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reckless and wild and stricken

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When the world ends, when Armageddon starts, Crowley and Aziraphale are in St. James Park, and the sky is falling down.

Crowley—”

“I know.” One hand finds Aziraphale’s, grips it tight as the air sparks around them. There are angels in the streets and demons clawing their way up from the world below. Crowley feels it, as sure as he has felt anything, that they are being hunted. Hastur’s particular stench is encroaching on them.

In the same moment, he sees angels approaching.

Crowley turns to Aziraphale, grabs him by the shirt. “We need to run.”

“There’s nowhere to go. Crowley—” Aziraphale’s fear is setting fire to the ground, and he expands his wings and looks up, looks down, and trembles.

Crowley grabs him. “We need to run,” he says again.

“No,” Aziraphale says. “We need to fly.”

 


 

Angels hunt them. Aziraphale finds a sword. Crowley doesn’t know where he gets it, but he finds one, and he sets it aflame.

“I’ve never...I never thought—” There is a dead angel at his feet. Aziraphale says she was called Meronael. Just a soldier. Just a fighter. Just someone sent to collect him.

Crowley puts a hand on his shoulder. The stench of Ligur’s essence burning away under the spill of holy water has never quite left his nostrils. He did it for a good reason. He did it because he had to. He doesn’t regret it. But the world is still ending, and Hastur is still hunting him. They can’t linger to mourn angels they don’t really know.

“There will be more,” Aziraphale says. His jaw sets hard and he extinguishes the fire of his sword with a flourish. Sheathes it. “They won’t stop.”

“They won’t,” Crowley agrees. “So neither will we.”

 


 

Demons come for them, too. Crowley realizes the city, the little villages around it — they’re no longer safe. In the streets, they stumble over bodies. In the streets, there is nowhere to hide.

“Where will we go?”

“Away. Someplace they’ll forget us.”

“But all these people. Crowley, these people.” There are people still alive in the streets, too. People shivering or screaming. People clutching the bodies of other people.

Just...people.

Crowley wants to turn away. Demonic instinct keeps trying to pull him to hell. The call of Him, the call of the angel no longer in heaven is strong. It tugs, constantly, flooding through speakers that shouldn’t work, sound systems in the street long broken down.

Come home, Crowley. Come home, come home, come home.

They use their magic to fortify Crowley’s flat. Crowley smashes every radio in the building. They build traps of hellfire and holy water. Aziraphale tries to teach Crowley to wield a blade. Crowley teaches Aziraphale to let go.

And at night, when the fighting is still raging overhead, when they can’t feel anyone or anything coming after them — they crawl inside one another. Crowley kisses him, and Aziraphale kisses back. Naked and wings spread, they embrace and they touch and they make love and the war is never ending.

The end is never ending.

“Where is Adam?” Aziraphale asks. “Can you feel him? He’s your Master, is he not?”

Crowley shakes his head. “No idea.” He’s tried before. Maybe if he could get to Adam, he could convince him to put an end to this. But the bombs have all gone off. The world is soaked through. The blood is endless, and ash still falls from the skies.

 


 

Eventually the flat is no longer safe, and Crowley is starting to feel something...different. They are walking, hiding in woods and behind trees burnt out from battle and bombs. He trips, and Aziraphale isn’t quick enough to catch him.

“Crowley...Crowley your hand.

“My…” Crowley looks down.

His hand is bleeding.

Oh.

Aziraphale looks nervous. “I thought I sensed it. Like...like threads. Just coming loose. We’re fraying at the edges, Crowley. They’re letting us go.”

“They…”

“Heaven. And Hell. To make us easier to kill. Can’t you feel it? Don’t you feel—”

“Sapped,” Crowley says. He’s a fount, and his basin is cracked. “We need to move faster. We need to find someplace—” He looks down at his palm, streaked with red. He’s never bled properly before. His last discorporation was really rather...quick. It’s all very sudden, having your neck broken. But this, the slow, slip-slide into humanity, into powerlessness...Crowley feels it. Like seeing one snake in the road, then two. Then five. Then a thousand. He feels his exhaustion very suddenly, and stops.

“No,” Aziraphale says. “We keep going.”

“What if we die?” The fear that floods his voice is unstoppable. The terror is suddenly everything he is, has ever been. He grabs at Aziraphale and clutches him close. “What if they take you?”

Aziraphale’s expression sets like stone. “They will do no such thing. They will never.

“But—”

“No.” Aziraphale kisses him. Reaches up and holds Crowley’s face in his hands. “We walk, Crowley. We walk until we find someplace and then—” He drops his hands, one settling at the hilt of the sword on his hip. “We defend.

 


 

The cabin is very small. A hunter’s cabin, from the shotgun and bow they find. A few waves of the hand repair the sides, but it takes everything out of them both.

They don’t feel anyone coming for them, but the earth here is sick with radiation. Aziraphale won’t consecrate the ground — he doesn’t want them to be noticed, but they clean it up, they find water, they settle in for the long, long war ahead.

That is, of course, when they find the children.

 


 

Mara is thirteen, her younger siblings Lukas and Lyra are twins, and they’re seven. They’ve come a long ways, but aren’t very sure they remember where they actually came from. Mara says she saw angels close by, but they flew away, running from a battalion of demons.

“Are you angels?”

“Just him,” Crowley says, wrapping a burn on her wrist.

“You’re a demon then?”

Yep.” He pops the “P” sound. Lukas and Lyra giggle.

“But you’re not fighting.”

“No.” Mara looks between them. Aziraphale comes by and puts a hand on Crowley’s shoulder, inspecting his work. Crowley finishes and tries to give her a reassuring smile. “Aziraphale and I don’t fight. Not about the important things.”

“Azir...Azira—” Lukas fumbles the word.

“Just call him Angel,” Crowley says, getting up to check the food they’ve been preparing over the fire.

“And you?” Mara follows him. “What should we call you?”

“Crowley.”

“Mr. Crowley!” Lyra grabs the hem of his shirt and tugs. “Mr. Crowley, can you look at my cuts, too?” She has knees scraped to hell and back, caked with dried blood. She needs a bath.

“It’s Crowley.”

“Mr. Crowley,” she says again. “Can you look at my knees?”

“It’s—” He sighs. No use in arguing now. Not with the End Times upon them. “Yes,” he says, and turns to pick her up and carry her to the table.

At night, they cry. Crowley and Aziraphale go to them, wrap their slowly deteriorating wings around the three of them, and sing or read or stroke their hair. Aziraphale had always had a great love for children’s books, and had committed so many of them to memory, they may actually see the war end before they run out.

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

 


 

“Will they be safe?” Aziraphale asks at night.

Crowley presses his lips to his shoulder, kisses up his neck and holds on for dear life. “I’ll make sure they are,” he says.

“And you?” Aziraphale reaches to cup his cheek. “Who will make sure you’re safe?”

Crowley wants to sob. He’s so tired. He’s so weak these past few days. When Aziraphale looks at him like that, it gives him just enough strength to carry on a bit longer.

“I’ve got an angel,” he says. “Flaming sword and everything.

“What more could I need?”

 


 

“I suppose they were always going to catch up with us,” Aziraphale says. Crowley shushes him. “Whole war on,” he manages. “And they come after you and me.”

“No more talking, angel. Let me patch you up.”

Aziraphale coughs, a terrible, achingly wet noise that rattles Crowley’s bones. “Don’t waste your magic. I’m too far gone, now.”

“You’re not,” Crowley says, even as he realizes it’s true. Neither has enough left in them. Crowley can barely keep his wings out. “You’re going to be fine. You’re going to stay here with me.”

“Will you keep them safe?” Aziraphale asks.

“Of course, but you’re going to be helping me. No more of this talk, angel. No more doom and gloom.”

Aziraphale huffs a laugh. “Doom and gloom,” he murmurs, gaze traveling upwards so he can stare at the heavens. “Doom and gloom.”

“Aziraphale...Aziraphale, don’t—” Crowley steadies himself. “Don’t leave me.”

“Can it be helped?” Aziraphale asks. “Where do angels go when they die?”

Crowley holds him closer, cradling him now. His wings seem to lose more of their dark luster every moment they’re exposed to this world, but it is worth it, to shield Aziraphale from it all. It’s worth it, if he can keep them hidden.

If these are his last moments, then let them be good, Crowley thinks.

“Did I love you well enough?” Aziraphale asks.

Crowley nearly howls. “Don’t ask stupid questions. Of course you did. You idiot. You beautiful idiot, no one’s ever loved me as well as you.”

“Not even Her?”

Crowley presses his lips to Aziraphale’s forehead, before trailing them over his brow and down his cheek. He tastes ash and soot, tastes heaven and earth, tastes sand and sea. Aziraphale is home, Aziraphale is the world, and as Crowley kisses him, he tastes it all, commits the shape of him to memory and swallows it down.

“No,” he says. “Not even Her.”

Aziraphale’s wings are so thin, but they are still the wings of an angel. They are still the most beautiful things in this world. Crowley buries his face against them as Aziraphale’s form starts to fall away.

“I love you,” Crowley says. “Angel, I love you.”

“There’s a place for us,” Aziraphale says. “I can feel it.”

“Take me with you.”

“It’s there,” Aziraphale manages, as his form begins to disappear from Crowley’s grasp.

“Don’t leave me. I’m not ready. Please, don’t leave me—”

 


 

Aziraphale leaves him.

 


 

In the place where his angel died, Crowley kneels before it, throws his head back, and howls at the heavens. He stretches out his crumbling, aching wings and digs his hands into the dirt, the last dirt of this world that Aziraphale touched. This is a sacred place, now. This is holy ground, consecrated by the grace of the last Good creature left on this planet.

Crowley feels it burn through him, and accepts it. Aziraphale’s final act was to hallow this piece of dirt and he didn’t even know it. Crowley holds it in his hands and speaks Aziraphale’s name into it, marking it as his.

Staying in one place is dangerous. He lifts Aziraphale’s sword and buckles it around his waist before putting his wings away.

There are children to look after, he reminds himself. Aziraphale has gone somewhere he can’t follow, but that doesn’t mean he needs to abandon their task now. If anything, he needs to give them more of himself than ever. Without Aziraphale, it’s going to be hard. Without Aziraphale, things are going to get very difficult.

Without Aziraphale, Crowley is just...Crowley. A name for empty vessels. His words don’t ring as holy. His hands are starting to tremble.

Aziraphale tried and tried to teach him, but — he has no idea how to use this sword.

But he’s going to have to learn. If he’s going to keep these children safe, if he’s going to fight back against the end of the world for as long as he can, he’s going to have to learn a lot of things.

He’s going to have to do better.

 


 

She starts talking. Finally, after years of silence, after losing Aziraphale, after burning himself up — She speaks.

It’s enough, are Her first words to him in seven thousand years.

“Get fucked,” Crowley says, because if there’s one person in this world he doesn’t want to talk to, it’s God.

“Where’s Angel?” Mara asks.

Crowley envelops her in his wings.

“He’s gone home, love.”

“But this is home.”

Crowley nods. “For you. But for Angel, home is...home is somewhere else.”

There’s a place for us.

“I’ll miss him,” Lucas says. “Mr. Crowley, can’t we go find him?”

I can feel it.

“No,” Crowley says. “He goes somewhere we can’t follow.”

It’s there.

Lyra takes Crowley’s hand. “Angel says God has a plan for us. He says it all the time.”

“Yes,” Crowley murmurs, and kisses the top of her head. “She probably does.”

 


 

It’s time to let go now, Crowley.

“Leave me alone.” Another arrow flies, striking the deer in the chest. Crowley goes to it, waves a hand over the wound to end its suffering, to expel the radiation from its body, and hefts it onto his shoulders. Even that bit of magic exhausts him, but he’s down to the bare essentials now. Magic to clean the water, magic to clean the food, magic to take away little aches and pains.

The children miss Aziraphale. They miss his stories and his magic tricks. Crowley doesn’t know every word of The Hobbit, or the first Harry Potter book, or every poem in Where The Sidewalk Ends. Crowley knows stories about revolution and war, about gardens and serpents, guillotines and oysters. When Lucas climbs into his lap and wants to know where Bilbo went next, Crowley is at a loss.

Lyra says, “Mr. Crowley doesn’t know the same stories as Angel.”

“But he must know some,” Mara says. She has a slight fever, which Crowley can’t seem to stave off. And he’s used up today’s energy killing the deer.

“I do,” he admits, and eventually has all three of them in the cradle of his arms or his wings. “Did Angel ever tell you about the serpent in the garden?” he asks.

“No,” Lyra says.

“Well, many, many years ago, our Angel was in the garden, the one Adam and Eve came from. And he was guarding an apple tree…”

Crowley tells them the story of the day he met Aziraphale, and a few more of his feathers tumble free. Mara asks for a song, and so Crowley hums the softest version of “I See the Moon” he can muster, and remembers Warlock.

I see the moon and the moon sees me. The moon sees somebody that I want to see. So God bless the moon, and God bless me. And God bless the somebody that I want to see.

 


 

You can come home now, Crowley.

“You took my home,” he says, gritting his teeth through pain, pain, pain. His body is giving way. His demonic power is seeping faster every day, and he’s twisted his ankle something awful.

“Mr. Crowley! Mr. Crowley, are you alright?” Mara rushes to him, helping him to his feet.

“I’m fine, love.” He stands, gripping her shoulder to keep himself from falling over.

You can rest now, Crowley.

“No rest for the wicked,” he murmurs, and lets Mara help him into the cabin.

 


 

They live in the cabin for six years. In that time, God comes and goes, her voice fading in and out of long, long nights. Crowley hunts for the children less and less, until they can do it themselves, learning which creatures are diseased and which are safe. His last bit of magic is used to grow a garden. Roots and vegetables they can gather, that won’t ever run out.

He spends his time there when Mara is away with one of the twins, hunting or fishing. Back against the cabin, he closes his eyes and thinks of Aziraphale.

Be funny, then. If I did the good thing and you did the bad.

Crowley can picture his face so perfectly. Every detail, every single moment. He raises one bony wing up, thinking about rain and thinking about love.

Please don’t leave me.

Why were those his last words to the creature he adored?

Why did he go with him?

Why didn’t Aziraphale stay?

“Crowley.”

He opens his eyes. Mara’s come back, her basket laden with fish.

“Look at you,” he says. Lukas goes to him, helping him up. “Look at you all.”

Mara seems worried, but she stays quiet. That night they have fish and tomatoes from the garden. Lyra hums one of Aziraphale’s old songs as she cleans a cut Lukas got at the river.

“You need to be more careful,” she murmurs.

Crowley watches them through tired eyes. When he opens them next, the fire’s gone out, and someone’s tossed a blanket over him. He gets up and finds something to drink before going outside.

Under the light of the moon, Mara is practicing with Aziraphale’s sword. Her stance is good, her form just like his. Crowley looks on and smiles before glancing up.

“This what you wanted then? A world where children learn to fight?”

She is silent tonight.

Crowley huffs. “Figures.”

 


 

When Hastur finds him, Crowley doesn’t bother to temper his rage. He lashes out with the sword as best he can. It flames in his grasp, and his wings scatter across the forest floor as Hastur approaches.

He is marked by war, Crowley can see it. His body is falling apart, and his essence is spilling through.

“You thought you were clever, trying to stop this. Thought you were better than us. Now look at you. Dying, no angel, and nowhere to go.” Hastur laughs and laughs and strikes Crowley down with one sweep of his hand.

Crowley realizes with fear that he is not strong enough. He's run out of magic, nearly run out this lead on staying alive. Hastur is bearing down on him, the sword is not enough, he is not enough

Let go.

“No. No.

Come home.

“You want me to come home?” he asks. “You want me to—” Hastur comes close. Crowley swings the sword and he leaps back. “You want me to come back to you? Then prove you’re there! Prove you have something for me! Prove I fucking matter to you!

Hastur closes the space between them one last time —

And bursts into flames.

It’s a terrible sound. He howls and clutches at the last bits of his essence which spill through and are burned away by holy fire. There’s a screeching noise coming from deep inside him as Crowley backs away, as far as he can, scrabbling at the earth in terror.

Just as quickly as it began, it stops. Crowley stares at the spot that was Hastur. He pushes himself up onto his feet and goes running for the cabin, wrenching open the door. He imagines it burning, just the same, the children gone, but —

“Crowley?” Mara looks up from where she is hemming Lyra’s shirt. So much older, he thinks. So much older than she needs to be. She sets down her sewing and closes the space between them, putting a cool hand on his burning cheek.

“I’m fine,” he says. “I’m alright. Come outside, just a minute.”

“What’s happened? I heard screaming, I thought—”

“Just...come outside,” he says, and takes her hand in his. The sun is going down and the air feels, for the first time in ages, cool and clean. Crowley feels himself starting to slip.

“I...I don’t want to leave you.”

“Crowley...your wings—” She reaches up and touches them. Her hand comes away, filled with feathers. They have been falling apart for years, but now — they’re crumbling away.

“Don’t be afraid,” he says. “Don’t be afraid of anything, or anyone. Do you understand?”

“I do.”

“Take this.” He unbuckles Aziraphale’s sword. Everything hurts. Whether he wants to go or not — She is coming for him. “I know you’ve been practicing with it. Protect your brother and sister.”

“But where are you going?”

Crowley looks up. “I don’t know,” he says, and stands. “But I’m going. That’s the important part.”

“Let me walk with you.”

“No,” he says, but she already has the sword around her waist and is taking his hand in her own. “Don’t say goodbye to them,” she adds. “They’ll be alright. They’ll understand.”

“And you?”

“I have a sword now,” she says. The end of the world has not been kind to her, but it has made her into a survivor, Crowley realizes. He wants to stay behind, see what she becomes. “And you...you have to go find Angel.”

Crowley shakes his head. “I’m not sure I will.”

Mara stops. The trees open up and the sky is grey and mottled blue above them. “No,” she says. “You will. I’m sure of it.” She pushes herself up and kisses his cheek. “Thank you,” she says. “Thank you for keeping us safe.”

“We wanted to do more. We wanted to protect everyone—”

“No one can do that. Not an angel, not a demon.” She takes a step back. “We’ll survive. Same as we have been.”

“They’ll leave you be,” he says. “Hell only ever wanted me, and when I’m gone—”

“Won’t matter. They’ll have their hands full if they do.”

Crowley smiles. “You’d have made a good angel,” he says. “If that were possible.”

Mara shrugs. “Never know,” she says. “Maybe it is.”

Crowley collapses. Mara sits beside him, pulling his head into her lap and cradling him.

“Go to him,” she whispers, kissing his forehead. “Find him. Never let him out of your sight.”

Crowley gasps, feeling his essence starting to slip away. Mara’s face grows blurry, and there’s a light starting to grow behind her head. From where he lays, it looks like a halo, and the limbs of the trees behind her like wings.

Angel, he thinks.

“Do you see him?”

“No,” he says, and reaches up to cup her cheek. “It’s you. You’re the angel.”

Mara presses her forehead to his. “Go on,” she says. “Let go.

“Let him love you again.”

 


 

Crowley closes his eyes.

Opens them.

He’s never been to this cottage before, never really been anywhere like this before. There’s a fence around it, flowers growing all over the place. Lots of other little houses here and there. If Crowley focuses, he can still feel and hear Mara’s voice, but it’s slipping.

He doesn’t want to leave her, doesn’t want to leave behind the Earth he has loved for six thousand years, but he supposes even demons have their day. He could ask for Her. Could shout at her to come explain this, since she was so desperate for him to come home. Crowley doesn’t want to be here, there’s no one else around. He should be with the children, in their cabin and in their forest. He should be there until the last angel falls, the last demon dies, because he was put on that Earth to tempt them all, but no one could help how much he came to adore it.

Not his fault, really.

Form shapes nature, and Crowley was formed into a being of incidental love because Aziraphale made him that way.

There’s a noise from inside the cottage. Crowley reaches out and pushes open the gate. The front door is unlocked.

He stops.

“...What is this place?” he asks.

The place where angels go.

“And the Earth? The entire world?”

Will keep spinning, whether you are there or not.

“The children—”

Are safe. You did so well by them. You fought and you fought.

“Like you didn’t have a hand in it.”

I love you, She says. But I don’t owe you an explanation.

“No,” Crowley murmurs. “I suppose not.”

He turns the knob.

The cottage is filled with light, it is filled with song — it is filled with books.

Crowley can suddenly feel Aziraphale everywhere. It surrounds and drowns him and he drops to his hands and knees, taking in great, heaving breaths and sobbing in the sunlight that drifts through the windows. Loneliness collapses around him. Anguish is his language.

And someone reaches out to him, hands cradling his face, lifting his gaze to the light, to the world

To Aziraphale.

Well, he thinks. Same difference, really.

“Oh, my dear. My dear look at you.”

Aziraphale.” Crowley reaches for him, reaches and pulls and they meet like waves. Crowley drinks and drinks and drinks, kisses until he is shaking, until nothing is holding him up except Aziraphale’s hands and arms. “Tell me you’re real. Tell me you’re here.”

“I am. I am.

“I tried. I stayed and I fought and I tried. You’d be so proud of them. Really.”

“Oh, Crowley.” Aziraphale kisses him again. “How could I be anything else?”

Crowley looks around. “She said this...this was where angels went. This place.” He looks back at Aziraphale. “Tell me it’s forever. Please promise. Promise I won’t lose you.”

“You can’t. Never again.” Aziraphale kisses him. Kisses him over and over and over. Crowley isn’t sure why he’s crying, isnt’ sure why he’s allowed to do that here. It has been six long years since he lost Aziraphale, and to have him, to hold him again is too much.

It’s too much.

It’s too much.

 


 

“Do you like the garden?” Aziraphale asks. They’re laid in the grass, fingers threaded together, never getting too far from one another. “I worked on it, you know. Not growing things, really. But...thinking. Of what you might like.”

“No apply tree,” Crowley notes.

Aziraphale laughs. “I didn’t think it would be appropriate.”

“Oh, I don’t know. That’s how we met after all.”

Aziraphale turns his head, kisses Crowley’s temple. “I’m all set on apples for now.”

They get distracted for a while, exploring and whispering soft things. I’ve missed you, I needed you, I’m so happy to have you.

Eventually, Crowley asks, “Will we ever go back? When it’s over?”

Aziraphale sighs. “I don’t know. Would you like to?”

Crowley hums. “With you, yes. We were happy there. Before the end.”

“We were,” Aziraphale agrees. He sits up. “I would go back with you in a heartbeat, Crowley. I would go anywhere with you.” He looks around. “But I am...I am very happy here, right now.”

Crowley reaches up, pulling him back down again, kissing him under the sun and without abandon.

“I love you,” he said. “I love you, I love you.

“To the end of the world and back?” Aziraphale asks.

Crowley nods, presses his face to the crook of Aziraphale neck.

“Yeah,” he says. “To the end of the world and back.”