In their timeless guarding, the angels chased off more monstrous Things from other dimensions and risked wandering farther and farther from the Garden. It was returning from one such journey that they discovered the sudden installation of a pair of curious young humans and were given neither warning or explanation. When they tried to ask their respective bosses, they were given familiar non-answers and told to mind their business. The exact wrong thing to say, or perhaps right thing, depending on who you ask.
In human guise, Aziraphale taught them the niceties of society, the laws that people create and keep to let them live together in harmony, the stories about why things are the way they are. Also in human seeming, Crawly taught them the secret ways of the animals and the sky, that questions need to be asked even when there isn’t a ready answer. That sometimes rules should be broken. It was an idyllic time, but as the days passed both angels could sense a growing restlessness in the humans, a need for more than just each other and their teachers and the tame beasts of the Garden.
Aziraphale, wings out and basking in the sun after a long day of being hidden from the humans, was walking along the eastern wall, deep in thought. Crawly was draped around Aziraphale’s shoulders in a snake form, also basking in the sun as well as the warmth of Aziraphale’s shoulders and the comfortable silence of long time friendship. They knew something was bothering the white-winged angel but that Aziraphale would talk when they were ready.
“I’m worried. That something bad is going to happen.”
Crawly started from their doze. “Yess, I’ve been having that feeling as well.” Crawly couldn’t help but think about how much the humans had grown and changed in the brief time they’d known them. “Shouldn’t there have been something from upstairs by now? About what to do with them?”
“They’re too clever to be stuck in here forever with nothing to do. You see how they sigh wistfully when we talk about making things, about hunting and farming and exploring. They know almost every nook and cranny of the Garden.” The only places they didn’t know were the hidden ruins and the relic chamber.
“Yes, exactly! We can at least go out into Eden if we’re bored, or even upstairs to socialize if we were really desperate.” Crawly agreed. They had never been that desperate. “I mean, the animals are pretty content to be kept alive with miracles and even they’re getting bored.”
“Your idea of having races was really inspired, though I think we’re going to have to put the cheetahs and gazelles in race by themselves.”
“Yeah, probably.” Crawly tasted the air, sensing something in the distance. “Do you taste that?”
“I think you mean smell,” corrected Aziraphale, taking in a deep breath. “That… that’s, rain?”
“Yeah.” They shared a long look. “It’s never rained.”
Aziraphale swore and awe-stepped off the wall back to the Tree, Crawly clinging tightly to their shoulders, skidding to a stop at the edge of the Metatron’s crackling power where it hovered over the cowering humans, a ripe red fruit on the ground between them, like a splash of blood. “—from this Tree you may not take, and you shall be punished unto death!”
The angels flung themselves between the Metatron and the two terrified young humans, both of them subsuming their corporeal forms to reveal their Celestial selves. Crawly expanded into a massive fiery winged serpent that constantly coiled in on itself, Aziraphale rising radiant into the air with an ever shifting array of wings, the sword unsheathed and aflame in their hand.
“STOP!” they commanded in unison.
“Move aside! They have taken of the Tree without permission!”
“Fruit that has fallen is given, not taken,” Crawly protested.
“Don't play silly buggers with me, serpent! They have earned their demise!”
“It is written that none in the Garden shall perish,” Aziraphale responded.
“Who are you to defy me? I am Metatron! Those who take of this Tree uninvited are to be punished unto death! It is written!”
And the two very brave and foolish angels shared a brief look and said, “Prove it.”
Eve, dressed in swathes of white and black cloth, gently held the tiny snake close, walking as fast as she could over the treacherous root-bound ground, nodding as it hissed directions into her ear. She gathered up everything as she was told and hurried to the north, where Adam, dressed much as Eve was, was busily making a hole in the wall with the aid of a giant golden ox. The gates had been sealed by the Metatron in a fit of pique before they retreated to consult with the Council of Heaven about what and exactly where it was written.
High above them, standing on the top of the wall, two illusionary decoy angels carried out whatever inane dialog the true angels, in their distracted state, could mentally manage. The two humans gave them teary heartfelt goodbyes before escaping out into Eden to a place the angels knew would shelter them from the coming storm. With a bit more magical trickery they slipped inside their illusions, resuming their usual forms just as the rain began to fall. Aziraphale lifted their wing over Crawly when they shivered as the cold drops began falling in greater numbers. They stood vigil on the wall until they could see the two young humans no more and dejected and drenched, they returned to the safety of the Tree.
They sat in silence for a long while, the storm raging overhead, but little rain reached them beneath the shelter of the Tree. “Did we do the wrong thing?” Aziraphale finally asked.
“I mean, it was probably the stupid thing, but wrong…” Crawly made a face and shrugged. “More so, did we do the right thing? We sent them off into the world with barely anything.”
“We taught them all we could. And they have the sword. And the other things..?”
“I was wondering if you’d meant it. Yes, I had her take them. Why, though?”
Aziraphale frowned but shook their head, tears welling in their eyes. “I don’t know, it just felt important that they not be left here. I think… I think this is going to be our last night here.” Together. Words lodged in their throat, but fear kept them from speaking and they turned away, ashamed.
Crawly nodded, looking down at the rock they were sitting on, knowing in their heart it was true. After what they had done, there was no way they would go unpunished for long. Their eyes were drawn to Aziraphale’s back as they stood watching the storm, their wings and clothes still drenched with rain, and Crawly realized this was likely their only chance. “Aziraphale?”
The white-winged angel turned back to them, moving to sit beside them, eyes questioning when the black-winged angel just stared at them. “Crawly? Did you need something?”
Now or never, said a voice in Crawly's mind. “I seek a boon, Aziraphale.” The words crackled with power. It was part of the primordial ceremony for creating a bond between two Celestials. It could only be dissolved by an unsaying, by those involved disavowing the bond and renouncing the oath, but it could be refused and Crawly’s heart was in their eyes.
Aziraphale’s eyes went wide and soft and they mouthed in surprise, You do? but said aloud the proper response, “Ask and be heard, Crawly, I attend you.”
The black-winged angel gave them a tumultuous relieved smile, continuing the ritual. “I seek to forge a bond between us, an arrangement of mutual trust.”
Aziraphale quickly nodded in agreement and smiled. “Once forged it may never be sundered.”
Crawly offered their hand. “Shoulder to shoulder.”
Aziraphale clasped Crawly’s hand and spoke the final phrase. “My wings to yours.”
Ethereal power swept through them and knocked the breath from both of them. Overhead the storm seemingly redoubled with a thunderous crash in response and giant hailstones began to tear through the leaves, sending them fleeing into the stone chamber.
They both found that without the relics, the sense of disquiet they had always felt was gone. They had cleaned it up early on, and had eventually used it to store the fallen fruit and their tea making things, and Crawly had made a pallet for Aziraphale to rest on when the Thing had injured them. By mutual accord they kept the illumination low, to match the somberness of the situation. They stood together next to the cushion for a long moment before Aziraphale asked lowly, “May I groom your wings for you Crawly?”
“Oh, but-” That was quite a departure from the etiquette, as usually the one who asks is the one who does the first tending. But they had been tending to one another’s wings for a long time now, and politeness was for strangers, not the best of friends.
“I’m sure I still owe you for making tea the other day.” Aziraphale’s eyes crinkled a little, inviting Crawly in on the joke.
“Oh, yes, a rather heavy debt.” They smiled crookedly and sat down on the pallet, unfurling their wings when Aziraphale sat down behind them. “If you insist.”
“I very much do,” Aziraphale murmured. They could feel the bond almost but not quite mingling their outer auras together, shimmering over them like the lingering warmth after a hug, and their throat ached with regret that they hadn’t had the courage to ask Crawly for the privilege sooner. “Your wings really are lovely, my dear. Black suits you.”
“You flatter me, angel.” Crawly had their eyes closed, trying to commit every moment and sensation to memory, a painful ache over their heart at the knowledge that this was the end of their time together. That the bond, so new but somehow familiar, would never be given a chance to deepen once they were separated.
They sat in silence as Aziraphale tenderly set Crawly’s feathers to rights, taking care to smooth each one, shifting around to do the same for the inner feathers and stopping when they saw the tears running down Crawly’s face. “Oh, Crawly, I don’t know what I will do without you,” Aziraphale confessed, unable to stop their own tears from falling, lacing their fingers with Crawly’s.
Crawly opened their eyes, which seemed to glow in the dim interior, and swore, “I will find you, wherever, whenever you need me. My wings to yours.”
“My wings to yours,” Aziraphale echoed. “I will always be there for you. Always.”