One little known fact about angels is that they engage in nesting behavior, but only when trying to attract a mate. Demons, being of angelic stock, are compelled towards the same behavior. Indeed, the only difference between an angel’s nest and a demon’s nest is that the demon’s will be neater, for just as they spend longer grooming their wings, demons also spend longer cleaning their nests.
This would not normally be a problem, for demons tend to mate with demons, and angels with angels. The occasional demon-human or angel-human coupling generally did not present any issues so long as the human was not turned off by their partner’s seemingly unusual behavior. And nobody was concerned about angels mating with demons.
Nobody, that is, except the angel and demon trying to mate with each other.
The thing is, Crowley was sure that Aziraphale was not trying to mate with him. Because if he was trying, there should be no reason for Crowley’s impeccable nest not to have wooed the ever-loving shit out of him. The place was spotless, the houseplants were the greenest things since Eden, the kitchen was stocked with all of Aziraphale’s favorite foods, and most importantly, there were plenty of surfaces that one might press someone (or, alternatively, be pressed) against.
But the last time Aziraphale had been over, he had just clicked his tongue and remarked that it was very dark, wasn’t it? For Heav— Hel— Somewhere’s sake, Crowley had had an entire down duvet made from his own feathers draped invitingly over his couch! And Aziraphale hadn’t said a word about it! It wasn’t even a rejection. The only thing Crowley could figure was that Aziraphale wasn’t interested in mating at all.
Which, okay, fine, but then why was the angel turning his bookshop into a nest???
At least, Crowley thought that was what Aziraphale was doing. The place had been a somewhat disorganized store when Crowley first woke up in the twentieth century, but Aziraphale had been collecting more and more junk since then, to the point that even the storefront now looked more like a book hoarder’s living room than a place of business. That might have been the point, though. Aziraphale sure hated it when people tried to buy his books. Of course, if it was supposed to be a nest, that would explain his utter refusal to part with anything. On the other hand, if it was supposed to be a nest, why would he make it into a store in the first place?
No, no, it couldn’t be a nest. Aziraphale would have told him if he were trying to attract a mate. Probably. Sure, he didn’t tell him about what he’d been up to in that discreet gentlemen’s club in the 1880s until well after it happened, but that was just because Crowley had been asleep at the time… right? Right???
But no, he was being ridiculous. Aziraphale couldn’t be nesting, because there simply weren’t enough feathers lying around. Everything was too disorganized to be a proper nest anyway, and if it were a nest then Aziraphale wouldn’t have enough sense to clean his feathers out of the astral plane after he’d sat in one spot reading for two to fourteen days. Not that Crowley had been looking, but… oh bless it, he’d been looking.
Momentarily satisfied with this explanation (he’d gone through this argument so many times already that he was getting quicker at believing it), Crowley decided it was time for him to drop by the bookshop. Aziraphale had been stocking some really good wines lately.
Crowley almost walked in nonchalantly, but then he caught sight of someone inside. He froze. It was no human customer. It was the archangel, Gabriel.
Gabriel’s back was to the window, allowing Crowley to make eye contact with Aziraphale from outside. The angel’s face was flushed, and upon meeting Crowley’s gaze, he started gesturing wildly. Gabriel crossed his arms, then, suddenly, he was gone.
Crowley yanked open the door and stalked inside.
“What was that about?” he asked.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said. Pink still stained his cheeks. “Oh, that was— It was the strangest thing. Gabriel started asking me about, well…”
Crowley caught a movement out of the corner of his eye, and his gaze slowly drifted to the floor. Where Aziraphale stood now rested a long, white feather.
“That bastard,” Crowley hissed
How dare that archangel come in here and just— After everything he’d put Aziraphale through, the nerve—
“I know it’s difficult to believe,” Aziraphale said. “But I think he’s changed quite a lot in these past few years. It’s… sweet, really.”
“It’s— Wait,” Crowley paused. “Wait, you’re okay with this?”
“It’s… flattering, I suppose,” Aziraphale said. “He respects me now, though I daresay that has more to do with you than anything. You were so brave facing Heaven that everyone decided I was… a worthy angel, I suppose.”
“And that’s all it takes for you?” Crowley asked incredulously. “An ounce of respect and you just—?”
“I don’t know how I feel about it, to be quite honest,” Aziraphale said. “But Gabriel is trying so hard. I can hardly say no.”
Crowley stood still for a moment, gaping. A tiny effort, a speck of decent treatment, and Aziraphale is suddenly ready to take fucking Gabriel as a mate?
“You deserve better than that, angel!” he exclaimed.
“Crowley, I—” Aziraphale began. “Where are you going?”
Crowley was already halfway out the door before he realized he was moving. He couldn’t stand to be in the middle of Aziraphale’s shop—his nest, because that’s what it had to be at this point—any longer.
He did not look back, and thus he did not see the look of anguish that crossed Aziraphale’s face. Nor did he see the angel reach unthinkingly for a nearby blanket, fingers smoothing out the wrinkles as if that would smooth over the whole situation.
It was about a month before Crowley slunk his way back into Aziraphale’s bookshop. For immortal beings, it was like a blink of an eye—not to mention that they had gone for whole centuries without seeing each other in the past—but in the new, post-apocalypse (or, well, apocalmost) era, it felt like far too long to be away.
But surely this gave Aziraphale and Gabriel long enough to get… whatever done and over with. He couldn’t imagine Gabriel being the type to stay and cuddle. The thought boiled Crowley’s blood. There was no way in Heaven or Hell the asshole archangel gave Aziraphale the good and proper romancing he deserved.
It was a surprise, then, when Crowley walked in and found everything much, much worse. The nesting effect had been subtle before, so subtle that Crowley hadn’t actually been sure. Now, though, it hit him like a ton of bricks. All of his books were arranged in a spiral, as if to both show them all off and draw the viewer in closer to the center. There were couches, too—an oddity, since the last thing Aziraphale wanted to do was make his customers feel at home. Perhaps most unusual of all was all the light. It wasn’t heavenly light, or Crowley was pretty sure he would be burning in it. It was probably meant to be evocative, though. Problem was, there were so many candles and lamps that it just had to be a fire hazard in the middle of a bookshop like this.
“You know you could just ask Adam to think up some new books for you,” Crowley said. “You don’t have to burn the whole place down again.”
If his tone was harsh, it was only because he was the idiot who had actually ran in and saw the thing burn from the inside. Maybe the horror was lost on Aziraphale, who hadn’t gotten a real look at the catastrophe. Crowley, on the other hand, felt like he was suffocating. Which was ridiculous, because he didn’t even need to breathe.
“Oh! Crowley!” Aziraphale smiled in greeting. “My dear—”
“Aziraphale, I think it was too much,” someone else cut in. It was the bloody fucking archangel, Gabriel.
“He’s still here?” Crowley hissed.
“Demon!” Gabriel greeted in the way a businessperson might greet the rival whose idea they just stole and took to corporate. That is to say, his affability was fake and Crowley wanted to go full serpent and bite him. “What brings you to Aziraphale’s home this fine day? And what do you think of the remodel?”
“Did he make you do this?” Crowley asked Aziraphale, ignoring Gabriel completely.
“Oh, no,” Aziraphale said. “I thought I might redecorate anyway, and Gabriel merely, ah, made a few suggestions. He thought it might be more… appealing… with more… warmth.”
“It was plenty warm already,” Crowley snapped. Maybe not physically, but in a spiritual sense. Not that Crowley would ever say it out loud, but the place felt like Aziraphale. It was warm in the same way Aziraphale’s essence was all… warm and angelic and whatnot. “This is just reckless! Think of your books for a second, will you?”
“Yes, yes, I was rather concerned as well,” Aziraphale admitted. “But Gabriel said the ambiance was important—”
Crowley glared at Gabriel.
“So suddenly you’re an interior decorator, are you?” he asked. “All that time spent in Heaven really taught you about ambiance.”
“And what would you suggest?” Gabriel asked. He managed to sound like he was actually curious.
“Yes, Crowley, I would so love to hear your opinion,” Aziraphale said. His hopeful expression was a lot more believable than Gabriel’s, but Crowley just couldn’t figure out why it mattered.
“It’s your place, angel,” he said, shrugging casually even though his heart was beating at an uncomfortable rate. He was starting to regret having one in his corporation at all. It was very useful for things like circulating blood and keeping him warm. But it was very inconvenient for things involving Aziraphale, and that was pretty much everything these days. “You know what makes you comfortable.”
All Aziraphale had ever wanted until now was books, softness, sweetness, luxury… And if Gabriel tried to take any of that away from him, Crowley was going to discorporate the bastard as many times as it took for the lesson to sink in.
“You’re no help,” Gabriel said irritatedly. “All these years and you can’t even—”
“Gabriel!” Aziraphale suddenly snapped. ”Please!”
Gabriel rolled his eyes. Crowley shot him another glare.
“Had enough of this dude yet?” Crowley asked. “You could always ditch him. Come to lunch with me instead.”
“Lunch? I—” Aziraphale’s eyes widened. “Oh, Crowley, I have too much to do. I—” His gaze darted around his store, finally landing on Gabriel. “Could we— Could we meet for dinner, my dear?”
“Errrrrr, yeah…” Crowley said hesitantly. Aziraphale was starting to flush, and Crowley did not appreciate the meaningful Look he was giving Gabriel. “Where do you want to go?”
“I was thinking your flat,” Aziraphale said, still eyeing Gabriel.
“My flat, sure,” Crowley echoed. “Wait— What? Why there?”
“I thought we might have a quiet night in,” Aziraphale said. “Everything has been so hectic lately. With Gabriel’s constant nit-picking, I haven’t had so much as a moment to contemplate my own thoughts.”
“Sick of him already, huh?” Crowley couldn’t help but grin a little spitefully. “Yeah, alright, you can come over. My fridge is getting too full, anyway.”
“Oh, thank you,” Aziraphale said, placing a hand very gently upon Crowley’s shoulder. “Eight o’clock, then?”
“Yeah,” Crowley said, but his mind was far, far away.
It wasn’t his fault, really. He had been touched by an angel in the middle of the angel’s nest (disorganized and tainted by Gabriel as it was, it was still a nest). That would have been distracting even if Crowley hadn’t been imagining this sort of thing for thousands of years longer than he’d care to admit. Never mind that it was the briefest of touches, never mind that it didn’t mean anything, never mind that Gabriel was standing right there, something deep and primal tugged at him.
“See you,” Aziraphale said, practically fleeing to his back room.
But what Crowley heard was:
See you. At home. Alone. You’d better be ready for me this time.
“Aziraphale,” Crowley choked out.
In the astral plane, his wings shuddered. Black feathers fell to the ground.
A human wouldn’t be able to see them, but of course, an angel would immediately notice.
“Hmm…” Gabriel stared contemplatively at the feathers.
Now, if Crowley were a polite demon, he might have miracled away the feathers, perhaps with a touch of embarrassment.
But Crowley was not a polite demon, so what he did was force all of his feathers into materializing right there in the middle of the bookshop.
“I’ve been here for six thousand years,” he hissed. “One wrong move and you will suffer agony unmatched even among the souls of the damned.”
With a quick miracle, a sudden wind picked up, blowing the feathers into Gabriel’s face. Every open flame was conveniently extinguished as well. All of Aziraphale’s books were okay, of course. Not a page out of place. Crowley may not have had much opportunity to practice artistry in his miracles lately, but that didn’t mean he had forgotten how to do it.
He made his way outside before Gabriel could say anything. He had a sudden itch to clean everything he owned.
If he had stayed, though, he would have seen an interesting sight. Gabriel snatched a feather from the air, suddenly grinning.
“Aziraphale!” he exclaimed. “Great news!”
Crowley tried not to fidget. His celestial energy was all out of sorts. He’d had to spend hours grooming his wings just to make sure that he wouldn’t knock any loose ones out while Aziraphale was there. That didn’t leave him much time to scrub every inch of his apartment until it shone. He hadn’t even gotten around to giving his plants the lecture he meant to, though they wouldn’t mess this up if they knew what was good for them.
Finally, Aziraphale knocked at the door. Crowley opened it quickly. Possibly too quickly to seem cool, but Aziraphale looked so relieved that Crowley couldn’t regret it.
“Aziraphale,” he said, leaning against the doorframe and gesturing inside. He could still play this cool. “Glad you could make it.”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said, smiling. “Yes, I’m quite glad as well. It’s been far too long, my dear. Far too long. Ah…”
Aziraphale paused as he stepped inside.
“What?” Crowley asked.
“It’s… It’s very bright here, isn’t it?” Aziraphale blinked.
“Last time you said it was too dark,” Crowley said, raising his hands up. “Fixed that for you, that’s all.”
“Oh, I didn’t say it was too dark. I only said it was very dark and that was because you forgot to turn your electrical lights on,” Aziraphale said. “This is— My dear, this is so bright that I can see my face reflected in the floor.”
“Want me to turn the lights off, then?” Crowley asked. This really wasn’t going like he wanted it to.
Aziraphale sighed, shuffling over to the couch in a decidedly un-Aziraphale-like manner.
“I suppose it doesn’t matter,” he said. “If this is what you’re used to—”
“Angel, I can see in the goddamn dark,” Crowley said, and with the flip of a single switch, every light in his flat went off. Even the little ones on his electronics.
“... Quite right,” Aziraphale said. “That makes sense. You would prefer this, wouldn’t you… Oh!”
He raised up a bottle that he had previously been clutching to his chest.
“I brought this for us to drink,” Aziraphale said. “I bought it a while back, but you haven’t been over recently.”
“Thought you’d be busy,” Crowley said, grabbing the bottle. “With Gabriel and everything. Figured you could always call me if you needed me.”
“Oh, well…” Aziraphale turned his head. “Gabriel was supposed to be gone long ago. He convinced me we could help each other if he stayed, but…”
“But he’s not much help?” Crowley guessed. “Not much of a surprise, is it?”
“No,” Aziraphale said. And then, he continued immediately. “What’s for dinner?”
“Literally whatever you want,” Crowley drawled. He opened his refrigerator, and the inner light illuminated the contents like a spotlight. He had just about every gourmet foodstuff he had ever heard of, which meant essentially he had everything Aziraphale had ever raved to him about.
“Oh, I see.” In another moment uncharacteristic of the angel, who always knew what kind of food he wanted, Aziraphale shrugged. “What would you prefer?”
“Errrrrrrr…” Crowley had not planned for this. “How about…”
He stuck his hand inside the refrigerator and grabbed hold of the first thing he touched.
“Mushroom risotto?” he suggested, looking down at the portobello mushrooms he couldn’t actually remember buying. He thought he’d probably done it sometime in the early 2000s.
“Oh, I love risotto,” Aziraphale said.
“Yeah, who doesn’t?” Crowley muttered.
He made the dish the same way he made everything he ever cooked. Ingredients in a pan, pan in the oven, timer on countdown, and then—
“You cook like you drive,” Aziraphale said, grimacing. But once the food was in front of him, he melted. “Oh, but at least you do cook.”
Crowey grinned and took a long drink of the wine Aziraphale brought. It was a particularly good vintage, and the angel had brought it to him in his nest. His celestial energy was doing somersaults. He tried to tell it to shut up. Aziraphale was clearly not feeling wooed at the moment.
Nevertheless, in the astral plane, his wings trembled. He was sitting too close to Aziraphale. He was sure their feathers touched.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said quietly.
“Just ignore it, angel,” Crowley said.
“Crowley, what exactly are we sitting on?” Aziraphale asked.
“Er…” Crowley looked down. “The couch is still the couch. Can you not see it in the dark?”
“Not very well, but that isn’t what I mean,” Aziraphale said. “I’m referring to, oh, this thing.”
He placed a hand on the back of the couch. It brushed against a duvet, black against the stark whiteness of the couch.
Damn it. Crowley really should have put it away. His celestial energy just didn’t want him to.
“Well, what do you think it is?” Crowley snapped. “It’s a duvet! Sometimes I get cold!”
“It feels like you,” Aziraphale said. “Now that I’ve felt your feathers…”
“Shit,” Crowley said. “Did Gabriel not clean those up? I was trying to make a point—”
“You never told me you made them into a duvet,” Aziraphale said. “I’ve been making mine into pillows for centuries. I’m not sure why; sleeping is your thing, but I always felt like I needed to do something with them.”
“Pillows?” Crowley repeated incredulously. “What, you just have a stash of down pillows in your back room? And— Wait— Centuries? You’ve been doing this for centuries? How many pillows do you have?”
“They vary in size,” Aziraphale said. “But… twenty or so?”
“I don’t believe this,” Crowley said. “You kept a secret hobby for centuries?”
“Yes,” Aziraphale said.
“But why?” Crowley asked.
“Oh…” Aziraphale’s gaze met his. The angel was right about it being too dark without any lights, but Crowley wouldn’t dare turn them on now. “Because I work too slowly, my dear.”
Bless it all, but Crowley knew that already. It didn’t go down any easier the second time. His entire spirit was reeling. Rejected in his own nest.
“I didn’t realize how slow I was going until Gabriel came around,” Aziraphale said. “I think it’s the way we are. All the quick angels asked too many questions. Only the slow ones got to stay in Heaven.”
“You think?” Crowley asked weakly.
“And just when I thought I caught up with you,” Aziraphale said, “you disappeared on me. For an entire month. Is it because I started nesting? I tried to fix things so you’d like them more, but— It’s nothing like what you wanted, is it?”
Slowly, Aziraphale clutched the duvet beneath his fingers.
“Feathers, my dear?” he whispered. “Do you need feathers?”
“Aziraphale,” Crowley choked out. “You’re in my fucking nest. I don’t need feathers. I don’t need anything. It’s all about you, angel.”
“But Crowley,” Aziraphale said quietly. “If we do it here… Oh, don’t you think it looks too much like Heaven?”
“What?” Crowley’s celestial energy was telling him that there wasn’t a pleasure in Heaven that could possibly compare to having Aziraphale couple with him this very instant.
“Don’t you want it to feel like home?” Aziraphale asked.
In the astral plane, his wings began to flutter. Home sounded very nice. Crowley didn’t really live in his apartment. It was just a place to stay when he wasn’t doing anything better. Generally, that was only when Aziraphale wasn’t around.
“I almost had you before,” Aziraphale said. “You were in my shop every day. I almost had you.”
“You still have me,” Crowley reassured him quickly. “Just— Just get that bloody archangel out of the way. I’m not going to share you.”
“Gabriel’s going,” Aziraphale agreed. “Gabriel’s going if I have to kick him out myself. It’s well past time, anyway. There’s nothing here for him. Oh, just give me one night, Crowley!”
It took six thousand years to get this far. One more night was nothing.
Crowley walked into Aziraphale’s bookshop, and his vision was immediately assaulted by pillows. Down pillows everywhere.
There’s the feathers! It’s definitely a nest! his celestial energy screamed unhelpfully at him. He already knew that, obviously.
The pillows weren’t the only change. Aziraphale had changed the arrangement of his books again. All of his rarest materials were on display. All the works he was the proudest of.
“Can’t believe you’d let just anyone walk into thisss,” Crowley said. He didn’t mean to hiss. He just couldn’t contain himself.
“My dear, the shop’s been closed all month,” Aziraphale said. “The door only opens when it’s you.”
Loyal mate. Clever mate, Crowley’s celestial energy practically sang.
“Hey, Aziraphale!” Gabriel said, suddenly strolling in from the back room. “Oh, you got him in after all. High-five!”
Aziraphale had never looked more murderous.
“Gabriel, I told you to leave,” Aziraphale said. “Now you’re just procrastinating.”
“But I just have one more question,” Gabriel insisted.
“You heard Aziraphale,” Crowley stepped closer to his angel. “He picked me. You’re through!”
“Listen, it won’t take long,” Gabriel said, waving a hand dismissively. “Do you think it’s too forward to schedule my vacation at the same time as Beelzy’s? Because on the one hand, why would she tell me her plans if she didn’t want me to do something? But on the other hand, if I show up and she doesn’t want to see me, she’ll sick all the unholy hosts of Hell on me.”
“Lord help me,” Aziraphale said. It was a legitimate prayer.
“I’m sorry,” Crowley held up a hand. “When you say ‘Beelzy,’ please tell me you’re not referring to who I think you are.”
“Beelzebub, of course,” Gabriel said. “Lord of the Flies, Prince of Hell… Say, do you still report to her?”
“Er…” Crowley said. “Technically…”
He still sent his reports out of routine. He was fairly certain Hell had hired someone to dump his files without reading them.
“Do you know if she prefers silk or satin?” Gabriel asked.
“He’s been like this all month,” Aziraphale said to Crowley. “Because I’m the only angel who’s ever been… with a demon, you know, and he’s… with Beelzebub.”
“He’s with Beelzebub?” Crowley exclaimed incredulously. “So you mean to say this whole time he was skulking around your nest and not mating with you?”
“Crowley!” Aziraphale gasped. “Is that what you thought was going on? Oh, no wonder you were offended. But Heavens no! I have standards!”
Discerning mate. Perfect mate, Crowley’s celestial energy crooned.
“Trust me, nobody was going to mate with Aziraphale the way he was going about it,” Gabriel said. “I did you both a huge service.”
“Yeah, thanks a lot,” Crowley said sarcastically. If he spent one more minute not being spirit soup with Aziraphale, he was going to lose it. “Allow me to return the favor.”
With a snap of his fingers, Gabriel was gone.
“Oh my,” Aziraphale said. “Where did you send him.”
“To Hell,” Crowley said. “He obviously needed the help.”
They both laughed, but only for a moment. Their celestial energies were really sick of being separate.
“Gabriel,” Beelzebub greeted cooly. “I didn’t expect to see you for another fifty-seven dayzz.”
“Oh,” Gabriel said. “So you did want me to visit on vacation.”
He quickly glanced around the room. He was very glad he hadn’t interrupted anything… hellish.
“Your office is neater than mine,” he remarked. “I thought Hell was supposed to be crowded? Are you making structural changes?”
“No,” Beelzebub said. “I juzzt felt like cleaning up.” She paused. “What do you think about it?”
The demon’s gaze was suddenly very intense.
In the astral plane, a white feather fell to the ground.