A Spark of Goodness

Two dogs, a stray cat, five pedestrians, and a surprisingly foresighted post box all leapt out of the way as a 1926 black Bentley hurled haphazardly down the street, moving at what was clearly far past the posted speed limit. Inside the car, Crowley hardly noticed as an old woman stepped onto the curb barely in time to avoid trading places with the Bentley's hood ornament. He was already around the next corner as she shook her wrinkled fist after him.

Really, Crowley thought as he raced along, enough was enough. This had gone on far too long. It wasn't as if she had been the first girl he'd brought into temptation. Over the centuries, Crowley had caused literally thousands of people to fall into some sort of sin, both directly and indirectly. He was a demon for heav... for Pete's sake! It's what he did! You didn't catch him making a fuss every time the angel thwarted one of his plans.

The demon drummed his fingers agitatedly on the steering wheel. It hadn't been a breach of The Arrangement – not in the strictest sense. Aziraphale had taken the girl's future on as more of a personal hobby rather than an official assignment. Crowley hadn't really been interfering with the business of Above. But then again, perhaps it had been the angel's personal interest that had made this particular incident go straight to hell – forgive the pun.

Yes, Crowley sighed, he probably shouldn't have picked a girl whose soul Aziraphale had been laboring over off and on for seven years. And, he conceded, it might have been poor timing to seduce her on the eve before she entered a convent. Also, Crowley cringed slightly, it had been blasted beastly luck for Aziraphale to come waltzing into Crowley's flat with chinese take-away right as Crowley had been in the middle of, uh... making an effort with the girl on his living room couch.

The girl had come back to her senses the moment the Angel had walked into the room and had fled, weeping, as soon as she had been able to gather her clothes. Aziraphale had given Crowley one horrible, burning look of reproach and betrayal that had made Crowley feel lower than he ever had as a snake before the angel was out the door as well. It had earned him an excellent quarterly review from Below, signed by Dagon, the Lord of the Flies himself. Or was it Lord of the Files? Crowley could never be sure. Lord of the Flies certainly seemed more the thing, but Dagon was rather far up in the ranking and that would entail a certain amount of paperwork.

At first, Crowley had let things sit. Aziraphale had been upset with him before but it never lasted long. The angel wasn't one to hold grudges. The longest they had ever gone without speaking since The Arrangement, other than the occasional return to either Above or Below, had been in the year 1052, and that was to be expected with The Arrangement still being new and all.

A week after the incident, Crowley had gone round to the book shop in hopes of enticing Aziraphale out with the prospect of dinner at a new sushi restaurant that had opened up a few blocks down from Crowley's flat. The angel had greeted him with a very determined and uncharacteristic "go to hell" before slamming the door in his face. He also refused to return any of Crowley's calls. Crowley had started lingering by the pond in the park during lunchtimes, hoping to catch Aziraphale in public where he would be forced to talk or risk causing a scene, but the angel must have caughtened on because Crowley hadn't seen him feeding the ducks since before.

Now it was three months on and Crowley was starting to think Aziraphale might have aspirations of cutting him off for good. Which was too bad for Aziraphale because Crowley had gotten too used to his company to just let their acquaintance die. Who else was he going to eat at the Ritz with or get smashed on fantastic wine in the little room in the back of the book shop with? The angel was his only friend and, Crowley was realizing more and more, the only one he trusted.

The Bentley screeched to a halt, tires smoking slightly, halfway up on the curb in front of the book shop. A middle aged woman gave him a disapproving look as Crowley stepped out of the car and straightened up. He stuck out his forked tongue at her and she hurried on along the sidewalk, her shopping bags clanking as she disappeared around a corner and out of sight. Annoyed that he was unable to find pleasure even in this one tiny act of evil, Crowley sighed and stopped to read the words written on the piece of plain white paper that had been taped to the inside of the door.

It said in Aziraphale's meticulous script:

Overseas on business. See you next month.

A. Fell

Well, this was just perfect. Crowley couldn't mend things if Aziraphale wasn't even in the damned country. Of course, he reasoned, if Aziraphale was determined not to talk to him, the angel might have put up the sign in the hope that it would deter Crowley from doing exactly what he was about to be doing. That would be the angel's style: avoid, avoid, and avoid some more.

Crowley reached for the door handle, which was, of course, unlocked because he had wanted it to be. He pushed open the door and stuck his head in tentatively.

"Hello?" he called into the dark shop. "Aziraphale? Are you there?"

There was no answer.

"I'm not going to go away so you may as well come out here."

Still no answer. Crowley noticed the shelves and sales counter looked dustier than usual, like no one had been around to clean for a week or two.

"Really, old chap," Crowley said loudly, moving towards the back room, "You can't avoid me forever."

The back room was as deserted as the rest of the place. Crowley flicked on the light switch. Everything was as neat and in its place as ever, but it was all coated with the same fine layer of dust that indicated no one had been there for awhile.

"Must've gone on assignment," Crowley said to himself.

That, in and of itself, was not strange. What was strange was that Aziraphale had gone without talking to Crowley first. Usually when the angel had to travel for his job, he called to let Crowley know the details and ask him to water his plants. This time he had just gone and left the plants to fend for themselves.

"You there," Crowley snapped at a failing african violet, "Look alive or I'll leave you to rot like your little friends." He gestured at the rest of Aziraphale's plants, which were all past salvaging.

The violet, apparently resigned to its fate, made no effort. Crowley growled at it but still went to fetch a glass of water from the sink in the shop's tiny washroom. He would take the violet with him when he left, Crowley decided. It would give him a good excuse to stop by the shop when Aziraphale finally came back from wherever he was. Time with Crowley would no doubt to the violet some good. All of his plants were thriving even more than usual owing to the fact that they were the only things around for Crowley to talk to now that Aziraphale wasn't speaking to him. In fact, they had all started flowering, though this was odd seeing as none of them were actually flowering species.

Crowley was in the middle of pouring water into the abused violet's pot, and muttering a litany of threats into its leaves, when he heard the door of the shop open and close again. Hoping he had managed to catch the angel just as he was returning, Crowley hurried out of the back room only to find a stranger standing next to the counter regarding him with a smile.

"The shop is closed until further notice," said Crowley, annoyed at the stranger for not being Aziraphale. "So why don't you just bug –"

"Hello Crowley," said the stranger, cutting him off mid-sentence, "It's been awhile."

Crowley dropped the glass of water he'd still been carrying and it shattered on the floorboards as he stared in disbelief and not a little fear at the figure, no longer a stranger.

"You," Crowley said, "You're..."

"Him?" supplied the figure. "The Alpha, the Omega, the Father?"

Crowley wracked his brain for something to say but in the end settled for his old standby in these kind of situations.

"Ngk," he said.

"I thought we might have a little chat," said God.

He leaned up against the sales counter and Crowley noticed his right hand was laying on top of something long and thin wrapped in a piece of white cloth with gold trim around the edges.

"Ngk," Crowley said again.

"Oh, do calm down, old boy," said God, "I haven't come to smite you."

"You haven't?" Crowley croaked, finding his voice again.

"No," said God, "Although after that performance a few months back..." He shook His head and sighed. "No, I came to discuss a certain angel of our mutual acquaintance and the load of trouble he's about to find himself in."

"Aziraphale is in trouble?" Crowley asked, this prospect outweighing his fear of The Almighty in front of him.

"Not yet, and not because of any wrong-doing on his part," said God. "No, as I say, he's about to be and I think he might need this."

God unwrapped the object on the counter and lifted it up. It was Aziraphale's sword. The one he'd "lost" so long ago and then found again during the failed apocalypse ten years ago only to have it taken away again afterwards.

"What exactly does this have to do with me?" asked Crowley carefully.

"I want you, My child, to take it to him," said God.

Crowley tried and failed not to gape.

"You want me to take a holy relic to an angel?" Crowley suddenly wondered if he perhaps he had actually gone to bed and this was a very, very strange dream he was having. "Apart from the fact that touching that thing would probably turn me into a pile of ashes, why ask me? Can't You just poof over to wherever Aziraphale is and hand it to him Yourself?"

"I could," God nodded, placing the sword back inside the cloth, "But I do have rather a lot of things to be going on with and I think he might need you as much as this sword."

It wasn't really an answer at all and Crowley reminded himself that questioning the ineffability of it all was, at best, a fruitless effort.

"And I don't expect you to handle the sword," said God, "This cloth will allow you to hold it safely until you can hand it over to its true owner. It won't do Aziraphale one bit of good if you went the way of Ligur halfway over Europe." A saddened expression crossed the face of God as he said more to himself than Crowley, "Ah, Ligur, what you could have been..."

There was a genuine sorrow in His voice that Crowley found hard to understand. In his opinion, being dead had improved Ligur quite a lot.

"Right then," said Crowley, "So I take Aziraphale his sword and then... what?"

"And then nothing," said God, simply and without malice. "I can offer you nothing in return except the knowledge that you will have helped the side you chose to forsake."

"If," said Crowley slowly, "If I do this, it won't go unnoticed Below."

"No," agreed God.

"They'll probably have me, ngk, recalled."

"That would be the likely outcome."

"And if I say no, what will happen to Aziraphale?" Crowley wanted to know.

"He might be fine," said God, "Or he might not."

Crowley fought down the impulse to growl. Here he was – a bloody demon – and the Big Man Himself was making a request that was just about guaranteed to get him hauled back to hell in irons. It might even get him killed in the permanent sense. Crowley couldn't say for sure what the penalty was for acting on a heavenly order to possibly save an angel; there wasn't really a precedence for it. But it either the certainty of hell or the possibility of something happening to the angel.

God stood and let him deliberate, not offering any more information.

Finally, Crowley let his shoulders slump. "All right," he said, tonelessly. "I'll do it."

God lifted the sword and handed it out to him. Crowley took it gingerly, ready to drop it at the first sign of his skin smoking or bubbling, but nothing happened.

"Go then, My child, he is in the Middle East. The sword will guide you once you get close enough," said God.

He smiled kindly and for a moment, Crowley felt His Presence. It was the first time he'd felt it since before Lucifer's fall and Crowley fell to his knees as the glorious sense of all-encompassing love filled him. And then it was gone and Crowley was alone again in the shop, feeling more bereft and forsaken than he could ever remember feeling all those millennia ago when he had followed a magnificent morning star to his own damnation.

In the center of a small war-torn country in the Middle East, Aziraphale stood in the rubble of what had once passed for the city hall of a tiny town. The bombs had done their job well, he thought bitterly; there was hardly anything left. It almost seemed pointless to search for survivors. He lifted a piece of board only to have it crumble in his hand. What could have survived this?

Aziraphale believed in hell, knew it existed just as he knew heaven existed, but as he looked at the scene unfolding around him, he marveled at the idea that there was a worse place than the once he currently found himself in. He inhaled only to choke on dust and the smell of blood and Aziraphale had a sudden sharp pang of longing to be back in his book shop in London, drinking cocoa or a glass of wine with –

He cut off the line of thought as quickly as it had started. There was no point in torturing himself thinking about that while he was already miserable. At any rate, there was nothing to be done about it. Crowley had broken his trust and that was all there was to it. Aziraphale had allowed a demon to become his closest, no his only, friend and now he had paid the price. He had brought the pain of what he should have known was an inevitable betrayal upon himself and, what was more, a girl's lifelong service to God was lost and perhaps her soul with it. But the worst thing of all, the thing that Aziraphale felt left him deserving the same fate that was surely in store for Crowley in the end, was that he felt more of a loss when he though of his missing camaraderie with the demon than he did at the thought of the girl.

Perhaps, thought Aziraphale as he uncovered a small, silent and lifeless body, when this assignment was done, he would go Above for awhile. It was clear now that he had been on this Earth too long. He had forgotten what the mission was.

As much as he hated this place, it was easier for Aziraphale to recall what his duty as a heavenly being was, easier to remember why he served, when he was here in the epicenter of this mess. There were other angels here. Some, like him, sifted through the wreckage in hope of finding someone still alive. Others drifted about, healing the sick and wounded, helping wherever they could. But angels were not the only supernatural beings present in this place. The demons had come as well, crawling to and fro, muffling the cries of the injured so they couldn't be found, poisoning the little remaining water, and occasionally getting into scraps with the angels that frequently led to one or the other being violently discorporated.

Wiping sweat from his brow with a shirtsleeve, Aziraphale carefully waded out of what was left of the building. There was nothing left alive in here; he would move on. But as he stepped over the shattered remains of an office desk, a faint whimper came from the far corner of the room. Quickly, almost frantically, Aziraphale clambered back across the rubble towards the noise. He pulled up a piece of the roof that had caved in, a piece too heavy for human strength to have moved, and underneath he found a miracle: a young woman, somehow spared from being crushed when the ceiling had collapsed.

Despite the heat and flies, despite the stink of decaying flesh and the chaos, Aziraphale smiled as he cradled one of the reasons for his existence. She would be fine – at least physically. The worst of her injuries were a concussion and a fractured wrist, which Aziraphale healed without preamble. He was so absorbed in this one small victory, this one life that he was so glad to have saved, that the angel didn't notice the hulking figure stalking towards him until he was in its shadow.

Aziraphale turned and the sun shone so brightly in his eyes that he could only make out the silhouette at first.

"Angel," hissed the demon, sounding cruelly delighted.

Aziraphale drew back as he recognized Hastur.

"Leave this place, demon!" said Aziraphale with all the authority he could muster.

Hastur laughed. It was a grating sound, like his throat was full of gravel. "You can't make me leave, little principality. I am no lower demon that you can order back Below! I am a Duke of Hell and I will make you kneel before you die!"

Where before he had been assuming what would pass for a human appearance, now Hastur revealed his true form, one massive arm raised to reveal a long, dark, wicked-looking blade. He grinned evilly and Aziraphale felt true fear. That was no ordinary sword; it was a cursed blade. If Hastur cut him down with that weapon, Aziraphale would not reawaken Above, ready to requisition a new body.

Hastur lifted his weapon even higher, preparing to strike and Aziraphale prayed, hoping he could keep the demon busy long enough to keep the woman on the floor behind him alive.

This, thought Crowley as he shivered in the thin atmosphere, was why long distance flying was a bad idea – it was too bleeding cold. Flying too low would attract unwanted attention, so here he hovered, freezing his arse off in his true form, high over the Persian Gulf with no idea where he was going. The sword, still safe in its cloth barrier, had started...well, tugging him, for lack of a better term, in this direction about an hour ago, and he had let it guide him. He flew on, not bothering to check his watch. He didn't really want to know.

After an indeterminable amount of time, the sword seemed to direct him downwards once more. He circled lower and lower, avoiding populated areas (which were thankfully few and far between) and flocks of migrating birds as he zeroed in on where Aziraphale's sword seemed to be leading him. Finally, the wreckage of a bombed out village dotted the landscape and Crowley, fairly certain this was where he was meant to be, tipped up his shades and scanned the area, looking for the angel.

He spotted Aziraphale right in the dead center of the decimated town and nearly fell out of the sky. The angel was standing, the only buffer between an unconscious woman and, Crowley shuddered, Hastur. The big demon had a nasty looking blade that he obviously intended for Aziraphale, and Crowley hesitated no longer. That was a cursed blade and if it pierced Aziraphale, the angel would face more than inconvenient discorporation. Like a demon vanquished with holy water or relics, Aziraphale would simply cease to be.

Fortunately, Crowley had the element of surprise on his side. He collided with Hastur just as the demon brought the curse blade down in an arc towards Aziraphale. Crowley heard Aziraphale yelp in bewilderment as the space containing the huge demon suddenly became vacant before he and Hastur were rolling ass over teakettle across the sun baked earth.

"What the hell?" Hastur shouted through a mouthful of feathers as they came to a halt and he disentangled himself from Crowley.

Crowley yanked his wing free from Hastur's putrid mouth and got to his feet, feeling bruised from the landing and disoriented from the bright sunlight. His shades were nowhere to be seen.

"You!" Hastur screamed, brandishing the blade he had managed to keep a grip on during the scuffle. "You're dead Crawly. They'll be no slithering your way out of it this time."

Behind them, Aziraphale came sprinting out into the dusty street, disbelief etched all over his face.

"Crowley?" he said. "What on earth –"

"Angel! Catch!" Crowley shouted as he threw Aziraphale's sword. "Now make yourself useful, why don't you?"

Still looking shell-shocked, Aziraphale unwrapped the white and gold cloth and lifted up the sword. Recognition flared quick and fierce. It might have been a few thousand years since he'd last wielded a weapon in true battle, but Aziraphale was a soldier of the heavenly host and had been trained as such. He looked up, met Crowley's eyes, and golden flames licked up the blade as the sword ignited. White wings snapped open from the angel's shoulders as he dropped his human guise for his divine one.

Hastur screamed in rage and Crowley barely had time to dive out of the way as the bigger demon lunged forward, his own weapon now glowing purplish-black. Crowley hit the ground again as Aziraphale and Hastur slammed together, blades meeting with a resounding clang. Crowley took a moment to register respect for Aziraphale's surprising skill and tried to reconcile the furious being before him with the pudgy human body and gentle nature that Crowley had grown used to. Aziraphale was good, very good, but Hastur was better.

Crowley spun around, looking for something, anything that could be used as a weapon. He spotted a bit of rebar sticking out of a ruined wall of one of the buildings and with a good yank, it came free. He hefted it, feeling its weight. Yes. This would do nicely. Launching himself into the air, Crowley came down behind Hastur and swung the rebar hard into the back of his skull. Hastur stumbled, and Aziraphale landed a glancing blow on one of his shoulders. The demon fell back a step, howling as the shallow slice in his hide billowed smoke.

"This is a fine spot of trouble you've gotten yourself into, Angel," said Crowley as he moved to stand next to Aziraphale, facing Hastur.

"Forgive me, dear," said Aziraphale, "But I believe you were the one who doused his partner in holy water."

"Ah, yesss, well..." Crowley shrugged, his lisp emerging involuntarily.

"I'm going enjoy watching you scream and thrash before you die, Crawly," said Hastur as he came at them again. "But not as much as I'll enjoy making the angel scream and thrash in front of you."

And then all three of them were circling, locked in combat as swords – and a handy piece of rebar – clashed together in rapid succession. They swung and dodged and parried, Hastur a match for the both of them. Crowley was tiring, Aziraphale wasn't looking much better, and Hastur was relentless; sooner or later, one of them was going to slip up. Crowley suspected it would be sooner rather than later.

He was right. Aziraphale lifted his sword to block a half second too late and Hastur slashed him across the chest with the curse blade. Crowley's mouth went dry as Aziraphale staggered back, dropping his sword. The flames went out as it hit the ground.

"No!" Crowley screamed, hand outstretched, but Aziraphale was still standing. The wound was only superficial; not enough for a fatal injury.

Hastur batted aside Crowley's strike with the rebar and rammed hard into Aziraphale with his shoulder. The angel was thrown back several feet before landing flat on his back in the dust. Chuckling horribly, Hastur reached down to rip a piece of torn clothing off a nearby corpse. He wrapped it around the hilt of Aziraphale's sword and turned to Crowley, one hand full of curse blade, the other now grasping something even more dangerous.

Bracing himself, Crowley brought up the rebar in defense as Hastur attacked with both blades, but he might as well have stood and done nothing for all the good it did him. With two swords and facing only one very poorly armed opponent, Hastur quickly disarmed Crowley.

"Any last words, Crawly?" asked Hastur as he slammed Aziraphale's sword into Crowley's chest.

Crowley gasped as the sword slid into him, the tip punching out of his back. A burning sensation spread out from the contact point and he took a step back, staring down at the golden blade sticking out of him. How odd and somehow fitting that it would be Aziraphale's sword that finally finished him.

"Crowley!" came Aziraphale's anguished voice.

And as Hastur turned away to meet the oncoming angel, Crowley looked up and smiled.

The cut across his chest burned terribly, but Aziraphale barely registered it as Crowley stumbled back, impaled with Aziraphale's sword. Hastur turned as the angel shouted Crowley's name in disbelief and horror, his back to Crowley, obviously no longer registering the other demon as a threat, grinned as Aziraphale continued to approach despite the lack of a weapon. Behind him, Crowley looked up, golden eyes flashing as he smiled.

Then, agony written all over his features, Crowley grasped the sword with both hands and pulled it free of his chest. His hands blistered and smoked and he grunted once in pain as he lifted Aziraphale's blade and rammed it through Hastur's back. Hastur shrieked and swung a huge arm around to knock Crowley away. The smaller demon flew thirty feet and landed in a heap. He did not get up.

Taking advantage of Hastur's momentary distraction, Aziraphale darted forward and wrapped a hand around the sword still protruding from demon's back. It one fluid motion, the angel tugged his blade out of the demon and brought it around in an arc to meet Hastur's neck. Aziraphale didn't even wait for the demon's severed head to hit the ground before he was at Crowley's side.

"Nice moves, Angel," Crowley gasped out as Aziraphale fell to his knees beside him.

"Don't talk now, dear," said Aziraphale desperately, "Just be quiet and save your strength."

He knew it didn't matter even as he said it. Crowley was already too far gone. The hole in his chest billowed a constant stream of thick black smoke, and blood combined with something else far darker leaked steadily out of the wound. He had snapped one of his wings when he landed after Hastur threw him, and it lay under him at a strange angle, broken, useless, and soaking up the the blood and muddy soil.

In the middle of the destroyed village, Aziraphale looked down on his dying friend and did not understand. Was this all part of the damned ineffable plan? What greater good could possibly be served by anything that had happened here today?

Crowley was speaking again, but his voice was too soft. Aziraphale leaned his ear down to hear.

"Aziraphale," said Crowley in barely more than a whisper, "I'm sorry."

Aziraphale opened his mouth to tell him that it was all right, that he forgave him, but Crowley had already closed his eyes. The demon's one good wing beat the air spasmodically once, twice, and was still. There was nothing else to be done. Lost and sad beyond measure, Aziraphale pressed his forehead to Crowley's and wept.

Above them, the sun moved steadily in the sky, heading towards late afternoon and evening. No one bothered them. No other angels would mourn the eternal loss of one demon and none of the other lesser demons were stupid enough to get near a principality with a sword in arms reach. Not until dusk had begun to set in did anything pierce the fog of grief that clung to Aziraphale like a soggy blanket.

"My child," said a voice that Aziraphale could scarcely believe was real.

The angel looked up into the face of God and his mouth fell open in surprise. A twinge of uncertainty shot through him. What could he say to explain why he was cradling a demon in his arms?

"Aziraphale," said God in an infinitely kind and gentle tone, "Why would I fault you for being his friend? How could you think I would condemn you for loving him? Do you think I ever stopped loving him? I, who still loves Lucifer despite the horrors he has wrought."

Aziraphale could think of nothing to say.

"No, My child," said God, "I do not come to you now to add to your burden of grief by reprimanding you for acting in love as you were created to do. You have done well and your friendship made Crowley a unique case among demons."

"How?" asked Aziraphale, confused.

God smiled. "Tell Me, child, how many demons do you think have acted out of love, or friendship, or remorse since they fell from heaven?"

Aziraphale stared down at Crowley's shell. What was He saying?

"Just one," said God, nodding at Crowley. "He came to you today," God continued, "because I asked him to. I offered him nothing. Crowley fulfilled the request with no hope of a reward save the retribution he knew would come from Lucifer and his own. He came because of his friendship with you; because he loved you."

The words should have comforted him, Aziraphale knew, but he only felt more wretched, his heart more broken.

"Now," said God, "I know the story goes that a fallen angel is beyond My Grace, and up until this point that has been quite true, but," he paused to crouch down, drawing Aziraphale's eyes to His, "up until this point, no fallen angel has ever shown any desire to be saved."

At these words, God reach a hand over to Crowley and pressed it against the demon's chest. Hope, pure and all-consuming, filled Aziraphale as the hole in Crowley's chest sealed up. The blood and dark stains disappeared, Crowley's blackened hands healed, and his mangled wing straightened out, whole and pristine.

"You know," said God as he bent over Crowley's face, "This was always my favorite part." And he blew into Crowley's slightly open mouth.

As the Breath of Life flowed through him, Crowley began to stir, and Aziraphale's sense of joy and wonder grew as Crowley opened his eyes; eyes that were no longer golden, but instead mirrored the color of the sky above, a deep and fathomless blue.

Six Months Later

"For heaven's sake, Crowley," said Aziraphale, rolling his eyes, "Could you at least try and remember you don't work for that side any more?"

Crowley looked up from where he was trying to surreptitiously remove all the bolts and screws from the seat in front of him.

"What?" he said, affecting a tone of surprise and innocence that Aziraphale obviously wasn't buying. "Oh fine," he said at last, "but surely, the good it would have brought to everyone around us would have cancelled out any –"

"That's not the way it works and you know it," persisted Aziraphale, trying to look stern and failing utterly.

Crowley sighed. "There's only five more minutes to intermission before that old hag returns to her seat and brings her impossible hair-do with her." He shook his head. "That style must have been introduce by my... er, the other side." He corrected himself mid-sentence.

Aziraphale raised his eyebrows. "I rather thought the constant running commentary on the performance was her biggest offense. I haven't been able to hear two notes in a row all evening."

"Yes, well," said Crowley, reaching towards one of the bolts again, "Don't you think –"

"No, Crowley," said Aziraphale in a long-suffering tone. "Don't make me, as they say, pull rank on you."

Crowley sighed theatrically. "I should have known that promotion would go straight to your head," he said. "Bloody Archangels... at least I'm still better-looking."

The house lights dimmed and brightened again to signal that the audience should start winding their way back to their seats.

"I don't see our friend anywhere," said Crowley after a moment when the cantankerous elderly lady who had been inhabiting the seat it front of them didn't return.

"Perhaps she decided to leave early?" said Aziraphale, burying his nose in the program.

Crowley narrowed his eyes at Aziraphale's guilty form. "What did you do?" he asked accusingly.

"Nothing!" said Aziraphale a little too quickly, then at Crowley's look, "Oh, all right, I may have done a little something."

Crowley threw his head back and laughed loudly. A few of the returning patrons shot him scathing looks.

"Angel, I always said you just enough of a bastard to be likeable."

"And," said Aziraphale, "I always said that deep down inside there was a spark of goodness in you."

For a few seconds, they shared a smile that spoke volumes. Then the lights lowered in earnest and both angels turned their attention back to the stage.