Chapter 1: 1603
It's 1603, and Aziraphale is busy. A new hobby has struck his interest, and (as soon as he decides it's worth a try) he shuts himself up in his little house and immediately gets to work. Now, he is knee-deep in paper and ink, wondering just how Mr. Shakespeare makes playwriting look so easy. God-given talent, some might say. Well, Aziraphale has a few God-given talents of his own. . . or so he hopes. Then again, he supposes this wasn't something God really expected him to take up.
A knock at the door. Well, a violent pounding more like. Only one person could hold that much aggression towards a piece of wood. "Aziraphale!" Oh, yes, it's Crowley all right.
"Do come in!" Aziraphale answers back. "It's unlocked."
A moment later, the demon appears behind him. "Since when do you not answer the door?" he questions.
Aziraphale spins to face him with a grin. "I've been rather absorbed with my new project," he explains.
"Well, I hope it's worth it," Crowley grumbles. "You haven't been out in three days, and I've had to eat lunch by myself. Do you know how humiliating it is to sit at the tavern all by yourself, all the while insisting 'oh, my friend will be here soon enough'" (He says this part in a mocking, high-pitched accent) "And do you know how much worse it is when he never shows up?"
Aziraphale shakes his head and sighs. "We've spent the last five and a half thousand years together, I'm sure you can abide without me for three days."
Crowley grunts and does not make any sign of agreement.
Nonetheless, Aziraphale snatches up his manuscript and holds it in front of him. "You can tell me for yourself if it's worth it."
Crowley lowers his glasses and takes the manuscript. "What's this, then?" he asks.
"It's a play I'm writing," Aziraphale gushes. "It's nearly finished, too. I haven't slept at all these past three days. It's about that nice lady we met in Judah all those years ago, do you remember? Naomi? Oh, and her sweet daughter-in-law, Ruth... wonderful girl."
"Eh," Crowley shrugs. "Naomi was alright, but Ruth was a nightmare. Far too eager to please. A real goody-good if you ask me."
Aziraphale frowns. "Well, I don't ask you."
"Shh, I'm trying to read," Crowley responds as he takes a seat on the nearby sofa.
Two hours pass as Crowley reads. Aziraphale manages to get behind Crowley to read over his shoulder, occasionally interrupting by pointing out this and that. Crowley interrupts his interruptions by reminding him how much he "actually hates reading, so if you want me to ever finish this, do shut up."
Then, Crowley finishes. He flips the manuscript, as though looking for more. "So. . . by the end of this. . . Boaz and Ruth are supposed to be in love?"
The question takes Aziraphale aback. He walks around to the front of the sofa "Well, yes. They were married after all. And they said as much at the end of act three, didn't they?"
Crowley shrugs and nods. "I s'pose so," he mutters.
Now, Aziraphale is worried. A fearful wrinkle appears between his brows. "Why? What's wrong?"
Crowley sticks out his lower lip and shakes his head. "Oh, nothing," he squeaks in an attempt to be reassuring.
"Now, Crowley, don't lie to me," Aziraphale demands, rather in a huff now. "I want your honest impression here."
Crowley hands the manuscript back to his friend. "Ah, now, angel, you're asking for honesty from a demon. How well do you think that'll go?"
Aziraphale shoots him a look that's meant to be severe enough to intimidate him. However, Crowley just smiles briefly, sighs, and leans forward. "Well, the whole romance plot... It's just not..." He pauses, searching for the right word. Then he settles on it. "Believable."
Now, that was ridiculous. Aziraphale was an angel for heaven's sake. Love was his defining feature, his special talent, his primary goal. "What do you mean? Not believable..."
"It's not your fault," Crowley assures him. "You're so used to just knowing when there's love, but the rest of us have to figure it out, look for the signs of it and all that. And the signs just... aren't there."
"The signs," Aziraphale says bitterly.
Crowley nods. "Yes, the signs."
Aziraphale straightens a little. "And just what signs do you actually look for?"
"Do you think I really pay that close attention to human romances?"
"Evidently, you pay enough attention to know when it's not believable."
Crowley throws his hands in the air, exasperated. "Fine! You asked!" Then a long silence passes as he ponders his next words. He's staring at Aziraphale intently, and the angel can't even begin to decipher his look. "You can tell someone's in love when they talk about the other person even when they're not there. Or when they look at the other person and you can just see clear as day on their face that they adore them. When they would go to the end of the world for the other person, or when they would stay right where they are for years and years just to be near the other. When they say the other's name and you can hear the care they put into every syllable because they take such joy - real genuine joy - in just saying it."
Aziraphale ponders this. "Rather difficult to put into a script though, isn't it?"
Crowley sighs. "Yes, it would be," he agrees.
"Well, what about the rest of it?" Aziraphale questions. "The play, I mean?"
"Better leave the writing thing to Shakespeare."
Crowley nods sympathetically and stands. "I'll be off, then."
"You didn't come for anything else?" Aziraphale questions.
"Oh, yes, there was something I meant to tell you. What was it..." Crowley pinches the bridge of his nose. Then his face lights up as he remembers. "Oh, that's right! The queen died."
Aziraphale gasps. "What? You didn't think to mention that straight off?"
"In my defense, you made me read," Crowley snaps.
"How did it happen?"
Crowley shrugs. "I might have tempted her into going outside without a fur on while it was cold out. It was an order from downstairs, I never thought - Oh, you mean what did she die of. Pneumonia, simple answer."
"Good lord," Aziraphale whispers. "I remember when she was just a little girl..."
"So do I," says Crowley with a pensive nod. Then he grins wickedly. "Her old man was a riot. Really knew how to have a good time. Best parties."
Aziraphale does not remember that time with much fondness. "The parties before or after he executed his wives?" he questions.
"Eh," Crowley flounders speechless for a while. "Well, he was as bad as one of ours, what do you want me to say?"
"I would rather not talk about it at all, thank you very much," Aziraphale says, and sits decidedly down at his desk, facing away from the demon.
"Right. I'll see you tomorrow at the funeral procession," the smile on Crowley's face can almost be heard as he says the next word, "Aziraphale."
For reasons unknown, that makes the angel's blood go warm. Then Crowley leaves.
Aziraphale brushes it off. Or tries to. Human bodies have odd reactions to odd things. Goose pimples rising in the cold, for just one example. It's likely a fluke. An old spasm of an ancient, old body. Just see tomorrow, he reasons to himself. It won't happen again.
And he's right, to a degree. Among the solemn, dreary crowds gathered for the funeral procession, Crowley and Aziraphale spot each other at the same time. And Crowley's face lights up like a sunbeam. "Aziraphale!" he calls. This time, the angel's blood doesn't go warm. Instead his head goes light and his stomach goes fluttery. Why does he say 'Aziraphale' like that? Like he's caressing every syllable. "Look who joined the living."
"Hardly an appropriate turn of phrase," Aziraphale remarks as soon as he's able to regain his voice.
"Well, no," Crowley agrees. Then he looks around and leans in like he's sharing a secret. "Then again, I've never been known to be the most appropriate, have I?"
Ah. There it is. The blood. Warm as hell.
"No," Aziraphale sighs with a nod. "No, I suppose not."
Chapter 2: 1967
Aziraphale firmly believes that it serves Crowley right. What sort of person - demon or not - visits their friend and eats anything in sight without asking first? It was a miracle in itself that Crowley hadn't been destroyed altogether; communion wafers might have been just as fatal to him as holy water. Well, it was done now, and Crowley was upstairs in Aziraphale's room, groaning and wailing with the most horrific stomach pains.
Aziraphale is downstairs, making tea to carry up to his miserable friend. The soothing scent does wonders for his nerves, which are still frayed from thinking that Crowley was about to die. As he's putting the tray together, he glares at the box of communion wafers, opened and half eaten. Crowley had gotten halfway through them before realizing what they were and what they were doing to his insides. Aziraphale hmphed. Last time he did any favors for a priest.
Slowly, he makes his way up to his room, where Crowley has been put on emergency bedrest. The radio has begun to play a newer song, one of the rare few that Crowley and Aziraphale can actually agree on that they like. "Wouldn't it be Nice," it's called. By the Beach Boys. The demon has burrowed into the covers, only his glowing eyes and everything above peeking out from under the comforter. He stares at Aziraphale as he walks to sit on the edge of the bed, placing the tray on the nightstand.
"Now," Aziraphale says. "I can't promise you'll feel all better, but it will certainly calm your stomach down a little bit."
"Aziraphale?" Crowley says, his voice muffled by all the blankets.
"Yes?" he replies.
"I think I've got a fever."
Aziraphale furrows his brows. "No, you don't," he says. Or at least, he didn't when Aziraphale had dragged him up the stairs to where he was now. He puts his hand on the demon's forehead, just to make sure. His thumb, almost with a will of its own, strokes Crowley's temple. Aziraphale pulls his hand back abruptly. "Oh, well, yes, you have. Nothing to be done but wait it out, I suppose. You had better stay here tonight. Drink your tea."
Crowley nods and shifts onto his side, looking at the tray of tea. After a moment, he asks. "Aren't there any biscuits?"
The comment manages to infuriate Aziraphale. "I think you've had enough of biscuits for one day. Really, Crowley, don't you know a communion wafer when you see one?"
"I've never had occasion to see one," Crowley snaps back, the covers falling down from his face. "I'm a demon, remember? A filthy lowlife who's never even set foot in a church. Well, never except once."
The memory of that once snaps into Aziraphale's mind. He doesn't like being reminded of that once. Something stirs inside him whenever he thinks of that once. The feeling of Crowley's fingers brushing against his. The satisfaction in Crowley's voice. "Little demonic miracle of my own" he had said, rather pleased with himself. And as much as he doesn't like being reminded of that once, he finds he thinks about it all the time.
"Since when do they come in boxes anyway?" Crowley mutters as he takes the tea and downs it all in one gulp.
Aziraphale presses his lips together disapprovingly, but he looked on as Crowley put his teacup back on the saucer and burrows into the mountain of pillows he's made for himself with every single feather-stuffed sack in the bookshop. He can't help but notice how at ease Crowley seems where he is. He's settled into the bed just like he belongs there.
The song kept playing. It was on its third loop now.
*Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray
It might come true
Baby, then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do
We could be married
And then we'd be happy
Oh, wouldn't it be nice?*
Aziraphale starts to stand. "I'd better be getting on," he says.
Crowley's hand darts out from under the covers and catches Aziraphale by the wrist. "Won't you stay?" he asks, his voice hoarse. "I'm sicker than anything, you know. Never even been sick before. Shouldn't be left alone, or I might go on some feverish demonic rampage."
Aziraphale smiles softly. "Well, when you put it like that," he says, sitting back down. "I'll stay until you fall asleep, how does that sound?"
Crowley nods and curls up, pulling the sheets around him. Aziraphale's eyes follow the curves and angles of his face as the pillows fluff up around it.
He shouldn't think it. He knows that. And it does hurt a little bit to muse that maybe Crowley does belong there after all. But it's such a pleasant thought, it almost makes the pain worth it. And that same song keeps playing.
*You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But let's talk about it
Oh, wouldn't it be nice?*