Aziraphale was never entirely clear on what was considered to be a necessary miracle by his superiors, and what was considered to be frivolous. He did know that cleaning the book store was definitely considered to be the latter. But he’d found that he didn’t mind the manual processes of housekeeping, especially after the 20th century got started with all the technology like hoovers. He found it meditative in its way and it gave him a chance to get closer to his books.
Technology had other benefits as well, as Aziraphale had discovered when he was forced to upgrade his computer system because everything was online these days. Although he preferred classical composers when at home in the bookstore, he was no stranger to contemporary music. He was especially familiar with music from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, when radios and boomboxes were frequently heard on public transit. Nowadays people listened with their tiny earbuds and Aziraphale’s rides were more peaceful but more out of touch.
How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? - One, and that is Aziraphale. Angels can’t dance and in truth, Aziraphale had only mastered one dance, the gavotte. But that didn’t stop him from trying.
Dancing was one of the perks of becoming a demon, along with an ego big enough to believe that they were good dancers. They were better than angels, but still a long way off from a skilled human dancer. But that didn’t stop the demon Crowley, about ten years ago, from trying to teach the angel Aziraphale how to shuffle, on the reasoning that the gavotte had some moderately complex footwork and ought to use similar muscle memory. This resulted in both of them tripping over their own and each others’ feet and crashing into the bookshelves, leading to a scene straight out of The Mummy with Aziraphale screaming “Oh NOOOO! No no no no! Aaaaugh!” as fully 51% of his bookshelves toppled over like dominoes. It took them twenty minutes to stop laughing, because whenever one would try to speak, he’d set the other off again. Whereupon they both decided that that was enough dancing and perhaps the floor was the safest place to be. Crowley had snapped his fingers and restored the book shelves, then he and Aziraphale had looked at each other, and broke up laughing yet again.
What angels are good at is singing and Aziraphale was no exception. He was also very much in love with a demon, but could never speak about it. But with the help of chart music, he could sing about it. After all, they weren’t his words, they were the song’s. He was just singing along with the music.
Crowley used to put the radio on while they were driving and Aziraphale would sing along. Angels often sang the Kyrie but only Aziraphale sang the Mr. Mister version. But one night he sang along with Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues. The song had a soulful chorus anyways and Aziraphale was all soul. Aziraphale put the power in power ballad. The sky itself opened up and wept and despite his efforts not to, so did Crowley.
”Oh, my dear!” Aziraphale had said, ”I didn’t mean to make you cry!”
And Crowley had had to pull over to find a tissue, ”Bless it, Angel. You’ve still got it.”
That was the last time Crowley played the radio in the car. After that, it was all Queen, all the time. Aziraphale was a little sad about that.
He learned about playlists by listening to some university students on the bus one day. They were kind enough to tell him how to get his computer to run them, what websites to go to, and how to make his own. He’d also learned that they enjoyed listening to their playlists while doing their housekeeping.
Which is why the hard rock pounding beat of Depeche Mode’s cover of Route 66 could be heard over the sound of the hoover on a quiet Tuesday morning. Aziraphale usually lead off with it to establish that he was just listening to some modern music while doing the housekeeping, because Gabriel had dropped in unannounced twice before and the ruse had paid off. Besides, the song had a distinctly Crowley feel about it. It sounded like how Crowley drove.
“…With auburn hair and tawny eyes, the kind of eyes that hypnotise me through, hypnotise me through…” He had several of A Flock of Seagulls songs on this list. They expressed some things. Space Age Love Song was another of theirs that he enjoyed singing, with its lilting verses of ”I saw your eyes, and you touched my mind, and though it took a while, I was falling in love.”
People had stopped using feather dusters, saying they didn’t actually pick up the dust but only moved it around. That was exactly the reason why Aziraphale used one. It was handmade and white, made with feathers moulted from his own wings. He relocated dust with it while singing along with Andrew Gold’s Thank You For Being A Friend.
One task Aziraphale did do seriously was touching up the fingerprints left on the walls and bookshelves by his occasional customers. In the past, he didn’t have very many but ever since something called Yelp came along, business had unfortunately been picking up. ”Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am home again. Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am whole again.” Aziraphale was really quite proud of the Yelp reviews for A.Z. Fell & Co. Books and he enjoyed reading them aloud to Crowley. They were nearly all one star until recently. Fortunately or unfortunately, humans are terribly clever and a number of them had figured out that if they didn’t try to buy any books, they could visit as often as they liked and read as much as they wanted. ”However far away, I will always love you. However long I stay, I will always love you. Whatever words I say, I will always love you. I will always love you.”
Unfortunately, Crowley’s habit of lurking about the shelves as a snake had backfired. It turned out there were people who quite liked snakes and he’d become something of a cryptid entity. There was a small number of visitors who, rather than being properly terrified of the very large black and red snake looming over them from a banister or top shelf, instead burst into cooing voices, called him a beautiful noodle and wanted to “boop the snoot”, and then wanted to take pictures with their phones. Crowley had been very disconcerted at first.
”I treasure your love, I never want to lose it. You’ve been through the fires of Hell and I know you’ve got the ashes to prove it.” He’d sung this once in the car. He’d thought Crowley would like it. He might have been mistaken about that as Crowley’s reaction was… not what Aziraphale had been hoping for. And then it was All Queen, All The Time.
Aziraphale had tried bringing CDs, citing “just for a change of pace.” He’d tried to accommodate Crowley’s Queen addiction with the album Hot Space, and sang along with Under Pressure. He quite liked that one for the deeply moving bridge about love being an old-fashioned word, and love daring one to care for people on the edge of the light, because if there was anyone who hovered at the edges, it was Crowley. He’d left the CD behind and a fortnight later, he was disappointed to find that it had inexplicably turned into yet another copy of Queen’s Greatest Hits and the Under Pressure song was nowhere to be found.
”Fallen angel, casts a shadow up against the sun. If my eyes could see, the spirit of the chosen one.” Another task Aziraphale took very seriously was inspecting the books for damages. That happened rarely but it did happen, and it was one of the few things that could provoke Aziraphale to angelic wrath. ”Baby, I think tonight, we can take what was wrong and make it right. Baby, it’s all I know, that you’re half of the flesh and blood that makes me whole. I need you so.”
Someone had attempted to shoplift a book once. Once. Aziraphale had known it immediately and had given the fellow the benefit of the doubt. Crowley had stood by the back room door, watching and listening with intense amusement. Unfortunately the fellow had tried to deny his crime. Four lessons were learned that day: 1) Aziraphale could still smite with the best of them. 2) In lieu of a flaming sword, a good heavy leather-bound book will smite nicely. 3) Crowley could shapeshift very quickly. 4) Crowley was venomous indeed. ”So take these broken wings and learn to fly again, learn to live so free. When we hear the voices sing, the book of love will open up an let us in.”
Oh and 5) the police won’t believe you if you claim you were assaulted by a book-wielding angel and a giant snake. They will believe the fluffy teddybear bookseller who’s been offering them tea and cocoa on cold nights for decades, when he says you were shoplifting.
”Cup of tea, take time to think, yeah. Time to risk a life, a life, a life.” There was just so much to love about Crowley. He was delightful company, terribly amusing, and he seemed to find Aziraphale both endlessly funny and endlessly endearing. He was clever and wily and attractive no matter how he chose to present, and he had a soft side that only Aziraphale ever saw. When angels feel love, they sing about it, and Aziraphale loved to sing about Crowley.
”Look my eyes are just holograms, look your love has torn red from my hands.” But nobody could know. ”From my hands you know you’ll never be” Nobody could know that it was about the demon Crowley that Aziraphale sang. ”More than twist in my sobriety, more than twist in my sobriety.” Not even Crowley.