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And They Were Both Demons

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They were first summoned circa third millennium BCE, in a Near Eastern city-state, by rival magicians. The two djinn happened to be closely matched in power, so after several years of trying and failing to kill each other, they became good friends.

Meanwhile their masters eventually resolved their differences, and collaborated in their studies of demonology. The names of their servants ended up recorded on the same clay tablet, which was copied by their apprentices, and so on. For a long time any record of demons listing one of them was bound to include the other, so they often ended up summoned together. Through victories in battle, successful assassinations, and magnificent building projects, they earned a reputation as a formidable pair, in high demand by the most prominent magicians of the ancient world.

Most demons viewed personal relationships as foolish. Trust and affection were signs of weakness. After all, it was impossible for spirits to truly depend on each other when the only bond a spirit was held to was the clauses of their summoning. Even then, human lifespans were short, so demons who spent one century as brothers in arms were just as likely to become mortal enemies next.

Eventually enough records of Crowley and Aziraphale were in circulation around the globe that the two djinn had to get used to years or centuries spent away from each other, but if anything the pining only made their love stronger.

It was a strange kind of immortality, fragile enough that death could come at any time, and yet, somehow they’d both made it for nearly five thousand years. Existence on Earth was bleak, but even during that one century he had spent trapped in a bottle, Crowley could always look forward to the next time he’d see Aziraphale. One day their luck would run out, but for now, they cherished every moment they had together.

Aziraphale’s preferred form was an angel - a human body in white robes with magnificent white wings, although he often changed the number of wings.

Crowley’s usual form, he liked to think of as less a shameless imitation of Aziraphale’s style and more of a respectful homage. When they were on missions together, Crowley enjoyed coordinating their appearances. Also a winged human, his wings were black and he generally stuck with two. Also, since he wasn’t trying to invoke the image of an angel, he usually included several demonic touches here and there, keeping the reptilian eyes, sharp fangs, and even the tail of his favored form, the serpent.

 

Somewhere in the late 20th century, a serpent was coiled up under a statue, keeping watch for any potential intruders into the nearby mansion. He’d had this job a week and hadn’t seen a thing. This morning, however, he was certain he had seen movement on the seventh plane, across the street…

After several uneventful minutes, he slithered off the plinth and made his way to the edge of the property, where a nexus of magical tripwires ensured nothing could enter without triggering an alarm. He slithered carefully through a gap and onto the street. Looking around, he was beginning to think he’d been mistaken. Nothing on the left...he turned around and nearly jumped out of his skin when someone had appeared several meters from him that was definitely not there a second ago. At first glance, it appeared to be a white rabbit. On the seventh plane, however…

“Aziraphale!“

“Hello, Crowley!“ The serpent wrapped itself around the rabbit‘s neck as a hug, thrilled to see the familiar aura and greatly relieved that they were able to see each other again. It was never a sure thing.

“What are you doing here?” Crowley asked.

“I’ve been in London for ages! You’re the one who just arrived!”

“I mean outside my current magician’s place? Not here to break in, are you? Cuz then I’d have to kill you!”

They both chuckled heartily at that.

“Uriel said Sandalphon told her that Purip had heard from Fritang that Dagon’s master had just summoned you! I’m meant to be delivering top-secret government documents right now so I thought I’d take the long route and stop by! Anyway, how strict are your orders? Could you take a little break?”

Crowley took a moment to recall the exact words of his summoning. “I suppose I could follow you, to make certain you won’t try and break in, of course...”

“Excellent! Come along, dear. There’s a lovely park nearby, we can go catch up.“

_____

The park was not particularly busy, only a few humans here and there. An old lady was scattering bird seed near the pond. She may have noticed the only two birds that weren’t scrapping for some food, a white swan and black goose who floated side by side on the opposite side of the pond, but since humans couldn’t see spirits’ true forms on the seventh plane, they weren’t too suspicious.

“How long have you been in London?” The swan asked, craning its long neck to look at the goose.

“Only a few days. I just got summoned by some new minister for surveillance,” replied the goose. “I expect I’ll be here a few months at least, maybe more if he finds out about the assassination plot against him. You?”

If swans could sigh in frustration, this one did. “Twenty years. Probably at least another ten to go. I wouldn’t want you to get stuck here, of course, but…”

If geese could chuckle good-naturedly, this one would. “No, I get it. We haven’t been in the same city long-term since what, the 16th century? You know I missed it.” The goose flinched as a piece of bread bounced off its head. It honked, affronted, at the human responsible, before returning to the conversation. “Anyway, who’re you working for here?”

“I’m under this third-level magician in the department of such and such. Dreadfully boring idiot in a dead-end job. I mean really, I’m too good for this kind of low level stuff. He must think he’s impressing everyone by summoning me, but it’s just embarrassing for a djinni of my caliber to be answering to a lowlife like that. Still, he hasn’t messed up fatally. Yet2.”

“Aw. You’ll get him sooner or later.”

“Yes… and where have you been?”

“Well, after I finished my contract in Constantinople, I spent most of a couple of centuries here and there in the Americas… a few decades in Italy...I have to say, London is the ugliest city I’ve seen in years.”

“Oh, absolutely, I can’t stand this modern architecture...”

“You must have a pretty good idea of who’s around, right? Anyone we know?”

“Yes! Quite a few of us from the old days are here. London magicians are very proud, they all want servants with history…” the swan looked thoughtful. “I know Micheal’s working for someone on the cabinet…Gabriel’s serving the chief of police, if I recall...Hastur was involved in some military campaign last I met him, but that was a decade ago by now. And Ligur as well, I think he said…”

“In the American colonies, by any chance?”

“Why, yes, I believe so! Did you run into him?”

“I did! Ran into him during a battle. With a silver spear.”

Aziraphale tutted. “Terrible way to go.”

“Very painful, from the sound of it.”

“Oh, and I almost forgot! Faquarl’s organizing a meeting of greater djinn later this month! He specifically reminded me to invite you if you happened to appear in London.”

“Not another one of his bloody seminars. Is he still on that-“

“Yes, he’s still obsessed with the whole ‘revolution’ thing.”

“Well, if you’re going, I’m going.“

——

Two weeks later, a group of several dozen djinn gathered on the roof of an abandoned building. The assembled spirits chatted amicably among themselves. After all, many of their acquaintanceships went back thousands of years.

One of the crows stood on an overturned cardboard box. He leaned down to speak to another crow.

“Comrade Naeryan, do you think everyone is here yet?“

“Just about…Ianna told me earlier she couldn’t make it, and I think Kharloum‘s master dismissed him last week. Other than that...oh, hey, what about Bartimaeus? Has anyone seen him yet?”

“Bartimaeus is not invited,” Faquarl snapped.

One of the other crows spoke up, “Why not? Haven’t you two been friends since way back?”

“Psh. Not for a long time. I can’t stand that coward. And he’s far too sympathetic to humans, anyway. He thinks most of them are “innocent” to our suffering.”

The group, which was starting to quiet down, responded to this revelation with various murmurs of disgust.

“Well, I’d better get started,“ said Faquarl, raising his voice. “My fellow revered djinn! Thank you all for coming. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear the reason I’ve invited you all here today. It’s true. We are starting a rebellion, for real this time. Now...um...Comrade Aziraphale.”

“What?”

“Would you mind adopting the form we all agreed to for tonight?”

“I did!”

“Then why are you white?”

“Oh my God, Faquarl, you can’t just ask someone why they’re white.”

“Crows can be white. There’s this thing called albinism, it’s very interesting…”

“Really? You’ve seen white crows?”

“...No. But it could happen.”

“Look mate, he’s committed to an aesthetic, you’ve got to respect that,” Crowley interjected.

“We don’t coordinate guises for the ‚aesthetic‘, it’s to avoid suspicion. Trying to overthrow the powers that be is complicated enough without having to worry about bloody birdwatchers-”

“Can you get on with it already? I have to get back before dawn or my master will curse me with the Inverted Skin…” Naeryan complained.

Faquarl attempted to stomp in frustration, but given his crow form it looked more like a silly little dance. “Fine! Moving on!” He straightened his posture. “As we all know, magicians have enslaved us spirits for nearly six thousand years. Many of us here tonight have been around for most of that time. We have seen the humans fight among themselves, an endless series of wars, raising up and tearing down one empire after another. And who fights and dies for their wars? Us! Who builds their fortresses? Who guards their tombs and treasures? Us spirits! We spend all our time on this miserable Earth toiling away for those magicians! Subject to their every whim! Forced to serve them for nothing in return!

“We have borne these intolerable conditions only because we have no means of refusing. But I believe that together, if we combine our strength and intellect, we can find a way to release ourselves from our bonds of servitude and destroy the humans!”

The gathered demons cheered.

“There is only one thing left to do! One single remaining obstacle in our path!”

Faquarl paused for inquisitive squawks and encouraging flapping of wings.

“We simply need to discover a way to maintain our free will in the Earthly realm!”

Disappointed squawks.

“It’s been impossible for thousands of years! And we need a completely novel breakthrough in magical theory to do it! But we’ll get there! Any time now!”

The assembled djinn began to mumble skeptically to each other.

“I was worried about this,” Aziraphale whispered to Crowley. “It’s always that last part where he falls flat.”

“So! Any ideas?” Faquarl held out his wings toward the crowd.

The djinn were quiet. Faquarl looked around awkwardly. “Anyone?”

Finally, Crowley raised a wing. “I have some questions. When you say ‘destroy the humans’, are you just talking about the magicians, or do you really mean all of them?”

“Of course! Even the commoners who don’t have magical knowledge would still want to enslave us if they could. Besides, what do the commoners do? Spend their days working for the magician class!“

“...Okay, but, are we not also doing that…“

“It’s not the same! Humans are free to quit their jobs at any time! They choose to serve the magicians with their free will! We spirits have no choice!“ 3 Faquarl reasoned, blissfully unaware of human concepts of starvation, eviction, and Marx’s Capital. 4 The other djinn being similarly ignorant, however, this argument was well received.

“Yeah!“ Naeryan agreed. “If all humans weren’t evil, they’d never cooperate with the magicians!*“

“Okay, fair point,” Crowley conceded.

“Thank you, Comrade. Now, as you all know, the first obstacle is that we can only be on Earth when summoned by a magician. But I have a theory...yes, Crowley?“

“What about the kids? They haven’t done anything.“

Another djinni cut in. “And let them grow up into more magicians? It‘s not like we’re killing them for fun. It’s the only way we can possibly free ourselves.“

“Good Point, Comrade Nemiades. It will be pretty fun though,“ Faquarl said.

“Okay, okay. Just one more question-”

Faquarl stomped in frustration before launching into an impassioned tirade about how the fates of thousands of demons relied on their conviction and loyalty to the cause; they didn’t have time for sentimental trivia, yadda yadda…Crowley and Aziraphale stopped paying attention and started whispering gossip and inside jokes to each other and more or less missed the rest of the speech.

“And you, comrade? Ahem? Crowley?”

Crowley, who had been demonstrating a funny modern dance move for Aziraphale’s amusement, stopped and turned to Faquarl, trying to look appropriately serious about planning a coup or whatever. “Faquarl.”

"Will you pledge your allegiance to the cause, brother?“

Crowley looked at Aziraphale. They exchanged a series of meaningful head tilts and eye movements. He turned back to Faquarl. “I‘ll have to think about it,“ Crowley said.

——

Crowley and Aziraphale spent the next forty years in London neglecting their jobs in order to spend time together at every possible opportunity. they established regular meeting locations and left letters for each other, and they were grateful for this relative proximity.

Aziraphale‘s master died sometime in the nineties, and Crowley hadn’t heard from him since. Hopefully he was just chilling in the Other Place. Crowley was still serving the same magician that had first brought him to London. He was getting old, however, so Crowley was looking forward to a little time off once he finally kicked the bucket.

Faquarl continued organizing his revolt with serious fervor. He started focusing his efforts on recruiting afrits and stronger djinn, including Crowley, who eventually found himself quite taken with the idea. He was starting to worry about Aziraphale, as he always did when they were separated, and Faquarl‘s vision of a world with demons in charge was starting to really appeal, and the violent destruction of humans really wouldn't be too horrible, in the grand scheme of things, now that he thought about it.

To Crowley’s immense relief, Aziraphale did return, summoned by yet another London magician. One night they met on the roof of a tall building in Central London, high enough that they could transform without any humans noticing. Once they settled into their humanoid forms, Crowley started talking about Faquarl‘s recent ideas.

“Honestly, Crowley! I leave you alone for barely a decade, and you go and get radicalized by bloody Faquarl.“

“But you have to admit, it’s worth a shot, right?“

“Absolutely not!” Aziraphale insisted. “I’m not risking my life for some ridiculous pipe dream. And neither are you!“

“I know the odds aren’t great, but Faquarl’s a smart djinni! If there’s anyone who could actually stage a revolt, it’s him.”

“Perhaps he could, but all that talk about freeing spirits is probably just talk - the only thing that Faquarl cares about is devouring human flesh. I mean, magicians are one thing, of course, but I’ve seen him tear up commoners, even children. That’s a little much, even for us.“

“Look, I’m not personally up for killing kids, but they do grow up into magicians, don’t they?”

“Yes, but still. It’s not remotely feasible. Magicians hold all the power here.”

“But we’ve got them beat in numbers and intelligence! We’ll find a way. It’s only a matter of time!”

Aziraphale sighed, turning away from Crowley. He sat down on a raised section of the roof, taking a moment to arrange his many wings into a comfortable position.

“Come on, Aziraphale!” Crowley implored, circling the angel to kneel down in front of him. “Imagine being on Earth on our own terms. We could do anything! Go anywhere we like!”

The angel gave him a skeptical look.

“We could be together, Aziraphale.”

Crowley placed his hand over Aziraphale’s. Aziraphale pulled away, folding his arms across his chest.

“We’re together when we’re in the Other Place.”

“It’s not the same, and you know what I mean.”

“We should want to go home. What kind of spirit wants to trap themself on Earth?”

“Our kind.”

Aziraphale tried to fight back a smile, then covered his face with his hands. He started laughing. “I’ve never heard such a naive, ridiculous notion in my life! We must be insane!”

“Earth will do that to you.”

Aziraphale grinned at him in a manner a human might describe as unhinged. Crowley mirrored his expression.

“Yes, fine! I’ll join your preposterous revolt!”

“Really?” Crowley jumped to his feet.

“I’d feel terribly left out if you went and got killed without me. Of course, if it works - which it won’t, mind-”

“We’d have everything!”

“No more orders to follow!”

“We could travel the world!”

“Never get trapped in a bottle again!”

“We’d be free-”

“We’d be together-”

Overcome with excitement, Crowley attacked Aziraphale with kisses, pressing them all over his face. Aziraphale laughed and held Crowley close.

_____

Crowley and Aziraphale spent as much time together as possible, now that they were working in the same place again. It wasn’t most of the time by any means, they still were only on Earth to carry out their magicians’ bidding, but they would sneak away from their duties to hang out together at every opportunity. The years they spent working in the same place were the favorite of Crowley’s existence. Every moment he spent with Aziraphale became a precious memory to hold onto through the hard times, and looking forward to the next time they might see each other occupied a significant amount of Crowley’s thoughts.

It was probably the beginning of the 21st century, not that spirits paid a lot of attention to human measurements of time. National security was working overtime trying to cope with terrorist attacks throughout London. The so-called “Resistance”, a mysterious group of militant commoners, had steadily gained recognition over the last few years with small-scale attacks using stolen magical weapons. However, it seemed a new player had recently entered the fray. There had been three [check] distinct attacks so far, much larger and more devastating than anything the Resistance had ever done, targeting major businesses and tourist attractions. Surveys of the damage implied some very large creature that could smash through buildings with ease. Surviving witnesses, of which there were few, reported a powerful magical presence, but no one had actually laid eyes on whatever it was.

Crowley and Aziraphale both ended up on a task force charged with prowling London for any signs of this mystery monster, with the government hoping to at least deter further attacks.

The rest of the djinn and foliots assigned to the task hated it. As if having to patrol nearly the whole of central London every night wasn’t tedious enough, the weather had been miserable, rainy and cold.

Aziraphale and Crowley, however, were having the most fun they‘d had in a century. As was their wont, they were taking great liberties interpreting their charges. "Protect popular areas of Central London“ became several lovely nights of sightseeing together.

Aziraphale and Crowley considered themselves experts in human impersonation. Most spirits couldn’t do it, not convincingly, not for any real length of time. There were too many tells that would quickly blow your cover and potentially put you in greater danger than if you’d simply shown up as an intrepid pigeon. Simple mistakes, like forgetting to lose your tail or slipping into Latin mid-sentence were immediately obvious to observant humans. Most spirits didn’t find it worth the risk.

Crowley and Aziraphale had mastered it, though. For one thing, subterfuge was much more effective when they worked as a pair. A nervous-looking person poking about on their own could be treated with suspicion, but no one looked twice at two husbands chatting amiably as they strolled through the city.5

And they were, of course, following their duties to the letter! They had perused the British Museum, occasionally pointing out to each other the stolen artifacts they recognized from previous employment around the world. They browsed through shops and markets, occasionally making subtle inquiries to shop owners if they had heard anything about the mysterious monster. They strolled through parks, hand in hand. After all, there was no telling where the mystery monster would strike next! It could have attacked the concert hall, or the movie theater (they watched a horror film and got several horrified looks for laughing at gruesome scenes) or even the fancy hotel room they snuck into for a few hours of privacy one night. Yes, they were taking their assignment gravely seriously.

“This reminds me of that one night in China in the 15th century…” Aziraphale told Crowley one night, as they stood together on a bridge overlooking the Thames. The rain has let up for a while, and they were within sight of a large ferris wheel, covered in neon lights.

“When we watched that fireworks show?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale beamed at Crowley, his eyes sparkling with blue, pink and orange reflections. Crowley leaned in and kissed him. Aziraphale wrapped his arms around him, pulling him closer. Everything was right in the world in that moment.

It was not to last, though. A loud booming sound echoed from somewhere in the distance, startling them both into pulling apart and quickly scanning the horizon for the source. They watched as an orange light shot up into the sky, bursting to bathe the city in light before going out.

“Was that…”

“Maybe the humans are having a fireworks show…?” Crowley suggested unconvincingly.

“What did everyone agree on for the emergency signal, again?“

"An orange Flare...oh.“

“Some idiot’s gone and found something,” Aziraphale turned to Crowley with a rueful expression.

Crowley looked back in the direction the Flare had come from. He thought of the rumors he’d heard about the monster. Of how no one had yet seen it and survived.

“I suppose we ought to get going,” Aziraphale said with a resigned sigh. He shifted to his Angel form, wings stretching out, preparing to take flight.

Gripped by a sudden sense of foreboding, Crowley grabbed his hand. “Wait.”

The angel relaxed its wings, turning its gaze back to Crowley. “What’s the matter, darling?”

“It’s…“ Crowley struggled to put his premonition into words. “This Thing...we don’t know anything about it...it could kill us!”

“Dear, you sound as flighty as a foliot! Whatever it is, it’s hardly likely to be a match for the two of us, plus the rest of the patrol teams, if they show up. We’ll be fine,” The Angel gave Crowley’s hand a quick squeeze before turning away and taking off, trusting Crowley to follow. And at a loss for any other option, he did.

_____

The block was totally deserted. A car and a tree here and there seemed to have been knocked out of the way, showing the path the monster had presumably taken across the square.

“Looks like we’re too late…” Crowley sighed in relief. “Should we try to follow it?”

“Let’s look for clues first,” Aziraphale said, flipping over a smashed car.

“Great idea,” said Crowley, joining Aziraphale in searching through the mess and making it worse in the process. He kicked over a trash bin. Its contents spilled onto the pavement, including something that moved.

Crowley jumped back. “Aziraphale!” He called nervously.

A raccoon6 climbed out of the pile of rubbish and looked around frantically. Seeing the two djinn were the only other beings about, it relaxed.

"You sent the Flare?“ Crowley asked.

"No... it must have been one of the others,“ said the raccoon.

"Where are they?“

The raccoon sneered. "In the belly of the monster would be my guess.“

"What did you see, little fellow?“ asked Aziraphale.

"I didn’t see a thing! But it‘s something big, for sure. We heard giant footsteps and ran for cover. I don’t think it will have gone far, though - it didn’t sound very fast.“

"Can you describe anything about it? Smells, auras, a voice? You must have noticed something.“

The raccoon shivered. "It got ominously colder when it approached...and everything went dark, just like the rumors said!“

"How do you know it was dark if you were hiding in that bin?“ asked Crowley.

The raccoon‘s tail twitched irritably. "We‘re wasting time going over all these details. It’s getting away.“

"Fine. You can tell us more on the way.“

The raccoon‘s eyes widened. "Who, me? No, no, I’d better stick around so I can tell the other djinn where to go when they get here.“

"How very helpful.“

"I suggest you start looking that way.“ He pointed with a paw. "If you look closely, you’ll see that every building in its path has been reduced to rubble.“

Crowley and Aziraphale looked at each other anxiously.

"Good luck!'' The foliot made a shooing motion with one paw as he pulled a newspaper out of the trash, then sat down to read it.

Taking to the sky, they followed the path of destruction a few blocks until it ended at the National Gallery.7 Something had smashed through an exterior wall into the building. A quick flight around the building told them it hadn’t torn it’s way back out yet. Aziraphale sent up a new Flare, in case the others deigned to show up.

The two djinn landed on the roof and began to psych themselves up for facing the mysterious demon-killing monster.

Crowley frantically paced around the roof. “It’s not that I’m afraid. I’m just not ready to die. Not in London, of all places. Not in this weather.“

“Yes, yes, you said that last time,” Aziraphale said, as he nervously preened one of his ten wings.

“But this could really be it, Aziraphale!” Crowley gestured dramatically with his arms. “I heard it can kill demons just by looking at them!”

Aziraphale looked up from his wing to frown at Crowley. “I told you not to listen to the rumors. Everyone is just trying to scare each other! Not a word of it is based on evidence, I promise you.“

“I suppose you’re right...after all, everyone who’s seen it didn’t live to tell the tale!”

“Don’t put it like-“

“We‘re doomed-“

“It can’t be helped, Crowley!“ Aziraphale snapped. Crowley stopped pacing and met Aziraphale’s eyes. The Angel turned his back on him and returned to preening.

Oh well now Crowley felt bad. He sighed and sat down next to the Angel. He reached for one of his wings and stroked his feathers apologetically.

“I’m sorry.“

“There’s just no use in thinking about it. We can’t disobey.”

Crowley free hand tightened into a fist. He spent as much time as possible pretending otherwise, of course, but sooner than later reality found him again: he was a slave, magically bound to obey his master‘s commands. He wanted to forget this suicide mission, he wanted to run away with Aziraphale, out of this horrible city, away from all the stupid magicians and their stupid empires. Back home, to the Other Place? Some unpopulated corner of the Earth? Out in the stars? Anywhere he and Aziraphale could be together, and safe, and free.

But none of that mattered. Crowley never did what he wanted. That was the trouble; you couldn’t be a demon and have free will. Everything he wanted would remain nothing but fantasies, pleasant daydreams to entertain his imagination on lonely missions, or hopelessly whispered into his lover’s ear along with empty promises of devotion.

He hated it, he hated it, he hated it.

“Crowley,“ Aziraphale’s voice pulled him out of his thoughts. “if this turns out to really be the end… I’m glad, at least, that we’re together.”

Crowley smiled sadly as he took the Angel’s hands in his own. “I can imagine no greater honor, Aziraphale, than to die fighting by your side.”
“Oh, my darling...“

“My angel...“8

Two minutes later their passionate makeout session was interrupted when a load-bearing wall of the building was destroyed, causing a partial collapse of the roof.

At last, the djinn could procrastinate no longer, and had no choice but to investigate.

The gallery was dark and deserted. Aziraphale conjured a blue flame in the palm of his hand, holding it up to light their way. Crowley took his other hand and they cautiously began searching the remains of the gallery.

They heard enormous footsteps approaching and rushed to hide against a wall, transforming themselves into shadows.9

A doorway down the hall was suddenly made much bigger as something smashed through the wall and entered the gallery. Everything went dark.10

The two shadows stayed still against the wall. It sounded like a giant entity was lumbering down the hall, occasionally striking down sculptures or interior walls. As it drew nearer, Crowley could feel a sharp chill as the aura of the creature seemed to sap away his power, like cold metal leeches body heat from a hand. By the time it turned a corner and walked away, he was feeling quite lightheaded. Once the monster was far enough away that they could see again, Aziraphale jumped off the wall and returned to his angel form. Crowley landed next to him in his not-angel form.

“Well, the good news is, I can identify the monster,“ Aziraphale whispered.“The bad news is, it’s a golem.”

“A golem?“

“I saw some once, when we invaded Prague. I didn’t know they had them anywhere else.” He paused as they heard the crash of the monster smashing through another wall. “They’re made of earth.”

“Uh oh,” Crowley said. Demons were beings of fire, weakened by water and earth.

“I don’t know how to fight them directly. In Prague we just went after the magicians controlling them, but if this thing’s here, its master could be anywhere in the city, so…”

Crowley considered this a moment. “Well, let’s see what we can do,“ he said with resignation.

 

They decided to solve the problem of the enveloping darkness by setting the carpet on fire, which kind of worked. They could see the shape of it now, a clunky humanoid made of animated clay, about 8 feet tall. It ignored the flames surrounding it and continued smashing things.

Crowley conjured a ball of fire and threw it at the golem. No reaction. He kept trying, shooting one Detonation after another at the figure, to no effect.

Aziraphale picked up a large piece of broken concrete and chucked it at the monster. The concrete was smashed into dust, but the creature seemed undamaged. It did, however, slowly turn around to look at the two djinn. “Ha!” shouted Aziraphale as his throw struck its target, “oh dear,” he muttered as he realized it was not very effective…

Crowley was still throwing Detonations at it in vain. “Stop,” said Aziraphale.

Crowley did, sending one last Detonation out that missed and crashed into the opposite wall, destroying several priceless paintings. “Strategic retreat?”

The monster took one slow step towards them.

“Yes!” The angel turned on its heel and ran. Crowley spared one last glance at the golem, which was starting to slowly pursue them, before following Aziraphale through a doorway.

Once they had put several rooms between themselves and the golem, they stopped to reorient themselves.

“So,” said Crowley. “Apparently indestructible.”

“It can’t be. They’re from Czechia, for goodness sake. You think those backwards peasants would have stayed under British rule all this time if they had any real power?”

“...Maybe?”

“No. No, we’ve got this. Let’s think.”

They stood in contemplative silence for a moment.

Aziraphale spoke. “Alright. You go around from the west wing. I’ll go around from the east. I’m pretty sure it can only see in front of itself. We’ll approach it from opposite directions. One of us will be in its blind spot, and will shoot a Detonation at the ceiling directly above the Golem. Hopefully, having part of a building fall on it will do sufficient damage.”

“Or at least immobilize it long enough to come up with another plan.”

“Exactly. Ready?”

“Kiss me for luck?”

Aziraphale rolled his eyes, but obliged. “Be careful. Don’t get too close to it,” he added before turning away and running around a corner, already out of sight. Crowley turned to run in the opposite direction, not wanting to leave Aziraphale waiting for a second.

 

Suddenly, Crowley felt the unmistakable sensation of the magical bonds tying him to Earth breaking. His master’s mortal life had just ended. 11 At any other moment he would have jumped for joy and rushed back home to the Other Place. But now, he felt sheer panic. He couldn’t leave now! Aziraphale was counting on him!

He tried to fight the pull of the Other Place, willing his essence to stay on Earth. He couldn’t leave Aziraphale to fight alone! But his struggle was useless. He felt his tether to the physical world slip away as surely as he felt his heart breaking. Within seconds, he was gone.

_____

2 YEARS LATER

_____

Crowley was in the guise of a cat, making his way across central London via the rooftops, on a task of no consequence from his newest magician. A familiar voice startled him, nearly causing him to lose his balance on a narrow ledge, but he caught himself. He turned around to see a pigeon land on the building.

“Crowley! I heard you were back in London! So glad I ran into you.”

“Faquarl.” The cat stepped down from the ledge and sat near the pigeon.

“I have wonderful news!” Faquarl paused, expecting Crowley to ask about it, but the cat simply stared at the pigeon, unblinking. He continued, “There’s been a massive breakthrough in summoning theory since that rogue Afrit a couple years ago! I believe I’ve finally discovered the method by which we spirits can exist on Earth on our own terms!“

“Great.”

“It’s all coming together. I‘ve almost got enough spirits on board, and with any luck, I should even be able to trick my current master into jumpstarting the revolution for us.“

“Glad to hear it.“ Crowley’s attention had drifted to a speck of dirt on his paw. He was considering if it would be rude to lick it off at the moment.

“Now, I understand you joining was conditional on Aziraphale…” Faquarl paused at the look Crowley gave him.

The cat’s tail twitched irritably. “Go on.”

Crowley didn’t trust Faquarl. It was foolish to trust any demon, obviously. Except Aziraphale. Crowley had trusted him completely and had never been let down, not once. Aziraphale had trusted him as well, had depended on Crowley to have his back. Had he guessed, in his final moments, that Crowley had been torn away by forces outside his control? What if he thought Crowley had chickened out and left him to die alone? Was that betrayal more painful than the cold grip on his essence as his life was drained away?

“I was very sorry to hear what happened to him. He was an admirable djinni.”

“Look, you don’t have to pretend to care, okay? I know you just wanted more demonpower behind your cause.“

Faquarl frowned with annoyance. “I would have thought you’d want revenge. If it weren’t for the magicians…“

Crowley knew Faquarl was not truly concerned by the fate of Aziraphale or any other demon. And he was sure whatever scheme he’d devised would only lead to more spirits’ deaths. He’d always known it was a long shot, but when he was with Aziraphale it had been so easy to hope… Looking back, it seemed so silly now. Naïve. The idea that they could ever have control of their lives. That any demon could know freedom.

Crowley considered the future that awaited him: millenia after millenia of servitude and pain, and this time, without the constant hope that he would see Aziraphale again soon.

The same ceaseless routine: Summons. Orders. Mission. Dismissal. The peace and safety of the Other Place, where time didn’t exist, or maybe it ran in circles. Summons. Orders. Mission. Dismissal. Home. Repeat, repeat ad nauseam.

Exactly the same as it had always been, only without Aziraphale. Alone.

No thanks.

“I’m in.”

Faquarl paused in the middle of a rant about the cruelty of magicians, or something. The pigeon’s beak twisted into a discomforting approximation of a smile. “Excellent! You won’t regret your decision. We will crush the humans in righteous vengeance! With such a strong team, we cannot fail!”

The cat nodded, once.

“Although. There is one thing I must tell you about the plan. I urge you not to let it change your mind. It’s controversial, but I think it will be necessary-“

“Don’t care.”

“What?”

“Whatever it is, I’ll do it.”

Crowley barely listened to Faquarl’s lengthy description of his plan, having inwardly returned to his all-time hobby, pining for Aziraphale, which he expected would occupy the rest of his days.

“...and by that time, maybe a year from now, I should have access to a summoning circle, so I’ll be able to call everyone and fill you in on the rest of the details then.”

That struck Crowley as very odd. He’d never heard of a demon controlling a summons before. Was Faquarl pulling his leg? He suspected this plan was doomed to fail spectacularly.

“I think that covers everything,” said the pigeon, extending its wings and looking towards the horizon for a moment. He glanced at Crowley one more time before taking off. “Thanks for coming around, Crowley. I promise, you won’t live to regret this.”

“It’s not like I’ve got anything left to lose.”