Every species has a tell when an individual has chosen their mate. Some dance for their love. Some build elaborate structures while still others will fight off any competition. All of these things are well documented throughout the natural world.
What many people don’t know is angels and demons can both choose mates if they are inclined and have an instinctive and ordered series of rituals designed to both attract and win the one of their choosing. Like gender and sexuality, they have to put in the effort and as such, not many of them do so. Even among those that do, the mates are generally platonic in nature and simply a recognition of the bond of friendship between the two beings. Occasionally there will be a romantic pairing but they are by far the least common.
As the two sets of beings were not known for fraternizing , never before in all of history had any of these bonds been formed between an angel and a demon. The bonds were possible, despite the differences because it was supposed to happen according to the Ineffable Plan. God thought it would happen sooner than it did but the two chosen to form this bond proved to be more challenging than originally expected.
Partially because the lovesick idiots couldn’t see what was right in front of them.
The love existed between the two of them from the very beginning. From the moment Crowley discovered the sword missing he had been hopelessly taken with the angel. And when Crowley comforted Aziraphale that it wasn’t possible for him to do the wrong thing (the angel, unfortunately, had not yet learned sarcasm), Aziraphale felt something akin to falling, yet in the best sort of way. The love between them was kindled with every meeting, every word, every smile. And yet, the bond remained incomplete.
After two thousand years, it began to get ridiculous. Despite their disparate natures, they should have figured it out before that. Anyone who spent time with the two of them recognized what they had and yet, neither made a move to finish the bond started at the top of the wall in The Garden.
The steps were simple enough and yet, for some reason, they both missed the most obvious of signs. God and the universe watched in horrified amusement as Aziraphale consistently put himself in danger so as to be ‘rescued’ by his choice of mate. When an angel has chosen a mate, it will make up elaborate excuses to meet them as often as possible. If a chosen one will go into danger for the angel, then they know that is a being worth keeping. And yet, Aziraphale seemed oblivious to what he was doing, always using the excuse of his human indulgences as the reason he’d been threatened with decorporation once more.
God shook Her head in resigned dismay when Crowley peacocked in front of his chosen love with a new look every decade. The desire to look one’s best for their mate of choice is found many species and angels and demons are no exception. (Aziraphale acted similarly but yet again, wrote it off as earthly indulgence and didn't consider the fact that he was courting the demon.). Crowley took it to the extreme though, seeking the angel’s approval at every turn. If Aziraphale expressed any dislike of a part of Crowley’s look, it was gone by the time the two of them met once more.
The instincts were all there, just completely missed by them both. Watching the two of them go through the instinctual dance without ever realizing it was equal parts infuriating and hilarious and God could only sigh and wait for them to figure it out. They only had two more steps to complete the bond but at the rate they were going, God wondered if they would finish it before the end of the world
By 1800, they finally seemed to be on the right path. Aziraphale purchased a building in Soho and slowly began to fill it with all the creature comforts of Heaven and Earth. Finally , the divine creator thought to Herself as nesting was generally considered the final stage of the mating process, though the mate had to accept the nest before the bond was truly completed. It took fifty-eight hundred years for them to get to this point but it was almost done now.
Except it wasn’t.
Some birds could take a couple of months to complete the nest they created for their mate. Some angels could take up to a decade.
Aziraphale was still working on his sixty years later and he was nowhere near complete. It might have helped to know why he was doing it but even his instincts should have driven him to move faster than he was.
Books began to line the shelves, on every topic that interested Aziraphale and many that didn’t. If asked why the botany and astronomy sections were so big, he would be at a loss to explain it honestly. Instead, he would settle for saying something along the lines of, “You can never have too much knowledge. I need books on every subject and there just happen to be many fascinating tomes about those two in particular. Neither really mean much to me but you never know who might be drawn to them.”
Anyone with any knowledge of the angel’s life knew exactly who would be drawn to them.
Crowley, for his part, saw the bookstore for exactly what it was on the surface. A bookstore. A bookstore that rarely sold anything but a bookstore all the same. He brought Aziraphale flowers and chocolate to celebrate the grand opening, knowing how proud the angel was of his work. Crowley didn’t understand why Aziraphale felt the need to have a human-like job but the angel had always been a little unique and it was one of so many reasons why Crowley was drawn to him. Never once did it cross his mind that Aziraphale had an ulterior motive when it came to creating the space. After all, his angel loved books and literature and the finer things in life. It made sense that he would want to surround himself with them. The book shop was filled with things Crowley knew Aziraphale found beautiful; books and music and art.
That was all it was.
He didn’t consider that the worn-out sofa in the backroom, the perfect length for a demon to stretch out on and take a nap while the angel did whatever it was he did when he was working, was hardly beautiful. For how meticulously laid out the shape was, it never struck Crowley as odd that there was a random pillow tucked between a bookshelf and a frosted window, a place where a snake might sleep in the midday warmth but be out of sight from any customers or passers-by. Aziraphale probably forgot it was back there in the excitement over the books and art.
The fact that it was perfect for Crowley’s needs was simply a coincidence, nothing more.
For all he liked to deny it, there was an angelic aspect to Crowley that he managed to hold onto, even after his fall. It manifested in the most unusual of ways, angelic yet not quite . It led to confusion on both their parts in terms of their nesting. Because Crowley didn’t recognize Aziraphale’s nest for what it was. And instead of creating a nest for Aziraphale like a normal angelic suitor would, Crowley’s instincts told him to nest within Aziraphale’s own space instead.
It started, naturally, with a plant. Crowley didn’t know why he was bringing it over, didn’t even think about it, just tucked it away on a back shelf in the bookshop, someplace it would get enough light but wouldn’t draw any attention. He set it down and didn’t think anything more of it.
Until the next day when the plant had a place of honor near the window and looked more verdant than Crowley had ever seen it. He wanted to demand Aziraphale tell him what he’d done to the plant and forbid him from coddling the thing but that would require telling him that Crowley was the reason the plant was there in the first place. And if he couldn’t explain to himself why he brought it over, he sure as Hel- Heav- Someplace couldn’t explain it to Aziraphale.
So he said nothing and it began what could only be described as a Cold War of nesting. Slowly one-upping each other, making things just perfect without ever telling the other why. Crowley would bring something in and the next day Aziraphale would have moved it somewhere else. Occasionally, Crowley would take a book from one side of the shop to the other for no other reason than it felt like it should be over there. If anyone was watching (and someone was because She was always watching), they would have simply shaken their head in despair. Slowly, the shop became less Aziraphale and more Aziraphale and Crowley though neither of them noticed the difference.
And then, sixty years after they started their shared nest, came that fateful day in St. James Park where they had the biggest fight of their eternal lives. Aziraphale stormed back to the shop and slammed the door, not wanting to see or speak to anyone. The thought that Crowley might try to leave him left a weight on his chest that nothing could remove. After everything they’d been through, he couldn’t handle a world without Crowley.
Aziraphale was used to him, that was all. He didn’t feel anything else towards the demon. Obviously.
Crowley, for his part, returned to his flat, baffled and angry about what transpired. The angel acted irrationally, having a tantrum about Crowley wishing to protect himself. A part of him wanted to return to the bookshop, to finish the fight and then take a nap on the sofa, but he knew without a doubt that he wouldn’t be welcomed. So he curled up in his bed and fell asleep.
For nearly eighty years.
Aziraphale was beside himself with worry after the first year. Despite being angry, he couldn’t live with the thought that something might have happened to Crowley, that maybe he got some holy water from another way and Aziraphale wasn’t there to save him. Aziraphale placed himself in danger time after time and yet, had to save himself when Crowley didn’t appear. It had always worked before and Aziraphale feared what it meant.
Heartbroken and frightened, Aziraphale lasted five years before he let himself into the demon’s flat and found the other sound asleep. Reassured that there was nothing wrong with Crowley other than a very long nap, Aziraphale wandered around the flat for a few minutes, taking in the austere atmosphere and feeling nothing short of relief. Because nothing about this flat was nest-like.
The thought hit Aziraphale hard and he was back in the bookshop without another thought, needing the comfort of his books and cocoa to confront what was a frankly unsettling thought.
It shouldn’t matter to him if the demon was courting or already mated. It wouldn’t change their Arrangement so, in theory, Crowley could do whatever he wanted with his personal life. But the thought of anyone else sharing Crowley’s life in the way Aziraphale did made his heart race and his stomach plummet.
Only then, while the demon slept away his anger and annoyance, did Aziraphale realize just what his bookshop was. He saw all the effort he’d put into making it perfect. He saw the comforts he’d included for Crowley, things that would never have mattered to him in any other context.
“Oh,” he thought miserably. Because no matter how hard he worked, it had failed. Crowley stopped coming to rescue him so clearly, the demon wasn’t interested. He would never win Crowley’s heart. It wasn’t something he should even want but after the realization hit him, he couldn’t deny it any longer. Aziraphale didn’t even know why he tried. He loved Crowley, had chosen him to be his mate, went through all the steps albeit unknowingly, and after all of that, it seemed Crowley was rejecting said overtures.
Since Crowley was asleep, Aziraphale vowed to use this time to move on, to focus on his holy duties and not on the hollowness in his chest that was only filled to the brim whenever Crowley was around.
For a few decades, it was enough. He continued to check on Crowley, just to be safe, but otherwise, he left the demon to his slumber. Aziraphale learned to dance, traveled to all corners of the world in search of delicacies, and performed miracle after miracle with the confidence that he was tipping the scales in favor of heaven since his ‘adversary’ wasn’t doing anything at the moment to counteract him.
When the second great war broke out, Aziraphale made it his job to ease as much of the suffering as he could. When British intelligence approached him and offered a chance to work towards ending the war, he took it. They needed books of prophecy and he had nearly every one of merit. Not once did it cross his mind that he was being tricked. Aziraphale wasn’t stupid but wanted so badly to believe in the goodness of humanity after seeing the atrocities humans had committed, that he overlooked all the warning signs until it was too late.
Or would have been too late until he saw Crowley dancing down the aisle of the church, walking on the consecrated ground to save Aziraphale from discorporation. “Mr. Anthony J. Crowley. Your reputation precedes you,” crooned the double agent.
For the first time in nearly a century, Aziraphale saw Crowley awake. He must have woken up sometime before since the Nazis knew of him, and Aziraphale ignored how painful it was to know Crowley was still avoiding him, even after all this time. But he was far more concerned with seeing Crowley than anything the obnoxious Nazis could do to him, so he turned his back on them to ask, “Anthony?”
“You don’t like it?” The tone in his voice, it almost sounded...pleading. Something prickled in the back of his mind but Aziraphale couldn’t focus on that when the bomb fell and he needed to save both himself and Crowley. And when Crowley handed him the bag of books and walked off like it was nothing, that nagging feeling settled into something solid and sure.
A something that was confirmed when Aziraphale prodded him in the car. “Crowley, my dear, why did you save my books? You didn’t have to.”
“The bookshop wouldn’t have felt the same without them,” Crowley answered without a moment’s hesitation. And Aziraphale knew.
- Crowley risked himself to save Aziraphale (and had on multiple occasions)
- Crowley cared about his opinion when it came to how he presented himself to the world.
- Crowley was just as concerned with everything being right in the bookshop as Aziraphale was.
It might have taken Aziraphale almost fifty-eight hundred years to figure out he was courting Crowley, but it took him fifty-nine hundred to figure out that Crowley was courting him, as well.
Yet, even despite knowing this, fear held Aziraphale back. Fear prompted him to tell Crowley he went to fast when deep down, all Aziraphale wanted to do was race off into the future with him. But what if he was reading this wrong? Aziraphale had always looked for the best in a situation, sometimes to his own peril. What if Aziraphale fell because of it? He didn’t know if he could survive being cut off from the Almighty, even if it was for the sake of his love. What if hell didn’t approve and he lost the love of his life? Hell’s vengeance was swift and severe when they sensed any wrong-doing (right-doing?). It wouldn’t take much for them to sentence Crowley to extinction and all would be lost.
He thought them all to be valid concerns and it kept Aziraphale up at night (figuratively speaking, he didn’t sleep at all as a general rule).
While he fretted, Armageddon came upon them unexpectedly and suddenly the world was ending. Thousands of years of life, moving the relationship forward at a snail’s pace, then a child is born (and lost) and Crowley was talking about them running away and all Aziraphale could think was that he couldn’t leave Earth. Earth was where the things they loved were, where they fell in love and lived their lives together and apart. He couldn’t leave and let it die.
Things were said, bodies were lost, the devil confronted, and when all was said and done, Aziraphale was sitting next to Crowley on a bus to London, their hands firmly laced together. They didn’t say anything, just sat there in the same space, connected to the one being who anchored him in a world gone mad. What neither realized was that they were thinking of the same thing. The loss of the bookshop, a place that held so much meaning for them both. The loss of a nest they’d been unknowingly creating together for two hundred years.
The bus dropped them at Crowley’s building and Aziraphale got off with him, following wordlessly to the flat he’d been to a number of times but never when the demon was awake. “I only have one bed,” Crowly muttered and Aziraphale simply shook his head and led the way to the bedroom. It didn’t matter anymore. None of it mattered except the fact that they were together. Without a word, they undressed one another and then redressed in pajamas miracled up with a snap. They fell into bed and Aziraphale drew Crowley close, needing to hold him all night, even if he didn’t sleep. But the warmth from Crowley’s body and the exhaustion from the week they’d just experienced pulled Aziraphale into a dreamless slumber.
The next morning, they figured out the prophecy, were kidnapped by their various people, survived their own executions and somehow managed to be back by each other’s side once more. If that wasn’t a sign that their relationship was meant to be, then Aziraphale didn’t know what was.
Following dinner at the Ritz, they returned to the restored bookshop hand in hand. The door closed behind them and Aziraphale breathed easily for the first time in a week, at least. After everything, after almost losing one another and the world, the words came without thought. “I made this for you. For us,” he told Crowley, taking the demon’s glasses off with his free hand. “A nest, filled with all the knowledge you ever craved, all the comfort I could ever give. A place that is neither heaven nor hell, not divine or profane or human, but ours and ours alone. If you will accept it.”
Crowley glanced around, eyes brimming with unspoken emotion. “I think I’ve been helping build it,” he said after a moment as the realization dawned on him. “So, I accept it if you do as well.”
“There is nothing I’d like more. I love you, Crowley, and I have since the beginning.”
Crowley smiled and pulled the angel closer. “I love you too, Aziraphale, and I will love you until the very end. The real one.”
They sealed their bond with a kiss, a human tradition but one they both decided almost instantly that they liked very much.
A six thousand year courtship that wasn’t completed until after the end of the world, but as a courtship between an angel and a demon had never before been attempted, maybe that was just how long these things took.