“I never asked to be a demon,” said Crowley as he fumbled with the whisky bottle, trying to open it while quite off his tits.
He’d strode into the pub looking like a man in despair and had downed two bottles of Talisker whisky in short order. The barman watched, fascinated. When Crowley asked for a third, the barman gave it to him out of sheer curiosity. He should have passed out by now, if not been dead, given the short amount of time he spent guzzling the other two bottles. How much could this guy drink before he started showing serious adverse effects? Still, he remaing upright as he rambled on about being a demon in a mildly amusing manner.
Eventually, though, it happened, the man landing face-first on the table. The barman left him there. It would be cruel throwing him out in the pouring rain because the place wasn't crowded and he’d come to eventually. The barman went back to his duties.
Crowley lay against the hard tabletop, oblivious to the world around him, but not the one going on inside his head. He was standing in the middle of a room rough-hewn out of slate grey rock with one scuffed-up straight-backed wooden chair set in the middle of it. The light was dim as the gloomy room was lit only by a single torch in one corner. It was enough to see his surroundings by and realize but for that chair, he was alone. He knew this place . . . it was like many an interrogation room in Hell.
“Oh, I get it. Old school,” he commented to nobody in particular. “Nowadays we have fluorescent lighting and plastic chairs. A table if you’re lucky.”
“Lately, you haven’t been lucky, Crowley,” replied a dark figure who appeared in the chair before him, straddling it backwards with its arms draped across the top of the back.
“Yeah, I’ve noticed that.”
He squinted at the room’s new occupant to see himself looking back at him, only this Crowley was a mirror image with his hair parted on the other side and his snake tattoo on the left temple. He wore no sunglasses and his eyes were full-snake, inhuman even to him as he gazed upon them. No sclera showed at all.
“You really messed this one up, didn’t you?” Crowley’s subconscious asked as it stood up.
“Yeah, I misplaced the Antichrist but the Apocalypse will still go on. Just a small cog in the machine and even though I cocked it up, everything's still going as planned.”
“Except now Aziraphale’s dead.” His subconscious stalked around him the way he used to stalk around Aziraphale, only this time it was predatory, not protective. “How does it feel? To know you're the only one left, I mean.”
Tears burned in Crowley’s eyes, but he was not going to fall for this shit. This wasn’t his fault; it was theirs — Hell’s. They targeted Aziraphale the same as they targeted him. Now Aziraphale was gone when they should have hunted down only Crowley. It was his plan, after all. He shook his head.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s a whole Realm here full of demons.” He wasn't going to admit knowing exactly what his subconscious was talking about.
“Oh, but you’re not like them. You went native. You’re different.” His subconscious laughed at him. “You have imagination . . . and dare I say it . . . free will. You did what you pleased unless you needed to keep your bosses from breathing down your neck. You consorted with the Enemy and you brought him around to your views. You two were more like each other than you were your own sides. And what happened? You got him killed.”
“They got to him first,” Crowley replied. His head hung dully as he thought of how his actions affected Aziraphale and led to this. A single tear fell onto his cheek. “Hastur, I imagine. That bastard figured out some of it and threatened both of us.”
“Yeah, there’s another thing you messed up. You couldn’t even kill Hastur when the chips were down. Should have saved some holy water to pour on that ansaphone.”
“Shut it. We’re not having this conversation!”
With great effort, Crowley tried to will himself to open his eyes again. To get away from this self-interrogation he didn’t want to be a part of. In the pub he raised his head for a minute, behaving as if he didn’t just pass out on the table. He grasped the bottle again with a shrug.
“. . . the food hadn’t been that good lately . . .”
He was pulled down again, screaming in protest this time, his hands scrabbling at the table before he was gone. He landed flat on his back with his subconscious straddling him, holding on to his jacket’s lapels as it bent face to face with Crowley.
“I’m not done with you!”
“I’m done with you!”
Crowley violently shoved it off and ran for the wall nearest the torch, but there was no door like there would have been if this had been a room in Hell instead of his guilt-filled mind. He felt along the sharp rocks, scratching his nails in until they were bloody from his efforts as he desperately tried to find an exit that wasn’t there. His subconscious waited patiently, arms crossed, face impassive.
“Are you finished yet or are you going to keep doing that until you scrape the skin off your bones?”
“Let me go!”
“Face the truth that you are the one who is responsible for your best friend’s death!”
“Hell is, not me!”
“That’s not the answer I’m looking for. Stubborn, aren’t you? You refuse to own it, don’t you?”
“Bloody angels, demons and humans. They’re responsible! I don’t even care anymore who did it! They’re all bastards!” The tears flowed now as he screamed at the top of his lungs at his subconscious, fingernails now ragged from his fruitless efforts to escape himself.
Crowley laid an arm on the wall and placed his forehead on it as he continued to weep, his body shaking with the sobs. Aziraphale was gone and there was nothing he could do except wait for the end of the world and hope that they killed him as well. It would have been nice to go out with Aziraphale. To fall asleep beside him never to waken again. Well, at least he could follow him to the grave if he got himself drunk enough to go meander in front of some angel’s flaming sword. It would have to be enough.
It would never be enough. He couldn't see or touch his angel again before he shuffled off this immortal coil forever to embrace the darkness.
“You could have made this work if you weren’t lazy,” his subconscious was saying. “Let’s examine the facts here about how you fucked this up from one end to the other.”
“Listen, just send me back to drink myself stupid enough to go get myself killed by Upstairs, ok? Don’t you think deader than dead is enough without the whole A Christmas Carol thing you’ve got going here? I almost expect to be visited by three ghosts.”
“No ghosts. Just you and me. Shall we?”
Crowley pushed off the wall and walked to the other side of the small chamber, his back to his subconscious, not wanting to literally look at himself. It was bad enough to have to listen to his own voice accuse him of getting Aziraphale killed.
It ignored him. “Let’s see here . . . I’ll start when the Antichrist was handed off to you. Would it have been so hard to actually go find the Mother Superior and pass the hamper off to her? She would have known what was going on and taken the baby to the right room. You could have supervised to make sure the kid got to the correct woman. I mean, you knew these nuns were incompetent. You helped set up that convent. You were well aware of what a bunch of numpties they were. Yet you handed the baby off to the first nun you encountered and fled. Any other demon would have taken a lot more care with such an honour and responsibility.”
“And then you hatched this great plan to thwart both Heaven and Hell. That was stupid enough by itself, but you involved another. You brought him around to your point of view and the clock began ticking on his life. Because you had to have his help. Or was it his companionship? Was it a chance to spend time with him before Heaven and Hell required you to be at each other’s throats?”
“The clock started ticking on both our lives the moment that kid showed up on Earth. It was pretty much guaranteed that only one of us was going to survive the War. It was very likely both of us would end up dead.”
“He would have carried on without you.” His subconsciousness’ tone was crass.
Crowley couldn’t believe Aziraphale would be happy with eternal Heaven. He would have nothing there he loved. No bookshop, no dinners at the Ritz, no crossword puzzles. And dare he hope beyond hope Aziraphale would miss him? He burned inside thinking about it and the pain of his aching heart made him wish he was back to drinking himself numb.
“He wouldn’t have been happy. Aziraphale was never meant for Heaven. He was happy on Earth with me.” He choked on those words, barely able to get them out.
“That’s what you want to believe. Is it the truth?” His subconscious sat down on the chair, looking smug. “It’s your truth.”
“Prove it.” His subconscious smirked at him. “Oops, you can’t. He’s gone and you have to live with that along with all the torture they’re going to put you through. If you don’t manage to get yourself killed somehow.”
But Crowley wasn't thinking, was he? There was death and then there was . . . oh, was it possible? His breath caught with a thin wisp of hope.
“He might not be dead.” Crowley's hope suddenly burst forth and he started pacing the room, his mind filling with ideas. “He might have just been discorporated. Oh, why didn’t I think of that? I can . . . I can . . .”
“You can what? Knock on the Gates of Heaven and ask if Aziraphale can come out to play?” his subconscious sneered.
“Why not? What do I have to lose at this point?”
Crowley spread his arms dramatically as he grinned recklessly. No, he wasn’t going to go storm Heaven, if only because its protections would prevent him from doing so. But there was a small chance Aziraphale discorporated and was still here on Earth. If he could find him they could finish what they started. It was a slim chance but it was a chance. So he leapt. This time it worked. Nothing dragged him back down. He lifted his head, fully awake rather than on autopilot, but not remembering what he had put himself through in the dark corners of his own mind.
“. . . I’d got nothing going on for the rest of that afternoon . . .” he babbled on, eventually getting to a million-light-year dive into boiling sulphur before recalling that he was going to go try to find Aziraphale.
A bright white light manifesting in the chair across from him distracted him from his new purpose as soon as he thought of it. Clutching the bottle of whisky like it was going to keep him from falling over on to the floor, he squinted as a familiar figure formed face-to-face with him. His breath caught. Could it be? Had his spark of hope turned into that million-in-one chance? Then Crowley saw his face and the hope flooded his entire body as he spoke the name of the one he had loved and protected since almost the moment of their meeting.