As far as Beginnings went, this one was rather not on the spectacular side. One might very nearly call it ordinary. But life (or fate, or even God*, take your pick) worked in mysterious ways, as some people who didn't like the idea of coincidences kept insisting, and every new chapter of a story had to start somewhere.
Crowley was skimming over the content of the screen in front of him, fingertips gliding over the laptop's** mouse pad. He was about to select the website of some book fair, his mind set on inviting Aziraphale for a day out that involved more than the Ritz and St James Park, when his gaze suddenly fell on something else and his face split in a grin.
*Though that was an angle Crowley usually tended to avoid.
**Apple, of course; he was quite proud of that particular idea, though he had never been properly credited for it.
A minor little miracle (or possibly a major one, considering the event was due the next day already) ensured there were still tickets available and he snapped the laptop shut as he rose from the couch and padded over to his phone. He dialled the number by memory, listened to the dial tone for a few seconds and then announced: “Angel, you have plans for tomorrow.”
He picked Aziraphale up at the bookshop the next morning, a paper bag with sweet pastries resting on the Bentley's dashboard. They earned him a brilliant smile from the angel and also some some time until Aziraphale was licking the last remnants of the sugary frosting off his fingertips before he thought to look out of the window and inquire: “Where are we actually headed, my dear?”
Crowley gave him a wide grin and declared triumphantly: “We, angel, are going to Comic Con.” He should probably have expected the quizzical look that got him, but really? “Come on, you can't tell me you've never even heard of Comic Con,” demanded the demon incredulously, throwing a glance tward his passenger, who just raised his eyebrows slightly.
“I can't say I have, no,” Aziraphale replied carefully. “Judging by your tone, I'm assuming I missed something?”
Crowley huffed. “You could say that, yes,” he agreed. “See, it's... it's a bit like a book fair, just with a lot more movies and suchlike. Basically...” Now how did one explain Comic Con to someone who had no frame of reference whatsoever? “Just wait and see,” he settled on after a few seconds. “You'll like it.”
“If you say so,” agreed Aziraphale diplomatically.
The demon nodded contently and they drove on in comfortable silence* until Crowley pulled the Bentley into a conveniently vacated parking space**. He pushed his sunglasses up his nose ad flashed the angel a grin before he left the car and leaned against it while he waited for Aziraphale to follow – which he did, albeit a little suspiciously.
*They had known each other for long enough for the need to fill each moment of stillness with conversation had long since died away. There were days when Crowley would wander into the bookshop and silently sprawl out in an armchair while Aziraphale went about his daily business and there was no conversation apart from the odd remark about a particularly stubborn customer or a murmured “thank you” for a cup of tea.
**The owner of the Audi which had previously occupied the spot would later be confused upon finding his car – perfectly unharmed, though with a parking ticket stuck behind the front screen wiper – three blocks down from where he had been sure he had left it.
The angel peered up at the building and the people milling about near the entrance both curiously and sceptical. Crowley didn't leave him time to voice any of his thoughts before he grabbed Aziraphale's sleeve and pulled him toward the entrance.
“There's no point in standing outside all day,” he remarked. “They have a Sherlock panel which we need to visit before we go anywhere else, but then we can do whatever you want. Come on.”
“For someone whose favourite pastime is sleeping, you can be amazingly impatient,” mused Aziraphale quietly.
“What was that, angel?”
“Oh, nothing. Nothing at all.” He let himself be tugged along, finding he didn't really mind. Crowley let go of him once they were inside, though the angel stayed close to his side in order to keep from getting lost in the crowd filling the hall they had entered while he glanced around curiously. “And we are looking for...?” he prompted, since the demon seemed to know exactly where he was going.
“The Sherlock panel, angel,” Crowley repeated patiently, looking back over his shoulder to catch the spark of recognition lighting up his friend's features. Nothing. “Come on, you know Sherlock, right?” he demanded, eyebrows raised. “Tall, lanky fellow with an awesome coat and great cheekbones? His Watson is the Hobbit?” The angel mirrored his quizzical expression. “Oh, and you don't know who the Hobbit is, either. Of course. For G– I mean, for Somebody's sake, angel, what are you doing with your life? Don't answer that.” He shoo k his head exasperatedly while Aziraphale regarded him with the puzzled look that he reserved for occasions when Crowley was talking in too-modern terms*. “Really, you don't even sleep, so what do you do with all that time?”
*Or started uttering sentences like “nobody wears tartan anymore, angel, seriously”. It wasn't that Aziraphale somehow lacked the ability or, as some people might falsely conclude, the intelligence to adapt to modern times – he just didn't see the need to when he got by with his old habits just fine, especially since humanity had been developing in some frankly worrying directions lately.
Crowley had been gesticulating animatedly and finished by making a grab for the angel's sleeve again, which went slightly amiss so he ended up gripping Aziraphale's hand instead. Well, the difference wasn't that great, was it?
“Come along, we have some education to catch up on. And as soon as we're home, we are watching Sherlock. And the Lord of the Rings,” decided the demon.
“I did read the books,” offered Aziraphale carefully.
“That's a start, at least,” sniffed the demon, slightly mollified. He cast a look around the hall – or what of it he could see between the tightly packed stands they were moving in-between – and found it returned by more people than he had expected. Some of the people around even smiled at him, something people usually felt more compelled to do when met with Aziraphale. A courageous couple of girls raised their hands to wave in his direction.
What the hell?
Crowley glanced around to see if they were perhaps looking at somebody standing behind him, but the girls were still staring by the time he looked back, so he raised his hand in a tentative wave.
That seemed to serve as an encouragement for them; the brunette one in the grey greatcoat leaned over to her red-headed friend in the Star Trek cosplay and whispered something, then dragged her toward the angel and the demon. Crowley was confused enough to remain standing where he was instead of going with the crowd, but he did remember to let go of Aziraphale's hand as the two came to a halt in front of them.
“I just wanted to say,” the brunette in the cosplay he now recognised as Jack Harkness began, all the while tugging at her suspenders, “you two look fantastic.”
Crowley blinked behind his sunglasses. “Um, thanks?” he volunteered, just as Aziraphale said: “Why, thank you, my dear.”
The girls giggled simultaneously and Miss Harkness took another step closer. “Can we have a photo?” she asked eagerly and Crowley frowned but Aziraphale once again took it upon himself to answer: “I don't see why not.”
“Awesome, thanks,” she replied, fishing her phone with the TARDIS-themed case out of her pocket and handing it to her friend. Then, she placed herself on Crowley's left, beaming, while her red-headed friend snapped the first picture.
“Take a step closer together,” she told them with a little wave, which resulted in Crowley being bracketed between Aziraphale and the cosplayer for the next photo, and after that one, the girl made another expressive gesture with her hand and called out: “Come on, you two, don't be so shy, give us a kiss.”
“Sorry, wha–” Crowley began, but Aziraphale had already gotten onto his tip-toes and pressed a kiss to the demon's cheek, one hand resting on the other's shoulder to steady himself when the electrical sound of the fake camera shutter sounded* and the red-headed Trekkie announced: “Yup, that's perfect. Thanks.”
*The sunglasses didn't conceal Crowley's deer-in-the-headlights-look nearly as well as he had secretly hoped for once he had gathered his wits enough to think that far.
Her friend patted Crowley's shoulder and then hurried back to her companion's side to look at the photograph. She gave the two of them an enthusiastic thumbs-up and a happy grin. “You're awesome. Now, Kira, I'm like 99% sure I saw David Tennant over there, let's get going.”
“That was a cosplayer, dimwit,” Trekkie-Kira replied fondly, but followed her practically bouncing friend with an indulgent smile as she ran off, leaving Crowley to stare after the two.
That was all he did for a few seconds, all the while trying to make sense of the prickling feeling that Aziraphale's lips had left on his cheek (along with a healthy, rosy colour that Crowley would refuse to call a blush). Eventually, Aziraphale shook him out of his thoughts by asking: “Now, what was that all about, dear chap?”
Crowley opened his mouth to give an explanation, realised he didn't have one, closed it again and nodded uncertainly. “I have no bloody idea,” he settled on eventually. He tried to spot the two girls in the crowd, but they had disappeared between the rest of the people. “Anyway, shall we get going? We wanted to be... somewhere.”
“The Sherlock panel,” Aziraphale supplied mildly.
“Exactly. For the sake of your education, come on.” He turned on his heel, striding off determinedly, which caused him to miss the angel's indulgent smile and head-shake.
They had barely been walking for two minutes when Crowley hesitated in his tracks and stared after the couple that had just walked past him with a frown. The taller one of the two was dark-haired and wore sunglasses, a slightly too big suit that looked like it was borrowed from someone bigger and a red shirt underneath. He was arm in arm with a girl dressed entirely in tartan fabrics, with a messy blond wig perched on her head and glasses dangling from her nose. There were small, fluffy fake wings strapped to her back.
The pair looked at them and broke out into simultaneous grins, both waving as they passed, though not stopping to chat.
Crowley's eyes were fixed on them until they were out of sight, then he turned toward Aziraphale to ask: “Is it just me who thinks we might be missing something here?”
The angel observed the two passer-bys as well before he shook his head. “No, you might have a point, my dear boy.” This time, it was him who took hold of Crowley's sleeve to pull him along. “Let's find out, shall we?” With that, he began to make his way through the people milling about the hall.
Some people reasoned that librarians had developed a special sixth* sense which tingled whenever there were books nearby, especially first editions, signed copies or other noteworthy specimen. The theory explained this with the alteration in the field of cosmic energies flowing all throughout creation, bent and put into new shape like a piece of cloth weighed down by written word and knowledge trapped between two sides of a book cover.
*Or seventh, or possibly even eighth, depending on whom you asked.
Of course, one might also argue that Aziraphale spotted one of the posters lining the walls and figured that the Antichrist's name was always a good place to start when investigating seemingly nonsensical phenomena. But everybody should come to their own conclusions about that.
Crowley followed suit, though he sometimes had to resist the temptation to stop at a particularly intriguing stand to take a look at the offered merchandise. He swore he saw a snuff box with tiny angel wings somewhere (horribly tacky, yes, but a perfect gag gift for whenever he had irked Aziraphale to the point he needed something to make him laugh; not that that happened much lately).
Following the angel's gaze, he had spotted the posters announcing Adam's attendance as well – apparently, he was supposed to take part in a Fantasy panel later on, but had his own stand somewhere in the labyrinth of hallways, too.
“So,” Crowley began, catching up with Aziraphale, “what is the Antichrist doing on Comic Con?”
He managed to give off just enough of a menacing aura that none of the people whose attention they caught actually dared to approach them. It was a subtle art he had perfected over the centuries, though he had been less surprised than he maybe might have been when he had realised that Aziraphale was able to display an equally, if not more intimidating glower as soon as anybody got too close to one of his precious books. Needless to say, it wasn't often that he had to part with one.
“I imagine we're about to find out,” replied the angel, who seemed inadequately cheerful about the whole thing. “Maybe he's just a... fan.” He glanced over at Crowley at the last word, as if looking for confirmation.
“Sure,” the demon murmured. Adam was just a boy after all. Or a young man by now, probably. Maybe that was really all there was to it. Yeah, of course.
“Doesn't this remind you of Jerusalem?” Aziraphale mused, apropos of nothing. “You know, the Great Temple, the vendors...”
“What, you mean before you-know-who walked in and started flipping tables?” Crowley inquired drily. “Literally?”
The angel shot him a sidelong glance as he said: “You do know that a lot of those stories are vastly exaggerated, don't you.”
“And guess whose fault that is.” The demon flashed his friend a serpentine grin. Theologians disputing about His written word was one of Crowley's favourite things and he fuelled the discussions wherever he got the chance.
He watched Aziraphale glancing around the hall. With the tables lining the walls and people milling about, eager to either sell, buy or possibly both, one could indeed feel reminded of the times back in the old Temple - or any moment in human history, really. Humans never actually did change after all, just the merchandise. Oh, and the hair colours had become increasingly adventurous lately.
“ Hey, hold that thought,” he cut into whatever Aziraphale had been about to say. “Look.”
The angel followed his subtle hand wave and found the table Crowley was looking at, with stacks of books - or, on closer observation, two versions of the same book - on one side and a young man with wild blond curls sitting on the other, smiling and laughing while he signed a copy of the book and handed it back to the girl standing in front of him.
Crowley slid his sunglasses down his nose to peek over them. He even went as far as to squint before he muttered: “That’s him alright. But he looks so…” He waved a hand vaguely.
“ Grown-up?” volunteered Aziraphale. “Well, it has been… what, twenty-six years now? It was to be expected.”
“I suppose it was, yes,” he agreed. He shot his companion a sidelong glance. “Did you expect it?”
“No,” admitted the angel*. “Let’s go say hello, shall we?”
*Which was to be expected from immortals who didn’t have to worry about the ageing issue, of course. It just isn’t a concept one pays much attention to as long as it does not concern oneself.
“I don’t know,” began Crowley hesitantly, but the angel had already seized his hand, much like his friend had done in the beginning, and was pulling him along.
“How lovely of you to accompany me, my dear boy,” he said with an angelic smile*.
Crowley sighed in defeat, the warmth of the angel’s hand in his a welcome distraction from what they were headed toward. He could be stubborn, but he didn’t hold a candle to Aziraphale when it came down to it in that regard.
They reached the little stand just in time to get into the way of a young woman clutching a well-worn copy of a book to her chest. She made a small, aborted cooing noise when she caught sight of them and then another, slightly more worrying one when her gaze fell to their joined hands.
Crowley hastily let go while Aziraphale leaned forward, his brows furrowed in concern. “Are you quite alright, my dear?” he inquired carefully.
She made another squealing sound before she whispered: “So in character.” Her eyes fell on Crowley next and she reached out to pat his shoulder. “Though you could be a little more jealous. It’s so cute when he does that.”
Again, Crowley found himself just blinking in confusion (he didn’t usually make a habit of blinking in general - maybe it was humanity rubbing off on him). Before he could muster up an undoubtedly witty and clever reply, the young woman had slipped past them with her book. She didn’t seem to hear Crowley’s “hold on, when who does what?” anymore.
Aziraphale, meanwhile, had stepped up to the table with a smile and greeted: “Good morning, my dear boy.” Crowley stopped staring after the woman and instead narrowed his eyes at the angel. Lately, that particular endearment had been reserved for him.
Adam, who had watched the previous exchange with a decidedly amused expression, smiled earnestly as he replied: “I’ve been wonderin’ when you two’d show up. Hello.”
“ Oh?” made Crowley, eyebrows raised, while he took in the Antichrist’s appearance. All in all, Adam hadn’t changed much, apart from the obvious fact that he had grown up to be a full-fledged Michelangelo instead of the pre-pubescent Greek god Crowley had last seen. He seemed to be well-built underneath the comfortable shirt and jeans he was wearing and his eyes still had that same strange intensity to them, though the demon still couldn’t feel any sort of occult power about him, so maybe that was just the way Adam was. Despite that, all in all, he felt surprisingly… normal.
“ Are you goin’ to keep staring or will you actually say something, too?” Adam inquired.
Crowley threw a brief look toward Aziraphale. While he had stared at Adam, the angel had examined the books piled up on the table in front of them. Bloody typical.
“Erm. Hi,” Crowley greeted awkwardly. “Fancy meeting you here.” Adam raised an eyebrow*. “We were just wondering…”
*He seemed to have developed quite the impressive countenance over the last years because even without having been present for his upbringing or the past quarter of a decade, Crowley immediately knew that this particular expression meant Really? That’s the best you could come up with?
“ ...how much one of these would be?” Aziraphale finished for him, unbidden, one hand splayed over a book cover.
The demon glanced over at him. “We were?”
“ Ah.” Since there was no point in arguing when Aziraphale had set his mind to something, especially involving books, Crowley quietly acquiesced.
s free for you two,” replied Adam, sliding two of the books over the table. One of the covers showed a demon reclining with a glass of red wine in his hand, the other with an angel in the same place. Ridiculously clichéd depictions, of course, complete with horns and tail.
Crowley looked at the book and then back up at the apparent author. “Thanks, but I didn’t actually want–” He was interrupted by Aziraphale stepping on his foot with more force than strictly necessary to shut him up. “Watch the shoesss, angel,” he hissed indignantly while the angel said sweetly: “That’s lovely, my dear boy.”
Adam smiled. Well, if nothing else, he seemed well-entertained at least. “You know the story after all,” he answered generously.
“We do?” Crowley asked dubiously, eyebrows raised. Aziraphale, who had already picked up one of the books (the one with the demon on its cover) was skimming over the summary on the back and confirmed: “We do. It’s ours.”
Crowley’s eyebrows rose a little higher. Adam watched, curious and quite obviously still aused, and remarked: “From start to finish. All the way up to the happy couple riding off into the sunset an’ stuff.”
The demon huffed. “In a Wasabi,” he commented drily. “How very romantic.”
Adam frowned at him. “I was referring to the Bentley, actually.” When Crowley frowned back in confusion, Adam waved a hand at the two of them. “I’m talking about you an’ him, genius.” He nodded at the angel for emphasis.
Aziraphale’s head snapped up from the book, curls bouncing. “Excuse me?” he asked, blinking owlishly.
Crowley coughed, relieved that he wasn’t currently drinking anything he could have choked on. “Uh,” he made eloquently and glanced over at Aziraphale. The angel wasn't much help, his gaze was flickering between the book, Adam and Crowley like one of the three had a chance of suddenly sprouting a way to get out of the situation at hand.
“That is– I mean– we wouldn't– right?” He threw a slightly helpless look in Crowley's direction, wordlessly pleading with him to do something.
Generously, the demon decided to come to his aid and piped up: “You are utterly adorable when you're flustered, has anyone ever told you that?”
Aziraphale sputtered. Adam snickered. Crowley backtracked. Wait a second.
“Erm,” he made. “What I meant to say was...”
“It's absurd,” Aziraphale cut in. “We wouldn't. Would we, my dear?”
Crowley stared at him and spread his arms in the universal gesture of I have no idea . “What are you looking at me for? How should I know?”
“Well, we're talking about you after all,” responded Aziraphale primly.
Crowley crossed his arms and leaned his hip against the table. “No, angel, we're talking about us , which implies both you and me, which means I can throw that question right back at you. So would we ?”
Despite himself, he was starting to enjoy this discussion just a tiny little bit. He could imagine Aziraphale's wings fluttering agitatedly, matching the nervous clenching and unclenching of his hands around the book he was holding. If Crowley teased him any further, centuries of experience said that the angel would huff, cross his arms and turn away, refusing to talk to the demon for the next decade*, so he didn't argue the point when Aziraphale declared: “I don't think so.” Which... actually was less decisive than Crowley had expected. Huh.
*Though that time was usually cut short as soon as Crowley apologised in the form of some good tea or, better yet, expensive liquor. Chocolate worked too, usually, or the aforementioned trinkets like Aziraphale's hideous little snuff boxes.
He met the angel's gaze – it seemed like Aziraphale was just waiting for him to object, so Crowley didn't, purely out of spite. Please. He was not that predictable.
“If you say so,” he conceded instead.
Aziraphale deflated a little as though he had expected more protest. He almost sounded a little insulted as he sniffed: “Well, that's settled, then.” Crowley rolled his eyes behind his shades. Angels, honestly.
Adam cleared his throat and the two looked back down at him. With a badly concealed little smirk, he gestured toward the book. “You're still keepin' that, aren't you?”
“Yes,” Aziraphale replied without missing a beat, clutching it a little tighter to his chest.
Crowley huffed. “You wrote a book about him. Unless it was wildly inaccurate, I doubt that answer was in any way surprising.” The day Aziraphale gave up a book, any book, out of his own volition, would probably be the day the world truly came to an end. “Shall we, then?” Aziraphale narrowed his eyes at him in mistrust, as though he suspected Crowley of plotting something horrible*. Crowley gave him his most innocent smile.** “The panel ought to be starting in a few minutes.” The outline of a plan was beginning to take shape in the demon's head***. The innocent smile grew a little wider.
*Crowley was, in fact, plotting something, though whether it was horrible or not had yet to be determined.
**It wasn't particularly innocent, but it was the thought that counted.
***It may be considered a little generous to call it a plan , but it was definitely an idea in the works, so Crowley thought the label was fair enough.
Adam watched with an expression caught somewhere between curiosity, scepticism and slowly dawning understanding. Whatever he was realising, he didn't comment on; instead, he remarked: “I don't reckon you'll still get a spot. People stand in line for that sorta thing quite a lot.”
“They do,” Crowley agreed. “Good thing we,” he oh-so-casually grasped Aziraphale's arm to pointedly lift the angel's hand, “are not people.” He flashed the Antichrist a grin and stepped back, tugging his companion along. “It was nice talking to you,” he told Adam.
“Absolutely lovely, dear boy,” added Aziraphale, seemingly a little confused by their sudden departure. Then again, he had appeared a little flustered ever since the conversation had turned toward the apparent ending of their story.
“Been a pleasure catchin' up with you two,” Adam replied with the air of someone who revelled in the surety that he knew something you didn't and was far more pleased about it than he had any right to be.
“Well then, we best hurry up,” Crowley decided, pulling Aziraphale along. He reached out to pluck the book from the angel's arms with his free hand; it promptly disappeared and Aziraphale narrowed his eyes, undoubtedly with the intention of scolding the demon for whatever horrible thing he had done to his precious book, but Crowley waved him off before he could say anything. “Relax, angel. It's on the back seat of the car. Promise.” Aziraphale seemed mollified by that and allowed himself to be led.
They made their way toward the hall where the panel was supposed to take place. Aziraphale generously ignored the few times that Crowley snapped his fingers in front of somebody's face to deter anyone who tried to keep them from passing through or skipping the queue in front of the hall. There was quite a bit of cheating involved, but the angel found he didn't mind quite as much as he possibly should have. After all, he didn't always get to see his counterpart like this.
Crowley was positively glowing with his good mood. It made it easy to ignore the way people seemed to start swearing about malfunctioning mobile devices, spilled drinks and unexpectedly mislaid items in the demon's vicinity. Well, perhaps Aziraphale worked a few minor miracles to rectify some of Crowley's more daring shenanigans, but they were good for his quota anyway, so he couldn't say he minded. Especially not with how content the demon seemed throughout the panel – apparently, it was fascinating enough for him to forget about causing mischief halfway through.
Afterwards, when everyone was streaming out of the hall, Aziraphale glanced over at the demon with his eyebrows raised sceptically. “No new season for how many years was it?” he inquired. “You didn't happen to have a hand in that, did you?”
Crowley gave him a scandalised look. “Please, angel. Not even in the darkest part of my twisted black soul could I come up with such cruelty.” He put a dramatic hand to his chest and added, upon seeing his companion's sceptical expression: “Honestly! I had nothing to do with it. I don't know what took them so long.” Again, he did his best impression of an innocent smile (it wasn't really getting any more convincing). “Now, we could go and see if there's anything interesting to eat* and then there's a Fantasy author panel. I heard Jim Butcher is going to be there, I suppose Adam will make an appearance and...” He pursed his lips, searching for the name while snapping his fingers absently. “And that other one. Gaiman or something. I didn't actually read any of his books yet, but he's supposed to be a big deal.”
*You got a lot more picky about that sort of thing if you didn't actually have to eat.
It looked like that name at least rang a bell with Aziraphale, judging by his curious expression. “Your side or mine, remind me again?”
“I don't think anyone's quite sure about that yet,” Crowley replied. “Pratchett was one of yours, though.”
“Oh, I don't know,” Aziraphale muttered. “He was always so cynical.”
“Cynicism and satire aren't the same thing, angel,” the demon pointed out, steering them in the general direction of the chocolate smell he had just picked up. “I don't think he's the type for Downstairs.”
Aziraphale hummed in what could have been agreement or contemplation. “Nobody tells us anything anymore, do they,” he mused.
“I'm just fine with that,” Crowley told him. “This was the most relaxed quarter of a decade I've had since the nineteenth century. And that was one very relaxed century.”
“For you, maybe,” the angel grumbled. “Slept right through that dreadful business with the Irish and the potatoes, you did.”
“And thank Someone for that,” Crowley replied cheerfully. “Look over there.” He nodded toward a stand selling chocolate-coated fruit at atrocious rates. “Can I tempt you to an apple?” he inquired with a smile curling around his lips, comfortable and lazy like a snake in the sun; the way it happened to a joke that was centuries old by now.
Aziraphale threw him a look, trying just a little too hard to look not amused, and responded: “I’ll stick with the strawberries, thank you.”
Crowley tutted (and then stopped in his tracks for a second because tutting , really? That had always been Aziraphale’s thing. He hadn’t realised that they spent enough time together for him to pick that up) and shook his head. “You’re no fun, angel,” he told him, which wasn’t exactly true, but he wasn’t going to tell him that. “Strawberries it is, then.”
The angel smiled a small, triumphant smile and got in line next to Crowley. In front of them stood a bickering couple, both with American accents, the tall male one wearing a black leather duster, his blonde, short companion complaining about her partner's chauvinist attitude (“I can pay for myself, Harry, seriously, drop it already.” – “It really doesn't bother me, Murphy, I...” – “Yeah, right. Have you seen your pay check lately?” ) and Crowley found them entertaining enough to keep listening until it was their turn and the small blonde passive-aggressively (or possibly a little actively aggressive) stepped on her companion's foot while she paid for the snacks.
The demon exchanged a glance with his own companion. Aziraphale looked at him, the chocolate, the retreating backs of the couple and back over at Crowley.
“I'm paying,” Crowley told him and that was that. If he were completely honest with himself, he would admit that he took even more enjoyment in seeing the angel pull the chocolate strawberries off of their wooden stick one by one than from his own, equally sweet apple; between the two of them, Aziraphale had always been the one with the sweet tooth while Crowley had found joy in tempting the angel into new tiny sins and indulgences. He had never regretted introducing him to wine all those years ago.
Whilst they made their way toward the next panel, they both attempted to consume their treats with as much dignity intact as possible when slowly melting chocolate was beginning to cover their fingers. Despite popular belief, that sort of thing didn't get any easier even with millennia of practise. It also didn't get any less funny to watch on others, though, so Crowley couldn't say he minded. Much.
Aziraphale miracled both their hands clean once they had finished and trailed along for the Fantasy panel. He couldn't really say he had discovered the genre for himself yet, but whatever managed to captivate Crowley enough to make him devour entire book series must hold some sort of appeal.
The demon didn't seem unwilling to share, either.
“You're going to read this,” he muttered, pushing a book with a colourfully illustrated cover into Aziraphale's hands, “and this, and maybe – no, not yet, but you're going to watch this here,” a DVD box set joined the ever-growing pile in his arms, “and I need to have this.” The angel huffed under the weight of another large book being heaved onto what they (or rather, Crowley) had already gathered, which prompted the demon to lift his head and look up from the two figurines he was examining, trying to make a choice.
“Ah, sorry,” he said, setting both Han Solo and Gandalf on the pile before he took about half of it from Aziraphale. “There we are, then. Let's go.” He bumped his shoulder against the angel's playfully (though he took a lot of care not to jostle what Aziraphale was holding) and then led him toward where they would be able to pay.
Once Crowley had conveniently relocated their purchases into the Bentley, they finally actually entered the hall, where Aziraphale was treated to another hour of Crowley quite obviously enjoying himself very much – though the angel had to admit he was really starting to see the appeal of this event that was more than just Crowley being there. Plus, he had gotten some book recommendations out of it, so why should he complain?
And “that Gaiman fellow”, as Crowley had so aptly put it, really did seem likeable. Aziraphale found himself picking up another book on his way out.
The afternoon was spent in a similar fashion, with another instance of a girl asking for a picture with the two of them. Crowley made a point of wrapping an arm around the angel's shoulders with an almost disconcertingly wide grin just to prove a point, even though he wasn't entirely sure what said point was. Aziraphale seemed confused, but still beamed for the photograph.
Crowley noted with nearly smug satisfaction that his companion seemed to begin to really enjoy himself, despite the fact that his knowledge of pop culture still left much to be desired. The collection in the Bentley kept growing steadily and Crowley would be worrying about his bank account if he were the sort of person to do so, but he didn't have any real reason to be concerned about such things. It was one thing he didn't envy humans for, the continuous petty little struggles that made up a mortal life.
However, since he did not have such limitations, nothing kept him from casually buying whatever caught Aziraphale's interest. It was for his education, after all. It would practically be a sin not to assist him – Crowley frowned. No, that didn't seem right. He would do anything to distract the angel from his heavenly duties. Yes, it worked better that way around.
By the time they left the building, with Crowley subtly hinting that there was a possibility to return the next day, darkness had begun to descend upon the streets of London and they made their way toward the Bentley in pleasant silence, Aziraphale nibbling at another piece of chocolate-coated fruit they had picked up on their way out. Crowley watched him thoughtfully and, instead of entering the car immediately, leaned against the driver's side.
That seemed to catch Aziraphale's attention because he glanced up with a curious look in his eyes. “Is something the matter, my dear?” he inquired.
Crowley shook his head slowly. “Just thinking, you know,” he replied vaguely.
“About?” Aziraphale prompted, leaning with his back against the Bentley.
The demon nodded toward the inside of the car where the back seat was packed with the purchases of the day, Adam's book on the very bottom. “All kinds of things,” he replied just as unhelpfully as before, though this time Aziraphale seemed to understand what he was getting at.
“Ah,” he made non-committally and took a thoughtful little bite of the fruit. “The idea is certainly interesting,” he offered carefully when it became clear that Crowley wasn't going to say anything.
“Mhh,” Crowley made, surreptitiously moving an inch closer.
“I'm just wondering what gives people the idea, you know,” Aziraphale mused. Crowley made another humming sound and left its interpretation to the angel. “I mean, do you remember that boy at the second panel?”
“The one who told us we were bickering like an old married couple?” Crowley supplied.
“Right, exactly,” the angel nodded. “And that despite the fact that I was obviously –”
“Are you honestly going to start this again, angel?” Crowley cut him off, eyebrows raised critically.
Aziraphale seemed ready to argue for a second, but then conceded: “I suppose not.” His tone suggested that the discussion was far from over, but he would wait for a strategically fitting moment to bring the topic up again. Their usual back and forth.
Crowley wasn't even really sure anymore what they had been disputing about.
“Anyway,” the angel went on, “there's no harm in letting them think as they wish, is there?”
“I suppose not,” Crowley agreed. He still made no move to actually get into the car and Aziraphale was beginning to fidget under his gaze, passing the wooden stick with the remains of the fruit from one hand to the other while he shifted his weight surreptitiously. Casually, the demon asked: “So you can't think of any reason why people would think of us that way?”
Strange. In his head, that sentence had sounded suave and smooth instead of tentative and almost hopeful like it had come out as. He would have to work on that.
The angel looked up at him, forcing himself to cease the fidgeting. “Well, I– it's not very... don't you think it's...”
“Yes?” Crowley prompted, one elbow propped up on the Bentley's roof.
Aziraphale was stubbornly avoiding his eyes, opting to stare at the ground near his feet instead. “All I'm saying is that...”
He trailed off when Crowley placed the cool tips oqf his fingers on the angel's cheek to turn his head to the side and up. He could hear Aziraphale's breath hitch on a nervous inhale, thanks to the obvious intent behind the barely-there touch. There was no protest though when Crowley stepped closer, crowding the angel against the side of the car. He tipped his head back of his own accord when Crowley leaned down and when their lips met, it was with the feeling of something that had been a long way coming.
Aziraphale's free hand came up to clutch at the lapels of Crowley's suit while the demon slid his hand into the angel's soft curls, long fingers sliding through the strands until he was cupping the back of the angel's neck.
There was a lingering, tingling sensation wherever they touched, bordering but not quite reaching discomfort; Aziraphale's essence, the very core of him*, reaching out and searching for contact of its own. Once upon a time, the touch might have been scalding, but millennia had passed since then and neither was Aziraphale as pure and good as he perhaps should have been nor was Crowley what Below would want out of a demon. The feeling was more of a curious, maybe even daring nature, and it was unexpected enough to make Crowley forget about breathing for a moment, which hadn't happened to him in centuries. Of course, he didn't actually need to breathe, but it was something one got quite used to after a while.
*Some might want to label it as his soul, or his grace, or using one of the many other words that humanity had come up with over the millennia of its existence.
He was only reminded that he hadn't moved in a while when Aziraphale tugged at his suit lapels and began to return the kiss demandingly, startling Crowley back into action. He took another half-step closer, pressing Aziraphale up against the Bentley. The angel retaliated by biting at Crowley's lower lip, not particularly hard, but unexpectedly enough to draw a small, surprised sound from the demon's throat as he parted his lips, allowing Aziraphale to deepen the kiss. Crowley went along willingly, trying to regain the control the angel's action had taken from him by tightening his hand in his hair; in response, Aziraphale slid his own hand from the demon's collarbone to his back, running it along his shoulder blade where the base of his wings would be if he had them out in the open.
The touch sent a jolt of dizzying pleasure through Crowley's body and he broke the kiss to draw a deep breath, licking his lips. Aziraphale had left a taste of chocolate and something else, something very him that made Crowley think of tea and books.
“Oh my,” the angel muttered. There was a flush high on his cheeks, his hair was a little mussed and his eyes looked a little darker than usual. “I haven't done that in a long time,” he mused.
this before?” Crowley asked incredulously. The angel raised one eyebrow at him (and when had he picked up that kind of non-verbal sarcasm? It must be Adam’s fault, for sure. Crowley had definitely had no part in that) and closed the small distance between them once again while at the same time pressing down on that same spot again.
Crowley practically melted into the touch this time and was about to move his own hands toward Aziraphale’s back to return the touch, but he found the connection between his brain and his hands surprisingly sluggish all of sudden, so he ended up holding on to the angel's shoulders instead.
He jumped at the sound of somebody clapping nearby and turned halfway while Aziraphale cleared his throat, startled, his hands dropping. A glance backwards showed him the cosplayer pair they had first met that morning walking across the street nearby, the Trekkie clapping while her friend elbowed her in the ribs, laughing.
“ Way to go!” she called over to them. “Love the car.” She adjusted her greatcoat and extended a hand to her friend, who grudgingly shoved a crumpled five-pound-note into her general direction. “We didn’t mean to interrupt, don’t mind us.” They linked arms while they walked off, apparently not expecting a reply, and Crowley coughed when he took a small step back and threw Aziraphale (who was still holding the forgotten chocolate treat in one hand) a pointed look.
The angel tore his gaze away from the two cosplayers and looked up at Crowley, who added a tiny smirk and raised eyebrows to his meaningful look. After a few seconds, the angel seemed to understand and smiled sheepishly.
“Well,” he admitted, “I suppose the idea wasn’t that far off after all.” Crowley straightened his suit, grinning, and Aziraphale rolled his eyes. “Do stop looking so smug, my dear, it doesn’t suit you.”
“Does too,” Crowley responded, with a little dose of extra smugness just for good measure, and opened the car’s door to slip into his seat. He escaped the evening chill by heating up the inside of the Bentley with no more than a thought and Aziraphale entered from the other side a second later, polishing off the last of his chocolate-coated fruit.
“What now?” Aziraphale inquired as the demon started the car.
Crowley was aware that the question was probably meant in a wide, all-encompassing way concerning the future in general and their lives in particular, but since Aziraphale’s phrasing hadn’t exactly been specific, so he answered casually: “I don’t know about you, but I have some plants waiting to be watered.”
Aziraphale shot him an exasperated look. “I hardly believe they’ll run away,” he pointed out.
“Are you saying I should leave them unattended?” Crowley demanded, feigning hurt. Aziraphale didn’t look impressed. After a few seconds, the demon rolled his eyes behind his shades and added: “Why don’t you come along and we figure it out as we go. It’s always worked out so far.” No need to break a perfectly good habit after all.
The angel inclined his head in something that might be agreement, a tiny smile grazing his lips. “Good point,” he conceded, relaxing back into his seat a little as he lost some of his nervous tension.
“I always make good points,” Crowley responded without missing a beat. Aziraphale's huff softened his smirk to a smile. “Let's go home, angel.”
There was a card in the mail when they reached Crowley's flat, expressing Anathema's most sincere congratulations and her very best wishes for the two. The demon rolled his eyes at it (more psychic than was good for her, honestly), but Aziraphale pocketed it as he trailed after Crowley toward the kitchen.
They would figure it out as they went along, indeed.