Crowley knew something was wrong with his angel. Aziraphale hadn’t said outright, of course. He never would. No, Crowley had put it together himself. Fortunately, if there was an expert on “Aziraphale-ology”, it was undoubtedly a certain red-haired demon. To an outsider, nothing would have seemed out of the ordinary with the jolly man who owned the little bookshop in Soho. Day in and day out, Aziraphale puttered around his shop, humming, reading, and keeping customers out as if nothing had changed in the months since the near end of the world. Crowley was no outsider, however. Something was off, and the demon could see it in a way that only a best friend of 6000 years could.
As the demon unlocked the door to his apartment and stepped inside, he contemplated Aziraphale’s recent actions. The way he had been eating just slightly less, the way he had been extra terse with customers, the way their conversations had become ever-so-slightly more routine – it was all indicative of something gnawing away at the angel.
Only days before, Crowley thought he was bothered by the amount of time the demon had been hanging around the shop. Granted, Crowley had been a bit clingy, sleeping on the angel’s couch nearly every night, but he was nevertheless a little hurt when he came to the conclusion that he didn’t want him around.
However, on the evening he thought of this, he was proven to be mistaken very quickly. Not wanting to bother Aziraphale, Crowley had begun to leave the shop after their post-dinner drinks instead of making his bed on the couch in the shop. This had caused the angel to grab his sleeve desperately with a pleading look in his big blue eyes that said it all.
Heading to his bedroom, Crowley thought about what the angel’s eyes seemed to be telling him. Aziraphale wasn’t afraid of Crowley – he was afraid of being with him. It was a subtle difference, it was enough to let him piece together the whole story. The loss in appetite, the mixed feelings about being around the demon, the isolation. Aziraphale didn’t want to be away from Crowley, he was simply afraid of what might happen if he got close.
Crowley knew how cruel heaven could be. When they had switched corporations, “Aziraphale” had never even gotten a trial to plead his case. The angels were all so overbearing and harsh that even though they were both on their own side now, he couldn’t blame Aziraphale for having lingering anxieties about what heaven might do to him. It was one thing to both be on the same side in the war, but it was an entirely different thing to develop a close relationship. Crowley was aware that if heaven knew one of their most powerful angels was emotionally attached to the enemy, the consequences of their wrath would be much more than anything they had seen for their prior transgressions.
But Crowley didn’t want to stop, and thinking of Aziraphale’s pleading look the night before he knew neither did he. It was for this reason that Crowley hatched his plan.
Reaching into his bedside drawer, Crowley pulled out a stack of bills that he had been saving. Exiting back into his living area, Crowley snapped his fingers. His plants, trembling when he had entered the apartment, had suddenly gone still when they realized that the demon wasn’t punishing them – instead he had rigged up some sort of watering system.
“You little shits had better behave yourselves while I’m gone, ok? You know I won’t tolerate any lackluster performance.” The plants gave another shiver as Crowley locked the door behind him. Taking a deep breath, he began to look up directions on his phone. He had a plan, and he wasn’t letting heaven get in the way of it.
Aziraphale straightened the stack of books on the end table for what was probably the dozenth time that morning. Although he knew that no customers would be coming in – the little shop had been closed more often than he had been open since the apocalypse-that-wasn’t – he couldn’t help but make the place look as neat as possible. He couldn’t stop fidgeting and frequently found himself pacing around the storefront. It wasn’t that he was unhappy being there – quite the contrary, actually, as he was beyond glad that he had his treasured store back – but he couldn’t help feeling stuck, like a caged animal without any purpose.
Because, truthfully, the angel hadn’t felt needed since the end of the end of the world. The trials had gone about as smoothly as they could have, but the lack of a punishment gnawed at the back of the angel’s mind day in and day out. If he wasn’t being punished, then why had he not heard from heaven since? It had been at least three months since he had last seen Gabriel’s smug face and as much as he resented the bastard, something about being isolated from the other angels was almost worse than being humiliated by them. It was as if the angels had just left him on earth waiting for him to disappear and to no longer be associated with them. They had discarded him.
The isolation terrified him. It wasn’t just the fear of being alone, however. It was the fear of the isolation not lasting. Without heaven, the angel’s only purpose seemed to be Crowley. Over the months the two had been dining out together nearly every night, and the demon had taken to sleeping in the shop. Aziraphale knew just how terrified he had been the day of the fire, and despite the pair refusing to bring it up he knew that Crowley had been changed that day. He had become more clingy, more emotional, more … dependent? No, that wasn’t it. He had become more attached to the angel, allowing himself to grow closer now that he could live without judgement.
This, however, was what Aziraphale was afraid of. There wasn’t a single part of the angel that was opposed to having Crowley around – the two were both quite aware that they enjoyed each other’s company more than anything else. No, it was the fear that their situation might be compromised. Heaven seemed to have abandoned him, but what if they changed their mind? What if the angel had given up on his purpose and dedicated himself to Crowley, only to have him ripped away from him? Aziraphale didn’t think he could take it, and he doubted Crowley would have any more luck.
It was for this reason that Aziraphale was pacing around the shop, organizing and reorganizing his countless books. If he could direct his attention at something else – anything else – then maybe he could block out that part of his mind screaming to grab Crowley tight and never, ever let go. He knew that he couldn’t, that he shouldn’t, and that doing so would only cause more pain. But, no matter how many books the angel rearranged, his next thought was always Crowley.
As if on cue, the bell behind Aziraphale rang, causing the angel to jump. He knew he had locked the door and thus the only person entering could be Crowley, as he had the only other key, but Aziraphale was still tentative when he peeked around a bookcase to identify the intruder. Luckily, as he had suspected, a slightly ruffled red-headed demon stood just inside the entrance, shaking rain water from his jacket, and clutching a brown paper bag that looked like it had seen better days. Despite the rain, he was of course wearing his shades, and his hair which he had grown out again was plastered to his face, and he looked as if he were ready to have a less-than-friendly chat with God about Her choice in weather. However, when his eyes caught Aziraphale who had stepped out into the open, the demon seemed to soften.
“Evenin’.” Crowley opened, hanging his coat up and moving forward to greet him. “Bloody awful weather we’re having, eh? I hope you’ve got some tea, I had to walk all the way over here you bastard.”
The demon seemed annoyed, but the twinkle in his eye and his wry smile proved that he was just joking around. Over the last few weeks, Crowley’s brash swagger had not deteriorated in the slightest, but the more nights he chose to sleep on the couch in the shop or asked the angel out to dinner, the more Aziraphale knew that Crowley wasn’t about to go anywhere.
Smiling, Aziraphale motioned for the two to sit down in their favorite chairs. With a snap of his fingers, a fire sprang to life in the hearth, and Crowley took the chair closest to warm himself.
“I’m fine.” Aziraphale chirped with a smile which he immediately realized looked horribly fake.
He tried his best to recover, but the demon had already seen. Leaning in towards the still-standing Aziraphale, Crowley adopted a concerned frown. Over the last few weeks, as the angel began to feel more and more worried, he had done his best to hide it. However, the angel never had been a good liar and it was obvious that Crowley had noticed his increased anxiety.
“Actually,” the angel conceded before the demon could say anything, “It’s been a long day, Crowley. I know that I should be grateful to have my space and that it isn’t a huge deal what heaven thinks of me but…” he trailed off, settling down into his own chair. His cheeks flushed as he felt the demon looking at him and hoped he could just sink into the chair and not have to think about anything ever again.
“It’s ok, angel” Crowley said softly. “I know.” The demon went quiet for a minute, and Aziraphale was a little surprised that he didn’t have more to say. However, as he looked up, he saw that Crowley had a tired grin on his face and was clutching the water-stained bag he had carried in.
“I got something for you, though.” the demon continued. “I don’t know if you’ll like it, or if you even want to think about something like this right now, but… just open it, angel.”
Aziraphale took the bag and carefully reached inside to feel something hard and rectangular. Opening it wide, he looked in to see a book. Considering the number of books he owned, there was a decent chance that whatever was in the bag was already in his possession, yet as he pulled it out he realized that none of his collection was from Crowley. Over the years the two had interacted many, many times, but Crowley never seemed to take any interest in literature. In fact, Aziraphale had never seen the demon read at all. Because of this, the fact that he had suddenly gifted him a book seemed very odd to Aziraphale.
However, he became even more confused when he read the title. “The American West?” he asked. He was unsure why, in the midst of this crisis, the demon was buying him what appeared to be travel guides. “Wh…” the angel trailed off as two pieces of paper slipped out from under the cover and fluttered to the floor. Reaching to pick them up, Aziraphale caught the word “Delta” and Crowley chuckled.
“I know you said no to Alpha Centauri, but I figured that Portland is a bit closer so I thought, uh, you might want to, you know, take a road trip?” The demon looked abashed, and Aziraphale suddenly realized what he was asking. Neither of them knew how much longer they had, and Crowley was offering them an escape, even if just for a bit. It might be a mistake to continue fraternizing, and it might be their undoing, but what if it wasn’t? The angel stared at the tickets, overcome with emotion. The demon could do anything, anything, he could run far away and not get mixed up in Heaven, and yet he decided to show Aziraphale the world no matter the risk? He felt tears rise to his eyes, and looked up to see an expectant Crowley, still blushing slightly.
“I’ve barely spent any time in America!” Aziraphale exclaimed, breaking into a smile. “You want to do this for me?”
Crowley laughed. “Of course, angel. What would I rather be doing?”
“I don’t know, brooding or something?” the angel giggled and was met with a sardonic glare. “When would we go?”
Crowley snapped his fingers. “The Bentley’s out front, so, I guess, as soon as you pack a bag.”
For a moment, Aziraphale forgot the part of him that was afraid, and jumped to his feet causing Crowley to laugh again. “Meet you down here in 15?” he asked, making his way to the staircase.
“I’ll be right here.”