Aziraphale didn't often visit Crowley. In fact, he'd never so much as seen the interior of his apartment before. At the most he made short, friendly visits to leave some food at the door or a particularly nice book with a bottle of wine to go with it. He'd leave right after.
They'd shared lodgings in the past before, in a completely platonic manner, but it was usually at the apartment above Aziraphale's bookshop when Crowley was too drunk to bother returning home. By drunk, Aziraphale meant too lazy to sober up, but he couldn't blame Crowley. [He'd been lazy and had practically fallen asleep on top of the demon too.]
But as he raised his hand to knock on the polished mahogany door, his hand faltered just slightly, and he hesitated for a moment, wondering if it really was a good idea to see him now. Granted, he knew Crowley was in at the moment, and he needed to talk to him, but…
He breathed in heavily as he came to his decision and rapped on the door, too unnerved to possibly perform a miracle now; he’d probably end up turning the door into jelly on accident. It seemed Crowley was too busy to get the door as it swung open in front of him to reveal an empty, grey corridor.
As he stepped into the apartment he couldn’t help but notice how cold and sharp it was. Concrete all around with clean lines cut into the cooled material with military precision. Almost the complete opposite of his bookshop, he thought.
It wasn’t that he hated modernisation, mind you, he quite liked it as much as the next person, but there was just something about the intricacy and design of his bookshop. There was a reason he’d kept it and the books for so long: he simply couldn’t let go of the one place on earth he felt properly at home in. And he wasn’t exaggerating. He’d been everywhere by now, and the home element of his bookshop almost never made him want to leave it.
His fingers had barely brushed the concrete before he was reeling back in shock, the amount of energy crackling through the walls sending volts of electricity down his spine. Crowley was angry, apparently. He could feel it: the anger bouncing around the walls and a large quantity of fear emanating from down the corridor. He vaguely wondered where it was coming from, and with his curiosity getting the better of him, he abandoned all formalities in pursuit of finding out what was happening.
His hands naturally gravitated toward each other to wring in a nervous fashion as he ventured down the short corridor, slightly worried about what he'd discover. [That same action also showed a person’s delight in whatever food or beverage was put in front of them. He didn't actually have to do it. He just felt it would suit him and his love for food.]
The angel's footsteps were quiet and furtive, his polished shoes clicking softly on the ground.
Ah, he could hear it now: Crowley’s voice. It was definitely raised, and it only seemed to be getting louder with each step he took towards it. He could make out faint phrases like: “...can’t BELIEVE you would dare to even… your fault, you brought this upon yourself!”, and by the time Aziraphale was close enough to hear everything being said, there was a final, “Let this be a warning to NEVER try and disobey me again.”
The stern scolding was followed by several thundering footsteps that moved away from Aziraphale and the angel jumped when a sudden loud mechanical whirring started up somewhere.
He couldn’t believe what he was hearing: it sounded like someone was being tortured. All this time they had known each other Crowley seemed to be running a sort of torture dungeon in this very apartment. He was so foolish to have never checked up on the demon-
Crowley was a demon. He probably had a number of odd jobs to assigned do other than sit around and drink with Aziraphale while arguing about mosquitoes and what purpose they served in the food chain. How idiotic of him to think so.
But he still had to help whoever was being hurt. Aziraphale rushed towards the noise and came across a number of potted plants, all green, tall, leafy and absolutely perfect. He really hadn't meant to, but he momentarily forgot about his task at hand as he ran a hand across one of the plant’s leaves in silent adoration of their sheer flawlessness, and the plant stilled while Aziraphale’s fingers stroked it.
Then it immediately began shaking when the oddly silent sounds started up again, accompanied by Crowley’s shouting from an adjourning room, “...serves you right!... learned your lesson?... can’t help you.”
Aziraphale looked up for a moment to try and tell if there was an earthquake occuring to make these plants tremble so much. It seemed they were doing it of their own accord, strangely enough. He caught a flash of that same fear from before tingling up his fingers and looked incredulously at the large leaf under his fingertips. It was the plants? Oh, the poor things.
“I’ll come back, don’t you worry.” He whispered soothingly, leaving them to find Crowley. He had to figure out what was going on.
Aziraphale didn’t call out the demon’s name for fear of being hurt too; he couldn’t risk anything yet, but as he silently approached the room he could hear soft whispers from the demon, "... behave… can't tell anyone… good girl."
Aziraphale suddenly felt his face heating up more than he'd have liked. Since when was Crowley torturing then comforting innocent women? He couldn't believe it. They were specifically told not to meddle with humans and to simply monitor them. He had to intervene somehow; he couldn't continue to let this happen.
He was just about to turn the handle of the door to confront Crowley when the demon swung the door open with a deep sigh. In his left hand was a small clay pot.
Crowley looked pained. Also... satisfied, in a way, but his eyes widened at the sight of the angel in front of him. Aziraphale barely had time to even catch a glance at the interior of the room before the door was slammed closed and he was crowded against the wall behind him.
"What are you doing here?" Crowley's voice was low, the hand digging into his jacket a familiar feel.
Aziraphale didn't often visit Crowley. Maybe this was the reason.
"The front door opened when I knocked on it! I thought you did it!" Aziraphale answered quickly, not wanting to suffer the same fate as the woman inside the room. Despite Crowley having done the exact same thing to him before in the corridor of a once satanic nuns' convent, a small measure of fear still trickled down the back of his neck, and he gulped. "That's the truth. I don't lie. You, of all people, or angels, or demons, should know. So I suggest you unhand me now, for I have done nothing wrong."
Crowley's face scrunched up in confusion; he didn't seem to believe the angel. Nevertheless, he let go of Aziraphale and subconsciously smoothed out his coat, knowing how frustrated the angel got with a crumpled outfit. He looked down at his shoes.
"The door usually never opens for anyone but me. It's probably because no one's ever come over, I suppose." Crowley stepped back slightly, giving Aziraphale space to breathe. He vanished the pot, shoved his hands into his pockets and slouched. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
There was no eye contact.
"It's all right. I'm fine. But I'm not so sure about the woman in that room, Crowley. What did you do to her?" Aziraphale gestured to the door opposite him and attempted to seek out the demon's eyes to understand.
Crowley's eyes shot up to meet Aziraphales’ in a mild panic, then his features morphed his face into an expression of complete confusion.
"There isn't a woman in that room." His voice was hesitant, he almost seemed scared at the thought.
"Well, yes, there is. I heard you talking to someone in there. You even called her a "good girl"! What is going on?" This time Aziraphale was growing more confused by the moment, as Crowley's face suddenly dropped in relief.
"Christ, you really scared me. I wasn't talking to a woman. I was talking to my plant. She allowed one of her leaves to have holes in it, and I got frustrated because she disobeyed my orders." The demon casually explained, as if listing off the items on the menu of a restaurant he'd been to more times than what was considered socially acceptable. [He actually could, the two had been to the Ritz so many times he had the entire menu memorised.]
"Disobeyed your orders?" Aziraphale desperately attempted to grasp at a part of the sentence that made any sense, then gave up and decided he didn't understand at all. "Would you mind explaining?"
"I talk to my plants to help them grow. Did you see them on the way here?" Crowley asked. Aziraphale nodded dumbly, still rather in shock at the new fact he'd just discovered about his old friend. He knew about the plants. Not the talking to.
“Well, the more I talk to them, the better they grow. They’re actually extremely bored, sitting here all day with nothing to do but look pretty, so I talk to them. I suppose it motivates them to grow more in my favour.” Crowley offered Aziraphale a crooked smile.
“Then what about the sounds…?” Aziraphale trailed off, once again pointing behind the demon.
"Oh, it's just for dramatics. Makes it sound like I've, uh, killed, maybe destroyed them for misbehaving to instill fear in the others but I actually just send them to the nearby garden outside. Unfortunately they never get to see each other again, though." Crowley shrugged lightly.
Aziraphale opened his mouth, then closed it rather helplessly. There was silence for a moment while the two drifted off into their thoughts.
"So there isn't a woman or girl in there?" The angel finally asked.
"And it's just you and your plants?"
"Well, and you, now. But on the daily, yes."
"Hm? Oh, yes. Perfectly alright."
"Well, I suppose so- Wait! No!"
It was at this moment that Crowley tipped his head down in a chuckle, bringing a hand to the wall behind Aziraphale to stabilise himself. "You're jealous of the attention my plants get compared to you? Really?"
Startled blue eyes met bright yellow.
"...No! Honestly, I think we spend far too much time in each other's company. We should be able to have our own… private time to ourselves. And I'm glad you have a hobby to keep yourself occupied so I'll be able to sort my books out in peace!" Aziraphale said, tilting his head up haughtily. In actual fact his remaining shreds of dignity were extremely close to flying away, and his desperate grip on them would have slipped had he not moved his head that little bit.
Barely a moment later he regretted every word that he'd spoken but he maintained his posture. The demon raised an expressive eyebrow, his eyes sparkling with hidden amusement.
"Are you saying I'm a nuisance?" He asked, but there didn't seem to be any malice in his voice, only curiosity. Aziraphale's expression dropped. He made a terrible attempt to find the right words.
"Okay, I didn't mean it that way. I just mean it's… nice. You know, to see that you have a hobby to keep you from… misbehaving. It's a nice change to see."
Crowley hummed in thought. "Misbehaving? I suppose that is good, yes. But just exactly what kind of misbehaviour are you talking about? I am a demon, after all. I can get into all sorts of trouble." He grinned, leaning just a little bit closer to the angel.
Aziraphale suddenly didn't know what to say. He might as well have sewn his mouth shut.
"Would you like to find out, angel? Discover what I can show you? You don't have to do anything. I'll do all the misbehaving." Crowley was leaning in closer and closer, having brought his other hand up to cage Aziraphale in, and at this proximity Aziraphale could see the demon's eyes flitting down to glance at his lips.
This was so wrong.
His tongue subconsciously darted out to wet his bottom lip. Crowley did the same.
Was he really going to let this happen?
Aziraphale felt his breathing pick up.
God, that tongue– Shit!
Aziraphale quickly ducked under Crowley's arm and backed up till there was a good length of space between them. He glanced behind him. The front door wasn't very far away.
"Crowley. This isn't right. We shouldn't be doing this." He said, holding his hands out in front of him in defence.
"Oh come on, angel! I know you want it. I can see it in your eyes. Why deny yourself something you so desperately want?" Crowley took a step forward but Aziraphale jerked his hands to remind Crowley to stay where he was. He moved back several steps.
"You know very well why. I'm not even supposed to be here, fraternising with my enemy much less get into a relationship with–" Aziraphale stopped himself and closed his eyes for a moment to block out the surprised look on his nemesis' face. He corrected himself. "I just can't be seen with you. That's it. You know the rules."
"But rules are made to be broken–"
"Not when you're an angel!" Aziraphale snapped. "Crowley, I don't think you understand–"
"I do, damn it! Did you forget I once used to be like you too? Why the hell do you think I haven't made a move yet? I can't believe it had to come to this, but I like you, angel. I've liked you from the very beginning. I just really wish you do too, but one can only dream, eh?" The demon said miserably. He watched as Aziraphale fought to phrase his next words correctly.
"I get it." Crowley cut in before he could speak. "I'm not asking for you to return my feelings."
"I'm sorry, Crowley. It just seems… wrong. I can't seem to explain, though. It just isn't right to me. But I have to go now. I'm sorry." The angel turned to leave; he'd managed to back up enough for the front door to be in his reach.
"Wait, just one last thing. I need to know this." The demon took a deep breath. "Do you want me?"
Aziraphale was quiet. His hand had stilled on the door handle. A shaky breath left him.
He couldn't possibly answer. If he said no he'd break Crowley's heart. But if he told him the truth… who knows what would happen to the both of them?
Crowley seemed to be able to tell what he was thinking and grabbed him by the shoulders.
"Lie to me, then." His eyes were frantic, desperate almost. Searching deep in Aziraphale's for the truth, down to the very depths of his soul. It was almost a welcome intrusion, but Aziraphale had to stop it.
He removed Crowley's hands from his shoulders and let them drop to his sides. If he didn't feel bad before he did now. In actual fact he felt terrible, like his heart was being ripped out from the very vessel he was placed in.
Oh, God. Aziraphale could count the number of times Crowley had said 'please' in the past millenia on a single hand. He felt tears prickling at the corners of his eyes. The demon sounded like he was physically wounded.
"Don't do this, Crowley." He muttered. He couldn't look at the demon, not like this.
"You know why–"
"Stop saying that! Just tell me, then leave. Tell me you don't love me, and I'll never bother you with my feelings again."
How could Aziraphale possibly do that? How, in anyone's name, could he tell Crowley how much he loved him when he didn't even know what real love was? Was this real love? The only love he knew was God's love, and that in itself was a detached, parental love. He didn't know what he wanted. And the thought scared him. It was better if they just stayed friends, but would it really harm him to find out?
"I understand." Crowley said. Aziraphale looked up at him. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have pressured you. I shouldn't be pressuring you. The door is yours." Crowley pulled back, taking slow steps away from Aziraphale. What could he say to fix the situation?
The decision was made, then.
Aziaphale didn't look back as he left.
He didn't see the tears fall behind clenched hands.
As the door closed behind him a small voice forced its way into his head.
A lie of omission is still a lie.
And oh, how he hoped Crowley understood.