Upon the second Wednesdaye after unending, the snake and the sworde loser shall finally get on with it.
—Excerpt from Further Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter Concerning the Worlde that is To Com: Ye Saga Continued
The angel and the demon met up for crepes. Not good ones, unfortunately—while the globalization of the culinary arts has improved the quality of crepes from Paris, France to Paris, Texas, and most places in between, the diner they chose was not one of those places. These crepes were made by a young woman named Henrietta who was doing a poor job of hiding her hangover, and like everything else on the diner’s menu, they were spectacularly average.
That was the whole point: neutral ground. Neither good nor bad. A safe place to talk about what they had agreed in a vague, hand-wavy way to talk about at last.
Aziraphale tapped a finger on the handle of his unbelievably mediocre cup of tea. “So,” he said.
Crowley, sprawled out across the opposite booth with his fork twirling between his fingers, huffed. “Right,” he said.
It is difficult enough for humans to talk about feelings, and humans have therapy and self-help books and motivational Youtube videos dedicated to the subject. Immortal supernatural beings have no such help.
The waitress started toward their table with a fresh pot of coffee and found herself swept in the opposite direction by an energy she would soon describe to Twitter as “The most awkward first date vibes I’ve ever witnessed.”
Aziraphale dipped his oversteeped teabag, privately horrified at the opacity of his drink. It wasn’t good tea to begin with, and he’d made it worse. Why had he allowed this to happen? How had it gotten so out of hand?
Crowley cleared his throat with a slight growl. “Your place or mine?” he said, tapping his fingers on the cracked naugahyde of the booth and cultivating an expression of disinterest. “I’ve got a sort of minimalist industrial Game of Thrones decorating scheme, but we could probably find room for a bookshelf or two.”
Aziraphale’s throat tightened into such a knot at the word we that he forgot words for a moment and could only say “Uh.”
Crowley waved a hand. “Ah, you’re right, you’ve got the better location. I’ll need space for my houseplants, though. Preferably someplace stark and foreboding, with indirect light. Do you like houseplants?”
Aziraphale unknotted his throat enough to stutter out, “I…have a sansevieria?”
Crowley snorted, a sound like a sparking fire. “Snake plant? Too easy. Foot soldiers, snake plants. It can stay, but you’ll have to motivate it yourself.”
“I’m sorry,” Aziraphale said, leaning forward. “What exactly are we talking about?”
“You and me,” Crowley said. “Us. Merging lives, together forever, happy ending and all…that.” He waved his hand dismissively, though he was, of course, buzzing with nerves inside like an entire hive of bees. It wasn’t even his corporeal body making this nonsense happen, it was the star stuff inside him, the part that had felt the Fall (and the landing) and that felt drawn in-fucking-effably to this deer-eyed nerd angel who wouldn’t stop fiddling with his teabag.
Similarly struggling, Aziraphale distracted himself with a bite of crepe. He chewed just enough to rate it three stars in his mental ranking of restaurant crepes, swallowed, and set down his utensils. “You and I—” Powerful words, full of glee and fear. He pressed his lips together. “Crowley, you and I are not supposed to have a happy ending together. Angels and demons are not allowed to fraternize, let alone thwart the forces of Heaven and Hell and ride off into the sunset together.”
“I’m not talking about riding anything,”Crowley scoffed. “You know how I feel about horses.”
The angel nodded. That was fair. “Then co-habitating while the sun sets elsewhere. It’s not really an option for us.”
“Says who?” Crowley gestured widely.
Looking him dead in the eyes—or the sunglasses, at least—Aziraphale said, “God?”
“God also said the Antichrist would end the world, and he didn’t, did he?” Crowley watched him intently, and when the angel didn’t seem to budge, folded his sprawl in closer. It was difficult to maintain an air of disinterest when one is the exact opposite of disinterested in an answer. Leaning in, Crowley lowered his voice. “God said that Heaven and Hell would fight an ultimate battle and end all of this in eternal paradise. No more rocks in your shoes, no more traffic on the M25, no more less than phenomenal crepes. And what are you eating?”
Aziraphale crinkled his nose. “They’re fine.”
“And what’s in your left shoe?”
“And how long did it take you to get here?”
“Enough!” Aziraphale burst out, unclenching his fingers against the worn fabric of his trousers. “Give me a break, I’m not very good at rebelling yet.”
Grinning, Crowley interlaced his fingers and perched his chin on his hands. “Angel, please. You’re the best rebel I know.”
For some reason, that made Aziraphale feel warm all over, as if the air conditioning weren’t slightly aggressive. “Look,” he said, starting very slowly, “Even if we could be—if we could—happy ending—if that were possible, aren’t you starting at the wrong point?”
Crowley tilted his head. “And what point would you suggest starting at?”
Those two words hung between them alongside the scent of slightly overdone toast.
“Love,” Crowley repeated. Something fluttered in his stomach. Brimstone, maybe.
Aziraphale clasped his hands on the tabletop. “Is that... Is that not what we’re talking about?”
“Of course it is,” Crowley said, scowling. “I just thought you already knew.”
“Yes. Fine. Glad we cleared that up.”
The angel and the demon sipped at their respective drinks as if that would save them from the conversation.
“Um,” Aziraphale started, quieter. “What does love entail, exactly?”
“Not a bloody clue, never done it. Humans in love wage wars for each other, make suicide pacts, co-sign on car loans together. Does any of that appeal to you?”
They thought for a bit. The aura of awkwardness ebbed enough for the waitress to come top up Crowley’s coffee.
“What about sex?” Crowley said. “Does sex sound interesting to you? Flapping these meat suits together until we lose control of them?”
The waitress promptly left to update her Twitter feed.
Aziraphale waffled. “I know it’s the standard narrative, but it always seemed boring and messy to me.”
“I tried it once.”
“In the 1960’s, with a couple of humans. I figured by then they’d had enough time as a species to really get good at it.” Crowley shrugged. “Wasn’t bad. Kind of uncomfortable. Glad I tried it, though.”
Aziraphale nodded soundly. “That’s exactly how I felt about jean shorts.”
“And we all know how that turned out.”
The angel thought for a moment. “I suppose when I’ve taken a bath in your body and you’ve stepped into an inferno in mine, we’re not exactly lacking in physical intimacy.”
“True. What else does one do with love?”
“Write sentimental songs to one another?”
Massive cringe. “No thank you. Go to the movies?”
“Maybe. Oh! File taxes jointly?”
“Angel, we don’t file taxes.”
Aziraphale deflated slightly. “Right.”
Crowley was all excited gestures suddenly. “Words! You like words!”
This was true.
“I can give you words!” the demon said. “For example, your hair looks nice. It’s sticky-uppy in the right places, and it has this charming little curl. Six thousand years, and I’ve always liked your hair.”
Aziraphale was keenly aware of the heat in his face. He’d been in this corporeal form more or less since the Garden of Eden, and it had only blushed once before, when he’d been slapped by a mother of three during the Tickle-Me-Elmo riots of 1996. He liked this blush infinitely better.
“What do you enjoy as much as I enjoy words?” he asked.
Crowley chewed his lip for a second, staring out the window. “Small acts of hedonism. Good drinks. Leather clothing. Buffets.”
Aziraphale smiled and miracled his old friend’s coffee. “Try that.”
Crowley took a sip. It tasted exactly like a full whip mocha latte with two shots of hazelnut, an order he’d stolen off a Starbucks counter once. “That is excellent,” he gushed, reaching for Aziraphale’s free hand with his own.
Their skin touched, palms and knuckles lighting up with the small sensory thrill of—well, not human contact. But contact, warm and solid and oddly fascinating. He drew the pads of his fingertips along Aziraphale’s hand and grasped it. Funny how such a gentle thing could incite such a feeling.
Feelings. Tricky thing, those. They’d figure them out. They had, if not an eternity, then at least until the next great war over the fate of existence.
“What now?” Aziraphale said, his voice coming out higher than he intended.
“Well,” Crowley said, “I believe this is the part where we fight over who pays for brunch.”
“Oh, and later we can open a joint checking account!”
The angel looked so pleased with his suggestion that Crowley didn’t say no. Instead, he left his other hand on Aziraphale’s, exactly where it should be, and where it would come to rest for a long time to come, rules and sides and God be damned.
The waitress dropped off their check and finished her Twitter thread. The two ancient friends finished their meal. And despite its remarkable averageness, the diner felt overwhelmingly loved.