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A Steady Flame

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Two Months After Armageddon Was Averted


Aziraphale didn’t mean to kiss Crowley. It just happened.

The day was drippy, slate weathered skies as they went through security and into the grand, bustling vault of The British Museum. Crowley scowled, as he was wont to do, stuffing hands in his pockets and slouching so he would look sufficiently “cool”. Aziraphale knew that Crowley didn’t particularly care for the museum.

“We’ve lived it all, so what’s the point?” Crowley would say.

But nonetheless, he’d go on outings with Aziraphale, even if Aziraphale didn’t ask anymore.

Today’s expedition began with the Rosetta Stone, which Aziraphale fairly bounced around.

“They’re so ingenious!” he said, pointing at the stone, as though he hadn’t seen it made. “Humans are such marvelous creatures.”

“I suppose so,” Crowley grunted.

They tarried a bit amongst the Egyptian artifacts, Aziraphale flapping his hands and grinning with excitement while Crowley seemed to be rolling those devilish eyes behind his glasses. He even yawned a few times, as though that could possibly dampen Aziraphale’s enthusiasm.

Finally they came to two great beasts, which they had seen crafted, each with knotty finger-like appendages, a pair of wings, a bearded human head, and headdress. Aziraphale clapped excitedly.

“I heard they have expanded the Mesopotamian wing,” he said.

“Oh goody,” Crowley muttered, but followed Aziraphale.

He was a slender flame, always, in the back of Aziraphale’s mind, yet not a threatening flame. More like flickering embers in a fireplace, warm and comfortable. It was odd that he should feel so about a demon of all things, and Aziraphale had certainly spent nights asking himself why. He had no solutions. Just that he felt this way, and had for many thousands of years. Since these clay tablets, cuneiform stamped and gilded with the images of winged celestials, where created.  

“This is lovely,” Aziraphale said, itching to touch the tablets, to feel the grainy groove of the cuneiform as he once had.

Crowley snapped his fingers. Everyone, even the air, stopped.

“Go on,” he said, sounding intensely bored. “You know you want to.”

Aziraphale flushed a little at those last words. He also clenched his hands to his chest, because he couldn’t, these were priceless human artifacts --

He felt Crowley’s hand extending his. It was so gentle that Aziraphale was shocked.

“Come on,” Crowley insisted.

“Are you tempting me?” Aziraphale said, fingers hovering mere millimeters over the cuneiform.

Crowley grinned.

Aziraphale snapped his hand back.

“No, I shan’t,” he said.

“Fine then.”

Crowley snapped his fingers.

The air was less dense, and people moved once again. Aziraphale felt an odd lack of relief. Irritation. Not at himself, because he shouldn’t have touched that tablet. Not at Crowley for tempting him, because that was in his nature. But over . . . he really couldn’t say.

As they wound through the wing, he felt the ghost of Crowley’s hand on his still.

They paused in front of one panel, the clay vivid with life, with the wafting smell of barley and garlic and dates. He could still hear the reedy, deep thrum of lyres perfuming the air.

He looked at Crowley and smiled.

“I do miss lyres,” he admitted, rubbing his hand. “Nothing quite like them. I know I should like harps more, but . . .”

Shut up, Aziraphale, he said to himself.

“They were nice,” Crowley said, looking at the tablet.

He did so from over Aziraphale’s shoulder. Aziraphale felt the demon’s hot breath against his throat and shuddered.

They moved on.

“Oh, hello,” Crowley said, crouching at a pair of panels. “These gazelle are full of spears.”

Of course he expressed delight in violence.

“Remember hunting? How exciting it was?” Crowley asked as they progressed.

“Not particularly. I was much more into farming.”

“Oh yes, that’s right.”

They stopped in front of an enormous series of panels. The lions were beautiful beasts, a wonder to behold with rippling muscles and flicking tales . . . and then there were volleys of spears and arrows piercing them.

“Look at this one, it has blood gushing out of its mouth,” Crowley said, taking his glasses off.

“Gushing might be a bit florid,” Aziraphale said.

“This is magnificent, how have we never seen it before?”

Crowley pointed to a line of people carrying a great lion, threaded by arrows, onto a pyre of some kind.

Aziraphale fidgeted. He didn’t care for the display, nor the blood-sticky memories of the king’s lion hunts, nor for Crowley’s enthusiasm. This last thing bothered him the most. Just like Crowley’s breath on his neck, or his touch, or a million other intimacies, physical and otherwise, they had shared over six thousand years.

He looked at Crowley, really looked at him, and saw the demon who had sauntered vaguely downwards. And then he saw an angel, black wings ready to unfurl. A fallen angel, perhaps, but an angel.

He was no one thing.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale said.


Crowley turned to his companion.

Aziraphale knew what he would do exactly one second before he did it.

He took Crowley’s familiar, beloved face in his hands and initiated their first kiss.

The kiss was soft at first, and then Crowley gripped Aziraphale’s hair. He could do odd things with his tongue, oh yes, Aziraphale discovered.

“Oi! There are children here,” a man exclaimed.

Crowley separated them, and hissing, blinked demonic eyes at the man.

“Oh!” the man exclaimed in alarm, and then walked, children in tow, rather rapidly out of the wing.

Crowley put his glasses back on.

“He’s right dear, we should probably not get amorous in front of ‘The Lion Hunt’,” Aziraphale said.

Crowley grumbled.

“Did you just call me ‘dear’?”

“I did,” Aziraphale beamed. And then: “Should I not have?”

“Nah, it’s alright, angel.”

To Aziraphale it felt like he’d been hollowed out in the best possible way. Where had been a heaviness was now empty, free space. Space for Crowley, perhaps.

“Should we go to the sunken Egyptian city exhibit? It’s free!”

Crowley made a face, but followed anyways.

So they went to the sunken city exhibit, Aziraphale marveling not at the sculptures and recovered objects, but the steady flame next to him.