It’s the seventh day of the rest of their lives and Crowley is feeding the ducks, waiting for Aziraphale to arrive to their meeting. They’ve wanted too talk about their plans for the foreseeable future, figure things out, maybe have a drink after - the usual. Crowley throws a piece of expensive bread at a duck, who beats its wings angrily when said piece hits her square in the eye.
“Hello, Crowley,” he hears a woman’s voice behind him.
When he turns around, he sees a vaguely familiar face. Maybe an actress of some sort, he thinks, which would explain her knowing his name - Crowley’s worked with the industry before. Failed TV and movie adaptations were all absolute hits with his bosses Downstairs.
“Do I know you?” he asks, throwing another piece to (at) the same duck who, unfortunately, ducks (ha) away.
“Oh, it’s been a long time,” the lady says with a smile in her voice, and he feels before he even turns to see something about her change. It’s like having been in a dark room for several hours and then having someone turn on a stage light and shine it in your eyes. Crowley jumps back, startled, bread falling on the ground and rolling away as his hands fly up to shield his eyes. “Of, sorry, hold on,” the Almighty says, and the stage light dims until it’s no brighter than a candle. Crowley tears his glasses off his face, completely forgetting that he’s in a public place. He just has to make sure that the- the being he’s looking at is who he thinks it is. “It’s nice to see you again, Crowley,” the Almighty says, feeling reasonably human again. “You’ve grown.”
“Thanks,” Crowley stutters, years of working for dangerous bosses culminating in a knee-jerk reflex to say whatever is expected of him even while having a panic attack.
“I’ve wanted to talk to you, Crowley,” it registers in the back of his mind that She’s calling him by his new name - not the angel’s name, not Crawly, but the one he chose himself. He’s too shell-shocked to have an opinion on that. “You’ve done well. Have been doing well for the past 6 thousand years, in fact.”
Crowley blinks. His head spins.
“You’re not going to... do anything to me?” he asks, clearly meaning "anything awful". He can wrap his head around Her being angry with him, can be okay with Her indifference or disappointment, that makes sense to him, but this - this he doesn’t understand.
“No, Crowley, I’m here to thank you,” She smiles at him and it’s like the Sun itself shines for him personally for a moment. “You did everything right.”
Some small, hopeful part of Crowley looks up, squeezes his heart in its little fist and makes words fall out of his mouth.
“Does... does this mean You forgive me?” Crowley hears himself say and immediately wants to take it back, because no, of course not, why even ask, he knows that he’s unforgivable, he’s a demon for Somebody’s sake.
“Oh, no,” she frowns, and, despite expecting that answer, he still feels his heart give a loud crack. And then She’s stepping towards him and putting her hand on his shoulder and he fights the urge to step away again. “I can't forgive you, because there’s nothing to forgive, Crowley.” She says, and Crowley frowns, confused. She pats his shoulder and lets her hand fall. “Like you said so many times, you only ever asked questions.”
Crowley tries to hold it together. There are so many questions in his head: ‘so you’ve heard me this whole time?’, ‘but what about demons being awful and bad and disgusting?’, ‘does this mean I can be an angel again?’. He settles on the one that’s been eating at him for the past 6 millennia.
“Then why?” he asks, and he would be hissing if the phrase was predisposed to that. “Why make me fall?”
The Almighty looks at him with amusement, of all things, and he wants to hate it, but it’s Her, and there’s so much love radiating from her that it’s factually impossible to feel hatred in her presense. He settles for frustration.
“Do you think you’d be happy in Heaven?" She asks, and yeah, no, that's definitely not something he lets himself think about, ever. "Crowley, there’s nothing creative about it, hasn’t been since the Creation. I've watched you arrange stars in the sky in intricate patterns, careful so they don't smash into each other, and I saw Gabriel yawn with boredom while you were shining with doing something that was inherently yours. Heaven is a cold place, Crowley, it doesn’t give any opportunity for innovation, it doesn’t understand irony, it doesn't create anything anymore. You’d be wasted there. At least Hell has character, Lucifer appreciates innovation, and this job gives you room for growth,” She looks at the ducks. Her gaze softens. “I also wanted there to be a demon working on Earth, who would be able to grow to love this place,” She gestured to the pond. “And there’s always been so much love in you, darling, since the very Beginning.”
Crowley inhales sharply, his habits pushing him to say that he can’t love, he’s a demon - but this is The Almighty he’s talking to, there’s no use in lying, not to Her and not to himself in front of Her.
“It hurts,” Crowley hears himself say. “Loving things.”
“No, it doesn't. Rejecting yourself any expression of your love hurts,” She tells him. “Losing what you love hurts. Denial hurts. Not love itself.” She winks at him, suddenly, and points behind her back with her thumb. “Just talk to him and see for yourself.”
Behind God, who, as he now realizes, looks freakishly like Frances McDormand, Aziraphale emerges.
“Good afternoon,” he says in his posh, cheerful manner.
The Almighty turns to him. Aziraphale’s eyes grow two sizes. He tries to say something, but God claps him on his shoulder, and he closes his open mouth.
“I find the whole ordeal with the sword quite amusing,” She tells him. “I thought you should know.”
Aziraphale makes a noise that’s very close to a squeak. Crowley can’t blame him.
“I’m going to go now, have a couple of other beings to talk to today,” the Almighty says. She puts her hands on their shoulders and says, looking at Aziraphale: “I love you,” She then turns to Crowley. “And you. You don't have to be scared anymore, things are being taken care of," she smiles at Aziraphale. "You both did very well.”
And with that, she’s gone.
A duck quacks loudly, and, with it, the whole world around them suddenly has sound and movement and life of its own, like the entire Creation has dimmed itself to listen to what She had to say and now that She was done, decided that it's a good time to discuss the news.
Crowley sits down on the grass, ignoring the fact that there’s a perfectly good bench five steps away from him. Aziraphale sits beside him.
“What the fuck,” Crowley whispers, staring into middle distance. “What the fuck.”
“It seems like we were right about the Ineffable plan, in the end,” Aziraphale mutters.
“She said I Fell because I was creative and Hell was a better working environment for me,” Crowley says, expressionless. “Not because I asked questions. She said there was nothing to forgive.”
“Oh,” Aziraphale says. Then beams. “Oh, but isn’t that great? You’ve never been out of Her graces!”
“Yeah,” Crowley says. He suddenly feels very sorry for himself. He presses fingers of one hand to his eyes. “Yeah, that’s great.”
It seems like he looks sufficiently miserable, because next thing he feels is Aziraphale putting a soft arm around his back. A hand grasps firmly at his shoulder and stays there, and Crowley doesn’t say anything, but he’s actually very grateful.
They sit like that for a long while, Crowley slowly coming to terms with the fact that he wasn’t actually hated or disapproved of by the very Embodiment of Love, and that his whole big tragedy about Falling was actually not that tragic after all. Aziraphale just sat there, beside him, and thought about the Ineffable Plan that was a bit more... Effable? Understandable, now that they’ve got some clarity on the matter.
“I need a drink,” Crowley says, finally, putting his glasses back on, when his chest stops aching quite as much and, for some reason, slowly starts to feel lighter than ever before. “Or ten.”
“Let’s go to the Ritz first. My treat,” Aziraphale says as his hand uncurls from around the demon and settles in between his shoulder blades, where his wings would be if he wanted them to show. It’s oddly comforting. “I think She told us that we're safe and free to do whatever we want, so, I think, we have to celebrate properly. ”
Crowley hums softly.
“Sure,” he says and smiles at the angel. “Let’s do that.”