1. Love, pt. 1
Love, Anthony J. Crowley is aware, is a very foolish thing. He’s seen humans do stupid things based on love or lust, whether it’s tacky Disney movie themed weddings, internet catfishing, or matching couple shirts.
His short stay in heaven made him aware of love as this vague overarching concept. The Almighty loves Her creations, and Her angels are required to spread the joy to the world or some rot.
But he’s never felt anything like that, not even in the abstract. Crowley did his job, asked some questions, hung out with the cool kids who talked about independence and longer lunch breaks, and soon his wings turned ash black and his eyes glowed yellow and he was an agent of chaos.
He’s a demon, and demons don’t love.
Except, one day, he meets an angel.
It’s not like - it’s not like a blessed-damned Hollywood movie. There’s nothing about this that’s romantic or dramatic or star-crossed. It’s just that he’ll think of Aziraphale’s smile sometimes; and the way that he laughs, his eyes shining at Crowley while he drinks whatever sweet vintage wine of his choosing, and Crowley wonders, if he kisses him, will he taste it on Aziraphale’s mouth? It’s just that he’ll check eBay once in a while for a rare book that Aziraphale’s collection is missing, miraculously winning an auction, and he’ll get them tickets for a Shakespeare performance and casually toss the book at Aziraphale during dinner afterwards, saying, “Found this on the internet, angel,” and Aziraphale beams, surprised.
He knows -- he knows -- he knows that Aziraphale had been hesitant about their Arrangement for a long time, tiptoed around it, timid, but Crowley checks up on his counterpart anyway. Saves his life when he’s in a pinch; shows up to his bookshop with takeout in hand; banters back and forth about the trouble he’s caused that day. It’s not a romance. It’s just how things are.
There are many things that Crowley is not responsible for, but takes credit for anyway. Downstairs is very impressed by the existence of Brexit, anti-vaxxers, the gig economy, bitcoin, and veganism, to name a few, and Crowley sends in the occasional flattering word about contributing to the mess.
One thing that Crowley is responsible for is the mass popularization of e-cigarettes. He encouraged the two British chaps who improved the design. Addiction wrapped up in a shiny little package, colorful smoke and all, introducing new generations to nicotine. He’s even got one himself with a snake that matches his tattoo.
Aziraphale isn’t impressed when Crowley shows up at their usual spot in the park while taking drags of a vape pen. “Is that marijuana?” he asks, dubiously.
“No,” Crowley says, exhaling smoke rings. He’s been trying out various flavors. Butterscotch and vanilla and cinnamon and peppermint.
Aziraphale has a funny flustered look on his face; sometimes, Crowley doesn’t understand him and he shrugs it off, those little baffling angel things. Crowley cheerfully tells Aziraphale about a new plant he’s gotten.
Aziraphale nods, makes interested noises. Before he leaves, Crowley sees him take a breath, his blue eyes fluttering, then turning away.
3. Dancing, pt. 1
Demons don’t dream. If they did, Crowley would have dreamt of them together on the moon or a faraway star, as the Earth ends. A picnic basket settled on moondust or stardust, while Queen plays, singing, oh, we’ll keep on trying till the end of time, and Crowley will be trying to show Aziraphale how to dance properly - not the gavotte.
Whenever Crowley sees a rainbow, he remembers that time they stood in front of Noah’s ark and wondered. He’s surprised by the connotations rainbows get, later, but Gay Pride Parades are fun. That’s another thing that both sides take credit for.
Aziraphale’s the one who calls him those little endearments. (In a friendly way. Of course it means nothing more.) My dear - dear Crowley - darling. Crowley sticks to calling him ‘angel’ because it’s not an endearment, it’s a technical term, but once he slips up, exasperated, while trying to explain pop culture and says, “I still can’t believe your taste in media is still stuck in the 17th century, sweetheart,” and then quickly shuts his mouth.
Aziraphale doesn’t seem to have noticed.
Then it comes out again, and again, and again. Oh, come on, try the chocolate, sweetheart. You know it’s completely futile to bring new tapes to my Bentley, sweetheart; it’ll always be Queen. Alright, alright, sorry, sweetheart, I know the bookshop is a no-vaping zone.
Then ‘baby’ starts to creep in - it’s modern and affectionate in a moderate way, right? - and Crowley finally gives up on the self-justification. After a particularly teasing, hey, baby, I’m here to tempt you with wine, his hand brushing Aziraphale’s cheek, he notices a light red flush on Aziraphale’s face and feels.... Well. A feeling like victory.
6. Dancing, pt. 2
When Aziraphale finally does discover a newer dance style he likes, it’s, to Crowley’s eternal disappointment, not disco - not gangam style - not salsa. It’s line dancing, due to the influence of that American ambassador's family. It's pathetically American, in Crowley’s opinion, but Aziraphale does look cute in a cowboy hat.
He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know how to say it. Does he say:
I love you. I’ve loved you since the beginning of the earth and I’ll love you til the end of it. I love you and your stupid books; and your blue eyes and your curly hair; and your white wings and your fussiness. I love you to the point I’ll make tea, make miracles, make bombs explode for you. I love you I love you I love--
But that’s so maudlin, he can’t even breathe if he starts to say it.
“You!” Crowley barks at a wilting stem of green. “I’ll unleash a plague of locusts to eat you if you don’t stand up!” Immediately, it bristles to attention.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale admonishes. “You can’t talk to your plants like that. You’re scaring the poor things.”
“Why not? I always have. It’s tough love, angel.”
Aziraphale moves to placate the quivering plant Crowley had barked at, tenderly stroking its leaves. “You’re doing fine. You mustn’t worry about him. He’s just - er - grumpy.” Aziraphale looks at Crowley with disapproving eyes. “I can send you gardening guides if you like. You’ve got to make sure they get sufficient sunlight and water and fertilizer.”
“It’s easier this way,” Crowley says with a shrug. He gives the plant that Aziraphale’s petting a stink eye.
“It’s too much effort to magic them all green and healthy when they just need the proper motivation,” Crowley insists. “They can do it themselves. Isn’t self-determination and maturity important?”
“Snarling at them isn’t motivation,” Aziraphale says. He coos at the plant, “You’re looking quite chipper. Good work, old fellow.”
Whenever Aziraphale comes in for tea, he showers Crowley’s plants with praises.
“Spoiled brats,” Crowley grumbles, after Aziraphale departs, every time.
His plants slack off whenever they know the angel’s coming. In reply, they rustle at Crowley smugly.
9. Love, pt. 2
Demons can’t fall in love, but humans with overactive imaginations have come up with stories about it. For example, this one ancient Italian scholar told of a demon who stalked a young man, pursuing him as a schoolteacher, a valet, a courier, a butler, a nobleman. The demon stole money and fish for the human.
What an unromantic loser, Crowley thinks, flipping through the pages of the book. He’s borrowing it from Aziraphale’s bookshop, laying down in front of the shelves with other scattered books around him. What kind of demon thinks fish is a good gift? Or that a schoolteacher is a sexy form to take?
Then there’s the strange old erotica. Crowley wrinkles his nose at an illustration of a horned man on stilts, his penis sticking up, his tail wrapped around a human woman. Another illustration depicts a winged demon flying in the sky and a girl clinging to his long penis, while a bat and a butterfly drift nearby.
Humans are so weird.
An hour later, Aziraphale finds Crowley surrounded by the books, unswitched vape pen twitching in his fingertips.
“What are you doing?” Aziraphale says, frowning at the mess.
“I was looking at your demon pornography, angel,” Crowley begins, and pauses. “Hold on. Why do you have so much demon porn, anyways? I thought you mostly collected religious books and classic literature.”
Aziraphale’s face is beet red. “It’s -- scientific curiosity. Seeing what the humans think about supernatural beings.” He’s stammering, and Crowley’s mouth is suddenly dry and it has nothing to do with vaping at all.
Aziraphale hurries on, “Gabriel pretended that he was looking for pornography the other day and I think the shop may have created this section in response.”
“Well,” Crowley says. “Well. I don’t know what made humans think we have genitalia that long or large.”
“Biscuits,” Aziraphale says, suddenly waving his hand and sweeping the books back onto the shelves. “It’s teatime now, my dear. Let’s catch up now, shall we? How’s Albert?”
Aziraphale has started naming Crowley’s plants, which is something of an irritation and amusement to Crowley.
He keeps waiting for the right time to say it. Like the perfect dinner, the perfect day at the park, the perfect moment when the sun’s shining just so, and Aziraphale is smiling, smiling at him, and he’ll take Aziraphale’s hands into his and kiss him.
But there’s never a time that seems to fit, and Crowley lets the days march on. They try new foods, new drinks, swap jokes about that apocalypse that almost was, and good-naturedly blame each other on current events even though they know that neither of them had a hand in it.
Then, one day, Crowley is out on the balcony of his apartment. It’s raining outside, but he doesn’t bother with an umbrella. He’s got Loretta next to him, a new little flower gifted by Aziraphale, now basking in the zealous pitter-patter from the sky above.
He feels oddly gloomy, thoughtful. The rain’s drenching his hair, his face, his black leather jacket. He’s taken off his sunglasses and his eyes are two flickering amber torches in the greyness.
Then the storm is gone. He looks up, and a white wing has crept up to shield him from the downpour.
“What are you doing out in this weather?” Aziraphale says. "You're soaking wet."
“I wish,” Crowley says, “I wish you could go as fast as me. It’s been six thousand years, sweetheart.”
Aziraphale, for a moment, looks...terrified. But then this infinite understanding, this infinite gentleness passes his face, and his other wing encloses Crowley, encloses them both, and there are feathers everywhere. All Crowley can see is blinding white as Aziraphale kisses him for the first time.