We make believe, I've never seen your face, you neither mine.
Sunset - The XX
He’d never admit it, but the moment he’d laid eyes on him, he’d felt a particular… zing.
Powerful and demanding yet sweet and hollow, running up his spine just so, like a pack of children finally allowed to go outside and play. Intense in the way that there was noway that Crowley could not feel it but so soft and quick and goddamn buzzing that Crowley wasn’t sure that it had actually really happened.
Perhaps it didn’t anyway.
Perhaps Crowley was just imagining things the way he did- it seemed highly likely, too, with the way all of the other angels always had at him for the way his mind worked. The way he could create. The way he could feel. Even when it wasn’t real. Real to them, anyway.
But none of it mattered, still, because even if it had happened, as in, even if there was a particular… zing, he was sure it was only on his end, anyway.
And yes, Heavenly Mother, yes, if Hastur could hear him, the way he was belittling himself, he would have his head bitten off. Only from Hastur, though. Crowley was pretty sure that the rest of the angels could care less about what he thought of himself, especially when they didn’t particularly like him anyway.
But, yes, none of it mattered.
Even if the image of the… being at hand was permanently etched into Crowley’s thoughts each and every moment of every day, it truly didn’t mean anything. Because, honestly? Crowley was sure that it had happened to more angels than he- perhaps even humans.
He couldn’t put his finger on precisely what it was that stood out so much about this… being, but that was only because there was so much to choose from.
It happened this way.
It was a bright, early, June morning and Crowley was pulling open the sweet orange curtains of the florist, fresh beams of sun cascading over his tanned skin. He drew a deep breath through his nose, taking in the aroma of a brand new shipment of marigolds and the sly scent of fresh cut grass that slipped into the shop as the mailmen swung the door open.
He exhaled softly, opening his eyes to welcome the scenery of a bright new day. Cracking his knuckles, he stared at his own reflection in the window, bright eyed, ginger headed and happy.
From behind him, a deep voice came, Gregory, one of the regulars whom delivered shipments. “Hey, Mr. Crowley, what are these? They smell pretty great. Had the truck smelling like my daughter’s room.”
Crowley turned to face the man, clasping his hands together and smiling. “Quite taste, your daughter has then. They’re marigolds, Gregory.” He said, proudly, his white teeth on display. He placed a hand on the box Gregory had rested on a vacant wooden table. Running a finger down the middle, Crowley dug into the crease and brought the hooked finger up effortlessly, releasing the beautiful scent into the room for good. “Such a beautiful essence. The best in June. Shame they never bloom for me properly.”
“That’s okay, Mr. C. My wife’s really kickass at pineapple upside down cake but sucks at lemon meringue pie. We just cop one from the store whenever we get a knack for it. There’s no shame in it.” Gregory shrugged, clasping a thick hand on Crowley’s slender shoulder.
At the dialogue, Crowley’s ember eyes shift from the flowers that mirror them, to the ground, his smile faltering slightly. Swallowing briefly, blinking and completely regaining himself, he looked up to meet Gregory’s compassionate eyes. He smiled. “Where do I have to sign?”
After Gregory left, Crowley had a few customers come in. One of them was a regular from across town that came in to purchase lovely white roses for his boyfriend every other week. Crowley wasn’t exactly sure what the reason was, and didn’t think there had to be a reason, but he couldn’t help but see the sheer panic in the boy’s eyes when Crowley told him there weren’t any in today.
“Oh, fuck.” The boy muttered and Crowley flinched at the harsh word.
“My apologies, they haven’t bloomed yet.” He offered, eyeing the short, brunette boy. His forehead had broken into a sweat now, which was weird because the A/C was on. He shook his head a bit and put a hand to his mouth, chomping on his nails. Crowley thought that human habits were disgusting if he thought about it too much, so he tried not to do it, but alas there was always someone who put it right before his eyes.
Trying to contain the disgust that threatened to spill out on his features, he swallowed and said, “I have some lilies? They’re white… and they smell divine. They’re actually a hot favorite.” Lies. Most people who came in the florist shop were attracted to plants with bright colors. White flowers hardly got much attention besides this poor, poor boy before him. Crowley’s heart sank a little at the thought of this boy having to tell his boyfriend he didn’t have any roses for him today.
“N-no. I’m sorry. He likes roses.” The boy said, biting the inside of his cheek. His eyes had begun to fill with tears now and oh, wait.
“You know what, I think I have some in a vase in the back. Let me just check, I’m pretty sure I do, so I’ll be right back, alright?” Crowley said and the boy’s face lit up as he nodded.
Crowley turned on his heels, away from the counter and ran a hand down his white vest.
Just to be clear, Crowley hardly ever performed miracles unless he really had to.
Unless the situation was definitely dire.
Life or death, sort of thing.
But in all honesty, dire situations happened each and every day, right before Crowley’s eyes.
And how was he supposed to let a boy go home to his love without the flowers he promised he’d come back with? That would be downright cruel.
So he shuffled into the backroom of the shop, his heart full, face warm and his fingers wrapped around the pink fabric of his tie, trying to loosen it some.
He inhaled deeply, closing his eyes, muttering a word or two and opened his eyes again. Before him, atop one of the many boxes in the room, a clear vase with intricate hearts carved into its glass sat with a bouquet of beautiful, bright white roses with equally vibrant green stems in healthy water.
At the sight, Crowley crooked an eyebrow, sort of shocked by his own ability to miracle something so beautiful into existence. For a few moments he stared at his creation before the realization that the boy was awaiting him struck and he clumsily darted towards the box, an “oof” sound sliding out of his mouth.
He collected the vase in his hands carefully, breathing in the scent. Euphoric. The boy would be so happy and so would his love. Crowley’s thin lips broke out into a wide smile.
So then, he turned on his heels, back toward the door filled with joy and dropped the entire vase unto the floor immediately.
Crowley was sort of a klutz.
The angels never let him forget it.
But this wasn’t because he had two left feet.
His body had jerked in fear and utter shock and rendered his limbs unable to maintain any sort of grip once he laid eyes on him.
As the glass met the hard wooden floor and exploded to life into a million shards, Crowley shut his eyes tight to shield them from the attack and released a sound that he wasn’t very proud of.
And honestly? He wasn’t sure if he wanted to open them again. So he didn’t.
And maybe if he shut them long enough, then opened them again, he’d find that he just had really been a klutz. Yes, that sounded plausible.
The entire ordeal was a mix up, his brain was playing tricks on him, he’d been down here too long anyway. All the human mumbo-jumbo was getting to him, making him imagine even more than he’d done before up at home.
Honestly, home didn’t sound too bad right now. Even though Crowley particularly liked earth, home- heaven, didn’t sound that bad at all. He could live with being amongst his brothers and sisters, through their verbal taunts and wretched looks, if it meant that this… this… whatever this was, wasn’t happening.
In fact, it probably wasn’t.
All Crowley needed to do was stop being such a wuss and open his eyes. Then he’d see. He’d see that this was definitely not ha-
“Anthony, is it?” the light yet downright condescending (and velvety, if Crowley did say so himself) tone broke through the thickness of his jumbled thoughts.
If there was ever a time to use profanities it was most definitely now, but the bitter tightness of Crowley’s fast beating heart was distressing enough. Chills that he’d swear up and down, back and forth to the Almighty weren’t happening, draped his slim frame, demanding the attention of each and every hair on his body and he clenched a fist, manicured nails digging into his palm.
Swallowing, he allowed his left eye to relax, then slowly part before tearing itself open just so that he could see more of what was in front of him.
It was him.
He knew because his eye immediately met his, those very, very deadly crimson irises. Allowing his other eye to join in on the visual feast (because why not), Crowley inhaled. Although the utter intensity of his gaze was enough to make Crowley genuinely scared to look away, he had to. He had to see him and see him all. It had been so long since he had and now that he was there, now that he was back, he had to drink it all in like a tall flute of Moet.
And, God, if it wasn’t even better than that.
He looked at the being’s ghastly complexion, pale skin spilling across his face, into the neck of a jet black turtleneck. Such a contrast it was, so painstakingly beautiful if he were allowed to think so. He momentarily questioned how he’d even maintained the ominous shade in such summer heat but it wasn’t as though he was complaining. It complimented him so well and Crowley was sure he knew it. It was confirmed in the way his mouth was twitched just so in a small smile, his features barely soft but not stern.
His dark hair cascaded on his shoulders, swiftly brushed off of his face anyway, tucked behind his ears. Over his turtleneck, he donned a very expensive looking black blazer, buttoned together neatly falling just below the belt of an equally expensive pair of black slacks. His arms were behind his back, as Crowley would’ve expected. He was always so… put together. Always so neat. So refined. Although no other angel besides Crowley would admit it, this… being put them all to shame in that department.
From the flawless sweep of his hair to the intricately designed black oxfords, he exuded a particular aura Crowley had never in all of his years as an angel been able to attain. He supposed that whatever it was that made him so, whatever he was, had to do with downstairs. Maybe it just wasn’t for angels, or anyone for that matter to understand. Still, the intensity of his presence made Crowley’s mouth water profusely. Gathering it all together, he swallowed, tearing his eyes from the being’s shoes back up to his face.
His expression hadn’t changed much for the most part, but he seemed slightly more amused than he did at first, one of his eyebrows crooked just so and his mouth more elevated than it had been. But that didn’t matter because Crowley wasn’t… checking him out. Or whatever it was he’d heard those teenagers say in the shop the other day.
He truly wasn’t. And he’d swear it, even if his cheeks had begun to burn under the being’s knowing look. Adverting his gaze again, to the mess of glass and water on the floor Crowley shook his head slightly. “I’m sorry. That isn’t your name?” He spoke again with a weary tone, once again tearing through Crowley’s mind.
And Crowley’s body jumped a little before his eyes shot back up to his, because oh yeah, he’d been asked a question. “Uh, yes! Anthony Crowley, that’s me.” He said a bit too quickly.
Blinking, his smile came to life some more. “Funny, I would’ve sworn I heard there was a J somewhere in that moniker.”
“Oh,” Crowley spoke, eyebrows knitting. “Yes. Yes, there is. Anthony J. Crowley, that’s the full thing, but, um, most people just end up forgetting it anyway. So I kind of just, over the years I mean, I just, let it go. It never really meant anything anyway, so, I, um.”
“Right.” His red eyes bore into Crowley’s as he nodded. Looking around the room his expression remained still, taking in the cluttered space. His eyes landed on the floor before him, the mess that sat between he and Crowley, and he brought his hand from behind his back, all pale and ring clad, motioning toward the floor. “My utmost apologies for the vase. I didn’t mean to frighten you. The flowers are lovely.” He mused, snapping his fingers and bringing the broken shards, water and plants back together again. “For anyone special?”
Crowley’s face broke into a nervous smile, his head shaking. “Someone…? No. Oh. No. No, I don’t…” The being’s eyebrow raised, as if begging to be told more, but Crowley knew this game. This was a game most of… their kind played. He wished he was able to thwart it more confidently. Clearing his throat, he bent to retrieve the vase.
“Not trying to be that angel, but what are you doing here?” He muttered boldly, regaining his natural height.
“I can’t drop by to see an old friend?” He asked, confusion covering his features.
Crowley rolled his eyes, finally regaining some sort of composure despite the shock that ran down his spine at the being’s choice of words. Friend? “I don’t…” he paused, stepping forward nervously. “… even know you. And I have a customer. Excuse me.”
And he wasn’t exactly wrong. He didn’t know this being. They’d met once, years ago, just after the beginning. But that was a story for another time.
After they’d met, Crowley had been reduced to the sheer, embarrassing hope that they’d one day meet again. Plagued by the buzzing feeling in his physical body and mental being, for years on end. It had finally started to die down, along with the entire prospect that the being could ever, even in a million years feel the way he did. Like maybe he didn’t have to be lonely on earth. Maybe he could have a friend.
But he was wrong, because he was an angel and he was… whatever he was. The thought should’ve never been in the first place. He pondered that perhaps Ligur and the rest were right, even if he’d had more hope than they did about their kind. Maybe it was just his stupid imagination again.
So then why was he here?
Crowley wanted to know. Badly.
But he shouldn’t have wanted to know in the way that he did. So then, he began to walk past the being, definitely not inhaling as he got within close proximity- but even if he did, who could blame him? He just wanted to know if he still smelled as sinful as he did all those years ago. And he did.
“You don’t?” He said just as they were shoulder to shoulder, peering at Crowley.
Crowley stopped in his tracks for a second and then resumed his walk. “No. I don’t. I presume you’ve been sent from downstairs for some reason, so maybe you could get on with the reasoning.”
Turning on his heels to follow the angel, the red eyed being scoffed lightly. “I wasn’t sent by anyone, Anthony-”
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” Crowley’s voice tore through his, laced with nerves and buzz and just need, as he began down the hall to the front of the shop.
“ You don’t. You’ll have to have some sort of faith.” He said flatly and Crowley wondered if it was meant to be some sort of pun. He didn’t ask. “I wasn’t sent by anyone downstairs. I just thought that it was high time that you and I reunited, with all the time that’s gone past.” He purred. Yes. Purred. “I mean before I came, I asked around some, heard some things through the grapevine. Heard you haven’t been up to much besides selling fauna.”
Although that bit stung, just a tad, Crowley continued walking. “As I said, Mister, I don’t know you, so if you’ll just allow me to get back to selling my fauna that would be jolly-”
“No need.” The sound of his oxfords on the floor ceased suddenly and Crowley nearly did with him. “I met the young man you were servicing on my way in. Poor thing looked like he was ready to combust so I sent him on his way. Told him that I was one of your workers and gave him the bouquet he so desired.”
Swiftly turning around to face the dark haired being, Crowley’s eyes went comically large. “You wot?”
“I’m sorry. You didn’t want me to help you retain your clientele?” He raised his head higher, presumably to meet Crowley’s eyes and returned his arms to behind him.
“I-I don’t know you! You can’t just skip into somebody’s establishment and start miracling things and acting as if you own the place!” Crowley said, exasperated and flushed.
“You’re right. I don’t own the place. But it isn’t wrong of me to help someone when they need it.” He smiled then cocked his head to the side. “Although I suppose it is, isn’t it? Big, great demon like me, don’t suppose I’m supposed to be helping anyone.”
And there it was. Crowley didn’t like the way that word tasted on his tongue, it was all raw and wrong and just… bad. But he supposed that it was after all what he was. A demon.
Crowley’s mouth gaped then shut as the demon took a step toward him. “I swear, I’m just… checking in on you. It’s been awhile. Am I not allowed to… worry?” He said carefully, as if he wasn’t sure exactly what he could say.
Swallowing, Crowley quietly sighed. “Whatever.” Turning back on his heels, missing the victorious smile of the demon, he pushed through the door back into the bright shop and placed the vase of flowers on the counter, near the register.
Hugging himself with knitted eyebrows, he fought immensely not to turn around, eyes glued to the vase. Luckily, he didn’t have to. The dark haired menace slipped beside him, just a little bit ahead of him, just enough for him to be within the angel’s eyesight. He cleared his throat and inhaled, using the opportunity to raise his head again, establish some sort of dominance. At least that’s how Crowley felt about it.
Truth be told, the demon hardly needed to do that but Crowley quickly decided it very well may’ve just came natural to him. He hardly seemed like the type to feel inferior in any situation, even if Crowley had about three inches of height on him. That was easily made up in the way that Crowley didn’t exude anything to back up what would be considered a dominant stature. In fact, Crowley was quite lanky, fidgety and frankly, all over the place. It was a waste of body, Ligur had said once and it still rung clear in Crowley’s head at most times, making him frown and feel a sting in his ribs.
Maybe if he actually ate, like human food, maybe then he could gain a little more weight. Maybe then he could look better, put on a few pounds and gain some sort of confidence for God sake. For the sake of subtle comparison, his eyes flit over to the well dressed demon, glancing at his well proportioned face and thick, healthy looking limbs, apparent even under articles of clothing. Crowley didn’t like feeling envious, after all it was against his entire being. He wasn’t supposed to want what others had. He had everything he needed. He was created in Her image, right? That’s what they told him.
Crowley hugged himself tighter. “How have you been, Anthony?”
Biting his cheek, he finally gave up. “I’ve been quite fine, Aziraphale. H-how have you been?”
At the mention of his name, a slither of gratification ran over his face. “So elated to hear it. I’ve been wonderful. Earth has proved to be a mighty host for the last six thousand years, hasn’t it?”
“I suppose it has.”
“What, with you finding a perfectly angelic hobby. Nursing and purchasing fauna to sell for profit to the locals, who I’m sure by now all address you as Mr. Crowley or Mr. Anthony, or something as equally nauseating.” He delivered monotonously. “I must say, I’m a bit envious of your ability to domesticate yourself so well. I’ve always wondered what it was like to find interest in housewives. I suppose now I can cross that off of my list.”
“If you’ve just come all this way to rip at me-” and make me feel like a worthless angel, then you’d better inquire Ligur about joining the club they’ve got. “-I’d have preferred if you stayed wherever it is you were.” And if he believed it just enough, he could imagine that his reply actually stung Aziraphale in any way, shape or form. To distract himself from the burn of his cheeks and the thumping of his heart against his ribcage, he directed his attention to a neatly organized stack of petunias sticking out of a wooden cubby.
By the time Aziraphale opened his mouth to speak again, Crowley was intently staring and fidgeting with the flowers. Aziraphale watched him for a moment, eyebrows raised and mind a bit fuzzy, then, “I haven’t. I’m just joking with you. I didn’t mean to offend you.” Crowley didn’t answer. So, “I feel that maybe a spot of lunch may help us break the ice more efficiently.”
Crowley’s hands ceased in the forest of petunias, losing himself in the color for a moment, mind processing the invitation. Of course, it sounded good.
He would’ve loved to- liked to get reacquainted with Aziraphale but… what would they think? What if Ligur or one of the other showed up and saw them? The thought sent a shiver down Crowley’s spine causing him to retract his arm, hugging himself again.
Turning around slightly, just to look at Aziraphale again, Crowley’s light ember eyes sparkled with thought and resistance. He knew that ultimately Aziraphale would get what he wanted from him, the lunch and anything else he wanted, because, oh, yes, Crowley wasn’t stupid. He knew that there was no way this demon came all the way from wherever he was (last time Crowley checked, he was off on some island in the Bahamas, but who’s keeping abreast?) just to play catch up with him, talking about flowers and recent years. That just… wasn’t Aziraphale. At least not the one Crowley barely knew.
Returning his line of sight to the flowers after having enough of the demon’s expectant stare, Crowley shut his eyes tightly.
Why couldn’t he just go away?
Crowley just wanted to sell flowers and breathe in the sun. He just wanted to sit down and hear Queen play lightly on the speakers all day amongst the cool air of his A/C unit and read People magazine. Maybe think of the demon once or twice (a minute) and be content.
Why couldn’t he just be content? Be happy?
Why did this… this… Aziraphale have to ruin it all?
At the direction of his thoughts, he began to clench his teeth.
“My treat.” Aziraphale added after a couple moments passed.
Shaking his head, Crowley answered, “I don’t… eat. I don’t do that.”
Aziraphale fell silent for a moment, leaving Crowley to guess what his reaction to that was, then, “Yes, I find that even after all of these years, I am still one of the only beings that allow myself that pleasure. I wouldn’t tempt you to it. Although your company suffices, anyhow, whilst I may dine.”
Crowley’s eyes opened, wide, at that statement, and he silently thanked God that he wasn’t facing Aziraphale for that. His mouth lifted on one side, then the other, threatening to turn into a full blown smile. “I…” His voice cracked, just a little bit but loud enough for the demon to hear. God, Crowley really wished he believed in profanities. Taking a deep breath, he turned around to face Aziraphale again. He was a bit shocked to find that the demon’s expression was slightly more puzzled, worried and dare he say, frantic than it was seconds before. Only in the way that it could be though, in the way that it was so slight that even Crowley would’ve missed it had he not been so intent in his gaze. “I like wine.”
Just to be clear, Crowley didn’t know what he was getting himself into with this. Just this one, simple action of acceptance. Crowley didn’t understand.
He supposes that makes him a gullible angel.
He also supposes that’s nothing new.
But if he had known, then, what was to come, he also supposes he wouldn’t have been able to do much to stop it.
Even if he really wanted to.
Plus he was too high off of the look of (relief?) pleasure that engulfed Aziraphale’s face when he had responded. Bright eyed he brought his hands together at the front of himself, interlocking them proudly. “I know just the place, my dear.”