Aziraphale was very clever.
True he was also a little too trusting, a little too naive, a little too hopeful and more than just a little bit scatterbrained.
Enough so that he could make stupid decisions but he wasn't actually stupid.
And once something had his full attention he rarely missed things.
And Crowley was very very good at getting his attention.
So it didn't take him long to learn The Rules as he thought of it.
The first one he learned all the way back to when the first drops of rain fell as the ark was loaded.
"Crawley," Aziraphale began as he reached out a hand towards Crawley, not to touch because touch was wrong, but to get his attention. His hand must have moved too fast because Crawley flinched and recoiled as if Aziraphale's hand was a poisonous barb.
Aziraphale froze with his hand still outstretched. Crawley looked back at him with wide eyes tinged with fear.
"Sorry, don't know what came over me" Crawley replied with a little fake laugh and smile, "you were saying Aziraphale?"
His frame was still tense but he was visibly forcing himself to calm down and it would be thoughtless of Aziraphale to ignore that.
Aziraphale retracted his hand and gave his own strained smile.
"We should probably find someplace to wait out this weather shouldn't we?" Aziraphale didn't mean it come out as question but he supposed that was simply because he was using all his will power to not ask if Crawley was alright.
Crawley eyed the children.
"It would be very diabolical of me to kidnap some kids and keep them alive wouldn't it? Finding loving homes for children the almighty is angry with would be very bad indeed."
"Mmm, the most diabolical and I already have my hands so full!" Aziraphale agreed with a smile, glad for the distraction.
The moment had passed but in his mind, as he watched Crawley plan his "evil" kidnapping, Aziraphale took note of it.
Rule 1. Do not make sudden movements towards your demon
The second rule revealed itself as they went to get some wine after Christ's crucifixion. After such a display both very much felt they needed some.
Aziraphale fell back directly behind Crowley as they walked through a crowded street.
As they walked Aziraphale noted how Crowley's back became more and more tense until he stopped abruptly.
"Why don't you go first Aziraphale?" Crowley asked with false brightness as he turned to face the angel.
Aziraphale frowned. There was no reason for him to take the lead. He didn't know the location they were headed to (Crowley had suggested it) and it shouldn't have mattered.
But it did matter.
He could see it mattered.
He could see it in the fear around Crowley's eyes.
"Well if you insist" Aziraphale took note of the way Crowley slumped in relief as he took point.
That was the first time.
Over the millennia Aziraphale had plenty of chances to test what was okay and what wasn't.
What made Crowley curl in on himself defensively and what made him slump in relief. Behind him was okay as long as it was to the side, where Crowley could see him and his hands at all times.
And so Aziraphale wove a careful path around Crowley.
Rule 2. Do not walk where your demon can't see you.
Learning the third rule hurt them both.
Crowley had been visiting and at that point Aziraphale's newly purchased sofa was not against a wall.
Aziraphale had gone to get a bottle of wine and some glasses and came back to see Crowley sprawled out, his arms stretched on the back of the sofa.
He had simply been overcome with a feeling of deep...well he didn’t dare think of a word more loaded then fondness . But it was an intense emotion that was brought on by seeing Crowley so comfortable in his home.
He was simply struck still and dumb by the strength of his emotions.
Which is why he stood unmoving right behind Crowley.
This, it turned out, was a mistake.
He was so entranced by how full of happiness and contentment he was that he failed to pick up the little signals that Crowley was getting increasingly uncomfortable.
He only snapped out of it when he became aware of the fact that Crowley was breathing too fast. He had stopped sprawling out and was hugging himself tightly and rocking slightly back and forth.
“Crowley? What’s wrong dear?” Aziraphale asked in alarm, moving to the side so Crowley could see him clearly before reaching out the hand not holding the wine slowly.
It was the wrong move and Crowley stumbled off of the couch, twisting as he did so that he was facing Aziraphale. His face was pale and his glasses failing to hide the terror and panic radiating off of him as he shook his head frantically, his back hitting the bookshelves as he tried to get as far away from the angel as possible, scrambling so he was sat on the floor with his knees drawn up tight.
Aziraphale held his hands up placatingly
“Crowley, I’m not going to touch you” Aziraphale promised gently even as he felt his heart breaking, “I’m just going to put the wine on the table.” he didn’t need to see the demon’s eyes to know he was tracking his every movement as he placed the bottle of wine down.
“Breathe with me Crowley” Aziraphale encouraged.He then took a deep breath in, counted to 5, then let it out slowly.
The next time he took in a breath Crowley, still curled up and tense with fear, shakily copied him.
It took a number of deep breaths to calm Crowley down to uncurl himself, a bit of colour finally returning to his face.
“Crowley?” Aziraphale asked in the tense silence between them.
Crowley, who was looking down at his hands, shook his head gently and smiled in a way that felt like a stab in Aziraphale’s heart.
“I’m okay now angel...I just….” Crowley took a deep breath and let it out in a burst before standing up and putting his hands in his pockets as he avoided Aziraphale’s gaze.
“I’m going to head off actually.” Crowley continued, “I’ll...I’ll see you around.”
“Ah...yes.” Aziraphale had never felt so useless.
He immediately moved in front of Crowley to let him out, knowing that Crowley would not want him behind him.
Crowley followed him silently.
He finally looked up at Aziraphale properly as he stepped out.
“I will see you around angel” Crowley promised with a tiny smile.
Aziraphale let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding and smiled back with relief.
“ Oh . Good.”
It was good to know he hadn’t ruined this...whatever...he had with Crowley.
But as he closed the door he mentally updated The Rules.
He also moved the couch.
Rule 3. Never ever stand unmoving behind your demon
It wasn’t until the Apocalypse that wasn’t and the trial in hell that Aziraphale understood why Crowley had the rules.
He was aware that they made more space than usual for him for his trial because everywhere else was cramped and claustrophobic with demons packed shoulder to shoulder and he could see out of the corner of his eye how none of them failed to miss the opportunity to hurt another demon.
A scratch across the neck as they pass. A stab in the kidneys from behind. A punch to the back of a head.
Hastur, the one Crowley had especially told him to look out for, loomed behind Aziraphale for a bit. Not touching, not making any threatening motions even.
Implying a threat that you didn’t know when would fall.
Aziraphale did not feel fear.
He felt anger.
He knew Crowley down here would hide his discomfort and fear and flinches with wry jokes and smirking self confidence.
And in that moment he realised for the first time how much Crowley really loved and trusted him.
Because he had panicked in front of him.
He had panicked and shown his vulnerability and trusted Aziraphale not to hurt him.
He had come back to the bookshop even after Aziraphale had monumentally screwed up.
As Hastur stopped his looming Aziraphale made a silent promise to himself.
They would never ever get Crowley back.
Even if he had to destroy hell himself to make sure.
After they were back together.
After lunch at the Ritz to celebrate being on their own side.
They walked in the park together.
And Crowley, ever so slowly, reached out and took Aziraphale’s hand.
And it hurt in all the best ways because touch always did and touch from Crowley doubly so...but Aziraphale held on as tightly as he could through the joy/pain because he never wanted Crowley to let go again.
And next time he approached Crowley, slowly, in plain sight, with plenty of warning....he wouldn’t stop.