credit for the things the humans do themselves, so I've just been doing that," Aziraphale explains.

Crowley finally lets himself look. Aziraphale is looking at him as mildly pleasant and affable as ever, and it's so much more than Crowley had been expecting. Even after everything, Aziraphale is always so much more than Crowley expects. He turns the car off. "Yeah, angel. I'm done sleeping."

Aziraphale brightens, and the whole world brightens with him. Crowley's whole world does anyway. "Oh, good! Do come in; I've a number of excellent vintages I've been saving up."

The thing of it is, Crowley does mean to tell him the truth eventually. Crowley's just waiting for the right moment to do it. A moment when Aziraphale is liable to believe him rather than dismiss it as some sort of demonic trick, and won't be too angry about Crowley keeping the truth from him for so long. Crowley really does have the best of intentions, truly. The trouble is, while the road to Hell might not be paved with good intentions, they really do bugger all by themselves.

Aziraphale chats happily with a couple that had walked up to them on their park bench – apparently the man and Aziraphale go to the same barber – while Crowley studiously ignores them. He glares at a duck, silently broadcasting his intentions to kick the thing if it comes begging for bread. Not that he would, there's no real enjoyment for him in kicking animals and it's certainly not worth Aziraphale potentially deciding to walk off in a huff, but the duck doesn't know that. Finally Aziraphale bids goodbye to the couple, waving as they depart. "He's a nice young man, isn't he?" he remarks to Crowley.

Crowley glances back at the couple to confirm, and yes, they're both seventy if they're a day. "Suppose so," Crowley agrees.

"And the two of them do seem happy together, don't they?" Aziraphale continues. Crowley makes a noncommittal sound of vague agreement. "Helen is his second wife, you know."

"The first one leave him or has he got the both of them at once?" Crowley asks disinterestedly. The duck has rounded up some of its duck friends now and they look ready to make a move.

"No, his first wife died, back when they were both quite young, actually. He met Helen and got married about ten years after Susan's death. He's told me that he loves them both equally as well." He pauses. Crowley wonders how angry Aziraphale would be really if he kicked a few ducks. Not hard, just firm enough to make them bugger off. "What do you think about that, my dear?"

"What do I think about some bloke getting remarried?" Crowley asks, blinking at Aziraphale in confusion.

"Well, yes," Aziraphale says. And the thing of it is, he looks really, properly distressed over the whole thing. "You don't think he's being unfair to Helen, or unfaithful to Susan?"

Crowley sighs. He reaches next to him where a bag full of breadcrumbs hadn't been sitting a moment ago and tosses it to the ducks – horribly bad for ducks bread is; it's really very evil of him. Sometimes Aziraphale gets caught up on the strangest things. "It's fine, angel. Look Helen knows he was married before, yeah? And she still decided to marry him anyway, so I don't see how it can be unfair to her. And for Sarah-"

"Susan," Aziraphale corrects.

"Susan, then. You said he's happy with his wife now right? So either Susan would be happy that he can be happy even after she's gone, or else she feels like he betrayed her in which case she never loved him all that much to begin with anyway. Course, even if she is happy for him, it could get awkward if they all end up in Heaven," Crowley muses. "On the other hand, if he likes them both, no reason the two of them shouldn't hit it off with each other as well. They could form a nice little triad."

Aziraphale chokes. Crowley raises an eyebrow at him. "Oh come on now, angel. I know you're not that prudish." He'd enjoyed Rome much too much to be bothered by the idea of a three-way.

"It's not that. It's only… never mind," Aziraphale says. "I'm sure you're right. Susan would want him to be happy." He nods firmly to himself.

"Right. Glad that's sorted." Even if Crowley still has no idea what exactly has been sorted. "Lunch?"

Aziraphale smiles at him. "That sounds lovely."

"But what do you think?" Aziraphale asks, patting at his – or rather Brother Francis's – sideburns.

"If you're asking if they look ridiculous, then yes, obviously. The whole ensemble looks ridiculous." This late at night Crowley allows herself to sprawl slightly more than Nanny Ashtoreth would normally, but she keeps the Scottish brogue up.

"Well, I can hardly go around changing everything. I was just thinking I might take steps to make the hair a bit more manageable," Aziraphale says, then looks at her expectantly. Though Crowley really has no idea what he's expecting.

Crowley doesn't remember what she used to look like Before, other than a notion it was cherubic – in a rather more literal sense than the word is usually taken to mean – and very different than how she looks now. "Do what you want. I don't particularly care what you look like, angel."

There's a small gasp from the doorway behind her. Without moving an inch she says, "What did I tell you about eavesdropping, Warlock?"

"Don't get caught," Warlock answers.

Crowley smirks at the absurd look on Aziraphale's face before turning around. With a sweep of skirts she goes to stand before the boy who has shuffled from his hiding spot into full view. "And what do you have to say for yourself, child?"

Warlock peers up at her from beneath his lashes, charming, manipulative boy that he is. "I'm sorry, Nanny. I'll be quieter next time."

"Better yet not to listen in doorways at all," Aziraphale says.

Crowley huffs and scoops Warlock up into her arms to take him back to bed. "Don't you listen to him, listen to me," she says.

Despite her instructions, Warlock waves over her shoulder as she walks away. "Goodnight, Brother Francis."

"Goodnight, young Warlock," Aziraphale calls back.

"Nanny?" Warlock says after a few minutes.

"Yes, child?"

"I thought you didn't like Brother Francis."

"And I thought you were meant to be abed," she retorts, changing the subject. She doesn't like Aziraphale. Or she does, a lot really, enough that the word starts to sound so insignificant it's demeaning.

Warlock lays his head on her shoulder and speaks into the hollow of her neck. "I had a nightmare."

"Nightmares are yours to command. If you don't want them you must send them away," Crowley tells him.

"I tried, Nanny, but they wouldn't listen," Warlock whines.

"Hmph," Crowley says primly. She places Warlock back in his bed and tucks him in. "I suppose you need more practice. For tonight I will send the nightmares away, so I may get back to my evening, but you must keep at it."

"Yes, Nanny," Warlock says. There's a brief expectant pause, then he asks, "Were you really talking to Brother Francis earlier?"

"And why shouldn't I be? We work in the same household; did you think we'd never speak to one another?" Crowley asks. She doesn't like the way Warlock is harping on this, making it into something. The last thing they need is for the Antichrist to become suspicious of what they're up to.

"I just thought the two of you hated each other," Warlock says, eyes downcast and fear in his expression. Not the terror brought about by The Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Prince of this World, and Lord of Darkness, but the regular sort of fear shared by regular boys the world over, and Crowley realizes she's misread this entirely.

The Dowlings aren't terrible parents, exactly. They aren't great parents either, but they're decent enough. They're also very busy and therefore frequently absent parents. Warlock probably spends more time with Aziraphale and certainly spends more time with Crowley than he does with either his mum or dad. And he'd thought the two of them hated each other.

"Don't fret, now there's a good lad," she says, running a hand through his hair. "Brother Francis is a ridiculous man with ridiculous notions, but we get on alright. Haven't had a proper spat in years." How many years Crowley couldn't say, mostly because she isn't sure if 1967 was a spat in itself or the resolution of their spat from 1862.

"Nanny," Warlock says, sitting up straight in his bed. He leans toward her, his eyes sparkling. "Nanny, are you in love with Brother Francis?"

"Ngk." Over six thousand years of hiding it, only to be found out by a five year old. Though in her defense he was the Antichrist. He might well have looked deep inside her and seen it in there. She sighs. "Aye. I have been for a very, very long time." There is a relief in finally saying it out loud, in admitting it to someone else even if it's not Aziraphale.

"Since before I was born?" Warlock suggests.

Crowley very nearly laughs at him. "Since before this world was born. Now go to sleep, my darling boy." She presses him back against the pillow by the forehead, then swipes a hand over his eyes. She's been planning on never using miracles on the Antichrist – it seems like the sort of thing he might hold against her if he did decide to destroy the world after all – but she pulls out a small one just this once. Just to make him fall asleep and forget her confession by the morning. After a moment's thought she adds a second miracle, to keep away the nightmares.

Sometimes Aziraphale will look at Crowley in just such a way. He'll tilt his head to the side and they'll be this thoughtful look in his eyes, and Crowley will think, maybe this time.

Nothing ever comes of it.

"Well yes, and that is why I am going to have a word with the Almighty, and then the Almighty will fix it," Aziraphale says.

"That won't happen. You're so clever. How can somebody as clever as you be so stupid?" Does he not remember the last time one of them went to have a word with the Almighty? How Crowley had gone to Her to question Her works and gotten cast out for it?

He wants to get down on his knees and beg Aziraphale to leave with him. He wants to say I've come back to you, haven't I? I've come back and back and back, over and over again, each time one of us leaves I always come back to you. So please, please, just this once, run away with me.

There's a look in Aziraphale's eyes and for a moment, only a moment, Crowley thinks, hopes… "I forgive you," he says.

Crowley lets out a sigh of disgust and walks back to the Bentley. "I'm going home, angel. I'm getting my stuff, and I'm leaving. And when I'm off in the stars, I won't even think about you."

He knows it's a lie as soon as he says it. He'll always come back to Aziraphale; it's inexorable as the laws of the universe. More so, because they can change those laws on a whim, but Crowley will always come back to Aziraphale. Always.

Until he walks into a burning bookshop and realizes there's no Aziraphale left to come back to.

They save the world. Well really Adam saves it, but they help.

The bus to Oxford trundles steadily down the road in the exact wrong direction, though neither the driver nor any of the other passengers seem to notice. Crowley is holding himself completely and perfectly still because for what Crowley suspects if the first time in his entire life, Aziraphale has drifted off to sleep, with his head on Crowley's shoulder. Crowley has cocooned the pair of them inside his wings, manifesting them enough that they – and any especially spiritually-attuned humans, had there been any on the bus – could see them, but not so much that they interfered with cramped bus seats and things.

"I'm sorry," Crowley says softly into the stale air.

"For what?" Aziraphale asks, not sounding drowsy in the least. He sits up straight and looks at Crowley.

Crowley's feathers ruffle in surprise and annoyance. "You're supposed to be sleeping."

"Virtue is ever-vigilant" Aziraphale replies.

"I can be vigilant for you for one hour," Crowley protests.

"I'm sure you can, my dear." Aziraphale pats him on the leg, then lets his hand linger there. Crowley stares at it. He doesn't think he can remember Aziraphale being this physically affectionate ever, not while he was sober, not since… "What were you apologizing for?" Aziraphale prompts.

Crowley's lips twist. He hadn't actually intended Aziraphale to hear that. But he had, so may as well continue with it. "I should have listened to you. When I wanted to go and you wanted to stay. I ought to know better by now," he says, the last coming out as a mutter.

Aziraphale tilts his head and gives Crowley a very particular look while smiling a very particular smile. "That's alright. I'm just glad you came back to me."

He lays his head back on Crowley's shoulder, and, feeling he'd missed something, Crowley leans his head against Aziraphale's. "Always."

After lunch at the Ritz, which had blended seamlessly into dinner at the Ritz without any of the staff seeming to notice, Crowley and Aziraphale end up back at the bookshop. Neither of them had suggested it in any way, it had just seemed to happen naturally. Just as it happen naturally that when Crowley sprawled across the couch in the back room, Aziraphale had settled on the seat next to him rather than taking the arm chair. And just as naturally Crowley had rearranged himself around Aziraphale, laying out across the couch with his head in Aziraphale's lap.

As soon as he realizes what he's done, Crowley tenses, waiting for a reaction. He'd done it without thinking, and now Aziraphale…

Aziraphale looks down at him and smiles, soft and fond and a million other things and says, "Hullo, dearest." Not dear, but dearest, and Crowley feels every one of his muscles, every single particle of his being, relaxing. Then Aziraphale reaches down and removes Crowley's sunglasses, revealing his eyes, his hateful yellow serpent eyes that serve as glaring proof of what he was and never again could be. Aziraphale swipes a thumb over Crowley's cheekbone and says, as he had a million times Before, "You are so very beautiful."

Something small and fragile and broken in Crowley knits itself back together. He curls in on himself, turning to the side and hiding his face in Aziraphale's stomach. "I missed you," he whispers. For six thousand years he'd stood by Aziraphale's side and had missed him for every single day of it. But none of that matters anymore; Crowley had been banished from Heaven, but he doesn't care because he's finally been welcomed back home.

"You must be tired; you haven't slept at all since before that whole mess started, have you?" Aziraphale's hand comes to rest in Crowley's hair, his fingers combing through it as his nails gently scratched Crowley's head. A flutter of pages implies that Aziraphale has miracled up a book in the other hand. "Sleep now, dearest. I'll be here."

They're on Earth now, not in Heaven, and here their love can no longer take a tangible form of warmth and light. Even if it could, Crowley's a demon now and could no longer sense it. He can still feel it though. He can feel it in the gentleness of Aziraphale's hands, in the heat of his body, in the smell of old paper and soft fabrics and warm sugar, in the sound pages turning and of the faint lullaby being hummed, and he can feel it spilling up and out from the core of himself. It feels beautiful and golden and eternal. It feels tangible. As soon as the thought crosses his drowsy mind, Crowley realizes this is the exact right moment he's been waiting for. "Do you remember…" But he truly is exhausted, and sleep blurs the words, and the sentence trails off unfinished.

Crowley doesn't see Aziraphale set his book aside and look down at him with the tenderness of an eternity of affection and the fierceness of six thousand years of longing. "Of course I do, love." Then a name, like a sigh on the breeze. A name Crowley has forgotten, a name that's been stricken from Heaven and Hell and Earth, a name that should not be, but they couldn't take it from Aziraphale anymore than Aziraphale could be taken from Crowley. "Of course I remember."