"...They were supposed to be there." Crowley blinks uncharacteristically, pulled out of his thoughts by the echo of Aziraphale's voice. He looked at the little table that housed their unusual party. After the end of all things that turned out to only become another closed chapter in history of Time, they came together. Anathema and Newt. The Them. Him and Aziraphale. And one strangely happily married couple who this time stayed in their house, fighting off boredom with silk scarves sprinkled with stiff perfume and shooting rats with slingshot in between other...activities.
They were a funny bunch, mismatched but eager and interesting. Crowley nearly said no when they asked him to come the first time, two whole years ago, but questioning people were his bane. One would think that he would learn the lesson of six millennia and stop searching for answers, but fires of hell don't burn as hard as his curiosity does, and humans are so good at coming up with things. He, after all, didn't fall just for asking questions. He fell, because they were good ones.
So here he was, leaning against very straight apple tree (1), full of heavy but still unripe fruit and taking slow drags from his cigarette as he contemplated the state of his life that could, with a right amount of occult intervention and a scoop of good luck, stretch indefinitely. His glasses were pulled up on the top of his head, but he let them slid down when, like a Pavlov's dog, he reacts at vaguely distressed sound made by his greatest weakness. His husband.
"Who?" Newt, who while not really in business of any mysterious sort anymore, did in fact always proven himself to be very enthusiastic about all things outside norm. A very good trait to an aspiring, rather imaginative and suspiciously successful children books writer.
"Izrafel," Aziraphale took a bite of dark chocolate cake as he scrunched his nose." Or Israfael, they actually have three or four names, all depends who you ask and they are very recluse, so it's hard to confirm which one is true. I always wanted to meet them, but nobody seen them for so long and they always were long gone before I could find them here, on Earth. I think the last time was somewhere in eighteen century in Naples.(2) "They were supposed to announce the end of the world."
"He was there. He didn't held any trumpets but I guess blowing things up was enough." Adam, lying on his forearms flicked a cherry pit through the circle made of Wens' fingers before leaning back, wiggling expectantly.
"But the only thing that blew was that infernal car."
"It can't be…" Aziraphale's dessert fork slid from his hand and hit the plate. His head whipped, curls bouncing wildly, toward his husband.
"You held his hand. Archangel Raphael, Leader of the Virtues, Seraph…rings any bells, Crowley?" Crowley winced slightly, before taking a shaky breath.
"Sounds like a wanker."
"I don't know. I like the idea of angel of Healing, Love and Mercy loving humans so much he never stopped trying to fight for them. For us."
"Sounds like a damned fool, then." He heard quiet 'oh, darling' and chanced the look at Aziraphale, before his mouth turned into thin frustrated line. "Fat lot of good it did."
"Loving fool. You cared more about the little people, with no cosmic powers, no big Plans. Just us. And they didn't, so that counts as a lot." Anathema's wine sloshed on the grass when her glass could no longer handle her impassioned slightly slurred speech. She accented it with a firm nod that she quickly seemed to regret but still chortled when Newt raised his hand pulled in the fist yelling 'humans rock, you feathered pickles!'
"You gave me hope when I was afraid and Azi gave me faith that I will win. Couldn't do it without both of you." Adam kicked the chair next to Aziraphale and with a cheeky smile he added: "Sit with us, uncle."
Crowley smothered the fire of his cigarette in his fingers before dropping it, taking a quick look at his watch. With deliberate slowness he put his fingers on frames of his glasses, pulling them off and hiding the shades in the pocket. He turned toward the table, golden glow of his eyes muted as he focused his gaze on the path, sliding between the crawling carpet of mint and swarm of already closed poppies, silver and red stilettos clinking on the concrete stepping stones. Finally he made it to the spot of light, flickering candle flames danced higher in the jars as he passed and draped himself onto his chair. He looked up, at fond but exasperated expression on Aziraphale's face, at young Antichrist smiling brightly, at three children on the cusp of teenagehood, a slightly inebriated(3) witch and aptly named Witchfinder. He took his glass and sipped the miraculously cool wine. A hand, soft and dry squeezed his, Aziraphale's gaze making him swallow tightly at the feeling that lodged itself in his throat and then sat snuggly in his chest, threatening to shallow his breath (4) Conversation turned and flowed around him, a quiet buzz of voices he became so startlingly attached to.
That, at last, wasn't anything new. Humans were so easy to love. In a soft lulling quiet Anathema picks a plump dark cherry and throws it in his direction. He catches it like a pop-corn and swallows it whole.
"So, will you tell us why today is the day?
Crowley squints at his watch before humming thoughtfully at the clear sky.
"You will see in few minutes."
Maybe it was supposed to be this way.
Maybe that was part of The Plan all along. Maybe his damn poor impulse control and need to know just everything that was there to know, like he could match up to God Herself in knowledge of Creation, was supposed to be there from the start. Maybe he Fell not because of something he did, but for something he could do for others. Maybe it was just for the irony of it, the Tree of Knowledge inspired by one too inquisitive angel who sauntered vaguely downwards and tempted the others to walk the same road of never knowing but always searching. And maybe…maybe it didn't matter at all.
He was free, free to choose how he could be, what he could do. Free to think for himself and no longer censor himself. To question. To explore. To…love, too, and be loved in return. Finally.
Over his head a full night fell like a dark cloak splattered with stars, he breathed deeply in the sweet summer air, remembering how each of them felt, small and weak and trembling in his hands, new and beautiful and delicate before he breathed life and Power into them and let them go. They were still his. He changed and in a way stayed the same. No longer an angel who would swirl galaxies into the soft darkness by the wave of his finger but he was not less for it. It was the first time in over six thousand years when pride for his creation wasn't followed and tinted by shame.
Because he could. Because there was no longer anyone who could tell him not to. And if the End would come again…well, there is something to be said about experience. It will be easier, choices already made the moment Aziraphale took his hand and declared them together in this mess. And they were not alone as long as they have each other.
But for now he is going to enjoy himself, Ineffable Plan be damned.
He put his long fingers on Aziraphale's hand and grasped it gently, pulling it to his mouth with mischievous grin.
Can I tempt you for a dance?"
"You can, but…darling? I thought you would be taller.(5) Crowley looks down at his husband, at the crinkled eyes and shining blue-grey eyes and he feels a smile tugging at his mouth.
"I'll show you tall, you squishy bastard."
A first of many falling stars slid through the dark, flaming tail blooming in its wake(6), accompanied with loud and awed 'look!'. The night turned nearly as bright as Aziraphale's laugh as he tucked himself under Crowley's arm, his eyes glued to the sky as the one who helped shaping it looked down and saw his universe.
1 thanks to stern talking and maybe a little bit of miracle work
2 he did in fact appear there briefly, to heal the nun, lovely young lady called Anna Maria Gallo, later - Saint Maria Francesca of Five Wounds
3 marinated, more like
4 not that he needed to breath, of course, but a habit is a force on itself
5 some sources say that Israfil is the tallest of angels, so tall he reaches from Earth to the Pillars of Heaven
6 Shower of Perseids, not as uncommon as one might think, happens every year from 17 of July to 24 of August, it's peak usually on 12 or 13th of August