I love you.
Those words formed the universe. The Almighty breathed them into existence and from them, the light of creation was born.
Three little words, full of sentiment and promise. An expression of devotion, of faith.
When the Fallen were cast out, she took the light of creation from them and with it, the words, leaving only darkness in their wake.
Crowley didn’t notice their absence, at first, so great was the void where he had once felt Her love. It took meeting an angel for him to realize what else he had lost.
It started with a fluttering in his chest, a familiar feeling from his days as an angel, but different in the way that it only reacted to Aziraphale, this beautiful, brilliant, bastard of an angel who had given away his flaming sword and then sheltered him, a demon , with his wing. He hadn't even known if he still could feel in that way until then and the relief of it all was enough to make him want to say something, want to sing this revelation from the highest point of the wall of Eden.
So, when the rain stopped and they were about to go their separate ways, he decided he'd just go for it.
"Hey, Aziraphale!" He shouted at the retreating figure, grinning widely.
Aziraphale turned, still seeming unsure as to whether or not he should regard the demon with wariness.
But Crowley didn't care. The warm feeling in his chest bolstered his courage, and he cupped his hands around his mouth to shout, "I think I-" love you.
He never did get to finish the sentence.
Crowley gagged as he felt something thick like phlegm forming in his throat. He dissolved into a coughing fit and nearly doubled over as the spasms shook his body.
"Crawly?" He hadn't even noticed Aziraphale run up to him until he felt his hand on his back, rubbing soothing circles. "Goodness, are you alright?"
Crowley straightened up and cleared his throat as he nodded. "Yeah," he rasped out, his voice worn and hoarse. "I just wanted to say that I think I might-"
It happened again. This time, he could actually taste the words changing as they formed on his tongue. Their sweetness became cloying as they grew thick and heavy, like syrup.
He opted to swallow it down, rather than let Aziraphale see the hideous mess his harmless sentiment had turned into. It coated his throat as it passed, leaving him feeling like he was suffocating even though he didn't need to breathe.
"I'm fine," he eventually managed to choke out. "I should go."
Aziraphale seemed hesitant to let him leave, apparently having some internal debate as he tried to figure out whether or not it was really safe to let Crowley go off on his own in this state. Finally, he slowly withdrew his hand from where it had been resting on Crowley's back and gave him a single nod.
"Take care of yourself," Aziraphale said and the fluttering un Crowley's chest grew tenfold at the concern blanketing the angel's words.
He had to bite his tongue to refrain from giving a voice to that feeling. "You, too," he said instead.
As he turned and walked away it took all of his willpower to keep from looking over his shoulder.
Once he felt that he had put sufficient distance between the two them, he collapsed to his knees in the endless desert, retching and spitting as a pitch black, viscous substance like tar or oil dripped from his lips. When he finished, he stared down at the mess he had made in the sand with mixed horror and disgust.
Was this the form a demon's love took? Surely not.
He exhaled slowly, his voice barely a whisper as he said, "I lo-"
More of the saccharine filth spilled onto the sand.
So, it was.
This new realization hit him like a tidal wave, and he wanted to scream, he wanted cry, he wanted to shout up to the heavens, cursing her name. How cruel. How terribly cruel to leave him with the ability to love but no way to say it.
But instead of falling into a violent rage, as he wanted, he staggered to his feet, kicking sand to hide the pitiful byproduct of his broken heart.
It was fine, he told himself. He wasn't even sure if he lived the angel, anyway. It was just a thought, probably a reaction to the first display of kindness he had seen since his fall. It was nothing. It would pass.
He continued on into the desert, repeating those words in his head, even as that feeling in his chest fell into a different rhythm, one it would hold steady for thousands of years.
I love you.
I love you.
I love you.