The creation of the Fell Rare Books Knitting and Book Discussion Club came about like this:
Crowley decided to take a holiday. While he was away, the angel Aziraphale found himself keeping regular hours and as a result, having regular customers. On the whole, Aziraphale found that he rather enjoyed these customers as they never tried to buy anything and instead preferred to sit in the back of the store knitting and talking. This evolved into a book discussion group because not everyone who came could actually knit. Over the next five years the membership of the Club grew to about 30 people. This number changed depending on such things as people going off to college, graduating college, marrying, divorcing, moving, or people just discovering the Club's existence.
Due to the fluctuating membership, Aziraphale found himself running a monthly online newsletter. He was motivated by two of the members, James and Penny, who forced him to embrace technology. Or as they called it, "Dragging you kicking and screaming into the 21st century. We'll buy books if you don't learn how to navigate the internet, Aziraphale."
They'd all determined that Aziraphale's fashion sense was a lost cause. As was his taste in music. At least music written within the last century. Thus it came as a shock to everybody that once Aziraphale figured out the internet he took to it like a fish to water. He not only ran the newsletter, but he also had a blog, an online bible discussion group, and got all of his news online. He did draw the line at doing his crossword puzzles online, claiming that there was just something about a pencil on paper that couldn't be duplicated.
Crowley's holiday started like this:
The demon known as A J Crowley decided that he needed a holiday. This decision in no way came about after Crowley found himself wondering if it was too early to stop by the bookshop. Crowley was quite firm with himself on that point. Ten minutes after determining that he needed a holiday he disposed of his house plants and went to go see his sometimes friend Aziraphale. Once Crowley had found the angel in his back room examining a new acquisition for his book collection, the following conversation took place:
"I'm taking a holiday," Crowley stated as he stood in the doorway.
"Holiday?" Aziraphale repeated without looking up from his book. "Want me to look after your plants?"
"No, I took care of them." The angel looked at him in mild horror. He continued on before Aziraphale could say anything, "I'm not sure how long I'll be gone. Just thought I'd let you know."
Aziraphale chose to let the matter with the plants rest, "Any place in mind?"
"Thought I'd just wander for a bit. Haven't done that in centuries." Since it was obvious that Aziraphale was never going to get around to it, Crowley poured himself a cup of tea. The fact that the pot had been empty for several hours didn't bother him. "Just stopped by to let you know I wouldn't be around."
"Professional courtesy then." Aziraphale nodded his head and poured himself a cup of tea as well. "Thank you for letting me know."
"Well then..." Crowley wasn't sure how he'd pictured this conversation going, but somehow this wasn't it. "Later."
Aziraphale smiled at him pleasantly for a few minutes before he put the cup down and walked out of the shop. Getting into the Bentley, Crowley contemplated various destinations before deciding on Paris to start with and then maybe America.
Crowley's holiday ended like this:
Five years after Crowley left London he returned in much the same manner. The Bentley pulled up in front of the bookshop and the demon stepped out. Crowley looked at the other cars parked nearby in confusion as it wasn't often that the street was filled with cars. He shrugged and figured that a new store must have opened in his absence, five years was a lot longer than it used to be. He re-assessed that thought when he got to the door and saw a sign hanging in the window stating the hours of operation for the bookshop.
It was with some hesitation that he opened the door. Aziraphale wouldn't have left London without telling him, but he hadn't been back to his apartment to check for messages yet. It was possible that he had decided to take a holiday of his own and sold the shop. Unlikely, but possible. Walking through the door he withheld a sigh of relief at seeing Aziraphale standing at the front counter. The fact that Aziraphale was busily typing on a laptop was ignored for the moment as he assessed the rest of the shop. He remained casual when Aziraphale looked up and saw him, only raising an eyebrow and gesturing at the shop, "I was gone for five years and you decided to sell your books?"
"Crowley," Aziraphale said almost silently before smiling at him. "One must move with the times, my dear. Although they," he said gesturing to the assorted crowd of knitters and discussants, "are very good about not actually buying anything."
"So why are there people here if no one buys anything?" He raised his hand to forestall Aziraphale's answer, "Wait, let's have this discussion over lunch. Ritz?"
Aziraphale looked at him apologetically. "I'd love to really, but I can't just leave the shop. One of the hazards of having actual hours."
"It's no problem, Aziraphale," a girl said as she walked up to the counter. "I can watch the place until you get back. You should go have lunch with your friend."
"I couldn't possibly ask you to do that," he replied. His actions belied his words though as he was already gathering up his coat and keys.
The girl smiled at him and made shooing motions with her hands towards the door, "Please. After all you've done for me, the least I can do is watch the place for a few hours."
Crowley held the door open for Aziraphale and smiled at the girl. The angel continued to make half-hearted protests until the door closed. The girl stood by it with the clear intention of locking the door should Aziraphale made any attempts to go back inside. He didn't. Instead he smiled at her and then at Crowley again before getting into the Bentley.
The conversation after the two non-human beings left went like this:
"Do you think that's him?"
"The one Aziraphale is always looking through the papers for."
"Definitely. I've never seen Aziraphale look so happy. Not even when he tracked down that weird bible three months ago."
"Crowley. He's name is Crowley. At least that's what Aziraphale called him when he first walked in."
"Anyone else get the idea that they were perhaps more than friends before the other one left?"
"Without a doubt."
"Really? What would Aziraphale want with a guy like that? He seemed kinda sleezy."
"No, there was definitely something more going on than just friends."
"Maybe they are just friends."
"Maybe they had a really bad break up."
"No, the other guy---"
"Crowley, fine. I think Crowley ran off and left him. Now he's back to beg forgiveness."
"Maybe he ran off because he didn't think his feelings were returned. Now he's back because he can't live without Aziraphale and is willing to lay everything down on the table."
"Do you think anyone else knows?"
There was a communal shrugging of shoulders before Annie opened her computer and sent out an emergency message to everyone on the newsletter, besides Aziraphale, asking if they knew anything. There were a lot of people and someone had to know something.
Over the next few days reports came trickling into Annie's email account. Almost nothing was known about the mysterious Crowley and what was known had only been told by Aziraphale when he was extremely drunk. The general consensus was that Aziraphale was madly in love with Crowley and had been holding a torch for him all these years. It was quickly decided that a new mailing list was to be made for discussing what to do about Aziraphale's love life. Or lack there of as the case turned out to be.
Over the next few weeks the members of the new mailing list determined this:
1. Aziraphale was in love with Crowley.
2. Crowley was in love with Aziraphale.
3. For some reason neither realized the other was in love with him.
4. Something had to be done.
A plan was hatched to get Aziraphale and Crowley together. Some said that the plan was created by people who had watched far too many romantic comedies and had too little real life experience, but for the most part they were ignored.
Stage One happened like this:
Money was pooled and the flower shop down the road was paid off. Every morning at nine sharp a new bouquet of flowers was delivered to the bookshop. Each bouquet was different and Aziraphale was very careful to display them prominently around the shop. Every day around noon Crowley would come in and look at the flowers disdainfully. Shortly thereafter he would leave with Aziraphale. It wasn't the reaction the conspirators were looking for, but it was better than nothing. Or so they thought until on the Tuesday of the second week of flower deliveries when the following conversation happened:
"Crowley! You're a bit early. Do you mind waiting while I finish up some emails?"
"Emails. I can't believe you. When I left you could barely work your telephone and now you're making me wait on lunch so you can finish some emails."
"I'm sorry my dear, but they are rather important. The bible discussion group I'm running has gotten into a bit of a debate about Sodom and Gomorrah."
"I always liked Gomorrah. Sodom was over-rated really."
"Go make yourself useful and put these books back on the shelf."
"Fine, fine. What's with all these flowers anyway? You must be spending a fortune on them."
"Hmm? Oh those? No, someone's been sending them to me. Cheers up the place a bit don't you think?"
"Who's this someone then?"
"I have no idea. The card is always blank. I called down to the flower shop, but they said it was anonymous."
"Weird. I never much liked cut flowers. Only thing dead flowers do is decay."
"I suppose, but it's better than your plants."
"I like my plants. My plants are big and beautiful."
"And living in terror, the poor dears. I'm done here if you want to go."
Though most of the conversation made little sense to those listening, they did glean several salient points from it: Crowley didn't care that someone was sending Aziraphale flowers, Aziraphale had apparently never thought it could be Crowley sending the flowers, and Crowley liked plants. Luckily, some of that information could be incorporated into stage two of the plan.
Stage Two commenced as soon as they figured out where Crowley lived. Once that had been discovered, it was a simple matter to have several ferns sent to his flat, by the same flower shop, with the card signed, "Aziraphale." They thought they were onto something when Crowley showed up early for lunch the next day. That was until the following argument happened:
"What do you think you're playing at?"
"You should be."
"Just so we're clear, would you mind telling me what I'm sorry for?"
"You gave me ferns!"
"No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did. And I have the card to prove it."
"I didn't send this. I'm not sure who did send it, but it wasn't me."
"So what then? Someone is playing silly buggers and signed your name on it?"
"I wouldn't have put it quite like that."
"I didn't send you any ferns. Do you honestly think I would give you any sort of plant knowing what you put those poor things through?"
Nothing more was said after that. Instead Crowley pulled his sunglasses down enough to glare at Aziraphale over the top of them and stormed out. It occurred to those observing the exchange from the back of the shop that they might have misstepped.
The following week consisted of Aziraphale moping around the shop. Especially in the afternoon when it became obvious that Crowley wasn't going to show up. It was Penny who breached the subject with him, "Have you tried calling him?"
"Calling who?" Aziraphale managed to look somewhat puzzled by the question despite the fact that he'd been looking at the door whenever a car drove past.
She took a deep breath and then said the name as quickly as possible in the hope that the conversation would be over that much faster. "Crowley."
Aziraphale looked at her for a second and blinked his eyes before letting out a sigh that seemed to deflate him, "Is it that obvious? I have called him, but I only ever get his ansaphone and I hate leaving messages on those. Never really gotten the hang of it."
"Have you tried going to his place?" Penny asked in what she hoped was a sympathetic tone.
"I did. Once. He was there, but he wouldn't answer the door." Aziraphale looked at her and attempted to smile, "It seemed impolite to just go in. I'm not even sure what he's angry about. He'll get over it eventually."
With that, he turned back to pretending to fill out a crossword puzzle and Penny moved back to the group, waiting to learn the outcome of the conversation. After a whispered conversation, they decided to skip stages 3-5 and go immediately to Stage Six. It would need some modifications in order to work, but they felt it was their only hope.
Stage Six went like this:
Crowley woke up from a three-day nap to find that he had mail. This was bit odd as it wasn't in his box, but instead shoved under his door. It was a letter claiming to be from Aziraphale and requesting his presence at the shop to talk. It wasn't in the angel's handwriting and with everything else that had been happening since he got back to London, he wasn't sure what to make of it. He stood staring at the letter for some time before deciding to go. It wasn't from Aziraphale, but maybe he'd get some explanations for what had been going on.
After storming out of the bookshop, Crowley had deduced that whoever had sent him the ferns had probably also sent Aziraphale the flowers. The thing he couldn't figure out was why. He was less inclined to think about why he had gotten angry when Aziraphale had denied getting him the ferns as that led far too easily into why he'd been interested in Aziraphale's flowers in the first place. He'd been curious about them the first day they'd shown up and Aziraphale had been maddeningly quiet on the subject. Maybe now he'd get some answers. The thought made him smile as he walked down to the Bentley.
The smile was still on his face when he pulled up to the bookshop. He'd spent the drive over thinking of all the horrible things he could do to the people who'd been messing with him. He walked through the door in a much better mood than when he'd left his flat. He tossed the letter onto the counter. Aziraphale picked it up and read it before looking at him. "I didn't write this."
"I know that," Crowley managed to add a silent 'you idiot' to his reply. "It's not your handwriting. I thought that if I came by whoever had written it would fess up."
"It was me," one of the perpetual non-customers answered. He'd never bothered to learn their names, something he was regretting now. "Well, all of us really, but I wrote that. We thought it was a shame you weren't coming around anymore. I mean Aziraphale was unhappy and so we figured if you showed up then maybe you'd talk about whatever you're fighting about."
"Really?" Aziraphale had the audacity to look both surprised and pleased by the confession. Crowley supposed that he would like random people interfering in his life.
"And we packed you a lunch," one of the others piped in. "So you could have a picnic. It's a nice day."
Crowley accepted the basket. He didn't really know what to say to that. The scenarios he'd come up with on the drive over hadn't involved picnics. Before he could formulate a reply he found himself being gently prodded out the door with an equally bemused Aziraphale at his side. Once out, the door was firmly locked and the sign flipped to closed. With a shrug, he shoved the basket at Aziraphale and got into the Bentley.
The outcome of Stage Six was judged a success by all because of this:
The members that were in the store stayed for another hour before leaving. They figured that if things were going to go badly they would go badly within the first hour. It was with more than a few prayers that they locked up the shop and left. The next day they found the Bentley parked outside the bookshop and the door locked. The situation remained that way for three days.