“I think you’ll all find you have a lot in common,” Adam was saying. “Deep down, you’re really not that different. And this will help you all meet new people!”
The great host of assembled angels and demons watched him in silent horror. They were gathered in Tadfield, out in a big snowy field large enough to hold them all, and far enough from any buildings to avoid startling any passing humans.
The Metatron coughed delicately. “Might I ask why you have chosen to inflict this punishment on us all?”
“The young mazter iz finally zhowing an interezt in the buiznezz,” said Beelzebub miserably. “Imprezzively zadiztic.”
“Blimey.” Adam ran a hand through his mop of curls. He was a teenager now, and it showed in the deepening of his voice and the way his body had started to fill out. He still looked like Adam though. Like the kind of boy who runs through ditches and plays with his dog and organizes games for his friends to play. Only bigger.
“This is what I mean. You’re not being punished,” Adam said. “I just think if you spent more time getting to know each other, you’d find you had a lot in common. It’ll be good for you!”
Beelzebub sighed. “Juzt when I think your father would be pleazed.”
“But why must this be done on the Earth?” asked The Metatron desperately.
“It’s neutral ground.” Adam rubbed his nose. “’Sides. If you spent more time on earth you might actually like it. No more Apocalypses!”
There were shocked murmurs breaking out through both sides now, the angels and demons watching Adam warily. He beamed back at them, satisfied and confident in his teenage logic*.
*To be fair, he hadn’t failed them yet.
“Yes but-” The Metatron’s face twisted up into something distasteful- “dating? It’s revolting.”
“Doesn’t Heaven support love and peace?” asked Adam.
“Don’t finish that.”
“Muzt we really go on a…date,” said Beezlebub, as if he’d never said the word before, “wiz whoever we are matched wiz?”
“Oh, yeah.” Adam beamed. “That’s the point.”
“Don’t worry! I saw them do this at school. You just fill out the quizzes and get matched with someone you like. It’s wicked!”
“When you zay ‘wicked’ do you mean, zinful?” asked Beelzebub hopefully.
“Nah, I mean it’s brilliant.” Beelzebub deflated. “It’s great fun! And you’ll all get to do it a couple of times so I can narrow it right down.”
“How many is a couple?“ The Metatron asked in alarm.
“I dunno yet. Four? Five?”
The field filled with worried voices, angels and demons eyeing each other and their opposites across the field nervously.
“Right!” Adam clapped his hands together. “So everyone pick up a quiz. You’ll have until midnight to fill them out, so take your time if you like. Tomorrow, you’ll all go on your first date! And you have to go, I'll know if you don't show up. ”
And thus ended the first official meeting of all the Hosts of Heaven and all the Legions of Hell at the behest of the rebel Antichrist. Adam stood watching them all, disappearing back Up or Down in flashes of light, or milling about in shell-shocked silence. The snowy breeze rustling over the open field tossed his hair about gently, a solid spot of calm in a sea of uneasy.
An angel and a demon hurried towards him.
“Hullo you two,” said Adam brightly. “Isn’t it great?”
“Er,” began Aziraphale. “It’s quite the plan to bring everyone together.”
“Aw thanks! I thought it was pretty brilliant myself.”
“You sure ruffled them,” said Crowley. “Just, er…everyone? Really, everyone?”
“It wouldn’t be fair otherwise.”
“I mean some poor sod is going to end up with The Metatron.”
“Or Gabriel,” added Aziraphale with a shudder.
Adam beamed. “There’s someone for everyone. And they all need to be more open-minded. Like you chaps.”
“Yes. About that,” said Aziraphale.
“Why do we have to do this?” whined Crowley. “We already like the Earth.”
“And we’ve been, y’know…”
“With each other."
“For a very long time.”
“Thousands of them!”
“Since the garden.”
“Oh I know that. Trust me, I know.” There was a distressingly knowing glint in Adam’s eye when he said that. Aziraphale and Crowley shuffled uncomfortably. “Actually, you two were my inspiration.”
“But I won’t make an exception or else everyone will want one.”
“But,” began Aziraphale. Then he fell silent.
"It’s only for an hour or so,” said Adam kindly. “It doesn’t have to be fancy, you can just go for a cuppa. And if you don’t like them, you don’t have to see them ever again. But who knows? Maybe you’ll find your soul mates!”
Crowley lent in close. “But what if you pair someone with bad blood between them? What if I get Hastur?” he hissed nervously.
“Aw, that’s what the quiz is for.”
“And just what kind of a quiz is this?” asked Aziraphale dubiously, wondering if he would need to brush up on his geometry. Then again, Adam was a very…modern boy. Maybe it would be about ‘pop culture’ or, er...mimes? Vines? The angel glanced nervously at Crowley and shuffled closer. “How difficult is it to pass?”
“Blimey! It’s not that sort of a quiz. It’s about your personality. You put your likes and dislikes and what you want in a date. It’s bloody brilliant! Our school did it this year, that’s where I got the idea.”
“Oh. I suppose…that’s reasonable.”
Crowley leaned over. “Angel, remember when I got that commendation for OkCupid? Online dating?”
Aziraphale blanched. “Ah.”
“Oi, it’s made a lot of people happy too,” insisted Adam.
“Don’t rub it in,” sighed Crowley.
“And if you don’t like who you get, you can answer differently the next time. It’ll be grand. Just you wait!”
Crowley was sprawled across his sleek leather couch, a glass of wine on the coffee table beside him. The compatibility quiz was ten pages of pink paper, fill-in-the-blanks and multiple-choice questions, all bound together in a neat little booklet. Crowley ticked off boxes with a pen so expensive it could pay his rent for a month*.
*If Crowley were the sort to bother with paying rent. One of the perks of being a demon was unlimited cash, and credit cards that smelled faintly of sulfur when the transaction when through.
“’About me’,” he read aloud. “’How would I describe myself?’ Oh, you know. Cool. Fancy. Some might even say I’m a rebel without a cause. 'Favourite pass-time?' Oh, sin! Sloth especially. 'Name a celebrity or fictional character you most relate to'. The name’s Bond…Hobbies, hmm, mayhem and mischief, naturally. A bit of plant terrorism. Tempting angels? Does that count? Better put it down just in case…”
Crowley was enjoying this.
Having had a hand in online dating, he wasn’t expecting much. Did he respect Adam? Certainly. Was he grateful to the boy for stopping the Apocalypse in its tracks? Of course. But did that mean he would be looking to a teenager - no matter how occultly inclined – to match him with his soul mate? Hell—somewhere, NO.
They had to do this thing what, four, five times? He may as well have some fun with it. And see how well it worked, anyway.
“’What do I want in a date?’ Ooh, let me see. Cool, sleek, devil-may-care. Hah. Fashionable of course. Expensive! I don’t deserve anything less than the very finest…”
Aziraphale had a much harder time filling out the quiz.
For one, the angel was having trouble wrapping head around the whole thing. A romantic partner? He’d spent thousands of years reading about humans and their romances and while, yes, admittedly quite a lot of it sounded very pleasant indeed, the rest of it seemed to be a huge mess of emotions flying every which way all at once. People got hurt. It could lead to blood and tears and the occasional stack of bodies.
It was so much work! All the posturing and dressing up, struggling to make a favorable impression and primping, all those strange intricate courting rituals that changed every few decades for hardly any reason! Aziraphale had become familiar with many of these rituals through observance and in his literary circuits, but that didn’t mean he understood them. Or remembered which ones belonged to when.
Did you bring them a gift? Should he arrange for a chaperone? Was holding hands too forward? Was it rude not to hold hands?
He tried to think through some of the more recent films he’d seen. He grimaced.
Did you have to kiss at the end of the date? Was it a slight to your partner not to? What if his date tried to initiate a kiss? Or tried something–he shuddered–even more forward than a kiss?
Aziraphale wasn’t sure what second base was, and didn’t think he’d like to find out*.
*He suspected there may be a club and some small compact ball and someone shouting foul. Possibly there was a Red Card involved. It did not sound like a good time.
And if that wasn’t enough there was the whole business of whether or not you were even attracted to the person! It was easy enough to like someone, in a sort of general, friendly way, but to want to do…any of that with them?
There was nothing wrong with hanky-panky. If two (or more really, it wasn’t any of his business) people wanted to get together and be intimate, that was between them. So long as everything was safe and consensual, of course.
It just wasn’t something Aziraphale had ever thought to go looking for. It simply hadn’t come up, and Aziraphale was fine with that. What was the point of meeting up with a perfect stranger and subjecting yourself to all kinds of unpleasantness and discomfort and resulting indigestion?
Besides. There was nothing he’d really want to do with someone that he didn’t already do with Crowley. They went out regularly. Or stayed in. Both were perfectly lovely in their own ways, and the angel really didn’t mind so much at all when Crowley fell asleep on him*. Aziraphale had a hard time imagining any of this dating business would be more enjoyable than that.
*Which was often. Increasingly often, come to think of it. There was something...rather comfortable about that.
Some small thought in the back of his mind rose up, trying to connect the two trains of thoughts respectfully named ‘Crowley’ and ‘dating’. Aziraphale frowned. Yes, the faster this whole dating business was over with, the sooner he could meet up with Crowley and tell him all about these terrible dates. The small thought sunk back down, pushed aside for the moment but still there, lurking just below the surface.
His eyes scanned the quiz in resignation.
“'What do I want in a suitor?' Oh…perhaps someone who can appreciate books…”
Crowley stared at his date across the restaurant they had agreed to meet at.
The demon looked like a vampire. And not the classic gothic kind. Malaphar fell somewhere between Twilight heart-throb and the models on the fronts of glossy mens fashion magazines.
Tall, attractive, not a hair out of place, he wore a suit so sharp it made even Crowley feel like a slob. His gaze swept coolly over the room and landed on Crowley. Crowley gave a little wave. The corner of Malaphar’s lip curled.
Oh for someone’s sake. He was out of his depth.
“Hi,” said Crowley smoothly as the other demon neared their table. He flashed a winning grin. “Glad you could make it.”
“Yes. Suppose you are.”
“So,” began Crowley after a long uncomfortable minute of silence. “What’s your gig, then?”
“Damning humanity to the unending torment of Hell,” was the flat reply. Malaphar wasn’t looking at him, his attention absorbed in the wine menu.
“Well yeah. Obviously,” floundered Crowley. “I mean, what’s your, y’know, angle?”
Malaphar glanced sharply up at him. “I suggest taking more time to think before opening your mouth. Maybe you wouldn’t waste so many words trying to get to the point.”
Crowley’s eyes widened, struck speechless.
Aziraphale would never insult me like that, he thought. He lets me blabber all I like.
Crowley lent back, crossing his arms. “Ahh, I see. Well, you’ve got the smooth, stuck-up bastard bit down to a tee, so congratulations.”
They ordered and sat in silence waiting for their meals. Crowley debated puling out his phone and playing Candy Crush with the volume on full blast.
“Here you are sirs.” The waitress laid their orders out on the table. Crowley suppressed a sigh of relief at the welcome distraction. The steam rising off his roast duck smelled delicious.
“What is that?”
“Er, sorry?” asked the waitress.
“That.” Malaphar picked at the plate of impeccably prepared Lobster Thermidor with the expression of someone who had just been given a dead rat on a platter.
“The Lobster Thermidor, sir.”
“And what is it doing here?”
“It…it’s what you ordered, sir.”
“Funny. I distinctly remember ordering the Lamb Ragu.”
“Oh, that’s…”she checked her notebook where she had written it down. No human would have noticed the slight tendril of power twisting out and wrapping around it. Crowley did.
“I—I am so sorry, sir. I’ll be right back with your order.”
Malaphar watched her leave impassively, a slight sneer on his face. He turned back to Crowley as if nothing had happened. “Humans are so easy to break, aren’t they?”
Crowley had quite lost his appetite.
“You’ve been up here so long,” mused the other demon. “Surely you must have some extraordinary feats of evil to your name?”
The question hung in the air between them like a challenge.
“Oh, you wouldn’t believe all of what I’ve done,” said Crowley smoothly. “It would take too much time to even list it all.”
Their waitress came back, balancing a plate of Lamb Ragu.
Crowley saw the exact moment she began to trip, Malaphar making a slight movement with his hand.
Oh no you don’t, you bastard!
“Oh! Oh I am so sorry!”
“You know,” said Crowley. “I think red is your colour.”
Malaphar glowered darkly at him, his immaculate suit covered in creamy tomato sauce. He stood in one towering movement.
“Your manager will be hearing about this,” he hissed to the distraught waitress, before storming out the restaurant. Crowley watched him in satisfaction.
“Oh. Oh no.” The poor waitress looked close to tears.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Crowley, quickly wiping the last minute from the minds of everyone in the room. He cleaned up the mess with a wave of his hand.
“Er.” That waitress stared at him blankly. “...Sorry?”
“Just the bill, thanks.” He smiled at her. “Great service here. You’re doing a marvelous job.”
Aziraphale met Pravuil at a small café.
He was nervous, but had been put a bit at ease when he remembered Pravuil was an angel who worked in Heaven’s archives. Surely they would have something in common?
“Hullo,” he greeted the other angel pleasantly.
“Aziraphale?” she eyed him. Pravuil had taken the form of a stern looking woman, her clothes neat and practical and immaculately pressed. Aziraphale thought she had the look of a librarian about her and was cheered.
“Yes, yes. You must be Pravuil.” He held out his hand. “How nice to meet you.”
Pravuil stared at his hand uncomprehendingly. He lowered it guiltily.
“Sorry. It’s a human custom.”
“Oh yes. Shall we order?”
“Just tea for me. I don’t eat.”
“Don’t—?” Aziraphale floundered. He couldn’t imagine a world without food. It was a terrible, lonely thought. “Not even a little?” he tried a desperately.
“Never. It’s too messy.”
“I work with very delicate documents,” she said as they got in line.
Aziraphale made an understanding noise. “Oh yes. I suppose I know what you mean. I have a modest collection of rare books myself. I won’t have anyone coming near them with food.”
“Does that happen?” asked Pravuil with something approaching alarm. “Is that something humans do?”
“Sometimes. But I send them running.”
“I should hope so!”
They sat down at a small table, a chai tea and a mug of hot cocoa set in front of them respectfully. Aziraphale worried the handle of his mug, gazing down at the slowly melting marshmallows floating on the surface of his drink. He was feeling rather peckish, but thought it might be rude to eat something if Pravuil was against it. His belly rumbled gently. He apologized to it silently, promising a nice something after.
“Do you get time for much reading? Up there?” asked Aziraphale, trying to distract himself.
“Yes.” She took a sip of her tea. “I get every seventh day off. I spend it in the library.”
“It’s a marvelous library, isn’t it?” Aziraphale would visit Heaven’s library when he was stuck waiting for a new corporation. It was perhaps his favourite place Up There, though he couldn’t say it was his favourite library.
“Yes. It is.”
They sat in silence.
Aziraphale wondered if he was doing something wrong or if this was just what dating was like.
“What have you been reading lately?” he asked after a while.
“I have an interest in the art of sigil making.”
“Wonderful! So have I!”
“What have you read about it?”
Aziraphale finally thought things were going well. They talked for a few minutes pleasantly enough.
“Of course, sometimes I really enjoy settling down with a good novel,” he said, taking a sip of his cocoa. “Have you ever read Wilde? He was a particular friend of mine.”
She sniffed, something in her expression closing off. “No. I can’t see the point in it.”
“Can’t see the…” Aziraphale was at a loss.
“It’s just made up things.”
Aziraphale felt as if someone had pulled the rug out from under him.
“Yes but, but, that’s what’s so fantastic about it,” he said, trying to recover. “The worlds people create, the characters! The sweeping themes and beautiful phrases of prose. They put so much into these stories, so much heart and soul. I would even go so far to say stories are one of the greatest achievements of humankind.”
Pravuil finished her tea. “I can’t say I care for all that. It’s written by humans. What do they know?”
Five minutes later Aziraphale and Pravuil politely said goodbye to each other, mutually relived the interaction was over.
That was bloody awful!
Crowley got home, angrily undoing his tie and throwing it across the room. What a twat!
Of course, Crowley himself was a demon, and liked to consider himself an unpleasant sort of person*. But while he knew it was his job to mess with greedy, corruptible bastards it didn’t mean he enjoyed hanging out with them! Bleugh!
*Most people who knew him would disagree. Aziraphale especially.
Surely Aziraphale could be a bit of a bastard sometimes, but he was just enough of one to be likeable! He was a bastard in all the right ways, enough to be interesting and petty and hopelessly enduring and none of the ways that were downright cruel.
He flopped lengthwise onto his couch, feet up on the armrest.
There was a flash of light followed by a neat stack of papers landing softly on his chest.
He looked at it wearily.
It was the damn quiz.
He gave the sigh of the long suffering.
Only four more to go.
He opened the papers and skimmed them. Well. This time he wouldn’t ask for someone sleek and cool. Crowley was more than cool enough for two. And this time…maybe…
He gave a surreptitious glance around the room. He bit his lip.
Almost guiltily he bent to the preferences sheet and ticked off ‘Compassionate’ and ‘Empathetic’…
Aziraphale was pacing. Back and forth across the floor of his bookshop he walked, absently stepping over stacks of books and weaving around boxes that got in his path.
He had come to the conclusion that his date with Pravuil had gone…not terribly.
She had a very high esteem of books, which was something Aziraphale always approved of. But they hadn’t really got on. It had been such an effort. It wasn’t at all like meeting Crowley for lunch. They could talk for hours about anything and everything, or sit silently, and somehow it still felt comfortable.
Aziraphale sighed, and slowed to a halt. He looked down at the new quiz in his hands and resisted the urge to sigh again.
What did he want in a partner?
He needed someone with an interest in the Earth. He needed someone with a spark, with a certain…
The angel snapped his fingers. “That’s it!”
He hurried over to his desk and scrambled about for a pen.
“'Must have a sense of humor…'” he wrote.