The week after the very first day of the rest of their lives was quite uneventful. The sky was dull and grey, humans went to work as if the Apocalypse-that-never-happened, well, never happened and the M25 kept singing it’s unholy prayers to the Dark Lord. Everything was so mundane that one could think that the Antichrist (the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan and Lord of Darkness) never walked on Earth.
He did, indeed, walk on Earth. And run, and jump and play with is dog, Dog, and his best friends in the small village of Lower Tadfield, South East England.
One of the main reasons why the Apocalypse was rescheduled went by the name of Antony J. Crowley; black-clad with snake skin boots he was currently entering one dusty, old bookshop in Soho. The bookshop’s owner was, also, one of the main reasons why the Apocalypse was rescheduled: he went by the name of Aziraphale.
Aziraphale was an angel, but he also worshipped books.
“Angel?”, said the demon, “I’ve brought you some biscuits.”
To conquer Aziraphale’s heart, Crowley had learned centuries ago, you had to pass trough his stomach. Not that Crowley had actually won said heart - since the angel was oh-so-cautious and “You go too fast for me” still burned in his memories - but he was working on it.
Accepting to have fallen for his holy adversary, his archnemesis, his best friend had been a journey long centuries. He was supposed to battle said angel till the end of times; not feeding the ducks in St. James's Park with him, nor brush his hand while passing him a glass of wine and definitely not wanting (desperately, frantically, fiercely) to kiss him.
But Aziraphale was an angel, and he Fell from the skies a long time ago. He could never love a demon as much as said demon loved him. They were never meant to be.
Aziraphale appeared from the back room, beaming, with two steaming tea cups on a silver tray.
“My dear”, he said all teeth and smile, “You’re right on time for tea.”
As if he didn’t magically conjure the hot beverage in blue porcelain as soon as he catched the word biscuits pronounced by the most beautiful voice he ever heard in six thousand years. He was too (desperately, frantically, fiercely) in love.
Crowley knew. But he knew only about the silvery tray and the flowey white-and-blue tea cups’ miraculous appearance.
What he did not know was that Aziraphale was in love with the way Crowley sibilated s-es, and fixed his yellow snake eyes on him and held his hand at the End of the World. But Crowley was a demon and he was an angel. They were not meant to be, not with Heaven and Hell in between them. So Aziraphale resigned himself: always together, never united.
And, anyway, even if Heaven burned in the skies and all of Hell’s nine circles drowned in holy water and they were left alone together Crowley would never love him. He was his best friend, former adversary, and could never give him all the love he wanted. Right?
They sat beside each other, tights brushing, to sip their warm teas and enjoy the buttery biscuits Crawley brought.
“A man came in the shop today”, started Aziraphale nipping on biscuit.
“A client?”. The angel nodded grimly. He did not like having clients in his shop, touching his beloved first editions and priceless bibles, pretending to buy something. As if his books were on sale!
“It appears so. He wanted to buy one of my Wilde. He wanted to separate me from one of my beautiful Oscar Wilde’s first editions!”
The angel’s voice was full of bitterness, as if buying an actual book from an actual bookshop was the worst crime a person could ever commit in all of his life. Crowley started laughing, wholeheartedly, one long and loud laugh that would have left an human breathless (he was no human, though, only human-shaped so he had no need for breathing. It was only an enjoyable hobby).
“Angel”, he patted Aziraphale’s knee, “If I had known about your book-obsession back in the Old Testament days, I would have thwarted you by sending you a hundred customers!”
Now, Aziraphale should have felt offended. He really should have. But his demon’s hand lingered on his knee and he felt like an hot bubble of hellfire ignited in his guts. A red blush spread all over his face. “You devil”, he said with humour and the tiniest drop of shame.
Crowley’s hand didn’t move an inch, as if he didn’t even realise it was still there. On his knee. Such a simple and soft touch. Both of them wished that single instant lasted forever.
Neither of them spoke for a while.
Once Crowley finished his tea he moved to put the empty porcelain on the little coffee table in front of them, sadly removing his hand from the angel. Aziraphale did not even care, after all, he probably had not even noticed that lingering touch.
From his point of view, however, Aziraphale perceived two distinct and strong sensations: the first was the bitter coldness in the area once touched; the second was the remarkably strong need to get that hand back on its righteous place, or touch Crowley himself. He indeed wanted more.
But they were not meant to be and you can’t pretend to find love where you are solely given friendship. He busied himself with another biscuit.
“What do you think he’s doing?”, said Crowley out of the blue, “Adam. What is he going to do now that the Apocalypse didn’t happen?”
“Well, he’s human. He’s going to do human things and move on with his human life. Humans are incredibly adaptable, my dear.”
“Yeah, free will and all that jazsss. Lucky bastards.” Crowley snarled, sibilating. Because demons and angels were always bound to do good or evil, never fully free to choose. Even if Aziraphale was a little bit of a bastard and Crowley was (extremely) deep down a good person.
Aziraphale nipped another biscuit. It was true, humans were incredibly lucky and they didn’t realise it. But they were lucky too, because in the past days they had found were their loyalty laid on as well: they were on the Earth’s side, Humanity’s side, their very own side.
Aziraphale smiled and spoke: “But we’re free now as well. We no longer have to satisfy Upstairs or Downstairs! We, well, answer only to ourselves now.”
A smirk played on Crowley’s lips. For he was remembering the panicked faces of angels up in heaven watching him, disguised as Aziraphale, walk through hellfire. It had been priceless.
And his angel, his clever angel, had asked for a bloody rubber duck while he happily bathed in holy water Downstairs. He was such a dork and the demon was madly in love.
On a sofa in a dusty bookshop in Soho, a demon and an angel got closer to each other. There wasn’t one who moved first or faster, they naturally gravitated near one another. It was a dance they performed for six thousand hears.
“Our choices are ours to make!” concluded Aziraphale.
“Are you implying”, the demon’s eyes were blown wide behind the sunglasses, “that you - you - are willing to sssin? To do something reckless and clearly not-so-holy?”
Now you should know that a tiny part of Aziraphale’s brain thought things like “My dear boy, sin us such a strong world” or “maybe one not-so-holy action only to know how it feels” or again “I should eat another biscuit, those are tasty!”. But right in that moment, when Aziraphale was opening his mouth to answer and pushing himself a little bit closer Crowley to reach for the biscuits on the coffee table, the demon (devil, tempter) licked his lips.
Aziraphale’s eyes followed the movement, his mind wandered in between clouds.
Every corner of Azisaphale’s brain suddenly started screaming “Kiss! Kiss him! Kiss him on that soft red thin mouth!”. That would have, doubtlessly, been a reckless action.
Eyes still fixed on the lips, he murmured “Something like that”. And kept dancing, spiralling down Crowley like on a black hole. The corners of his mouth were upward, it would be ooh so simple to press their lips together and eternally live in that instant.
Knees and thighs rubbed, noses so close they were almost brushing and breathing sweet biscuits and jasmine tea on one another. He could let himself go, he could not give a fuck for one single instant and give in to his feelings. He could kiss those stupid demonic lips, and confess I love you and beg Crowley to stay even if he didn’t feel the same way.
Aziraphale steadied himself by putting an hand on Crowley’s leg and the other answered intertwining their fingers. It would have been perfect if only Crowley loved him. But he didn’t, Crowley didn’t love him because he was a silly angel who hoarded books and spent a century pushing him away since he was too scared of his own feelings.
Over Crowley’s leg, their hands held one another. There was surprise in the Snake of Eden’s eyes, and some other emotion Aziraphale did not understand. He pulled back, beet red.
“Oh my dear, I’m sorry.”, he babbled, “I didn’t-... I really should not-...” he was embarrassed, scared of having pushed a little too much. He disentangled their intertwined fingers and sank back in between the cushions. Crowley’s face was an enigma, he could not see the pain behind the dark lenses.
For one moment, one blissful moment, Crowley thought that Aziraphale was going to kiss him. He hoped. But the angel retreated and murmured another “I should not” that hurt him as much as that You go too fast for me, Crowley so many years ago. They were close and yet so distant, on the library’s old couch. He never felt so cold and empty.
“Whatsss?” he asked maybe too bitterly, but he felt wounded and deprived of that small spark of hope. Bloody Manchester, he was angry. “What is it that you ssshould not do?”
“Crowley, dear, I-”. “No, angel, I underssstand. You’re far from Heaven but ssstill a white-feathered angel. Sa- England help me, you would never fall for a small temptation from a demon like me. So, no angel, we’re not free. Ssssee?”
“It’s not like that!”, stated Aziraphale because his feeling were all too complicated to be explained. They were a not a matter of Heaven and Hell, of Good and Evil. These feeling were a matter of them, of centuries of friendship and evenings spent together drinking. He remembered Crowley treating him crepes in the middle of the French Revolution, saving his prophecy books from the Nazis. He could not risk to lose him, them, their friendship in the name of a silly matter of the heart.
“It’s not like that”, he repeated. “There are things I should not do because, because of... of consequences. Yes, yes, consequences. Big ones.” He was blushing profusely. “I can’t risk to lose you” he murmured softly, an hushed phrase that Crowley barely caught.
Had Crowley been distracted, he would have not heard the last phrase. Those words whispered with heartbreak and dismay.
Had Crowley been distracted, he would have missed the pained whirl of emotions that passed through Aziraphale’s eyes.
He moved to take his angel’s hands, they were sadly fisted on his lap. He wanted to touch him, and hug him and say no no you’ll never lose me and a sappy I love you that held the power to make him Hell’s running joke.
But Aziraphale pushed back, too far away to be danced around like Sun and Earth. He picked the cups up and ran for the kitchen. His angel had brushed his sides and then flew away like a comet.
“You should go. I’m sure that you have plenty of things to do. My dear boy, I surely don’t want to waste your time!” he disappeared behind the back room’s door. He was panicking, what was he thinking? He almost kissed the demon, he almost kissed his Crowley!
He said “Something like that”. Something like kissing and hugging and holding hands in St. James’s Park.
He was smitten, he was fucked.
Meanwhile, in the other room, an old serpent kept replaying in his head the scene that just happened. Did Aziraphale really admit that he wanted to do something quite like sinning? Well, he also said that he should not do so. Sad, heartbreaking.
The angel’s words left him confused, he did not understand but at the same time he wanted to read in between the lines. In between manicured fingers curled around his hand and that lovely smile spotted with tiny scone crumbs.
I don’t want to lose you, his voice had been full such terror when he spoke. Crowley understood the feeling all too well, and yet. And yet why?
They stood up, together, against the Apocalypse, they faced the bloody Devil himself, an here they were: circling each other too scared to share their feelings.
Maybe Aziraphale needed only a small push, something simple to remember him that Crowley had always been there. And will stay till Armageddon-Mark-Two.
Crowley remembered their first encounter on the walls of the Garden of Eden as clearly as their breakfast at The Ritz two days prior. Likewise, he remembered the first time Aziraphale climbed in his Bentley in 1926 and screamed because he went too fast (he still did, Aziraphale still occasionally whined about it). He remembered the oysters in Rome, the crepes in Paris and a small (but lethal) thermos full of holy water in Aziraphale hands. Showing that he cared.
He loved Aziraphale because he genuinely loved the small things of life: like books and tea. Aziraphale bought his own clothes and wore the same coat for two centuries (in mint conditions). Aziraphale gifted Adam and Eve with his flaming sword, because the world was full of wild animals and she was pregnant!.
He knew that Aziraphale sometimes missed chatting with Oscar Wilde and he occasionally bought two theatre tickets to go see Shakespeare. He lost count of the times they’ve enjoyed the Hamlet or Midsummer Night’s Dream or Romeo and Juliet.
Aziraphale still cried like the first time when the star-crossed lovers died, even if they were no longer in the Globe and it was no longer the sixteenth century.
Crowley smiled, still remembering their noses brushing and their lips inches apart.
Bloody Manchester, he was going to do something stupid. He hoped the angel also wanted to do something like that.
The kitchen’s door flung open and Crowley fretted in breathless (literally, he was in such a rush that he forgot to breath).
“Angel” he said after a deep breath. He stopped right in front of Aziraphale, he was washing the teacups in the sink. “Aziraphale. Have not saints lips?”
God (Holy, Almighty King) bless, that poor porcelain cup (decorated with delicate blue flowers) was already in the sink for it would have shattered after Aziraphale dropped it in shock.
“What did you say, dear?”. This could not be happening. He knew those words by heart: Act One, Scene Five. Romeo asking Juliet if they could pray lips-to-lips. A forbidden love between two star-crossed humans, between them a question: Would you kiss me?
“Just... Just anssswer me and don’t interrupt.” Crowley’s face was shaded a deep red. He took his sunglasses away, fixing yellow snake-like eyes on the soft blue ones of the angel. “Have not saints… lips, and holy palmers too?”
His word were followed with a silence so heavy you could cut it with a butter knife. Maybe hi misinterpreted everything wrong, maybe the angel didn’t truly want to kiss him.
But, right when he was going to lose all of his hopes, Aziraphale said: “Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.” He was smiling, blue eyes shining.
It was the right answer, the one they heard countless times.
The show must go on, good old Freddy would say. So, come on Romeo, recite next line.
Crowley wetted his lips, forked tongue darting over his red mouth: “ Dear sssaint, let lips do what handss do. They pray... Essss”, every fibre of his body was vibrating with joy and love and utter terror because this is happening for real. He was sibilating too much and his tongue felt heavy in his mouth.
And yet, he had never been happier in six thousand years.
“Grant thou. Lessssst... Lesst faissssth-...”
Seeing his demon, his Crowley, his love so flustered warmed Aziraphale’s heart. He had ran away, before, once again too scared to let himself go and surrender to his love.
And yet, here’s Crowley (yellow eyed and smiling) confessing his love through shared memories of centuries ago. Of an eternity spent together.
He laughed at those sibilates s-es and put an hand on Crowley’s chest - the demon had no heartbeat, but so did he. Moving an inch closer he murmured (noses touching once again): “Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.”
He stood still, eyes closed. He could only imagine Crowley’s grin while he said: “Then don’t you fucking move, angel.”
They kissed. Crowley’s mouth reverently brushed Aziraphale’s soft pink lips.
Between Heaven and Hell, two lovers stood and sang a song of freedom (tongues rubbing, lips touching, hands stroking hair and faces).
Their millenniums old dance came to a close while they spiralled deeper, deeper and ultimately collapsed over each other.