“On one condition,” the angel said. Crowley groaned and nodded for him to continue. They’d discussed this ad nauseum for a few years now, and he was pretty sure they’d already sorted out any hang ups a while ago.
It started with a conversation at The Ritz, shortly after Armageddon’t occurred. Neither could remember who brought it up, but the question that so casually slipped one of their tongues lingered long enough to be worth making conditions over: If we’re officially on our own side now, what’s the point in remaining an angel or a demon? This prompted the next set of questions: Are we even technically still an angel and a demon? If so, will they take that status away from us eventually? What would that entail? How much time do we have? Naturally, this injected several healthy doses of fear and paranoia into the pair. With living so long and having experienced their fair shares of world-ending wars with varying degrees of success, though, that fear and paranoia sorted itself out with a few more existential questions they asked themselves while drunk in the back room of Aziraphale’s bookshop. What’s so wrong about not being an angel or a demon? Are we so dependent on the forces of Heaven and Hell that we can’t imagine ourselves existing without them? Crowley was the one to ask that last question, somewhere in the middle of his intoxicated rant about the bitcoin industry and How It’s Made rubber band videos.
It became agreed upon that, theoretically, all six millennia of servitude were completely worth it to trade over for even one decade of absolute human freedom. Then, that theoretical conversation became something more of a fantasy. The thought of having limited time and limited abilities to do the things one wanted was at the very least a motivational one. It was a very human one, which made it all the more romantic. For a while, it was all they could fixate on. They even began humoring themselves, thinking that if they were to ever be human, they wouldn’t be able to perform miracles. Naturally, they’d make challenges for themselves. One day without miracles became one week, which became one month after some practice. They’d surely slip up once in a while, but they’d become rather good at it and report back to each other to brag about how strongly they restrained themselves this or that one time. It got to a point where Crowley had to take up a part time job at the local bar since he couldn’t miracle any money into existence.* It was frustrating as all hell—heav—purgato—it was frustrating. Even Aziraphale had to force himself to part with some books, albeit all copies and no originals since he wasn’t that committed, to come up with money. But it was worth it to play this fun and addicting game. Especially when they knew they were doing it together and they could quit whenever they wanted.
A year passed and miracles were no longer a part of daily routine while playing human, though they’d treat themselves to a few every so often. It was the first time they felt genuinely older, wiser, and better after such a short period of time. But after a single look in the mirror revealing no grey hairs and no new wrinkles, they couldn’t help but feel a mutual sense of dejection. Something was empty and something was missing. Some sort of reward or motivation, they supposed. They couldn’t put their disappointment into words; they only knew that whatever one felt, the other felt as well.
The more time they spent together unabashedly and unafraid, which was still awfully new to them, the more they were plagued by this general feeling of dissatisfaction. They slowly gave up on their human playing game and went back to performing frivolous miracles. Life felt a little too easy.
That is, until a proposition was brought up. It came up after the two had been told by Madame Tracy, who they still kept in contact with, that an acquaintance of Shadwell’s had passed. They later came to know that the acquaintance was a can of expired beans.** However, the call was enough to spark new life into them. And with new life, a new pair of questions: Why don’t we grow old together? Why don’t we expire? Crowley asked the first question, Aziraphale added on the second one for clarification, and some sort of twisted reassurance. If they were seriously considering this, there was no way in hell—in anywhere that they were going to do it alone. And so, they stayed considering it. In the meantime, their game was back on, and it was to be much stricter. The deal was that if they could last one whole year without a single miracle, a single wile, or a single thwart outside the normal human range, they would reconvene and discuss their thoughts on the matter and how they would go about all this. No cheat days and no leniency. It was simultaneously the toughest and most enthralling year of their lives.
The year came and went, and their decision was made, which lead now to Aziraphale’s condition in question.
“What condition do you have in mind, angel?” Crowley asked. He was grouchier than usual, as a full year without miracles and wiles is prone to do to a demon.
“You understand that once we renounce our statuses, we’ll be completely mortal, right?” Crowley nodded. “And you understand that means we’ll die, right? As human spirits, that is.” Another nod. Logic dictated it, but hearing it aloud so bluntly somehow made Crowley feel heavy, more impactful. “We very well don’t know where we’ll be headed after all that. I can’t say for certain I’m going to Heaven given what’s happened.”
“I’d say the same about Hell.”
“What’s your condition?”
“My condition is that wherever we end up, we meet with each other. No matter what. And if it looks like it’s getting crowded—what am I saying, it’s the afterlife, it’s always getting crowded—whomever is the first to expire has to save the other a seat.” Crowley studied Aziraphale’s face, trying to pick apart any other hidden concerns. He could find none.
“That’s it? You just want me to spread my legs over to the spot next to me and if some bugger comes looking around, I tell him ‘Hey bub, this here’s already taken by my friend, he’ll be here any minute now’?” It felt…wrong, calling him a friend just then. Like they should have been something else by now. He bit his tongue.
“Yes. I’ll do the same, of course, if I’m the first one to go. Though I’d probably be less impolite about it.”
“Okay, deal.” They both extended their hands out to each other, but before a final shake, Crowley recoiled as he remembered something. “Oh yeah, I’ve got a condition, myself.”
“And what would that be, my dear?”
“I get to keep the snake eyes,” he said, then grabbed Aziraphale’s well-manicured hand and shook it firmly.
Renouncing one’s divine and undivine statuses was surprisingly easy. Apparently, despite how unorthodox it was, Heaven and Hell were both extremely eager to hear that their two biggest troublemaking threats were willing to go so native that they’d be as harmless as flies.*** What’s more, Heaven and Hell would enjoy a friendly game of rock-paper-scissors over who would get to keep their spirits after their deaths. Aziraphale and Crowley miracled up a hefty sum of money in advance to keep themselves comfortable for some time, and then were off to meet with their soon to be ex-superiors. Contracts were signed, snake eyes were kept, and the two were on their way from their respective offices. Just before Crowley stepped out of Hell for the final time as a demon, he opened his wings and gave them a quick but meaningful goodbye. They were his and he chose their color. He’d never forget them. He uttered a soft “damn” in regret that he didn’t ask to see Aziraphale’s wings one last time.
Just before Aziraphale stepped out of Heaven for the final time as an angel, he snapped his finger and Gabriel’s shoelaces untied. While walking away, Aziraphale heard him trip behind him and chuckled all the way home. A final miracle well spent.
They spent their first night as official humans getting drunk. The first thing they noticed was that their drinking capacities halved, and any attempts to chug more of whatever wine they had now would probably lead to a case of severe alcohol poisoning and inconvenient discorpora—death. It’s death now, they kept reminding themselves, which was slightly above inconvenient in their opinions. No use in being human if you couldn’t be at least somewhat careful.
Another thing they noticed in their new forms was that not much else had really changed. Sure, they couldn’t drink as much, but that just meant more unrecycled alcohol could be saved for later. Unrecycled alcohol was always better than the kind they’d force out of their bloodstreams. Once it had been inside them, it never quite tasted the same. That was a new thing, too, not being able to force alcohol out of their bloodstreams and into their respective bottles. Now they had to wait to sober up. It was admittedly a small, albeit annoying, price to pay. But really, aside from that and feeling ever so slightly heavier, there were no noticeable changes right away.
Until the next day. Their heads throbbed with hangovers and hunger pangs unlike any pain either had experienced. They’d come to know that human bodies were much more fragile and sensitive than their previous ones. They’d also come to know that the taste of vomit from last night’s binging would last a pretty long time. Everything was disgustingly intense in these new forms in a way neither had prepared for. It was all rather exhilarating. It was even more exhilarating that the two were violently throwing up together. Yes, we all could have done without the puking part, but something about having a friend who was equally fucked in the stomach rub circles on your back while you let it out, only to be shoved out of the way for him to take your place and you to take his was oddly comforting.
This was a thing friends did. This was a thing they wanted to do. This was a thing they wished were maybe different, maybe less in a friend sort of context. They weren’t quite sure they had any valid excuses anymore not to address it. For now, they just sat on the bathroom floor, coughing and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.
“Come on, Aziraphale, we’re going to be late!”
“Hold on, let me finish this chapter.”
“You can read in the car; we have to go.” Ever since they stopped relying on restaurants miraculously having a table for two readily available, Aziraphale and Crowley were forced into the habit of making reservations. It didn’t mean they were forced into always getting there on time.
“You know I can’t read in the car. I nearly always get nauseated just by sitting in there, considering the way you drive.” He tucked a bookmark gently in between the pages and carefully set the thin book to the side. “Anyway, I’m a fast reader, so there really was no need to yell.”
“Right, sorry, can we go now? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a serpent anymore. I can’t very well go days or weeks without eating and I’m beyond starving. If we lose these reservations again, I’m going to start eating your books for subsistence.” Crowley walked out the bookshop and Aziraphale flipped the sign to CLOSED.
“I’ll have you know, if you so happen to even salivate near my books, I’ll make you disappear.” They entered Crowley’s Bentley and the car coughed to life like a chain-smoking geriatric. Crowley hadn’t been very excited when he found out that the car had, apparently, only performed as well as it did under sheer will and imagination on his part as a demon. And without a key, at that. After the renouncing, he’d gone a whole fortnight unable to even enter his car until he finally found the key he lost decades ago under one of the pots of his many plants, who all still trembled before him despite his lost demonic title. He decided they probably didn’t know, and he wouldn’t tell them. Of course, by the time he could enter his car, he sorely discovered that he couldn’t move it until he fed it some petrol. This made for a very angry afternoon which was spent kicking at walls and nearly breaking his toes. Had it not been for his job at the bar requiring him to do something else with his day, he’d have likely turned it into a very angry night, as well. He didn’t even bother trying to salvage the Pink Floyd and Nirvana and Rolling Stones albums he left there, which by then had no doubt been graced by the vocal talents of Freddie Mercury.
Even so, the Bentley didn’t disappoint in speed. Crowley discovered that he could drive just as fast as he pleased even now, and that all he needed to do was out speed the police whom he could no longer miraculously slide past. He wondered why all humans didn’t do this.
Aziraphale, who was clutching the safety handle, thanked God that all humans didn’t do this. “Crowley, slow down!”
“When you get your license, you can drive your car however slow you want. In the meantime, why don’t you live a little?” Crowley checked for police and was happy to see that he lost the few who were pursuing him. He nearly swerved to the sidewalk and Aziraphale lunged at Crowley’s leg, gripping his thigh tight enough to intend bruising.
“I’d rather die than drive, and if you keep this up, that may very well be the case. You can’t miracle things away if someone gets hurt, or if, God forbid, you kill us,” he panicked.
“‘God forbid,’” Crowley mocked. “Life’s too short anyway, angel. Live on the fast lane.” He was only teasing. He had all intents to slow down eventually, if not to at least get that death grip away from his thigh.
“You’re going too fast for me, Crowley!” Crowley turned an unexpected corner and broke on the side of the road. He put the car in park, turned off the radio, and the hand on his leg was lifted. He never felt such a gut reaction to a few harmless words in his life.
“There. Is this slow enough for you?” He gripped his steering wheel tight. He glared ahead behind his sunglasses.
“You know that’s not what I mea—”
“Then what do you mean, Aziraphale? What pace would you like me to go? Because in case you haven’t noticed, we have a very time-sensitive deadline. I’ll go as slow as you need, but at least tell me if this isn’t something you want at all. That way I’ll know if I should stop altogether.”
Aziraphale checked his watch. “It’s not that time-sensitive. We can still make it to the restaurant if we take the route on the—”
“I’m not talking about the restaurant.”
Then it clicked. “Oh,” Aziraphale croaked. “Oh.” He returned his hand to Crowley’s thigh and gently rubbed the tender spot he assaulted. Crowley flinched, but kept his gaze on the empty road in front of him. Aziraphale stared at the driver next to him, and all he could see was a full and flourishing path. “Crowley, please look at me.” He obliged. “Take those things off.” Again, he obliged reluctantly. His eyes were wet with frustration and disappointment and some kind of hope, no longer shielded by shades. “I realize we have a hard deadline now, whenever that may be. You don’t have to suppress things for the sake of going slow. I’m ready now.” A blink. “Crowley, I know that you love me.”
“And how’d you come to that conclusion?”
“I’m an angel. I feel love in the air, I’m literally made of the stuff.”
“You’re not an angel anymore.” The words stung them both and Crowley immediately regretted saying them.
“No, I’m not.” Aziraphale was confident with his next words, “But these sorts of things are very hard to unlearn.” Crowley believed him.
“And I suppose you love me, too.”
“Of course, I do.”
“But you love everything.”
“I do. I love everything equally.” Crowley groaned. He knew there was no way he’d get prioritized in his not-quite-an-angel’s heart. “But,” Aziraphale said, and Crowley perked up to meet his gentle pale eyes burning warm kisses into his heart, “some things I love more equally than others.”
Where had he heard that from before? “Really,” Crowley asked. “Animal Farm? Is that what you were reading and almost made us late for? That’s a book for children.”
“It doesn’t make it any less good. Besides,” Aziraphale said wistfully, “it’s nice to revisit things every once in a while.”
They marinated in the silence that followed. In Crowley, Aziraphale could’ve sworn he felt the same brush of the hand they made when he rescued his books from a bomb decades ago. In Aziraphale, Crowley could’ve sworn he saw the same heavenly white wings that shielded him from the first rain.
Their reservations were cancelled, and they decided this may have been a good time to go on that picnic Aziraphale promised so many years prior.
Morphing from a friendship to a romance went as both expected, if not better. It felt natural and normal, so much so that all the years prior felt like a tease in comparison. Their first kiss was held in the back room of the bookshop; that was where many of their great meetings were held. Crowley was the first to lean in, as this was customary in their song and dance throughout life. His glasses came off, and he hovered over the other’s face far enough to avoid contact with his nose but close enough to feel the static. They stayed like that for a good few moments, studying each other’s eyes. They saw no doubt in them. Neither moved forward.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale whispered. The fluttering of his delicate lips so close to Crowley’s sent celestial harmonies through his once demonic bones.
“Yes, angel?” He swallowed hard.
“I appreciate you being a gentleman, but you go far too slow for me.” Aziraphale cupped his face and closed the gap between them. Aziraphale’s lips were far softer than anything Crowley could have prepared for. It was like kissing cotton candy that could dissolve under him at any minute; desperation to ravish it while he had the chance clouded any judgement that remained in his love-logged brain. Crowley’s lips, alternatively, were chapped and rough and nearly painful to kiss. They were the thorns on a branch holding a forbidden fruit, and Aziraphale found himself wishing to wreck himself entirely on them. They clawed to be ruined by each other, and had it not been for their biology requiring breaks to breathe, they likely would have done so.
Sex, on the other hand, went exactly as unexpected. Contrary to popular belief, the former demon Crowley didn’t really bother with the subject during his reign as the wiliest devil on earth. It never came up in a way that seemed enjoyable to him, quite frankly. Maybe it was because it was never the right person, or more often than not, definitely not the right cologne on said person. Sure, he wasn’t above tempting quite a few souls into committing Lust, but compared to tempting Greed or—his favorite and by far the most entertaining one—Wrath, it wasn’t much fun. And above that, it’s not as though he needed to commit the sin in order to tempt others into doing it. Lust was a four-letter word he could entice others to do while he merely watched from afar. Or rather walk away and pretend it never happened from afar, since watching was more than a bit rude to those Hell-goers’ privacies. Crowley instead preferred his earthly delights in the form of material goods, like his Bentley, which currently held the world record for oldest functioning car to harbor a 6000-year-old virgin in the backseat.
Aziraphale, the former angel who was currently stripping Crowley of his title among other things, never cared for the material as he did for the feeling. He was a glutton for experience.****
Despite their different approaches to it, the two believed sex would be as natural as executing a miracle had once been. As it turned out, the stress from several thousands of years of pining mixed with the sudden unknowable and still very foreign concept of a final deadline, along with the must of sweat on a very old Bentley blasting Queen in the middle of the night at an abandoned parking lot, caused for a lack of top notch performance. Who could’ve known?
“I promise,” said Aziraphale, “I don’t normally finish so fast.” One thing he didn’t consider was the ability to will himself more stamina if he so needed it. As an angel, it was no problem. As a human, well, things were different. He began cleaning any mess he made with the wipes he insisted they bring.
“I’m not sure I ever even started,” Crowley deadpanned. Nerves made everything more difficult. That, and the fact that the entire time he’d been distracted making sure that Aziraphale didn’t make a scratch in the car since he couldn’t just miracle it away anymore. He knew they shouldn’t have watched Titanic. Disaster movies always gave them the worst ideas, and this wouldn’t have happened if they had just watched a horror flick like It Follows instead, as he suggested. If anything, that movie directly advocated against having sex in cars. He made sure to apologize to the radio-playing Bentley later.
Told my girl I’ll have to forget her, rather buy me a new carburetor.
“Do you want me to, er.” Aziraphale scanned Crowley and half sat up, nervously twirling his pinky ring against the seat. “Um, start you up?”
“What?” He eyed the potentially car-scuffing edges of Aziraphale’s ring. “Oh. Er, I mean.”
So she made tracks saying this is the end now.
“I just don’t think it’s fair that I, well...” He stopped twirling his pinky ring and moved on to picking aimlessly at the seat. Crowley cringed. “Don’t you think?”
“Hm,” he gritted his teeth.
Cars don’t talk back, they’re just four-wheeled friends, now.
“I feel you’ve gotten to know me, in a biblical sense. I didn’t get to quite know you.” He leaned over and pressed his nails into the seat for leverage. This made an ever so irritating sound which prompted Crowley to nearly jump out through the roof of the car.
“Hold it, angel!” Aziraphale wasn’t sure what to hold exactly, but he did, nonetheless. “Listen, I don’t think tonight’s working out for us. I’d rather the musical stylings of Freddie Mercury didn’t accompany us. Plus, it’s hard to get in the mood inside this thing.”
“Oh Crowley, don’t just call yourself ‘this thing,’ you have so much more worth.”
“I meant inside this car.”
“Oh. Right.” They averted each other’s gaze and Aziraphale cleared his throat. They listened to Mr. Mercury for any wisdom.
When I’m holding your wheel, all I hear is your gear.
When I’m cruising in overdrive, don’t have to listen to no run-of-the-mill talk jive.
“Alrighty then, let’s talk about something else,” Aziraphale said. He dressed himself as quickly as he could given the cramped space and let out a relieved sigh after checking his watch. “The night’s still relatively young and the sushi place you like so much doesn’t close for another hour.”
Crowley couldn’t help but burst out into laughter. “You mean the sushi place you like so much.” Aziraphale joined in with his own infectious giggles.
And so, Crowley got dressed and the two regained their proper places in the front seats. The sushi made up for any awkwardness the night offered, and after some compromise, it wasn’t long before they tried this again. They eventually became quite comfortable and good at it, too. It wasn’t until a few times when they felt they made proper love. It was all overly emotional, though Crowley blamed that on an allergic reaction. An allergic reaction to what? Aziraphale would ask. To love, Crowley would say pathetically. They discovered that their favorite place to enjoy the mood was the most obvious: in the comfort and silence of Crowley’s flat. Well, almost silence. His Bentley was, after all, parked outside with its radio on.
I’m in love with my car, got to feel for my automobile.
They weren’t uncomfortable in their routine. It consisted of meeting up at one’s place, going out to another, making love at another, and then going back to their respective homes. Despite not feeling uncomfortable, though, they weren’t content. There were too many steps for their liking. When one felt like the other’s home, returning to one’s bookshop or flat felt redundant. Time passed and new grey hairs and wrinkles set in. It was like an adventure, they said, and they went out to dinner to celebrate the passage of youth. During that dinner, they decided that the passage of whatever else they had left ought to be done properly if they were to do it together. They bought a home. It was a charming South Downs cottage and was the perfect spot for a new start. Crowley quit his bar job, which was a shame because he’d become quite good at it and had earned discounts for him and his partner. Aziraphale relocated his bookshop to a closer quaint little area. He wasn’t expecting to sell anything and would permanently set the sign to CLOSED, but it held all the books he refused to keep inside the cottage. Mainly, it was due to a clash in aesthetics. A house full of cluttered books and space-needing plants was sure to look overcrowded and ugly. Since Aziraphale couldn’t keep more than a few books at a time, of which he’d swap with the bookshop whenever he wanted something fresh, the compromise came that Crowley couldn’t keep more than a large plant or two. This was fair, as long as Crowley got a place to store the extras, too.
“A flower shop? Really?”
“Not just flowers,” Crowley said, pacing around. “Big plants, too. I’m not selling mine, obviously, but I’ll sell tons of others. It couldn’t hurt, right? We’re bound to run out of the money we miracled eventually.” This was unlikely to happen. The two were extremely overzealous in the amount of money they gave themselves before signing the contracts and already singlehandedly caused a nation-wide inflation crisis which wouldn’t be noticed until a few decades later. Just because they wouldn’t run out of money, though, didn’t mean Crowley didn’t want an excuse to practice his hobby.
“Just be aware that if you’re planning to shout at the plants, you’ll have to do it away from the customers,” Aziraphale warned. He was seated and stretched out on the couch and he flipped the page on the book in his hands. It was a cookbook. While Crowley did most of the kitchen work, he felt it was no excuse to not at least familiarize himself with whatever it was he made for them to eat. “Trust me, I’ve been caught talking to my books in front of customers before and they seem to get rather embarrassed at the whole thing.”
“Who gets embarrassed—the customers or the books?”
Aziraphale gave a thoughtful look, then shrugged and took a sip of his hot cocoa. “Depends, really.” On what? Crowley didn’t ask.
“Will you at least help me set it up?”
“Sure, but only once you’ve gotten the place. You’ll have to scout out any places selling their buildings, and you’ll want it to be close by—oh dear, I hadn’t realized this recipe had so much butter—you’ll also want it in a spot where people will actually be and buy your stock. I happened to get very lucky with my—really? Honey? I would’ve never guessed—with my bookshop. It’s in the absolute perfect spot. In fact, the building I picked up—no, that can’t be right, that’s far too much lemon—the building I picked up was nearly twice as big as the one in Soho. Can you believe that?” He looked up from the recipe he was reading and met a pair of devious eyes with a cunning smile. “What?” Oh. “No, whatever it is you’re thinking, the answer is no.”
“Oh, come on, angel, you said it yourself! Your new building is twice as big as the original—”
“I said nearly twice as big.”
“And I won’t take up nearly half of it. We’ll build a wall between the two and I’ll keep everything to my side. I’ll even pay for the renovations.”
“I don’t see how that’s worth anything considering all our money is shared, anyway.”
“Please?” For Crowley to say please, this must have been a big deal. Aziraphale huffed and sipped from his now emptied mug.
“Yes, fine, alright.” Crowley mouthed a triumphant “yes” until Aziraphale spoke again. “But only if you promise me one thing.” Crowley froze. “I’ll give you half the bookshop if you make me hot cocoa whenever I want.” Aziraphale handed him his mug. “With milk.”
Crowley gladly took the mug and kissed him on his forehead. “I would’ve done that for you anyway.”
They set out to start the project as soon as possible and within a year, the flower shop known as A.J. Crow was up and running. Crowley spent some, but not all, hours of his day wooing customers and giving tips on how to force plants to grow better. He also answered questions regarding the mysterious neighboring bookshop and what hours it was opened. He managed to convince quite a few people that it wasn’t a bookshop at all, and that rather, it was a cover for the meeting place of the local mafia. The local mafia? they’d ask. Yes, the local mafia, he’d reply. Well, I didn’t realize we had one of those, they’d say. Yes, that’s because they’re very good at their jobs, he’d say. And how do you know about it? they’d ask. He’d lower his sunglasses and offer a wily yellow-eyed wink. Some customers were scared off, but many considered it nothing more than a gag and some contact lenses. They still had their suspicions about the bookshop that never opened, but the attitude and oddly charismatic personality of the next-door florist always eased their nerves.
They figured he must have been a family man. Maybe a father or an uncle, with his kind of humor.
“Your wife must be so lucky to have a florist as a husband,” one customer said while buying a bouquet of tulips. “You must bring her all sorts of flowers every day, no?”
“No wife,” he said, ringing her up. He made his prices ridiculously cheap.
“Right, I shouldn’t have assumed. Your husband, then?” She took the flowers in hand. He thought about it and decided to play along. He nodded and smiled, and she gave a nod and smile in return. “I’ve got a wife, myself. These are for her, actually. Tulips have always been her favorite.” She inhaled softly at the flowers. “Well, thank you for these. Enjoy your day.”
“You as well,” he said, and pondered. What were Aziraphale’s favorite flowers?
“Hyacinth flowers,” Aziraphale said later that day. “They’re awfully pretty, especially the white ones. Why, are you thinking of including them in the shop?”
“Maybe,” he said. He did not include them in the shop. He did, however, order white hyacinth flowers weekly to be hoarded by him in the back room. And whenever he’d close for the day, he’d make a small unique bouquet to gift Aziraphale. On one occasion, the order came in wrong. He received them in red, not white. No matter how much he yelled at them, they did not change color. They did, however, stand up just a little straighter. Thankfully, Aziraphale had begun to tire of so much white in the house and welcomed the change of color. The day Crowley brought blue hyacinths home was the day he proposed. With a tearful “yes,” the two were scheduled to marry next spring.
It was a lovely outside wedding, neither wanting to risk the chance of stepping into a church. Aziraphale’s suit was a predictable, but comfortable, white. It matched the sprinkle of white hairs dusted over his and his soon-to-be-husband’s heads. Crowley went with a black wedding jumpsuit and insisted on a train. He argued against wearing a dress, as that would conceal his hips, which he was very fond of and was more than willing to flaunt. The guest list was short. Adam and The Them, who were all young adults by now, attended, as did Madame Tracy, who they were surprised looked so well for her age. Shadwell, they learned, had lost weight. Decomposing in who-knows-what-cemetery was prone to do that to a person. Anathema and Newton had moved to the United States together, but they sent their congratulations. Aziraphale and Crowley were just pleased to know the two stayed together. They even invited Warlock, to whom they’d written a very long letter explaining and apologizing for the circumstances of his upbringing. In a way, he did still feel like a child of theirs. He was studying abroad in the U.K. at the time and was barely able to make it, but did, nonetheless. His gift to them was a bill for the therapy he needed after such a confusing childhood.
Everything went swimmingly. Everything was nice.
“I’ve been thinking,” Aziraphale said. He stood in front of the calendar they had hanging on the wall of their kitchen, twirling his wedding band.
“That’s never a good thing,” Crowley chuckled. “Here, angel.” He handed him a freshly made mug of hot cocoa, which he took eagerly and savored the first sip.
“Thank you, dear. It’s October 20th.”
“Is it now?” The date didn’t register. Crowley wasn’t sure if he was supposed to remember anything for today. “What about it?” He watched Aziraphale take another long drink of his hot cocoa. He made it with just a bit more chocolate than usual and was very proud of it.
“That means tomorrow’s October 21st. That’s the day Earth was created.”
“Oh yeah, I always forget that.” He grabbed a nearby empty cup and tapped it against Aziraphale’s mug.
“To the world.”
“To the world,” Aziraphale smiled and Crowley put down the cup. “It’s not just that, though. I was thinking about how many years we’ve gone on since we signed our contracts.” Truthfully, Crowley had almost forgotten about that. Living life this way felt so normal, everything else beforehand felt like a fever dream. Looking at the soft grooves of wrinkles adorning Aziraphale’s face with the white—not blond, white—hair crowning his head made it almost impossible to accurately imagine, or even wish for, life before the contracts. “How many has it been now? Almost twenty at this point?” Crowley shrugged. He wasn’t one for keeping count nowadays. Keeping count tended to ruin things. “We’ve gone all these years aging and commemorating our anniversary and we haven’t even thought to celebrate a single birthday.”
“Birthday? We don’t have those, do we?”
“Well, I was reading a book on astrology and horoscopes—”
“Angel, come on.” Crowley shook his head and laughed.
“No, no, listen. If even the Earth has a birthday, who’s to say we don’t? The Earth is a Libra, I think you and I are, too.”
“What days are Libra?”
“September 23rd to October 22nd.”
“Then I’m not a Libra, I’m the one after that. The, er, the one that’s mean and nasty. The, uh—”
“Yes, that one.”
“No, you’re not.” Aziraphale laughed like if someone had just told him the Earth was a square. “Earth was created on October 21st and the angels were made on the first day. Therefore, you and I have the same birthday, tomorrow, and the same sign.”
“Right, except when I came into existence, the bodies of water and plants were already created. I helped build the stars, so I was made on the fourth day. My birthday is October 25th.”
Aziraphale took a cautious sip from his hot cocoa. It felt even hotter just then. “Are you sure? Because I distinctly remember existing before the sky and waters had even separated. Considering all angels were made on the same day, I think you’re sorely mistaken.”
“You think I wouldn’t remember my own creation? Who’s to say you’re not the one who’s misremembering?”
“I know I’m not misremembering because I was trained for my future job as the Guardian of the Eastern Gate before the stars were even conceived.”
“Then maybe we weren’t made on the same day,” Crowley said, frustrated. He weakly threw his hands up at the suggestion. He didn’t believe it himself, but if it would get them to move on from the conversation, he was willing to accept it.
“No, that’s not right either. I think you’re just wrong.” Aziraphale finished his drink and placed the mug into the sink. Crowley looked offended.
“Really? And what evidence do you have? Because right now, it’s just your word against mine.”
“Fhm Bhblh…” he muttered.
Aziraphale cleared his throat. “The Bible,” he said, with the confidence of someone trying to sell the idea that the Earth was a square.
“The Bible?” Crowley cackled.
“I’m serious. It implies that—”
“Implies? Angel, the Bible was written by humans—”
“Which we are now, need I remind you.”
“Just because we are them doesn’t mean we have to trust their word over our own experiences. Come on, angel, you’re smarter than that.” Memories of an immortal and undivine life began to flood Crowley’s mind. Right, so that’s what it was like before the contracts. He couldn’t believe he’d almost forgotten.
“I was just suggesting that maybe they were right. I don’t see you bringing up any evidence.”
“Evidence? You want my evidence? My memory’s my evidence, how’s that?”
“Pretty shaky at best. You nearly forgot our anniversary this year.” That had done it.
“Really, angel? You really want to bring that up? I said I was sorry, and I was under a lot of stress. Unlike you, I’m actually running a business now and it takes up time.”
Aziraphale tensed. “Do you honestly think that’s an excuse? And do you really think it’s wise of you to bring up your new business that you’ve only owned for a few years, of which was made possible because I let you move into my building? Meanwhile, until I chose to retire, I was a business owner for almost two centuries while you sat doing what? Tripping up phone lines? I’m sure Hell was so impressed with that,” he spat sarcastically.
“And I’m sure Heaven was so impressed with your fraternizing with a demon, making arrangements with him, doing evil deeds yourself so you could cut corners and save time.”
“That was a mutual decision, Crowley.”
“It was a temptation and you fell for it. Face it, angel, you weren’t a very good one if it was that easy. And quite frankly, the fact that you’d compare my memory of creation—the few days I actually got to live through Heaven—to a fucking book written by humans with absolutely zero experience that even qualifies as being near mine, is beyond insulting.” He’d raised his voice a deal more than he’d meant to do. He felt very big, then suddenly very small. His eyes softened and he reached out to Aziraphale, who wore the expression of someone whose heart had been stabbed with a flaming pitchfork. “Aziraphale.”
“Yes, well,” he said. He turned and avoided Crowley’s touch. “Maybe it was a good thing you had such a limited time in Heaven. Clearly, we didn’t want you there then, and we probably won’t want you there again now.” With that, Crowley felt nothing but ice in his arteries. Aziraphale left the kitchen and to the front door.
“Where are you going?” Crowley yelled after him.
“Out.” He slammed the door and the whole house shook with remorse.
“‘Out,’” he mocked. Crowley, not sure if he should feel angry or depressed, did what he knew best in this situation. He headed to their room and fell asleep.
Crowley awoke to the sound of pans clanging softly and the smell of bacon and peppers. He peeked his head out of their room and checked the time. It was a little less than an hour until midnight, same day. He missed being able to take his time and sleep for an entire century. Humans were a fascinating bunch, moving even too fast for his taste sometimes. He yawned and the aroma of food gave his empty stomach a kickstart. Crowley stepped out into the kitchen. Aziraphale was dressed in his favorite silk pajamas, which he only ever wore when he had a bad day and needed something extra to cheer him up. There were two plates of bell pepper and cheese omelettes set on the counter with bacon sizzling in the pan in Aziraphale’s hand. Crowley cleared his throat and Aziraphale snapped out of his breakfast-induced trance.
“You’re awake,” he said matter-of-factly.
“You made two,” Crowley said, a little surprised.
“I couldn’t very well let you starve.” He finished up his work and slid the bacon onto the two awaiting plates, giving one plate a few extra strips for himself. “I would’ve woken you up. Probably have thrown this in your face or something.”
“You wouldn’t waste food.”
“No, I suppose you’re right.” Aziraphale took the plates from the kitchen counter and moved them to the little dinner table just beside it. Crowley set out the utensils and napkins and poured the two some water. They sat and took their first bites in silence. These omelettes weren’t as good as Crowley’s, but they tasted like home all the same. “Sorry it’s such a late dinner,” Aziraphale mumbled.
“Don’t apologize.” Crowley stared at the water glass. He tapped at it meticulously. “Thank you for cooking. You didn’t have to do that.” Aziraphale shrugged. “And I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.” He finally made eye contact. “I’m sorry I belittled your bookshop and I’m more than sorry that I said you weren’t a very good angel. You were the best one, and even as a human, you still outshine them tenfold.” He reached over and took Aziraphale’s hand. “You were the only good bastard left in Heaven, and I’m convinced you’re the only good bastard that matters on earth.”
Aziraphale swallowed his bite of food and processed the words. He was still mad at him, but it was nothing a little sleep later couldn’t fix. “I’m sorry I doubted your memory, especially over something as silly as a birthday. That, and the comment I made about Heaven. It’s true, Heaven didn’t want you.” Crowley rolled his eyes. “But that’s because Heaven, well, fucking sucks.” They stared at each other, then burst out into laughter.
“It does fucking suck, doesn’t it?”
“It’s the worst! And when you’ve worked with Gabriel so long, you completely forget it’s supposed to be a paradise!”
“You know what I think?” Crowley asked in between chewing a bite of bacon. “I think Heaven would be a lot better if they had a few Crowleys running around.”
“That certainly would make it less boring. Though I’d be more than content with just the one.”
The two finished their late meals, chatting and gossiping like they never fought in the first place. That was the funny thing about being human, they wondered. They had limited time, and as a result had to resolve things quickly. It was rather convenient, not having to avoid each other for decades before having the confidence to face each other in hopes the other forgot about the whole ordeal. They were grateful for what this had done for them.
A faint click came from the clock in the kitchen as the two finished washing dishes. It just turned midnight and the day was October 21st. Crowley moved behind Aziraphale and snaked his arms around his soft belly. He smiled pitifully. “Happy birthday, angel.”
Aziraphale smiled back smugly. “And where’s my birthday present?”
Crowley kissed him on his temple. “You’re looking at it.” He slid his hands under Aziraphale’s shirt to feel the stretchmarks that had once been laced in gold in his angelic years.
“I see we went cheap on the gifts this year."
“The food tonight was lovely, but how about,” he kissed his neck, “I turn you into a meal of my own and eat you right up?”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale hummed, “you don’t have to act so indecent.” The words held no scolding tone.
“Can’t help it. I’m a Scorpio now.”
“So, you do know about astrology?”
“Just a little.” He smiled against his skin and the night went on.
For Crowley’s birthday, Aziraphale did indeed get him a physical gift.*****
“Crowley,” Aziraphale called. “Crowley, where’ve you gone?”
“In the bathroom, angel,” Crowley called back. “Door’s unlocked.”
Aziraphale followed the voice and knocked. “Is everything alright? You’ve been in there a long time.” He squeaked the door open and met with a mess of red all throughout the sink. He swung open the door and bumped it against Crowley, who yelped. “Really, Crowley? Red? You know that stains everything.” Aziraphale inspected the damage and traced it back to its source: a red hair dying kit.
“What other color do you suggest I do? Blue?” Crowley resumed rubbing the dye into his grey hairs with unshielded hands. Aziraphale inspected the box and found a pair of plastic gloves.
“What’s the point of buying the whole kit if you won’t at least cover your hands?” He pulled them out and gestured for Crowley to bring his hands forward. There wasn’t much point in it anymore, but he insisted.
“I don’t like the gloves; they make me feel uncoordinated.” He clumsily went back to covering the last tufts of grey hair with the demonic tint.
“I thought you said you like getting grey hairs, that it was like an adventure.” Aziraphale wiped at the sink, shaking his head at the stains that wouldn’t come off. There were worse things to worry about in the world, he guessed.
“Yeah, well, the novelty’s run out.” They couldn’t help but laugh. Most of their days had been spent laughing at and with each other, honestly. They thought they’d get tired of it by now, but every chuckle and giggle and full on cackle felt like a breath of fresh air. A breath Crowley was running low on, as his laugh turned into a cough, and then into a violent hack. It wasn’t the first time, and Aziraphale had already grown accustomed to patting him gently on the back until Crowley’s lungs finally caught up with him. When they did, he shook his head and took several deep breaths.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine, angel. Never been better.” It was a half lie. He did rather enjoy being doted on.
The coughs became something of an unbearable event. They consumed his days and his nights, and he even offered to sleep on the couch so Aziraphale could get a good night’s sleep for once. Aziraphale, of course, refused.
The day Crowley collapsed while wrapping up some large sunflowers on a particularly hot afternoon was the day that he decided to retire from the flower shop. He didn’t hurt himself too bad, as he claimed it would take a little more than an off-balanced plant and a bit of sun to take the wiliest demon out of commission. He did, however, learn to appreciate laying down and taking naps more than he ever did, which he didn’t think was possible considering how much he already loved it.
He loved, even more, the sound of Aziraphale’s voice reading aloud to him every day. Crowley claimed he wasn’t one for books, but something about the look in Aziraphale’s eyes when he was just getting to the good part—there were many good parts, apparently—made him seriously consider thanking God, or whoever was responsible, for inventing the things. It even made him contemplate writing, himself, just to know that he was the reason behind the smile plastered onto Aziraphale’s face.
One day, it felt different. Crowley didn’t know how he knew, but he knew it would be his last. The two had agreed months prior that they wouldn’t bother with any treatment should the other fall ill. They enjoyed the lives they lived and were quite happy to move on. Even so, it was one thing to discuss those plans, and another thing entirely to watch them come to fruition. Crowley broke the news to his partner.
“I see,” Aziraphale said. He didn’t whisper, or cry, or assert. He just said. “Then we ought to pick a very special book, right?”
Crowley nodded and contemplated. “Do you have Animal Farm with you? Or is it in the shop?”
“Animal Farm?” He thankfully had it in the cottage. “Really? That book is for children.”
“Yeah, but it’s always nice to revisit things, don’t you think?”
“I guess I can’t argue with that.” Aziraphale left to the corner where he kept his stacked books and pulled out a copy of the requested story. It was comically thin compared to the behemoths of paper stacked on and around it. “At least it’s a short one. You’ll get to hear all of it in one sitting.”
Aziraphale read and drank water whenever his throat had become parched and even offered to let Crowley read a few pages like a teacher to an elementary schooler. He always denied. He felt Aziraphale’s voice always did these stories so much more justice than his wheezing could allow. When Aziraphale flipped the last page and closed the book, he placed his own wrinkled hand atop Crowley’s. “Are you ready, dear?”
“Angel, I was ready the day I signed the contract.” There was no doubt in either of their minds that he was telling the truth.
They noticed a black looming figure in their peripherals and looked up to confront an old acquaintance. They exchanged a chaste but meaningful kiss and welcomed Death.
“Be gentle with him,” Aziraphale said. Crowley rolled his eyes like a child embarrassed of his overprotective guardian.
I ALWAYS AM, Death said. They did not know where Crowley was headed, but some way, somehow, they felt they would end up there together.
Aziraphale did not let go of Crowley’s hand, but sometime within the hour, Crowley had let go of his. He—no, his body, had gone cold.
There were no tears. Aziraphale had gone decades, and even centuries at a time not seeing Crowley. A few years at most was sure to hurt no one. He still couldn’t help but wallow in the loneliness of the cottage and the lack of a thundering voice to keep the plants in the corner alive.
Aziraphale took the liberty of transporting all his books from the bookshop to his cottage. He figured it would help to combat the empty feeling. It started off with him walking back and forth, carrying only a few books at a time. In his old age, though, that kind of work took a number on him. So instead, he found the key to the Bentley still parked outside the house collecting dust and decided he wouldn’t die without at least knowing what driving felt like. It was nerve wracking and downright unnatural, but he hoped Crowley was proud of him, wherever he was.
After more than a few trips, all of which involved extremely slow and extremely cautious driving, Aziraphale managed to relocate every single book and document. He placed the full building, including Crowley’s side, up for sale for an exorbitantly cheap price. It was taken almost immediately.
On his final day, Aziraphale snuggled up on the couch in his Sunday best attire drinking hot cocoa that wasn’t quite as good as the ones his partner used to make, but it was close enough. He surrounded himself in a clutter of books and had just finished reading through a pile of Oscar Wilde’s works, except for The Happy Prince, which he opened to find a loose paper wedged between the pages. It fell out on the floor and read:
To my dear angel Aziraphale:
Roses are red, I think you’re swell.
I that hope this poem finds you well.
Morning dew’s wet, water is wetter.
Between me and Oscar, I’d say I’m much better.
I wanted to tell you I love you a lot,
But it’s hard to find words that rhyme with “a lot.”
So I’ll say this instead and hope that it sticks:
May your ex-boyfriend Wilde suck on my dick.
He wasn’t sure when Crowley found the chance to write and hide such a thing, but it was enough to make his face beam with utter love and joy and laughter. It was horribly crude and horribly Crowley. He folded the note into his pocket and looked up to see the one and only.
ARE YOU READY NOW? It wasn’t normally so patient, but it felt some sort of attachment to the pair by this point.
“Yes, I’m quite finished now.” Aziraphale stood from the couch and walked forward. He looked behind him and saw a body that looked an awful lot like his but lacked the essentials. Breath, for example. The two walked side by side aimlessly until a gorgeous blinding light consumed them. It wasn’t as warm as Aziraphale expected. Gabriel had told him once before that it would be warm, for any humans inquiring, of course. Then again, Gabriel didn’t know a lot of things. He wondered if Beelzebub knew about the light. Surely, they had to know, if not from the stories, at least. Then again, Beelzebub didn’t know a lot of things either. Wherever he was going, Aziraphale would not be in the company of competence, it seemed.
Lost in thought, he almost didn’t notice that the two stopped walking.
THERE, Death said, pointing ahead to a direction of nothingness. Aziraphale thanked it and the two separated. Everything was very plain. There were no walls or floors, but there were mirrors on his sides oddly enough. Aziraphale could watch himself morph into a younger version of himself. He looked at his non-wrinkled hands in front of him to confirm that this was indeed happening and that it wasn’t a cruel trick from the mirrors. He looked as freshly naïve as the day he was made. For most humans, he thought, that ought to appear much younger and much more vulnerable. Even his clothes shifted. He wasn’t in his Sunday best attire anymore, which he was sorely disappointed over, since he specifically dressed that way for the sole purpose of impressing whomever he’d meet on the other side. Instead, it was swapped with a simple white flowing robe. A lovely pair of white wings materialized behind him, and with a confident flap, he nearly sobbed from the sheer joy of feeling weight on his shoulder blades again. He was pleased to find that his wedding band remained. His timid walk became an empowered stride, which turned into a youthful sprint, and into an utterly playful flutter of his wings to fly himself to the end of the nothingness.
Then, in the distance, he spotted it. He wasn’t sure what it was, but it was something. The something grew closer and larger and before he knew it, he could make out a window. Above it was a sign that read, in all bright red letters, WAITING AREA. Next to the window, there was a section of chairs and people, all of different ages and statures, trying to find a place to sit. A place to sit. Aziraphale needed to find a place to sit, he needed to find a place to stop and breathe and find—
“Hey bub, this here’s already taken by my friend, he’ll be here any minute now.”
“Crowley!” Aziraphale located the voice in a sea of seats, only one of them being empty and hovered over by a stranger.
“Aziraphale?” He heard him, but he couldn’t find him. Crowley looked frantically around until he was met by a bolting winged thing crashing into him for a hug or a kiss or both. They couldn’t tell if they stayed like that for seconds or minutes or days. Time didn’t matter here. The hovering stranger had left to hunt for seats somewhere else by the time they gathered themselves.
Aziraphale separated from the now youthful Crowley to look him over. He appeared in wings and a robe not unlike his own, only they were a marvelous deep black. His hair was long and curly and luxuriously red. His eyes were the same brilliant yellow that would have made any lesser man feel like prey. He wore a matching wedding band. “Crowley, you look… You look beautiful.” He couldn’t remember if he was this gorgeous in Eden. He couldn’t have been, or else he would have fallen for him right then and there. Maybe he did and it had just taken a while to notice. It didn’t matter now.
“So do you, angel. You always have,” Crowley said, coming closer and peppering his cheeks with little serpent kisses. “I saved you a seat.” He signaled at the two empty chairs next to them.
“How chivalrous,” Aziraphale teased. The two sat comfortably and locked their hands together. “So where are we headed? Heaven? Hell? Some new top-secret location they’ve created just for us?”
Crowley shrugged. “They haven’t told me. I don’t think they’ve fully decided yet.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“No, I don’t have a hard time believing them. Dagon, Lord of the Files, lets himself get backed up often. I’ve reported several complaints. Not because I think it’ll get them to work any faster, but because I’m hoping it annoys the heave—hell—that it annoys them.”
“So, what do we do now?”
“Wait for them to decide where we end up?” Aziraphale asked. “Or wait for them to get so sick of the backlog of complaints that they just let us go free for a bit while they figure things out?”
They exchanged devious grins.
“I’ll race you to HR.”
“Not if I get there first!”
Whether angel and demon or white-winged human in the afterlife and black-winged human in the afterlife, Aziraphale and Crowley could agree on one thing above all: they were good together. And even in racing to ruin their offices’ day while in the comfort of a blank waiting room, the pair could say that nothing felt as truly right as knowing that wherever they’d end up, it’d be by each other’s side.
* This job at least gave Crowley a new set of skills to impress his friend with whenever they drank in the latter’s bookshop. Aziraphale enjoyed whenever Crowley would put on a show shaking and mixing drinks. The one time they’d allow miracles without considering it cheating was when some of the drinks would splatter onto pages of books from Crowley’s vigorous shaking. He only got this way when he was excited.
** Madame Tracy hadn’t the heart to tell Shadwell that a can of beans did not, in fact, count as an acquaintance no matter how many nipples it lacked.
*** These were the words of Gabriel. Beelzebub did not laugh.
**** Throughout his previously immortal life, Aziraphale could objectively say that Oscar Wilde was the most fun experience he’d had. He managed to get quite a few first editions from him that way, all of them remaining in a special compartment in his bookshop, next to the first editions of Sir Francis Bacon and Marquis de Sade’s works which were all acquired in a much similar and mutually gratifying fashion. Although, the latter had gotten Aziraphale into quite a lot of trouble, and truthfully, it made him question many more things about his nature and the nature of humanity than he would’ve liked. He supposed that was the point of it all, really, in the author’s work. It didn’t make it any less interesting of an experiment, however.
***** It was a shirt. It had a picture of a snake that said, “Hiss Off!” and Crowley wore it unironically for a week straight until Aziraphale threatened to burn it. He was now only allowed to wear it once every fortnight.