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An Angel and a Demon Dined at the Ritz (And Everything Went Downhill from There)

Chapter Text

Every morning the maple leaves.

                                Every morning another chapter where the hero shifts

            from one foot to the other. Every morning the same big

and little words all spelling out desire, all spelling out

                                              You will be alone always and then you will die.

So maybe I wanted to give you something more than a catalog

         of non-definitive acts,

something other than the desperation.

                    Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I couldn’t come to your party.

Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I came to your party

         and seduced you

and left you bruised and ruined, you poor sad thing.

                        -“Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out” 

by Richard Siken

 

The year is 1862.

Aziraphale has just stormed away from Crowley out of St. James’ Park. 

Holy water? How could he actually believe that he would give him something like that? And risk his life to get it for him, no less?

They had an Agreement, yes, they might even be what one might call acquaintances , but this was — the gall , the audacity ! How dare he. 

But even as Aziraphale storms into the bookshop, the words, dripping with snake-venom, will not leave his mind. I’ve got plenty of people to fraternize with, angel. I don’t need you.

Sure, he had said it right back, but what else was he supposed to do? 

Did he have other people? Surely not other angels, otherwise he would know. Obviously he had other people he hung around with. Just because Aziraphale found the close company of humans all but intolerable didn’t mean Crowley did. 

And why should he care? If he had other people to bother all the time with his — his requests , then that was less time off of him. 

So why did it feel like a pit was opening in his stomach?

He finds himself sitting in his backroom, a glass of scotch in his hand, without even realizing it. He is on his sofa, and in his hands is the book he had been working through recently. He looks down at it in disgust. It had been a gift from Crowley. The last thing he wants to do is think about the demon.

Holy water. What a ridiculous request. 

He decides he’s going to push it out of his mind, and instead reorganizes a set of books.

But it won’t leave him alone. It keeps needling away at him. 

Crowley had said that he only wanted it for insurance. But “insurance” could mean anything. 

Did the demon want to kill himself?

And even if he didn’t, did he want that option ?

And now, of course, Aziraphale is afraid. He finds himself taking the same three volumes out of the shelf and putting them back, not even paying attention to what he is doing. What if his words only made whatever Crowley is feeling worse? If he could get the holy water by other means, what is to stop him?

Resolutely, Aziraphale slams the book back into place on the shelf. Organizing will have to wait. Right now, he needs to drink until he forgets about Crowley altogether. As if that were possible. 

 

The year is 1941.

Aziraphale has just been handed a bag of books (literally). He has also just been handed a bag of complex and negative emotions (metaphorically).

“Lift home?” Crowley asks. His voice is casual as ever, completely unaware of the enormity of what has just transpired. Aziraphale feels something heavy and warm in his chest, and it spreads throughout his body. It is unfamiliar, and terrifying, and exhilarating.

It makes him want to do something impulsive. Something impulsive and also incredibly foolish. 

He stands there, dumbstruck, for a moment. He is only brought out of it when Crowley calls after him again. He calls him angel. And despite the fact that it’s true, that he’s said it hundreds of times, in hundreds of tones, in hundreds of situations, it means something now.

At least, it means something to him. 

He wants to run away, he wants to burn bridges, he wants to escape his feelings. He is silent the whole way home, merely nodding numbly along when he believes it’s appropriate as Crowley speaks. He clutches the bag of books as if they are a life-preserver and he is in the ocean. 

As they come to a stop outside the bookshop, Aziraphale stumbles out of the car. 

“G’night, angel,” Crowley calls, leaning over to look up at him. 

“Yes, yes. Quite right.”

The Bentley squeels off into the darkness, and Aziraphale watches after it for a moment. What has he done?

 

Crowley calls him up, a few years later. After the bombs are dropped and the camps are destroyed and the war is ended. Aziraphale pretends that he isn’t home. 

The demon shows up a few days later, unexpectedly. He corners Aziraphale in the back room. Not literally, but emotionally. He stands in the doorway, lanky arms crossed over his chest. Casual as ever. As if he has no idea what has happened. 

“Are you alright?” he asks as Aziraphale makes tea, doing all that he can to avoid the demon’s gaze. 

He nods, humming in a pitch much too high. “Yes, fine.”

“You’ve been acting very odd recently, angel. It’s not like you to ignore me.”

“Who said I was ignoring?” he squawks.

Crowley comes a few steps over the threshold, still keeping Aziraphale trapped. He holds his hands out pleadingly, and the angel can hear in his voice just how much this distance hurts him. He wonders if this is the first time, or if he just never noticed before. “Is it something I said? Something I did? Don’t tell me you’re still mad about the holy water.”

Aziraphale turns on him. There it is. A string he can grasp, a scapegoat, and excuse to push Crowley away. “It really took you this long to catch on?” he asks snidely.

Crowley cocks his head. 

“Honestly, Crowley, I would have thought I had made it a little more obvious.”

“I only asked you once, I don’t understand why you’re still bothered—”

Because, Crowley. You ask too much of me. You want me to put myself in danger for a demon .” He spits the word out like it tastes foul, which, in a way, it does. He stopped noticing years ago, though. Bringing up their physiological differences was always a surefire way to put Crowley on the defensive. It made it easier for Aziraphale to live with himself when he pushed the demon away. 

Crowley’s face hardens to stone. “Oh, is that how it is then?” he asks, voice dangerous. “Well, then next time, I won’t go putting my self in danger walking into a bloody church for a pompous, self-centered angel and saving him from fucking Nazis!”

“I don’t need your help!”

“And you know what else?” he starts, stalking forward a few steps. 

“I think you need to leave, Crowley.”

“No! I’m not leaving until you’ve heard what I have to fucking say.”

Aziraphale grabs Crowley around the wrist, spins him around, and shoves him hard. 

The demon is so shocked he barely puts up any resistance until they’re out in the bookshop proper. He wrenches away and, without another word, leaves the bookshop. He slams the door so hard the lights flicker. 

“Good riddance!” Aziraphale calls after him. 

Then he turns, and the bookshop is quiet. Too quiet. The tension hangs in the air, and it feels as though even the books cower away from the intensity of the argument. 

And it’s lonely. 

 

They make up, several years later. As usual, it is duty that pushes them together again. 

They meet, however reluctantly, in the bandstand. 

“I need your help,” Crowley says.

Even behind his glasses Aziraphale can see him avoiding his eyes. 

It had taken several years, but eventually the anger had faded, and was replaced with the cold loneliness. All he wants now is his friend back. Books, after all, are not much for conversation. 

“What do you need?” he replies finally. 

“Downstairs has sent someone up here to… watch me, more or less.” He runs his hands through his hair and paces a bit, his hips swaying as though they are in orbit around some point of gravity behind his tailbone. As if he has no idea how he looks, what this does to Aziraphale. Or he does know, and he’s enjoying the torture far too much. 

 “I want to get rid of her. She’s a pain, and she makes it even harder to do my normal shit.”

“And how do you expect me to help you with that?” Surely he wasn’t going to ask him to discorporate her , was he?

“I dunno… just… I need a bit of play-acting. Enough to make the Dark Council think I’m doing really good work here. And… if you found a way to inconvenience her enough that she’d beg Hastur to get moved somewhere else, that would certainly help.” He comes closer, making Aziraphale’s heart jump into his throat. He leans down so his lips are a bit closer to his ear. “We shouldn’t talk about it here, though. Can we go back to your bookshop?”

The thought of having the demon back in the shop, in what he had begun to view as his personal space, makes his skin crawl. But if he denies him, he will only widen the gap, and he is ready to be friends with Crowley again. “Yes dear, of course.”

He follows him to the Bentley. The ride to the bookshop passes largely in silence. There’s still a heavy awkwardness in the air, and what few attempts Crowley makes quickly fall off again. Aziraphale can’t bring himself to listen, let alone respond. His heart is beating loudly in his ears, as if trying to drown out the rest of the world. 

When they reach the bookshop, Aziraphale heads inside with Crowley close on his heels. He feels the books tense up at the unfamiliar presence. 

As they come to the backroom, Aziraphale immediately opens up a bottle of scotch. He definitely doesn’t want to be entirely sober at the moment.

“So what’s your plan?”

Crowley collapses on the couch and sprawls out, limps splaying everywhere and hanging at odd angles, looking very much like a snake lounging in the boughs of a tree. He takes off his glasses, for the briefest of moments, and runs his hand down his face. The shades are promptly returned to his face. The mask comes back up.

“What I was thinking was, we could work together to cook up some kind of grand scheme, and I could thwart you. That way my side goes back to thinking I’m the cleverest of the lot, and I can go back to napping.”

Aziraphale frowns. “Right.”

They spend the night huddled around the table, jotting down notes and sharing drinks. After a bottle has been drained, Aziraphale starts to forget the tension between them. He forgets those unfortunate feelings that he has been working to push down for ages. He can only hope Crowley forgets the argument. He knows he doesn’t, but he hopes anyway.

Eventually planning stops and they begin joking with each other. It starts with a playful fight over the bottle and escalates into a competition as to who can throw the most creative insults without using expletives. 

And then just like that, the fun runs dry. There’s a moment where their hands nearly brush at the neck of the wine bottle, and it’s that almost-touch that brings Azirapahle down.  The smile nearly drops right off his face, but he manages to keep hold of it at the last moment. 

Still, though, there’s a nearly-imperceptible tone shift between them. Crowley notices it, of course, and he clears his throat. He glances out the window at the sun beginning to draw itself ponderously up over the edges of the buildings surrounding the bookshop. 

“I should be getting home,” he says, in a tone that says the opposite. I want to stay , it whispers, if you’d let me.

“Yes, it is rather late. Or early, I suppose.” You can’t. You know you can’t.

The demon stands, straightening his shirt. Finds his glasses which had been knocked off at some point. He secures them on his face and sweeps out of the room. 

Aziraphale hears the door shut. Gently. Sadly. He sighs, looks at the bottles strewn about. As he begins to pick up the trash and deposit it in the bin, he shuts the wailing voice in his heart away.

 

The year is 1952.

Crowley has called Aziraphale up and invited him to a rather shady club in the south edge of Dublin. Drinks were promised, drugs were likely. Aziraphale, being an angel of worldly pleasures who is willing to try anything at least once, is there at exactly eleven o’clock. 

Crowley shows up fifteen minutes later. “Fashionably late,” he explains. 

They spend the next several hours drinking, and at some point Crowley takes out a little bag of what looks like flower. Aziraphale doesn’t question it as the demon walks him through how to use the drug. 

Next thing he knows they are laying on a couch in the neon as the music plays. Aziraphale keeps blinking, as his eyes seem to be permanently unfocused. Despite this, he is unbelievably happy. He assumes that this is an effect of the drug, but it is a welcome feeling nonetheless.

Their arms are around each other, their legs intermingling as they lay upside down on the questionably clean sofa. They’re laughing about something Aziraphale can’t remember and he shuts his eyes, just taking a deep breath and enjoying the high. Enjoying the closeness. Crowley almost never lets him touch him like this. Another result of the cocaine.

As the music stops — presumably to let the band rest or something — Crowley looks over at him, his head swiveling. 

“Angel,” he begins. 

Aziraphale giggles. “Yes demon?”

Crowley grins. “Don’t,” he says, shaking his head. “Don’t call me that.”

“Alright, dear. What is it?”

He just watches him for a moment, sunglasses gone, eyes glowing in the low light. 

The angel looks over at him, and feels his own face soften. 

“Aziraphale… I love— I love you.”

He smiles at him. “Well, I love you too. You’re my friend, after all. I daresay my best friend .”

Crowley shakes his head and moves away, untangling their limbs. He’s always been oddly flexible. “No. You don’t get it.”

Aziraphale turns right side up, his feet landing on the floor. “What aren’t I getting?”

“I love you — I love you in more than the friend way. Like — I wanna. Kiss you and stuff.” The demon’s head is hung, as if he were a turtle trying to disappear into the collar of his shirt. 

A whole mess of emotions crashes through Aziraphale. Many of them negative. All of them complicated. 

He stands up. Too quickly. Crowley shrinks more. Perhaps he wishes to disappear. He could, if he wanted to. He isn’t bound by physics after all. 

“Crowley, I—”

“No, I’m sorry,” he says. He looks to the other side of the room, anywhere but at Aziraphale, his chin in his hand. “I shouldn’t — I shouldn’t have.”

Aziraphale doesn’t know how it happens, but next thing he knows he’s in the bookshop. It’s been raining, and he’s soaking wet. He must have miracled himself there. Or flown. Oh, that was dangerous. He could get chastized for that.

He looks around for a moment. Even though he hates the things, because they make his books smell funny, he wants a cigarette. He goes outside and smokes half a pack as the rain pours and the wind howls. What had happened?

Memories stitch themselves together, but it’s a lousy canvas; still there are holes everywhere. He remembers stumbling from the club, flying across the water, taking a cab. He remembers the feeling of Crowley’s eyes in his back like daggers. 

The bookshop is eerily silent for a few days. Aziraphale smokes more cigarettes. He tries to figure out what to do. No luck. 

And then Crowley appears. He saunters up like nothing has happened, hair slicked back, fedora at his side. 

“Hey Aziraphale! You smoking again? Gimme one.” He takes a cigarette out of his pack and lights it with the edge of his finger. Aziraphale stares on, dumbfounded. 

By the time they get inside, he still hasn’t spoken. Despite the constant agonizing over the past few days, he still doesn’t know what he’s going to tell him. Does he remember? Surely he does. 

“I wanna apologize about the other day. I was high, obviously. You know how it gets. My mouth works against me.”

Now, Aziraphale finally speaks, because there’s nothing else to do. “Quite right. Um. Did you mean it, though?”

“What, about being in love with you? Well — yeah. Of course. I… thought it was obvious? ‘S’why I never bothered to say it before.”

He blinks. Once. Twice. “Excuse me?”

Something akin to horror passes over Crowley’s face. Even through the shades, he can see the demon’s eyes widen. 

“Oh,” he whispers. “Oh, shit. You didn’t — you didn’t know?”

“Of course I didn’t!” he exclaims, half pout and half anger. “How in the Almighty’s name would I know?”

“It’s obvious, isn’t it! I thought it was!”

“Well obviously it’s not obvious!”

“You’re a being who can literally sense the presence of love, how the hell was it not obvious!”

“I never — I never sensed it from you!”

Crowley tries to flee, but the angel moves in front of the door. “You’re not leaving until you explain yourself!”

“What is there to explain, Aziraphale?” he asks, spreading his arms out. “I thought you knew, and you — didn’t feel it back, so I just — left well enough alone. Until I got high. What can I say?”

He stutters. “Well—”

Crowley circles him and heads for the door. 

“Wait!”

He pauses, but doesn’t turn. 

Aziraphale opens his mouth. “You can’t — you can’t leave!”

“And why not?”

“Because — I’m not finished with you! I want to give you a piece of my mind!” His voice has risen an octave in panic. He had meant to tell him how he felt, to let go all the emotions, to finally let all that distance close —

But he can’t. It’s impossible. It’s forbidden. It’s contumacious . He can feel the eyes of the Archangels on him. He knows if he gets too close bad things will happen. So he must do all he can to push the demon away. Crowley turns, slowly. 

“You’re — this is unacceptable.”

His eyebrows shoot up. “ Unacceptable ?” he asks. He saunters forward. He’s gone on the defensive, Aziraphale can hear it. “What exactly do you mean, unaccssseptable ?”

“You can’t love me.”

“And why not?” He bends forward, staring at him, right into him, through those glasses. 

“Because. I am an angel . You are a demon .”

He scoffs, turning away and waving his hand.

“It is against our very natures , Crowley.”

“Fuck nature. Fuck God, too, while we’re at it.”

Crowley .”

“What?” He turns and sneers. “I’m only a demon , after all, isn’t it my nature to blaspheme?”

If there is one thing Aziraphale cannot stand, it’s being mocked. Usually when Crowley makes fun of him, it’s in a joking, affectionate manner. Here, he is just condescending. He truly must think him an idiot.

“Get out,” he says, deathly quiet. 

“Fine,” he replies, shrugging. He turns away and sniffs. “See you never I guess, angel .”

The door of the bookshop slams. 

 

The year is 1967.

Aziraphale has heard from some shady acquaintances that there is a rather strange man planning to rob a church. He doesn’t even have to look into it to know it’s Crowley. And there’s only one thing Crowley would want in a church. And he’s risking his life trying to get it. 

The angel now has a difficult choice to make: either he risk his own life for Crowley to save him, or he risk his best friend’s life and keep himself safe. 

In spite of everything, in spite of his selfishness, in spite of the distance spanning between them since that fight, and in spite of his reluctance to give him such a dangerous weapon, Aziraphale knows he can’t let him risk this. 

So he makes a trip up to Heaven, spins a lie about being concerned about a possible attempt on his life by his “wily adversary,” and procures a thermos-full of holy water. 

He wants to go see him at home, unsure exactly where he would be otherwise, but even through their long friendship, Aziraphale has never been to any of Crowley’s homes. 

So instead he utilizes his sources and finds out where Crowley is having a meeting with the people who he has hired for the heist. 

He watches from a quiet cafe down the street, and when he sees Crowley get into his car, he miracles himself into the passenger side. 

 

The conversation has left him reeling. He has, in the closest approximation possible, told Crowley how he feels. He has told him how it feels to be trying to run after a comet, never catching up and always falling behind. The expectation of keeping abreast crushing him. 

He has also given Crowley a dangerous weapon Aziraphale prays he will never have to use. 

Crowley’s words swim around in his mind as he walks back to the bookshop like a broken phonograph. Anywhere you want to go.

Always offering. Always asking a question he must know will only ever get a “no” in response. And yet he asks anyway. 

“Anywhere you want to go.” You know I would do anything for you. 

“You go too fast for me, Crowley.” You deserve better than what I can give you.

All that, and still, nothing has changed.


Footnotes

1] They were far more than acquaintances; they were friends, though neither of them would ever admit it out loud.<br />
2] This particular shelf of books had previous been ordered by binding color. Now Aziraphale plans to organize them alphabetically by the first word on the last page. Having increasingly complex order systems makes it harder for customers to find the books they want, and therefore less likely to actually try and buy something.<br />
3] A discerning reader might realize that it had been Aziraphale who had started the fight in the first place. Of course, the angel has promptly blocked this from his mind in order to preserve his own pride and feeling of self-righteousness. Crowley has not forgotten.<br />
4] It was generally understood that it was in bad form for angels to fly while under the influence. Aziraphale had always found the rule to be sensible, especially after the invention of the airplane.<br />
5] Crowley and Aziraphale haven’t spoken since 1953. Crowley spent quite a few years asleep. Aziraphale did his best to ignore the feelings, and managed to convince himself that he had done the right thing. After all, he was an angel.

Chapter Text

An alternate title for this chapter: Aziraphale is touch-starved on main

 

 Build me a city and call it Jerusalem. Build me another and call it

                                                                                                                  Jerusalem.

                             We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not

what we sought, so do it over, give me another version,

              a different room, another hallway, the kitchen painted over

and over,

              another bowl of soup.

The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell.

              Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time.

-”Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out”

by Richard Siken

 

Crowley and Aziraphale’s friendship continued on much the same way it always had after that night. They thwarted one another to maintain balance in the world. They lied to their head offices to continue unchallenged. They had dinner, on occasion. More and more their Arrangement was becoming less of a business transaction and more of a social relationship. 

But always they kept one another at arm’s length. Crowley did it so he wouldn’t make Aziraphale uncomfortable. Aziraphale did it because he was afraid of the consequences. 

But then that whole mess with the Antichrist happened. An angel and a demon became partners in crime, determined to stop the apocalypse from destroying everything they loved. 

It was almost funny, in a way, how choosing humanity — choosing themselves — over their very natures brought them together. They transcended the limiting labels of “angel” and “demon” and became something entirely different. Always hovering somewhere in the middle. They did what they liked, bugger anyone who thought they should be doing otherwise. 

And what they liked was being friends. 

It was almost like Dublin had never happened. 

But it had happened, and deep down Aziraphale knew, beneath the dinners and the laughter and those soft golden eyes that Crowley had not forgotten. 

 

Aziraphale wishes he could take that night back. He wants so badly to reach into his friend’s mind and pluck it right out of his memories. It would all be simpler that way. Easier. His life had been better before he knew. Now he over-analyzes every situation, every exchange, every accidental touch as they pass a bottle back and forth. Crowley doesn’t take his glasses off anymore. 

It’s agonizing, to know not only that he is in love with his best friend, but that his best friend returns the feeling. 

 

“What’s to stop us?” Crowley asks. They are contemplating a trip to Las Vegas. Aziraphale has, in his polite way, expressed his anxiety over the idea. “It’s not like we have bosses to answer to anymore.”

That is just the problem, isn’t it? They are retired, in the official sense. But Aziraphale can still feel it. The background hum of angelic presence not his own. It is the feeling of the Archangels’ eyes on him, waiting for an opportunity to bring him forward to the Almighty, for an excuse to burn his wings away and throw him down to Hell. 

“Well, I dunno Crowley,” he says, finally, wrapping his hands tighter around the cup of tea. He holds it to his chest like he’s cold. He isn’t. Angels are never cold. “I really don’t think now is the best time. We mustn’t flout our victory in their faces. That could provoke retaliation.”

Crowley rolls his eyes. “We terrified them half to death, angel. Do you really think they have the balls? They think we’re immune to about the only thing that might destroy us completely.”

“But that doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous. The Archangels have… other ways of dealing with nuisances. You know that better than anyone.”

His eyebrows shoot up, visible even with his glasses on. “I thought only God could cast out angels.”

He shrugs. “I’m not sure. I’ve never seen it happen.”

He scoffs. “You’re too timid, angel.”

“And you’re too reckless.”

“Alright, alright.” He puts his hands up. He’s been so careful not to offend him recently. It’s strange, but Aziraphale has never really enjoyed it when they argued, so it’s a welcome strangeness. 

“So we wait a few months, and then we go to Sin City.”

“I wish you wouldn’t call it that, dear.”

Crowley grins. “What do you mean? I came up with that nickname.”

He shakes his head, though he can’t help but smile. “You are a terror .”

He sticks out his forked tongue and affectionately throws him a “V” sign. 

“What should we do then, if not run off together like a couple off to have a tryst?”

Azirphale internalizes a grimace at the implication. “We could always just go to dinner,” he offers, weakly. 

“We go to dinner every week, darling.”

“Yes, but — I really like food.”

The eye roll extends to his whole head. “Oh, I’m aware .”

 

Aziraphale follows Crowley to the door. He is anxious to be alone again. He needs to dive into a book and take his mind off of the demon. 

As he descends the front steps, Crowley pauses and turns. One foot is on the pavement, the other on the first step. “See you later, angel,” he says, before turning and heading to the Bentley, hands in the pockets of those damned skinny jeans. 

Something has changed, Aziraphale can feel it. Something so subtle it’s almost imperceptible. Something in the way Crowley speaks to him, how his eyes linger on him through the sunglasses. Something about the way his body moves when Aziraphale calls him “dear.” Almost like he’s flinching. He is afraid of it. He is afraid what it will do to their friendship if he thinks about it too long. 

He smiles, fleetingly, and turns quickly away. He is far too wonderful, Aziraphale wishes he would tone it down once in a while so he could breathe. 

 

Something is different. Specifically, there is something different in the way Crowley looks at him. He isn’t entirely sure what, though, nor what it meant. 

Oh, he hoped he hadn’t hurt him. He had been hurting him all their lives, and for once, he wanted to ease that pain, mend all the injuries he had ever given him.

Perhaps he would take that trip to Vegas with him. Maybe there he would feel bold enough to admit what he felt, to finally tell him “yes” after six thousand years of saying “no.”

 

“Are you alright, angel?” Crowley asks over sushi that Sunday. “You seem… contemplative.” 

It has been about eight months since the apocalypse-that-had-been-postponed, and apparently the demon has noticed him staring forlornly at the sashimi.

“Contemplative,” he repeats distantly, still nudging the rolls from side to side with his chopsticks.

“Yeah! Like you’re… I dunno, contemplating something.”

“That is the definition of contemplative.”

He scoffs. “You know what I mean. Is something wrong? Is Head Office bothering you?”

“No, no, it’s not that, I’m just — well.” He looks up at him and smiles. “I was thinking that perhaps I could close the shop for a few days while we vacationed.”

Crowley grins and claps his hands. “I knew you’d come around! You and your human vices. The food there, Aziraphale, to die for.”

“Right.”

“When d’you want to leave?”

He shrugs, looking around the restaurant as he panics for an answer. “This weekend?”

“It’s a date!”

In all the excitement, Crowley doesn’t even seem to notice the implications of what he has just said. 

 

It’s getting harder and harder to ignore just how much he cares about Crowley. Harder and harder to keep his eyes from lingering on him; on his lips, on his sharp shoulders, on the dip of his neck below his Adam’s apple, in his eyes through the shades. Harder and harder to keep a distance. 

He tries not to touch Crowley now, even accidentally. Even the most meager of touches, the innocent brush of fingertips as a mug is handed over, a shoulder bumping after a witty remark, leave Aziraphale’s skin burning and it’s all he can do not to bring him in and let the fire consume him. 

He’s sure Crowley has noticed. He would be stupid not to, or blind. There had been times during their friendship — and even before then, he daresay — where they had always been willing to touch; sitting close together on a couch, leaned up against one another as they enjoyed a drunk night reminiscing or gossiping; fingers baring into chests during an argument. 

With a shudder, Aziraphale remembers the feeling of Crowley picking him up by his lapels and slamming him against that wall. It had been shocking at the time, but he thought if the demon did that now he might discorporate on the spot — or better yet, if their roles were reversed. 

 

That weekend looms up on Aziraphale unexpectedly. The angel has long-since grown detached from time as a concept. Being an immortal being who walked centuries like moments made distinguishing hours from days incredibly difficult. Before he’s even aware of it, it’s noon on Saturday and Crowley is bursting into his back room with barely a knock.[1]

“Are you ready to go, angel?” he asks, nearly startling Aziraphale right out of his body. 

“Lord Almighty , Crowley,” he breathes. 

He laughs. “We’ve got a plane to catch! Don’t tell me you’re not packed?”

He rolls his eyes. “I am in fact packed, thank you very much.”[2]

“Well then, let’s go! I left the Bentley on outside. Don’t want to miss our flight.” His face is curved around a sarcastic, cheeky grin. They both know they wouldn’t miss the plane. It is impossible. 

“Give me one moment,” he says. He drinks the rest of his cocoa and then heads upstairs. His bags are stacked neatly in the living room. Aziraphale makes his way into the kitchen to wash the mug out.

“Why do you need all that?” Crowley asks. “I’ve only got the one bag. What do you need three for?” He opens one and groans. “ Angel .”

Aziraphale comes back out. “What?”

“You do not need a suitcase full of books.”

“What if I get bored?”

Crowley rolls his head around to look at him, one hand on his hip. “Get bored?” he asks. “We’re going on vacation . Together . I won’t let you get bored.”

Aziraphale sighs. He knows better than to argue more. Crowley is probably right, anyway. “Well, I suppose I can leave that one.”

“Good man!” He kicks the other one, the larger of the two. “Is books all you packed?”

“Well I don’t exactly need other clothes, do I? I have this,” he gestures to himself, “and one formal suit.”

Crowley mouths “formal suit,” sarcastically. 

Aziraphale huffs. “ Fine ,” he says.He snaps his fingers and the smaller suitcase miraculously now only has clothes, a toothbrush, his favorite mug, and only four books. He really can’t be expected to survive without any books at all, can he?

They head back downstairs. With a flick of Aziraphale’s wrist, the shutters all fall shut and the “open” sign on the door flips obediently over. 

They head outside to the idling Bentley and he deposits his bag in the back beside the carpet bag which must have been Crowley’s, before getting in the passenger side. 

“Now, my dear, you must promise me that you won’t drive like an absolute lunatic.”

He scoffs. “How else are we supposed to beat the traffic and get to the airport?” he retorts. 

“Only go as fast as necessary then.”

Crowley glances at him and grins. “All the permission I need.”

With the high-pitched squeal of tires on pavement, they tear off through Soho towards the airport. 

 

An eleven hour flight later — quite possibly the longest eleven hours of Aziraphale’s life — they touch down in Las Vegas. 

Crowley has been, more or less, asleep the whole time. Aziraphale reads. He wouldn’t have minded it so much if they had had anything decent to drink, or if he had been able to get up and move a little more often. The gentleman sitting on the aisle end of their row of seats seemed to be absolutely determined to not get up during the duration of the flight. 

“I can’t say I’m not happy that’s over,” Aziraphale says as they leave the plane. He adjusts his coat and his cuffs as they walk, having handed Crowley his suitcase to do so. 

“Speak for yourself,” the demon says through a yawn. “Quietest eleven hours of my life. Slept like a baby.”[3]

He can’t help the affectionate smile. “You are truly a horror, you know that?”

“I am a demon , Aziraphale, isn’t that my job?”

“Not anymore, it’s not.”

“Well. I’m still good at it. Besides, you need a bit of hellish influence in your life.” He bumps their shoulders together and grins at him. 

 

A twenty minute cab ride later, they are in their hotel room at the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel, and Tower (a rather pretentious name, Aziraphale can’t help but think). It’s a nice suite, large and fancy and probably rather expensive. It has a kitchenette which has miraculously been stocked with the necessities for cooking and enough alcohol to kill a pair of humans.

Crowley waves lazily as he speaks. “Right, bathroom down that hallway, balcony on the other side in case you want a smoke or something, bedroom back there.”

Aziraphale heads down the hall and is taken aback because there are only three doors: one sliding glass onto the balcony, the bathroom, and one master bedroom. 

“Crowley?” he calls. “Didn’t you say there were two bedrooms?”

“Hm? Oh—” He squawks. “Ah, ewauh… well, no, I said the one. Because I figured you wouldn’t need one. Since you don’t sleep.”

“Oh! Quite right, it would be a shame to have it go to waste, wouldn’t it? Would you mind if I set my bags down in here?”

“No, go ahead. Drink?”

He comes out, hoping that his face isn’t as red as it feels. “Yes, that sounds lovely.” After the horrible flight and the humiliating interaction they had just had, a nice bit of fine alcohol sounds perfect.

“I figure we can go to dinner tonight,” Crowley says as he pours a pair of glasses. “Something nice and casual, like we usually do back home. And then tomorrow we can start really being tourists.”

Tourist . Eugh. The word nearly makes Aziraphale shudder. If there’s one thing living in London has taught him, it’s that tourists are the worst of humanity. He had no intention of being at all similar to the bumbling, rude, loud Americans who frequented his shop during vacation months like moths on a lamp. He was a kind and courteous soul, but his patience only ran so far.

“Dinner sounds lovely, my dear,” he says. He stands in the living room, hands on his hips. It’s nice enough, surely, but it needs a little bit of something, a touch of home, perhaps. He waves his hand and a comfortable, lived-in, tartan chair appears by the window. Perfect.

Crowley rolls his eyes but hands him the glass as he heads for the sofa. He turns on the TV and lounges back.

Aziraphale is busy having a breakdown over the gentle touch of Crowley’s fingers as he handed the glass over.

When the angel manages to reboot, he joins him on the couch, but on the other side. Any more accidental touches might cause him to discorporate.

They finish their drinks in relative silence — both focused on the old Western movie — and then Crowley stands and stretches. 

Aziraphale internalizes an “Oh, Good Lord,” when the demon’s shirt lifts enough to reveal a patch of skin. 

“Welp, shall we go eat?”

It takes him a moment to remember how to speak, but he just nods. “Yes, sounds lovely. Jolly good.”

He leads him from the hotel and they get a cab. Crowley obviously thinks it goes far too slow, and the traffic in Las Vegas is abhorrent. They find themselves in a new Korean-Texan fusion restaurant, which is probably the strangest combination of cuisines Aziraphale has ever heard of, but he is an angel of earthly pleasures and always willing to try new things. 

After they had placed their drink orders, Crowley perks up. He is sitting up straight, which is enough to strike anyone who knew him as odd. 

Aziraphale looks up from his menu at the demon, raising his eyebrows. 

"Erm, angel. I was — well, here." He reaches down into a bag at his side and produces a heavy book, slightly singed around the edges. "I uh, I went to talk to that Anathema girl. She was going to get rid of this. I told her you like collecting rare books, so I figured... you know, you might want it."

Aziraphale stares at the book in his hand, the title still legible. "You..." He feels his throat closing and his face heating up, and he desperately wants to run away. But how can he run away from the kindest gift anyone has ever given him?

He looks up at Crowley, trying to discern anything from behind those sunglasses. They are impenetrable. But he seems sincere. Of course he is. He is always sincere. 

"Oh, Crowley ," he whispers, voice feather-light and about this close to fracturing. Gently, he reaches out and takes the book, as though it might turn to ash and disintegrate into his hands if he doesn’t handle it with enough care. "Thank you." He fingers the pages, opening it to a few and scanning the prophecies he has already read. 

He feels as though he might cry. But if that is going to happen it would have to be later, when he is alone. He couldn't show Crowley the whole range of feelings he has just put in his lap. 

This was certainly up there with the bag of books as far as "gifts which inspire complex and negative emotions."

"I don't know what to say," he says. I love you, I hope you know.

"You don't have to say anything," he replies, voice soft and full of affection. Then why don't you say so?

He sets the book aside, on top of his coat, and smiles. "Well, thank you. Really."

"Ehhh, don't worry about it," he replies. He's back to lounging, not looking at him. But Aziraphale can't stop looking. He just watches the demon until their drinks arrive and the topic of conversation changes. 


Footnotes
1] He never calls Aziraphale’s name in the front of the bookshop anymore. The angel has noticed, but he hasn’t asked about it. He has a sneaking suspicion it has something to do with the day it burnt down. Even if their memories of that day were somewhat foggy, it wouldn’t surprise him if the fear and anguish had wedged themselves into Crowley’s heart even without context.
2] Aziraphale was most certainly not going to mention the fact that he had been packed since he had gotten home from dinner the night he had accepted the invitation.
3] Crowley only managed to sleep so deeply thanks to a demonic miracle and three times the normal dosage of Ambien. Though he would never admit it, Crowley hates planes. Despite the fact that he had been an angel once upon a time who had been able to fly. He believes planes are far too crowded, and he doesn’t really like not being in control of the flight patterns. Not to mention the beasts’ unpredictable habit of dropping several thousand feet unexpectedly. He likes to avoid that sensation at all costs.

Chapter Text

 You want a better story. Who wouldn’t?

A forest, then. Beautiful trees. And a lady singing.

                  Love on the water, love underwater, love, love and so on.

What a sweet lady. Sing lady, sing! Of course, she wakes the dragon.

            Love always wakes the dragon and suddenly

                                                                                            flames everywhere.

-“Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out”

by Richard Siken

 

The two weeks Aziraphale and Crowley spent in Vegas were probably the most torturous of the angel’s life. Yes, it was fun, probably the most fun he had ever had; but every day seemed to make it more and more apparent that he could no longer hide from his feelings. Everything the demon did — from the littlest of smirks to the grand way he seemed to go through life— sent his heart racing, and he wanted desperately to grab him by the shoulders and kiss him. 

The realization that he was in far too deep came when Crowley came sauntering up in a club they had decided to visit one night, a few days before they had planned to leave. 

Aziraphale was sitting at the bar, sipping a cocktail and watching the crowd. Some kind of bebop was playing loudly on the speakers, but it wasn’t that bad. He was nodding his head from side to side in time with the beat. 

The demon came over and held out a hand. “Come dance with me, angel!” he said. He was grinning, obviously far drunker than Aziraphale was. 

The angel looked at the hand as though it might bite him and shook his head. “Oh, you don’t want to dance with me, Crowley. I’m positively horrible. I only ever learned the one.”

“Who cares ? I’m probably worse. I never even learned one.” He grabbed the cocktail out of his hand and set it on the bartop before grabbing his hands. The ice of his touch sent chills through Aziraphale’s whole body, and if he had been capable, he was sure it would have raised gooseflesh on his skin. 

“No, Crowley — oh!” 

He was pulled towards the crowd of people jumping up and down and rubbing together in rather suggestive ways, but Crowley didn’t bring him into the throng. Perhaps he knew how much loud music bothered him, or maybe he just wanted a little bit more space. Whatever it was, he took Aziraphale’s hand and put the other on his shoulder. He wanted him to lead? Oh dear. 

This didn’t seem like the appropriate position to dance to music this fast, but he wasn’t about to bring this up. Instead, he just carefully laid his hand on Crowley’s waist, leaving a suitably chaste distance between them. 

Even with his sunglasses on, Aziraphale could feel his eyes on him. If he looked hard enough, he could just make out their soft glow behind the tinted glass, even in the darkness. 

And then Crowley smiled, and it made Aziraphale want to flay his skin off. He wanted to discorporate, so he could disappear and return to Earth in a new body that wouldn’t agonize him with Crowley’s lingering touch, the imprint of a deep and desperate love.

After a few songs, Aziraphale  had to excuse himself to the restroom because otherwise he would either cry or kiss him. 

 

And yet, with all of the torture, all of the painfully long nights of wanting to curl up beside him in bed, wanting to reach up and take those glasses off and look into his soul, he wouldn’t have traded it for the world. 

 

He is back in his bookshop now, alone. Crowley has gone home to unpack and water his plants. Aziraphale is glad for the solitude. He feels like if he had to spend anymore time around Crowley he might lose all control of his faculties. 

He is shelving some books when the squeal of feedback and the electric hum startles him.

He turns and sees Gabriel and Michael standing at the door to his shop. Gabriel with his perfect, condescending smile, and Michael with her cold eyes.

“Oh!” he says, and he wishes desperately to have his sword. He feels too exposed, too defenseless here with them.  “Gabriel, Michael! I didn’t expect to see you here.” He knows his anxiety is clear in his voice, but was it surprising? He thought he was free of them. 

“Oh, didn’t you?” Michael takes a step forward, looking almost like she is going to strike him, but Gabriel holds her back with his words. 

“You really didn’t think we were going to just leave you alone, did you?” he asks. His head quirks to the side, and his eyes tell Aziraphale how stupid he is.

“Well, I thought that we — well, I — had retired. For the time being.”

“Oh?” Michael smiles, but her eyes are slits. “Retired? That’s not exactly the word I would use.”

Gabriel folds his hands in front of him. “And what word would you use?” he asks. Aziraphale can’t help but notice how little his lips move.

“Traitor, renegade, apostate. And some rather less polite words.”

“Ooh! Those are good!” His purple eyes return their attention to Aziraphale. “We just came here to remind you of some things.”

“Just because you’re ‘retired’ doesn’t mean you’re free.”

We are still watching. The Almighty is still watching.”

“You’re still an angel, Aziraphale. You can still Fall.” Michael smiles like a wolf. “It’s best to remember that, before you go fraternizing with that demon of yours.”

His body stiffens. Had they been watching? How long had they been watching? What had they seen?

Fraternizing .

“Yes,” he says, his voice paper-thin. “I certainly will.”

Michael turns and with a pop , she’s gone. 

Gabriel doesn’t leave yet though. He scrunches his nose up in a nasty smile and comes over, slinging his arm around his shoulders like they’re old friends. He leans close and whispers in his ear, “A demon will never love you back.” Then, he crosses back to the door, turns, points finger-guns at him, and disappears with a gust of sweet-smelling wind. 

Aziraphale stands there, frozen, for several minutes. The air is electric with divinity. Even in the privacy of his own shop, he feels horribly exposed. 

They knew . How long had they known? 

Suddenly, Aziraphale sinks to the ground. There are tears running down his cheeks. They know. They know, which means Crowley isn’t safe. He can’t allow this to go on. 

Chapter Text

 Hello darling, sorry about that.

                                                        Sorry about the bony elbows, sorry we

lived here, sorry about the scene at the bottom of the stairwell

                                    and how I ruined everything by saying it out loud.

            Especially that, but I should have known.

You see, I take the parts that I remember and stitch them back together

            to make a creature that will do what I say

or love me back.

                  I’m not really sure why I do it, but in this version you are not

feeding yourself to a bad man

                                                    against a black sky prickled with small lights.

            I take it back.

-“Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out”

by Richard Siken

 

Aziraphale does everything in his power to stay away from Crowley. Despite his best attempts, he can’t outright shut the demon out completely, and so he still finds himself at lunch every Sunday, and sometimes Crowley falls asleep on the couch in the backroom and he doesn’t have the heart to wake him. 

He looks so happy there, curled up. Safe, for all he knows. Aziraphale hasn’t told him about the Archangels’ visit. He doesn’t want to disturb the fragile sense of contentment Crowley seems to have found. He’s the happiest he’s ever been in his life, floating between good and evil, Heaven and Hell. It would break his heart to have that taken that away. 

He sits in his chair across the backroom, book in hand. His fingers are in the pages. He had lowered the book only momentarily, to watch Crowley sleeping. What he doesn’t realize is that he has been sitting like that for upwards of twenty minutes.

“Oh, Crowley,” he sighs. He doesn’t raise his voice above a whisper; he’s afraid of Crowley hearing him, even in sleep. “How could I ever let it get this far?”

He shuts his eyes as they fill. He runs a hand through his hair. He stands, marking the page in his book and setting it aside. 

He crosses the room, lays the thin throw over the demon and, after a moment of consideration, places a hand on his shoulder. “Oh, my dear… I wish I could be what you deserve.” He turns and heads towards the stairs to the flat sitting atop the shop. 

 

Aziraphale knows that Crowley has noticed the change. His laughs don’t come as easily, he sits a few centimeters further away, his glasses are always on. Less and less does he allow himself the comfort of falling asleep at the bookshop, and it breaks his heart. 

But underneath all of that, Aziraphale can feel something else. He can’t tell what it is, but it feels like something is building, like a breath held too long.

 

The something reveals itself several weeks later during a downpour. 

Aziraphale has just closed up the shop when the characteristic hum of an engine alerts him to the black Bentley pulling up outside. 

He frowns. What in the Almighty’s name is Crowley doing out in this weather?

The demon opens the door and crosses the street with determination driving his step. Aziraphale opens the door to begin to greet him, but Crowley cuts him off. 

“Angel, there’s something I need to tell you. Something important. I can’t  just — I can’t go on like this anymore.”

Something heavy settles in the bottom of his stomach. He’s failed. He already knows what it is, but he asks anyway. 

Crowley works through several vowel combinations before saying “Oh, fuck it.” In one long stride he’s there, and he’s dripping wet. He wrenches his glasses off, dropping them with a clatter on the floor. 

His long fingers are threading into his hair and he gets drunk off it. Crowley looks into his eyes for a moment as though gazing on a new nebula, seeing the universe in him. And then they’re kissing, and Aziraphale is so shocked he can’t think of anything to do but kiss him back, hands grasping the front of his shirt and raising onto his toes to meet him. 

He doesn’t know which of them initiates it, but somehow Aziraphale’s back ends up pressed against a bookshelf and Crowley is leaning down into him, drinking him in.

He doesn’t know how long they are like that, with the wind howling through the open door and the rain pounding on the pavement outside. It could be minutes, hours, days ; they never come up for air because angels and demons don’t need something as silly as oxygen. For Aziraphale, Crowley is the oxygen.

Finally, Aziraphale remembers. He remembers what they are, and the words of the Archangels. We’re still watching.

He pulls away. Hard. He pushes Crowley away and he stumbles back, looking at him in confusion and fear and pain

They stare at one another like that for a moment as Aziraphale tries to find the words. How can he push him away when all he wants is to bring him close? How can he hurt the love of his eternity?

“Crowley, you can’t. You can’t do this.”

His mouth moves, imitating syllables like a fish out of water. “Do this ?” The confusion and pain turn to anger, but the pain remains. “ I can’t do this ?” he demands. His voice is deathly quiet. Aziraphale wishes he would scream. 

“Yes!” he howls with the wind. “I am an angel —”

“And I’m a demon! I know ! You’ve said it thousands of times!” His voice bends to the breaking point. “I thought that didn’t make a difference anymore!”

Aziraphale doesn’t care that it’s his bookshop. He doesn’t care that Crowley came in here with declarations of love on his lips. He doesn’t care that it’s still storming. He needs to run away. He can’t stand here in his shop feeling exposed and enormous. He can’t cover himself like Crowley does as he stoops to put his glasses on. He can’t stand here knowing how much he has hurt him. 

He turns away from him, runs out the door into the deluge. He runs into the street, spreads his ivory wings, and flies for the first time in decades. He doesn’t look back to see Crowley’s face as he flees his feelings. 

If the Archangels are watching, Crowley is in danger. They are both in danger. And even if the demon doesn’t know it, he’s doing this for his protection. He has to be. That’s the only way he can live with himself. 

 

Aziraphale doesn’t return to his bookshop for two days. Instead, he wanders around south Wales. The countryside is lovely, and it calms him. He does his best not to think about Crowley, but he can’t help it. His eyes had been so soft, so overjoyed. I would have waited eternity for you. But I’m glad you’re here now

And what had he done? He had taken that happiness and had destroyed it. As much as the thought of those walls, once so comforting, terrified him, he knows he can’t stay away forever. Crowley won’t be there, surely. 

Sure enough, he finds the bookshop empty, closed, and locked. The floor has been mopped, and there’s no sign of the puddle that had gathered at Crowley’s feet. 

In the backroom, he sees a note neatly folded on his reading desk. 

He stares at it for a long time, afraid that it’s from the Archangels. Eventually, though, he picks it up and unfolds it. It’s written in a scrawl that can only be Crowley’s. 

 

I’m sorry.

 

With those two words, Aziraphale undergoes a rather marvelous transformation. It only takes those two little words to make him do something he doesn’t think he’s ever done before, even after millenia of strife. 

He tears up the note and throws it in the fire. He shouts. He swears. He howls oaths into the empty bookshop, his divinity leaking out of the cracks in his being. He pushes a lamp off a table, reveling in the damage as it shatters. He runs his hands down the length of a desk, sending papers and books flying. All the while he’s weeping, he’s screaming

Surely this is punishment. Surely the Almighty has seen it fit for him to feel the ache of hurting the love of his life, because surely this is a worse punishment than Falling. 

How dare he love. How dare he love something like that

But what could he do? He can’t change his feelings. He can’t stop loving Crowley. He had tried to send him away, put the tree atop a mountain, but rather than removing the temptation, it only made it stronger. 

As quickly as it came, his angelic rage drains from him and he’s reduced to a sobbing pile of flesh, all too corporeal. He is  leaned against the wall in the corner. His face is wet with tears and his throat is dry. 

“Are you happy now?” he asks the air. He doesn’t put much effort into the prayer. He doesn’t think it would do much good anyway. She isn’t listening. She isn’t taking calls. “I’m miserable, and he’s gone. Are you happy ?”

For a moment, he’s angry again. Not at himself, not at Crowley, but at God, at the Host. He wants to thrash Heaven, he wants to tear those clinical white walls down, he wants to break the glass. What is the point of holiness if one doesn’t have free will? Why does he exist if he is only a disappointment? If God had a Plan, why does She let him toe the line between divinity and sin? Why did she grant him the ability to taste the fruits of the Earth, but still punish him for it?

Chapter Text

Okay, so I’m the dragon. Big deal.

           You still get to be the hero.

You get magic gloves! A fish that talks! You get eyes like flashlights!

                  What more do you want?

I make you pancakes, I take you hunting, I talk to you as if you’re

            really there.

Are you there, sweetheart? Do you know me? Is this microphone live?

                                                        Let me do it right for once,

              for the record, let me make a thing of cream and stars that becomes,

you know the story, simply heaven.

-“Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out”

by Richard Siken

 

Aziraphale doesn’t know how long the silence lasts. He figures it’s probably weeks, because the weather starts to change again. The rain becomes icier and icier, fewer and fewer people are outside if they can at all help it. He supposes it must be winter coming on. 

He hasn’t seen the Archangels. They got what they had wanted, after all. Gloating would simply be redundant.

He hasn’t heard from Crowley since that day. There had been nights when the silence in the shop would become so unbearable that he would reach for the phone, even going so far as to begin to dial Crowley’s number, but he never got further than a ring before he hung up. He probably wouldn’t want to talk to him anyway. 

It was strange; as an angel, time had always been somewhat abstracted. Sometimes centuries would pass without Aziraphale even noticing. Other times, a year would drag on as though time had slowed. 

For him, the weeks felt like an eternity — which for an angel was a real tangible length of time. He agonized, he yearned. He didn’t sleep, but there were times when he was reading that his mind would wander and he found himself thinking about the kiss, about the cold pressure of Crowley’s lips on his, and how badly he had wanted to melt into it. But the daydream always shifted into a nightmare, and all he could see was Crowley’s pained eyes, the betrayal as he sent him away. He must have thought himself unloveable. 

Finally, one cold night in November, Aziraphale decided that he couldn’t take it anymore. He would Fall a thousand times, so long as he could at least tell Crowley that he didn’t hate him. It was only one visit, right? There didn’t have to be anything romantic involved. Surely the Archangels couldn’t use it as any more evidence to cast him out than every other time they had been caught cohorting. 

He had only ever been to Crowley’s flat once, the night of their little switcheroo, when they had spent the long hours learning to impersonate one another, but it is easy enough to find a second time. 

Clutched in his hands as though it might blow away is a small pot with a succulent sitting primly in the soil. Aziraphale has always liked succulents. They reminded him of Crowley, in a way. They were hardy, easy to care for, and wonderful to look at. They were also much less spiny than their cacti brethren. It felt… symbolic. Sure, it wasn’t as tall or as beautiful or as lush as the other plants he kept, but he daren’t bring anything more fragile out in this weather. 

Besides, weren’t the humans always saying that it was the thought that counted?

He looks up at the tall apartment building as though it might lean over and eat him. Who knows if Crowley is even still here?

Why would he leave, though?

To get away from him, for starters. 

He sighs, wondering if this is all a mistake. But before he can decide to turn back he heads inside and up the lift to the floor he knows Crowley’s flat to be on. Can he remember which number?

He doesn’t, but he remembers how many steps, and on what side. He had counted his steps, in order to relieve his anxiety the first time. There was something about going to his best friend’s flat — a place that had always been off-limits, in a way — that was intimate. Too intimate to bear, almost. 

He stands before the door. It looms like the jaws of Hell. He assumes Crowley has a low-level demonic miracle discouraging any humans from coming near. Here, Aziraphale is just as much a stranger as them. 

He takes a deep breath he doesn’t need, and knocks. 

He stands there. For how long, he cannot tell. It feels like an eternity. 

Finally, the door swings open and there stands Crowley. He looks afright, though Aziraphale honestly can’t tell if it’s on purpose or not. His hair is combed, as usual. He’s got his sunglasses on — likely in preparation of giving whatever foolish human the “bugger off” of a lifetime — but he’s wearing a pair of heathered gray sweatpants and an open blazer over a bare chest. He’s about to ask about the outfit when he remembers what he’s doing here. What’s happening. He looks up at Crowley and even under the sunglasses he sees the agony his presence causes him. 

“Aziraphale,” he says. “What are you — doing here?” He doesn’t seem to notice the succulent in his hands. He’s staring at his face. 

A thousand responses fly through his mind. I love you. I couldn’t stay away any longer. I’m sorry. I was just so afraid. Please forgive me. None of these make their way out of his mouth; instead they stay trapped in his mind, never to be heard. 

“I uh… I thought—” He cuts himself off as something accosts his senses. While angels can sense love, they can sense other things too, though not as strongly. Not like Crowley could sense evil. No this was… this was the opposite of love. Not hatred; grief. 

“What is that?” he whispers. 

“What’s what, angel?” Crowley asks. He moves further into the doorway, as though trying to hide whatever is inside. 

“That, it’s — it’s so sad .”

He pushes past Crowley and he barely puts up a fight. He sets the plant on the kitchen counter and heads deeper into the flat. He follows the feeling and finds himself in the room with all of Crowley’s plants. 

His heart breaks as he looks on a wasteland. Not one thing is green here anymore. Everything is wilted and brown and sad. And right there in the middle of the floor is a small plant smashed to pieces, its soil and pot still surrounding it. 

“Oh,” he moans. His eyes fill and he drops to his knees in front of the murdered fern. 

It's almost worse, seeing that little pot all by itself, than the whole room of dead ones. He knows Crowley never kills the plants he threatens. He knows they're all out on the back deck flourishing out of sight of the others. He doesn't think Crowley has ever killed one of his plants in his life.

Crowley’s own personal Eden destroyed by his despair. Despair that Aziraphale had caused him. 

A change in air pressure tells him Crowley is at the door. But he can’t bear to turn and look at him. 

He passes his hands over the shards of ceramic. They bring themselves back together, but Aziraphale can’t erase the cracks. Instead, he fills them in with gold. The soil obediently refills the pot, and he takes the wilted plant in his hands. He runs his fingers down its stem and it returns to life; it brightens and stiffens and its roots start to grow out. He returns it home, and then places the reformed pot back on the shelf where it belongs.

“Don’t,” Crowley croaks from behind him. 

He pays him no mind, though. 

Aziraphale goes around the room. He dips his fingers into the soil, breathing life back into it. He strokes each leaf, coaxing the green back into them, apologizing for the neglect. He whispers encouragements, words he has never had the courage to say to Crowley because now he understands. 

He finally reaches the last plant, and although they will never be as verdant or as bright as they had once been, at least they are alive. 

Finally, he turns, and sees Crowley has tears running down his face. 

“You can’t,” he whispers. “You can’t be nisssce to them.”

“I think they deserve a little bit of kindness,” he replies. After a moment of thought, he crosses the room to him. He looks so frail, like a gust of wind might blow him over, or like he might shatter if they talk to loud. 

He reaches up and takes a hold of Crowley’s glasses. He starts tugging them off but Crowley catches him by the wrist. “Don’t,” he begs. 

Aziraphale settles for a hand on his cheek. It’s only there for a moment, though. After all, he mustn’t get too close. “I think we should talk.”

They go back out into the main area of the flat, which he is reluctant to refer to as a living room. 

Crowley goes to the kitchen. He places the succulent gingerly on a table by the sofa. Then, he gets out a bottle of scotch and drinks three glasses before Aziraphale even realizes he’s doing it. 

He just stands there, waiting. 

Finally, Crowley turns around, a fourth glass in his hand. “What d’you want to talk about?” he asks. He asks it so casually, as if they were simply trying to fill the silence at dinner or during a night in. 

“I think you know what.”

He sighs. “Aziraphale, I don’t — I’m sorry, alright? Is that what you want to hear? I’m sorry I kissed you, I know now I shouldn’t have done it. But I just thought, after everything, after we…”

“Crowley, you are not the one who should be apologizing.” 

He wants to stride forward, he wants to cross that chasm spanning between them. He wants to reach inside of him and pull out the pain, replace it with all the love and reverence he has for him. 

“I’m the one who kissed you. Alright? I—” He waves his hand. “Misinterpreted the signals.I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable. You don’t have to — you don’t have to apologize. Or talk to me. You can go back to the shop and just, keep going. I’ll leave you alone. We don’t have the Arrangement anymore, after all.”

Aziraphale stares at him. His mouth is open, and he’s trying to find his grasp on language. “We — we don’t need an Arrangement. We’re friends , Crowley. We spend time together because we want to, not because we need to.”

“Well, now you don’t want to, so it’s fine.” He turns and starts heading towards the hall, where his bedroom must be. All those closed doors. 

Without thinking, he rushes forward. He grabs him by the hand. “Stop!”

The fierceness makes Crowley go stiff. 

Realizing what he’s done, he releases him. “Stop trying to run from me. I know you want an excuse, you want a reason to believe all those things you say to yourself, but they’re not true! They’re simply not true. I am your friend. For no other reason than I like you. Is that so hard to believe?” I can’t go on without you. Why can’t you see yourself how I see you?

Crowley doesn’t turn, even as Aziraphale pleads silently for him to. He wants to be able to see his face, to be able to discern his thoughts at all. 

When he finally speaks, his voice creaks like old wood. “It is.” You don’t love me back, do you?

Even though Aziraphale doesn’t need to breathe, it’s like the wind is knocked out of him. He doesn’t speak, so after a moment, Crowley turns to look at him. There are tears on his cheeks again. 

Yes , he wants to say. Yes, of course I love you. I love you more than anything else on this stupid impermanent Earth. But he doesn’t. He can’t. 

You can still Fall

A demon will never love you back

“Crowley, you must understand.” I can’t say it. Please don’t make me say it.

“No, I don’t understand.” Am I not worth it?

Aziraphale turns and flees. His heart reaches out over that gap, and it wails in pain as it breaks. But he can’t. If he stays there any longer he will break the promise he made to himself when he decided to talk to him again. He needs more time. He needs to find something else to occupy himself with. Something that will make him forget that he ever loved a demon. 

This was a fate worse than Falling. But even then, was he willing to take the risk? Make the jump and chance losing his Grace?

Apparently not. Love or not, Aziraphale has always been a coward. 

Chapter Text

Dear Forgiveness, you know that recently

                     we have had our difficulties and there are many things

                                                                                               I want to ask you.

I tried that one time, high school, second lunch, and then again,

          years later, in the chlorinated pool.

                                   I am still talking to you about help. I still do not have

          these luxuries.

I have told you where I’m coming from, so put it together.

                                                         We clutch our bellies and roll on the floor . . .

          When I say this, it should mean laughter,

not poison.

                  I want more applesauce. I want more seats reserved for heroes.

Dear Forgiveness, I saved a plate for you.

                                               Quit milling around the yard and come inside.

-“Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out”

by Richard Siken

 

Time. That was what Aziraphale needed. Time, surely, as the mender of all wounds, would eventually force him out of love with Crowley. With time, perhaps he could be Saved.

Crowley didn’t speak to him. He knew he should be relieved by this. 

Without the influence of Heaven, nor the presence of Crowley, Aziraphale found his life becoming rather empty. He found himself yearning for a new hobby. It was the same general thought process that had led him to stumbling upon a rather exclusive gentleman’s club a few hundred years ago. But he was too upset all the time to take part in something fun  like that. 

So instead, he sat in his shop, watching the sun arc across the sky. He drank cocoa and intimidated shoppers. He barely even read. It seemed like everything that had once given him joy, had once been his reason for living, only ever widened the chasm in his chest. 

Everything reminded him of Crowley. Whenever he saw red hair, or heard Queen, or saw any sort of vintage car, it was like a stab to his chest. 

He wondered, often, what Crowley did with his time. Surely he had moved on by now. He had found other people to occupy himself with, had found a way to numb the pain. Aziraphale wished for the sweet release of distraction. 

Every time he found himself picking up the phone, the words “I love you too” forming on his lips, he thought of Michael’s threat. Surely one person wasn’t worth his wings, his halo, his connection to God. Could Crowley even be considered a person?

A demon certainly wasn’t worth Falling. 

This is what Aziraphale told himself, in order to continue in solitude. 

But was this really life? Was it worth continuing on, without Crowley by his side? He had nearly lost everything betraying his Side in order to stop the Apocalypse so things wouldn’t have to change. Sure, he had done it for the food and the books and the humans; he had done it because the idea of spending Eternity around the angels, with their disapproving eyes and tight-lipped smiles, made his skin crawl. But he had been willing to give all of that up and let the Earth burn for the sake of Heavenly Duty, until he had realized that there was no Crowley in that Eternity. 

It is this realization that finally brings him to pick up the phone, to let the phone ring as many times as Crowley allows. 

It goes to voicemail. 

 

He tries again, a few days later. Maybe Crowley had just been out. After all, he hadn’t left a message. 

Again, nothing. 

This time, as the answering machine beeps, he manages to choke out “I’m sorry.”

He should say more. But like every other time it mattered, he doesn’t. 

 

Three more calls. Every time, nothing but Crowley’s voice from years ago saying You know what to do, do it with style.

That’s just the problem, isn’t it? He knows what he has to do, but he can’t bring himself to do it. Faith has never been his strong suit. 

He wonders if he has moved. Or returned to Hell. Or died. 

He tells himself it’s concern that brings him to the flat. 

He knocks, and waits for what seems like hours. His heart beats in his ears. He had spent the whole morning thinking about what to say, but now, faced with the reality, his tongue seems to have leapt from his mouth. 

The door swings open and there Crowley stands. His hair is new — long, cascading over his shoulder in a braid. It has pearls woven into it. He’s wearing a gown; it seems to glitter like the night sky. He looks wonderful, and for a moment Aziraphale is lost for words. Rather than his old shades, his eyes are covered by thin round glasses. He can just barely see the surprise in his eyes. 

“Aziraphale,” he says. 

Hearing his voice say his name, after so long of nothing but the answering machine, makes his body go cold. 

“Hello,” he says. “I — you look like you’re going out. I’ll go—” 

He turns, but Crowley’s voice calls him back. “No, angel, don’t.” He looks at him for a moment, face unreadable. Has it really been so long that his mannerisms have become alien?

He tries to speak, but nothing is forthcoming.

Crowley grows impatient. "What do you want, Aziraphale?"

Before they had never needed a reason to see each other. This knowledge stings him, like a knife in his stomach.

He swallows hard. There is a lump in his throat and he doesn't know why he's so close to crying. He just wants it all to be alright. He wants nothing more than for everything to be back to normal, where they can both pleasantly ignore their feelings, this burning, forbidden love of theirs.

"Crowley, I wanted to — apologize." But now that words are leaving his mouth something inside of him changes. Seeing him, dressed like that, looking so sad and frail and alone, thinking back to the plants — he glances over his shoulder and sees the succulent, replanted, in the most gorgeous pot Crowley owns, sitting center-stage on the kitchen table. What that plant must mean to him.

Damn the angels. Damn the Host. Do they really have the authority to cast him out? Falling in love with a demon can't be any worse than fraternizing with one. So he surges forward, grabs his hand and pulls him down. He kisses him, in the doorway of the flat, and Crowley makes a choked sound in surprise.

This was only a preamble, a foreword, a prologue. Aziraphale pulls away and looks up at him, his eyes so wide they're visible around the edges of the glasses. He takes a step back, but Aziraphale pursues. He shuts the door and takes the glasses off of him, exposing his eyes to him. He doesn't know what he does with them, he must thoughtlessly miracle them to the table or something. Then, he flings his arms around his neck and brings their faces together again. Crowley doesn't put up a fight, and Aziraphale takes that to mean that he's alright with this.

The kiss in the bookshop, while filled with passion and pain and desperation, is nothing to this. Kissing Crowley now, and having him kiss him back, is like he's being filled with light and warmth. It's something akin to ecstasy, as the demon clutches the back of his jacket.

Aziraphale's eyes fill with tears, but he tries to push them back; his tears are holy, they will burn a demon's skin. He can't stop them, nor can he bring himself to pull away. Blessed droplets slide down his cheeks and pool where their skin touches.

Crowley's skin sizzles and he hisses, finally pulling away.

"I'm sorry." Aziraphale tries to wipe the tears away with the edge of his jacket, but the burns remain. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry—”

"No, no my angel don't be sorry," he whispers, leaning their foreheads together. "You could never hurt me. I only feel you."

He whimpers, and every tendon and muscle and nerve ending begs him to run, because it feels like his skin has been peeled away and he's being burnt, his whole body is burning cold.

He resists the temptation to flee. No more running. It would take the Holy Hosts of Heaven to tear him away.

He cups Crowley's face in the palm of his hand. "I'm sorry I ever pushed you away, the Archangels, they—”

"Don't apologize. No more apologies." He covers Aziraphale's hand with his own.

"I love you, Crowley. I've loved you for so long, I was just so afraid."

"I know angel. I know, you don't have to be afraid anymore. I love you too. I'll always love you."

Something painful strikes him, traveling from the crown of his head to the center of his back. He steps away from Crowley, rolling his shoulders and grimacing.

"What is it?"

"Nothing, dear, it's just—” He ruffles his wing, trying to banish the pain. "A muscle cramp, I think."

But the pain doesn't leave; instead, it grows and spreads, a web of pain across his back and through his wings. He gasps at its intensity.

Crowley takes a step towards him. "Angel?" His voice is stricken, afraid.

"Crowley?" White light envelops him, and Aziraphale shouts in pain. It's like he's burning, like fire lives under his skin. Something inside of him is shattering, disintegrating. His vision blurs and his mind is covered in static and cotton. He collapses to his knees under the weight of it, but looks desperately up at Crowley. "What's happening to me?"

Recognition and horror seep across his face. He falls to his knees as well, watching on helplessly. "Aziraphale," he whispers. "I'm so sorry."

His mouth continues to move but Aziraphale can't hear. His ears are ringing like microphone feedback. He feels the cement crumbling underneath him, like the floor is swallowing him. He's sinking and he flings his hands out, trying to grab at Crowley's but he's too far away. He's screaming something, and Aziraphale can just barely make it out. "I'll save you!"

He slips away under the Earth, and now he's falling, he's plummeting, impossibly fast, out of the light.

His vision swims and then goes dark.

 

When he wakes up again, he's in the dark. He's lying somewhere cold, and damp. There's a constant din nearby, muffled by stone. He sits up, opens his eyes. Slime covers his hands, drips down his face. He quickly wipes it away, yelping.

He is acting on impulse, a frightened animal in a corner. He tries to remember what happened, who he is, where he might be, but his mind is submerged in resin, hardening to amber and impossible to move through.

He screws his eyes up and thinks. "My name... is... Aziraphale?" It sounds familiar, but is it his? An image flashes in front of his vision; someone with long red hair, eyes wide and horrified. The sight of them makes his heart clench painfully. Was that his heart?

Who were they?

"Hello?" he calls. His own voice is echoed back to him. Nothing in the noise outside changes. “Hello?”

A door he wasn’t aware even existed opens, and a man in a trenchcoat and a frog on his head is framed against harsh iridescent light. “Well well, looks like our new guest is awake.” He smiles cruelly, and it reminds him of Michael. Who is Michael?

"Where am I?" he asks. 

He laughs, a sharp, hysterical croaking sound. "You're in Hell, kiddo."

Chapter Text

I walk through your dreams and invent the future. Sure,

            I sink the boat of love, but that comes later. And yes, I swallow

         glass, but that comes later.

                                                         And the part where I push you

flush against the wall and every part of your body rubs against the bricks,

            shut up

I’m getting to it.

                                    For a while I thought I was the dragon.

I guess I can tell you that now. And, for a while, I thought I was

                                                                                                the princess,

cotton candy pink, sitting there in my room, in the tower of the castle,

       young and beautiful and in love and waiting for you with

confidence

            but the princess looks into her mirror and only sees the princess,

while I’m out here, slogging through the mud, breathing fire,

                                                               and getting stabbed to death.

- Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out

Richard Siken

 

Crowley is not a patient demon. He is not a forgiving demon. He is also not a brave demon. 

But all rules have exceptions. 

 

For a few moments he stares at the spot in the floor Aziraphale had been heartbeats ago. The air smells of sulfur and static electricity. Then he stands, wiping the tears from his face. Aziraphale has Fallen. And while he knows there is no cure for this — Someone knows he has tried — he also knows he cannot leave his best friend down there alone, afraid and unremembering. Especially not after what has just transpired. 

With a wave of his hand his outfit has changed. As much as he would like to, crashing through Hell on a noble quest to save his Angel in a dress and high heels isn't exactly practical. Now he's in his usual jeans and jumper. He heads to his office, and to the safe. After the Armageddon that wasn't, but before all of this, Crowley and Aziraphale had broken into a church to procure more holy water. Despite the fact that the hosts of Hell were afraid of him now, that didn't mean he was entirely safe from them. After all, he had killed Ligur. He carefully takes the thermos of water out, places it in a bag, finds the lightest and sharpest sword he owns, and prepares for the jailbreak. 

 

Getting into Hell is a relatively easy task, especially for a demon. Getting out again, with a newly Fallen in tow, will be the hard part. Chances were Hastur had already gotten to Aziraphale, meaning he would know that Crowley wasn't likely to be far behind. It would require all his wit, all his silver-tongued talking, every single piece of ammunition he had in his repertoire, to carry out such a difficult and delicate operation. And as much as the thought of returning to Hell made his skin crawl, he wouldn't let it stop him. He was going to save Aziraphale, or die trying. 

 

He snatches up his sunglasses as he leaves the flat and heads down to where his Bentley is parked outside. There are many portals to Hell, but he decides that the front door is likely his best bet. After all, the Lords weren't likely to actually think he'd be that stupid.

He ignores the fearful stares and police calls from the humans. It is, after all, very illegal to carry a sword as he is doing. He throws it and the bag with the holy water into the backseat and slides into the driver's side. Out of habit, he turns on the radio, and "Brighton Rock" begins playing. He barely hears it. His adrenaline is rushing, though his blood does not flow to carry it. Corporeal forms are dreadfully complicated but he can't be bothered to do anything but let it run its "natural" course as he drives at a speed that would give Aziraphale a heart attack. The longer he spends in Hell, the less he will remember. Crowley needs to get him out of there before his Angel forgets who he is completely. 

 

He snaps his fingers. The door of the Bentley shuts and the engine turns off as he flies through the front door of the building. He runs down the escalator, pushes aside the shocked demon at the front door as he begins to say his name. He pauses for a moment. 

He hasn't been back to Hell since before the switcheroo. Speaking ideally, he had been hoping to never return again. If his heart beat, it would be pounding. But one thought of Aziraphale, as cold and as in pain as Crowley remembers being, pushes him on. He throws open the door and enters into the din. 


 

Aziraphale knows only two things: he is alone, and he is very, very frightened. He doesn't think that's in character for him, but circumstances have taken a very drastic turn as of late. 

The demon who first greeted him —  if it could be called a greeting — has not been back since. Aziraphale has come to the conclusion that he doesn't need to eat, otherwise he would be terribly hungry. Nor has he gotten tired. He is, however, very weak, and in almost constant pain. A few times he has laid down on the dank floor and shut his eyes, letting unconsciousness pull him out of reality. Every time he sleeps, however, he does not have a reprive; instead different horrors trouble him. Always the face of the same person, the person with the odd yellow eyes and red hair. There are others, as well; people he recognizes, but with a sour taste in his mouth. He doesn't like these people, he has discovered. They are not his friends. A man with purple eyes, a woman with white eyes and clouds for hair. A group of neutral people in neutral clothes all staring at him with distaste. He wakes suddenly, his eyes stinging and his throat painfully tight. He knows that what should follow is tears, but none come. His eyes don't even get wet. Can he not cry? Then how does he even know what this is?

He wishes someone would come and talk to him. Even that horrible man with the frog on his head. He just wants answers .

 

There is a sudden rush of sounds from outside, something that sounds like a struggle. There is a scream, and the door of the cell rattles. Someone must have fallen, or been thrown, against it. Aziraphale stands, rushing to the door and banging on it. "Hello!? Hello is anyone out there!"

He takes a step back. There are more sounds from outside. Surely this is rescue. Perhaps it is the strange person from his dreams, with the fiery hair. 

The door is flung open, and sure enough there they are. Something bubbles out of Aziraphale's mouth; it's a name, he thinks. "Crowley," he whispers. Something in his chest flutters painfully. He doesn't think it's his heart, because he isn't entirely certain that he even has a heart. 

The person comes forward and takes him into their arms. Something familiar sparks his brain. This is Crowley; he knows it. He knows him. He leans into the touch, burying his head into the wool of the jumper. It's soft and it feels like home, though he doesn't know why. He smells like soil and cinnamon and love, and it’s so, so familiar.  

"Aziraphale," Crowley whispers, his voice paper thin. "I'm so sorry. I came as quickly as I could. I wish I could have helped you."

He's shaking his head. He doesn't remember enough to know, but he doesn't want him to feel sorry, even if there was something he could have done. "No, no," he whimpers. He looks up at Crowley, so sad, but so relieved to see him. "I'm sorry — I don't. I don't remember what happened. I only know you."

He opens his mouth to speak, but commotion from outside brings them apart. Crowley whirls. In one fluid motion he stoops, picking up a sword that had been discarded on the ground, and he's holding it up. He's holding it clumsily; he doesn't seem to be trained in the weapon's use. 

"We need to get out of here," Crowley tells him. Now, in the florescent light of the hallway, Aziraphale can see him properly; he is sweating, he has an unbleeding cut on his face. 

It doesn't surprise him when he realizes that Crowley must be a demon as well. For some reason he had been under the assumption that he was an angel; surely only an angel would weather the unholy hosts of Hell for one person, even if that person was a demon. 

Aziraphale takes a step forward and sees people on the floor. His heart chills. Killing seems entirely unbecoming to Crowley. But then the bodies start moving, as if waking up from a dream. "Are there more?" he whispers to him. 

"Yes, but if we get out soon enough they probably won't actually follow us. They still think I'm immune to holy water."

Aziraphale shakes his head. Something is pushing at whatever it is that's clouding his memory. He knows he should know what Crowley is talking about, but he can't place the context. 

"But even if you are immune," he points out, "I'm not."

Crowley looks down at him for a moment, eyes horrified behind those shades, before his jaw sets in a line and he hefts the sword. "Best we get out soon, then," he says. Without another word he charges forward. 

It is odd, watching him. He seems entirely unsuited to be holding a weapon like this. It is too heavy for his center of gravity, it shifts the focus of his body ever so slightly forward. 

Aziraphale can't help but watch him, can't help but notice all these small things. He doesn't know why; he should be far more concerned with the demons inevitably trying to capture them — or worse.

He keeps close behind, glancing over his shoulder for pursuers. Nothing yet, save for the formerly dead demons waking up. They still seem too groggy and weak to put up any resistance, so at least there's that. 

Crowley obviously knows where he's going. Of course he does , Aziraphale thinks distantly, It's Hell.

A group of demons emerge from a pair of doors. They are all rotting, it seems; covered in boils and blood and dirt. They are carrying twisted weapons of torture, things Aziraphale hadn't seen since the Crusades. 

Crowley stops, one hand out protectively in front of Aziraphale. "Lord Beelzebub," he says, bowing. His voice is far from friendly, and quite possibly the opposite of reverent. 

One of the demons steps forward; a cloud of flies forms a buzzing halo around their head. "Traitor Crowley," they reply, with less forced friendliness and more open hatred. "You know the danger you have put yourself in by trying to free this Fallen."

"Well what's one bad angel?" he responds. Aziraphale can hear panic underneath his cool tone; he is afraid of Beelzebub, and he is running out of options. 

"Normally nothing. But this isn't just any bad angel, is it?"

"Let us go, Beelzebub. I haven't destroyed anyone yet, and I don't want to start. Just let us go and don't give me a reason."

"Don't threaten us," another of the demons snapped, stepping forward. Her face is scaled and she has sharp teeth protruding from her lips. 

"We ought to throw the both of you into a pool of holy water. Then at least you could die together."

Crowley's lip curls back ever-so-slightly. "Listen, Dagon. We both know what happened the last time you tried that."

"Maybe we should just burn your precious Aziraphale instead. Make you live knowing he died because of you." 

The knuckles around the hilt of Crowley's sword are white. Then, with the speed of a cobra striking, he tosses the sword at the group of demons, causing them to flinch; at the same moment he reaches inside a satchel hanging at his side and pulls out a thermos. He unscrews the cap and waves the thermos in an arc. The demons screech and fall backwards, landing quite comically on top of one another. No one is hit, and the holy water sizzles angrily on the stone floor. 

Dropping the thermos, Crowley grabs Aziraphale's hand and takes off running. They run through a door and enter into a stairwell. It is cold and damp, and the lights flicker and buzz. Crowley starts up the steps, and the pounding of their feet on concrete echoes upwards. 

"How many floors do we have to go up?" Aziraphale asks. His lungs are burning, and there is a painful stitch in his side. How can he be breathing heavily without a heartbeat? Why is he actually struggling to breathe? Corporeal forms make no sense, and this one is obviously much different than his other one. 

His other one?

He is about to ask Crowley to fill in some blanks when a door in front of them swings open, hitting Crowley in the face and sending him sprawling down the stairs a few steps. Aziraphale watches and then turns, seeing a demon emerging from the door. She sneers at him, an enormous slug crawling slowly around her head. 

Without thinking, Aziraphale pushes her, forcing her to lose her balance. As her feet are swept out from underneath her, he picks her up and rolls her over the hand rail and into the darkness below them. "Oh dear," he whispers. He turns and helps Crowley stand. His hand is on his forehead and he's groaning, but otherwise he seems okay. 

"Come on, we're almost out," he says. He goes through the door the demon had come through and starts down a hallway. At the end is another door leading out into a room that looks almost like an underground tube station. At the other end of the room is an escalator. With a wave of Crowley's hand the escalator grinds to a halt and they run up the steps, emerging into the lobby of a large, well-lit building. "We have to get out of here," he pants, doubling over and resting his hands on his knees. "We can't go home. We can't go to the bookshop. I have a place they don't know about though. We can go there."

Chapter Text

Here is the repeated image of the lover destroyed.

                                                                                                Crossed out.

            Clumsy hands in a dark room. Crossed out. There is something

underneath the floorboards.

                    Crossed out. And here is the tabernacle

                                                                                                 reconstructed.

Here is the part where everyone was happy all the time and we were all

               forgiven,

even though we didn’t deserve it.

- Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out

Richard Siken

 

Aziraphale follows Crowley out onto the street, ducks into the passenger side of the old-fashioned car. The engine jumps to life almost before Crowley has the chance to turn the key. 

I don’t want my freedom , there’s no reason for living with a broken heart. 

Aziraphale thinks he might recognize this song. There’s something about it that stirs in him. 

Crowley turns it down as they speed through London’s streets, impossibly fast. “We’ll have to go and lie low for a little while. Maybe eventually they’ll realize we’re not worth going after.”

Aziraphale nods numbly. Although he doesn't really remember it, he must have had a life before. 

"Crowley," he says, looking over at him. "What happened to me?"

He glances at him, an almost imperceptible turn of his head. "There's a lot to explain," he says. "But... I suppose in the simplest of terms, you used to be an angel. And you Fell. Because of me."

Aziraphale frowns. "No, no that can't be right."

"All you remember is your name, but we've known each other for millennia. I know it's hard to accept right now but that's just simply the truth—”

"No, that's not what I meant," he interrupts. 

The radio has turned itself up again.  You win, you lose, it's a chance you have to take with love, it sings, sadly. 

Crowley says nothing. 

"I mean, it's not your fault. It can't be. I'm sure of it." He shuts his eyes. He wants to break the wall keeping the memories from his previous life in. He needs them. He's tired of feeling like a stranger in his own body, tired of only knowing Crowley off of gut feelings. He knows he loves him, but he has no context. It's frustrating and overwhelming and Crowley is so sad. 

"You said you loved me," he croaks, like there is something in his throat. "And you Fell. So yes, it's my fault. For letting you get close enough. For — leading you on. For not protecting you."

"Oh shut up!" The words surprise even Aziraphale. But now he sees it clearly; those last few moments. "I didn't fall in love with you because you didn't protect me." He shakes his head, smiling ruefully. "Don't you see? I was trying to protect you . That's why — that's why I always sent you away."

"I should have let you."

Perhaps if they weren't currently driving at 90 miles per hour down the wrong lane of traffic during London's rush hour, Aziraphale would have reached across the expanse between them and kissed him, just to shut him up. 

"I would Fall a thousand times for you, Crowley." He doesn't know how he knows, but it's the truest thing he's ever said. 

"Well lucky you only need to do it once."

It's a hard life, to be true lovers together; to love and live forever in each others hearts, the radio laments. 

There is silence then, as they escape the gridlock of London, out into the countryside. Aziraphale doesn't know where they're going, there isn't even that hazy recognition that comes with memories from Before. 

"Where are we going?" he asks. 

"I have a place out in the countryside, I bought it ages ago dirt cheap. Fixed it up. I don't think anyone knows I even own the place, so we should be safe there."

They drive on, for a little while. Aziraphale, once or twice, tries to ask questions about what he doesn't remember. Crowley keeps deflecting, insisting they can talk about it later when they're safe, over a cup of tea or several glasses of wine. 

Eventually Aziraphale stops trying. 

It is nearing sunset when the Bentley pulls to a stop in front of a small cottage deep in the South Downs. There doesn't seem to be any humans in sight. Not even a post office. 

It's a quaint little place, which seems almost antithetical to Crowley's normal state of existence. The large garden surrounding the house confirms it as his, however. It seems the begonias straighten up as he steps out of the car. 

Aziraphale follows him, looking around. The inside is neat and almost empty. "Do you even live here?" he asks. 

Crowley rolls his eyes. "Shut up."

He flicks a light on, their footsteps throwing up years of dust. With a wave of his hand, it's gone. 

"Tea?"

"Cocoa."

Crowley smiles, but it's sad. As if he should have known better. Aziraphale wishes more than anything to know him again. He doesn't remember much, but he's certain that he knows Crowley, better than perhaps he knows himself. 

"Why don't you go take a bath? You smell like a sewer threw up on you."

Aziraphale looks down at himself, at the stained clothes, and the dark smudges on his hands, at the wet slime still clinging to him. "Good idea," he says. "Bathroom?"

Crowley motions. "Down the hall, left."

 

Aziraphale emerges again to see his friend at the table, two cups of cocoa sitting in front of him. He has his forehead in his hand, eyes shut; he lounges back in the chair, legs sprawled in front of him. His glasses are in his other hand, resting on the table. 

"Are you tired?"

"Demons don't get tired."

"Oh, right."

He sits up, replaces the glasses. Something in Aziraphale's chest sinks. He wishes he wouldn't wear them around him. It makes him feel all the more alien. 

He sits at the table, looking at the cocoa. He wants answers. He knows he is owed them. But it seems to make Crowley so sad, cause him so much pain. 

"You probably want to know what happened."

"Is there a way to just... free my memories?"

Crowley shakes his head. "No, I don't think so. Not any that I've ever known, and I've been a demon a hell of a lot longer than you have." He stands and crosses the room. He leans an arm into the window, looking out into the darkness. He looks dead; bone pale, cheekbones prominent, so sad and empty. 

"Well," Aziraphale says, trying to work past the lump in his throat. "I suppose we ought to start from the beginning then."

Slowly, Crowley tells him. He doesn't speak in painstaking detail, and it's hard to fill in the blanks where they weren't together. Even though this answers a lot of questions, he still can't help but feel like his entire personhood, his identity, is now secondhand. Told to him by another person. Someone who loves him, yes, but someone with a limited scope. 

Hearing about how he has treated him over the years, from Crowley's point of view, makes him hate the person he once was. There are times where he is so disgusted with himself it's all he can do not to interrupt, to tell Crowley to stop because he can't bear to hear anymore. 

After he's finished — at least for now -- they sit in silence. The moonlight falls across the carpet, and they are both unmoving; like statues, monuments to the pain of existence. 

Finally, Aziraphale speaks. "It must feel like I've died, to you."

He doesn't need to see Crowley to know he's looking at him. Shock is written across his face, as if the notion were simultaneously horrifically impossible and unarguably true. The silence following is so long and so heavy Aziraphale feels crushed by it. 

"No," Crowley finally whispers. His voice is hoarse, tight; like a muscle strained to the point of snapping. "It doesn't feel like you've died. We're lucky to be alive, both of us. I'm just happy to have you back."

Something ugly, something angry, billows up inside of him. "Then why won't you look at me?" he demands. His voice is far more fragile than he wants it to be, but he supposes he can't do anything about that. He feels fragile, like a piece of glass teetering on the edge of a table. He's so god damn cold and he just wants Crowley's arms around him again. If nothing else there is a familiarity and comfort in his embrace. 

Crowley takes a deep breath, and lets it out in a sigh. "Because..." His jaw wags, though no sound comes. "Because I didn't know if it would still be... appropriate."

"Appropriate?"

Crowley looks at the floor, away from the window. Why does he act like they're strangers, if he's just happy to have him?

"You Fell, because of me. Because you were — in love with me. Because we're meant to be opposites, nemeses. I didn't know if Falling would change — your feelings. About me."

"Why would it?" he asks. He stands. He walks over to Crowley and takes him by the shoulder. He turns him around to face him. "I love you. Is that what you want to hear? I love you, Crowley. That's all I know, that's all I remember, and that's all I'm sure about."

Even though he can't see his eyes, he knows he still isn't looking at him. He wrenches Crowley’s glasses off and sets them down. He cups his face in his hands. "Please. Please don't do this. I don't want you to leave me."

"I'm not leaving you," he whispers, eyes wide and afraid and sad. "I could never leave you. I love you too, Angel. I'm — I'm sorry."

He shakes his head. "No more apologies." He strokes his cheek with his thumb, feels his hair on his hand. "Can we go to bed? I don't want to think about all of this right now. Not until tomorrow."

"Alright, Angel." He leans their foreheads together. "We can go to bed." He takes one of his hands and presses his lips against his knuckles, and something inside of Aziraphale stirs to life. It's all he can do not to tell him he loves him again. 

He leads him through the cottage, into a small bedroom. It's homey, like the rest of the place. Almost more designed by Aziraphale's tastes than Crowley's. They crawl in bed together, two bitterly cold beings heated by their love. 

"Maybe we can ask Anathema for help, with your memories. I don't think we can ever make you an angel again, but maybe we can give you your life back."

"Yes," he replies, already waiting for sleep to set in. "Maybe."

They curl their bodies together; legs entwined in legs, arms wrapped around one another and hands clasped. Aziraphale looks up at Crowley and leans in. They kiss, and it's tender and quiet and sad, but full of the love of six thousand years. The kiss is a promise, a vow. 

"Do I still go too fast?" Crowley whispers, the smallest of smiles playing tug-of-war with the edge of his lips. Can we finally have everything we want?

Aziraphale smiles. Although he doesn't remember the conversation, he recognizes the context. "You'll always be fast for me. But that's alright." I'm ready to try. You deserve it. We both do.

They kiss again, briefly. And they fall asleep in one another's arms, knowing that if nothing else, it would take the apocalypse — the real apocalypse — to part them.