For the last few years now, it was a rare occasion that Aziraphale and Crowley spent even a day apart anymore. And for the last, almost, four years, they'd not only been the best of friends, but lovers as well which made it all the more perplexing when Crowley simply vanished without even calling. The demon had returned to his flat to water the remaining plants he'd left there and never returned to the bookshop. After a few hours, Aziraphale couldn't stand the strain any longer and he walked swiftly to Crowley's flat.
He was a bundle of panicked nerves for the entire journey and he didn't even stop to walk through the market as he usually would to pick up a pastry or two or to visit the plant stall where Crowley obtained many of his own plants.
When he finally made it to the very modern, expensive looking Mayfair apartment block, the doors very kindly opened for him and the lift very generously escorted him up to the top floor without the push of a button. The building knew Crowley very well and it certainly knew better than to get on his bad side, which meant treating Aziraphale as well as the demon, like kings.
The angel found Crowley's usually neat and pristine apartment in shambles with furniture strewn all over the place and scorch marks across the walls.
"Good heavens," Aziraphale breathed, checking every room. "Crowley? Are you here? Please answer me? Where are you?" he rushed through each room and found nothing until he reached the bedroom. The demon was curled up in his bed, his skin slightly blistered and he was shivering.
"Crowley!" the angel exclaimed and ran forwards.
"W...wha'? Wha'zzzzit?" Crowley shuddered and blinked up. "Oh...s'you," he mumbled.
"What on earth happened?"
"It's clearly something, love, please tell me," Aziraphale sat down gently on the bed and raised his hand. He held it out over the shuddering demon and began to heal the burns and blisters with a golden glow.
"Thanksssss," Crowley muttered when his skin healed fully, but it didn't stop him from shivering.
"You're still cold?" the angel frowned. He then proceeded to remove his shoes, bow tie, waistcoat and jacket and then lay beside the demon, pulling him into his warm embrace. "How's that? Better?" he asked.
Crowley just nodded and fell asleep almost instantly. Aziraphale, as always, followed him shortly after.
When the angel awoke some time later, he was alone in the bed and he reached out and arm to search for Crowley, but found nothing. "Crowley?" he blinked and pushed himself up, looking around the room.
When he found it empty, he pushed back the soft sheets and padded through into the living room where he found Crowley holding a sword and threatening a plant.
"What are you doing, dear?" Aziraphale asked, confused.
"Practicing...swordplay...against a plant?"
"Yeah, and if it knows what's good for it, it'll fight back," Crowley threaten the plant which just shuddered at him.
"Do be nice to the poor things, Crowley," Aziraphale scolded him and walked over to stroke the terrified plant. "Hush now, my dear, you're alright," he told it and it purred happily under his kind touch.
"Stop spoiling them, angel," Crowley bemoaned.
"You cannot expect these beautiful plants of yours to fight back against a sword, my love," Aziraphale replied.
"Well, I've gotta practice against something."
"And why is that?"
"You! I can practice with you!" Crowley exclaimed, happily and he miracle'd another sword into being. He then held it out for Aziraphale.
"What? No," the angel cried, sounding insulted. "I wouldn't dream of harming you. You were hurt enough when I found you. What happened to you?"
"S'nothin', angel, I'm fine now, so can we..."
"No," Aziraphale shied away from the sword that Crowley held out for him.
"Oh come on, don't be such a stick in the mud, 'Zira," Crowley bemoaned.
"No, I won't do it," Aziraphale shook his head again.
"We've done it before. Back in Camelot, remember?"
"That was different," the angel said, "That was before...before the Arrangement. And it wasn't my intention to hurt you."
"You got me pretty good on my arm then, didn't you?" Crowley grinned, remembering one of the few actual fights they'd had between them when Aziraphale had been a noble Knight of the Round Table and he, the Black Knight, had come to a head between them and so King Arthur had ordered the noble Knight, Sir Aziraphale to dispose of their enemy. He'd settled for a tiny scratch and scaring him away.
"I didn't have a choice, there were other knights watching...I..." the angel flustered.
"Relax, I know. Just...come on, look...ok...we both know that you're better at this than me, there I said it, happy now?"
"Not at all. Flattery will not make me...fight you," Aziraphale said, "I don't know why on Earth you think that it would. And you know that I dislike violence."
"Oh, for the love of...gah...something..." the demon the up his arms in frustration. In one hand, he was holding a silver sword, and at his feet rested another. The sword that Aziraphale refused to take. "You're really gonna make me say it, aren't you? I already said you're better at fighting than me...isn't that enough?" he asked.
"That's not what this is about, Crowley. I will not fight you."
"Why? Scared you're outta practice, oh mighty Angel of the Eastern Gate? You've been retired for a while now, maybe old age has gotten to you."
"Now don't be like that. There's no force behind your words you don't mean them. You're trying to antagonise me. Please don't."
"Your Almighty gave you a flaming sword, She must've given you the skills to use it, too. You beat me without really trying that one time we actually fought, didn't you? So show me."
"No. What on Earth brought this on? Why do you want to do this?" the angel asked, sounding hurt.
"Does it matter? Because...maybe I'm bored and I just want to pass the time or maybe I wanna see if I can beat you and lord it over you for the rest of eternity or...something...just...come on, already!" Crowley picked up the other sword off the floor and held it out for the angel, but again, he didn't take it.
"I can't. I was given those skills to protect people. I won't use them to hurt you."
"G...Satan's sake, you're really annoying sometimes!" Crowley threw the swords to the ground, letting them clatter noisily as they landed and he ran a hand through his hair.
"I'm sorry for that," Aziraphale replied, ever as calmly. "Why are you so...distressed?" he asked. "I don't like to see you upset, love, please tell me what's wrong," he said, walking over the demon that had begun to pace angrily, and he put a hand on Crowley's shoulder, stopping him.
"I wasn't..." Crowley began letting out a shaky breath, "When I was...before I Fell...I just wanted to make pretty things. Make my stars look good. I wasn't 'made' for fighting."
"Not all of us were."
"No, and the no one in Hell ever let me forget it either. But you were!" Crowley exclaimed, "And you never even wanna fight!"
"Of course I don't. I'm an..."
"If you say it's because you're angel, we both know that's a lie. I mean, you are an angel, you're more of an angel than most angels. I meant...the other angels want to fight. I've met other angels and whenever they see me or any other demon it's all 'let's go smite the evil demon' even when I'm not doing anything evil."
"They don't know you like I do," Aziraphale replied, comfortingly.
"Doubt that'd make a difference," he snorted. He then leaned down and picked up a sword. He then threw himself onto the floor so that he rested his aback against the wall with one leg outstretched and the other bent at the knee. He examined the hilt of the old sword as he spoke again. "I didn't...I don't suppose that erm...your errr...former side told you...that Gabriel came to see me yesterday, did they?" he asked.
"What?" Aziraphale exclaimed. "Why would he...no, they didn't. What happened? Is he the one who hurt you? What did he do?"
"Bit of Divine Light...felt a bit sunburnt," Crowley admitted, "We traded a few hits..."
"Why didn't you call me?"
"Because then you'd get into trouble with...Up there...and I know you still like...being an angel," he shrugged. "And I bet Gabriel'd love the chance to put another mark on your record so I didn't wanna take the risk. And I know you were wanting to read that new book of yours and..."
"You're far more important than my record and and all the books on Earth put together," Aziraphale told him and yellow, serpentine eyes stared at him incredulously. "Are you alright?" he asked again, "Tell me truthfully."
"I'm err...I'm fine, angel," Crowley replied.
"Because I may be retired but I can still call Metatron..."
"Easy, 'Zira," the demon stopped him and turned his eyes away from his friend. "You're err...I wouldn't normally mind so much but my eyes are a bit sensitive right now and you're erm...you're kinda glowing a bit."
"Oh...I'm sorry," Aziraphale said, calming down his sudden angry burst of Divine light. "So, what did Gabriel say to you?" he asked after a moment.
"The usual spiel. 'Oh foul and evil creature...blah, blah, blah...don't make trouble...blah, blah...' Y'know he's got a sword too," he said, "S'bigger than yours."
"Yes, well, I'm told that size is irrelevant. And mine had flames," the angel grumbled.
"Hah! Too right," Crowley chortled, "No flames on Gabriel's."
"And...that's why you suddenly felt the need to duel that poor aspidistra?"
"I just...an angel's sword could kill me," he said, his voice shaking. "Not just discorporate me, although I don't wanna think about what'll happen if I end up back down there anyway, so an angel's sword actually destroying me'll probably by a mercy. That bastard just wanted to make sssure I knew that he could kill me and I wouldn't be able to ssstop him!" he hissed. "I can hold my own in a fight against humans well enough but..." he snarled again.
"Honing your skills so that you can seek retaliation is..."
"He sssstarted it! He attacked me! I wasn't doing anything! I can't do anything against Divine Light but I can sure as Hell chop his head off!"
"I'll admit that Gabriel and I have never exactly seen eye to eye," Aziraphale said, quietly, "But I'm not going to encourage you to fight him. He's an Archangel!"
"If you give me anything of that 'turn the other cheek' rubbish..."
"If an angel wanted to...harm you...they wouldn't necessarily need a sword," the angel noted, "And you have your own defences. I've seen your claws. You can stop time..."
"Claws can only do so much, they don't have any reach, and I can't stop time indefinitely," Crowley said and saw the conflicted look on the angels' face so he sighed and stood up. "I shouldn't have asked, I know how you feel about fighting and all that. You and Gandhi were two bloody peas in a pod you were. There's plenty of humans who know how to fight, I'll just go find some of them...forget it," he said.
Aziraphale sighed on seeing the despair on his lover's face, "Promise me something?" he asked.
"I don't pretend to be an expert...I'm certainly no match for an Archangel even if I was still a Principality. Not to mention that I'm out of practice; I haven't fought properly since I was a knight. But if I agree to this...don't go looking for a fight. If one finds you, then that's another matter. But please don't be the one to start it, especially not with an Archangel. I don't want to see you hurt."
"So...this mean you'll do it?" Crowley asked.
"It means...for you...I'll try," the angel replied.
"I knew you wouldn't let me down, angel," Crowley grinned.
"I can't believe I let you talk me into these things so easily."
"It's what I do," the demon shrugged.
Aziraphale sighed and hesitantly picked up one of the swords off the floor. He looked at it with trepidation and turned it into a wooden sword and then did the same to the other one.
"Wood?" Crowley raised an eyebrow, "What are we, kids?"
"I don't want to do this in the first place," Aziraphale replied, "I'm certainly not going to fight you with a real sword."
"Alright, fine," the demon sighed dramatically and picked up the other sword. "Y'know, you could still club someone to death with this though?" he said, sarcastically.
Aziraphale gave him an unimpressed glance and he shrugged. He then waved his hand and the room seemed to grow to twice its previous size and the furniture pushed itself back against the walls out of the way.
"Right, let's get to it then," Crowley said, holding up the wooden sword. "It's gonna be hard trying to fight seriously with a twig," he grumbled.
"It's not a twig! It's a training sword. Humans use them all the time."
"We're not human and we can heal any damage a normal sword can do anyway..."
"Fine," Crowley rolled his eyes. "You'll be wanting me to attack, won't you?" he assumed.
"I never was good with attacking first, no," Aziraphale admitted.
"Right...I'll erm...right," Crowley nodded and raised his sword.
Some time later, Crowley learned that 'out of practice' for Aziraphale actually meant 'give me two minutes to get over the horror of mock-fighting you and then let me spend the rest of the time defeating you.' For someone who looked a little on the soft side, the angel moved fast, increasingly fast and he was strong. That was to be expected since he wasn't human but Crowley found it difficult to marry the image of his friend turned lover, the bumbling bookseller with this fast, strong fighter. Each strike was blocked with lighting efficiency and though he never actually struck the Demon with much force, when it became clear that he'd lost, they'd settled for using the word, 'dead.'
"How. Are. You. Doing. This?!" Crowley panted, following each word with a swing of his sword which was blocked easily. "How. Are. You. Moving. So. Fast?!" he continued but stopped when his sword was flung from his hand and Aziraphale's wooden sword was pointing right at the centre of his chest. "Dead again?" he sighed.
"Dead again, I'm afraid, dear," the angel nodded with nary a fluffy, platinum curl out of place.
"Urgh," Crowley grumbled and flopped onto the floor, "Dead."
"Don't be so melodramatic," Aziraphale scolded him lightly.
"Can't answer you, I'm dead."
"You're really quite vocal, considering that fact."
"Stubborn dead demon."
"Are you sulking?"
"You are, aren't you? Need I remind you that this was your idea in the first place?"
"Really," Aziraphale scoffed.
"Outta practice my arse," the demon mumbled.
The angel knelt beside him and settled himself as comfortably as he could beside the demon and placed the wooden sword silently on the floor. "I think that's enough for now, don't you?" he asked.
"...Yeah, sure," the demon replied.
"I didn't enjoy that at all," Aziraphale said.
"We weren't really fighting, y'know that, right?" Crowley looked up at him.
"No, I know. But I still didn't like it. We spent enough times at odds with each other through so many years I just don't want to do it anymore. Even if it is...a training exercise."
"Well, were both gonna have to up our game. I just...I got a bad feeling about this. About him," Crowley admitted.
"You're serious? He's a fanatic, angel, he's dangerous. He always was. And him coming here making trouble it...it doesn't bode well."
"Oh dear," Aziraphale exclaimed, "You really think we should be worried then?"
"Yeah, I do."
"And you think this..." he looked at the sword for a moment and then back to Crowley, "Will help?" he finished.
"I think it'll make me feel better knowing I can slice and dice him, yeah," the demon replied.
Aziraphale sighed and stared at him for a moment but the snake-like never faulted. "Well then...if that's indeed the case...I suppose we should try again," he said after a moment.
"Just err...gimme a minute," Crowley replied, sheepishly as he stretched his back.