Aziraphale never would have asked it once. But the world hasn’t ended, and he’s a free agent now, in a manner of speaking. So for the first time in his long life, this angel is experimenting with bravery, by golly. Not the save-the-world sort. The quiet everyday sort.
“Are we, do you think?” he asks Crowley when he’s visiting his flat, inspecting the little indoor forest of magnificent plants. He’s been visiting Crowley more than usual lately. At first, he recoiled a little from the sparse, sleek darkness of his dear friend’s home, but he’s beginning to appreciate it; it feels like Crowley. Even though it’s dark, it’s not cold or cruel. And he does like plants.
And asking big questions.
Are we a couple? is what he means. Everyone seems to think so, if you can believe it. Bookshop customers and chatty ex-nuns of Satan and random passersby on the street. It isn’t entirely new. A lot of knowing looks flashed at them over the past many centuries have begun to make sense in retrospect. It’s just that it hadn’t occurred to him to imagine himself as someone who could be half of a couple. Angels don’t have significant others, demon or otherwise.
But now that he’s no longer your typical angel -- well.
The most recent culprit was Adam Young’s mother Deirdre, who called to invite them to Adam’s upcoming twelfth birthday party. She still doesn’t seem entirely sure why Adam knows two grown men from London, but she’s very friendly anyway. “Do bring your husband with the cool sunglasses. Adam was very insistent about that. He would love to see both of you.”
‘I can’t bring my husband because I don’t have a husband’ would have been the technically correct response, but Aziraphale knew what she meant and wasn’t one to nitpick a polite invitation to death.
Then he told Crowley about it, for a reason he still isn’t quite certain of. He just wanted to watch whatever happened on Crowley’s face at the news.
Now, Crowley is quiet for a moment that sings with uncertainty. Aziraphale does wish he would take off the sunglasses and show his eyes for once. Then he sputters into Crowley-ness. “Lord, no. Not in the way they mean it, at least. You and me against the world? Yeah. Always. But in the way they mean it, it’s all wandering hands and nether-bits and expensive jewelry and rapid disillusionment and divorce attorneys.”
Aziraphale doesn’t know how to untangle any of that, so he picks out the easiest part of the reply. “‘Lord.’ That’s very pious language.”
“Not necessarily. Could mean anybody. Could be ‘Lord Byron.’ In fact, from this point on, it's always Lord Byron.”
“Lord Byron,” Aziraphale says with a little nostalgic sigh.
Crowley chuckles. “That was a time, wasn’t it?”
“It truly was. Such great poetry.”
“Such great parties,” Crowley rhapsodizes in the same tone. Then he adds in a joking mutter, “Talk about someone obsessed with wandering hands and nether-bits.”
Aziraphale blushes, thinking briefly of the time he and Crowley had spent a weekend politely declining, and then haphazardly evading, Lord Byron’s many invitations to, er, join in with him and his paramours. As a fan of literature, it was extraordinary to socialize with Byron. As a celestial being with no interest in carnal delights, well, you were liable to find yourself climbing out a villa window in the middle of the night and then swimming to less lusty ground for safety.
That had turned out to be one of his funner adventures with Crowley, in the end.
Life is usually fun with Crowley.
“So we’re not a couple, then,” he says, clearing his throat.
“No, no,” says Crowley nonchalantly.
“Should we start telling people that? When they mistake us for one?”
“And explain that we’re an angel and a demon who’ve been cast out of our respective realms to form an eternal alliance of two? Doesn’t seem worth the bother, really.”
“Well,” says Aziraphale, feeling unaccountably pleased, “all right, then.”
“Humans will think what they think,” Crowley concludes.
“They always do,” Aziraphale says fondly.
That settled, Aziraphale returns his attention to the plants, murmuring little encouragements to them. Crowley had lectured him once about not going soft on them (“they’ve got to learn, angel”), but soft -- Aziraphale has decided -- isn’t always a bad thing.
He compliments one of them for looking especially verdant today, then glances up to see Crowley watching him with a little smile. The smile disappears as soon as he realizes Aziraphale’s caught him, but that can’t change the fact that it was there.
The especially verdant plant bursts into pink blooms not at all consistent with its genus.
“Oh dear,” Aziraphale sputters. “Can’t--can’t imagine how that happened.”
“What have you done to my plant??” Crowley whooshes over.
“Made it prettier,” Aziraphale says defensively.
Crowley considers the plant’s makeover.
“Yeah, all right,” he capitulates.
“You’re welcome,” Aziraphale says, hopefully with the self-possessed air of someone who spontaneously transforms plants all the time.
“What do you get for the antichrist who has everything?” Crowley muses. They’re standing in the middle of a toy shop, seriously contemplating birthday presents for the first time in their long, long existences.
“A nice hula hoop?” Aziraphale ventures.
“Can I help you, gentlemen?” the clerk asks, coming over.
“We’re looking for something for our godson,” Aziraphale says. “He’s turning twelve.”
“And before you ask,” Crowley adds dryly, “he’s already got a hellhound.”
Half hour later, they’ve got a formidable beast of a squirt gun with all the terrifying bells and whistles imaginable, a drone, a handsome hardcover set of Great Books (“Couldn’t you just give him some from your shop? You know, where you’re supposed to be selling the books.” “Bite your once-forked tongue!”), and one hula hoop. There’s something to be said for classic entertainment, Aziraphale maintains.
The clerk bids them farewell and declares that the birthday boy is lucky to have such a nice couple for godparents.
“You see,” Aziraphale says as they step outside, “that’s precisely what I’m talking about. Everyone thinks we’re an item.”
“Not everyone,” Crowley protests as they shove their bags into the back seat of the Bentley.
They climb in. As soon as it’s switched on, the car’s speakers blare out:
Ooh let me feel your heartbeat (grow faster, faster)
Ooh ooh can you feel my love heat
Come on and sit on my hot-seat of love
And tell me how do you feel right after-all
I'd like for you and I to go romancing
Say the word, your wish is my command
Aziraphale clears his throat awkwardly.
“It’s a car,” Crowley says defensively. “Cars don’t speculate over relationship statuses.”
“Of course not,” says Aziraphale.
When I'm not with you
Think of me always
Love you, love you
“Bentley Rule Number One: don’t ever read into the Queen.”
“Right-o,” says Aziraphale as Crowley steers them haphazardly out into the street.
Dining at the Ritz, we'll meet at nine precisely
(One two three four five six seven eight nine o' clock)
I will pay the bill, you taste the wine
Driving back in style, in my saloon will do quite nicely
Just take me back to yours, that will be fine
(Come on and get it!)