A Narrative of Certain Events occurring in a Near Parallel Timeline a Decade Prior to the Last Eleven Years of Human History, in Strict Accordance as shall be Shewn with
The (Near Parallel) Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter
Compiled and Edited cooperatively by Middy Scrivener and B. H. Castle With fact-checking and Fresh eyes provided by Brevity Is
Bringing about a Near Parallel Armageddon (or even a Near Parallel pre-Armageddon) can be dangerous. Do not attempt it in your own home.
Chapter 2: Dramatis Personae
(in an order of entirely ineffable origin)
(not often heard. Even less often seen. Always Observing)
(the Archangel Gabriel. Capital A. the capital is rather important. The sort of boss who enjoys power given to him far too thoroughly, and who is universally disliked by the minority of employees with a stitch of common sense)
(the Archangel Michael. Gabriel’s Right hand)
(the Archangel Uriel. Spymaster)
(the Archangel Sandalphon. Head Enforcer. Likes fire to an… odd degree for an Angel)
(a Demon who did not so much Rise as… swim, frantically, breathlessly upwards)
(A Fallen Angel. The Adversary)
(A Likewise Fallen Angel and Prince of Hell)
(A Likewise Fallen Angel and Lord of the Files)
(A Likewise Fallen Angel and Duke of Hell. Vaguely amphibious)
(A Likewise Fallen Angel and Duke of Hell. Likes Chameleons)
(an Angel for whom falling is not quite the proper descriptor. Part-time rare book thief and dealer of occult memorabilia)
(Proxy rare book enthusiast. Medium by trade.)
(Great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Agnes Nutter)
(Witch. Author of the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, the worst-selling book in all of publishing history)
(Author of the second least successful book in all of publishing history. A moderately competent witchfinder)
(Sword Lesbians. History enthusiasts)
Squire Edmund Pulsypher/Pulsiferre
(a young gentleman Doing His Best in a fraught, feudal society)
(Roman Emperor. A tactical Genius with such genius in tactics that he set his own boats alight)
(berks. One or two have a ‘brand of a kyng’ for a while)
(A very, Very patient woman)
(Reluctant lawman and Hardware store entrepreneur)
(Mister Bullock's business partner and likewise reluctant lawman)
(Hotelier, bartender, casino owner, Brothel manager, drug lord, and human refuse)
(A woman doing what she needs to survive in an unkind world)
A chorus of other men, women, and Children making up the background noise of London, England, and indeed the World,
(a moderately sized python, centenarian, and bedrock of emotional stability)
Chapter 3: It begins, as it will one day end, in a Garden
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“You do realize what you’ve done?” the Archangel Gabriel asked. It was a rhetorical question, of course. Gabriel’s questions were always rhetorical. “You idiot, idiot Principality?”
Aziraphale didn’t look up from his feet. He hadn’t meant anything by it, he wanted to say. They’d just looked so cold, you see, and what was one sword, in the scheme of things?
“War. Humans were never meant to have it. It wasn’t in the Plan. But… now they do, I suppose, so that’s going to be a major pain in my wing to restructure. The paperwork alone.” Gabriel raised his eyes heavenward, as though pleading for mercy from the concept of bureaucracy.
Aziraphale bit his lip very hard. This, he thought, was the nightmare scenario.
Gabriel seemed unruffled by the Angel’s distress, but the other Entity in the Garden couldn’t help but take note.
The serpent poked his head out of one of the nearby trees, right next to Aziraphale. With a quick flick of its tongue it made its way down to the ground. "Well this is an unwelcome surprise," he drawled as he shifted into the appropriate form. "What's he going on about, Angel?"
Aziraphale looked over at him, and upon recognizing the demon, just about melted into a small pond of relief. Imagine that: relieved to see a demon! “Oh, Crawley. Yes, um. Yes, well you see Gabriel here just happened to notice that a, um, lion had been slain by a, um. Sword. A flaming one. And he made the not unreasonable deduction that a flaming sword must come from somewhere, mustn't it? And—”
“Ah. right.” Gabriel smiled at Crawley. Well, technically it was a smile. But his eyes were empty and mirthless. “Crawley. Crawley? Is that really what you’re calling yourself these days?” He paused, but as the question was rhetorical, not long enough to allow for an answer. “Ew. Well, Crawley, Head Office wants me to give you a, uh… pat on the back. Metaphorically. Not literally, thank God.”
"Do they now? I'm touched, really. Couldn't think of a better compliment."
“Lucky for you, you don’t have to. Your little mind might melt. Giving people Morality, it turns out, was good. Not just good, actually. Very Good. Good enough to get you…” Gabriel’s mouth twisted, and he shuddered, heather-gray wings shaking as though caught in a gust. “Forgiven.”
Airaphale’s face lit up, fear giving way to a warmth and joy that Crawley had never seen on… anyone’s face before, really. He didn’t know you could be that joyful. “Oh, Crawley, that’s wonderful!”
The demon frowned. "What do you mean 'forgiven'? The Almighty doesn't forgive bad Angels, or else we wouldn't have Fallen in the first place."
Gabriel clapped his hands together. “You are the first! Good for you, congratulations, and all that. See, it's a real problem for your people when a Demon does such a radical act of Good. Just like it's a problem for our office when a supposed Angel acts in the interest of evil. So. There’s been some shuffling of employment.” Gabriel’s eyes, cold, and purple, and cruel despite their Goodness, fell upon Aziraphale.
"Oh," Crawley said, eyes widening.
And just like that, the light in Aziraphale’s face drained away, replaced with a sickly pallor. “And I'm… No. Oh, no.”
“No,” Crawley agreed. “I think, ah, I'm okay where I am, thank you. I made my trouble, Angel boy here ensured the survival of the new creations, we're fine. Really. You can go without doing...that. No need to switch here."
“Oh, but there is. Lord Beelzebub and I agree, for once, that such treason simply can't go unpunished. We signed the paperwork already. This announcement is really just a formality.”
The smell of sulfur fouled the sweet air of Eden like a corpse fouls a spring. Crawley and Aziraphale turned to see Hastur and Ligur, Dukes of Hell, stalking towards them.
“Oh, Gabriel please, you can’t—you musn’t!” Aziraphale said, though Crawley couldn’t help noticing that the Angel held his ground. “I shan’t ever do Evil again, it was an honest mistake! I thought I was being kind!”
“Unfortunately, that’s just not a risk we can afford to take.” Gabriel shrugged.
Hastur grabbed the left wing, Ligur the right. For some reason, Aziraphale looked to Crawley. And for some reason, Crawley didn’t look away.
The Demons pulled.
Crawley could do nothing as he watched Aziraphale pulled back over the green, perfect grass. His heels began to leave scorch marks as he and his new employers reached the edge of a grim, fuming chasm that rent Eden’s earth.
Hastur and Ligur stepped into it, tugging Aziraphale along with them.
The chasm closed up, and Crowley shook his head to clear the afterimage of Aziraphale’s terrified eyes from his mind. Wouldn't it be funny, he'd said, up on the wall, if we both got it wrong? Funny indeed.
“Now that that unpleasantness is out of the way,” Gabriel said. He turned to Crawley. “Let’s figure out what to do with you.”
Ta-Daa! This is what's pulled me away from Between the Devil and the Dark for so long! This was a blast to write, and we're going to try and have a new chapter to you fairly often. This bad boy is finished but for a few final edits, so getting it to you in a timely manner shouldn't be any kind of a thing. Enjoy!
It was a relatively warm evening, warm for London anyway. Just warm enough to make the layers of Crowley's suit uncomfortable. Not that he ever wore all of them at once. He did, however, keep them close. Gabriel nagged him constantly about presentation, and if there was anything Crowley hated more than unnecessary layers, it was the sound of the Archangel's voice. He slid out of his gleaming white Bentley, his pride and joy, tossed his cream colored coat over one shoulder and sauntered his way up to the bookstore with no regard for the "closed" sign on the door.
"Zira," he called, loosening his bright red tie and making himself at home on one of the loveseats scattered about the shop. "Please, for the love of all that is holy, talk to me about something more interesting than the divine. I'm bored ." He was lanky man, the fact only exacerbated by the position he'd thrown himself into. Soft red waves rested on the arm of the couch, half up half down, and golden eyes sparkling with mischief peered under equally metallic decoration. They were lined with a wicked golden cat eye that trailed into lazy serpentine designs that disappeared into his hairline. Not that anyone would see these designs, though. Though his clothes were clean and professional, somehow he added an air of dishevelment to them that worked in his favor.
“Azrafell, Crowley,” the owner of the bookshop said, with the air of someone who had said it countless times, and knew he’d have to say it countless more. He emerged from the back, manicured hands with slightly too-long, too-thick nails snapping closed an old, leather-bound tome. “I suppose you’ll be wanting a cup of tea?” He was dressed to the nines, as he always was. His suit was perhaps a decade or ten out of date, but he either didn't know, or didn't care. White, curling hair was tied up in a loose knot, and his black suit was freshly pressed. He looked archly at Crowley, speaking around a mouthful of teeth that anyone, if they were to really See them, would realize were alarmingly large. And sharp.
"Not this time," Crowley said as he pulled out a small silvery flask. "I've brought my own."
“Hm,” Azrafell said, pale eyes of an unnatural blue sweeping him from head to toe. He turned to head back to his small kitchenette. “What have I told you about using the front door during the day? The way you look, people might think I run a reputable business.”
Crowley snorted and took a swig. "Please. In that car? I look like a well to do pimp. Did I tell you that I tried to wear navy to a meeting the other day?"
“You didn’t. I imagine Gabriel materialised in a fit of apoplectic rage that you’d dare break his color scheme.” Azrafell emerged from the back, a steaming mug in one hand. He sat in a lavish black leather wingback, crossing his legs. With a snap of his fingers, a fire started crackling away in the wood stove in the corner.
"He did that thing where he talks to you like you're an inanimate object for an hour, while smiling like he sat on a stick."
“Mm. I remember that expression well. One of the few nice things about Hell is that I never have to look at him anymore.” Azrafell sipped delicately from his mug. “If I did, I think I might just claw that grin off his face.”
"I'd love to see that," Crowley muttered. "How's ole Bugbrain? Still as expressionless as I remember?"
“Utterly bland. I don’t think they like me very much, for some reason. Are you still doing that… garden thing?”
He sipped. "They don't like anyone. Not even themselves. And yeah. It's therapeutic...supposedly."
Azrafell looked at the Angel, halfway between a frown and a smile. "Do you… see a therapist, Crowley?"
"If by ‘see,’ you mean go once every four months and rant about my life in a code no human has even a prayer at understanding, then yes." Crowley smirked. "It's hilarious to see them try and suss it all out, really. It's more or less just something to do."
Azrafell's expression turned wry as he sipped from his mug. "Now, that's not a very Angelic thing to say."
"Well, I'm a bad Angel. Or so I've been told. It's kind of hard to know how to act when you've played both sides of the board, Zira." He paused and took a long draft.
"Oh, I'm aware. So long as you don't do anything kind, i think you'll be safe." Azrafell smiled mirthlessly. "So. You said you wanted entertainment?"
" Please ."
“ Twelfth Night is in previews at the National Theatre. I could procure us some tickets,” Azrafell said. “I know how you like his funny ones.”
Crowley grinned. "I'll drive."
“Since you offered. Why not? But.” A finger rose into the air in a way that Crowley knew would precede some sort of condition. “I do have to ask you to make a pitstop along the way,” Azrafell said.
"We aren't going bookshopping, are we?" Crowley groaned.
“Who said anything about shopping? I was just going to take it.” Azrafell’s mouth quirked in a dry smile.
"For heaven's sake Zira, I swear you'll get me cast out again." His words lacked bite, however, and he downed the rest of his drink. "Right, let's go."
Azrafell grinned and stood, extinguishing the small hellfire with another snap. “After you.”
Crowley was a good driver, in a way. He was good at weaving through traffic, at finding the quickest route. He was skilled. But not careful. This, of course, earned him many an angry horn or curse from other drivers. "So. Where are we off to?"
“A lovely young woman just checked into the Savoy,” Azrafell said. “Surname Device.”
The name tickled something in the back of Crowley's mind. Some bit of distant familiarity. But he shook it off. "I won't ask how you know. What's the plan then? Seduce her with your overwhelming occult knowledge into just...handing it over?"
“Oh, goodness no. She’d never go for it, the dear. She’s a Device , Crowley, of the Nutter-Devices. I wager she’s far too savvy to let me get so much as a word in. I shall have to do it when she is distracted.”
He shrugged. "If you say so."
Azrafell frowned over at him. “You do know what I’m talking about, don’t you? I know you don’t read, but surely.”
"I...uh...no, no not at all."
Azrafell rolled his eyes. “There is one book of Prophecy that I have any interest in. Most of them are rubbish, you understand. But one book has a success rate of one-hundred per-cent, and it is currently sitting in a safe in the Savoy. Agnes Nutter was the last witch burnt in England, and quite possibly the only real one they ever caught. It was thought that no copies of her book were left in existence.” Azrafell’s eyes narrowed, and for a moment something predatory gleamed deep in their pale expanse. “But apparently there is one. And I want it.”
Crowley looked the demon over slowly with his golden gaze and cocked an eyebrow. "I can see that." There was a particularly loud honk from outside, startling Crowley from whatever road his mind was wandering down with a hiss.
“Watch the road, angel,” Azrafell murmured. But it was clear his own thoughts wasn’t really in the present either. He examined his claws.
"Don't call me that."
The Demon smiled.
“Park on top of that bicycle,” Azrafell said, as they came in view of the front of the hotel. He pointed at a small, plain bike, left temporarily on a curb by the front of the hotel.
"On top of it? And scratch the car?!"
“Oh, you can miracle it back to mint condition.”
"You do remember that I'm supposed to be a good guy, right? Holier than thou, righteousness and all? I don't think crushing a Bicycle in aid of a thief falls into that category."
“Oh, don’t be dramatic,” Azrafell sighed. “You can miracle it back too. A little temporary vandalism never hurt anybody. And really,” he added. “This is in aid of removing a dangerous magical tool from humanity's hands. On a grander scale, you’re helping the little buggers.”
"Yeah, but I'll have to suffer through another lecture from the lead dickhead himself," Crowley whined. One look at Azrafell's dry expression, however, had him switching the car back into gear. "Fine. But you owe me big time."
Azrafell grinned with huge teeth. “I think we can arrange something.”
"Mm." With a rev of the engine and a wince, Crowley drove his car over the bike. A piece of his redeemed soul died as he heard the grind of metal on metal. "I'm sorry."
To his credit, Azrafell patted Crowley’s shoulder, the closest he came to a verbal thank you, before getting out of the car.
He walked into the hotel like a man used to the high life, grabbing a wide-brimmed hat off of a stack of luggage to hide his face as he disappeared deeper into the building.
Azrafell may not have been an exemplary demon in all aspects of his life, but he was an exemplary thief.
No sooner had Azrafell vanished from sight than a young woman in large glasses and a peacock blue coat flew out of the doors, dark hair flowing behind her. Her hand flew to her mouth as she surveyed the damage. “Oh, come on!” she moaned, accent distinctly American.
When she clocked Crowley, still behind the wheel, her eyes narrowed. “Hey, asshole,” she snapped. “Watch where you park!”
Crowley stepped out of the car, looking as innocent and haggard as he could. "Sorry, I guess I just wasn't paying a-"
She kicked the tire of the Bentley, ineffectively.
"Hey! Hey now, violence isn't going to solve anything! You'll break a toe kicking it like that!"
She turned to him, cheeks flushed with anger, and looked him head to toe with a piercing gaze. She paused. “‘A shocke of red spilleth from Heav’n’s Chariot White,’” she murmured, as though reciting something by heart.
"I beg your pardon?"
“It’s something my great-great-great-great-great grandmother said,” she murmured, looking from Crowley to his car. “‘When two rings lay broken on twisted frayme, and a shocke of red spilleth from Heav’n’s Chariot White, thine eyes hath strayed too loung from what is held most deare to thee… Anathema…’” Her eyes widened. “Oh my God, the book.” Her face suddenly bloodless and gray, she turned to make a break for the doors.
Crowley hissed an unintelligible stream of stuttering syllables and snapped his fingers, freezing the young woman before she had a chance to bolt. "Now," he murmured, glancing around to make sure no one was watching too closely. "Before you go running off, let's talk about the damage I've done to your property, yeah?"
“Oh. My bike,” she said, face suddenly slack. Her glasses sat crooked on the bridge of her nose. “Okay. Shoot.”
"Now this can be a pretty easy fix, if you give me a bit of time. I can have it as good as new, even better. But you have to be patient...tell me about this grandmother of yours." He reached forward and righted her glasses, attempting to make the conversation seem as normal as possible. Considering one of them was the equivalent of a sentient mannequin, it was difficult. But falsehoods came fairly easy to Crowley, even after ascension. If only his clothes weren't so damn bright.
“Agnes? She was a witch. A real one, you know? But her real gift was ForeSight. No one else has ever had it the way she did. She just always knew what was going to happen. And she wrote it down.” The young woman’s eyes, to Crowley’s shock, strayed from his, going back to the mangled bicycle. “That doesn’t look like an easy fix.”
"I'm something of a miracle worker. Now, what did she mean by the...thing you said earlier? The white chariot bit?"
“Well, she was working with the vocabulary she had. Chariot usually means car, so we figured it was something to do with a white car. And Heaven’s Chariot… we thought maybe a priest owned it? And Anathema is me, so I knew I was a part of it. But sometimes it’s hard to know what the prophecies are about until after they’ve come true. This one was especially vague.” Anathema looked back at Crowley and shrugged. “Are you? A priest?”
This was another oddity. People in the Trance were not meant to ask questions.
"Of...sorts," he mumbled, looking her over. "Are you feeling alright?"
She nodded, smiling a little. “Mm-hm.”
"Okay...well, look," he said, waving a hand behind him when the coast was clear. The sound of reshaping metal was just a little louder than he would have liked. "I'm going to give this back to you. I suggest you park it away from traffic. And when you wake up…oh...I don't know, you'll remember going on a walk for some fresh air. Alone. You won't remember me, or any of this. Got it?"
She nodded, and took the bike as he wheeled it to her. “You even fixed the hole in the seat cover,” she murmured.
Over her shoulder, Crowley saw the hotel doors open before a familiar dark suit. Azrafell was walking quickly, but he was smiling.
"Right, okay, I'm going to go now. Take care, Miss...whatever your name was." With that, the Angel quickly ducked into his car, waiting for Azrafell to join him.
Anathema shook her head, groggily. She looked down at the bicycle in her grasp, then around at the front of the hotel, her eyes skimming over Crowley as though he were invisible. She turned to wheel her bike away…
And came chest-to chest with Azrafell. The demon recovered from his momentary startlement. “Miss Device,” he said. “Feeling quite well?”
She nodded, her eyes skating away from his like any human's would upon meeting his gaze. She frowned. “How do you know my name?”
Azrafell just winked at her, going to the passenger door of the Bentley and sliding in.
"About time you showed up," Crowley growled, snapping his fingers as he peeled away in a miraculously restored vehicle.
“Excuse you, I was remarkably quick,” Azrafell said. “And you and the young Device seemed to be getting on rather well.”
"I should have let her come in after you and catch you. You're lucky I like you, Azrafell."
“Oh, I’m sure,” Azrafell said. “That was kind of you, to keep her there.”
Crowley simply ground his teeth and drove.
The play was good. Almost good enough that Crowley could forget his simmering anger at the Demon beside him. Even though said Demon had gotten them box seats. The Arrangement was one thing, but actively assisting Azrafell to do Evil? He was an Angel, for heaven’s sake! He’d already Fallen once. He didn’t know what happened to you if you Fell a second time. Probably nothing good.
Azrafell didn’t seem to pay much attention to the play. He kept running his fingers lightly over an object hidden away in his coat.
What was the deal with that book? Azrafell hadn’t looked so covetous of a Tome since Alexandria. In fact remembering Alexandria was partially what made Crowley compel Anathema to stay in the first place.
He wondered if Azrafell knew that.
As they left the theater, Azrafell looked up at the black night sky. That was one of the things he disliked most about London. Its ever-present light ate up the stars.
"I'm gonna head back to my place," Crowley said, a little absently. "I'm tired. Thanks for the night."
“Mm…” Azrafell glanced over at the Angel. “Are you quite all right?”
"Great. Goodnight Azrafell. Enjoy the book." He offered the demon a lazy salute as he walked to his car.
Azrafell watched Crowley saunter away, the unspoken implication that the Demon was not welcome in the Bentley tonight hanging heavy in the air.
He frowned thoughtfully, and his jaw worked once.
So I know we said that we'd try to update often. Then life hit like a truck. But we're hoping to get the final edits done soon so that we can get the rest of this bad boy up ASAP. For now, here's the best installment. Thank you for your patience. Enjoy!
Chapter 5: Alexandria
First flashback of the story for our boys! You'll get to know a little more about them and how they felt about each other post-reassignment.
It was hot. Ridiculously so, but then again desert cities tended to be. At least Alexandria had a sea breeze.
Crowley was wandering the bustling streets, the back of his long red curls were plastered to tunic, his feet were dusty and he was tired. He'd been keeping a fairly low profile recently during his time on Earth, some part of him still trying to adjust to his transition. There were moments when he still felt the need to avert his gaze from the curious public for fear of frightening them, though it was more of a reflex than anything.
He liked the city. It was vibrant and full of life, the humans were amicable enough and the booze was passable. At one point there had been a number of particularly curious humans that he'd helped with their studies of the cosmos. But that was years ago.
He'd gotten word that the Romans were making their way here, and Gabriel had made sure to emphasise that Evil was sure to follow. So here Crowley was, seeking out wiles to thwart. He wasn't quite sure what to expect, but considering the Roman army's reputation, it wouldn't be hard to miss.
Was it getting hotter?
When the first person sprinted past Crowley, heading away from the docks, he thought it was odd.
After about the fifteenth, he was worried.
A cry of “Fire! Fire! The fleet is on fire!” began to echo through the streets.
His steps stuttered and for a moment he stood still amongst the growing crowd of fleeing people, debating if he should join them. Images of darker times flashed in his mind, making it harder and harder to breathe. Crowley knew this feeling. He hated this feeling. But now the ground was beginning to feel less stable and he-
Someone shoved him to the side in their haste, knocking him from his stupor. He could still feel the rock in the pit of his stomach, waiting to spread and take everything from him, but he gritted his teeth and pushed forward, following the growing scent of smoke with a sinking feeling in his chest.
The fire, Crowley would later learn, had been started by Caesar, to end the Egyptian blockade of his vessels. It was a tactical choice, made either in spite of or without consideration of the wind blowing towards the shore.
Sparks had jumped from Caesar’s boats to the Egyptians’.
More sparks had jumped from there to land.
But Crowely didn’t have that context.
All he saw was flame.
People were screaming and practically running each other into the dirt to get away. Ir was madness and Crowley hated it. giving himself a moment to calm the tide of fear that threatened to burst from his chest, he rushed forward and began helping those who had been knocked down by the stampede.
Little miracles made his fingers tingle as they flowed from him, righting twisted ankles and scraped knees, restoring lost breath so that the runners could begin moving again.
An older man in the fine robes of an academic sobbed into Crowley’s chest. “The scrolls! Oh, the scrolls are lost!”
"What are you talking about?" he shouted, mostly occupied with trying to find a safe way out for him and the human.
“The Library,” the man gasped. “Oh, gods preserve us, the Library is alight!”
That was new. Crowley's eyes snapped down towards the man and them off over the city. He could see another plume of smoke billowing. With a growled curse and a tug, he helped the older man to safety before bolting down the street.
He had steeled himself preemptively against the sights and smells of the blaze. The wounded, fleeing victims, the heat and destruction.
One thing he hadn’t expected to see was… Aziraphale? The former Angel walked calmly away from the fire, in dark gray clothes that somehow seemed free of stain from smoke or soot. Gone was the cheerful aspect and cherubic smile. His eyes were pale and hard, and his hands were tipped in black, wicked claws.
Crowley skidded to a halt, hands still shaking as he took in the scene. Flames licked up the marble columns of the building in the background, their soot and smoke staining the pristine white facade. It was more than a little unsettling to see...him walking out of it. It was hard to believe that the same Angel he'd met all those years ago, griping about giving his sword away, was at the forefront such destruction.
Aziraphale frowned, a little smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “Crawley?” he called, over the roar of the flames. “Crawley, is that you, old chap? Fancy seeing you again. Here, of all places.” He hefted a bag over one shoulder. It looked full.
Crowley blinked, mouth hanging open just slightly as he stuttered. "I, uh...Crowley" is what he finally managed to say. "It's Crowley now. Wha...what are you…"
“Little rescue mission,” Aziraphale said, shrugging the shoulder with the bag hanging from it. He smiled.
"...rescue?" Crowley said.
“I couldn’t just leave all those wonderful scrolls to burn, could I? Centuries of accumulated knowledge, scorched to ash. Imagine.”
"Right. Yeah. So, you didn't do this?"
“How little you must think of me,” Aziraphale scoffed. “I don’t strike the matches of men for them.”
"So you're… helping?" Crowley was having a hard time wrapping his head around it all. Here he was, a former Demon, stalling with another Demon who apparently wasn't doing any outright evil as one of the greatest collections of knowledge human history had seen burned to ashes in front of him. His hands felt clammy as he turned his gaze to the flame. He knew there wasn't anything he could do, not like this. Not with all that fire. "That's hard to believe."
"Helping might be a strong word," Aziraphale said, inspecting his claws.
So stealing then. Crowley sighed and ran a hand down his face. He had to do something. "You know I can't let you take those."
"Really, Angel?" Aziraphale said. "You'd fight me over a few scraps of parchment at the cost of saving human life?" The Demon frowned sternly. "Come now. Think of the Greater Good."
"Crowley," the Angel snarled. "It's...forget it, just take your bloody scrolls, Aziraphale." He shoved past towards the library, using his anger and frustration to try and drown out the fear
Before he could get too far away, he was halted in his tracks as two men in the uniform of the city guard charged around the corner, spears at the ready. "Stop!" One shouted. "Stop! Thieves!"
Aziraphale looked from the guards to Crowley and back, dripping skepticism. "Really? You think he looks capable of theft?"
Crowley glared and held out his empty hands. "Not a thief, just here to help. He has your stuff."
Aziraphale rolled his eyes. "Angels."
The guard looked at Aziraphale - though not, Crowley noticed, at his eyes - and hefted his spear. "Drop the scrolls."
"What did you just say to me?"
Aziraphale smiled, even and white and deceptively charming. "No."
The guards began to advance.
"Galinus, isn't it?" Aziraphale asked.
One of the guards hesitated. "Shut up!"
"Have you ever looked at infinity, Galinus?"
"Of course not, your paltry mortal mind would shatter from the sheer scale." Aziraphale paused. And he smiled wider. "Would you like to get close?"
"Stop talking!" The other guard said.
"Stop walking, Pollus," Aziraphale purred back. "And See me."
The guards stopped, finding their gazes slowly, inexorably drawn to the Demon's. As they stared at Azrafell, at his pale and endless eyes, Galinus collapsed to his knees. Pollus began to weep, swaying slightly side to side.
"We should go," the Demon murmured to Crowley.
The Angel was looking on with mild shock, mouth open as if he was just about to say something. "You...you can't just...no!" He managed after a moment. "Absolutely not!"
"Well. I'm going," Aziraphale said. Behind him, Pollus whimpered. "Come with or not."
Crowley felt sick. Between the smoke and the Demon he couldn't think straight. His heart was pounding, he was covered in sweat and it was still too damn hot. Casting on more glance over his shoulder at the fiery mess that was once the great library, Crowley turned to head down the street away from Aziraphale "Congrats. you can have this one."
Aziraphale paused. Then he shrugged. "Take what I can get, I suppose. Oh, and Crowley?"
"It's Azrafell, these days."
"Right. My bad."
Azrafell hesitated a moment more, as though there was something he wanted to say. But in the end he just shrugged and walked away.