Аннотация: Crowley and Aziraphale have a fantastic talent for getting each other in trouble. Happy end. Mid-high rating for rather explicit behaviour in same-sex dyads.
Through thick and thin
Crowley practically flew inside the bookshop slamming the door behind him. With his next movement he grabbed the startled Aziraphale's collar and pulled him close.
"Lisssssten to me," he hissed almost inaudibly, long-out of breath.
"I am," supplied the angel while cracking his mind to figure out what in the world could make his Enemy-Almost-Friend become so grabby all of a sudden.
"I didn't mean it that way!" spat the demon.
Aziraphale stared at him blankly.
"I didn't!" shouted Crowley finally mustering some voice. "It was supposed to be a minor mischief, just for a couple of companies to wrangle over, I never meant it to be the Third World War!!"
"Oh," said Aziraphale finally grasping something resembling sense in the demon's word flow. He was indeed aware of some very troubling developments in the international relationship, and was just beginning to wonder if Hell had anything to do with them.
"You have to trust me on my word!" the demon continued, unsatisfied. "That's not how it was supposed to be, take it from me!"
"Very well, dear, very well," muttered Aziraphale soothingly, at the same time carefully unclasping the demon's fingers still on his collar.
"Do you believe me then?" asked Crowley, and it was only then that Aziraphale realized his friend wasn't wearing his usual sunglasses.
"I see no reason not to... Don't quite recall you ever lying to me before..."
That seemingly made Crowley relax. He stepped back and sank into a chair.
"Fiewhhh," he whistled in a hissing way, and then added after a brief pause, "You should tell your superiors, really."
"Tell what?" the angel stared.
"Are you deaf?! I'm saying there's another World War going to happen in just a few days! Dunno `bout you, but I ain't going to have another Armageddon in just so short a time, very well, thank you, I've already got an eye-twitch!" As a proof to the last statement, his left eye started twitching somewhere in the middle of the sentence.
"You know very well that I don't want a repetition of that," said the angel convincingly. "But are you sure it is really all so dangerous? I have heard some tidings about the recent unfortunate events, but a war?.. Somehow, it seems, the most potent nations are over wars by now."
Crowley growled and hissed and pushed his fingers into his hair, which was a real mess today, nothing like his usual neat pony-tail.
"Come on," he finally managed, glancing at his watch, "You have to hear something first-hand."
He grabbed the angel by the elbow and dragged him out and into the car. Several minutes later they were crawling in the backyard of what looked like an abandoned kindergarten, avoiding the streetlights in the twilight shadows. Finally Crowley stopped and hissed in a silencing fashion.
"So they are going to launch this, er, exploding business right on Sunday afternoon?" said an unpleasant voice coming from somewhere inside the building. Aziraphale squinted his eyes, peering through a knocked-out window. He could vaguely make out two unpleasant shapes.
"Exactly, Ligur, exactly. This man called You-Enn president signed it himself. The Americas are gonna sink without a trace!" replied another unpleasant, but very pleased voice.
"Hm. Looks like there is something to this Crowley, after all," said the first one. "He can reach certain heights, or rather downs, in spite of what you told me about him earlier."
At this point Aziraphale received a light jab in the ribs and turned to see an odd expression on Crowley's face. He nodded reassuringly.
They stayed there for a few more minutes, memorizing the details of the planned mischief, then the two higher-ranking demons left.
Aziraphale breathed a deep sigh, trying to come to terms with what he'd just heard. Crowley fidgeted standing by his side.
"Why did you bring me here then?" asked the angel finally. "To gloat?"
Crowley rolled his eyes.
"I thought you were going to go and inform someone and put an end to the whole matter."
"And why did you want that?" inquired the angel, suspicion all over his face.
"Told ya, don't need another End of Everything!" Crowley screamed in a whisper. "And don't look at me like that, I warned you it looks like I caused the whole ruckus, but I wasn't going to! And I don't want to break the Agreement. So you'd better go and cal it in before it's too late." He coughed and spat onto the lawn.
"Yes, of course, that is what I must do anyway, but... won't it get you in trouble?"
Crowley rolled is eyes in a surrounded-by-morons-all-my-life way.
"Just tell them you overheard Hastur and Ligur talking, it's not far from your place anyway. No need to bring me in!"
Aziraphale opened his mouth to make a comment about not-telling-the-whole-truth being lie as well, but, after all, it was a miracle Crowley informed him of the whole matter at all, so he could pay him back with a favour, right? Not could, but should, actually. It'd be a very bad thing to have Crowley punished for a righteous deed.
So he nodded and pushed the demon lightly, hinting that he should leave, and then turned to find a more or less smooth spot on the ground to draw the circle.
The disaster was terminated quite efficiently, although Crowley didn't really find out how, since he heard of the whole matter from his own superiors. The whole episode turned out to be unexpectedly beneficial for him, because both Hastur and Ligur got severely punished for lack of discreetness and removed from their positions as Dukes of Hell, while Crowley got a promotion to that very same position for his grand plan, which no one suspected to be an accident.
Crowley relished in the attention he got now from all the surroundings in Hell, in the power he suddenly acquired over minor demons. He didn't even consider going back to the human world for quite some time. Probably, months in human measuring. But eventually he got bored. Hell was Hell, after all, even if you were Satan Himself. Besides, he was quite looking forward to treating Aziraphale to an enormously expensive dinner for the neatly done job. Aziraphale was... a pleasant thought, but so misplaced in Hell, that it almost made Crowley blush. So staying in Hell was not even in question.
He came back to his flat, saw to the well-being of his plants that were left in an automatic-waterer's care. Then he went and bought himself a real fashionable suit to please his real-clothes loving friend. And then he drove off to Soho.
The most strikingly unpleasant thing about this evening wasn't that Aziraphale was not at home, but rather that there were signs of Crowley's fellow demons all over the place. Add to that the upturned furniture, evil signs scribbled on the walls and floor and the layer of dust covering this all, and you'll get the idea of Crowley's state of mind as he sped back to Hell alarming every single tiny spirit under his command.
He soon found them. The angel spread out on some mediaeval torturing device and resembling a skinned rabbit, and two newbies, who Fell just a few years ago and still remembered a certain higher-ranking snob who used to reprimand them for something or other. Crowley was beyond livid. If nothing else - if nothing else at all - direct assault was not allowed! He screamed and bellowed and managed to frighten both idiots into a stutter, but nothing seemed to be enough to cover for their fault. In the end he just sat there with a menacing look on his face, his lower lip trembling, of course, in fury. It was then that one of the wretched creatures managed to make his first sensible sound.
"B-b-b-b-b-ut w-we g-g-got him te-te-to sign the p-p-p-Pact!"
Crowley felt his heart sink so deep it must have shot out of the ground somewhere in Tibet. The Pact was a way to Fell angels. If one of them got caught, he was allowed to sign this bleakly printed paper with their blood, and that would mean he willingly joined the forces of Hell. They naturally promised to stop torturing him then, only in reality everyone who Fell had been tortured for a few years before being left alone.
If that was the case... Oh fuck.
"W-wasnnt he th'one t-t-to ruin your g-g-g-grand p-p-p-plan, siiir?" squeaked the other lesser demon.
Crowley covered his face with his hands. He's got Aziraphale Fallen. And there was nothing to do about it. Not anymore. The brats had him sign the Pact while he, Crowley, was buying clothes! Or watering house-plants! Or even...
"How long ago did he sign it?" said Crowley slowly.
"Ha-half an hour?" said the little bastard uncertainly.
Crowley jumped to his feet. There was no way Beelzebub had seen it yet. The paper must be still in the waiting-to-be-registered tray. With a quick motion and a vast application of his new power, Crowley removed the memory of the Pact from the demons' minds and dashed for Beelzebub's office. It was, probably, Aziraphale's heavenly luck that the guy was not in place. Crowley's heart returned from its round-the-world trip and was now beating madly and way too loudly for an internal organ, as its owner fiddled with the papers on his boss's table. There it was! Poor Aziraphale, that was nothing like his usual neat handwriting...
Crowley crept out of the office and tore back to where the angel still was bound to the horrible machine. He burned the paper in a lick of hell-fire that was maintained in the torture chamber for the most ugly reasons. He made sure not a single bit was left. Then he picked up what was, he hoped, his still-living friend and headed straight for Heaven.
Just in the doorstep he faced a couple of gaily chatting archangels. They were probably Michael and Gabriel, although he could never really tell those guys one from another, since they shone too brightly with divine beauty, all the same. As he approached, bloodied Aziraphale in his arms, they both stared at him in deep confusion.
"I am Crowley, a Duke of Hell," he announced before they ever managed to form a question. "I have been trying to tempt this angel for the whole history of mankind, and failed. Then my people caught him and tortured him to the best of their ability to make him forsake his soul, and failed as well. So I bring him here for, although a creature of evil I might be, the concept of honour is not alien to me, and I can't but admire the power of faith this warrior of Heaven possesseth. Take him and heal him well, for it is with him that I would like to have my final battle at the End of All Things."
With that he knelt and laid the senseless body of his friend before his superiors. His knees were trembling slightly, and his back was damp with sweat, and he wondered if he had the grand words correctly.
"Indeed that would take great faith to evoke dignity in one of the Hellish scornful creatures", pronounced the more sternly looking archangel, probably, Michael. "We should see to that you meet your match in the Last Battle, Crowley, Duke of Hell", he added and nodded to Gabriel. The latter stooped and picked the poor angel up. He bowed ever so slightly, and so did Crowley, and then the heavenly folk vanished behind the gate.
And Crowley went to the human world and got very, very, very drunk.
Months went by, and every single spirit in Hell was aware that there was an angel who was one of the Dukes' intended temptation target, and he got tortured by these two little junkies and got away. A very small number knew details, really, but Crowley made it sure everyone knew who the junkies were. He knew it from his own experience that humiliation was the worst punishment ever invented.
Currently he was sitting in Aziraphale's bookshop and waiting. He has been doing that for many days. He didn't quite keep count of time, but he has read all the books, and that was supposed to say something.
He couldn't quite wrap his mind around whatever was causing him to be there, but he saw no reason to find the answer immediately. After all, his responsibilities decreased considerably since his promotion, so he had a lot of free time now. And only loneliness to spend it with. Sometimes he slept right there at the table, since Aziraphale's quarters seemed to lack a bed, and dreamed that the host has come back.
It was to a scratch of a bat or a hoot of an owl that he woke up then, and cursed, and knew exactly why humans were traditionally so ill-disposed to those animals. Once or twice he tried to convince himself that he just wanted to know if the angel had healed well, but that thought made him bite his nails, so he abandoned it.
The bloody little bastards thought they were helping him. It was because of him that Aziraphale got in trouble instead of a thank-you. Crowley felt guilty both for his promotion and his new elegant suit. Now that he finally put his finger on the reason of his own behavior, he felt like howling and sinking his teeth into the table's edge.
It was then that the door creaked and a few footsteps brought the fresh, healthy and glowing Aziraphale into the room.
"Crowley?" said the angel, astounded. "What on Earth?.."
"Just wanted to see for meself you `ere fine," croaked Crowley, getting up from the table in spite of his legs gone numb. "Sorry I gotcha in such a mess." There, he said it, okay!?
"You got? You weren't even around," stated the angel convincedly.
"R-right," said Crowley. "No better though, still, see," he realized he was rambling. "Those guys, they thought they were doing it for me, see..." he finally managed. "I didn't know," he added quickly before Aziraphale could think he really had a say in this. "Not until..."
The angel's face suddenly fell. Probably, it was not a good idea to remind him of the experience.
"Yes, I understand," said Aziraphale, averting his gaze. "There's no your fault though. I got careless. And then... I couldn't stand it. I am weak, Crowley, whatever they had convinced themselves in Heaven... For some reason they wouldn't believe me when I say I signed this... Pact."
Bloody hell, thought Crowley. Who would've thought he ever remembered, given the pain and all the damage... And, of course, trust Aziraphale to go righteous at his own expense. Crowley should have obliviated HIM first, it's plain as day that he's gonna be the main threat to himself this way!
"Of course they wouldn't, and why would you even suggest such a thing?" gasped Crowley, hoping for hopeless.
"But I remember signing it," Aziraphale spread his hands. "I couldn't stand the pain anymore, and they promised relief if I... I am Fallen now, whatever the archangels think of it."
"You don't look Fallen to me," croaked Crowley feeling ridiculously on the verge of tears. At least that was what he though it felt like, when despite your utmost effort your best and only friend comes up and asks for punishment.
The angel sighed and sat down and rubbed his face with his hands.
"What exactly happened there, Crowley?" he asked wearily. "They said you brought me in."
Crowley had nothing to do but tell him.
"I see," said Aziraphale when he finished, in an odd voice. "So you got hold of that paper."
"Uhhuh," nodded Crowley, fidgeting in his seat.
"What are you going to do with it then?" asked the angel in an even odder voice.
"I destroyed it," Crowley blinked. Then it dawned on him. "Had it by any chance ever crossed your mind that I would use it against you!?"
"Well!? I go through all the trouble of getting you back to Heaven in all senses, probably at the expense of my own career, and you expect me to blackmail you with the shitty piece of parchment!?"
Crowley suddenly realized it was not anger or fury, but righteous wrath that he was feeling. He instantly felt ashamed, which was no better for a demon, really.
"I'm sorry," the angel slouched. "See, I am no good anymore."
"That's rubbish," said Crowley. "After all, I'm a demon, and it's natural to expect something like that from me. I'm just angry because, you know, it's in the character," he giggled both nervously and unconvincingly. "Look, it's in the past now anyway, right? I got you into this mess, okay, but I then got you out. So it's all back to the Agreement, right?" Even as he was speaking he knew everything was so wrong.
The angel shook his head slowly.
"No, Crowley. It was a nice try, but... I am very grateful to you, but you can't make up for my failure. I have to go back and tell them what you told me. Thank you for everything. It... I... we will probably meet... Below. After... some time," he stood up resigningly.
Crowley jumped up like a bouncing beach-ball.
"You are not really going to do that!" he shouted, aghast.
"It's the right thing to do," maintained Aziraphale.
"NO! It... it will get you nowhere!"
The angel shrugged. Crowley rummaged in his mind for any arguments, and yes, there it was!
"But angel, the Above will tell the Below it was me! They'll... they'll... that's your bloody gratitude, to have me skinned alive!?"
The silence that followed stung their eardrums.
"I will beg them to keep it a secret," said the angel slowly and lamely. "They are bound to have enough respect..."
The demon sank to the floor and hugged the angel's knees.
"Please," he moaned.
Aziraphale squeezed his eyes shut and lowered himself to level with Crowley.
"All right," he said while inhaling, which made it sound as if he were suffocating. "All right".
They sat there for some infinite time, hugging each other, and Crowley took a pleasure in not thinking at all. He buried his face in the angel's downy curls of hair and realized that his nose and fingertips were icy cold. He tightened the hug groping for warmth. He heard a soft sob: the angel must have been crying.
Damn it all, thought Crowley. He isn't going to Hell. Not until I can't mouth a single word.
"Hushh," he breathed into Aziraphale's ear while stroking his back ever so lightly. "It's alright. It's all alright." He couldn't really come up with anything else soothing to say. Not his specialty, really.
So true, he thought when the angel started wailing aloud and then unexpectedly bit into his shoulder. Crowley gave a start, but didn't do anything. It didn't hurt really, not through all the clothes, but why on earth would he do that?
Probably for the same reason that Crowley himself almost bit off a piece of the table just half an hour earlier. It was this extremely powerful desire to do something outrageous to make everyone know you were miserable. It came with howling. Or wailing, in Aziraphale's case.
The angel quieted down eventually and lifted his tear-stained face. Crowley bit his tongue painfully at the sight and almost blushed - so astonishingly beautiful the angel was, yet not with that divine beauty that made all the heavenly creatures look alike, but with very human, lust-evoking way. Crowley felt there was something vaguely wrong about feeling lust towards his friend in such a miserable state.
His ideas of right and wrong wavered very soon as this friend in question tightened his grip on Crowley's ribs almost painfully, and attempted to kiss him on the mouth. Crowley supposed today was just this kind of surprise-day, but the last thing he was going to do was to discourage Aziraphale. Whether it was gratitude or friendly affection, or just a need to get away from painful thoughts, Crowley was going to appear as welcoming as possible. For once, he had never done it with an angel.
He carefully placed his head at just the right angle and kissed him lightly, innocently for starters. He felt Aziraphale's whole body beginning to tremble, but the angel's emotions were such a mess, Crowley couldn't tell what caused it. He deepened the kiss and pressed their bodies closer. It was rather cool in the room, he noticed. And they were on the floor. On the dusty floor of Aziraphale's bookshop. Well, one of the good things about making love was that you got very warm in the process. He concentrated on the sensation of the angel's tongue moving slowly and randomly in his own mouth. Well, that's what you get from a virgin, it's effort that counts. But to think it was Aziraphale breathing against his lips, Aziraphale who never so much as felt self-conscious on behalf of sexual desire for six thousand years! Well, that was a good one to think of, the heat spread all over his body and his fingers were finally warm enough to slide them under the trembling angel's shirt. Aziraphale gave a start but didn't protest.
Crowley moved lower and sucked at his neck, barely refraining from biting. He was afraid to scare the fragile creature. The angel's skin was so thin, Crowley could make out every vein.
"I will never hurt you," he said, his own eyes widening with surprise at his own words. "Never ever."
Aziraphale moaned hoarsely.
Crowley managed to make his mind and tongue work for him, and not for some idea of a perfect lover. Aziraphale's skin was cool and smooth and tasted vaguely of a flower petal. It was also extremely sensitive, causing the angel to squeak like a frightened cub every time the demon applied his attention to a new patch of skin. Crowley honestly marveled at the amount of innocence his friend possessed. One would think, having spent so much time with humans, even an angel of Aziraphale's bearing would have an idea what sex was about. And yet he blushed like mad and squeezed his eyes not to look at his own now half-naked body, and it was so... ohhhh, Crowley wasn't in the state of mind to choose words.
He lifted Aziraphale in his arms and set him on the table. It wouldn't do really to mar this perfect body with all the dust. The angel was still slightly glowing in the semi-darkness of the room. Crowley stepped back and regarded him and moaned involuntarily. He didn't realize he was already so hard.
Aziraphale half-opened an eye and scanned the room for Crowley.
"Where are you?" he said weakly.
"Right here, darling," replied Crowley reaching out to stroke Aziraphale's front. The eye went shut again, and the angel leaned back until he was lying on the table, only his legs dangling from the edge, his whole form fornicated at the most interesting place. Crowley sucked in a sharp breath and kissed the angel's belly. "You are so beautiful," he managed, again not knowing where that came from. "I'm right here, always here for you."
Well, he thought, that was enough sentiment for one evening. It was time to unbutton trousers, and yes, trust Aziraphale to wear trousers with buttons. There. Without a second thought - without a first thought either, actually, - Crowley took him into his mouth and sucked, and sucked, and sucked, hearing the angel moaning and whimpering and even screaming and clawing at the table. It didn't take long until Crowley had the pleasure of taking in the best sound and sight in the world. He himself moaned and grasped at his groin. He desperately needed relief. But he couldn't use Aziraphale for that.
The realization struck him as a lightning bolt from a blue sky in winter. He couldn't do anything to Aziraphale, he couldn't... kind of... breach his integrity. He wouldn't let the angel do anything... inappropriate for angels.
He doubled up and groaned as a new wave of heat and sucking desire spread all over his body. The angel lay relaxed in front of him, eyes still shut, completely unaware of Crowley's trouble. The demon backed away and into the bathroom shutting the door as if he was going to do something forbidden. He tore at his trousers almost ruining them and bent over the baths edge, supporting himself on the opposite wall. It didn't take much effort to achieve relief. The image of Aziraphale desperately trying to hide his face while his whole body shook in ecstasy was still bright before Crowley's eyes. He breathed in loudly and coughed and almost fell to the floor.
As he came out, his head wet from putting it under the cold water, Aziraphale was already clad and trying to put up a kettle with shaking hands. Since Crowley's were in no better condition, he decided not to help.
"Why did you run away?" said the angel flatly.
"I didn't!" Crowley cried out defensively. Then he thought of it. "I just didn't want to hurt you."
"There was no need to leave the room," said the angel gloomily and Crowley almost blushed for a second time in one evening. There was something about the notions of Aziraphale and sex put together that his conscience instinctively marked as shameful. It was like thinking of sex and talking teddy-bears. But then, just a few minutes ago, wasn't it the image of Aziraphale that made him come so hard?
"I am sorry. I..." he could as well come clean. "There's something about you... like you're too good for it or something. No offence, see, just... I felt like I'd be tampering you if I let you see..."
Aziraphale actually glared.
"I started it." He turned away.
"I know," Crowley searched desperately for a wording that wouldn't be offensive. Somehow, he felt, he was losing his friend. His only friend ever. "Look, I enjoyed it a lot! More than with anyone else in my life! It's just..."
"It's just that I'm no good," spat the angel, and Crowley recognized tears in his voice even from behind.
"You ARE good! You're just TOO good! See, I just couldn't bring myself to... to spoil you or something."
"But I want to be spoilt!" cried Aziraphale turning to face him, his eyes glazed with tears.
"Yes, but you don't want to have sex with me," said Crowley harshly, only realizing what he pronounced after it was already in the air. He shut his mouth with a thud before continuing along the lines that if the angel was looking for an alternative way to Hell, he shouldn't look around Crowley. He regarded the angel who looked slapped in the face, took a deep breath and continued in a different way: "You do not belong in Hell no matter what you think. And anyway, you won't be able to keep my meddling a secret under torture, so it doesn't really matter, how you get there, you'll still screw it up for me."
The angel hung his head, despair all over his features. Crowley came up and hugged him lightly, switching off the boiling kettle behind his back.
Days went by. Since Crowley didn't want to leave Aziraphale alone for any considerable amount of time, they mostly drove around together, or ate, or slept in Crowley's vast bed. Aziraphale once tried to get Crowley very drunk and seduce him again, but received only two hours worth of compliments and a light hug, and a very mad Crowley who remembered it all in the morning. It looked like his divine nature killed the demon's lust right away unless the demon was concentrating really hard.
He did some miracles for humans sometimes when Crowley began sending him to many irritated glances, but somehow every time he was expecting his powers to waver and fail him. It was crazy that he still could do good, really.
It was once that they were strolling in St. James Park when Crowley kept hinting heavily for half an hour that there was a kid following them, a kid with a broken toy. Broken, Aziraphale, do you see it? Must be rather unhappy about it, this child. Not very well clad he is either. Honestly, angel, this is so annoying...
Thankfully, the toy got miraculously repaired right before there was a light blue glow and another angel stepped right onto their path.
"Demon Crowley," he said with a slight surprise. "Whatever are you doing around one of our kind?"
"That your bloody kind!" screamed Crowley just to say something before Aziraphale tried to ruin it all once again. "Spoiled a week's work, him! I wasted my best effort to get that lil brat's parents in jail, and he's got it all back right in no time! I mean, even repaired a broken toy! I mean, I'm allowed to say a couple nice words to him for that, dontcha think!?"
Aziraphale stared at his feet pointedly and blushed a deep crimson.
"O-oh," managed the newcomer. "Well, you better go now, it's two against one and all... and we need to talk."
Crowley shot his friend a warning glance and strode away.
Aziraphale caught up with him several minutes later, his face was actually glowing with red.
"What?" asked Crowley, unnerved.
"Nothing really, just a little assignment... Nothing complicated. Crowley, I... thank you."
"What? For the story? My best interest, you know."
"Yes, I just..."
Crowley pursed his lips. Aziraphale had a look about him like he was going to say that Crowley did a nice thing and was good deep inside.
"Yesss?" hissed the demon warningly.
"Just that when you do something like this, I think I actually want to have sex with you," Aziraphale jabbered and blushed even deeper if possible. Crowley stumbled over his own heel.
They had a great night that night, now that Aziraphale didn't shudder at the idea of every touch, although Crowley still was quite reluctant to use the angel for his own pleasure. But he didn't run away this time, and they were both perfectly satisfied, and even took shower together afterwards, splashing water at each other, and then they had coffee on the balcony, and then...
And then Aziraphale suddenly broke into tears once more. Crowley almost chocked on his coffee.
"What tha Hell is it this time, huh?" he demanded in no tactful tone.
The angel mumbled something incoherent.
The demon sighed exasperatedly and moved his chair to sit closer to this source of misfortune.
"Just that... there is an eternity to go... How am I supposed to lie to them all this time? I couldn't even look at him yesterday! I'm wretched, I can't go on like this forever, and I dunno what to dooo..." the words sank into inarticulate wailing.
Crowley rubbed his face with one hand, pulling the angel closer to himself with the other. He expected that coming. He knew the angel couldn't lie to his superiors even if he thought that was the right thing to do. Humans seem to call it identity crisis or something... One thing was quite clear: if he lets it go on like this, Aziraphale will end up in Hell eventually, one way or another. Which, apart from being inconsistent with further life, was very dangerous to his career.
There was only one thing to do that he could think of. It was crazy, and hopeless. It was like fighting Satan with a burnt piece of a car. But they said, God was merciful, after all...
Crowley put the exhausted angel to sleep with a little miraculous help, and headed once again for Heaven.
He made it through the archangels with a sore tongue. Metatron was much tougher and he spoke very slowly, too. It seemed to Crowley that over the years he was banned from Heaven, Metatron got this specific air of a useless secretary who wouldn't let you have your stamp unless you show that you realize how essentially necessary his position is. Crowley did his best. It helped, both, that he was a Duke and that his previous appearance here did trigger the highest interest in him.
He was finally allowed to the garden, to talk to the God Himself.
"Eh- Hallo," he said lamely. Metatron seemed to have sucked out his whole vocabulary. "Look, I know you're busy and all, but see, there's Your angel in deep trouble, an' I jus' thought You'd want to reassure him..."
Aziraphale woke to a summoning. He scrambled out of bed self-consciously and only then remembered that he was already dressed and had even had coffee that morning. He cautiously stepped into the circle.
"He wants to talk to you," said Metatron in an odd voice. His voice has never been ordinary really, but today it was as if especially designed to trouble a guilty conscience.
"Yes, of course," whispered Aziraphale. Whatever was he going to do?
He was brought all the way upwards and straight into the garden.
"Aziraphale," said His voice, and love filtered through the whole angel's being. Except for the part that was preoccupied...
"Tell me, my dear boy, how have you been doing these days?"
"F-fine really," stuttered the angel expecting the floor to vanish from under his feet any moment. Crowley mentioned it was a very, very long fall.
"Do not the visions of Hell bother you?"
"No, I-I don't think so..." he was trembling and clenching his fists.
"Such a brave boy you are, aren't you? I wouldn't want anyone like you joining the Army of Hell."
Aziraphale gulped. Hard. He had to tell. And he had to protect Crowley. There was no right choice. There simply wasn't. And that meant that the God... no, that was a dangerous chain of thought. He couldn't afford to Fall. Only, he was on the verge of insanity. Insaintity. Argh.
"Now tell me, how did you make this Crowley bring you all the way up here?"
"Er..." the angel squeaked. "He wanted me healed."
"To fight me... later... I think... I didn't quite understand."
"And not just because you two are friends?"
That was a real blow. How much would it hurt to tell the truth? How much would it hurt to lie? Why was He even asking? What if Crowley got caught? He definitely wasn't at home...
Unawares, Aziraphale brought his hands to cover his face and moaned quietly in despair. There was no way he could do it. Just no way. Yet he had to.
The God was saying something. The angel barely mustered enough will to listen.
"...really a good friend. You see, he came to me this morning and told me everything, and begged that I spared you."
"Who, Crowley?" said Aziraphale feeling his head swim.
"Yes, Crowley. He told me all about your Pact, and how you covered for him."
"Oh," said Aziraphale actually sinking to the ground. He will fall through any moment now. He lifted his head to regard the beautiful garden for one last time.
"Do you regret any of your deeds?"
Aziraphale thought about it. He didn't need to lie anymore, right? Could as well formulate things then.
"I detest lies," he said finally, "but given chance, I would have done the same. I am sorry to disappoint you."
The God actually chuckled.
"Fine then. I see you are a very good friend to have. I forgive you, so you may return to your duties."
"F-forgive me?" blurted the angel through a slight mist in his head. "But I have failed... I surrendered to torture and..."
"Ah", said the God and, although Aziraphale didn't quite see Him, he felt there was a hand raised to stop his rambling. "Those stronger than you have surrendered to pain. And those who withstood it often did so out of pride, which I can only grudgingly praise. But you did something to please me to no end, something that neither of your superiors ever achieved. You awakened love in a spiteful creature that I considered long-lost. Yet he came here to call upon my mercy and begged for you. He really cares for you and he's just starting to gain faith in me. You did a very good job there, and you are going to carry on with it. And no, of course I won't tell Lucifer on him. I won't ruin a newly born faith. Besides, he'd better be in good standing in Hell, maybe those poor idiots get an idea or two from him. So off you go, dear boy, back to the World and to your duties."
That said, Aziraphale felt himself in a whirl of colour which tickled and made him laugh madly in relief all the way to Crowley's doorstep. He wobbled inside. The demon, rather pale and shaken, came out to check out the noise.
"CROWLEY!!!" yelled Aziraphale and threw himself at the demon, hugging him with all the - suddenly increased - power. "You are the best!"