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Stay His Hand

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There were an infinite number of places that the demon Crowley could have set out to run a heist. But he had chosen Soho.

His motivation was partly one of practicality: after seeing an unguarded fount of holy water, it had taken him two decades to recollect his thoughts enough to make a retrieval plan; moving said plan outside of England seemed a fair way to grow distracted for yet another two. Crowley had very much enjoyed Ocean’s 11 , and it thrilled him to play out the Sinatra part. If he kept the operation in London, it would be over with quick enough. He already knew which strip clubs and bars attracted the appropriate rapscallions, so why mess with good intel?

His second motivation was purely personal: secretly, buried so deeply that even Crowley wasn’t sure if it was real or a shadow in the corners of his amber eyes, he hoped that Aziraphale would hear about him. And come to say hello.

It had been a minute since they’d last seen each other. After the Blitz miracles, Aziraphale had made his interest in Crowley’s company more plain. At least, Crowley felt that he had. There was always some perfectly innocent reason for the angel to ring him up for a stroll. The nineteen-fifties had been an interesting time in both of their lives, if the regularity with which they’d met was any indication. A lot to talk about apparently. Even more to drink about.

Lately, through whichever crises of faith kept calling his angelic attention, Aziraphale hadn’t had as much time for their previously increasingly common rendezvous. And Crowley missed it. Missed him . No matter how interesting the humans had become, temptations and distractions were nothing compared to the deep sense of… contentment he felt spending a day with Aziraphale.

It had all started to feel like the best of the old times, the after-Paris but before-Crowley-cocked-it-all-up times. Granted, a lot of the distance between them was on him: he could have made an effort to reach out but his angel’s rejection that sunny morning in St. James Park stung bitterly. Sleeping for a few decades seemed a fantastic idea. But then Crowley had been so shattered, she’d barely managed to crawl out of bed in time for the twenties. She had started thinking it’d been for the best she was gone as long as she had been and wouldn’t it be better for everyone if she made a habit of it--until the demon’s time with British counter-intelligence revealed just how adept Aziraphale was at finding trouble when there were gormless murderers and spies running around the country. He’d been liable to get himself killed, playing with fire like that.

Discorporation was a nasty business. And who was to say those blighters Upstairs wouldn’t reassign him, just ‘cause? Gabriel had tried to do it before! Oh, Aziraphale would have withered away working back at Home Office. No bookshop, no tea, no fun at all. And then where would Crowley be? Bored. Alone. Without a friend in the world.

Nope. Not one drop of good would have come of it. He couldn’t risk losing Aziraphale. After all, they’d only just had the Arrangement for a few hundred years! He’d decided it was better to keep tabs on the angel and get back to preparing for the worst. He worked extensively on his impression of a demon who wasn’t a spring-coiled anxious mess, and who definitely didn’t always want to be near his kindhearted friend. Couldn’t go about drawing the wrong kind of attention.

Speaking of attention though…

Crowley hadn’t been fully expecting Aziraphale to hear about the heist, but he had mentally prepared for it. Somewhat. As the demon had plotted away in his newly rented flat in Mayfair, he’d amused himself by imagining the angel all aghast, telling him, You can’t steal from a church , Crowley! How he’d chuckled to think about that! Stealing from churches was just the type of grade-a villainy a demon could get commendations over, holy water notwithstanding.

And if Aziraphale had never heard about the heist? Well, Crowley had already picked out a time to swing by the bookshop with chocolates and wine. He could clandestinely celebrate his success, inching both of them closer to safety from his side without Aziraphale ever needing to worry.

But in all of Crowley’s idle day-dreams around the robbery--with the worst case scenario involving a reproachful angel in need of a mollifying dinner at The Swiss Tavern--there were two things he hadn’t expected.

The first: that Aziraphale might turn him down socially .

The second: that the bookish principality would turn him down after offering up a custom tartan-wrapped thermos containing exactly what Crowley had been idly wanting for Christmas over the last century.

As he’d taken possession of the gift, moving with equal parts caution and reverence, Crowley’s heart had felt near to bursting with affection for his old friend. After everything Aziraphale’d said? Did it mean he was forgiven? They could put that old fight behind them? Get back on the same side?

No, he was a demon. Unforgivable. Unlovable. Aziraphale made that much clear. He’d barely been able to look at Crowley. And when he did? It was a look of such… pity. Pain. It pained the angel to look at him.

Wot’d I do?” Crowley wondered aloud to the Bentley, distracted as he made the quick drive back to Mayfair through the glittering late night streets. He hazarded a glance at the thermos secured beside him. It practically radiated nervous energy.

“It’s not like I asked for it!” Not outright, not with words.

Maybe though… with actions?

He frowned, deep lines curving through his cheeks. Something akin to frustrated understanding dawned. That was it, wasn’t it? Aziraphale had picked up on manipulations Crowley hadn’t even intended.

“I wanted to see him? For company ?” His voice pitched higher as he scoffed at himself. “Impossible. I’m a demon, right? Must’ve been maneuvering him, yeah? Aw, look how reckless I’m being, angel. Yesss, come do the legwork for The Serpent like a good boy.”

He’d done it before, hadn’t he? Back Then. Seen a doe-eyed distractible angel wandering the garden, used it to his advantage. And that turned out so well for humanity.

He tried to be better. To never lie to his friend. Just show alternatives, offer simpler solutions. To find room for both of them to breathe.

He tried to fight what all the forces of Heaven and Hell told him were his nature. But if Crowley was exploiting without effort, then he wasn’t in control. Old habits and all that.

He peered at the wing mirror. As his reflection sneered at him, he thought with disgust, Hail Satan, am I right?