Falling, to say the least, was unpleasant. Now, that was obvious; a rapid plunge from Heaven with wings that wouldn’t open would hurt anyone, and landing in a pit of boiling sulfur certainly wouldn’t make the landing any softer. So, yes, the unpleasantness of it was obvious, but knowing to what extent the damage ran was what was so, so much worse. The only differences the angels really noticed were the wings; once perfect and iridescent, made of colors that the human eye couldn’t even fathom, had become charred and ragged. They, of course, also knew that some memories had been… altered, because being truly erased was impossible, but they never knew quite how much they had been changed. It wasn’t as if many had the chance to ask. In fact, there was only one angel that really had the opportunity to quiz a demon over what he remembered from the Fall.
Unfortunately, that particular demon was much like a brick wall, unwilling to yield and speak the truth over an event so damaging. The only answers the angel ever truly got were when the demon was drunk, and even then they were quite clearly not the full truth.
“How did you fall, Crowley?”
“I d- I didn’t fall, angel. I just, sort of… sauntered vaguely downwards.”
Clearly, that was not the truth. Not if the sudden pallor of the demon’s face had anything to say about it. But in the next second he was stone-cold sober and making an excuse to leave, something about yelling at plants, so the truth could not be pulled out that night (or any of the nights for the next century. Or the one after that.)
Crowley mostly refused to tell the angel anything because he didn’t remember anything. Nothing worth telling, at least. He doubted the angel really wanted to hear a graphic account of how, as he fell, he could feel every spark travel across his body, how he could barely hear his own thoughts over the agony he could hear and feel, and not all of it from himself. He didn’t think Aziraphale would want to know of how Crowley, despite not knowing why, was desperately trying to save every freshly fallen angel he could. Who was expending more energy than he had in his body, doing the most to make sure everyone who had been cast out, who had been rejected by a God that no longer listened to their prayers, survived. Who slept for a month, once it was all said and done.
He didn’t think Aziraphale wanted to know these things. That was half of the reasoning. The other half was not knowing; like how he didn’t know why he had immediately tried to save whoever he could. He didn’t know a lot of things. His old name, for example. His role, for another.
However, what he did know, was that he had once been an angel, one of the lucky ones who got to help create the sky. Perhaps even one of the few who were able to see the archangels, but if he had been, that was long gone from his mind. What else he knew, is that he had been loved, and had loved freely in return. Now, he was not loved, nor did he love; or, at least, that was what he told himself. He was not loved as he once was, not loved by Her, but loved by others. The only love he really cared for, though, was Her love, and perhaps the love of Aziraphale, in whatever form he felt to give it in. He told himself he did not love in return, not anymore, but anyone who had laid eyes on him knew it was a lie. He loved Aziraphale, but that was a secret, but the even bigger secret, the one that weighed on him like a stone on his chest, was that he still loved Her.
Even cast out, his Grace stripped out of him along with most of his mind, he still found a place in his heart that was dripping with love. Yes, most of him was bitter, hurting, and still aching, even after several millennia, but he still loved Her, and that was the only sin this new form could commit.
His chest was laden with this sin, and he had long ago embraced it.
He didn’t think Aziraphale would want to know these things, either. So, he didn’t tell him, swore he would never let him find out, swore that he would be dying before he even admitted to the angel that he remembered he had created one particular star.
This, however, was not how things went.
It was about a month after the world didn’t end. About a month since their trials, about a month since their miraculous survivals. Crowley was drunk on Aziraphale’s couch, chattering on about something or other, before Aziraphale put a stop to it.
“Crowley. Dear. Dearest. Dearest Crowley.” He began, the wine halting his thought process, but knowing he would never get his answer if Crowley was even slightly sober, “What was my trial like?”
Now, this was a question Sober Crowley had prepared for. He had the right tone figured out, the proper words to say, even a general idea of how to comfort Aziraphale after the news. However, Drunk Crowley was not prepared. It was as if every single one of his higher brain functions shut down simultaneously, and it left him gaping as he tried to come up with a gentle answer.
However, that also was not how that went, and he instead blurted out, very quickly and fairly loudly, “They didn’t give you one.” That was not the tone of voice he wanted to use, nor were they the words he had planned. That was fine, though, considering how silent it was, it could’ve been worse. He had expected sobbing, really, and that would’ve been warranted, but he wasn’t and that was… better? Worse? Crowley couldn’t really tell. He bothered to look up, now, realizing that he just might need to see what reaction he was getting because he could be wrong and maybe Aziraphale was crying but quietly – but he found nothing different than he thought. Actually, Aziraphale was nodding, as if that made sense.
Crowley wasn’t shocked. Not as much as he should’ve been. The fact that Heaven was so well known for being… That Way had lessened the blow, but that didn’t mean it didn’t make Crowley just a little furious. It did. Because while it was well known for being That Way, he liked to think that maybe, just occasionally, Heaven acted as Heavenly as they should.
Execution without trial was not the type of thing you would expect of Heaven, and it made Crowley upset, even that month later.
“They didn’t – didn’t even bother to let you speak, either, they just… just went ‘oh, hey, Aziraphale, mind walking into this hellfire? Yes? Good, enjoy your extinction,’ and that was – that was it, angel, I wish I had never fallen just so I could’ve – so I could’ve slapped that stupid face off of Gabriel’s… face. Hadn’t fallen and I may have even had an actual chance of doing it; but no, Mother Dearest had to – had to throw me out of the sky like that. Had to go and take my stupid Grace with everyone else who She decided had committed a crime, or something. She threw out so many, Aziraphale… I could barely help them all – all broken, burned and bleeding and – and I couldn’t do it–”
Now, Crowley was failing to realize that he had gone off on a tangent, but Aziraphale noticed, and didn’t dare to even breathe too loudly, because this was the most information he had ever gotten about the Fall, and it seemed like Crowley needed to let this out. Had maybe been needing to let it out for a while.
Yes, it was horrifying, Aziraphale learned more than he had ever wanted to know about the damages done to the demons, and was able to receive a very graphic description of what the inside of a freshly turned demon’s chest cavity looked like, and several other descriptions of such nature. It took everything in Aziraphale to stop himself from moving to hold Crowley when he saw that the demon was crying, but he didn’t think this flow of information, of feelings, should be stopped, and that would most certainly grind this to a halt.
So Aziraphale sat, and listened. He listened as Crowley tried to tell him the events that led to his Fall but continued to come up with blank places in his memory, listened as he recounted the exact number of demons he had desperately managed to patch together, listened as he cursed Gabriel and God and Uriel and Michael, listened as he cursed anyone whose name he could still remember from Before for letting this happen, for not even trying to help. He sat, and he listened, and he regretted ever having asked.
Crowley may not remember who he was, he may never even get an inkling of who he had once been, but Aziraphale could hazard a guess, and he was almost certain he would be correct. There had only been one archangel who had been so passionate for the injured, the sick, only one who had been their doctor before they were needed, and only one who had fallen.
There was only the one, and Aziraphale had met him down on earth, and he hadn’t even known it.
The once mighty archangel was sitting on Aziraphale’s couch, body trembling with his head held in his hands, with hot tears scorching a path down his face.
Oh, how the mighty have Fallen.