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Boomerang

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October 2009

When Crowley had been younger and pictured where his life would be by the time he turned twenty, serving drinks to university students was not what he had in mind. If anything, he had always imagined he would be one of those university students enjoying his Friday night with friends at a pub much like the one he was working in. Of course for that scenario to become a reality, he would have needed to not only be pursuing a degree but also be willing to make friends. Regardless, this was nothing like how he thought his life would pan out.

“You know we’re inside, right?” a voice pulled him from his thoughts.

He turned to see a student, who looked very out of place, staring at him with a curious expression on his face. Crowley took a small breath in preparation for however this conversation would play out, all too familiar with this topic of discussion.

“Yeah, I can sssee that.” He said with a forced smile, mentally reminding himself that he can’t scare off new guests.

“Then why are you wearing sunglasses?” the question was asked with such a genuine sense of curiosity that it made it difficult for Crowley to be annoyed.

“Probably the same reason why you’re wearing a bowtie in your twentiesss, because I want to.” He said with a shrug, giving a small wave to one of the regulars that had walked by. “Are you going to order something or just stand there?”

“What? Oh! Yes, um…right.” The blonde student gave a nervous smile before ordering a few drinks for the table he had come from.

It didn’t long to get the drink order together and send them off to the table, Crowley giving his co-worker a grateful smile when she took the drink tray. Whenever the pub was this full, he hated leaving the comfort being behind the bar provided him and he was glad that the other employees didn’t have a problem with that. He didn’t do well with crowds and the irony was not lost on him considering where he worked.

“Your favorite customers are here.” The red head narrowed his eyes as he looked at his co-worker when she handed the tray to him.

Instead of a verbal answer, she motioned to the table she had returned from and Crowley couldn’t stop the annoyed groan that left him. Sitting at the table the unfamiliar blonde had ordered for were three of the rudest and most obnoxious students he had dealt with in the year he had been working there. He didn’t know much about them with the exceptions that they were always together, one of them was clearly American, and they seemed to have something against him for some reason. Crowley just rolled his eyes and focused on doing his job, hoping he could sneak away for a small break before one of them ordered another round.

After an hour he had been able to duck out for a smoke break, glad that none of the Twat Triplets (a name he had taken to calling the three obnoxious students) had come up to order any drinks. He sighed softly as he lit his cigarette, adjusting his leather jacket to try and keep warm. It was the chilly nights like this that he was glad he didn’t have to close. The sound of the door opening behind him caught his attention, looking over his shoulder to see the out of place student from before. Crowley turned back to look at the street in front of him and took a drag from the cigarette.

The sound of footsteps sounded before stopping somewhere beside him. A silence settled over the two as they stood on the sidewalk, Crowley hoping for a small miracle of the student not being the chatty type.

“I wasn’t trying to be rude. In the pub earlier.” Apparently the bartender had been asking for too much of a miracle.

“S’fine.” Crowley mumbled around the cigarette.

“I just thought it was…peculiar that you were wearing sunglasses inside.”

“Peculiar?” he turned his head to look at the blonde, raising an eyebrow.

“Yes, well, I just assumed it would make things difficult.” The other man continued with an anxious smile. “Normally sunglasses make everything darker. And that seems like it would hinder being able to make drinks. Of course, I could be wrong.”

Crowley stared at him for a moment, the cigarette balancing on his lower lip. A part of him wanted to walk away so he could finish his break in peace while another part of him wanted to see where this conversation would go. And there was the small part that was enjoying just how nervous he was making the student with his silence, and he wondered what would happen if he acted like he was offended by the assumption.

“I’m overly sssensitive to light, and these don’t really make things darker.” He had decided on telling the truth instead of stirring the pot. “They’re tinted enough to block out the right amount of light.”

“Ah.”

Another silence settled over them before Crowley decided to keep the conversation going.

“You don’t seem like the type to go pubs.”

“What makes you say that?”

“How you’re dressed, for one.” He lazily motioned towards the blonde, his eyes taking in the waistcoat under the jacket the student wore. “What young adult wearsss that out to the pub? You look more like a middle aged librarian than a university student.”

“I’d rather look respectable than like…” the blonde trailed off as he looked Crowley up and down.

“Like what?” the red head smirked, taking another drag before blowing smoke upwards.

Crowley knew what he looked like with his ripped black jeans and combat boots, the faded Sex Pistols shirt and worn leather jacket completing the outfit; he looked like the person parents warned their children about. He gave the appearance that he could do whatever he wanted regardless if it was legal or not.

“I have standards, is all I’m saying.” His companion said as he straightened his back and shoulders slightly.

“You ssstudying being holier than thou at that university of yoursss?” he internally winced when he dragged out his S’s, something that reared its head at the most inopportune moments.

Bloody speech impediment,’ he mentally cursed.

Luckily there was an edge to his voice. Even though he knew what he looked like to others, it didn’t mean he liked being looked down on.

“No. I just…” the blonde sighed and softened his voice slightly, seemingly having picked up on his attitude. “It’s literature, as well as religious studies.”

Crowley just nodded, taking another drag of his cigarette. He wanted to make a comment but decided against it considering it was his comment about how the other was dressed that led to the tense moment. So instead he just nodded.

“What about you? What are you studying?”

“I’m not.” He said as he flicked his cigarette to the pavement, crushing it with the toe of his boot. “Well, it was a pleasure talking with you, Bow Tie. But I have to get back to work.”

And with that, Crowley spun around and made his way back into the pub.

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Present day

The voice of Freddie Mercury softly rang out throughout the inside of Demon Ink as Crowley focused on the sketchpad in his lap, his own voice singing along to the lyrics. He had nearly an hour before his next appointment and decided to spend that time working on new designs to add to his portfolio, although this particular design he had started in mind for someone. The corner of his mouth quirked into a smirk when he heard the bell above the front door rang.

“It’s like you knew I wasss thinking about you.” He looked up from the sketch as Anathema walked towards him, holding up a bag. “What’s that?”

“Madame Tracy figured you probably haven’t eaten yet, so she sent me over with some pastries.” The young woman replied, setting the bag down on the counter next to the register. “No clients?”

“Next appointment’s at three. You on lunch?”

She nodded as she dropped into the chair in front of him, her gaze drawn to the sketchpad.

“Is that for your appointment?”

“Nah, I already have some variations drawn up for him. Thisss is a different project of mine.” He said with a hint of pride as he flipped it around so she could see it.

“Oh wow. Crowley, that’s gorgeous.” Anathema said as she looked at the symbol he had been working on.

“If you decide to get a tattoo, it’s yours.” The red head chuckled at the expression on her face. “Why the surprise?”

“What makes you think I’d want that?”

Even though her face was serious, he knew the American well enough to hear the teasing in her voice. In the year since she had started working for his neighbor, the two had become fast friends. Which always threw Crowley for a loop considering they really had little in common apart from working next to each other. He had been glad that a friendship had formed; it was nice having someone closer in age to talk to, not that Madame Tracy wasn’t good company but sometimes it was nice to feel like he wasn’t talking to his mother.

“You work in an occult shop, and you are very much a witch.” He answered, pretending to be annoyed with having to explain it. “Besidesss, I thought you might like a little permanent protection.”

“I love it, Crowley.” She smiled and dropped the teasing. “As soon as I decide to get it, I will let you know.”

His grin grew before he jumped to his feet, making a beeline for the bag of goodies she had brought in. He licked his lips when he saw some of his favorite apple flavored pastries. There was no time wasted in grabbing the first thing his fingers touched, quickly taking a bite.

“Please tell me that you’re going to have actual food for lunch.” Anathema’s voice drew his attention in time to watch her pull a divided container that he knew stored some type of fruit, crackers, cheese, and some type of meat.

“If m’not?” he asked through his mouthful of pastry.

“You can’t just have pastries for lunch, Anthony.”

He swallowed his mouthful and glared at her from behind his sunglasses. At the small smirk on her face, he let out a huff and just shook his head.

“No one callsss me ‘Anthony’, and you know that.”

“Madame Tracy does.” She pointed out before popping a grape into her mouth.

“She’s the only one who’s allowed to.” Crowley reminded as he made his way back to where he had been perched, taking another bite of the pastry in his hand.

“How is that fair, Anthony?”

If he had ever wondered what it would be like to have a younger sibling, Anathema always found a way to let him know how annoying he would have found being an older brother. He shook his head as he just looked at her, rolling his eyes at her laugh.

They spent the next few minutes talking about this and that, Crowley groaning when she had told him that he was being summoned to dinner on Sunday. Once Anathema had settled into her job at Madame Tracy’s shop, the older woman had decided to hold a family dinner ever Sunday. It had become a weekly routine that he always protested but everyone knew it was only half-hearted. If he was being honest, it did feel nice to be considered part of a family again but he also had the image of the loner to maintain. So he pretended to protest the weekly dinners.

“Did you see the building across the street was bought?” the young woman changed the subject as she finished her lunch.

He shook his head as he set about cleaning the area, wanting to make sure everything was in order for when his client arrived.

“Madame Tracy already met the new owner. She said he seems like a lovely man.”

“What’s he doing with the building?”

“Apparently it’s going to be a bookshop, but not just any old bookshop.” The smile could be heard in her voice. “He specializes in rare books and antiques.”

Crowley lifted his head and just stared at her.

“I’ll give it a year before it’sss closed up.” He said before going back to what he had been doing. “No one needs a bookshop like that here.”

“Oh, but they need a tattoo shop and an occult shop?”

“Well…yeah. We’re not too out of the box.” He pointed out.

“Maybe a bookshop is just what this place needs though.” Anathema argued. “Either way, it’ll be nice to have someone else to include in our little circle. I’ll see you later, Crowley.”

“Ngk.” He waved her off even as a small smile found its way on his face.

He heard the bell ring followed by the sound of the door closing. Glancing up at the clock, he was glad to know he had just enough time to get his sketches out and have a quick smoke before his appointment would arrive. Crowley grabbed the pack of cigarettes off the front counter and shook one out, picking up the lighter before heading out to the front.

There was already a car in front of the newly bought building across the street, although it seemed nothing had been done to the future bookshop. He lit the cigarette and took a long drag as he tried to picture what a bookshop that specialized in rare and antique books would look like, and what the owner of such a shop would look like. A small laugh escaped him as he pictured an elderly man with a long white beard who would always lose track of any conversation, or go off on something no one asked about. He knew the image in his head was most likely the furthest thing from the truth, but he decided to run with it simply to entertain himself as he smoked.

Crowley had been so lost in thought that he didn’t realize there was movement at the building in front of him, or take any notice of the actual owner exiting the building. A particularly loud laugh left him at the imaginary scenario of his version of the bookshop owner never selling a single book simply because it took him too long to get to whatever an fictional customer had asked him for.

“Crowley?”

His body tensed up at the voice and the bookshop owner he had pictured was quickly lost. Even though he was across the street, he was still glad his sunglasses were covering his eyes otherwise it would have been noticeable how much they had widened. Standing in front of the bookshop was a familiar figure with soft blonde curls, still dressed very much like a middle-aged librarian. Time seemed to slow as he stared at the man he hadn’t seen in seven years, his heartbeat speeding up slightly.

“Fuck.” Crowley muttered to himself when he realized the blonde owner was getting closer. “Hullo, Aziraphale.”

Chapter Text

October 2009

A tiny sound of triumph sounded from Crowley as he furiously shaded his new piece of art, his right foot tapping along to the song currently playing from the MP3 player he had saved up for. One ear bud was planted in his ear while the other hung down towards the floor. He had learned fairly quickly to not have both in while he was drawing in public or else he completely tuned out.

He set down his pen and reached for his coffee, taking a quick sip. There was the sound of two small pops as he tilted his head from side to side before leaning back against the chair. He groaned in satisfaction as he stretched his arms over head. Normally this was followed by twisting his back just enough to elicit a soft pop, but that that routine was thrown off course when, during his stretch, his hands ended up slamming into someone.

“Shit! I’m ssso sorry, mate.” he quickly straightened up and turned around, pausing at who he saw. “Hullo, Bow Tie.”

It had been nearly two weeks since that night at the pub and he hadn’t seen the interestingly dressed student. A smirk tugged at the corner of Crowley’s lips as he watched the blonde huff slightly.

“Oh, it’s you.”

“The one and only.” The red head grinned. “Did you get anything on your clothes?”

“No, thankfully.” The blonde said with a sigh of relief.

Crowley nodded and turned back to his sketchpad. He could feel the other man’s eyes on him and waited for what would happen next. Now that he knew the blonde associated with the Twat Triplets, there was no telling what could happen. If he was lucky, he’d be left alone.

“It seems there’s no other place to sit. Can I…I mean, do you mind if I…?” even though Crowley wasn’t looking, he could just imagine the student anxiously motioning to the empty chair across from him.

“Mmph.” He shrugged as he focused on his drawing.

There was a pause before the sound of the other chair being moved could be heard, and Crowley could tell the blonde had sat down just by how crowded his table suddenly felt. Nothing was said for what seemed like the longest time and, if it weren’t for the crowded feeling, he would have thought the other man had left.

“What are you working on?” the question was asked so hesitantly that it caught Crowley off guard.

“A design.” He said as he put the finishing touches of the shading on, sitting up and grinning at the piece.

“For what, exactly?” again with the hesitancy.

Crowley looked at him from behind his sunglasses and turned the sketchpad around. He usually didn’t show off his work to strangers, but he was just too proud of this latest piece to not share. If the blonde was going to point out that he hadn’t been given an answer, he had forgotten about it when he looked at the pad.

“Oh my!” he gasped softly. “That is…well, it’s lovely.”

The red head beamed in pride as he watched the blonde reach out to trace the drawing. In terms of complexity, the design was very simple- a Roman gladius with flames seeming to radiate from the blade itself. For all the simplicity of the design, it was very striking.

“Yeah?” Crowley asked, finding the way the blonde stared in amazement almost endearing.

“Oh, yes. It’s…it’s simply beautiful.” He breathed before looking up with a soft smile. “What’s it for?”

“A tattoo.”

“Tattoo? Yours?”

Crowley shook his head and he carefully closed the sketchpad, slipping it into his messenger bag. He paused his music before dropping the MP3 player and his ear buds into the bag as well.

“Nah, s’not really my ssstyle.” He shrugged as he leaned back in his chair. “But I promised I would have it finished today before I started any other designs.”

He felt a small flare of annoyance at the confused look on his blonde companion before he remembered that he had left out some vital information.

“Sssorry. Forgot to mention that I apprentice at a tattoo shop.” He flashed a smile and continued, hoping he was correctly guessing the next question. “The pub pays the bills, but it’s not where I want to end up.”

“Well, with art like that I’m sure you’ll make a good tattoo artist.” The blonde took a small sip of his drink before his eyes widen as if he forgot something. “Forgive me, I’ve been terribly rude. I never asked for your name.”

“Crowley.” he answered with a smirk, knowing what was going to come next.

“Crowley?”

He had picked up his coffee and nodded, taking a sip to hide his smile. There was always something he found enjoyable about people’s reaction when he introduced himself.

“It’s my last name. Don’t really care for my first name.” he explained as he placed his cup back on the table.

Another round of silence fell over them, and Crowley found himself on the receiving end of a pointed look. His eyebrow peeked over his sunglasses as he raised it.

“You’re supposed to ask for my name.” the blonde huffed, and Crowley couldn’t help but find something amusing about the huffs.

“Why?”

“It’s polite!” the distress in his companion’s voice was something the read head was thoroughly enjoying.

“I didn’t realize I needed to encourage your introduction.”

There was another huff of annoyance, and Crowley just smirked. He wasn’t sure what it was about the bow tie wearing student but he didn’t mind the idea of getting to know him, an idea he couldn’t say he had for every other person he encountered. In fact, a part of him wanted to make an effort to become friends with the blonde. And that was definitely something he wasn’t used to wanting; he could count on one hand the exact number of friends he had made in his life, and that was a miracle since he had always found it difficult to make friends.

“My name’s Zira.” His voice brought Crowley out of his brief musings.

“Zira?” he asked as he tried to fight back an amused chuckle.

“If you must know, it’s my middle name. Much like you I’m not a fan of my first name.”

“How bad can your first name be if you willing go by Zira?” Crowley snickered.

At the eye roll he received, he just laughed. There was a moment that passed between them as Crowley got himself under control. He gestured for the other to continue.

“It isn’t bad, I just don’t care for it.” Another eye roll at the expectant look on the red head’s face. “It’s Alexander. My full name is Alexander Zira Fell.”

“Christ, that’s a mouthful.” Crowley muttered.

“Quite. But it does give me some options for a unique signature.”

Without wasting a second, Crowley passed his unused napkin and his pen over. He blew out a small sigh and gestured towards the items. He had thought it was obvious what he had wanted.

“Oh! Right.” Zira picked up the pen and began scribbling on the napkin.

It didn’t take too long before the signed napkin was passed back over, two different versions of his signature sticking out against the white napkin. Crowley looked at the napkin as he read over both signatures in his head. Although he found himself focusing more on the very elegant way the letters had been written down.

“A. Z. Fell.” He read the first one out loud, nodding his head at the sound of it.

“I like that one because it makes me sound prestigious. Something I’m sure will come in handy once I get my Masters. Or even a Doctorate.”

Crowley rolled his eyes lightly behind his sunglasses before continuing with his task of reading the signatures out loud.

“A. Zira Fell.” He said, repeating it a few times as he mulled it over. “I think I like this one better.”

“Oh?”

“It sounds very…Biblical, in a sssense.” Crowley smirked at the way his companion furrowed his brow. “You just have to say it fassst.”

“What about you?”

“What about me?” he raised an eyebrow as he picked up his pen, twirling it with his fingers.

“I told you my full name, it’s only fair if you do that same.” There was another small huff followed by a pointed look.

“Anthony J. Crowley.” The red head made a face as if he had just had something bad in his mouth.

He quickly drank the rest of his coffee and got to his feet, slinging his messenger bag on to his shoulder. He chuckled at the startled jump the blonde had done with the sudden movement.

“Once again, it was a pleasure talking with you, Aziraphale.” He smirked before walking away.

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Present day

“Hullo, Aziraphale.”

“I can’t believe you’re still calling me that.” There was that annoyed huff that Crowley always enjoyed receiving.

“Would you rather I still call you ‘Angel’?” Crowley smirked, taking a drag from his cigarette.

“To be honest, I don’t care what you call me. I’m just surprised, is all.” Aziraphale countered as he straightened his back slightly, a gesture that meant he was trying to fight some internal battle. “What are you doing here anyways?”

“What? Just becaussse you’re here, I can’t be?”

At the small step back that the other man had taken, the red head blew out the lungful of smoke and sighed softly. He smiled apologetically as he leaned back against his building. Aziraphale gave a small smile of his own in return, moving back to where he had been standing before the outburst. It seemed as if the years without seeing each other hadn’t taken away their ability to read what went unsaid.

“I didn’t expect to see you here, of all places.” Crowley pointed above to the shop’s sign as he took another drag. “You’re getting a tattoo?”

“No, I don’t tattoo myself.” He said as he exhaled, smiling at the confused look Aziraphale gave him. “This is my shop.”

“You opened your tattoo shop?” he asked in that soft way that made Crowley feel like he was the only thing that mattered.

“About two yearsss ago now.”

“That’s fantastic, my dear.” If Aziraphale realized he had used his old pet name, he didn’t let on.

But of course Crowley had noticed. How could he not? Especially when it was said in that tone that Aziraphale seemed to have used only with him. Instead of saying anything, he just took another drag of the cigarette.

“When did you get that done?” the blonde asked, blue eyes staring at Crowley intently.

“Hm?”

“Your face, Crowley.”

He hadn’t really needed Aziraphale to clarify; he knew exactly what he had been looking at. On the right side of his face, just in front of his ear, sat a small tattoo of a snake. At a quick glance, it looked like part of his sideburn to any passerby.

“A while back. A few months after…” he trailed off, knowing Aziraphale would understand.

It seemed he had been right when the other man just nodded slightly, his eyes turning towards the pavement. A silence settled over them but not the easy kind that used to fall over them. This one was tense and awkward which was fitting seeing as both men were thinking of their last conversation.

“Why here?” Crowley broke the silence, needing any reason to get away from those memories.

“Hm? Oh! The bookshop, yes.” Aziraphale rocked slightly forward in that way he always had when mentioning something he was extremely happy with, and owning a bookshop had always been a goal that made him happy. “Elijah always hated coming here, and the further away we are the better.”

“Who’s Elijah?”

“He’s, um…well, you see Elijah is my…that is to say, he’s…”

The way he kept stalling and rewording his sentence told Crowley all he needed to know, but he wanted to hear Aziraphale say it. Until those words left his lips, a part of him wouldn’t believe what the blonde was struggling with saying.

“He’s my ex-boyfriend.” And there it was.

“Ex-boyfriend?” Crowley asked softly, knowing that even with his sunglasses on Aziraphale could easily read the confusion and hurt those words caused.

“Yes. I ended things with him a few months ago.” There was hesitancy to his answer, but not the usual type; this was the type that came from not wanting to hurt Crowley. “We were together for five years, before you ask.”

“When did you meet him?” the red head was trying his damnedest to act like he wasn’t bothered by the information.

Luckily he still had his cigarette that he could busy himself with, especially as Aziraphale seemed reluctant to answer the question.

“A few months after we last spoke.” The words were said so quiet that Crowley nearly missed them.

The two stared at each other, and Crowley knew that he didn’t have to verbally say what was going through his mind. The more he thought about what exactly this news meant, the angrier he grew. And of course he couldn’t bring himself to be angry with Aziraphale, but the circumstances that surrounded everything about them was a different story.

“Crowley, it wasn’t…”

“I have a…a thing…an appointment I need to get ready for.” He fumbled with his words before he flicked his cigarette to send it flying past Aziraphale, hating how the stumbling took away from the harshness of his tone. “Sssee you around, angel.”

It wasn’t until he was back in the safety of his shop that his words had caught up with him. He let out a small sound that anybody who heard it would say was a hiss as he stalked towards his phone. He scrolled through his music before turning on something that fell more into punk genre than anything else. He flung himself down into his chair and focused on the music playing from the wireless speakers, trying to ignore the fact that he had slipped up.

The sound of the bell ringing put an ending to him berating himself. He forced a smile when he saw his three o’clock appointment walk into the shop, a very small part of him disappointed that it wasn’t Aziraphale. Mentally shaking off that thought, Crowley grabbed the designs he had done and made his walk over to his client. Right now he needed to focus on the tattoo he was about to do, and to focus on getting through the few other appointments he had later in the day. Once he closed up for the night, he could pay attention to everything else and get helplessly drunk in the process of that.

Chapter Text

November 2009

A few weeks had passed since they had properly introduced themselves, and a small routine had formed of Aziraphale (Crowley had made it clear that’s the name he would use) coming into the pub during the days he got done with classes early. The two would talk about this and that while Crowley took care of the few locals that would come in, and once the students started arriving Aziraphale would leave. This would happen two days a week, sometimes a third when the red head didn’t close on Fridays.

“For class or for fun?” Crowley asked with a nod towards the book Aziraphale held on to.

“For fun. It’s one of my favorites, to be honest.” The blonde beamed as he looked at the book. “I read it once a year.”

“Ngk.” The red head shook his head as he stared at the book. “I dunno why anyone would read for fun. Reading isn’t fun, just a good way to humiliate yourssself.”

“You must not have read the right books then.”

There was a pause before they shared a small smile. Crowley excused himself for a few moments to take care of the few guests that had sat at the bar, coming back to Aziraphale once everyone was taken care of. For the next few minutes, Crowley listened to the blonde talk about the book he had brought with him and he couldn’t help but notice the pure joy that lit up in the blue eyes across from him.

“Ssso…what exactly are you planning to do with a fancy degree in literature?” the red head asked as he braced his hands on his side of the bar, arching his back until he felt the small pop in his lower back.

“I plan to work until I have enough money to do what I actually what.” There was a hint of a smile on Aziraphale’s face.

“And that is?” Crowley prompted as he stood back up.

“I want to open a shop. I’d sell books of course, but I’m not entirely sure what books.” The confusion must have shown on the red head’s face because the blonde gave an apologetic smile. “I’m not sure if I would want to be a second hand book shop, or a typical one, or even specialize in something. There’s surprisingly a lot of options for this business.”

“I’ll take your word for it.” There was a hint of a smile in his voice as he gave Aziraphale a doubtful look. “If you have this grand plan involving booksss, then why do religious studies as well?”

“Religion is fascinating, and I mean all religions. Not just Christianity. There’s so much history involved, and the stories inspire such faith and are some of the greatest ever heard.”

Crowley listened as Aziraphale went on about the subject, although the red head found the excited rambling to be adorable. After all, he knew he did the same thing when talking about the few areas of interest he was passionate about. And from the look on the blonde’s face, it was clear that being able to talk in length about whatever he wanted wasn’t something that happened often.

“But why pay to study religion? You can easily learn about all that on your own.” Crowley pointed out, briefly turning walking away to make sure the others at the bar didn’t need anything.

“It’s more than just learning about different religions. I study all their beliefs, analyze them, compare the similarities and differences, it’s…it’s much more in depth then the name religious studies lets on.” He paused as if he was waiting for some type of backlash, giving a small sigh of relief when nothing happened. “I was raised Catholic, but I never wanted to be one of those people who believed my religion is the right one. Of course, my mother isn’t like that. She was very encouraging of me learning about religion in general. My siblings, however…”

Crowley tilted his head to the side slightly. There had been a look that crossed Aziraphale’s face at the mention of his siblings, and it piqued his curiosity.

“Siblings?” the red head asked, encouraging the other man to continue.

“Gabriel thinks I’m wasting my time studying religion. He says I should just join the Church, that way I can properly learn religion and devote my life to God. I don’t want to join the Church, I just…I want to learn about the Almighty in all forms.” Aziraphale explained with a shy smile as he looked down at his book. “Michael thinks religion should be my focus with studying, not literature. He told me that it comes off as God not being important in my life. And then Uriel…well, she doesn’t really give me much thought. According to her, no matter what I study is a waste.”

“I can really feel the love they have for you.” Crowley muttered, his tone dripping in sarcasm.

“They do love me, don’t get me wrong. I’m their baby brother, so it’s easy for them to…to gang up on me. And we’ve always been completely different from each other. If it wasn’t for my mother, well I’d feel like a complete black sheep.”

There was a moment as Crowley just stared at the blonde, the disbelief clearly showing on his face despite the sunglasses. His mind flashed back a time he wanted nothing more than to forget and he started speaking before he could stop himself.

“That’sss not lovingly ganging up, that’sss dragging you down. That’sss making you feel like you’re a wassste,” the red head argued, his speech impediment flaring up as he felt himself getting worked up. “N-N-No matter how different you are, your family ssshould love and…and…and accept you for who you are. You…you…you love each other no matter what! Flesssh and blood, and all that.”

He was very much aware that he was over reacting, but he couldn’t stop himself. Luckily he had enough control over himself to not raise his voice, keeping the conversation between the two of them.

“They’re argument is that we’re all adopted.” Aziraphale said with a shrug, flashing a small smile in an attempt to lighten the tone.

“Ah…ah…oh…oh…oh yeah! Yeah…” he found himself stumbling over his words as he tried to think of what to say. “Yeah, that makesss it better.”

“It’s really not that big of a deal, Crowley. I don’t really pay them any attention, not the way I did when we were younger.”

Another pause fell over them as Aziraphale turned his gaze to meet Crowley. They looked at each other for a moment before the red head took a breath and just nodded, clearing his throat.

“Sssorry ‘bout that.” He muttered as he rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment.

The blonde just gave him an understanding smile before changing the topic to something a little lighter. Crowley gave a brief smile in gratitude as he listened to his companion talk about a new restaurant he had gone to the other night. As he listened he promised himself that if any of Aziraphale’s siblings tried to talk down to him while Crowley was there, he would do whatever he could to defend the blonde.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present day

Crowley sighed as he stared at the ceiling of his flat above his shop, a glass of whiskey dangling from his fingers. He was sprawled out on his couch as he went over the day in his head. The more he thought about the unexpected reunion with Aziraphale, the more he realized just how conflicted he was about everything. On the one hand, he was happy to see his old friend again and happy to have a chance at fixing the damage he had dealt to their friendship. But on the other hand, a part of him was cursing his own luck. Out of all the places Aziraphale could have opened his damned bookshop, it just had to be across from him.

“What are the bloody chances of that happening anyways?” he muttered to himself as he brought his glass up to his lips, taking a rather long sip.

The fact that they would now be so close each other meant that at some point they would have to talk about what happened, and the idea of that made Crowley want to run again. He let out a strangled groan of frustration before finishing the rest of his drink. The sound of his door opening caused him to pause in pouring another a glass. He looked up to see Anathema and rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses at the look on her face.

“What happened?” she asked as she walked further into the flat, shutting the door behind her.

“What makesss you think anything happened?” he countered.

“Let’s see…” she started, pretending to think as she looked him over. “You’re drinking whiskey while listening to The Smiths, and you’re wearing your comfort clothes.”

He looked down at what he was wearing, mentally cursing himself for his habits. The clothes that she had dubbed his “comfort clothes” were nothing more than a pair of solid dark grey pajama pants and an old band shirt he had had for the last five years. It was the outfit he always threw on after he had come down from some form of “episode”, be it an anxiety attack or shutting down to avoid his emotions.

“Not to mention you’re wearing your sunglasses.” Anathema’s voice sounded from the kitchen area, as she was no doubt getting herself something to drink.

“I alwaysss wear my sunglasses inssside.” He pointed out as he finished pouring his drink, wincing slightly at the increase of his hissing.

“You and I both know this is the one place you don’t do that. Normally.” She said as she took a seat in the chair next to the couch.

He grumbled softly as he brought the glass up for another sip. He wanted to argue her point but knew it was no use. The lighting in his flat wasn’t as harsh or as bright, so there really was no need for the sunglasses. His flat was also the one place he was comfortable and safe in; and while the glasses were mainly to help with his light sensitively, they were also his armor against the world.

“So…what happened?” her voice brought him back to their conversation.

“I met our new neighbor.” He had thought about lying or deflecting the question, but he also knew that Anathema wouldn’t give up that easily.

“Did he say something?”

Crowley looked at her with a small smirk. It never ceased to amaze him just how protective she was when it came to how others treated him, how ready she was to take on anyone who had something to say about who he was. And the look of quiet outrage on her face told him she was ready to call out this person she had yet to meet, simply based on the idea that something negative had been said to Crowley.

“No, nothing like that.” He said as he shook his head slightly. “I know him. And I was sssurprised he bought the building.”

“If you know him, how did you not know he was opening a bookshop across from you?”

“We haven’t ssspoken to each other in yearsss.” The red head said softly, staring at the glass of whiskey in his hand before taking another drink.

He could feel her eyes on him as she waited for him to continue. And, while he knew it was a wasted effort, he hoped that if he ignored her long enough she would call it a night. So he focused on what he was drinking and did his best to act like the young woman wasn’t trying to stare a hole through him. There were times when he liked knowing Anathema lived in the flat above the occult shop, it brought a comfort knowing someone he was close with was just across the small the hallway separated the places they called him. However, this was not one of the times.

All he wanted was to be left alone to wallow in whatever it was he was feeling, and get somewhat drunk. But it was becoming clear that he wasn’t going to get what he wanted.

“I’m going to take back my bloody ssspare key.” He grumbled as he refilled his glass.

“You can do that after you tell me what happened between you and the bookshop owner.” Anathema waved off the empty threat as she got up to join him on the couch.

“It’s nothing, really. I made a ssstupid choice and did what I do bessst.” There was a pause as he took another drink. “I avoided him to get out of talking about what I had done. I wasss hurt and embarrassed.”

“We really need to talk about how you deal with your emotions.” They shared a small smile before her expression turned serious. “What did you do?”

The silence that followed the question was broken only by the song playing from his record player, and even then Crowley couldn’t hear the lyrics. He was too lost in memories of the last time he had seen Aziraphale. The feelings from that night had died down in the years that followed, but learning about his estranged friend’s previous relationship just brought all those feelings back with a vengeance.

“It was easssier when I thought he had been letting me down gently. I had figured that Zira telling me he wasn’t ready had been hisss way of trying not to hurt me. After all, he’s a genuinely good guy.” He tried to hide the small hurt in his tone, but Crowley knew he was failing at that. “All thisss time and I had made peace thinking I had projected what I felt on to him. And then I find out today that there hadn’t been any projecting, I just…I wasn’t….that he…”

A small sound of frustration left him when he couldn’t find the right words to say what was on his mind. He ran his fingers through his hair as he struggled to say what he wanted, not entirely sure how to get Anathema to understand him. The feeling of a hand on his knee caused him to look at her, and there was a small sense of calm at the understanding look the American was giving him.

“It’s okay, Crowley. There’s no rush.” She said softly.

He nodded and closed his eyes, taking a few deep breaths. The two sat on the couch for a few moments as the red head collected his thoughts, reminding himself that there was no need to be so guarded around her. Anathema had seen him during the worst of his attacks and she hadn’t judged him or looked at him differently, and there was no reason to think this conversation would be any different. His cheeks puffed out as he deeply exhaled before taking off his sunglasses.

“We had a connection, and I had thought he wasss too afraid to make a move.” Amber eyes turned to look at the young woman, the rejection and embarrassment he had felt all those years ago shining through. “It would have been ssso much better if I had been projecting, but it turnsss out that I had read everything correctly. I just wasn’t enough for him, I wasn’t worth the risssk of him coming out.”

“You don’t know that, Crowley.”

He just shook his head, finishing the rest of his glass. He wanted to continue, to rant about what was going on his mind but nothing good would come out of it. All the ranting and venting in the world wouldn’t change the fact that he hadn’t been the one Aziraphale felt was worth being himself with. So instead Crowley just sighed and refilled his glass before leaning back into the couch, leaning his head on Anathema’s shoulder.

The red head made a mental note to apologize to her in the morning, not that he really needed to. For now, he would enjoy the fact that she was there for him as they drank and listened to The Smiths until he finally drifted to sleep from the emotional roller coaster his day had turned into.

Chapter Text

Crowley flicked his cigarette off to the side as he walked up to the front door, waving to the tenant that held the door open. He never had any type of conversation with the other residents of the building but coming around once a week had meant the tenants would get the door for him on their way in or out, and that meant he could always surprise Madame Tracy for their family dinners.

He took the stairs up to her flat two at a time and adjusted his grip on the bottle of wine when he stopped in front of her door. He took a brief moment to make sure his clothes didn’t look too rumpled. Once he was satisfied that everything was in order, he knocked on the door. It didn’t take long before the door was opened and the red head quickly found himself being pulled in for a hug by the older woman.

“I brought wine.” Crowley held up the bottle once she let him go, laughing as she ushered him.

“You didn’t have to do that, Anthony.” She told him even as she took the wine. “But thank you.”

He just grinned as he shrugged off his jacket, hanging it on the coat rack. He followed her into the flat and looked around. Madame Tracy’s flat always amazed him, it was the perfect blend of cozy and occult. But it never felt unwelcoming; her flat was one of the welcoming places Crowley had ever visited, the fact that there was some occult memorabilia decorating the space just added to the charm.

The first time he had come over Madame Tracy had apologized for the memorabilia, explaining that she used to do tarot card readings and hold séances before she opened her shop. After assuring her that he had no problem with the décor, the two had bonded over their interest in the supernatural and paranormal. From then on her flat had become like a second home.

“Isss Anathema here?” he asked.

“Not yet, she went to go meet that boyfriend of hers first.” The older woman answered as she set the wine bottle on her kitchen counter before going back to finishing up dinner.

When Anathema had first started dating Newton, he hadn’t been too sure about their relationship. It wasn’t because he thought the other man was a bad guy or anything like that, he just felt as if he had to step into the role of protective older brother. But it hadn’t taken long to see that Newt absolutely adored Anathema and, surprisingly, Crowley got along with him better than he thought he would.

“The bumbling idiot’s coming?” Crowley teasingly groaned, smirking at the playful glare he received. “I say that with all the love in my heart, of courssse. Anywaysss…where’s the Sergeant?”

“Shadwell ran to get a few things I had forgotten, but he should be back before the others get here.” The smile on Madame Tracy’s face at the mention of her husband made Crowley happy.

He had never seen two people so radically different be so in love, and the older couple gave him some sense of hope that he could find a love like that. Madame Tracy was a free spirit, very open minded and welcomed anyone into her life no matter their background; Sergeant Shadwell was very much the opposite, he had served in the army and was very firm in his faith.

When he had first met the older man, he had been ready to fall on the defensive end in case Shadwell had anything to say about Crowley. But the red head had quickly learned that the older man was well meaning despite being a little rough around the edges, and the two had formed a bond over preferring to be called by their last names.

“Anything I can do to help?” he asked as he walked into the kitchen, not wanting to feel useless.

“Go sit down and relax, sweetheart. Anathema was telling me that you’ve been having problems with your back again.” The older woman shooed him out of the kitchen. “You really should see someone about all of that.”

“It’sss nothing.” Crowley muttered as he sat at the dining table. “Just wear and tear.”

“You’re only thirty, Anthony. You shouldn’t have that much wear and tear.” She pointed out, causing him to roll his eyes behind his sunglasses. “And don’t you roll your eyes at me, young man.”

He slid down in the chair slightly, looking very much like a reprimanded child. He knew both women in his life meant well, but he also knew they were worrying about nothing. The issues with his back were the result of a rough childhood, mainly just from playing rough and falling from trees. Of course there had been other contributing factors, but he dared any kid to fall from big heights multiple times and walk away without some type of lasting damage to their spine. It was trying to relieve pressure on the bad days that had caused the problems with his other joints, specifically his knees and hips.

For the most part, there was no problem with any of the slight damage he had been dealt. His back was the most troublesome but it wasn’t anything popping it wouldn’t fix. As for his knees and hips, they only ever occasionally made themselves a problem that lasted, at most, a few hours. And it was only a real issue when it came to walking.

A knock sounded and, before he could even get up, Madame Tracy was already halfway to the door.

“I’m so glad you could make it.” Her cheery voice floated back from the door.

Crowley smiled as he expected to hear Newt or Anathema, straightening up in the chair. However, the voice he heard was not who he ever expected.

“Thank you for inviting me.” The slightly anxiousness in Aziraphale’s voice was clear as day.

“Shit.” The red head muttered before jumping up.

“No need to thank me, dearie. I do this every week, a sort of a family dinner for all of us. We’re waiting on my husband and the others.”

Crowley frantically looked around for a place to disappear as Madame Tracy’s voice came closer. Before he could run off, they walked into the main area and he knew he looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Once again, the red head found himself frozen at the surprise of seeing Aziraphale.

“Anthony, I want you to meet Mr. Fell. He bought the building across from your shop.” She introduced, either not noticing the tension or choosing to ignore it.

“Yeah, we’ve met.” Crowley said as he rubbed the back of his neck.

“Oh good. Then we can skip the awkward small talk.” She clapped her hands together. “You boys make yourself at home.”

She went back to the kitchen, and Crowley was sure she was watching them. The two men stood there, and he could see Aziraphale saying something but he couldn’t bring himself to actually hear him. He cleared his throat and fished the pack of cigarettes out of his front pocket.

“I’m going to go smoke real quick.” He muttered before quickly making his way out of the flat and down the stairs, finding a way to prop the front door open behind him.

He leaned against the wall as he lit a cigarette, closing his eyes as he took a drag. There was nothing wrong with Aziraphale being there, he just wished he had been given some warning.

“You really shouldn’t smoke so much, Crowley.”

He jumped slightly and looked over to see the blonde. He hadn’t even heard the door open.

“Shouldn’t do a lot of ssstuff.” He mumbled.

A silence settled over them and, out of the corner of his eyes, he could see Aziraphale staring at his arms. Any other day he would have thought it was strange, but considering he had thrown on a short-sleeved shirt it put his tattoos on display. His left forearm was covered in a beautiful nebula tattoo and on his right forearm, just below the crook of his elbow, was a simple red apple.

“Is this how it’s always going to be when we see each other now?” Aziraphale was the first to break the silence. “Are you going to panic and run away?”

“I didn’t run away.” Crowley snapped.

“Crowley, you walked out faster than I’ve ever seen you move.”

“I wasss just…I didn’t expect you to be here. Caught me off guard.” He said with a shrug.

“Regardless, is this how it’s going to be from now on?” the blonde said as he moved to stand in front of the red head. “Because if that’s the case, then I’ll make sure to stay out of your way.”

Crowley stared at him as he exhaled a small lungful of smoke. He wanted nothing more than to respond with his usual sarcasm, but he also knew that it would do nothing to help the situation. And, judging by the look Aziraphale was giving him, the other man was waiting for whatever remark Crowley would throw his way.

“I don’t want that. I…well, I got used to not seeing you for ssseven yearsss.” He said softly.

“You didn’t see me because you actively went out of your way to avoid me.” Aziraphale pointed out, giving him that look he always gave whenever he was annoyed.

“And then, out of the blue, you’re back in my life. It…it’sss an adjustment.” Crowley continued as if he hadn’t been interrupted. “I’m not trying to be rude, Aziraphale. I just….I jussst….you know how I get.”

The blonde exhaled loudly just as the red head blew out another puff of smoke. Both men just looked at each other as they tried to figure out what to say next, and how to say it. There were so many things that needed to be addressed, and Crowley knew that he needed to put a stop to it before it even started.

“I went by the pub after that night. To talk about everything, to explain…” it seemed Aziraphale had found his words first.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Crowley cut him off, glad for the sunglasses that obscured his eyes.

“You may not want to, but I do. You…you cut me out, Crowley. You made me think Gabriel was right about you, and that hurt more than anything.”

“What do you mean, Gabriel was right about me?” he narrowed his eyes as he looked at the other man. “He’s never been right about anything in your life, especially not about me.”

“He told me that you were only being my friend to try and…steer me away from God. That you were only interested in…in having…well, in getting me into bed.” Aziraphale explained, a small blush appearing on his cheeks. “I thought we were best friends, that you would understand what I was saying.”

Crowley looked down at the pavement as he let the words sink in. He wanted to be angry that Aziraphale had agreed with his prick of an older brother, wanted to be hurt that the blonde had thought the worst of him. But given how he had reacted, it was understandable.

“I’m sssorry, I didn’t…I never wanted you to feel that way.” He finally said as he looked back up at his estranged friend. “I’m not ready to talk about all of that, but we will talk about it. Let me sssort through what I’m feeling about you being here.”

“This isn’t something you can put off, Crowley.”

“I know, and I’m not doing that. I don’t want to make thingsss worse.” There was a hint of pleading in his tone, hoping Aziraphale would stop pushing. “I will sssay that I am sorry and I shouldn’t have avoided you like I did. But right now is not the time to have thisss talk.”

There was a pause as they looked at one another again. Crowley started mentally preparing himself for Aziraphale to ignore his request when the blonde sighed softly.

“Alright.” The other man said softly.

“Thank you.”

Aziraphale just gave him a small smile as they stood outside the building. Crowley looked at him from behind his sunglasses and knew there were two things he could do; he could head back inside with Aziraphale and hope being around other people would distract both of them, or he could show the other man that he did want their friendship back. He blew out another puff of smoke as he ran his fingers through his hair.

“You sssaid you picked that building to get away from your ex?”

“I wasn’t trying to get away from him, exactly. I just…I needed space.” Aziraphale corrected before furrowing his brow slightly. “Why do you ask?”

Crowley shrugged as he tossed his cigarette out into the street in front of him. To be honest, he wasn’t even sure why he had asked. Especially considering how he had reacted the other day to learning about the ex.

“Curiousss, I s’pose.” He muttered as his dived into the front pockets of his black jeans.

Aziraphale raised an eyebrow slightly, just enough to let Crowley that he didn’t exactly believe him. The red head leaned even further back against the building in an attempt to get away from the conversation he had started. He waited for the blonde to call him out for the weak reasoning.

“What would you like to know?” that hadn’t been what Crowley expected Aziraphale to say.

“Whatever you’d like to ssshare.” He answered, trying to regain the sense that he didn’t really care.

“My mother didn’t care when I came out to her. I mean, she cared that I was dating someone but she had no issues with me being gay.” Aziraphale said with a soft smile, the glint in his blue eyes telling Crowley he had heard the unasked question loud and clear. “She just cared that I was happy. Gabriel was, well…”

“A homophobic prick?” Crowley supplied, smirking at the forced glare he received.

“He’s convinced it was a phase, now that I’m no longer with Elijah. Said you had been a bad influence on me.” They shared a smile for a brief moment. “Michael didn’t seem surprised when I came out, but he was convinced that you and I had been…he blames you for ‘turning’ me gay. And Uriel…she was fine with it, and she actually quiet liked Elijah. Apparently, she just didn’t care for you or my friendship with you.”

Crowley made a sound as he narrowed his eyes, taking in the information. He knew he would have to deal with the emotions he was trying to keep at bay at a later time, but right now he would focus on trying not to do any more damage to their friendship, if he could still call it a friendship.

Are we still friends?’ he asked himself, his head tilting slightly as he tried to come up with an answer.

The only answer he had come up with was to ask Aziraphale.

“Why did you break up with Elijah?” he asked instead.

“There were too many things that he couldn’t compromise on. I kept thinking everything would work out…ending our relationship was one of the most difficult choices I’ve ever made.” Aziraphale said softly, his gaze going down to the pavement.

Crowley knew there was a story behind that answer, and as much as he wanted to hear that story he also knew that he couldn’t just push Aziraphale into talking about it, especially when it was clear that he didn’t really want to talk about the end of the relationship. The red head looked over to his left and smiled when he noticed a familiar figure shuffling down towards them.

“We should get inside before the Sergeant sees us.” He said as made his way to the door, holding it open for the blonde.

“Who?” Aziraphale asked as he narrowed his eyes.

“Madame Tracy’s husband. I took away her introducing us, and I can’t bring myself to take away introducing her husband to you.” Crowley explained as he motioned for Aziraphale to walk inside. “And I don’t want to hear her get after me for being out here for so long without my coat.”

The blonde huffed softly as he gave Crowley a pointed look before mentioning how he should have grabbed his coat before having a cigarette. The red head just shook his head as the two made their way back up to the flat.

Chapter Text

November 2009

One month. That’s how long it had taken for the odd formal dressed student to become a constant in Crowley’s life, and he wasn’t sure what to think about that. Not that he thought it was a horrible thing, in fact it felt good to have someone he could consider a friend. But past experiences had taught him that good things in his life came with a price.

Although listening to Aziraphale laugh at one of his horrible jokes made him think whatever price he would have to pay would be worth it. They were currently standing outside the pub, the blonde keeping the red head company while he smoked. It was one of the few Fridays that Crowley had finished his shift at a decent hour, and the two had decided to spend a little more time at the pub; enjoy being in their early twenties, as the bartender had put it.

“Ssso…what do you for fun outside of reading?” Crowley asked once the laughter had finally died down.

“I like trying new places to eat, no matter what sort of food it is. Of course, that’s fairly obvious.” Aziraphale said with a small forced smile, a flash of self-consciousness crossing his face as his gaze dropping down to his stomach. “I’ve been told that I like to eat a bit too much.”

“Oh please.” The red head said as he swatted at the air in front of him. “You look healthy, Aziraphale. You like to eat, big deal.”

He looked over just in time to see the soft smile Aziraphale gave him. Crowley narrowed his eyes slightly behind his sunglasses, wanting to know who had made his friend feel any type of negativity about how he looked. He opened his mouth to ask just that when a figure at the corner of his eye caught his attention. The last thing he needed was any type of interaction with one of the Twat Triplets.

“Shit.” He muttered as he tossed his cigarette to the ground. “Let’sss head in.”

He ignored the puzzled look on the blonde’s face and turned towards the door. Even though Aziraphale had been with the Twat Triplets the first night they had met, it had been clear that the blonde hadn’t really wanted to be there. So Crowley assumed it had been the case of classmates dragging him to the pub, something he had seen from time to time. And if that was the case, he had no desire to drag Aziraphale into whatever it was that he attracted from those three.

“If it isn’t my favorite bartender.” The American voice seemed to ring out louder than it should have. “I didn’t think snakes liked the cold.”

Crowley closed his eyes before turning to look at the older man, taking a small breath as he thought up something to say.

“Gabriel?” Aziraphale beat him to responding; of course, his question caused the red head to spin around.

“Zira? What are you doing here?”

Crowley turned back around to look at the American, his eyes narrowing slightly behind his sunglasses. He took a slight step back towards Aziraphale as he prepared for however the current situation would turn out. Although it was hard to prepare when many of the factors were unknown; the few factors the red head knew was that the leader of Twat Triplets was Aziraphale’s oldest brother, and that there was a high possibility that the blonde would witness exactly how Gabriel was towards Crowley.

“I’m keeping my friend company.” Aziraphale said in a matter of fact tone, his mouth forming a tight line of annoyance.

“Your friend inside?” Gabriel asked as he looked around.

Crowley raised an eyebrow slightly as he watched Gabriel purposefully overlook him. He turned his head slightly to watch as Aziraphale inhaled sharply and narrowed his eyes slightly at the older man. Behind the sunglasses, amber eyes bounced back and forth as the red head watched the two brothers stare at each other; Aziraphale clearly wanting to say something, and Gabriel silently daring the blonde to speak.

“Not that thisss isn’t fun, but I can’t watch you two do…” Crowley gestured between the two brothers before turning his full attention to the American. “I’m the friend. Nice to meet you, Gabe.”

He smirked at the look of irritation that crossed Gabriel’s face. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and rolled his shoulders back slightly, waiting for the insult he was sure was coming.

“Is this a charity case?” Gabriel turned his attention back to Aziraphale.

“Charity case?”

Even though both Crowley and Aziraphale had spoken in unison, Gabriel acted as if it had only been his younger brother who had said anything.

“If you’re going to be friends with someone beneath you, then at least let it be someone who deserves your friendship.”

“Gabriel, that’s really uncalled for.” Aziraphale huffed softly.

“I’m just trying to look out for you, Zira. His type has a way of corrupting people like us.” Gabriel shot a glare towards the red head before looking back at Aziraphale. “You wouldn’t want to end up like him, would you? No friends, no family…”

“Okay, I’ve had it.” Crowley spoke up as he stepped in front of the blonde. “Why don’t you fuck off, Gabe? Let your brother make his own choicesss, eh?”

He was faintly aware of the sound of protest Aziraphale made behind him, but he was too focused on trying to get Gabriel to leave them alone to really care.

“I’m just trying to look out for my baby brother, make sure he isn’t being led down any wrong paths.” The American said as he took a small step forward. “I don’t want to see him lose God’s favor because he was taken advantage of by…certain type of people.”

“I can look after myself, Gabriel.” Aziraphale said in a sharp tone before adding in a softer one. “Thank you, though.”

A moment passed over the three before Gabriel just looked over Crowley’s shoulder and gave a tight smile.

“Remember Zira, he may seem normal but snakes know how to blend in.” he shot another glare at Crowley. “We’re all meeting at Uriel’s for dinner on Thursday. Be there by seven.”

The red head grunted softly as Gabriel pushed past him towards the pub’s door. Crowley watched as he disappeared and shook his head slightly.

“Twat.” He muttered before turning to look at Aziraphale. “What?”

“I’m sorry about him. You see, when our father passed away he…well, he took being the man of the house a bit too seriously.” The blonde sighed softly, worry glazing over his blue eyes.

“Believe it or not, that’sss actually one of the better things he’s sssaid about me.” Crowley said. “I can’t believe you’re the baby brother of one of the Twat Triplets.”

“Um…the…who?” Aziraphale asked as his brow furrowed slightly.

“Jussst a name I call Gabe and the other two he’s always with.” The red head shrugged.

“Are the other two people the ones who are walking up behind you, by any chance?”

Crowley turned around to see a young man and woman walking towards them, a look of disgust on the man’s face while the woman looked uninterested in the other two standing outside. Before the red head could give his answer, he heard Aziraphale greet them by name. Instead of saying anything, he just gave them a forced smile and waved slightly. No words were spoken as Michael and Uriel walked into the pub.

“All of the Twat Triplets are your sssiblings?” Crowley asked with an amused smiled on his face.

“Don’t call them that, Crowley. It’s…well, it’s rude.” Aziraphale huffed which only added to the red head’s amusement. “Why did Gabriel talk about you like you weren’t human?”

“You need to work on topic changing skillsss.”

Crowley twisted slightly until he felt the soft pop in his left knee, sighing in relief. He could feel his friend’s eyes on him and knew the blonde was waiting for an answer. As much as he wanted to avoid the question, he knew that it would be better if Aziraphale didn’t hear any information from Gabriel. Of course, a part of him worried that it wouldn’t matter who Aziraphale heard things from, that he would have the same certain views as Gabriel.

“He meant my preference in company.” The bartender answered finally as he shift his weight to his other leg, pretending to look at something on the ground.

“Your preference?”

“Yesss. Y’know, I…I like my, er…a certain type of company to be a certain persuasion.” He muttered, not entirely sure why he was suddenly having a difficult time talking about his sexuality.

Crowley glanced up slightly to see Aziraphale still staring at him, and he couldn’t help but feel slightly annoyed at the innocent naivety his expression held. The red head exhaled loudly and straightened up, turning to look at the blonde completely.

“I’m gay, Aziraphale.”

“G-gay?”

“Yeah, asss in I like my romantic and sssexual partners to be men.” His tone took on the hard note it always held whenever he was getting ready to go on the defensive. “If who I like isss going to be a problem, then you better go join Gabe and leave me alone.”

He noticed Aziraphale take a small step back at the biting tone, his blue eyes wide as he looked at Crowley. The red head rolled his shoulders back and prepared to justify his love life when he noticed the blonde shaking his head rapidly.

“No, no…I don’t have a problem with anything.” Aziraphale said quickly. “I just…I didn’t think that you were…”

“Didn’t think I wasss gay?” at the nod, Crowley clenched his jaw. “Hang on let me grab a feather boa, talk like every twink on the telley, and grab my Pride flag. Do you want me to throw on a pair of high heelsss while I’m at it? Maybe do drag?”

“Crowley, stop. I didn’t mean it like that.” Aziraphale snapped, glaring softly at him. “I don’t tend to think of a person’s sexuality when I first meet them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s none of my business who you want to date until you tell me your sexuality. And even then it’s really none of my business still.”

“Oh.” His shoulders dropped slightly as he felt a small wave of regret hit him. “Sssorry, I just…well, it’s a sssenstive subject for me.”

Aziraphale just nodded as he gave a small smile. There was a moment of silence as Crowley waited to see if the blonde would try to find a reason to leave. This was probably the price he had to pay for the last few weeks. Just because Aziraphale said he didn’t care, it didn’t mean he was telling the truth. After all, he was the baby brother to the Twat Triplets and Gabriel was one of the most passive aggressive homophobic people he had ever met.

“I don’t know if you’re hungry, but there’s this lovely little sushi place nearby.” Aziraphale pulled Crowley out of his thoughts. “I was going to get some dinner there if you’d like to join me.”

“Really?” Crowley asked as he leaned back slightly.

“Yes. It’d be nice to do something that isn’t hanging out at where you work.” The blonde assured him, giving him a bright smile.

“What if sushi isn’t my thing?”

“They do have alcohol.”

“Let’sss go.” Crowley said with a grin.

The two set off down the street, Aziraphale leading the way. Crowley smiled softly at the bounce in his friend’s step. It was clear that the blonde was excited to share a little bit of his world, and the red head was excited to be the one Aziraphale wanted to share that bit with.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present Day

He grinned as he watched his latest client look at her reflection, admiring the tattoo that ran across her right collarbone.

“Thank you so much.” She grinned as she looked at him. “It turned out better than I could have imagined.”

“I’m glad you love it.” Crowley said before leading her over to the front counter.

It didn’t take long to ring her up and explain the aftercare process, giving her the tattoo cream for no extra charge. He made sure to stress the importance of her properly taking care of the tattoo before telling her to come back if she ever needed a touch up. A quick exchange of goodbyes was given before she made her way out of the shop.

Crowley smiled softly as he made his way back to his station, cleaning up the small mess. He had briefly thought of asking to take a picture of the tattoo for his portfolio but had quickly thought better of it; he had never been a fan of displaying people’s personal tattoos like that. His head bobbed to the beat of the song that was currently playing, and it wasn’t too much longer before he was softly singing along.

He had been so caught up in what he was doing that he hadn’t noticed the door to his shop open, or hear the bell above the door ring out. So when he turned towards the mini-fridge by the counter, he jumped slightly and let out a surprised yelp.

“I didn’t think I was that frightening.” Aziraphale chuckled as he walked further into the shop.

“You didn’t frighten me. I…I…I didn’t expect you to come in here.” Crowley said with a small frown. “What are you doing here anywaysss?”

“I wanted to see your shop.” The blonde said as he walked over to one of the walls, looking at some of the framed designs.

Crowley watched as Aziraphale took in the artwork, making comments here and there. A few moments passed as they fell into an easy conversation about some of the designs that were on display, the red head telling the stories behind the ones that needed it. Aziraphale had been in the middle of complimenting one of the floral designs when he cut himself off, his gaze falling to a framed design that was propped up by the register.

“I always did think that was your best artwork.” The blonde said softly as he looked at the flaming sword design. “Did you ever get to tattoo it?”

“Nah. It didn’t feel right.” Crowley said. “How’s the bookshop coming along?”

“It’s coming along well. At the rate everything is going, I might be able to open up a week earlier than I intended.” Aziraphale turned to look at him, a bright smile on his face. “I was told it should only take them three weeks to completely finish. After that, well…after that, all that will need to be done is for me to stock everything and decorate it.”

“I can’t wait to ssseee it.”

They shared a smile before Crowley insisted on taking him on a grand tour of the shop. The tour took all of ten minutes but that didn’t stop the owner from acting as if he was showing off a historical site.

“And upstairsss is my flat. That I cannot show you right now because I’m currently opened for business.” He ended the tour, smiling at the chuckle he earned from Aziraphale. “It isn’t much, really. But…”

“It’s perfect, dear.” There was the old nickname again, and Crowley swallowed slightly. “It’s exactly what I imagined your tattoo shop would look like.”

“Oh? You imagined?” he asked with a slight smirk.

“You have a very defined aesthetic, Crowley. The artwork, the absolute organization, the music…it’s all very you.” Aziraphale explained, frowning slightly as his words caught up to him. “I’m not sure that made much sense.”

“It didn’t, but I know what you mean.” The red head assured. “I don’t have another appointment until two, and I can close up the shop for a few minutes. We could get lunch?”

“I don’t want you to have to close up just for lunch.”

“I don’t take walk-ins on Tuesday. I can clossse up long enough to order food and we can come back here to eat.”

There was a moment before the blonde nodded. Crowley grinned and ran over to his station, pausing the music. He motioned for Aziraphale to follow him as he made his way towards the door.

“I know thisss great little sushi place around the corner, you’ll love it.” Crowley grinned as he turned to look at the other man, walking backwards. “I mean, you ssstill like sushi, right?”

“That’s like asking if you’re still an artist.” Aziraphale huffed, laughing softly when Crowley stumbled over his own feet in an effort to turn back around. “I see you’re still getting used to how legs work.”

“Oi!” the red head playfully glared behind his sunglasses. “Keep that up and there’ll be no sushi for you, angel.”

They shared a laugh as they left the shop, Crowley locking the door behind him. As he led Aziraphale down the street, he couldn’t help but feel as if the last seven years had never happened. A small sense of hope flared in his chest as the idea that maybe there was a chance to get their friendship back to how it had been.

Chapter Text

November 2009

A grunt sounded in the alley as Crowley was pushed against the wall. Despite the shock of pain that shot down his spine, he managed to fake a grin at the burly looking man that had shoved him. He had prepared for the verbal onslaught to continue when the sound of a startled gasp drew both of the men’s attention. There was a mixture of relief and shame when he saw Aziraphale standing in the opening of the alley.

“I’m not interrupting, am I?” he asked softly, his voice hesitant.

“Not at all.” The other man smiled in a way that made Crowley’s skin crawl, which was something that didn’t happen often. “We were just having a friendly chat. Weren’t we, Crawly?”

Crowley rolled his eyes at the stupid name certain students had taken to calling him after a particularly bad night a few months back. He just grumbled as he slightly shifted his weight, knowing there wasn’t much he could do when he was still being held against the wall.

“We’ll just finish this later.” The other man said as he mockingly smoothed down the lapels of the red head’s leather jacket. “Just remember what I said.”

Before anything else could be said, Crowley and Aziraphale found themselves alone. The red head straightened the slightly skewed sunglasses before rolling his shoulders back in an attempt to stretch his upper back. He gave a smile to the blonde and turned to lean his shoulder against the wall, slightly wincing at the pain in his left hip.

“What exactly did I walk in on?” Aziraphale asked as he looked at Crowley.

“Seemsss like Gabe told some lackeys that you’re friendsss with me.” There was no point in trying to deflect or lie. “S’pose he’s afraid I’ll get you to turn to the queer side.”

“That’s not something Gabriel needs to worry about.” The blonde said, his eyes narrowing slightly.

“And why’s that?” Crowley asked quickly once he noticed the curiosity in his friend’s gaze. “I can be quite ssseductive, a nice little temptation for men like you. Wouldn’t be the first time.”

There was the shock that Crowley had been looking for, using the brief moment to take a few wobbling steps towards Aziraphale; he just hoped that the shock was enough to distract the blonde. After a few steps the red head noticed that the blonde had taken one back, the shock on his face replaced with uncertainty.

“I’m joking, Aziraphale. I wouldn’t…I’ve never done that.” Crowley sighed once he had stopped walking, forcing himself to stand normally. “Turning men isn’t really my scene. It’sss all a bit too…manipulative and…it was a bad joke. Sssorry.”

“Then why make the joke at all?”

“Because I’m fucked up.” He offered with a shrug. “Forget I sssaid anything.”

If Aziraphale had anything to respond with, it died as soon as the entrance to the pub opened and a woman walked out. Crowley closed his eyes briefly and groaned softly when his co-worker looked at him. This was exactly what he had wanted to avoid, and because of his stupid joke he hadn’t had time to tell his little lie.

“What are you still doing here, Crowley? You’re supposed to be going home.”

“Home? But…aren’t you working tonight?” Aziraphale asked as he looked from the woman to the red head.

“Turnsss out I have the night off?”

“He’s in no condition to be working tonight.”

Crowley turned his attention to the woman just as Aziraphale tilted his head in question, his gaze landing on the woman. This evening was quickly becoming one of the bartender’s worst nightmares.

“What does that mean?” Aziraphale asked.

“Becca, don’t.” Crowley hissed as he glared at the server behind his sunglasses.

“He can barely walk straight…” the server started.

“Isss that a gay joke?” Crowley interrupted, only to earn two different sets of glares.

Instead of continuing to try and ruin the conversation, Crowley leaned against the wall again. He twisted in a way to try and pop his lower back as he listened to Becca tell Aziraphale about the small argument that had happened between the red head and his boss. He sighed when the blonde turned to look at him, a look resembling annoyance and disbelief on his face.

“He knows better than to come when he’s this bad, and yet…” the server concluded, turning her eyes back to Crowley. “Go home, Crowley. Get some rest and, for God’s sake, take care of your bloody body.”

Crowley gave Aziraphale a strained smile, hoping he could somehow distract the blonde from what he had learned. However, as Aziraphale’s annoyed look grew, it was clear that there was no way around it.

“You can barely walk, and you still tried to work?” Aziraphale asked as he stared at the red head. “How much of an idiot are you, Crowley? You’re a bartender at a pub that is frequented by university students every night, walking and doing tasks that require you to use your back muscles are a guarantee.”

“Yesss, thank you Mother Hen. It’s not that big of deal, Aziraphale.” He said as he carefully walked towards his friend, wincing slightly.

“Not that big of a…not that big of a deal? You could have hurt yourself even more, Crowley.” The blonde snapped as he moved to Crowley’s side, arranging both of them so he could help support the red head. “What did you do, anyways?”

“It’s just wear and tear, nothing more.” Crowley gave him a grateful smile. “Jussst help me to my car, and I can take it from there.”

“You drove?” Aziraphale sharply turned his head to glare at him. “You are not driving like this. I won’t let you.”

“Aziraphale, really…” he trailed off at the determined look on his friend’s face, exhaling forcefully when it was clear that he was not going to win this conversation. “The Bentley’s not far. A little up ahead.”

He missed the slight puzzled look on Aziraphale as they began walking, although it was at a slightly slower pace than he would have liked. Even at the slow pace, it still hadn’t taken them long before they approached a slightly beat up Volkswagen Beetle.

“That isn’t a Bentley, Crowley.” Confusion colored every syllable of Aziraphale’s statement.

“Obviously, I’m not ssstupid.” Crowley said with a slight dramatic sigh. “I’ve always wanted a Bentley, but I can’t afford one. However, there is nothing that saysss I can’t name my car ‘the Bentley’.”

The red head turned his head just enough to see Aziraphale roll his eyes despite the soft smile on his face. Crowley fished his keys out of his jacket pocket, only for them to be snatched out of his hand in a blink of an eye.

“You’re not driving, not when you’re like this.” Aziraphale said sternly before Crowley could say anything.

“I can drive just fine, Aziraphale.” He insisted as he made to grab his keys back, hissing softly when the blonde moved them out of his reach. “Can you even drive?”

“Just because I don’t drive doesn’t mean I don’t know how. Get into the passenger seat and tell me where I’m taking you.”

Despite the fact that Aziraphale was right next to him, the pain in his lower back kept Crowley from actually making a proper effort to get his keys back. The blonde stared at him as if he was daring the red head to say something, and there was something fierce in those blue eyes that told Crowley this was not a battle to continue.

“You put one scratch on my car, and I’ll have your head.” He grumbled.

“As if you could tell there would be another scratch.” Aziraphale muttered as he helped Crowley into the car.

The drive to Crowley’s flat took a little over twenty minutes, and Aziraphale had even managed to find a place to park that was relatively close. It was another five minutes before the two walked through the door of the flat, Crowley instantly shrugging off his leather jacket and tossing it somewhere off to the side. He heard the huff from his friend as he managed to make his own way over to the couch, falling on to it in a very ungraceful manner.

“What can I do to help?” Aziraphale asked softly.

“I have a bottle of ibuprofen on the counter. There’s also a cold compress in the freezer.” He replied as he managed to get the combat boots off before he moved to stretch out on the couch. “There ssshould also be a heating pad somewhere on the kitchen table.”

“Is the Ziploc bag full of ice the cold compress?”

“That’sss the one.”

He chuckled at the disapproving huff he heard from the kitchen. It only took a few moments for Aziraphale to hand over the items he had asked for, and Crowley wasted no time in shaking out four ibuprofen capsules and dry swallowing them. The heating pad took up residence on his left thigh while the bag of ice went nestled under his lower back, Aziraphale watching him the whole time.

“Thanksss for the help, Aziraphale. I can give you some money for a ride to your place…”

“Oh, I’m not leaving here until I know you’re absolutely okay.” The blonde cut him.

“You don’t have to do that. Really.”

“Crowley, you can hardly walk and I know you’re trying to hide it but it’s very clear you’re in pain.”

Crowley took off his sunglasses as he stared up at his friend, trying to think of something that would get him to leave. It wasn’t that he didn’t want Aziraphale around, but he didn’t want to be a burden. And, given his current state, he would be nothing but a burden to the blonde.

“It could be hoursss, maybe even all night.” He said softly.

“Then I suppose I’ll be staying the night here.” Aziraphale said as if it was the most obvious thing. “I’m not going to leave you alone when you’re dealing with…well, whatever this exactly is. Now, do you have anything to drink? That isn’t alcohol?”

“Um…there’s, uh…cocoa? Or tea. Whichever you want.”

Aziraphale gave a quick nod before disappearing back towards the kitchen. Crowley sighed to himself as he sank further into the cushions of the couch; the heating pad doing wonders for his aching thigh while the ice helped eased the pain in his lower back. He looked around his living room and suddenly felt a bit embarrassed of his flat. It wasn’t dirty or unclean, but it looked somewhat empty. The walls held some of his own artwork, one corner was home to a crate of records and a record player, another corner was his very small “art studio”, some house plants were littered here and there, and a few pieces of furniture made up the rest of the area. He never realized how barren the room was until now, mainly because he hardly ever had company over; and if he did have anyone over, they were mainly spending their time in his bedroom.

“Careful, it’s hot.” Aziraphale’s voice startled him slightly, and it must have shown on his face. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“You didn’t. I wasss just…thinking.” He said with a small smile, carefully taking the mug. “Thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me, Crowley. It’s what friends are for.” Aziraphale smiled as he settled into the armchair that was nearby. “Is this…is this something that happens often? The pain in your back and the walking?”

“Nah. Not really. Tonight is jussst a bad day.” Crowley answered before gently blowing into the mug. “Normally everything is manageable, ignorable really. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and it’ll be back to normal.”

“Have you considered, you know, seeing a doctor about it?” Aziraphale asked before taking a small sip of the tea he had made.

“Ngk.” The red head grimaced. “I don’t…do that.”

“Do what? Be a normal human being by seeing a doctor?”

Crowley looked over to see Aziraphale staring at him as if a second head had suddenly appeared. He just shrugged as he took his own sip.

“I spent too much time around doctorsss when I was younger.” He said when it was clear that the blonde was waiting for an answer. “I could go forever without seeing another doctor, and it would ssstill be too soon.”

“That still isn’t a reason to…to ignore your health, Crowley. I spent some time in and out of my doctor’s office when I was a kid, but I still go when something is seriously wrong.”

“Honestly, it’s not that big of a deal. Old injuries just…they just flare up from time to time. But like I sssaid, I’m back to normal the next day.”

“What sort of injuries did you have that flare up like this when you’re twenty?” the blonde asked as he leaned forward in the armchair slightly, almost as if he was letting Crowley know there was no avoiding this conversation.

“Oh, you know…normal kid thingsss.” Crowley muttered as he tried to disappear into the cushions of the couch. “Fell from a few heightsss, injuries from doing what kidsss do…pissing off my dad…you know, the normal.”

A silence hung between the two as what he had said sunk in, and no matter how quietly he had mentioned his father it seemed that had been the loudest reason. Crowley studied the mug in his hand as he avoided the look he could feel Aziraphale giving him. He racked his brain for something, anything really, to say as a way to change direction of the conversation but it seemed all his brain could come up with were examples of how his body came to be in its current condition.

“Your father…? Aziraphale’s words were so quiet, as if he were afraid of startling his friend.

“He was a right bastard, ssso…”

“Your mother tried to stop him, yes?”

Crowley accidentally let out a bitter chuckle as his head shook slightly.

“She was just as bad, not on the physical front; mentally, verbally…emotionally, that wasss her area. Nah, she didn’t try to ssstop him. She encouraged him.” He suddenly wished he his sunglasses still on. “Neither of them could exactly handle a ssson like me.”

There was that silence again, and Crowley could almost sense what Aziraphale was getting ready to say. He forced himself to look at the blonde and shook his head, giving him what seemed to be a lazy smile.

“I didn’t tell you that to get your pity, Aziraphale. Whatever happened to me growing up, it wasss a long time ago. And it taught me an important lesson, I’m the only one I can rely on.” Even as the words left him, the red head could hear how cold that statement sounded.

“Well, you have me now. Which might be a good thing.” Aziraphale said after a moment, an embarrassed blush creeping on his face. “I mean…well, that is…you seem to need someone to help you. Not that you can’t take care of yourself but…I’m making this worst, aren’t I?”

Crowley just stared at him with an amused smile.

“No, please. Continue.” He chuckled softly.

“You’re my friend, Crowley. And, regardless of what you think, you’re not alone.” The blonde managed to get out, a shy smile on his face.

He had been prepared to give some type of witty, sarcastic reply; after all, at the end of the day the only person Crowley had on his side was himself. People always drifted in and out of his life, no matter how much they said they had his back. Not that he really minded, it made life pretty simple when he didn’t need to really take into consideration someone else.

But looking at Aziraphale, he felt his normal too cool for school demeanor drop. Behind the shy, almost anxious smile there was something that Crowley couldn’t quiet name. Whatever it was, it told the red head that the blonde’s words held nothing but the truth. And that absolutely astounded Crowley. Here was someone who had known for a little over a month and was willing to give up his whole night just to make sure he was okay, to make sure that he wasn’t alone.

“You are an actual angel, do you know that?” Crowley found himself saying.

“Pardon?” Aziraphale narrowed his eyes in curiosity and tilted his head slightly to the right.

“You’re just…you’re willing to ssstay all night in my flat to help me if I need it, and it’s because you are…” he exhaled in small frustration when the words didn’t come to him. “You’re just a genuinely good person, Aziraphale.”

“You’re my friend, Crowley. And you’re hurt. I just want to make sure you’re okay.” Aziraphale said with a small blush. “I’m just doing what any friend would do.”

Crowley smiled softly as he realized that Aziraphale really believed most people would do what he was doing for a friend they were still getting to know. He adjusted his position on the couch and simply nodded, not really having the heart to tell him otherwise.

“Like I said…angel.” His smile grew at the way Aziraphale ducked his head, a shy smile and a blush on his face.

After a small comfortable silence fell over them, the two launched into a conversation about anything they could think of. At some point in the night, the conversation had finally begun to die off as they slowly drifted into sleep, although neither of them really knew who had fallen asleep first. Crowley hadn’t even realized he had fallen asleep until he woke up the next morning to the smell of breakfast and the sounds of someone in the kitchen.

He moved to look over the back of the couch to find Aziraphale moving in the small space as he cooked, quietly humming to himself. Crowley smiled softly before slowly getting up, stretching out his back and sighing at the relief he felt in his body. He made his way towards the kitchen, clearing his throat so he didn’t startle his friend.

“Good morning, Crowley.” Aziraphale smiled.

“Morning, angel.” He said as he ran his fingers through his sleep tussled hair.

It took him less than a second to realize what he had called the blonde, and a sense of panic settled in his chest. He waited for Aziraphale’s reaction and mentally prepared to explain that he hadn’t meant anything by it, that it was more of a call back to their conversation the night before. But the only acknowledgement that Aziraphale gave was somehow managing to smile just slightly brighter, the small twinkle in his blue eyes seemingly telling Crowley that he completely understood where the term had come from.

“I hope you don’t mind that I decided to cook us breakfast.” Was all he said as he motioned to the eggs he was cooking. “You don’t have much as far as food is concerned, but I didn’t want to leave to order breakfast in case you weren’t any better at all.”

Crowley just smiled as he listened to his friend go on a small rant of how he should be eating better, and that it was now easier to see why he was thin as a rail. The red head just laughed softly and leaned against the wall to watch Aziraphale dish up the eggs. He couldn’t help but wonder what he had done to deserve to have the blonde as a friend, but he knew better than to really question it. So instead he sat next to Aziraphale at the small kitchen table and ate the breakfast that had been cooked, enjoying the conversation and company.

Chapter Text

November 2009

In the days that followed the impromptu sleepover, Crowley had found himself on the receiving end of Aziraphale fretting about him. He had taken to acting annoyed at the concern the blonde showed him, but he had to admit that it felt nice to have someone worry about him; even if it was over something that really didn’t warrant the worry most days. And it seemed no matter how much assurance was given that the red head was fine, Aziraphale still worried.

And that was how the two found themselves at a nearby park, lounging on a blanket that had seen better days. Crowley had suggested that they hang out on his next day off, and Aziraphale had decided they should enjoy the nice weather and have a picnic. The blonde had packed a light lunch and the red head had brought his sketchpad just in case inspiration struck him during the afternoon.

“What on earth are you doing, Crowley?” Aziraphale’s voice pulled the red head’s attention away from the duck he had been staring at.

“I don’t like the way he’s ssstaring at me.” Crowley said around a mouthful of the sandwich he was eating.

There was a paused as Aziraphale looked between the duck and Crowley. Even though he was staring at the drake, the red head could almost feel the look on his friend’s face and the mental image caused him to smirk slightly.

“You don’t like how he’s staring at you?” a small huff followed the nod Crowley gave. “And what way is that?”

“Like he wantsss my food.” He said, his eyes narrowing behind his sunglasses when the duck quaked. “Go ‘way. This is Crowley food, not duck food.”

“Really…” Aziraphale sighed and shook his head. “Just…eat your sandwich, Crowley.”

It was another moment before the duck continued on its way, letting out a few quakes. The red head shook his head and quickly stuck his tongue out at the retreating animal. An annoyed huff sounded on his right side and he couldn’t help the small smile at the expression on the blonde’s face.

“You are a child, Crowley. Do you know that?” despite the mildly disapproving look, there was the trace of a smile on Aziraphale’s face.

Crowley just shrugged and went back to eating his sandwich. The two fell into an easy conversation shortly after, and Aziraphale even made a few jokes whenever a duck would look their way.

“I have to ask something that’sss been bothering me.” Crowley said when they fell into a comfortable silence, looking over to see Aziraphale nod his head. “How come Gabe sounds American?”

“He doesn’t like to be called Gabe, really.” Aziraphale muttered before sighing softly at the look Crowley gave him. “Not the point, I know. My parents’ had Gabriel when they lived in America. It’s where my parents met actually. You see, my father was American and my mother was over there for school. He’s their only biological child, the rest of us are adopted.”

“Doesn’t explain why he has an American accent, and the rest of you don’t.” Crowley pointed out, arching his back slightly until he felt the pop in between his shoulder blades.

“They moved here when he was thirteen, when his accent was in place already. According to my mother. A year later, my parents adopted Michael and Uriel. They weren’t looking to adopt two children but Michael and Uriel were best friends, and my parents didn’t want to separate them.” Aziraphale explained before eating one of the grapes he had been holding. “They were thirteen when they were adopted. I was adopted two years later when I was twelve.”

Crowley nodded as he listened to Aziraphale, his fingers toying with a loose thread at the bottom of his shirt. He glanced at his friend just in time to see the hint of sadness as the blonde talked about his family, and before the red head could stop himself he asked a question he wasn’t sure he should have.

“What happened to your biological parents?” he cringed as soon as he asked the question. “Sssorry. You don’t have to…”

“No, it’s quite alright.” Aziraphale said softly. “My biological parents weren’t ready for a child, no matter how hard they tried to. That’s what I had been told before I was adopted. They wanted me to have the best life I could, and that meant not being with them.”

“Did you ever try to look for them?” Crowley asked, turning to face the other man a little more.

“I thought about it, but…there isn’t a point to it. It wasn’t as if they didn’t want me. From what I had been told, they made an effort until I was two when they realized that I would be better off. And for that, I love them very much.” The blonde turned to look at Crowley and gave him a small smile. “If I hadn’t been adopted, then I may have gone to find them. But it all worked out in the end.”

“Yeah, s’pose so.” Crowley nodded. “Sssince I asked a personal question, only fair you get to do the same.”

Aziraphale furrowed his brow slightly, his eyes staring at some spot on the blanket they were sitting on and his mouth drawn in a tight line. Crowley held back a laugh at the expression and couldn’t help but think it was an adorable look on his friend.

“When did you first know you were gay?” the blonde finally asked, his tone making it clear he wasn’t sure if he crossed a line.

“I was nine when I had my first crush. He wasss a new kid in my class, and I didn’t even know what it meant. I just remember telling my parentsss about the new boy that I thought was cute.” Crowley was glad his sunglasses hid his eyes from his friend. “That wasss the first time my father hit me.”

He could feel Aziraphale’s eyes on him and he forced a smile, wanting to reassure his friend. Crowley could feel the brief silence was about to be broken, and continued talking before the blonde could say anything.

“I wasss fourteen when I had my first boyfriend, his name was Lucian. He was a year older than me and…I had never felt more like myself than when I was around him.” He recalled, a faint smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “We were found out by my parentsss when I was sixteen, and they threw me out of the house. I moved in with Lucian and his matesss, and um…I ended thingsss just after I turned eighteen.”

“May I ask why?” Aziraphale asked softly.

“I didn’t like the person I had become with him.”

Crowley wasn’t sure if it was the words or the way he said them, but he was grateful that Aziraphale seemed to have understood that was an end to that conversation. A silence fell over the two and Crowley thought of a way to lighten the atmosphere. He didn’t want to seem like he was fishing for pity, or trying to seem like a sob story. And he knew Aziraphale was too polite to ever admit that’s what he thought if the red head brought it up.

“But it all worked out, in the end. I have my own flat, work a good job, and am pursuing a career in a field I am passionate about.” Crowley grinned as he leaned back on to his elbows. “I wouldn’t have what I have now if none of that had happened to me.”

“Tattooing is your passion?” it seemed as if the distraction worked.

“Tattooing will be my career, but art is my passion. And what better way to make a living as an artist than to have your work be worn by people who it?” the red head explained. “For me, there’sss something about people wanting to be your canvas, to trust you enough to put a permanent piece of art on their body. I’m not explaining that very well, am I?”

“I’m afraid not.” Aziraphale said with a chuckle. “But I’m not judging.”

“Then I guess I’ll have to show you want I mean one day.” Crowley shrugged.

“And how do you plan to do that?”

“You’ll just have to ssstick around to find out.”

The two turned to look at each other and, for the briefest of moments, Crowley was afraid he had possibly over stepped some invisible line.

“I think I can do that.” Aziraphale said with a soft smile.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present day

A yawn escaped as Crowley walked into the occult shop, giving Madame Tracy a very sleepy smile. Monday mornings were shipment and inventory days for the older woman’s shop and, like clockwork, Crowley was there at seven in the morning to help her out. It had been something he had started doing within the first six months of opening his own shop, and it gave him something to do since he was closed on Mondays. He had found that he enjoyed the two hours spent with her; so much so, that he had been afraid he would lose these early mornings when Anathema had been hired. That fear had quickly been squashed when he learned Madame Tracy had told the American she didn’t need to start in the shop until later in the morning.

“Your coffee is right there, sweetheart.” The older woman motioned to the cup on the front counter.

He made an appreciative noise and picked up the mug, taking a quick sip. A small hum left him as a satisfied smile spread on his face. The red head had no idea how she did it, but Madame Tracy somehow always managed to make the perfect coffee. It was another moment before he made his way towards the small shipment that had come in, setting to work on double checking everything had arrived.

The two shop owners had developed a system over the last year and a half for their mornings; they would work in silence for a few minutes as Crowley woke up, and once music started to play from his phone it was the signal to say he was fully awake. When these Monday mornings had started becoming routine, he had been afraid the older woman would think he was being rude but she had assured him that there was nothing wrong with him not being a morning person.

This particular morning, it had taken Crowley nearly fifteen minutes to shake the remnants of sleep.

“We’re not starting with Queen today?” Madame Tracy asked once she heard the beginning notes of Wild Horses.

“Thought we’d change it up.” He said with a smirk as he set aside the box he had been going over. “Can’t have you getting bored with my music.”

She playfully rolled her eyes as she went back to going over the papers she had been looking at. They worked in a comfortable silence, Crowley softly singing along with the music. This was another part of their system they had perfected; Madame Tracy would go over invoices and other paperwork while Crowley made sure all of her inventory had come in without saying a word to each other. It was only when both had finished their tasks that they would fall into a conversation as they put away everything.

“You never did tell me how you already knew Mr. Fell.” Madame Tracy said as she started unloading one of the boxes.

“Anathema didn’t tell you?” he was a bit surprised that the young woman hadn’t said anything.

“All she said was you knew him from a few years ago, but that was it.”

“Hm.”

A moment passed as they worked on the shipment, Crowley thinking of what to say without giving too much away. One of the things that stuck out about the older woman was the fact that she was, at heart, a hopeless romantic. And he knew if he even hinted that he had had feelings for the other man, she would most likely try to find a way to play matchmaker.

“He wasss my best friend, and we had a falling out. Well, I had a falling out. He sort of…he got left behind.” He finally said, narrowing his eyes at the item he had picked up. “I panicked over the ssstupid thing, and cut him out.”

“How long had you been dating?”

“What?” his head snapped to look at Madame Tracy, the shock clear on his face despite the sunglasses hiding his eyes.

“I heard you call him angel a few times, and it’s clear how close you two still are.” She explained. “Besides, you both have that sadness only ex-lovers have.”

“We never...we weren’t…” he trailed off with a disgruntled sound. “We were just friendsss. Nothing more to it.”

“But someone wanted more?” she turned to look at him, the hint of something in her eyes.

“I, um…he….I thought he did. But I was wrong.” He muttered, knowing there was no avoiding the topic. “I mean, he wanted more but not with me. Not that I knew that at the time. I jussst thought…I don’t know what I thought, really. But I ended up ruining my friendship with how I handled everything.”

“Not for good though.” The older woman said with a certainty that Crowley was caught off guard by it.

He narrowed his eyes and watched her as she began putting away the items she had unpacked. She had barely seen him and Aziraphale interact, and yet she seemed so sure that nothing was beyond repair. The time the red head had spent with Aziraphale since their reunion had been pleasant and felt like old times, but there was still that underlying tension of everything that was going unsaid. There was still the hint of one of them saying the wrong thing and undo the small progress that had made.

“You…you can’t possibly know that.” He found himself saying.

“I do know that. I did used to be a fortune teller, I’ll have you know.” Madame Tracy said as she looked over her shoulder at him.

“You pretended to be one.” Crowley corrected.

“I may have played up certain things in order to put on a show, but I never pretended.” She insisted, turning around to face him. “And I don’t need to have any sort of gifts to know that things are not ruined.”

“How can you be ssso sure?”

“Because I dare anyone to get to know you and not fight to keep you in their life.”

He swallowed as he busies himself with the box in front of him, wanting to try and hide the blush he could feel spreading on his face. He could just feel the smile Madame Tracy was giving him, and all that did was make him turn even redder.

“You know, one of these days you are going to realize that you deserve more than you think you do.” She pointed out.

“That day isn’t today, ssso…” he cleared his throat and shook his head slightly, slipping back into his usual too cool persona.

The rest of the morning went by rather quickly, and by the time the shop was ready to open everything had been done and put away for the last half hour. Crowley spent a few more minutes in the shop with Madame Tracy, only leaving when the first few customers had come in. He had only taken a few steps towards his own shop when he saw Aziraphale leaving the bookshop.

“Angel!” he called out, quickly making his way across the street.

“Crowley.” A bright smile appeared on the blonde’s face. “Good morning.”

“Everything okay?” he asked as he nodded towards the front door of the shop, smirking at the confused look on the other man’s face. “Normally you don’t leave until lunch.”

“Oh, yes. I was just double checking that the paint was the right color.” Aziraphale said. “Good news, it is. So…now I am leaving them alone so they can paint the inside. No real reason for me to be in there today.”

Crowley nodded as he shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

“We could go get breakfast. If you want.” He said after a moment.

“I don’t want to keep you from…well, whatever it is you normally do on Mondays.”

“I don’t normally do anything. I help Madame Tracy with her inventory and then my day isss free.” Crowley said with a shrug. “I’ll ask again. Would you like to get breakfast?”

Despite the silence, the smile on Aziraphale’s face told Crowley that his offer had been accepted. He kept his own smile from showing until the blonde nodded his head.

“How do you feel about crepes?” Aziraphale asked with a small hopeful look in his blue eyes.

“Crepesss it is. Do you know a place that serves them?”

“As long as you don’t mind driving.”

“Angel, have I ever turned down a chance to drive you around?” he asked with a smirk, leading him to where he kept his car parked. “Besidesss, you haven’t seen the Bentley 2.0.”

A huff sounded from Aziraphale and the sound earned a chuckle from Crowley. It didn’t take long before the two approached the black Ford Mustang and the red head caught the amused shake of Aziraphale’s head.

“You would be the type to buy an American muscle car.” The blonde said, the small smile taking away from the disbelieving tone he had.

“’S a good car, despite where it was made. Not too bad of a shape for being a 2015 model either.” Crowley said with pride as he unlocked the car, making his way to the driver side.

“And yet you still want to call it the Bentley.” The blonde said with a pointed look. “I will still never understand your logic behind that.”

“Get in, angel. We have breakfast to get.”

He caught the eye roll as he ducked into the car, and he just laughed softly. As Aziraphale gave him directions to where they were going, Crowley couldn’t help but think about his conversation with Madame Tracy. Maybe her certainty on his friendship with the blonde wasn’t misplaced.

Chapter Text

December 2009

A laugh echoed through the hall as Crowley led Aziraphale to his flat, his laughter growing at the annoyed look on the blonde’s face. The two had gone to grab a late bite to eat even though Crowley kept insisting that they could reschedule their plans. His night at the tattoo shop had run extremely late and while that allowed him to learn more, it had meant that Aziraphale sat around as he waited for the red head to finish up with his mentor. Of course, the blonde had assured Crowley that he hadn’t minded one bit and had actually enjoyed talking with the artist at the shop. Luckily, no one at the shop had minded Aziraphale being there and Crowley knew he would be met with questions the next time he was there.

It had been nearly ten o’clock by the time the two went to get dinner, settling for one of the near by pubs since there wasn’t much open. They had made quick work of their meal and, wanting to make up for keeping Aziraphale waiting, Crowley had invited him back to his flat. Ever since the first time Aziraphale had come over, it had become somewhat routine for the two end up at Crowley’s flat on Saturday nights. A few of those times had ended with both men falling asleep in the living room, and it had been enough for the red head to buy a pair of sweat pants and a Queen shirt that Aziraphale could call his own.

“I don’t know why you’re laughing.” Aziraphale huffed as they walked into the flat, his eyes narrowing as Crowley failed at containing his laughter.

“You getting all…flustered at the idea we were on a date…” he trailed off as he chuckled, shaking his head at the delicate way the blonde draped his jacket over the back of the kitchen chair. “’S funny, angel.”

Crowley managed to get himself under control as he walked over to his record player, flipping through the crate of records until he found the one he was looking for. As the voice of Freddie Mercury filled the flat, he made his way to the makeshift liquor cabinet, pouring a drink for each of them. He pushed up the sleeves of the shirt he was wearing before making his way to the armchair Aziraphale normally occupied, handing a glass to him. The red head carefully sat down in the couch and swung his legs up to rest his feet on the coffee table.

“It isn’t that funny, Crowley.” He said with an irritated tone, although the hint of amusement flickered in his blue eyes. “And even if…well, if I was…attracted to men, you wouldn’t be my type.”

The glass in the red head’s hand paused halfway up, an eyebrow peeking over the sunglasses he hadn’t taken off yet. Crowley lowered the glass to rest on his right thigh as he stared at Aziraphale.

“Not your type?” he asked with a hint of offense. “What would be your type then?”

“I don’t know, exactly. I mean, regardless of my sexuality I…well, the person I date would need to be, um…romantic.” The blonde said before taking a quick sip of his drink. “Not that I’m saying there’s something wrong with the way you are, but…you don’t strike me as the romantic type.”

“You don’t think I can be romantic?”

“I’m sure you can be when you’re...er, when you’re first seeing someone.” Aziraphale explained as a blush started to spread on his cheeks. “But I would need more than just romance at the beginning. I’m…I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic.”

“You sure you’re not gay? I haven’t met many straight men who are hopeless romanticsss.” Crowley teased as he set his drink on the table. “You want romantic, I’ll show you romantic.”

“What…what are you doing, Crowley?” Aziraphale sighed as he watched the other man carefully pull the coffee table to the side.

The red head ignored him as he worked to get the area just right, wanting to time everything perfectly. Even though there was no way of the other man knowing what was being planned, Aziraphale somehow managed to have an expression that was equal parts embarrassed, unimpressed, and flattered as he watched Crowley set up for something only he was in on. Almost as if this had been his plan all along, the red head spun on his heel to face his friend just as a new song sounded from the record player.

I can dim the lights and sing you songs full of sad things…” Crowley’s voice joined in as he struck up his best enticing pose, lowering his sunglasses enough to show his eyes.

“What are you doing?” he asked again.

“Romancing you, obviousssly.” The red head answered quickly as he made his way closer to the blonde, continuing to sing along with the song.

Despite his best efforts, Aziraphale found himself laughing softly at his friend. The laughter earned a grin from Crowley as he gently took the glass from Aziraphale, setting it down before coaxing him to his feet.

“Really, Crowley, this isn’t necessary.” The blonde laughed even as he allowed the red head to arrange them to dance along with the song.

“Absolutely necessary.” Crowley argued with a look of mock seriousness. “I’d like for you and I to go romancing. Say the word, your wish is my command!”

The two dissolved into laughter as they continued dancing, if anyone would really call it dancing. In between his bouts of laughter, Crowley managed to continue his ridiculous serenade. He wasn’t sure when it had happened, but somehow Aziraphale had ended up wearing his sunglasses and that had sent the red head into another round of laughing while singing. He grinned as he caught the blonde by surprise with a well-timed spin, both of them stumbling slightly to regain their balance.

Everything’s all right, just hold tight that’s because I’m a good old-fashioned,” Crowley pulled Aziraphale closer as the end of the song approached, giving him a wink as he prepared for the big finale. “Fashioned lover boy!”

Aziraphale let out a startled yelp as Crowley quickly dipped him, laughing when the blonde’s hand tightly gripped his biceps. He stood up straight and helped make sure his friend didn’t fall over. There was a moment before Aziraphale started laughing again. Crowley smiled as he looked at the blonde, noticing that this was the most relaxed he had seen Aziraphale in the two months he had known him.

“Well, it seems you’ve proved me wrong.” Aziraphale managed to tamper down his laughter enough to say, an impossibly bright smile on his face. “You can be romantic. Who knew?”

Crowley gave a playful bow and grinned up at the blonde. There was something in the few seconds it took for him to stand back up that made something in his stomach do a little flip. It wasn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary; Aziraphale was just standing there in the same middle aged librarian type of outfit he always wore, his tartan bowtie slightly askew, and the biggest smile as he continued to wear Crowley’s sunglasses. But whatever it was had been enough for the red head to suddenly feel like his heart wanted to make a break for it.

“My ex-boyfriend, a few ex-loversss…” Crowley shrugged although he mentally cringed at what he had said. “You look ridiculousss with my sunglasses on.”

“They’re not really my style, are they?” Aziraphale chuckled as he carefully took them off. “Round frames don’t really suit my face.”

The red head watched as the blonde carefully placed the pair on the small table next to the armchair. The smile on Aziraphale’s face caused another one of those stupid little flips in Crowley’s stomach and he hoped that he wasn’t blushing, even though he could feel the tips of his ears heating up.

As the two settled back down into their respective spots, Crowley found himself distracted by the turn of events the evening had taken. He wanted to explain away the sudden anxiousness he felt around his friend, wanted to dismiss the feeling in his stomach and the way his heart sped up at the little smiles Aziraphale was giving him. Because if he could explain all of the tell tale signs away, then it meant that he hadn’t formed a crush on Aziraphale over the last two months.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present day

Crowley hummed softly along to the song playing through his shop, his tongue poking out at the corner of his mouth as he focused on the tattoo he was working on. The client currently in the chair was one of his regulars, or rather as regular of a client as a tattoo shop could have. He was finishing up the final touches on the man’s sleeve, a piece that had taken a little over a month to complete.

Every time I see your face, every time you look my way…” Crowley’s humming turned into soft singing, and he knew his client didn’t mind the distraction from the tattoo. “It’s like it all falls into place. Everything feels right…”

His voice trailed off as he lifted the tattoo gun away from the skin, leaning back as he gently wiped the area he had been working on. It was a few more minutes before he set down the tattoo gun and looked at the man sitting in the chair.

“That isss what I call a finished tattoo.” Crowley grinned once he had finished wiping away the excess ink.

He watched as his client looked in the mirror at the vibrant ink covering his bicep. The red head smiled at the praise his work earned him as he got to his feet, leading his client over to the register. They had a quick conversation about nothing in particular as everything was paid up, the conversation pausing long enough for Crowley to take a picture of the sleeve.

“I’ll let you get to the new guy. But thanks again, Crowley. It looks…it’s perfect!” the young man gushed before rushing out of the shop, no doubt eager to get to wherever he was heading to show off the finished piece.

“New guy?” Crowley found himself muttering before looking over to the few chairs that made up a waiting area, surprised to see Aziraphale sitting there. “What are you doing here?”

“I needed a break from all the noise. I don’t know why putting together bookshelves has to be so loud.” The blonde said as he stood up, giving Crowley a small smile. “I hope it was okay that I came over here.”

“Y…yeah, ‘s fine.” The red head nodded, motioning for him to follow. “I just…how long have you been here?”

“Nearly twenty minutes.”

Crowley looked up at him, narrowing his eyes behind his sunglasses. He sighed at the almost nervous smile that crossed the blonde’s face.

“Why didn’t you sssay anything?” he asked as he started cleaning up his station.

“You were so focused, I didn’t want to distract you.” Aziraphale said softly, which earned a scoff from Crowley. “I didn’t want you to ruin that man’s arm.”

“I’ll have you know, I’ve never ruined anyone’s tattoo.” Crowley said as he beamed with pride, lifting his head enough to see the disapproving look on the blonde’s face. “Well, for the most part. I saved yoursss, you could hardly see where I fucked up.”

Aziraphale just sighed and walked over to the sketchpad nearby, no doubt wanting to hide a smile. Crowley just smirked and shook his head as memories of his very first tattoo played in his head. All these years later, and he still couldn’t understand what had made his friend volunteer to let Crowley tattoo him. It had been so unlike the normally fussy and proper man to not only get a tattoo, but to be someone’s very first tattoo. That had been the moment Crowley had moved from crushing to falling for Aziraphale. He gently shook his head to bring himself back to the present; it wouldn’t do him any good to think about those first few years.

“Well, I assume it would be easy to hide a mistake in a floral tattoo.” Through the snark in Aziraphale’s voice, the smile could be heard loud and clear.

“Floral tattoo…don’t sssimplify that design.” The red head said as he straightened up to look at his friend. “Admittedly, doing a Garden of Eden inspired tattoo was a bit…um, a bit much for my first one.”

Aziraphale looked over his shoulder and the two shared a smile. Crowley ran his fingers through his hair and fought back the urge to ask if the tattoo was still there, if still meant as much to the blonde as it had all those years ago. But those weren’t the type of questions you asked someone after going seven years without seeing the other person, especially when you were trying to rebuild your friendship.

“I did want to ask if you would like to help me decorate the book shop when I get to that point.” Aziraphale asked softly, an anxious smile flickering on his face.

“I’m not exactly that kind of gay, angel.” Crowley chuckled. “Although I’m not surprisssed you are.”

“Funny.” The blonde rolled his eyes with a slight shake of his head. “I just have some artwork that I’d like to hang up, and you do have an eye for placement when it comes to art.”

“’S long as it’s on my daysss off, then I’ll be happy to help.” Crowley nodded as he finished cleaning up his work area, not that much left needed to be done.

Just as he turned to look at Aziraphale, the beginning of very familiar song filled the shop. A small smile pulled at the corner of Crowley’s mouth and he couldn’t help but let out the small chuckle. He had never been able to hear the song the same way after a certain night a decade ago.

“I know this one! This is our song.” Those were words he had never expected to come from Aziraphale.

“Our…our sssong?” Crowley choked out.

“I have very fond memories involving this song.” Aziraphale smiled as he looked at the red head. “Set my alarm, turn on my charm that’s because I’m a good old fashioned lover boy.”

Crowley swallowed slightly as he listened to his friend sing along, his mind flashing back to a night involving the two of them laughing and dancing in his old flat. Before he could register anything else, Aziraphale was standing in front of him with a bright smile on his face as he continued singing along.

It only took the red head a few seconds to realize what was about to happen, and for a few moments he was back in the rundown flat as he jokingly serenaded his friend. Soft laughter joined in with the singing as, once again, the Crowley found himself dancing with Aziraphale. Although the fact that this time he was the one being serenaded just made him laugh even more.

When I’m not with you, I think of you always…” the blonde sang along softly, and Crowley had to admit that he was surprised Aziraphale even knew the words. “When I’m not with you, think of me always. Love you, love you…”

Crowley was glad he was still wearing his sunglasses because he was all too familiar what the flip of his stomach meant. And how was that fair, anyways? Seven years later and it was almost as if nothing had changed, at least not for the red head. And that was a ridiculous thought; there was no way that he held any type of feelings for someone he hadn’t talked to in nearly a decade.

In order to get his mind off of the flips his stomach kept doing, Crowley’s voice joined Aziraphale’s as he spun the blonde. There was a playfulness to the way the two were dancing and singing, and the red head wasn’t sure if that made things better or worse for him. After all, there was no way he could like the blonde when he was still trying to fix the friendship he had ruined.

The song came to an end and Aziraphale looked up at Crowley, a grin on his face as his hands rested on the red head’s shoulders. The blonde was laughing softly and remembering the first time they had done that but all Crowley could focus on was the same thing he had focused on the first time around; he felt something much more than friendship for the other man.

Fuck.’ He mentally cursed, knowing there was no way this would end well for him.

Chapter Text

February 2010

Crowley hummed along to the music playing from his phone as he stepped under the shower’s spray, rinsing off his body wash. A few minutes later the water was turned off and he was standing in the middle of his small bathroom, drying himself off before he quickly pulled on a pair of boxers. He took a brief moment to laugh at the fact that his boxers were covered with printed snakes, knowing exactly how childish he probably looked. He shook his head slightly and quickly pulled on a pair of black skinny jeans.

It was his one and only day off, and he had made plans to go to some museum exhibit Aziraphale had invited him to. He couldn’t remember exactly what it was but he did know that the blonde had been very excited about it, and a little anxious about asking Crowley to come with him. Even after all these months, it still made the red head upset that Aziraphale felt the need to try and hide his excitement about the things he liked; it made Crowley want to yell at the people (mainly the Twat Triplets) for making his friend that insecure.

He had just finished brushing his teeth when a knock sounded on his door. Crowley looked for a shirt and softly cursed when he remembered he hadn’t grabbed a shirt. In fact, he hadn’t even picked out a shirt to wear considering he wanted to look somewhat less like a hooligan for the museum. He knew it was Aziraphale at the door, and he figured the blonde would forgive him for answering half dressed just this once.

“Hey, angel.” He grinned once he opened the door.

“Crowley…oh!” the way he adverted his eyes made Crowley chuckle. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know…”

“It’s fine, Aziraphale. C’mon in.” the red head said as he stepped to the side. “Make yourself at home. I’m just going to…”

He motioned towards where his bedroom was before shutting the door behind the blonde. There was a brief moment where Crowley saw the quick glance Aziraphale gave him, and he suddenly felt very self-conscious standing there in only his jeans. He wasn’t sure what made it more nerve wracking for him, the fact that his crush on his friend seemed a permanent fixture or the fact that he had become the cliché gay that had feelings for a straight man.

“I’ll be right back.” Crowley said after clearing his throat, quickly making his way towards his bedroom.

The sudden gasp from behind caused him to instantly freeze. He closed his eyes and let out a small sigh when he felt Aziraphale staring at him. The self-consciousness he had felt a moment ago was quickly replaced by feeling completely stupid at walking around without his shirt. He knew better than to make that mistake.

“Your back…” Aziraphale’s voice was soft and hesitant, a hint of sadness in his tone.

Crowley turned quickly to look at him, even though he knew it was too late. He sighed softly at the questioning look on his friend’s face and he knew that he couldn’t just deflect the fact that his back was home to several angry looking scars and two burns near his shoulder blades.

“A parting gift from my father.” He whispered as his gaze dropped to the dingy carpet.

“What does that mean?” Aziraphale asked, his hand quickly flying up to his mouth. “I’m sorry. You don’t have to answer that. I’m sure you don’t want to talk about it.”

“No, ‘s fine. Um…before my parentsss threw my out, my father tried to beat me into being ssstraight. Again.” He said as he rubbed the back of his neck, his shoulders rolling back as he recalled that night. “He figured whipping me with his belt would be the bessst way to fix me. I never actually thought a belt buckle could cut into ssskin, but turns out it can.”

“And the burns?” there was that hesitancy again.

“By the time I made it to my boyfriend, I was ssstill bleeding. It was from the two on my ssshoulder blades, they were the deepest. Couldn’t go to a hospital, ssso…” he lifted his head and amber eyes met blue ones. “Lucian found a way to ssstop the bleeding.”

There was a brief stretch of silence and Crowley exhaled loudly. It was taking all he had not to roll his eyes and snap at his friend. After all, Aziraphale was trying his best not to have that look that the red head despised.

“Don’t give me that look.” He forced his voice to not carry that cold, defensive tone he had mastered over the years.

“What look?” Aziraphale asked as a touch of anxiousness mixed into his expression.

“The look you give a bloody wounded animal.”

If the blonde wanted to say something, Crowley didn’t give him a chance as he turned on his heel and quickly made his way to his room. The entire time he could feel Aziraphale’s eyes on his back and he did his best to push down the shame and self-consciousness that had washed over him. The scars had always been a point of insecurity for the red head, but he had never let those feelings factor too much into his life. After all, the other times someone had seen his back had been during hook-ups or one-night stands, and there normally wasn’t much conversation during those times.

But there was something about Aziraphale seeing the marred flesh that made Crowley want to disappear for a while. And that had everything to do with how he felt towards the blonde, regardless of the fact that Aziraphale was not attracted to men. He shook his head and quickly grabbed a dark grey t-shirt, throwing it on. A soft sigh sounded as he thought of what to put on over the shirt, deciding on the black vest that hung in the closet. It took him another minute as he put on a beige pair of high top Converse, calling out to his friend that he just had to style his hair.

That task took him even less time, but that was solely due to the fact that styling his hair had become an exact science to him. The music that was still coming from his phone was cut off before Crowley pocketed it. He half expected to see Aziraphale still standing by the front door with that concerned expression still on his face, instead he saw the blonde over by the record player.

“Really?” Aziraphale muttered in surprise, clearly not aware that Crowley had walked back out.

“Really what?” a smirk appeared at the small yelp the blonde let out.

“That was rude, Crowley.” He huffed as he turned back around, one of the red head’s records in his hand.

Crowley just shrugged as his smirk turned into a smile at the slightly annoyed look on the blonde’s face. The red head waited to see if Aziraphale would say anything about the scars.

“I wasn’t expecting to find an ABBA record.” Aziraphale said instead, lifting the record he was holding slightly.

Crowley saw the statement for what it was; it was Aziraphale’s way of showing he didn’t think any differently of Crowley. The red head felt a small wave of affection wash over him.

“Why not? They’re a good group with amazing songsss.” Crowley shrugged a shoulder as he made his way over to the kitchen counter his sunglasses were resting on.

“I didn’t take you for…well, for a dancing queen.”

He didn’t need to be looking at Aziraphale to see the proud smile at his little quip. Crowley smirked as he slide his sunglasses on to his face, preparing himself for whatever his friend’s reaction would be to what he was about to do.

“You should know by now, angel, that I’m what the kids call…” he quickly turned around and struck the most dramatic pose he could think of. “A gay.”

He held the pose for as long as it took Aziraphale to stop fighting the laugh that wanted to be heard. Once the blonde gave in and shook his head in amusement, Crowley straightened up and grinned. They stood in the small area as they laughed for a few minutes, and Crowley began to wonder if they would actually make it to the museum.

“We should…we should get going.” Aziraphale finally managed to get out, his laughter dying down to small giggles.

“Yeah, s’pose you’re right.” Crowley chuckled as he made his way to the front door.

It wasn’t much longer before they were on their way out of the building Crowley lived in. Aziraphale began to animatedly talk about the exhibit they were going to despite the hesitancy and anxiousness that clung to him, as if he expected Crowley to cut him off. And while Crowley still had no idea what they were seeing, he did his best to show, not only his own interest, but that he was happy that his friend was so excited.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present day

It was proving to be a fairly steady Friday for the shop, between appointments and walk-ins Crowley had barely found a moment to breathe. So when the shop was completely empty, he had jumped at the chance to quickly eat a small snack and head out the door for a cigarette. The steady stream of people entering and leaving the occult shop told him that Madame Tracy and Anathema were having just as good of a business day as he was. Not that either businesses were in any danger of failing, but busy days like this were always cause for celebrating.

Crowley sighed softly as he exhaled the lungful of smoke, leaning back against the shop front. His gaze landed on the bookshop across from him and he smiled slightly when he noticed the change that had been made to the front. The words ‘A. Z. Fell and Co.’ stood out in gold lettering above the front door while ‘Antiquarian and Unusual Books’ rested above the front window. The red head couldn’t help the small smile that spread on his face as he read over the name a few more times, knowing that despite what the front said Aziraphale also planned to sell books that weren’t quite so unusual and rare; after all, he needed a way to make money outside of collectors.

It wouldn’t be too much longer before he would be helping his friend decorate the inside of the shop, and that thought made Crowley’s smile grow slightly. He had always been supportive of Aziraphale’s dream to open a bookshop, and it was nice being able to see that dream take shape. He had been so lost in thought that he hadn’t noticed the door to the bookshop open until a loud voice rang out across the street.

“I just wish you had mentioned that you were across from…”

Crowley straightened up when he noticed someone he could have gone the rest of his life without seeing pointing towards his shop. And it seemed as if he had been spotted if the abrupt ending of the statement was anything to go by. The red head gave a little wave at the two across from him.

“Hey, Gabe! Long time no sssee.” He called out, grinning at the annoyed look on the older man’s face.

He just grinned as he watched the brothers and even though he couldn’t hear them, Crowley had a feeling that he was the topic of their conversation. Amber eyes rolled behind sunglasses as Gabriel was suddenly walking towards him, Aziraphale following behind.

“Well, if it isn’t Crawly.” Gabriel greeted as he put on his best fake smile. “I should have known you would be here.”

“What, because your brother bought that building?” Crowley did his best to not let the old nickname bother him.

“No. Because only someone like you would open a place called Demon Ink.”

“Gabriel…” Aziraphale tried to get his brother’s attention, and Crowley was reminded of how much he hated the way his friend was treated by his siblings.

“Someone like me?” the red head pretended to not understand what the American meant, taking a quick drag from his cigarette.

“You’re not going to be able to tempt Zira this time.”

Crowley merely blew the smoke as close to Gabriel as he could. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Aziraphale grow more annoyed at the fact that he was being ignored. He knew that playing into the oldest Fell sibling’s bait would do nothing, but there was just something fun about it.

“I don’t think I have any tempting to do, Gabe. Aziraphale seemsss pretty comfortable with being into men.”

He caught the look that Aziraphale sent his way, a sort of quiet fury in his blue eyes. He knew the blonde well enough to know that he was only getting himself into trouble.

“He only strayed off the right path because of you.” Gabriel snapped, poking his finger into Crowley’s chest. “He’s not going to sully himself like that again.”

“Gabriel, that’s enough.” Aziraphale huffed as he tried to pull his brother away.

“You’ll never have him, Crawly.” He shrugged off his younger brother’s grip. “He’s better than your lifestyle.”

Crowley opened his mouth to say something but noticed Aziraphale silently begging him to be quiet. As much as he wanted to say something to the older man, he also didn’t want to do anything that would cause a rift with Aziraphale. So instead he flicked his cigarette to the ground and turned his attention to the blonde.

“I’m going to close up for about an hour soon, do you want to get dinner?” he asked, fighting back the smirk at the look on Gabriel’s face.

Aziraphale just nodded after a brief moment despite the look of mild annoyance on his face. Crowley could almost hear what was going through his friend’s mind at that moment (“Really, Crowley? You’re only asking to get a rise out of Gabriel.”), and the red head couldn’t help but smile. It seemed as if Gabriel knew he would no longer get anything out of Crowley, but still wanted to cause some type of trouble for the two younger men.

“Maybe you should think about a light dinner, Zira. You’ve got a bit of a gut going on.”

Before either Crowley or Aziraphale could respond, the older man turned and made his way to wherever he had parked his car. The two stood outside of Demon Ink in silence; Crowley glaring daggers at Gabriel’s retreating figure, and Aziraphale staring down at the pavement. After a moment, the red head looked at his friend and sighed softly. He had been through this situation enough times in the past to know what was about to happen next.

“I think I’ll join you for a meal another time, Crowley.” Aziraphale said softly, his gaze still trained downwards.

“No, you’re not doing that.” Crowley said sharply. “You’re going to join me for dinner, and you are going to enjoy whatever it is we have.”

“I’m not that hungry. Honestly.”

“Bollocksss.” The red head bent down until he could look at his friend’s face, his heart breaking at the look on Aziraphale’s face. “Your brother’s being a twat, angel. You look good, alwaysss have.”

Aziraphale lifted his head enough to give Crowley a blank look, although the red head could see the mental eye roll. The blonde opened his mouth, no doubt to dismiss what had been said, but Crowley was having none of it.

“Would I lie to you?” he asked seriously.

“Technically, you would on certain things.” Aziraphale pointed out.

“Fine. Would I lie to you about thisss?”

There was brief pause before the other man shook his head slightly. Even though there was still that self-conscious look on Aziraphale’s face, there was also the smallest hint of gratitude towards Crowley. The red head smiled and motioned over his shoulder.

“C’mon then. I’m ssstarving and have something in mind to cook tonight.”

“You’re going to cook?” the blonde asked with a skeptical tone.

“My treat.” Crowley grinned before leading Aziraphale into the shop and towards his flat above. “I will ruin all other cooking for you.”

Aziraphale gave a small eye roll and Crowley just chuckled.

Chapter Text

February 2010

If anyone were to look out their window they would have seen two young men stumbling down the street, laughing and clearly in good spirits. Of course, if anyone were to be looking out their window it would have most likely been to yell at the young men for being so loud. Luckily for Crowley and Aziraphale, they were the only people up at such a late hour.

The two had spent the last few hours at a local punk show, something Crowley had been looking forward to for a few months. It had taken some convincing on the red head’s part but eventually Aziraphale had given in and promised to go. At some point during the show, something had changed for the blonde and he seemed to let loose. They had drank and jumped around as they enjoyed the show, and Crowley could have sworn he had never seen anything more breathtaking than Aziraphale drunkenly bopping around to punk music.

“I still…I still can’t believe you…you got me to agr…agr…come with you.” Aziraphale mumbled as turned to look at Crowley, their shoulders bumping slightly.

“I’m good at, um…at…” his brow furrowed as he racked his brain for the word that had just been on the tip of his tongue. “Whatever I’m good at.”

“Art?” the blonde stopped walking for a moment to look at the red head.

Crowley bit the corner of his lower lip as he tilted his head to look at the sky for a moment, trying to remember if that had been what he was trying to say. After a moment, he quickly shook his head. Whatever it was that he had been trying to say seemed to be lost now.

“You had fun, right?” he asked Aziraphale, suddenly worried that he had made a terrible mistake.

“Didn’t think I would, but…’m glad I came.” The blonde said with the brightest smile Crowley had ever seen. “’Course, I looked outta place.”

“Are you kiddin’? Nothing more punk rock than you, angel.” Crowley said as he slung his arm around Aziraphale’s shoulders. “From the bowtie to the waistcoat…should call you the angel of punk.”

Crowley bumped into his friend as he smirked, both of them stumbling slightly to the side since the red head still had his arm around Aziraphale. Once they had managed to regain their balance, they continued making their way towards Crowley’s flat. At the start of the evening, Aziraphale had complained the entire walk to the show’s venue and made it very clear he didn’t understand why Crowley wasn’t driving. Considering how much they had had to drink, the red head was sure that the blonde was glad they had walked. Besides, it was a fairly short walk compared to other shows Crowley had been to in the past.

A smile pulled at Crowley’s lips as he heard Aziraphale hum one of the songs they had heard that night. His arm slipped from the blonde’s shoulders and he was content to listen to his friend, part of him convinced that Aziraphale wasn’t aware he was even humming. They turned the corner to the street his building was on, and Crowley was hit with a sudden idea.

“Angel!” Crowley jumped in front of Aziraphale, taking a small step back as he wobbled from the action. “I wanna…I wanna dedicate a sssong to you.”

The humming stopped as Aziraphale tilted his head to the right, narrowing his eyes slightly. Crowley took the expression as the go ahead to continue with what he was doing. He cleared his throat as he prepared himself, a very small part of him knowing he should probably play the song from his phone. But who honestly had the time to pull out their phone at such a crucial moment like this?

Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle. I want to ride my bicycle…” he began to sing as loud as he could, his eyes closing behind his sunglasses at the power he put behind the words. “I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like!”

If he had been a little more sober he would have realized just how loud his out of tune singing was, but he wasn’t more sober. And despite Aziraphale trying to shush him, the laughter that also came from the blonde just encouraged the red head to continue singing.

You say Rolls, I say Royce. You say God give me a choice.” Crowley staggered backwards to keep from losing his balance.

Before he had a chance to continue singing, Aziraphale lunged forward and loosely put his fingers over Crowley’s mouth. The red head’s eyes widened behind the sunglasses and he just stared at his friend.

“Crowley, it’s near…nearly three in the morning. People are trying to sleep.” The blonde giggled as his fingers slid until he was lightly gripping Crowley’s shoulder, and Crowley had felt a bolt of something shoot through him at the contact.

“Well…they should be up then. The night’sss ssstill young!” he practically shouted, slouching slightly with a laugh at the drunken look of annoyance he received.

Without saying a word, Aziraphale somehow managed to drag Crowley towards their destination. If it hadn’t been for the giggles coming from the blonde, Crowley would have thought he had done something to upset the other man.

“Why…why would you ded…dedi…sing that song to me?” Aziraphale leaned against the side of the building as he watched Crowley fumble with getting into the building.

“’Cause you’re my bessst friend.” He answered as if it should have been the most obvious thing in the world.

There was a brief moment where the two just stared at each other and the softest of smiles appeared on Aziraphale’s face, and Crowley felt his heart skip at the look. The logical part of him was grateful that he wasn’t drunk enough to do something stupid.

Like lean forward and kiss that adorable smile off his face.’ Crowley swallowed at the thought.

It was only a few more minutes before the two were making their way up the stairs, trying their best to be as quiet as possible. They stumbled through the Crowley’s door and found themselves laughing for some reason neither of them could recall. Crowley tossed his leather jacket off somewhere to the side before carefully placing his sunglasses on the kitchen table. He could hear Aziraphale muttering something behind him but any chance of the red head paying attention went out the window with a single thought.

“Temptation!” he shouted as he spun around to look at his friend. “That’sss what I’m good at.”

Aziraphale just stared at him, his bowtie hanging undone around his collar, and sighed loudly. He shook his head slowly, but Crowley just grinned at the fact that he remembered what he had been trying to say from before.

“I’ll be back.” The blonde muttered before disappearing towards Crowley’s room.

The red head shrugged to no one in particular and worked on getting his combat boots off. A yawn ripped through him and he made the quick decision to just get rid of his jeans so he could sleep in his boxers and the shirt he was currently wearing. After all, the only reason Aziraphale had gone to the bedroom was to grab the Queen shirt and sweat pants he normally wore when he would stay over. A chuckle sounded at the memory of how flustered the blonde had become once he learned Crowley had bought sleep clothes for him, but the red head’s rash decision had proven a worthy investment.

“What are you doing?”

Crowley looked up from his task of arranging his blanket to find Aziraphale looking at him, a quizzical expression on his face at the sight of Crowley’s lanky frame sprawled out on the couch. The red head waved his hand out towards the other end of the couch as a way to stall so his brain could catch up with the situation.

“Gettin’ ready for bed.” He mumbled as he snuggled into the couch.

“No, you’re not…you can’t sleep on the couch. Your back…” the blonde protested.

“Isss fine, angel. Enjoy my bed.”

The two stared at each other for a moment before Aziraphale huffed lightly. This had become routine for the two as well on the nights the blonde stayed over; Crowley would always sleep on the couch and Aziraphale would always protest the idea. In the end, the blonde would always grumble and sulk back to the bedroom while Crowley made himself comfortable on the slightly too small for his frame couch.

“If you insis…insi…if you’re sure.” Aziraphale mumbled as he rubbed at one of his eyes.

“Alwaysss am.” The red head sleepily smiled. “Night, angel.”

“Goodnight, dear.”

That was new. Aziraphale calling him ‘dear’ was definitely not part of their routine.

“Dear?” Crowley raised an eyebrow as he looked at his friend. “I’m…I’m dear?”

“’Course you are, Crowley. You’re my best friend.” Aziraphale smiled as he slowly turned to make his way back to the bedroom. “Why wouldn’t you be dear to me?”

Crowley stared after him for a moment longer until Aziraphale switched the light off, and then the red head found himself staring at the ceiling. His mind replayed the evening he had had, putting emphasis on Aziraphale calling him ‘dear’. He hissed softly and turned on his side to face the back of the couch, curling himself into a ball as he pulled the blanket tight around him.

“Ssstupid Aziraphale and his ssstupid adorable ssself.” He whispered softly before closing his eyes.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present Day

It hadn’t taken Crowley and Madame Tracy long to get through that week’s inventory, something the red head was grateful for since he had promised Aziraphale he would help decorate the book shop. He found himself pausing in front of the window to his own shop to double check that his hair didn’t look a mess, and then quickly found himself feeling ridiculous for the action.

Crowley wasn’t sure exactly how much work there was to do and had settled with throwing on a pair of his looser fitting black skinny jeans, as well as a pink shirt that had an image of the Golden Girls printed on it, the words “Stay Golden” scrawled along the bottom of the image. He had cut the sleeves off of the shirt a while back to make the perfect “work shirt”, as he had explained to Madame Tracy after doing it. It was also the perfect shirt to put his right upper arm on display, a half sleeve made up of several disjointed occult type tattoos. Despite those tattoos being the oldest, the boldness of the black ink had held up extremely well over the years.

“Angel?” he called out as he walked into the bookshop, looking around for the other man.

“Here!” Aziraphale’s voice rang out from the back room.

Crowley looked at the shop and found himself nodding slightly. The color of the walls made the entire building feel cozy even though the bookshelves were completely empty. It had only taken him a minute or so to reach the back room, and put on a show of staggering backwards when he saw his friend.

“Bloody hell, angel! Give a man a little warning that you’re indecent.” Crowley brought a hand up to grip his shirt.

“Indecent?” Aziraphale narrowed his eyes as he looked down at himself.

“I mean, blue jeansss and a band shirt?”

The words had barely been said before the blonde’s head snapped up. The red head couldn’t help but laugh at the glare on Aziraphale’s face, laughing even harder at the loud huff. For the next several minutes the back room was filled with the sounds of Crowley’s chuckling and Aziraphale muttering about the other man being a child.

“That joke has never been funny, you know.” The blonde said when the chuckling finally died down.

“I beg to differ, angel.” Crowley grinned as he removed his sunglasses, wiping at the tears of laughter that had formed.

“You act as if you haven’t seen me dressed this casual before.” Aziraphale rolled his eyes as he went back to going through a box.

“And it never ceasesss to shock me.” He slid his sunglasses back on before looking at the other man for a moment. “Is that the sssame Queen shirt I bought you?”

As soon as the words left his mouth, Crowley wanted to take them back simply because it meant that he had been staring long enough to notice the faded graphic on the shirt. And it also meant that he remember the exact shirt he had bought for the blonde all those years ago. He was glad that Aziraphale hadn’t look up to see the slight blush that had appeared across Crowley’s face.

“Is it? I hadn’t noticed.” The blonde answered, his gaze still focused on the box he was busying himself with.

What a bloody liar,’ the red head thought as he watched his friend.

He wanted to point out the high chance that Aziraphale had been lying; after all owning band shirts had never been the blonde’s thing. And even though there was a possibility that Aziraphale’s ex-boyfriend bought the same shirt, something in Crowley told him that for whatever reason the blonde had hung on to old sleep shirt. In the end, it didn’t matter if it was the same shirt from a decade ago or not; what did matter was that the silence was starting to go on for too long.

“Did you dress so casual to show of your tattoo?” he cringed slightly at himself.

“We’re going to be doing work and figured how I normally dress would hardly help me. Comfort over standards this time around.” Aziraphale gave him a small smile, his left hand reaching up lightly rub where the ink was.

“Isss it holding up?” Crowley asked.

Instead of answering, the blonde rolled up the right sleeve and turned to give Crowley a more direct view. The red head took a few steps closer and looked at the tattoo, a small smile pulling at the corners of his lips. Amber eyes took in the image of the Tree of Knowledge that fit the blonde’s upper arm perfectly, a flash of pride hitting Crowley as he noticed just how much the skin breaks still gave off the effect of some divine light shining down on the tree; surrounding the main image was various types of plant life to help give off the idea of the design being the Garden of Eden.

The tattoo wrapped around Aziraphale’s arm completely, fading off nicely just above his elbow. For a nine year old tattoo, the color was still vibrant and bold and somehow managed to give off a heavenly glow of its own. Crowley smiled softly and nodded his head as his gaze flicked up to meet Aziraphale’s.

“Does it meet your standards, my dear?” the blonde asked with a teasing smirk.

“I could alwaysss give it a touch up. Or just give you another tattoo.” Crowley grinned.

“Um, I think not. This one is all the tattoo I’ll ever want.”

“Well, if you ever change your mind…” the red head chuckled for a moment before motioning to the boxes in the back room. “Where are we starting?”

It took the two a few hours to get nearly half of the shop put together and decorated, of course it hadn’t felt like a few hours thanks to the music playing from the playlist on Crowley’s phone. He had been surprised when Aziraphale had brought a small set of speakers, saying it was to play music during business hours. Although Crowley’s surprise at the speakers had been nothing compared to the canvas painting he had put up behind the front counter. The painting showed a single red apple with a bite taken from it, a black snake with a red underbelly wrapping its way around the apple while the background made a halo effect around the image.

“You actually kept thisss?” Crowley had asked when he saw the painting.

“It’s one of my most prized possessions, why wouldn’t I have kept it?” Aziraphale had looked at the canvas with a fond expression.

“I just thought…after how I acted…” Crowley had muttered softly.

“You painted it for me, Crowley. It never crossed my mind to get rid of it, even after we fell out.” There had been that bright and soft smile, and the red head had felt that stupid flip in his stomach.

That had been nearly an hour ago and Crowley was still trying to stop the fluttering feeling he got any time Aziraphale gave him that stupid smile. He had taken to staying out of his friend’s sight while he shelved the stack of books he had taken, focusing on keeping everything organized the way the blonde wanted. He paused what he was doing when the song changed and a very upbeat tune began. Crowley smirked as he waited for Aziraphale’s voice to question the song.

There’s a boy I know, he’s the one I dream of.” Crowley’s eyes widened slightly when, instead of teasing, he heard Aziraphale sing softly along to the song. “Looks into my eyes, takes me to the clouds above, mmm-hmm.”

The red head carefully made his way to where Aziraphale was, and he had to suppress a laugh at what he saw. The blonde was swaying his body slightly to the music as he worked on putting away his own stack of books, his voice continuing to sing along. Crowley leaned against the bookshelf nearby and just watched, making sure not to make a sound and interrupt the moment.

How will I know if he really loves me? I say a prayer with every heartbeat. I fall in love whenever we meet…” Crowley bit the inside of his cheek as Aziraphale gave up on putting away the books, instead dancing slightly. “How will I know if he’s thinking of me? I try to phone but I’m too shy, can’t speak. Falling in love is so bittersweet. This love is strong…Oh! Crowley, um…”

“Don’t ssstop on my account, angel.” Crowley grinned as he watched the blush quickly spread across the blonde’s face and down his neck.

“I, uh…I think I’ll pass. Thank you.” Aziraphale laughed nervously as he wrung his hands slightly in front of him.

“Oh, c’mon. There’s nothing wrong with dancing and sssinging in front of a friend.”

“I have a friend near by?” Aziraphale found it in him to tease Crowley slightly, the embarrassment of being caught quickly leaving him. “We should get back to…Crowley, what are you doing?”

The red head had rolled his eyes and turned to make his way to the front counter, unlocking his phone and scrolling through his songs. It had been rare to see the blonde relax back when they had first met, and now it seemed to be even rarer. And that was truly a shame if anyone had asked Crowley.

A small sound of triumph filled the shop as Crowley found the song he had been looking for. The opening notes of Dancing Queen blared from the small speakers and the red head quickly made his way back over to Aziraphale. A grin spread across Crowley’s face as he started dancing, not a single care in the world at the fact that it was bad dancing.

“What are you doing?” Aziraphale asked before pressing his lips together in an attempt to keep from smiling.

“Let’s find out who the real dancing queen isss, angel.” His grin somehow grew. “It’sss dance off time. Ooh you can dance, you can jive having the time of your life…”

Crowley did all he could to get a laugh out of his friend, pumping the air slightly when the blonde finally laughed at the ridiculous way the red head was moving his body. Halfway through the song, Crowley took a step back and gestured for Aziraphale to take his turn.

“Oh no. Crowley, I don’t dance.” Aziraphale protested, vigorously shaking his head.

“Doesn’t matter. Bust a move, angel.” Crowley encouraged, softly humming along to the song.

It took a moment before the blonde huffed lightly and stepped away from the bookshelf. One of Crowley’s eyebrows peaked over the top of his sunglasses as Aziraphale just stood there, his foot tapping along. Just as the red head opened his mouth to say something, the blonde took a deep breath and began dancing the best he could. Crowley knew he wasn’t the best dancer, but compared to Aziraphale he was a world-class dance expert. To be honest, the red head wasn’t even sure that what he was watching could be considered dancing.

But none of that mattered because it was clear how much Aziraphale was enjoying himself. And that had been Crowley’s goal with this dance off. Well, that and to take a break from getting the bookshop together. By the end of the song, both men were dancing terribly to the song and laughing loudly.

“I win. By a landssslide.” Crowley proudly grinned, the song fading out.

“It was only one song, that’s hardly fair.” Aziraphale huffed as he stared at the other man. “One more song.”

“Alright, fine.”

The two stared at the floor as they waited for the next song and at the familiar beat that started playing, panic washed over the red head. If he hadn’t been wearing his sunglasses, then Aziraphale would have seen the panic in Crowley’s wide eyes.

“Let me go change the sssong real quick.” He hoped that he didn’t sound as…well, whatever it was he was feeling.

“No, this one is fine.” Aziraphale’s words stopped Crowley before he could even move.

“Aziraphale, thisss isn’t…er, this sssong…ngk.” He hissed when his thoughts jumbled for a reason.

“I know what song this is, dear. And it’s fine.”

Crowley swallowed hard as he watched Aziraphale move his head to the rhythm of the song, obviously working up to actually dancing. Part of him knew that he should make some sort of remark about the blonde knowing the song, but watching Aziraphale move his body in such a suggestive way while Pony played was making his brain short circuit. In terms of who Aziraphale was as a person, the red head felt this moment was nearly pornographic.

Crowley shifted his weight to his foot as he continued to watch his friend basically grind to the music. He bit his lower lip as he ignored the sudden spike of arousal that hit him while Aziraphale seemed to channel his inner male stripper. Crowley took a shuddering breath as the blonde teasingly began to lift up his t-shirt, his hips still moving in time to the music. The confidence in Aziraphale’s movements made the whole situation even more sexy and erotic; and how was that at all fair for Crowley.

The red head hadn’t even realized half of the song had gone by until Aziraphale dropped the hem of his shirt and took a step back. Crowley swallowed again and couldn’t decide how to move forward with the dance off, a voice in the back of his head reminding him that this had been his idea. There was something about the smirk on the blonde’s face that made up Crowley’s mind on how to proceed.

Right, two can play at that game.’ He thought as he took off his sunglasses, resting them on a nearby shelf.

Once he made sure Aziraphale was looking at him, he instantly began moving his hips to the music. He felt awkward at first as he basically tried his hand at dirty dancing on his own, but the awkwardness quickly faded as he remembered that he needed to show up his friend. He moved his body as sensually as he could, getting closer to where Aziraphale stood. With a smirk, the red head pulled off his shirt and threw it behind him as he moved closer to the blonde.

As the song continued, Crowley began to bump and grind as close to his friend as he dared. There was a small gasp from Aziraphale before he backed up into the bookshelf behind him, Crowley instantly following him. The dance (if it could really be called that at this point) went on and by the time the song had finally finished, Crowley was practically pressed against Aziraphale with his hands on either side of the blonde’s head.

The two just stared at each other as they both tried to seem as if they weren’t breathing heavily at all. Crowley swallowed and found himself holding his breath as time seemed to still, and it wasn’t until the red head thought he saw something flash in the blue eyes that the moment was broken. Crowley quickly stepped back and cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck as he felt his face flush.

“I, um…I think you won, my dear.” Aziraphale said softly, and Crowley wasn’t sure if there was a hint of breathlessness in there or not.

“Right. Well…” he motioned behind him, although he wasn’t sure why.

He quickly turned around and went to grab his shirt, pausing as he felt Aziraphale staring at his back. Crowley waited to see if the other man would say anything about the tattoo that fit his back perfectly. He knew that he wouldn’t have to explain the meaning behind the piece to the blonde; the black-feathered wings sprouting from the two burns near his shoulder blades would make it fairly obvious to Aziraphale.

“It’s a gorgeous tattoo, Crowley.”

“Thanksss.” he said before pulling his shirt back on and turning to face his friend.

“It’s very…fallen angel, so to say.” Aziraphale’s fingers toyed with the hem of his own shirt. “The scars make the feathers seem almost…glossy. In a good way.”

Crowley just smiled and nodded slightly. They stood in the shop and looked at each other, neither one really sure what to do after what had just happened. Even whatever song was currently playing seemed somehow quieter, making the silence between them almost deafening. It crossed Crowley’s mind that maybe he had crossed a line, that he had taken things too far and ruined their friendship. Again.

“Do you want to get lunch?” Aziraphale’s voice broke the silence and there was that smile that he saved only for Crowley.

Normally the red head hated that smile, purely for the way he reacted to it. But at the moment it was the best thing he had ever seen. And that was because it meant he hadn’t taken anything too far, that everything was still okay between them.

“Only if you’ll let me buy. You paid last time.” Crowley reminded as he made his way to where he had set down his sunglasses.

“Of course, my dear.”

They shared a smile before heading towards the front door.

Chapter Text

April 2010

A small sigh escaped Crowley as he stood outside the pub, sunglasses hiding the amber eyes that search the street. He had had one of his earlier shifts and that normally meant getting a bite to eat with Aziraphale afterwards, expect the blonde was nowhere to be seen. Of course that didn’t mean anything, he was a student and Crowley knew that he tended to lose track of time when he studied. But usually there would be a text message that would let him know that Aziraphale was running late.

He leaned against the building as he lit a cigarette, deciding to wait a few more minutes before texting the blonde himself. As if he had been summoned, Aziraphale’s voice rang out down the street. Crowley turned to see the blonde walking as quickly as he could, the anxiousness visible on his face even from so far away. The red head chuckled softly and lifted his hand in a wave.

“I wasss beginning to worry, angel.” He teased once the blonde was close enough. “Thought you were standing me up.”

“I’m sorry, Crowley. I was trying to finish a paper that’s due next week, so that way I just have to focus on editing it. And then I didn’t realize what time it was, and…” Aziraphale gave him a small, nervous smile as his hands busied themselves with the waistcoat he was wearing. “And then I missed my bus, so of course I had to wait for the next one. I meant to text you but only I left my mobile in my room!”

“Angel.” Crowley said with a small smile, shaking his head when his friend continued to ramble an explanation for running late. “Aziraphale!”

Aziraphale instantly stopped talking and looked at Crowley, worry shining his blue eyes. And the red head couldn’t help but wonder about the situations the blonde had been in to make worry the natural reaction to being cut off.

“You don’t have to explain. I was joking.” Crowley assured him before taking a drag from his cigarette. “I know you get busy, it comes with being a ssstudent.”

“Still. I’m sorry I kept you waiting.” The blonde said softly, and there was something in his tone that made Crowley aware that Aziraphale didn’t entirely believe him.

“What was the paper for?” the red head asked after exhaling his lungful of smoke.

It took a moment for Aziraphale to realize that Crowley genuinely wanted know about the paper, and then the blonde wasted no time in telling the red head every little detail about his paper. The only thing Crowley had really been able to pick up on was that the paper was some sort of literary analysis about some long dead author; Aziraphale, in his excitement, was talking a little too fast for Crowley to keep up, but that had more to with the fact that Aziraphale’s excited rambling tended to lead towards words running together every now and then.

Of course, Crowley would never dare think of telling the other man to slow down. There was something very endearing about the way Aziraphale’s face lit up with happiness when he got to talking like this, his whole body seemed to get more animated and the absolute love for the subject of conversation rolled off of him in waves. It was quite the sight to behold, if anyone asked Crowley. And, if it hadn’t been for the sunglasses perched on his nose, the adoration he felt for Aziraphale would have been clear for the whole world to see in his eyes.

“I honestly didn’t mean to write the whole paper in one sitting. But I…I got into the flow of things and, um…well, I knew if I stopped then I would have a difficult time jumping back in.” the blonde concluded, his right hand fidgeting with the hem of the jacket he wore. “I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long, my dear.”

Crowley shook his head as he focused on taking another drag form the cigarette. It had been a few weeks since Aziraphale had (drunkenly) first used the term ‘dear’, and it was starting to become the usual way he would refer to Crowley. Although that didn’t stop the way Crowley’s heart skipped every time he heard Aziraphale use it.

“I thought we could try that new Thai place that opened up.” The red head suggested as he tossed the cigarette to the ground, smashing it into the pavement with the bottom of his boot.

“Oh, that’s sound lovely.” Aziraphale grinned, his shoulders giving a little wiggle at the idea of trying someplace new.

Before either of them could even make a move, movement just behind Aziraphale caught Crowley’s attention. He rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses and motioned with his head for the blonde to turn around. Two of Aziraphale’s siblings were making their way towards them, looks of annoyance and indifference on their faces.

“Do you not know how to answer your mobile, Zira?” Michael asked as he stared at the youngest Fell sibling.

“I was in a rush and, um…I left it.” Aziraphale offered up with a nervous chuckle.

“You know, the point of having a mobile is to keep it on you at all times. What if I was trying to tell you that something had happened to Mum? And instead of being informed, you were out here…consorting with trouble?” the older man lifted his eyes to briefly look at Crowley.

Crowley pushed himself to stand up, straightening his posture a bit. He opened his mouth to say something about the way Michael was talking to Aziraphale, to call out the unfair bullying technique that was being used. But it seemed as if Aziraphale could sense what Crowley wanted to do because the blonde looked over his shoulder quickly and gave him a pleading look to remain quiet.

So Crowley closed his mouth and shoved his hands into his pockets, glaring at Michael from behind the safety of his sunglasses. He took a small step closer to Aziraphale, wanting to be close just in case. He was too busy staring down the older Fell brother to notice that Uriel’s attention was on him, a curious expression on her face at having noticed the movement.

“Gabriel wants to know where we’re going for your birthday dinner.” Michael said before Aziraphale could respond to the hypothetical question from before.

“Why isn’t Gabe asking himself?” Crowley asked before he could stop himself, finding himself on the receiving end of three different types of annoyed expressions. “Why doesss it matter to him anywaysss? S’not his birthday, is it?”

There was a moment as the three siblings continued to stare at him, Michael finally turning his head to look at Aziraphale again. Aziraphale gave Crowley a small shake of his head as a way to tell him to stop talking, and Crowley just sighed softly. Once again, he missed the quick look on Uriel’s face.

“Well, I was thinking…” Aziraphale started as he turned to look back at his brother.

“If you’re about to say sushi, Zira, then save your breath.” Michael cut him off. “We always go there, and we’re a little tired of it.”

Michael glanced towards Uriel, who gave a small shrug.

“It’s my favorite.” Aziraphale said weakly.

“Gabriel was thinking about the new steakhouse that opened up last month.” Michael continued as if his younger brother hadn’t even said anything. “If you want, I can tell Mum you changed your mind and that Gabriel’s already made reservations.”

“Michael, that’s not needed.” Aziraphale said, shrinking back slightly at the look he received.

“Look, Zira, you have to branch out. This is why you don’t have any friends, to be honest, why everyone thinks you’re weird.” Michael sighed. “Sushi’s nice, but a nice posh steakhouse is really more in line with someone turning twenty-two.”

Crowley narrowed his eyes slightly as he watched the exchange, glad that his hands were in his pockets to prevent him from forming fists. When he noticed the way Aziraphale’s shoulder slump and that his friend was very close to changing his mind, he knew he couldn’t stay quite.

“Look, Mike, thisss isn’t Gabe’s birthday. He doesn’t get to decide where you’re going to dinner.” Crowley said as he moved to stand next to Aziraphale, smirking slightly at the reaction he received from the older man. “Your brother wantsss to get sushi, and that’s that. You can jog on now.”

Off to his right, he could feel Aziraphale staring at him and he could imagine the look of annoyance on the blonde’s face. He knew as soon as Michael and Uriel left that he would most likely get an earful about what he had done, but there was no regret to be found in Crowley. He wasn’t about to let Aziraphale be bullied into changing what he wanted to do for his birthday.

When Aziraphale didn’t say anything to disagree with Crowley, Michael just huffed and shook his head. He shot a glare at the red head before disappearing into the pub, no doubt to wait for the oldest Fell sibling.

“Just remember it’s family only, Zira. Your boyfriend isn’t invited.” Uriel commented as she looked between the two before making her own way into the pub.

“He’s not…” Aziraphale called after her, sighing when the door closed behind her. “That was a mess.”

“It’s your birthday?” Crowley turned his full attention to his friend. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Today isn’t my birthday. It’s the seventeenth.” The blonde said as he glanced at Crowley. “Gabriel’s going to be in a foul mood all throughout dinner now.”

“Why don’t we do something the next day, just the two of usss?” the red head said as they made their way to where he had parked. “I’ll plan a whole day to celebrate your birthday, and to make up for whatever trouble your twat brothersss cause.”

Aziraphale glanced at him and gave a small smile before shaking his head slightly. Crowley swallowed slightly when he felt the hurt at the small rejection.

“You don’t need to feel like you have to do anything, dear.” The blonde explained.

“Nonsense! You’re my best friend, of course I want to do sssomething for your birthday.” Crowley assured him, pulling his keys out to unlock his car as they approached it. “The day after is a Sunday, ssso we’re both free. I’ll be round to pick you up around noon.”

Crowley just smirked as he held the passenger door open for Aziraphale, who was just looking at him. After a moment, the blonde just nodded his head and gave a soft smile that the red head recognized as his smile.

“On one condition, though.” Aziraphale said quickly, pausing before he got into the beat up Bug. “You let me do something for your birthday. And you tell me when your birthday is.”

“I’m a Halloween baby.” Crowley said with a little bit of pride.

“Of course you are.” The blonde laughed softly as he ducked into the car.

It took only a moment longer before Crowley was settled into the driver’s seat. He glanced over at Aziraphale and gave him a smile as the engine started, his smile growing into a smirk at the look the blonde was giving him.

“Can you try to drive the speed limit this time, please?” Aziraphale asked with a hopeful smile.

“Come now, angel. Where would the fun in that be?” Crowley smirked before tearing away from the curb, speeding off towards their destination.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present day

“Sorry, I’m late. My date with Newt ran a little over…what are you doing?” Anathema asked as she made her way into Crowley’s flat, her eyes narrowing behind the round glasses.

Crowley looked up from where he was sprawled on the couch, a glass of whiskey dangling from his fingers. It had been several hours since his dance off with Aziraphale, and he had been berating himself for it ever since he had left the bookshop an hour ago.

“Drinking.” Was all he said before bringing the glass up to his lips, draining the rest of the liquid.

“Except whiskey is not on the menu for tonight, Crowley. Wine and cocktails are for Girls’ Night, whiskey is for regular and self-pity nights.” The American pointed out as she walked over, grabbing the empty glass from him. “What happened?”

“What makesss you think anything happened?” the red head asked, hissing slightly when she took the sunglasses off of him.

“You mean besides you wearing your sunglasses in your flat, and looking completely miserable?” she gave him a pointed look before making her way into the kitchen. “Rose or Pinot Grios?”

“Surprise me.”

“Rose it is then.”

Crowley could hear her rummaging through the kitchen and he forced himself to sit up slightly, waiting for Anathema to continue. He knew it was useless to try and pretend like he wasn’t in the middle of having a mini crisis, she knew him too well. But he also didn’t want to bring a negative mood to their night.

Monday nights had become the nights where all the two did was talk about whatever they wanted while they drank, watched romantic comedies as they snacked, and listened to something from the red head’s record collection. After a few weeks, Crowley had jokingly called it ‘Girls’ Night’ and the name stuck. And so for the past six months, every Monday night saw Anathema over at Crowley’s flat for Girls’ Night.

“I’m assuming whatever happened involves a certain blonde bookshop owner?” Anathema asked as she handed a wine glass to Crowley, sitting next to him on the couch.

“I did something ssstupid.” Crowley mumbled before taking a sip on the pale pink wine.

Silence hung between them and the red head hoped that would be enough of an explanation. Of course, he should have known better than to hope for that. He didn’t need to look at Anathema to know she was looking at him with an expectation expression. He sighed softly and let his head rest on the back of the couch, staring at the ceiling as he launched into what had happened inside the bookshop.

By the time he had finished, Anathema was standing up and looking at him. He lifted his head enough to take finish off the rest of his wine, holding out the glass for her to take. He dropped his head back down as soon as the young woman walked back into the kitchen.

“So you both decided to give unwanted auditions for Magic Mike? What’s the big deal?” her voice called out over the sounds of her refilling the wine glasses.

“The big deal isss that I basically dry humped him. I’d be surprised if he didn’t notice that I was a bit hard by the end of it.” Crowley grumbled before he pushed himself to his feet, pacing slightly. “If thisss were a romantic movie, that would have been the moment I fucked him.”

“Why didn’t you? Anathema asked as she walked over to him, handing him his glass.

“What?”

She shrugged as she walked over to the record player, setting her glass down on the shelf nearby. Crowley watched as she began searching through his records, his eyes still wide at the question she asked him.

“Or at least you could have kissed him.” She said, her back still turned towards him.

“Wha…wha…w-w-why would I do that?” he cringed at the slight break in his voice.

Anathema turned to look at him, one of her eyebrows raised slightly. The two stared at each other before the American sighed and shook her head. She turned back to what she had been doing before.

“Because you obviously want to, Crowley. You’re acting the exact same way you did with that bartender that used to come into the shop, the one that always made eyes at you whenever you came to visit.” She explained, glancing over her shoulder to see the confused expression on his face. “The dark haired one you were sleeping with for a few months.”

“Oh! Miles! Oh, he was sssweet.” Crowley said with a small smile as he thought of his old hook up, shaking his head after a moment. “I can’t do that with Aziraphale.”

“Why not? You’ve never been afraid of sleeping with friends.” She said as she pulled out a record, setting the player up.

“Because…because…ngk.” The red head hissed before taking a swig of the wine. “Aziraphale deservesss more than just a quick shag against bookshelves, more than meaningless sssex.”

As Bad Romance began playing from the record player, Crowley shot a small glare at his friend. Anathema simply smirked before taking a sip of her own glass. The red head rolled his eyes and carefully dropped back on to the couch, somehow finding comfort in what should have been an uncomfortable position.

“So you want more than a hook up with Zira?” the American asked as she looked at him.

“I just want to be friendsss.” Crowley whined softly. “I…I…I’ve been down thisss road with him, a-a-a-and it only endsss in…um, in…embarrassment for me.”

“Why don’t you tell him how you feel, Crowley?” Anathema asked softly, moving to sit next to him. “It’ll save you a lot of anxiety over everything.”

“No it won’t. I’m just a ball of anxiety.” He mumbled into his wine glass, exhaling forcefully. “I can’t tell him anything, Anathema. I just got my best friend back, and I’d…I’d rather have that then nothing.”

A soft sigh sounded from the young woman, and the two sat in silence for a moment. They seemed to alternate taking sips of their wine as Lady Gaga continue to sing from the record player.

“I did fine these last ssseven yearsss.” Crowley’s voice stated softly. “I had gotten over whatever I had felt for him, and…that wasss that. Completely happy with having my hook ups and casual flingsss. And then here comesss Aziraphale, waltzing back into my life with that bloody smile he givesss me and calling me dear and…fucking hell! I’m back to being a sssodding cliché.”

He looked over just in time to see the puzzled look on Anathema’s face. And, for a brief moment, Crowley was mildly surprised she had stayed so quiet during his rant. He downed the rest of his glass and jumped to his feet once again.

“I went from being the gay friend with feelingsss for the ssstraight friend, to being the gay friend with feelings for the other gay friend who isn’t interested.” He explained before walking into the kitchen, grabbing the nearly empty bottle of rose and pouring the rest in to his glass.

“You don’t know that he isn’t interested, Crowley.” Anathema finally spoke, turning enough to look at him from her spot on the couch.

“Yeah, I do. I mean…look at me, and then look at him. He’s too good, Anathema. Aziraphale is the closest we will ever get to a real life angel.” Crowley said as he looked at her from where he stood in the kitchen. “And I’m just…me. Besidesss if I ever had a chance, I fucked it up when I avoided him all those yearsss ago.”

Another silence settled over them, only broken by the soft sounds of Lady Gaga’s voice singing Speechless. Crowley stared at the pale pink wine in his glass as he thought over what he had just said, closing his eyes and sighing softly. He finished the rest of his wine and turned back towards the fridge, grabbing the second bottle of rose he had bought the night before. Once he refilled his glass, he looked at the young woman and held the bottle up.

Anathema got up and walked over, holding out her glass so Crowley could refill it.

“I think you should tell him.” The American said simply, giving him a pointed look when he glared at her.

“No good will come from it, Anathema. My feelingsss didn’t interfere with our friendship the first time, and it won’t thisss time.” He said, although he wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince her or himself. “What face mask are we doing tonight?”

And just like that, he had put a definite end to their conversation. And if Anathema tried to bring up the subject of Aziraphale at all during the rest of the night, Crowley had his own ways of shutting it down before anything else could be said. Girls’ Night wasn’t for him complaining about his feelings for a certain blonde that lived above a bookshop, it was for him and Anathema to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

The next day could be about him dealing with his feelings.

Chapter Text

April 2010

Crowley grinned as he watched Aziraphale look around, a look of pure joy and awe on his face. As promised, the red head had shown up to the blonde’s dorm room a few minutes after noon to take him out for the birthday celebration he had planned. Crowley had opted to wear his least faded pair of black jeans, his combat boots, and a short sleeved button up that was dark grey; he hadn’t felt the need to tell Aziraphale to dress nice because he already had an idea of what the blonde would be wearing. At this point, Crowley was convinced his friend only owned clothes that gave his wardrobe an old fashioned feel.

The outing had started with a light lunch at the small café Aziraphale had once raved about. As they ate, the blonde had told Crowley all about dinner the night before and showed off a few of his gifts; his mother had given him a ring (a gold band with angel wings sprouting from his family’s crest) that had belonged to his father which rested on his right pinky, Michael and Gabriel had split the cost of a new tartan bow tie that he was proudly wearing, and Uriel had given him a rather expensive looking pocket watch.

There had been a brief discussion at Crowley’s confusion over Uriel’s gift, and Aziraphale’s explanation of having a complicated relationship with his sister didn’t really help clear anything up. But the red head knew better than to drag on that conversation, especially if he wanted the blonde to enjoy the rest of the day. So he had accepted what Aziraphale had told him, and the two continued their lunch with easy conversation and laughter.

Once they had finished eating, Crowley had taken Aziraphale to the next part of his birthday surprise. He had somehow managed to get tickets to an art exhibit that he had remembered Aziraphale mentioning, and the look of joy in his blue eyes was worth the hit Crowley’s bank account had taken.

“They're even more beautiful in person.” Aziraphale said softly as he stared at the painting in front of him. “Crowley, I really don’t know how to thank you.”

“Don’t.” he said as he stood next to his friend, a small smile on his face. “I like art, you like history…’s a win-win.”

Aziraphale gave him a shy smile as he glanced at him, and Crowley wanted to rip out his own heart for the way it sped up. They took their time walking through the exhibit, talking about what they liked and disliked about each work they saw. Crowley had even managed to get a few pictures of the two of them with not just his own phone but Aziraphale’s as well.

“This was an absolutely lovely afternoon, my dear.” Aziraphale said as he gave Crowley a bright smile. “I dare say it was perfect.”

“Oh, the day isn’t over yet.” Crowley pointed out as they made their way to his car. “We have cake and presentsss at my flat. And I am not taking no for an answer, so sssave your breath.”

Even though Aziraphale protested the idea of Crowley doing more, the red head noticed the excitement on the blonde’s face. The excitement only died down on the drive back to Crowley’s flat since Aziraphale was more focused on getting after the red head for the way he drove, a few quiet statements of how this would be how they died barely making themselves known over Crowley’s laughter.

By the time the beat up Bug was parked, Aziraphale was clutching whatever part of the car he could reach and looking very much like he wanted to either faint or hit Crowley. Even though the red head knew he was in danger of being smacked, he couldn’t stop the chuckle that escaped his lips when he saw his friend.

“I don’t know how you haven’t been pulled over yet.” Aziraphale huffed as he turned to glare at Crowley. “That’s…that’s reckless driving, what you do.”

“I’ll have you know, I’ve never been in an accident.” Crowley said proudly, quickly climbing out of the car as his friend did the same. “And I don’t plan on getting in one.”

Aziraphale just rolled his eyes before making his way to the building’s door. Crowley just looked at him with an amused expression as he took his time walking over. It was another few minutes before the two walked into the flat, Crowley wasting no time in going to the kitchen and nearly tripping over his own feet; which earned a stifled giggle from Aziraphale.

The red head rummaged through the fridge before he pulled out the small chocolate cake he had bought the night before. He muttered to himself as he looked for the candles he had somehow misplaced over night, growling softly when he noticed the pack sitting on the counter. Once a few of the candles were placed into the top of the cake, Crowley made his way over to where Aziraphale was sitting on the couch.

“Oh! That looks delicious, Crowley.” He exclaimed with a grin, his gaze trained on the cake.

“Not yet. I have to get your gift.” Crowley swatted Aziraphale’s hand away from the cake.

He walked over to the kitchen table and grabbed the wrapped gift, placing his sunglasses down in its place. A slightly embarrassed smile appeared on Crowley’s face as he handed over the gift, only now seeming to notice the poor wrapping job he had done that morning. If Aziraphale had noticed, he didn’t say a word. Instead he just beamed at the red head while his fingers anxiously ran over the newsprint that served as wrapping paper.

“Do you want to open your gift first, or do cake?” Crowley asked as he sat on the other end of the couch, fishing for the lighter out of his pocket.

As an answer, Aziraphale carefully began unwrapping his gift with the same excitement on his face any child would have on Christmas day. Under the newsprint was a custom made phone case with a simple bicycle graphic and lyrics to Bicycle Race on it. Crowley bit his lower lip as he watched Aziraphale look at it, the silence making him fidget in his seat.

“I love it, Crowley.” The blonde said as he looked up, that soft smile on his face. “Thank you, my dear.”

“Don’t thank me.” Crowley grumbled as he leaned forward to light the candles, although there was a hint of playfulness in his tone.

With the candles lit the red head sang Happy Birthday to Aziraphale as badly as he could, the blonde trying to keep from laughing at how ridiculous the moment was. The next several moments were spent eating the small cake as music played from Crowley’s phone. In those moments, Aziraphale swapped his phone cases and proudly showed Crowley what the new one looked like.

At some point in the evening, the two had taken to dancing to whatever song was playing. Neither one of them knew exactly how much time had passed since they started their impromptu dance party, but it didn’t exactly matter. When the beginning of Bicycle Race was heard, they fell into a fit of laughter that only increased when Crowley began to sing the song to Aziraphale.

“I never returned the favor!” the blonde suddenly exclaimed, his hands flying up slightly in distress.

“What favor?” Crowley narrowed his eyes.

“Next song that comes on I am dedicating to you.” Aziraphale continued as if Crowley hadn’t spoke.

The red head just raised an eyebrow before shrugging after a moment. It wasn’t much longer before the next song began to play, and Crowley could feel the heat of a blush he hoped wasn’t really spreading across his face and down his neck. He half expected Aziraphale to backtrack, what he hadn’t expected was for the blonde to start singing along softly. Or for Aziraphale to grab Crowley’s hand and begin dancing with him. Aziraphale gave him a soft smile, and Crowley hoped it wasn’t obvious that his knees were on the verge of going weak.

Would it be a sin if I can’t help falling in love with you? Like a river flows…” Aziraphale’s soft singing continued and Crowley couldn’t help but hum along just as softly. “Some things are meant to be. Take my hand, take my whole life too for I can’t help falling in love with you.”

The song went on with Aziraphale still singing along as they danced. When the last notes faded out the blonde looked at him with that bright smile, and Crowley knew he was in trouble.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present day

A sigh sounded through the shop as Crowley rolled his shoulders back in an attempt to pop his upper spine, a groan quickly following the loud pop. He shook his head slightly as he continued finishing with the closing duties, dropping the money from the till into the small safe hidden under the front counter. Another pop rang out from his right knee as he stood up from his crouching position and the red head couldn’t help but grimace at how that one had sounded.

He ran his fingers through his hair as he made his way over to his work station, his sunglasses surrounded by drawings and transfer paper on the desk. It had been a fairly busy Saturday night in the tattoo shop, and at some point Crowley had kept his sunglasses off when they kept slipping down slightly. He didn’t really need to wear them in the shop since, much like his flat above, all the lighting was enough of a low wattage to avoid irritating him. He just wore them while he tattooed because that had become his image when his name started getting known a few years back.

“We’re closed.” He called out when he heard the bell above the door rang. “If you want to make an appointment, you can go to my sssocial media.”

“You really should lock your door when you close.” Crowley turned around to see Aziraphale giving him an amused look. “Luckily, I’m not here for a tattoo.”

“Well, I could make an exception for you angel.”

Aziraphale gave the briefest of eye rolls before he took it upon himself to lock the front door. Crowley just smirked before narrowing his eyes slightly when he noticed the blonde holding a box for the first time, the smell of pizza reaching him. Aziraphale simply smiled shyly when he realized Crowley looking at him.

“I noticed you didn’t exactly get a long enough break to eat tonight. And I figured you might be hungry.” Aziraphale explained, shifting his weight from one foot to the other just as his . “Of course, I could have just…minded my own business. I’m sorry, Crowley. You’ve been busy tonight and I doubt you’d want to stay up…I’ll let you go. Um, sorry. Good night.”

“Do you want to eat that deliciousss smelling pizza with me, angel?” Crowley asked before Aziraphale could turn back to the door. “Because I am a bit hungry. And I wouldn’t mind the company.”

The blonde slowly turned to look at Crowley with that look of uncertainty the red head hated so much, it was the look that said Aziraphale couldn’t believe Crowley wanted to spend time with him. It was the same look the blonde always had whenever he had convinced himself that Crowley would rather be alone, and what made the red head hate that look even more was the fact that he understood why his friend would be uncertain. There was the seven year stretch of radio silence that Crowley had started by avoiding Aziraphale.

The red head sighed softly and gave a playful eye roll before walking over to the other man, reaching around the blonde to lock the shop door. He gave Aziraphale a smirk and motioned for him to follow, leading the way to the backroom where the stairs to his flat were.

It took all of fifteen minutes for the two to settle on Crowley’s couch, both with their own plate that held a few slices of pizza each. Two rocks glasses sat on the table in front of them, the glasses holding the dark liquid of the scotch Crowley had poured for them. In the time it took for them to eat their late night dinner, they had discussed the bookshop’s quickly approaching grand opening.

“Two more daysss.” Crowley smirked as he took the plates into the kitchen and setting them in the sink.

“If I’m being completely honest, I don’t know if I’m more excited or anxious about the whole thing.” Aziraphale sighed, thanking the red head when he poured more scotch into both of the glasses. “This is what I’ve wanted since I was eighteen, and I can’t help but think something is going to go wrong somehow.”

“It’ll be fine, angel. You have everything ssset up, and there’s already a little bit of buzz about your shop.” Crowley said before taking a sip of his drink, arranging himself on the couch to comfortably lounge against the armrest and face his friend.

“Were you nervous when you opened your shop?” the blonde asked after he swallowed the drink he had taken.

“Oh…yeah. Anyone would be a fool not to be when opening up a business.” He pointed out, frowning when Aziraphale just nodded as he stared into the rocks glass he held. “What are sssome of the big onesss you’ve got?”

“Big ones?”

“The rare booksss. The onesss for collectors.” Crowley clarified.

The simple request seemed have accomplished in pulling Aziraphale out of the anxious thoughts he had been getting lost in. The red head hid his smile behind his glass as he listened to the blonde talk about the many rare books he had somehow come into possession of over the years. His face was lit up as he told Crowley all about the first editions, original prints, and misprints that would be for sale. Of course, Aziraphale steered the conversation towards his private collection of prized books; he unconsciously wiggled his shoulders in excitement as he talked about his Wilde first editions, his sought after books of prophecy, his original manuscripts, and more that he had managed to claim ownership over.

Crowley couldn’t help but smile softly as he listened to Aziraphale. He couldn’t help but think about a time when the blonde would hesitate after each sentence whenever he talked about a subject he loved, how he seemed to expect Crowley to cut him off or just not pay attention. It had taken some time for the red head to get Aziraphale to realize that he was genuinely interested in whatever the blonde had to say, and he was glad that the years spent apart hadn’t made Aziraphale revert back to practically being ashamed of talking excitedly.

“It’s not that interesting, dear.” That soft voice pulled Crowley out of his own thoughts.

“’Course it isss, angel.” The red head said before taking a slightly longer sip of his alcohol. “If it’s sssomething you’re excited about, it’s interesting.”

At the curious look that appeared on the other man’s face, Crowley coughed slightly and rushed to continue talking.

“No different than you finding the crap I like interesting. ‘S what best friendsss do.” He drained the rest of his glass and leaned forward to grab the bottle of scotch, refilling his glass. “I’ve been meaning to ask, what were you ssstill doing up? I mean, you came into the shop after midnight. Would’ve thought a man up in the yearsss such as yourself would’ve been fast asssleep.”

“Thirty-one is hardly up in the years, Crowley. Besides you’re turning thirty next month, you’re not that far behind me.” Aziraphale huffed as he gave that particular annoyed look he was so fond of giving Crowley.

“And until Halloween, I’m ssstill in my twentiesss. You’re closer to middle age than I am.” The red head teased.

“Well in that case, when you put it like that, I’m getting better deal.” Aziraphale said as he watched Crowley lift his glass to take another drink. “It just means I’m closer to being considered a daddy and having attractive men trying their hardest to get into my bed.”

Crowley nearly spit out the sip of scotch he had taken, coughing loudly once he had swallowed the liquid. He looked at Aziraphale as he tried to get his coughing under control, amber eyes wide with shock. And while the red head was doing his best to avoid choking, the blonde just looked at him with a smug smirk and a flash of mischief in his blue eyes.

“Alexander Zira Fell, who the fuck taught you to talk like that?” Crowley managed to get out, his shocked expression turning into a glare at the laugh that came from Aziraphale.

“I was in a relationship for six years. It’s safe to assume that I’m not that innocent anymore.” Aziraphale smirked before taking a sip of his scotch. “I’m almost certain that I could make you blush if I was the sort to share intimate stories.”

“Well, er…good….good thing you’re not with your ex then.” He took a deep breath at the way his voice cracked. “T-terri…terrible influence your ex wasss. Clearly.”

“You, Anthony J Crowley, are hardly one to talk about terrible influences.” The blonde chuckled at the offended look on Crowley’s face. “I seem to recall several instances of you talking me into things, you wily serpent.”

Crowley waved off what Aziraphale had said, even as a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth at the blonde’s use of his old playful insult. The red head just shook his head as he looked at the other man, who was still smirking about Crowley’s reaction from a few moments before.

“I don’t know what your love life has been like over these past few years, but I am more than willing to give you some tips.” Aziraphale continued as he tried his best to bite back his laughter.

“You’re a bastard, you know that?” Crowley said as he rolled his eyes. “And I’ll have you know, I have been doing very well in that department. Just because I wasn’t in a relationship doesn’t mean that I’m out of practice. In fact, I’m the one who can probably show you a thing or two.”

He froze when he realized what he had said and glanced at his friend, hoping to anyone who would listen that he didn’t look as panicked as he felt. He brought his glass up to his lips and took a quick drink as he racked his brain for something else to say.

“I’m sure you could. You’ve had more practice than I have, after all.” Crowley stared at Aziraphale as he tried to wrap his mind around the sudden turn their conversation had taken. “I should get going. I’ll see you tomorrow for dinner?”

The red head just nodded as he watched Aziraphale head towards the door, and Crowley could have sworn he saw something flash in those blue eyes. But then again, he was still in shock from the other man’s comments to really have been certain.

“Goodnight, my dear.” Aziraphale said softly, and it almost seemed as if he was hesitating to leave.

Crowley made a sound (although he wasn’t even sure what that would accomplish), not trusting himself to speak at the moment. A moment passed by before Aziraphale finally opened the door and made his way out into the hallway, and Crowley wasn’t sure if the blonde was moving that slow on purpose or if it seemed that way because Crowley was trying to ignore the images that had popped into his head. At the sound of the door closing, the red head exhaled loudly and sunk in the couch.

“Well, that wasss a thing.” He muttered to himself.

He downed the rest of his glass and stared at the ceiling as he replayed the conversation. He knew better than to read into anything that Aziraphale had said, but that didn’t exactly help the images his mind was flashing up. He groaned softly and pushed himself to his feet. He needed to go take a cold shower if he wanted to get any type of sleep.

Chapter Text

August 2010

Crowley looked up at the sound of the door opening, smiling when he saw Aziraphale walk in. It had been a little over a month since he had given the blonde the spare key to his flat, stating that it only made sense since Aziraphale spent most of his free time with Crowley. The current plan for that evening was to order Chinese and watch a movie, as had become tradition for them over the summer months; every Sunday the two could be found in Crowley’s flat, eating and drinking with a film playing in the background. And since this week was the red head’s turn to pick the movie, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that he had picked something campy.

“The movie’s already ssset up, dinner is on the way, and I have only the best selection of alcohol.” Crowley grinned as he gestured to the collection of cheap liquor bottles on the kitchen table.

“I’ll get the drinks ready once I change.” Aziraphale smiled as he set his bag on one of the table’s empty chairs, making his way towards Crowley’s bedroom.

By the time the blonde walked back out (wearing the Queen shirt Crowley had bought him all those months ago, and his blue and white striped pajama pants), their food had arrived and Crowley was currently laying it out on the table in front of the couch. The red head chuckled at the noise Aziraphale made when he saw the small spread. While Aziraphale poured the first drinks of the evening, Crowley put a little bit of everything on to the two plates he had grabbed from the kitchen before setting back into the couch.

“Really, Crowley?” the blonde chuckled as he walked over, handing one of the glasses to the red head.

“What?” he looked down at the pointed look he received, narrowing his eyes slightly as he took in the Scooby-Doo shirt and black fleece pajama pants that had little green snakes spaced out. “Sssomething wrong with my jim-jamsss?”

“No, I’m just always…surprised by your sleepwear. I wasn’t aware they made children’s pajamas that big.”

Crowley rolled his eyes at the slight teasing and muttered something about his attire being fun, which caused Aziraphale to laugh. When they had finally settled down, the red head started the movie and glanced over at his friend as the comic book style images flashed up on screen. He knew it wouldn’t take long for the blonde make some sort of comment and, sure enough, the first comment was made right as the title flashed.

“What are you making me watch?” Aziraphale huffed as he looked over at Crowley.

“One of my favorite moviesss.” Crowley grinned, motioning for the blonde to give his attention back to the screen. “It has everything. Drama, blood, sssinging, betrayal…give it a chance, angel.”

Aziraphale merely rolled his eyes, although he couldn’t hide the hint of a smile. The next ninety minutes saw Crowley mouthing along to the movie and Aziraphale making quiet comments about what he was watching, and by the end of it the red head was looking at his friend anxiously.

“What did you think?” Crowley asked as he got up to get another drink.

“It was…interesting. A little too…bloody for my taste, and a little over the top.” Aziraphale began as he busied himself with putting the remainder of the food away. “That being said, it was, um…charming, in a way. The music was very catchy, although not exactly my cup of tea. I wasn’t expecting the ending to be that sad.”

The red head laughed softly as he turned to look at the blonde, wincing slightly at the twinge in his lower back. The next few minutes were spent with the two discussing the movie as they cleaned up their dinner, both of them moving around the small kitchen in such a way that the word ‘domestic’ would come to mind of anyone who witnessed the scene.

Once the clean up was done, they found themselves back on the couch as Crowley talked about a particularly rude customer he had dealt with at the pub the night before. Aziraphale found himself laughing at what Crowley was telling him, and the sound brought a smile to the red head. He ran his fingers through his hair as he felt himself relax more, enjoying the moment.

“How much longer are you growing your hair?” Aziraphale asked suddenly, his eyes seemingly studying the way the red locks framed Crowley’s face.

“Just to my shoulder. Not too much longer.” There was a sudden flare of nervousness in his chest. “Why? You don’t like it?”

“No, I didn’t say that. I was just curious.” The blonde assured him, a fond smile spreading on his face. “I think it suits you.”

Crowley felt himself blush and quickly brought his glass up to take a drink, hoping the color spreading on his face wasn’t too obvious. He felt Aziraphale’s gaze on him and the red head racked his brain for something to say.

“My hair used to be much longer than thisss.” Were the words that spilled from his lips, and Crowley instantly wanted to take them back.

“Oh?” the blonde asked as an eyebrow quirked up, curiosity written all over his face.

“It nearly reached the middle of my back. Used to be able to braid it, actually.” Crowley explained with a slight hint of anxiousness in his voice. “Having my hair that long helped me go through the whole angry at the world phase I went through after my parents kicked me out. I decided to kick up sssome trouble and was as androgynousss as possible. Even wore makeup a few times.”

“Like a drag queen?”

The way Aziraphale’s eyes widen and his mouth snapped shut was almost as humorous as the panic that shone in his eyes. Before the blonde could sputter out some type of apology, Crowley found himself laughing. The look of mild confusion on Aziraphale’s face only added to the moment, at least it did in the red head’s mind.

“No, I am not that type of gay. I only did enough to make it very clear to everyone that I wasss here and I wasss queer.” Crowley smiled as he shifted slightly, ignoring the twinge of pain in his back. “The occasional nail polish, eye liner, sssome eye shadow…but not to level of drag. Although I do know a drag queen. One of the serversss at the pub does a show every other week.”

“Really? I’ve never been to a drag show.” Aziraphale said as he looked at the glass in his hand. “I mean, obviously.”

“Do you want to go to one?” the red head asked.

“I don’t think that would be a good idea, my dear.” The blonde shook his head, continuing before Crowley had a chance to talk. “I wouldn’t exactly…fit in, would I?”

“You fit in pretty well at that punk show we went to. If you can fit in there, you’ll fit in at a drag show.”

Crowley smirked when Aziraphale looked up, and there was no denying that the red head had a point. There was a moment of silence as the blonde opened and closed his mouth a few times as he tried to find how to word what he wanted to say.

“Well, yes. But that was…um, it was different.” Aziraphale finally said, his eyes darting around rapidly. “As you say, punk is more a state of mind. I’d stick out at a…at a drag show. I’m not exactly, er…that is to say, I’m not part of your community.”

“You don’t have to be part of thisss community to go to a show, angel. Ssstraight people go all the time.” Crowley told him, amusement lighting up his amber eyes. “’S entertainment. Not different than going to he theater, or…or…or catching a movie.”

Aziraphale just nodded, and Crowley wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. But he did know that the gesture didn’t mean anything bad, and that was a good thing in itself. A small silence settled over them as the red head reached over to grab the bottle of whiskey he had brought over at some point, refilling his glass.

“Perhaps we could…go one of these weeks.” Aziraphale said so softly that Crowley would have missed it if he wasn’t sitting next to him.

“Life’s all about new experiencesss, right?” Crowley smiled as he looked at his friend.

There was another nod as Aziraphale pushed himself to his feet, walking over to the liquor bottles on the kitchen table. Crowley turned where he sat to watch the blonde, smiling as he watched his friend grab the vodka. The red head had been surprised when he learned that Aziraphale was a vodka guy, but once he found out he had made sure to always keep a bottle of the label the blonde liked in the flat.

“Why did you end up cutting your hair short?” and just like that, the conversation had been brought back around.

“Needed a change. Well, and having it that long started becoming a hassle when it came to bartending. Which means when I do ssstart tattooing, it would have been a hassle for that too.” Crowley replied with a shrug. “But the main reason had been because I broke up with Lucian, and I wanted to be a different person.”

“Different person?” Aziraphale asked softly as he slowly sat back down on the couch.

“After I had been kicked out, I became angry and fell into bad habitsss.” The red head said as he looked into his glass, absentmindedly swirling the whiskey in it. “Drinking heavily, helping him and his matesss with their petty crimesss, finding any reason to fight people…I became self-destructive, and he encouraged it. Just before I turned eighteen, I realized I hated who I wasss and that Lucian wanted me to be thisss person I had turned into. And after one too many fightsss, I broke up with him and left.”

Crowley gave a little sigh before downing his drink, focusing on refilling it as Aziraphale just stared at him. He was faintly aware that what little information he had given was too much, especially when he considered the fact that he had admitted to some slight illegal activity to his friend who probably never so much as had a thought about doing something outside of the law.

“And I’m assuming that worked?” Aziraphale asked softly.

“It was ssslow progress at first, but…I’m a much better person now.” Crowley said with a faint smile as he looked over to the blonde, feeling his breath catch at the look on Aziraphale’s face.

The rest of the night was spent with the two talking about whatever came to their minds, laughing about little things that only the two of them found funny. At some point silence fell over them and neither of them would be able to recall falling asleep in the morning. But when he slowly began to wake up the next day, Crowley was aware of two things; he would be in a world of hurt from sleeping sitting up, and somehow Aziraphale had found a way to be close enough to use the red head’s shoulder as a pillow while they had slept.

And when Crowley had opened his eyes to see the soft blonde curls of his friend tucked under his chin, the red head allowed himself to pretend that the moment meant more than it did. He allowed himself to imagine a different situation where they had fallen asleep while cuddling as couples tend to do, where he would wake up Aziraphale with the softest of kisses and a whispered good morning. Instead the red head carefully got up from the couch and made sure he didn’t disturb his friend too much, after all he didn’t want the blonde to feel embarrassed for the position they had been in.

Crowley busied himself with making breakfast for the two of them as he tried to ignore the tightness in his chest at how easy it would be for him to continue pretending things between him and Aziraphale were different. When the blonde woke up a few minutes before breakfast was done, the red head pushed aside the thoughts of a different life where the two of them could have been a couple.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present day

Sunday dinner at Madame Tracy’s had been an interesting event. Nothing was really out of the ordinary for the small group; Crowley and Shadwell had found themselves in another pointless debate over a topic that neither could remember once it was over, Newt found himself on the receiving end of the tattoo artist’s playful teasing, Anathema and Crowley bickered and teased each other like siblings, Madame Tracy and Aziraphale talked excitedly about something only the two of them were interested in, over all it was a normal family dinner.

The interesting bit had been how Aziraphale and Crowley somehow managed to avoid each other over the evening. They kept their conversation to polite small talk and then busied themselves with talking to the others. The only one who seemed to notice the sudden change between the two men was, of course, Anathema. Any time she tried to ask Crowley about it, he found a way out of that conversation and avoided talking about the blonde. After all, how could he say that he wasn’t sure how to be around Aziraphale after the shocking turn their conversation had taken the night before.

Crowley had been the first one to leave, stating that his back and leg was killing him from sleeping wrong. And that hadn’t been a lie, he really did sleep wrong and now the usual dull pain in his body was practically yelling for his attention. So he said his goodbyes to everyone and made his way out of the older couple’s flat, pausing outside the door long enough to light up a cigarette. He carefully twisted his body to try and stretch out the aching muscles, groaning loudly at the pops that came from his knee and hip. Once he felt he had stretched enough, and popped all of his stiff joints, he slowly made his way back towards his shop, mentally cursing himself for deciding to walk instead of drive.

“Crowley!” Aziraphale’s voice called after him.

He closed his eyes behind his sunglasses and exhaled a lungful of smoke as he stopped walking, waiting for the blonde to catch up. All of his worries about facing Aziraphale after their last conversation were about to be met, and there was no way of avoiding it now. He took a small breath before looking over at his friend once the blonde reached his side. A small part of him felt some type of relief at the anxiousness on the blonde’s face, at least Aziraphale seemed to feel just as awkward.

“I wanted to apologize for last night. Or rather, earlier this morning as it were.” Aziraphale began speaking, wringing his hands in front of him. “I may have crossed a line with what I had said, and…well, I realized that we might not quite be back at that level of teasing. And I just got you back in my life, and I’d hate to lose you again. Especially over something so…so…childish and immature on my part.”

Crowley looked at Aziraphale for a moment as he processed the apology. He swallowed slightly while his brain tried to come up with something to say, something that wouldn’t fall along the lines of having to admit that the teasing nature of the conversation had led to sexual frustration on his end.

“’S fine, angel. I mean, how many timesss have I shocked you with shit I’ve said?” Crowley assured before taking a drag of his cigarette. “I just…you caught me off guard. I’m just used to you being so…”

“Prude-ish?” the blonde supplied with something close to an embarrassed smile.

“Innocent, I would sssay. But prude-ish worksss too.” The red head smirked.

And just like that, the awkwardness both of them had been carrying washed away. Without saying anything, the two turned and began the walk back towards their shops in comfortable silence. It was clear both of them were lost in their own thoughts and Crowley found himself wondering what exactly Aziraphale was thinking about when he noticed a pink tint suddenly appear on the blonde’s face.

“That isn’t really my thing, anyways.” It seemed Crowley didn’t need to wonder anymore. “Being called daddy, that is. Especially not by young men.”

“Twinks not your type, angel?” he asked with a teasing smile, chuckling at the slight glare he received.

“I think definitely not.” Aziraphale huffed lightly.

“What is your type then?” the words tumbled out before Crowley could stop them.

“I wouldn’t say I have a type, exactly. But if I had to say…” there was a brief pause and Crowley wanted tell his friend that he didn’t need to answer, but he wasn’t quick enough. “My type would be someone who’s funny, witty, caring, devilishly handsome…someone who knows me and doesn’t want me to change. Someone who knows I’m far from perfect but accepts me anyways, someone I can always count on to be there for me.”

The red head narrowed his eyes behind his sunglasses as he turned to look at Aziraphale, a small swell of anger at the utterly hurt and broken look on the blonde’s face. He wanted to thoroughly thrash everyone who was responsible for putting that expression on Aziraphale. Crowley took a small breath before he flicked his cigarette away, shoving his hands into his pockets.

“I know it isn’t the sssame, but you have me. I’m alwaysss here for you, angel.” Crowley said softly.

“Are you? The last time I thought that you disappeared for seven years.” Aziraphale replied, and there was the faintest hint of anger and hurt in his words.

“Not my finest moment, I admit. But I needed ssspace to…to…to lick my woundsss.” The red head explained, tripping over his words. “I-I-I wasss embarrassed and I didn’t know how to face you. Besidesss I was hurt and…”

“So was I, Crowley.” Aziraphale softly interrupted him before he stopped walking, his gaze fixed on the pavement beneath him. “You were my best friend, and I thought I was your best friend too.”

“You were…are, ssstill.” Crowley said as he looked at the blonde, feeling the slight panic rise up at the conversation they were about to have. “I didn’t handle any of that well, but…I panicked. And if I could change thingsss, I would.”

“But you can’t, although it means a lot to know that you want to.” The blonde said, carefully picking his words as blue eyes lifted to look at Crowley. “I went to the pub every day for three weeks, and no one would tell me when you were coming in. And I know I could have called or gone to your flat, but I got the hint once I realized that you had changed your schedule to avoid me.”

Crowley looked away at the reminder of his actions. It really hadn’t been his finest moment, but he had never been good at handling rejection. And that was even more true when the rejection came from someone he had fallen hard for. He wanted to say something but he could just feel that Aziraphale wasn’t done, and a voice in the back of his mind reminded him that he owed it to the blonde to let him have his say on the subject.

“Seven years and not a word from you, Crowley. All these moments I had, these moments that you should have been a part of…getting my Masters degree, coming out to my family, looking at property for the bookshop.” Aziraphale continued, and there was something that flashed in his eyes. “You had become such an important part of my life for three years, and you just…you walked away so easily. You weren’t the only one who had his heart broken.”

Crowley opened his mouth, but closed it after a moment when he realized that there was nothing he could really say. He had already given an apology, and saying it again wouldn’t really change things much. The only thing he could really do was do his best to show Aziraphale that he wouldn’t make that mistake again, not when he had been given a second chance.

“If I hurt you that much, why didn’t you tell me to fuck off when you saw me again?” the red head asked softly, missing the small smile that crossed the blonde’s face at the wince on Crowley’s face.

“Because you’re you, my dear.” Aziraphale said simply. “I wanted to be so angry when I saw you again, I wanted to yell at you for…well, for the last seven years. But I took one look at you and realized that this may be a second chance, that God was giving us a chance to get things right this time. And I know you don’t believe in that, but I know that’s the truth.”

“Well, if you think that then I better not cock thisss up.” Was all Crowley could say, and he hoped that Aziraphale would understand that statement as a promise.

There was a silence that settled between them, and it was a moment more before they started to walk again. Neither men said a word as they made their way along the familiar route from Madame Tracy’s to the street their shops resided on. Even though the silence between them was on the heavier side, it wasn’t exactly uncomfortable. And Crowley took some peace of mind in that.

By the time the two had turned on to their street, the soft sounds of Aziraphale humming had been accompanying their walk for several minutes. Crowley had been a little surprised when he recognized the tune of Crazy Little Thing Called Love, although he shouldn’t have been so surprised considering how often Queen played whenever the red head listened to music, both back then and now. He smiled faintly as he continued to listen to Aziraphale until they reached the door to the bookshop.

“You’ll stop by tomorrow?” the blonde asked, the anxiousness he was feeling evident in his voice and on his face.

“’Course I will, angel.” Crowley promised as he shifted his weight to his other leg, sighing at the slight relief of pressure on his hip. “What did you mean when you said you wanted someone who doesn’t want to change you? Sssorry, you don’t have to…”

“It turned out that there quite a few things about myself that Elijah didn’t care for.” Aziraphale answered as if they had been talking about this for the last few minutes instead of walking in silence. “The way I got excited over things, my dreams of opening a bookshop, wanting to stay in London, my faith…there was more but, um…I think you get the picture.”

“Sssounds like a prick.” Crowley mumbled, ignoring the look the blonde gave him. “If he was trying to change you, then he didn’t deserve you. You’re absolutely perfect the way you are, angel.”

Amber eyes widen behind the dark lenses as soon as the words left his mouth, and Crowley found himself scrambling to think of something to add. But the only thing he could think of was quickly mumbling a goodnight and walking as quickly as possible to his shop, mentally berating himself for his comment.

While he knew there was nothing wrong with telling a friend that there was nothing wrong with who they were as a person, he also knew that considering his past with Aziraphale saying he was perfect could mean a whole different thing. And even though he meant it in the more than friends way, Crowley didn’t want Aziraphale to know that and risk another rejection.

The rest of the evening saw Crowley doing his best to distract himself from the thoughts of a completely different life, one where Aziraphale was more than just a friend; one where Crowley didn’t have to worry if his actions or words gave away what he was feeling, simply because what he felt was returned. And if he ended up staying up most of the night drinking and painting, at least he wasn’t thinking about all the things he would never have with Aziraphale.

After all, that was all that mattered to Crowley at the moment.

Chapter Text

November 2010

The evening had been going well, of course it would have been difficult for Crowley to be in any type of bad mood. His mentor had told Crowley that he thought he was ready to start tattooing people; he wouldn’t be taking on clients just yet, but he would be putting his skills to use on those who volunteered. And the good news had been the reason Crowley and Aziraphale had gone to get dinner at one of the nicer Italian restaurants the blonde had mentioned once.

Dinner had been enjoyable, although the meals the two shared were always enjoyable. The only difference was that Crowley was the one talking excitedly while Aziraphale just sat and listened, a bright smile on his face as he stared at the red head. The only time Aziraphale said anything had been when he expressed interest in the design that Crowley had described, and that had surprised Crowley.

“You’d want to get that tattooed on you?” he asked as they slowly made their way out of the restaurant.

“You need someone to be your first client, and I do love your artwork.” Aziraphale explained, his hands folded behind his back as they walked. “I’d want to see what it would look like, of course. I’m not going to just blindly…why are you staring at me?”

“You just…you are full of surprisesss, angel.”

The two shared a soft smile and Crowley couldn’t help the small chuckle at light blush that appeared on Aziraphale. The blonde started talking about one of his papers he had been working on once they left the building and made their way to where Crowley had parked, the red head intently listening to what his friend was saying.

“AJ?”

Crowley froze as soon as the name reached his ears, the very familiar feeling of terror induced panic closing around his throat. He knew the best thing to do would be to keep walking as if he didn’t recognize the voice but his legs didn’t seem to want to cooperate with what his brain was screaming at him to do.

“I told you that was him.” The sounds of footsteps approached until Crowley found himself face to face with the two people he never thought he would see again. “How have you been, AJ?”

The red head couldn’t form any words even if he had wanted to, so he just stood there and stared at his parents from behind the safety of his sunglasses. He could feel Aziraphale’s eyes on him, and he could only hope that he could somehow prevent his friend from becoming a part of the conversation he knew was about to happen.

“Answer your mother when she asks you a question, boy.” His father snapped, causing Crowley to flinch slightly. “And take those ridiculous things off your face.”

He felt his body tense when he noticed the hand flying towards his face, a quiet whimper sounding as the sunglasses where ripped from his face. Without the safety of the dark lenses, there was no hiding the absolute fear in his amber eyes. And he found himself feeling like that terrified child at the slight smug smirk on his father’s face.

“Crowley?” Aziraphale’s soft voice caused the red head to jump slightly, although his gaze never left his parents.

“And who is this, AJ?” his mother asked in that sickly sweet voice she had only ever used to keep up the appearance of a loving mother. “You’ll have to forgive my son. He tends to be incredibly rude.”

“T-t-thisss is…is Zira.” Crowley practically had to force the words out of his mouth. “Zira, these are my…my p-p-p-parentsss.”

“You still have that horrid little hiss? I would have thought you would be over that and that nasty stutter.” His mother sighed before giving Aziraphale an embarrassed smile. “You must be very patient to have a conversation with AJ.”

“I actually find the way he talks to be very charming.”

Crowley turned to look at Aziraphale, silently pleading with his eyes for the blonde to keep quiet; although a very small part of him was surprised that Aziraphale found his speech impediment charming, that had never been a word anyone had used to describe the way the red head talked. Aziraphale glanced at Crowley with that soft smile, and for the first time the red head hated it.

“So you’re still a faggot then?” his father’s voice commanded Crowley’s attention back to the older couple. “I thought you had learned your lesson, boy.”

Crowley let his gaze drop down as he forced himself to keep breathing as images of his father beating him within an inch of his life played in his mind. As he relived those memories, his body seemed to be reliving the pain that had been inflicted on him and he wanted nothing more than to curl in on himself until it all stopped. He hadn’t even been aware that he made any type of sound until his father took a step towards him.

“What was that, Tony?” there was that voice that had haunted Crowley’s darkest nightmares.

“You must have been a terrible teacher then.” He found himself repeating loud enough for his father to hear.

Crowley didn’t need to be looking at his father to see the rage flash across his face; he was all too familiar with the reaction that talking back pulled from the older man. His body tensed up of its own accord in preparation for the first strike, a habit he had thought long gone after four years.

“You’re lucky your little friend is here, Tony.” His father sneered.

“We tried our best with AJ.” His mother sighed, her words aimed at Aziraphale. “We tried to raise a good, God loving man. But even good parenting can’t take the wickedness out.”

“Not when a child came from Hell, a demon in disguise of a man.” His father snarled as he glared at Crowley.

The red head swallowed as he chanced looking up at his parents. His mother was looking at Aziraphale while his father was focused on him, the warning clear in those hard eyes. Crowley’s fingers curled until he felt the slight bite of his fingernails in the palms of his hands. He still wasn’t entirely convinced that his father wouldn’t find a reason to hit him just for standing there.

“You look like a respectable young man, so I’ll give you this warning- get as far as away from Tony as you can.” The older man turned his attention the Aziraphale. “I don’t know what he’s told you, but it’s nothing but lies. That’s all he does, lies and corrupts good men.”

“I wouldn’t say that…” Aziraphale stated softly.

“There’s still time for you to ask for forgiveness and save yourself.” There was that overly sweet voice his mother used, and it made Crowley sick to his stomach. “God will forgive you, after all we’ve all made a mistake in our youth.”

“There isn’t anything to forgive though, Mrs. Crowley.”

Crowley turned to look at Aziraphale again, a mix of emotions on his face. On the one hand, he wanted nothing more than to hug his friend for what he had said; but on the other, he wanted to yell at him to shut up before his parents turned their hurtful attention on to the blonde.

“He may have gotten to you, but as my wife said there’s still time for you to get back in God’s good graces.” His father said in that soft tone Crowley had heard so often during his beatings, the tone that was used to lull him into a false sense of security. “Have you ever wondered why Tony hisses?”

The red head closed his eyes as that very small voice began chanting all the different names his parents had called him over the years. All he could do was hope that it would all be over soon, and then he could spend the rest of the evening doing whatever he needed to in order to forget.

“It’s because he was sent here to tempt men into his sinful ways, the same way Eve was tempted in the garden by the snake.” His father continued before Crowley could feel that cold gaze turned back on to him. “Although he’s a poor excuse for one. What sort of snake cowers like that?”

There was a tense moment of silence as Crowley stood there, feeling small despite the fact that at an inch over six feet he was now taller than his father. He could feel Aziraphale next to him although he had no idea what the blonde was doing. Of course, he had no idea if his parents were still talking to his friend as he found himself reliving every agonizing moment of his childhood.

“We should get going, James.” His mother’s voice broke over Crowley’s thoughts and he felt himself let out a very small sigh of relief. “It was lovely meeting you, Zira. Remember what we told you, you still have time to get back on the right path.”

Crowley forced his eyes to open just in time to watch his mother make her way to towards the restaurant. His father gave a curt nod towards Aziraphale before turning to look back at his son. A look of disgust took over his features as he took in Crowley’s appearance.

“If you’re going to insist on being a fairy, at least look like a man.” His father said as he dropped the sunglasses he was still holding. “You look like a girl with your hair like that, Tony.”

Another whimper was heard as the older man pushed past his son, making sure the impact held enough force to make Crowley stumble slightly. And with that, Crowley and Aziraphale found themselves standing in the car park alone. The red head swallowed as he closed his eyes against the tears that started to build up. He wouldn’t give his parents the satisfaction of crying over what they had said, regardless if they were standing in front of him or not.

Crowley jumped slightly when he felt fingers brush his forearm, his face flushing in embarrassment when he realized it was just Aziraphale. The blonde was holding out the sunglasses he must have picked up off the pavement. Crowley took the sunglasses and pushed them on to his face, trying to control the tremble of his hand.

“Are you okay to drive, Crowley?” Aziraphale asked softly, concern shining in his blue eyes.

Crowley just nodded before walking to where he had parked. In a matter of minutes, the red head had pulled out of the parking space before heading towards his destination. A heavy silence hung in the car before Aziraphale turned up the volume of the radio and switched it over to play the Queen CD he knew was lodged in there. Crowley wasn’t even sure what song was currently playing but he was glad that Aziraphale seemed to understand that he didn’t want to talk at the moment.

“I’ll be right back.” Crowley muttered when he parked along a curb, getting out before the blonde had a chance to reply.

It was several minutes before the red head came back, his hair much shorter than it had been before he left. He could feel Aziraphale staring at him as the car sputtered back to life.

“You look good with short hair.” The blonde’s soft voice seemed to echo in the car, despite the heavy beat of Another One Bites the Dust. “Of course, you looked good with the long hair too.”

“I looked like a…a sssissy.” Crowley found himself repeating one of the many names his father had called him over the years.

“Then you were a good looking one.” Aziraphale said with such conviction and tenderness that Crowley found himself, for a brief moment, not hating that word as much.

The drive to Crowley’s flat was made in complete silence, even the sound of Freddie Mercury coming from the speakers seemed quieter than before. It wasn’t until the two walked into the flat that the red head allowed everything to catch up with him; fear, panic, embarrassment, and worry crashed over him and all Crowley could do was pace as he fought the trembling in his body and the tears in his eyes.

“I’m s-s-so…so sssorry.” The words came out so soft and broken, and it made Crowley hate himself even more.

“What for?” Aziraphale asked as he watched the other man move about the flat.

“For…for…f-f-f-for dragging you into…that! I p-p-pulled you into my…my shitty life.” Crowley answered as he stopped to look at his friend. “I’m sssorry you had to…to…you had to…”

He let out a growl of frustration as he found himself struggling to get the words out, one of his hands running through his hair before pulling at it. Crowley forced himself to take deep breaths and grew even more angry with himself when the breaths were shaky. As soon as the first tear fell behind his sunglasses, he quickly spun around to keep his back towards Aziraphale. It was bad enough the blonde had to witness the interaction with his parents, and Crowley would be damned if he let his friend see him breakdown even further.

“You have nothing to apologize for, Crowley.” Aziraphale’s soft voice sounded from right behind him. “Your parents are not a reflection of you, nor are their words.”

Crowley closed his eyes when he felt Aziraphale’s hand rest on his shoulder, gently squeezing in an offer of comfort. The red head took off his sunglasses and swiped at the tears in his eyes as he gave a small nod, although he wasn’t entirely sure he believed what Aziraphale had said. And it seemed the blonde knew that fact.

“There is nothing wrong with you. You aren’t wicked, they are. When two people decide to start a family, they make a promise to love their child unconditionally. And if they break that promise for something as little as the gender of the people their child loves…” Aziraphale sighed softly before moving to stand in front of Crowley. “If anyone from your family is a demon in disguise, it certainly isn’t you.”

Crowley just nodded as he slipped his sunglasses back on, wanting to hide the tears that were still threatening to fall. The two stood there for a few moments before Aziraphale abruptly walked towards Crowley’s bedroom. Before the red head could process where his friend had gone, Aziraphale was walking back dressed as if he was staying over. Crowley narrowed his eyes slightly as confusion joined the jumble of emotions he was currently feeling.

“I’m not leaving you alone tonight, my dear.” The blonde said as he gave Crowley a gentle smile.

“You have class in the morning, angel.” Crowley forced a smile on his face, hoping it looked genuine. “I’ll be fine.”

“I am allowed to miss one class, Crowley. Making sure you’re okay is more important, anyways.” Aziraphale looked at him with that determined look, and Crowley knew his mind was made up. “Now go change into something comfortable.”

It took a few moments before Crowley finally moved towards his room, giving Aziraphale a brief smile as he walked by. It was another several minutes before the two found themselves sitting on the couch, Aziraphale holding a mug of cocoa while Crowley nursed a glass of whiskey.

“Your father was wrong, by the way.” Aziraphale broke the heavy silence. “It wasn’t a snake that tempted Eve, it was a serpent.”

“They’re the sssame thing.” Crowley muttered before taking a sip of his whiskey.

“If your father wants to compare you to something from the Bible, then he should use the correct term. There was no snake of Eden, it’s always been the serpent of Eden.”

“Then I’m a bloody ssserpent. S’not much better.”

He heard Aziraphale sigh softly before he placed his cocoa on the table. Crowley turned his head enough to watch his friend shift to face him better.

“You know, the serpent has a bad reputation because of that tempting business. People want to focus on the serpent being the cause of the very first sin, but I don’t see it that way.” Aziraphale said softly, those blue eyes focused solely on Crowley. “The serpent is responsible for man having free will, for being able to see the difference between good and evil. If Eve had never been tempted, then none of this would be here…none of us would be where we are. If the serpent had never tempted Eve, then I never would have met you. And I quite like being able to call you my best friend.”

Crowley just looked into his glass as he took in what was being said. He opened his mouth to say something, but closed it when Aziraphale continued.

“So, you see, the serpent of Eden isn’t all that bad. In fact, I’d go as far to say that he was doing an act of kindness for Adam and Eve.” Aziraphale said softly. “If you ask me, you being compared to the serpent is a compliment.”

“I think you’re the only Catholic who hasss that opinion.” Crowley pointed out as he finally looked up.

Aziraphale simply gave that soft smile Crowley had started considering his smile. He shook his head slightly even as a faint smile appeared on his own face.

“There might be some truth in you being the serpent of Eden.” Aziraphale reached over and grabbed his cocoa, taking a quick sip. “You do have a habit of tempting me into doing things I never would have done, that punk show we went to for example.”

Crowley smiled softly and knew he couldn’t exactly argue against that. He finished the rest of his drink and sighed, looking at Aziraphale before a thought occurred to him.

“That would mean my father was right about me.” He said softly, although his voice had lost the broken tone from earlier. “If I am the ssserpent of Eden, then that technically meansss I’m a demon.”

“Well, I suppose that’s only right .” the blonde agreed as his smile grew. “You do wear an awful lot of black, and you are definitely the more…mischievous one between the two of us.”

Crowley found himself laughing and, for the first time, he didn’t seem to mind being compared to a demon; at least not when Aziraphale made the comparison, not when there was still that soft smile and glint of amusement on the blonde’s face. The two continued to talk as the evening went on, and the red head was well aware of the fact that Aziraphale was doing his best to not only cheer Crowley up, but to make sure Crowley knew that he wasn’t any of the horrible things his parents had said he was. It wasn’t until the blonde started actively fighting to keep his eyes open that Crowley realized how late it had gotten.

“Why don’t you go to bed, angel?” he said softly as he pushed himself up, gently pulling Aziraphale to his feet.

“I’m enjoying talking with you too much. Besides, I’m not that tired.” Aziraphale said just as he yawned. “Oh. Well, I suppose I am a bit tired then.”

“Go on, get some sssleep.” Crowley chuckled. “I’ll treat you to breakfast in the morning if you do.”

“See? There you go tempting me again, you wily serpent.” The blonde gave a sleepy grin before slowly making his way to Crowley’s bedroom. “Goodnight, dear.”

“Night, angel.”

Once Crowley was sure that Aziraphale had gone to bed, he spent the next few minutes cleaning up. But once he had turned off the lights and settled on the couch, it didn’t take long before sleep found him without any trouble.

Chapter Text

December 2010

Crowley tugged at the red tie he was wearing, his sunglasses making him slightly less anxious than he normally would have been. A few weeks ago, Aziraphale had mentioned something about a New Years party that his mother’s job put on every year and how he was usually the only one without someone as his plus one. The invitation had been subtle but Crowley had easily picked it up and offered to attend the party; after all, it was only fair considering Aziraphale was now the very first person to have a Crowley original tattoo.

And that was how he found himself in a decent sized banquet hall, feeling slightly underdressed despite the fact that he fit right in with his black slacks, black button up, and tie. He let out a small sigh as he watched Aziraphale walk over to him, an older woman who the red head assumed was Mrs. Fell walking next to him. Crowley took a deep breath and smiled as the two approached him.

“Mum, this is my friend Crowley.” Aziraphale said as soon as they were close enough.

“So you’re the infamous Crowley? Zira has told me so much about you.” Mrs. Fell beamed.

“It…it’sss a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Fell.” Crowley gave a nervous smile as he reached out to shake her hand, suddenly afraid that would be too formal.

“Please, call me Frances.” She chuckled before shaking his hand. “And you don’t need to be so nervous. I’ve only heard good things about you.”

It seemed that despite the dark lenses hiding his eyes, Aziraphale knew Crowley had glanced over at him. The blonde just gave him that soft smile before excusing himself. And Crowley wanted nothing more than to grab his arm and drag him back, wanted to yell at him for even thinking of leaving the red head alone with the older woman.

“Zira tells me that you’re a tattoo artist.” Mrs. Fell’s voice drew Crowley’s attention before he could forced her son to stay put.

“I, um…well, it…it…a lot of ssskill actually goesss into it. It, er…it isn’t…ngk.” It took all of his self control not to run his fingers through his hair; he wanted to look somewhat respectable.

“I wasn’t judging.” She assured him. “He showed me his tattoo and, I have to say, I’m very impressed. I never would have known that was your first one.”

Crowley felt his face heat up and knew there was no mistaking the fact that he was blushing. Aziraphale had gotten a very similar reaction when he gushed about the finished artwork on his upper arm. The next few minutes saw Crowley making small conversation with his friend’s mother until Aziraphale came back.

“I got you a drink, dear.” Aziraphale said as he handed Crowley a glass of whiskey.

“Thanksss, angel.” He smiled, the pet name slipping out before Crowley remembered who was nearby.

He narrowed his eyes behind his sunglasses when he caught the brief look that crossed Mrs. Fell’s face, and he was sure that Aziraphale hadn’t noticed it at all. However, if she had any issues with the small exchange she didn’t let on. By the time Mrs. Fell had excused herself, Crowley had found himself invited over to dinner in the near future and he wasn’t entirely sure if it was a good thing or not.

“Your mum doesss know that…I mean, you told her…?” Crowley stumbled over his words as he followed Aziraphale to a nearby table.

“Yes, she knows your gay. Why do you ask?” Aziraphale asked before taking a sip of the white wine he had gotten for himself.

“It just…I expected her to…I don’t know.” The red head muttered as he loosened his tie just enough to feel like he wasn’t being choked. “I mean, your siblingsss aren’t exactly happy with me.”

“I told you, my mother isn’t like that. All she cares about is that you’re not a criminal.” The blonde smiled as he looked at Crowley. “She’ll never think ill of you because of your sexuality, Crowley. Gabriel and Michael are a mystery to her because none of us were raised to think that way.”

“And your sssister?”

“I don’t think it’s homophobia. I think she just doesn’t care for you because you’re my friend.” Aziraphale pointed out before giving a shrug. “I told you, my relationship with her is complicated.”

Crowley rolled his eyes before taking a sip of his whiskey. As much as he wanted to push that particular subject, he knew this wasn’t the time or place. He had been prepared for some type of run in with one, if not all, of the Twat Triplets but he was pleasantly surprised to find the siblings seemed to be keeping as far as away as possible. Of course, that probably had more to do with the setting than any of them having any type of decency.

Without having to worry about his siblings judging him, Aziraphale seemed to be a little more animated as him and Crowley talked about books of prophecies, a surprising side interests of the blonde’s. At some point the conversation had changed gears until the red head was talking about some new discoveries out in space before he found himself trying to teach Aziraphale everything he knew about the vast expanse that made up the night sky. Crowley couldn’t help but notice the genuine wonder and excitement on his friend’s face, making it very clear that Aziraphale was actually listening to what Crowley was saying.

A year into their friendship, and Crowley was still not used to the blonde being invested in anything he had to say. After all, space and art weren’t all that interesting when compared to any of the many interests Aziraphale had.

“Oh no.” Aziraphale muttered when his attention was directed to something just over Crowley’s shoulder.

“What?” Crowley narrowed his eyes and turned to see where his friend was looking.

“No, don’t look!” the blonde said as he lowered his voice slightly. “I’ll, um…I’ll be right back.”

Before Crowley could say anything, Aziraphale was already out of his seat and heading in the opposite direction. He rolled his eyes and made a mental note to remind Aziraphale that their friendship had room for only one of them having the title of dramatic, and Crowley was reigning king. He finished the rest of his drink and smirked when he felt someone walk up to him.

“You know, angel, I’m the dramatic one in our…” amber eyes narrowed behind dark lenses when Crowley looked up and saw a young brunette. “Sssorry, thought you were sssomone else.”

“How do you know Zira?” the young woman asked, tilting her head slightly.

“Who…who are you?” Crowley asked, his confusion clear on his face despite the sunglasses.

“Natalie, an old friend of his.” She introduced and Crowley couldn’t help but pick up on a certain tone.

“I bartend at the pub he goes to.” The red head motioned for her to take the seat Aziraphale had disappeared from.

“He brought his bartender as his plus one?” she asked with a raised eyebrow, making no move to sit down. “That’s a bit…odd.”

“Oh, we’re very close. I’m more than just hisss bartender.”

Crowley couldn’t help but smirk at the slight look of surprise on the young woman’s face. It had taken him only a few minutes to realize that Natalie had a thing for his friend, based solely on her attitude towards him so far and from Aziraphale’s disappearing act. He had never had the patience to deal with jealous people, and he had quickly decided to have some fun with this situation.

“So are you two…together?” Natalie asked, clearly trying to downplay the jealousy she was clearly feeling.

“Well, I’m here with him aren’t I?” Crowley shrugged as he adjusted in his chair until he felt his lower back pop softly.

Anything she would have said died off into a forced smile, both of their attentions being caught by Aziraphale walking back towards them. Crowley wasn’t sure what exactly had tipped off the blonde but he just chuckled at the quick glare Aziraphale sent his way.

“Hello, Natalie. I didn’t know you were here tonight.” Aziraphale said with a tight smile just as the young woman threw her arms around him in a hug.

“I always come, silly.” She laughed as she pulled back. “I was just getting to know…I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“Crowley.” The red head grinned and he wanted nothing more than to laugh at her brief expression.

“I’m a little disappointed you didn’t come by yourself again, Zira.” Natalie pouted.

“Oh, um…well…” Aziraphale stammered, although he wasn’t really saying anything.

Crowley narrowed his eyes as he watched the two. A small sense of protectiveness swelled in him at how handsy the young woman was being; straightening Aziraphale’s bow tie, smoothing out the lapels of his jacket, grabbing his hand slightly, and all the while seemingly ignoring Aziraphale trying to put up some type of boundaries. Just as Crowley opened his mouth to say something, the music that had been playing changed to something softer.

“Zira you still owe me a dance from last year.” She grinned as she took his hand again.

“Well, I can’t…um, I can’t do that. At least right now, that is.” Aziraphale said as he took a step back, his panicked look landing on Crowley.

“Why not?” Natalie pouted again. “It’s one dance, silly.”

“And it’s my dance. Sssorry, love.” Crowley’s voice cut in as he pushed himself up from the chair and was instantly at his friend’s side. “Come on, angel.”

Before anything else could be said, Crowley was leading Aziraphale towards the dance floor. He laughed softly at the look on the blonde’s face when they reach the middle of the dance floor, Crowley taking Aziraphale’s hand in his own before placing his free hand lightly on his friend’s side

“Crowley…” Aziraphale said softly, blue eyes darting around to see if anyone was looking at them.

“What? We’ve danced before.” Crowley pointed out as he just looked at the other man, an amused smile on his face.

“In your flat. Not…not in public.” The blonde pointed out as his gaze settled on Crowley. “People might get the wrong idea.”

“People are going to think whatever the fuck they to think, angel. Friendsss dance all the time in public, and the people who know you know that I’m just a friend.” He hoped that the tinge of hurt wasn’t noticeable in his voice. “Although I might have led your little girlfriend into thinking that we’re more than that.”

Aziraphale shot him a glare that was accompanied by his signature huff, but Crowley could see the twitch of a smile that the blonde was fighting. If there was any small part of the red head that believed his friend as really mad at him, it was pushed away when Aziraphale brought his free hand to rest on Crowley’s shoulder. They shared a small smile as they started swaying slightly to whatever song was playing.

“Why don’t you tell her that you’re not interested?” Crowley asked softly when he noticed Natalie watching them.

“I have. Multiple times.” Aziraphale practically whined. “She just thinks that she can change my mind.”

“Well, good thing you brought me along thisss year.” Crowley smirked. “Maybe now she’ll believe that you aren’t interested in her.”

Aziraphale rolled his eyes slightly but chuckled. One slow song faded into another and the two continued to dance, Crowley noticing Aziraphale’s family watching them the entire time. He wasn’t surprised to see the looks of disgust on the older Fell brothers’ faces, or the look of disinterest on Uriel’s face. He was, however, surprised to see the soft smile on Mrs. Fell’s face.

Crowley swallowed slightly and turned his gaze away, even though none of them knew he had caught them looking. A few minutes later, a more upbeat song began and signaled the end of the friends’ dance. The two made their way towards an empty table, and Crowley noticed the relieved smile on Aziraphale’s face.

“Well, ssseemed my plan worked.” The red head grinned when he saw Natalie no longer watching Aziraphale. “Hopefully she got the message.”

“My hero.” Aziraphale gave him that smile, his tone just as soft.

Crowley took a deep breath and just smiled slightly, hoping that Aziraphale couldn’t hear the frantic beating of his heart. Luckily his glasses hid his eyes because Crowley knew that there was no other way to hide the flash of love that had shined in them.

“Alwaysss.” Crowley found himself saying before he could stop himself.

The answering bright smile on Aziraphale’s face had not been the reaction Crowley expected.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present day

“You what?” Crowley spat as he stared at Anathema from his spot on her bed.

“I invited Zira to go out with us tonight.” She repeated, holding up two different shirts.

“Why would you do that?” he pointed to the one in her right hand.

“Because it’ll be nice to have someone else join our group. And it gives me more chances to embarrass you, and someone else for you to pick on besides Newt.” Anathema answered as she quickly pulled on the top he had pointed to. “And aren’t you always saying you feel like a third wheel?”

Crowley just grumbled as he flopped back on to the bed, glaring at the ceiling. Although he wasn’t sure if he was more upset that Anathema had invited Aziraphale, or more surprised that the bookshop owner had agreed. Wednesday nights had become karaoke nights a few months ago after all the fun Crowley, Anathema, and Newt had had on the younger man’s birthday, and while the middle of the week hadn’t been their first choice it was the one that worked best; Demon Ink and Beyond the Veil Occult shop were both closed by five o’clock, and Newt was the designated opener at his job.

“You should get ready, Crowley. We’ll be leaving in thirty minutes.” The American pointed out as she made her way towards the small vanity, looking into the mirror to apply some light make-up.

“Aziraphale doesn’t even close for another hour.” Crowley pointed out as he lifted his head slightly, glaring at the back of his best friend’s head.

“Not anymore. The bookshop closes at the same time we close now.”

The red head let out a small growl as his head dropped back down to the mattress. A few moments later, Crowley had left to his flat across the small hallway and had jumped into his shower. He hadn’t spent too long in the shower, just long enough to freshen up and talk himself out of bailing on the weekly tradition. He knew backing out of karaoke night would save him from whatever tricks Anathema was planning, but he also knew that it wouldn’t look good to cancel the exact same night Aziraphale had been invited out.

By the time Anathema had let herself into his flat, Crowley was putting the finishing touches on his hair. He took in his reflection and gave a curt nod when he deemed his hair perfectly styled.

“Another classic Anthony J Crowley look.” The young woman laughed as she took in the faded Queen shirt, black skinny jeans, and leather jacket. “Would it kill you to add some color?”

Instead of a verbal answer, Crowley pointed to the red high top Converse he wore and grinned at the eye roll Anathema gave him. Crowley made sure he had his wallet and keys before the two made their way out of the flat, exiting the building through the door that was set in between the two shops. Just as the door closed behind them, Aziraphale had locked up the bookshop and was making his way across the street.

Crowley grinned when he saw that the blonde had attempted to look a little more relaxed with the dark tan slacks and baby blue button up, his sleeves rolled up just below his elbows. Even though he looked a little more modern, the tartan bow tie still have him that signature Aziraphale look. Crowley lit up a cigarette as the other two greeted each other as if they hadn’t talked earlier in the day.

“Anathema did explain the rulesss to you, right?” Crowley asked around his cigarette.

“Rules? There are rules?” Aziraphale furrowed his brow as he looked from Anathema to Crowley.

“We don’t pick our own songs.” The young woman explained, a small smile forming on her face when she saw her boyfriend’s car heading towards them. “We pick each other’s songs.”

“For example, I pick a sssong for Newt and whatever I picked he has to sssing.” Crowley added, flicking the half smoked cigarette away.

There was a pause in the explanation as the three climbed into Newt’s car, another round of greetings filling the space. The car took off again once everyone was buckled in and Crowley turned to look at Aziraphale, the couple in the front seats starting their own conversation.

“We can even pick duetsss to be sssung.” He continued. “Let’s sssay I pick a duet, I get to decided the two who sssing it.”

“Sounds fun. If not a little chaotic.” Aziraphale nodded as a knowing smile formed on his face. “I see why you like it, dear.”

It didn’t take long for the group to arrive at the usual karaoke bar, and it took even less for them get a private room. Although it did help that they were regulars, the hosts seem to give them more priority. Once drinks had been ordered, Crowley dived for the song book and began flipping through the pages.

He didn’t actually know who he was picking for, but then again he never did. It wasn’t until he picked a song that he usually knew who would be singing. A grin spread on his face as his eyes landed on the perfect song.

“I don’t like that look.” Newt muttered from where he sat. “It normally means I’m about to be embarrassed.”

Anathema laughed softly as she gave his thigh a small pat. Crowley stood up and felt three pairs of eyes on him as he went to punch in the number for the song, snatching up the microphone and holding it out to Newt. The younger man sighed heavily and got to his feet, glaring at Crowley.

“I have to ssstick to tradition, Newt.” The red head grinned before going back to take his place on the couch Aziraphale was sitting at.

Laughter filled the room at the familiar beat, Newt glaring at Crowley before he began singing along. It only took the entire first verse before Newt got into the song, moving his body in a ridiculous fashion. Crowley and Aziraphale laughed even harder when Newt pointed towards his girlfriend before shaking his chest slightly.

The first round of songs seemed to continue along the lines of trying to throw off whoever was singing, although no one should have been surprised when Crowley and Anathema enjoyed the songs that had been picked for them; both had even done their best to dance as ridiculously as possible, which had somehow put Newt’s moves in the category of not that bad. Aziraphale, however, had been the most surprising as the four. Not only had he been familiar with the rock song Anathema had picked for him, but he gave it his all when he sang.

“I didn’t know you knew any modern songs.” Newt managed to get out through his laughter.

“I am allowed to have secrets, Newt.” Aziraphale grinned as he sat back down, reaching for his lager.

The next few minutes were spent with laughter and jokes as they all finished their drinks, quickly ordering another round. By the time their drinks had arrived, Newt was in the middle of doing his best at looking like someone who normally listened to heavy metal and that had sent his girlfriend into a fit of giggles.

Crowley had managed to impress the other three by somehow not passing out from quickly getting the lyrics out of his song, seemingly taking as few breaths as possible during each verse. Behind his sunglasses he had sent a look towards Anathema, a voice in the back of his head telling him that she had put her boyfriend up to picking the song.

His suspicions of Anathema arranging for certain songs to be picked gained a little more credibility when Aziraphale got up to sing his second song. Of course, the way the blonde kept glancing at Crowley wasn’t helping the way his stomach flipped as he listened to the meaningful lyrics. Crowley had shot the American another look and, judging by the smirk on her face, it seemed that not even the dark shades could hide his expression.

The only time any of them had spoken during a song had been when the very loud (and dramatic) complaint from Crowley when a Queen song began playing for Anathema. Aziraphale had merely shrugged when the red head questioned him before motioning for Crowley to be quiet.

“Is it just an unwritten rule that I can’t sssing Queen during karaoke?” Crowley grumbled as the American took her spot next to Newt.

“Where would the fun be in you getting to perform something you do every day?” Anathema pointed out.

“She has a point, dear.” Aziraphale agreed, chuckling at the shocked expression on Crowley’s face. “We already know you can sing any song by Queen.”

“Why didn’t we invite him sooner?” Newt grinned as he looked at Anathema.

Crowley rolled his eyes as the three of them began teasing him. He put an end to the current conversation by ordering another round of drinks, glad to have the attention off of him. The red head carefully took off his sunglasses and set them on the table. He shrugged at the questioning look on Aziraphale’s face; the lighting in the private rooms was usually low enough to not bother him but he had simply kept the sunglasses on out of habit. It was usually how it went every week, after a few songs Crowley would remember he could take off the glasses and still be comfortable.

“I think it’s time for our first duet.” Anathema announced as she snatched up the song book, flipping to the section she wanted.

“Here we go.” Crowley muttered as he tilted his head just enough to feel the pop in his neck.

The red head watched as the young woman grinned before getting up to put in the number of the song she had found. He already knew who the song was for, after all he knew better than to not expect her to try something. The downside of being her best friend meant that Anathema tended to meddle in his love life, regardless if he wanted her to or not.

“I think Mr. Crowley and Mr. Fell should get the honors of being our first duet.” She smirked as she held out two microphones to each of them. “Oh, and Crowley starts.”

The two took their microphones and made their way to stand in front of the screen. As soon as Crowley saw the song name, his stomach dropped. He couldn’t believe she was actually doing this to him and he made a mental note to lay in to her as soon as he got the chance. He was faintly aware of Aziraphale exclaiming how he knew the song, and Crowley wasn’t sure if that made it better or worse.

You know I want you, it’s not a secret I try to hide. I know you want me…” Crowley began, his grip on his microphone incredibly tight. “You claim it’s not in the cards, Fate is pulling you miles away and out of reach from me.”

Crowley kept his gaze on the screen despite the fact that he didn’t really need to read the lyrics. But it was a good excuse for him to not glance over at Aziraphale, even though he could feel his friend staring at him.

What if we rewrite the stars? Say you were made to be mine...” as he sang the words, he found himself thinking back to the night before he had cut the blonde out of his life, and it only fueled his determination to kill Anathema for doing this. “It’s up to you, and it’s up to me no one can say what we get to be.”

Crowley was gripping the microphone so tight he was surprised it hadn’t broken yet. He chanced a glance at Aziraphale and nearly choked on the chorus when he saw his friend looking at him with a mix of hurt and something else he couldn’t exactly place. Amber eyes moved away from the blonde and found Anathema, who was watching the two men with a knowing look on her face.

You think it’s easy? You think I don’t want to run to you…” Aziraphale’s voice pulled his attention again and Crowley had no idea what to make of the tenderness in his friend’s voice. “I know you’re wondering why because we’re able to be just you and me within these walls.”

The red head swallowed slightly as he watched Aziraphale sing his part, and he couldn’t stop the memories from nearly a decade ago flashing through his head. The instant he saw the regret cross over the blonde’s face, Crowley regretted ever telling Anathema about his past with Aziraphale.

The song continued and it seemed as if neither one of them could keep from glancing at the other. Based on Newt’s expression as he listened to the two of them sing together, it was somehow both the most heartbreaking and awkward duet he had ever seen. Crowley lowered his microphone and ran his fingers through his hair, his eyes closing briefly. He was going to have a serious talk with his American friend once the night was over.

You know I want you. It’s not a secret I try to hide.” Crowley jumped slightly when he felt Aziraphale’s fingers touch his forearm, confusion hitting him at the look on the blonde’s face. “But I can’t have you. We’re bound to break and my hands are tied.”

As soon as the song was over, Crowley made his way to where his half finished stout sat. He could feel everyone staring at him as he downed the rest of it. He glared at Anathema before muttering about having a cigarette and storming out of the room. He leaned against the front of the building and sighed heavily, groaning softly when he realized he left his sunglasses in the room. Glancing down, Crowley realized his hands were slightly shaking and quickly decided against having a cigarette; knowing his luck, he’d somehow end up burning himself trying to light the damn thing.

“Was singing with me that awful?”

Crowley jumped for the second time that night when he heard Aziraphale, looking over to see a sheepish smile on his friend’s face. A silence hung between them and the red head wished he had the safety of his sunglasses, feeling entirely too exposed without them. It wasn’t until the teasing look in Aziraphale’s eyes gave way to uncertainity that Crowley realized he hadn’t said anything.

“No, of…of course not. I just…I’m mad at Anathema.” He ran his fingers through his hair again as he looked away from Aziraphale, already knowing what the blonde was going to say next. “She picked that sssong on purpose and…and…”

“And it’s just a song, Crowley. A good one at that.” Aziraphale said softly as he moved to leaned next to Crowley. “It doesn’t have to mean anything.”

“I know it doesn’t mean anything, angel. But it brought up memoriesss and I-I-I don’t…I don’t….ngk.” Crowley hissed slightly before pushing himself off of the building and looking at the other man. “What happened between usss is…it’s sssensitive, and…and…and Anathema is making it into a joke!”

“I don’t think that’s what she was doing, dear. We have moved on from that, not entirely but enough that our friendship is back on track. At least I like to think that.” The blonde said with a hopeful smile, and Crowley nodded after a moment. “Yes, it did bring up memories but not all of them bad. Singing with you made me realize how much I missed those nights in your flat, serenading each other. Sometimes drunkenly.”

Crowley found himself laughing softly, despite the fact that he was still on edge. The two spent a few more minutes talking about the good memories that had been brought up and it never crossed Crowley’s mind that Aziraphale was doing his best to walk the red head off the mental edge he had been on. They didn’t stay out too long, both wanting to get back to the room to finish out their karaoke time.

It was made very clear that Crowley was still upset with Anathema, and that the two would be talking about what had happened later. But at the moment karaoke night was still the main focus and the four continued to do their best to make each other either look as ridiculous as possible or put on the performance of their lives. The night also turned into having everyone but Crowley sing a Queen song, much to the red head’s annoyance.

The night ended with each of them picking their own song, an idea that Newt had been debating for most of the evening. Anathema had been against it but the idea ultimately passed when Crowley and Aziraphale agreed that it would be a good idea. The shock of that round had been the fact that Crowley didn’t pick a Queen song, he said something about keeping everyone on their toes.

By the time everyone had been dropped off and said their goodbyes, Crowley had realized two things; one, he needed to make a better effort to thoroughly talk through whatever issues were being ignored with Aziraphale, and both men knew there were a few that were going unsaid. And two, he wasn’t quite as moved on from the blonde as he had thought. The second realization had hit him when the two had said goodnight, the words ‘I love you’ catching in Crowley’s throat.

Chapter Text

April 2011

Crowley killed the engine once he pulled into a parking spot, his words dying in his mouth once he looked at Aziraphale. The blonde was currently bracing his right hand on the dashboard with white knuckles while his left was squeezing the handle above the door in what could only be described as a death grip, absolute fear on his face. The red head sighed softly and just shook his head.

“You sssaid we were running late.” He pointed out.

“That didn’t mean I wanted the possibility of dying on my birthday.” Aziraphale snapped as he turned to glare at the red head. “I really don’t how you passed your driving lessons, Crowley.”

“You’re being dramatic.” Crowley rolled his eyes before getting out of the car.

He turned and waited for his friend to emerge from the beat up Bug, locking the vehicle as soon as the blonde slammed the passenger door closed.

“I’m serious, Crowley! It’s a miracle you haven’t hit anything.” Aziraphale continued, even as his voice softened.

“What can I sssay? I’ve mastered the art of driving recklessly.” The red head grinned as he puffed out his chest.

“That isn’t something to be proud of, dear.”

Crowley just barked out a laugh as the two made their way into the little sushi place Aziraphale always went to for his birthday. He had been surprised when Aziraphale had invited him to his birthday dinner with his family, considering the blonde’s siblings had made it clear the previous year Crowley was not to be invited. And he had been even more surprised when he found out that Mrs. Fell had asked if Aziraphale had invited Crowley.

In the months since meeting his friend’s mother, he had been on the receiving end of several dinner invitations at the Fell household and a few invitations to other outings. Any suspicions the red head had had were put to rest when Aziraphale assured that there was no ulterior motive; Mrs. Fell, it seemed, simply wanted to get to know her son’s best friend better.

“Are you sure I look alright?” Crowley asked softly as he tugged on the hem of his shirt, an old tour shirt for The Clash he had found in a thrift shop a few weeks back.

“Of course you do. Why are you suddenly self-conscious?” Aziraphale asked as he glanced over at him. “It’s not as if this is the first time you’re eating with my family.”

“Yeah but…it’s your birthday. I don’t want to, um…you know, ruin it.”

Aziraphale just gave Crowley a reassuring smile before looking away just as they reached the table where the rest of the Fell family was sitting. All of Crowley’s nerves quickly left at the look of annoyance on Gabriel and Michael’s faces; nothing put him in a good mood quite like annoying Aziraphale’s older brothers. Crowley watched as Aziraphale was greeted by each of member of his family; Gabriel and Michael gave the same unenthusiastic ‘Happy birthday’ while Uriel gave her baby brother a hug, completely ignoring Crowley’s presence. Mrs. Fell greeted both of them with their own hug, Crowley laughing at the embarrassed grumbling from Aziraphale when his mother kissed his cheek a few times repeatedly.

Dinner had gone by better than Crowley had expected, the insults from the older Fell brothers were kept to a minimum and Uriel, surprisingly, said a few words to Crowley. Despite Crowley’s instance to pay for his part, Mrs. Fell had taken care of the bill as she gently scolded the red head for thinking she was going to make him pay.

“Shut it, angel.” Crowley grumbled when he saw the grin on Aziraphale’s face.

Whatever Aziraphale had opened his mouth to say was drowned out by Gabriel clearing his throat, and Crowley couldn’t help but notice the disgust behind the older man’s forced smile. Gabriel held out a wrapped gift; or rather, he held up the gift and made Aziraphale practically climb over the table to take it.

“A nice little reminder for when you’re feeling lost.” The oldest Fell said as everyone watched Aziraphale unwrap the gift.

“Oh. Um, thank you, Gabriel. It’s…it’s nice.” The blonde forced the words out as he stared at the gift in his hands.

“I went a head and highlighted some of my favorite words of wisdom.” Gabriel pointed out as his eyes darted towards Crowley.

Crowley’s eyes narrowed behind his sunglasses before he finally looked at what his friend was holding, the urge to punch Gabriel’s weirdly white teeth in surging when the red head saw the Bible. The unsaid message was loud and clear to not just Crowley, but Aziraphale as well if the sudden anxiousness on his face was anything to go by.

“Gabriel.” Mrs. Fell’s voice cut through the brief silence.

“What? Zira was talking about he needed to replace his copy, so…” Crowley watched as the older man just vaguely motioned towards his baby brother. “Now he can save his money for whatever weird thing he wants.”

Crowley balled his hand into a fist to keep from reaching out to Aziraphale, figuring that even a comforting gesture wouldn’t help the situation. The red head looked up just in time to catch the look that passed from Mrs. Fell to her oldest son and even though it was different from the ones he used to receive from his own parents, he could recognize a warning look no matter what.

“Here you go, Zira.” Michael said as he leaned over to drop his gift in front of Aziraphale, the dull thud making it clear it was another book under the wrapping paper.

It was clear that Aziraphale was more than nervous to open the next gift and it made Crowley beyond mad that Aziraphale’s brothers had found a way to make birthday presents a cause of anxiety. And as much as the red head wanted to give the older two men a piece of his mind, he knew it wasn’t his place to do so with their mother sitting at the table.

Of course it was absolutely Mrs. Fell’s place to berate Gabriel and Michael once Aziraphale opened his next gift, a cookbook filled with healthy recipes. Crowley felt his heart break at the look of sadness and humiliation on his friend’s face.

“They’re pricksss, angel.” He whispered so only Aziraphale could hear him. “Even your mum agreesss.”

At least that earned a small chuckle from Aziraphale. Crowley gave him a soft smile when the blonde lifted his head to look at him, a soft smile of his own on Aziraphale’s face.

“Thank you.” Aziraphale said softly, and Crowley felt his stomach flip at the look on the other man’s face.

“Happy birthday, Zira.” Uriel’s voice broke whatever moment the two had found themselves in. “Wait to open this when Mum gets back.”

Both of them looked around to find that it was just the three of them left at the table. Uriel was holding out an envelope with her brother’s name neatly written on it and the two siblings shared a brief smile as Aziraphale took the envelope.

“Give me a call later, yeah?” she asked, surprising Crowley when she bent down to give Aziraphale a quick hug.

“Of course.” The blonde promised.

Crowley gave Uriel a small wave and received a disinterested stare in return as she walked away, a bit of normalcy he was glad for. It was another fifteen minutes before Mrs. Fell returned to the table, apologizing to her son about how dinner ended.

“It’s just the way they are, Mum.” Aziraphale shrugged as he carefully opened the envelope.

“Doesn’t make it right, angel.” Crowley pointed out before he could stop himself. “Sssorry.”

“No, you’re right.” Mrs. Fell said with a reassuring smile sent towards the red head. “They weren’t raised that way.”

Before anything else could be said on the subject, a loud gasp brought attention back to Aziraphale. In his hands were a birthday card and a pair of tickets to an upcoming show that the blonde had been dying to see.

“Uriel must have spent a fortune on these.” Aziraphale whispered as he showed his mother and Crowley where the two seats would be; Crowley didn’t know too much of the venue the show would be at, but he knew enough about theatre to know Aziraphale had prime seating.

It seemed the unintended trend for the blonde’s birthday was books, seeing as how his mother had also given Aziraphale a book. Of course, this time the gift was met with a bright smile and a loving gaze as he looked at the cover. Aziraphale seemed to forget about the other two at the table, and Crowley found it absolutely adorable. He had no idea what the book was, but it clearly already meant something to his friend.

Crowley excused himself and made his way out of the restaurant, quickly heading towards his car. It didn’t take him any time at all to grab the small gift he had hidden the backseat and walk back into the building.

“Your actual gift won’t be ready for a few more daysss.” Crowley explained softly as he held out a small pot that held a dwarf sized snake plant, a little sign for how to care for the plant sticking out of the soil. “But I didn’t want to not give you anything.”

Aziraphale looked from the plant to Crowley before taking the gift, carefully looking it over. The red head let out a small nervous chuckle as he sat back down.

“It’s, um…it’s a sssnake plant.” Crowley explained as he watched the blonde read the little sign. “’S a good first houseplant. Easy to care for, impossible to kill…you’re alwaysss going on about my plantsss, figured you might like one of your own.”

“You have houseplants?” Mrs. Fell asked softly, an amused smile on her face when Crowley turned to look at her.

“A few.” Crowley shrugged.

“He has a whole garden in his flat.” Aziraphale corrected with a chuckle, blue eyes turning to look at Crowley. “This is perfect. Thank you.”

Crowley waved off the gratitude, even as he felt the tips of his ears start to burn in the telltale sign of a rising blush. The rest of the evening was spent with the Crowley talking about his plants and explaining to Mrs. Fell how he had stumbled into the hobby, Aziraphale interjecting every now and then whenever the red head would downplay something.

“He doesn’t talk to them, Mum.” Aziraphale laughed after Crowley brought up a ‘discussion’ he had had with one of his newest plants, a red aglaonema that wasn’t as vibrant as it should be. “He yells at them.”

“I do not.” Crowley scoffed, giving an offended look.

“You do, dear. I swear some of them have actually trembled.” Aziraphale said with a teasing smile.

As the two talked about how Crowley may or may not treat his houseplants, neither one noticed Mrs. Fell watching them closely. Even as the men argued over the benefits of putting plants in fear, the fondness they each had for the other was clear to Aziraphale’s mother from the way her son’s eyes shone to the tone of Crowley’s voice. It was another few moments before the older woman lightly cleared her throat, letting them know she was going to head out.

Crowley and Aziraphale stood up as she walked over before giving her son a hug, wishing him a happy birthday once again. Crowley had been caught off guard when Mrs. Fell pulled him for a hug of his own. From behind his sunglasses, he glared at the giggle Aziraphale let out.

“Take care of him.” Mrs. Fell kept her voice low enough so that only Crowley could hear.

Before he could let his confusion be known, the older woman was gone and it was just the two of them standing next to the table. Crowley narrowed his eyes slightly as he thought over Mrs. Fell’s words and found himself even more confused about their meaning.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present day

Crowley hummed along to whatever song was playing from the speaker of his phone, narrowing his eyes as he recounted the items for the third time. He shook his head and made a note on the invoice that the order was missing a few units before he called out over his shoulder to tell Madame Tracy exactly what he had scribbled down.

“You might want to think about using another vendor for these crystalsss.” Crowley said as he walked towards the older woman. “This isss the fourth week your order has been short.”

“I’m looking into it.” She said simply as she focused on the box she had opened. “Was that the last of the shipment?”

He nodded as he set the invoices down next to her before walking over to where his phone sat on the counter. He looked at the time for a moment before he found himself looking out the front window towards the bookshop.

“When are you going to ask him to dinner?” Madame Tracy’s voice made him jump slightly, although no one would dare say that Crowley had been startled.

“I ask him to dinner all the time. Lunch and dinner isss kind of our thing.” Crowley answered as he turned to look at the older woman. “I mean, I am going to ask if he wantsss to get lunch today.”

“That’s not what I meant, sweetheart.”

Crowley rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses and merely shrugged, picking up his phone and pretending to do something on it. He was hoping that if he didn’t answer then Madame Tracy would let the subject die. Of course, he should have known better than to hope for that. When he felt her staring at him, the red head simply raised his head enough to cock it to the side in a fake show of confusion.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” He muttered.

“Anthony, even the blind could see how you feel about Mr. Fell.” The older woman sighed.

“And how do you think I feel about him?” Crowley raised an eyebrow, leaning against the counter slightly.

“Just ask him to dinner. As a date.” Madame Tracy said. “It’s been over two months and I’m already tired of watching you dance around your feelings.”

The red head just shook his head and turned off the music. This wasn’t really a conversation he wanted to have so early into his day, especially when he was planning on spending time with Aziraphale later on. He had found that it wasn’t to ignore his feelings around the blonde if he hadn’t been thinking about it beforehand.

“I’m just hisss best friend.” Crowley said softly.

“You can’t honestly believe that, Anthony.”

If Crowley had anything to respond with, it was pushed down as the front door opened and the subject of their conversation walk in. Madame Tracy walked over to give Aziraphale a tight hug and Crowley just smiled softly.

“I know it’s inventory day, so I thought I’d bring you two breakfast.” Aziraphale said as he handed over a small bag to the older woman. “Or rather, brunch seeing the time.”

“It’s breakfast, angel. Brunch requiresss alcohol.” Crowley smirked.

"Not everything needs alcohol, dear.” Aziraphale huffed slightly.

“True, but it doesss make everything more fun.” The red head argued as he made his way over to the blonde. “Don’t you have a shop to open?”

The two fell into their usual back and forth, somehow talking about nothing and everything at the same time. If the two young men had been paying attention then they would have noticed Madame Tracy watching them, a silly little smile on her face. They would have noticed the way she seemed to be studying the way they interacted, almost as if she was being allowed a rare peak at something private.

“Are you coming by for lunch later on?” Aziraphale asked as he took a step towards the shop’s door.

“'Course I am. How do you feel about that little Thai place I took you to the other week?” Crowley suggested.

“Sounds lovely. I’ll see you then.” The blonde paused in his exit and turned around as if he suddenly remembered something. “Goodbye, Madame Tracy. I’ll see you tonight?”

“I’m looking forward to it, love.” The older woman waved to the blonde before turning to see the curious look on Crowley’s face. “You and Anathema have your Monday night tradition, Newt and Shadwell have theirs, and now I have one with Mr. Fell.”

“And that isss?” Crowley encouraged, his right hand making a circling gesture.

“We talk.” Madame Tracy said in that tone that made it clear she would not be giving out any more information. “You should really think about asking him on a date before someone else sees what a catch he is.”

“Ngk.” The red head waved off the statement, although a voice in the back of his mind seemed to agree with the older woman.

Crowley spent another few moments in the occult shop until Anathema came down the back stairs to start her shift. He waved to the two women and quickly made his way out the door, not really wanting to be dragged into another conversation about his feelings for Aziraphale.

As he made his way towards his shop, he paused long enough to see his friend through the bookshop’s window and laughed softly at the sight of the blonde talking with a customer. The red head had no idea what was being said between Aziraphale and the young man, but it was something that brought out a look of excitement on the blonde’s face.

In the few hours leading up to lunch, Crowley had set up a few new appointments for later in the month and worked on a few ideas for a new flash sheet. He had even managed to get in an early afternoon nap before he left to pick up lunch.

“Ready for lunch, angel?” Crowley asked as he walked into the bookshop and flipped the ‘Open’ sign to ‘Closed’, the take away bag held securely in his hand.

“Just set it in the back. I’ll be right there, my dear.” Aziraphale smiled before turning his attention back to the customer he had been helping.

The red head shrugged and made his way to the back room, setting the bag in one of the free spots on the coffee table. He pushed the sleeves of his Henley up and walked back out to the front, slowly walking through the shop. He came to a stop in front of one of the bookshelves and scanned the titles of the books that rested there. Of course he didn’t recognize any of them, but no one could really be surprised.

“You’re a very lucky man.” Crowley turned his head to see the customer Aziraphale had been helping, his eyes narrowing behind dark lenses. “Your partner is a wonderful man.”

“Part…p-p-partner?” he sputtered before turning to see if Aziraphale had heard the woman and felt somewhat relieved that the blonde was no longer in the front. “We’re not…I mean…ngk. We’re friendsss.”

“It’s 2019, love. You don’t need to hide.” She gave him a gentle pat on his arm before making her way out of the shop.

Crowley stood there staring off after her for a moment, his mind whirling from the brief encounter. He wanted to be offended that this stranger just assumed that he was with Aziraphale like that; after all, it was incredibly rude to just assume things like that.

You did call him angel.’ That little voice reminded him. ‘And he did call you dear. It’s not hard to see why assumptions would be made. Besides, there is the whole thing of you wanting to be…’

The red head scowled slightly and shook his head in an attempt to shut that voice up. He quickly walked towards the back room, grimacing slightly at the twinge of pain in his lower back. Crowley thought about telling Aziraphale about what had just happened but decided against it as he watched his friend get their lunch ready, humming softly.

“Oh! You remembered my favorite!” Aziraphale gasped excitedly as he pulled the last of the containers out.

“Don’t sssound too shocked, angel.” Crowley smiled as he grabbed the container with his order, flopping into the leather armchair near by. “Can I ask you sssomething?”

Aziraphale looked up with a mouthful of food, an embarrassed expression painted on his face. Crowley couldn’t help but chuckle at the image. The embarrassed expression was quickly replaced with an annoyed one as the blonde nodded.

“What about your ex made you decide he wasss the one to come out for?” the red head asked around the small amount of food in his mouth.

“Crowley, I don’t think…this isn’t really a conversation I want to have.” Aziraphale said softly after swallowing his food.

“Indulge me.” Crowley said, taking off his sunglasses so Aziraphale could see that he was serious. “Please, angel.”

The blonde sighed softly and set his container to the side. There was a moment of silence and Crowley was nearly convinced that Aziraphale wasn’t going to say anything.

“A year after I met Elijah, I noticed that he was flirting with me. That he was asking me out on dates.” Aziraphale spoke slowly as he thought of how to word his thoughts. “About six months after I had that realization, I admitted to myself that I was attracted to him and that I wanted to go on a date with him. I saw that as my chance to…to do what I couldn’t with you. I could be brave and allow myself to…well, to be myself. We became exclusive a few months later when I finally came out to my family.”

“But why him?” Crowley asked softly as he stared at the table between them. “I mean, I’m sure othersss flirted with you during that time. What made him special?”

“Because he was the complete opposite of you, Crowley.” Aziraphale admitted. “I made a mistake, and you ended up breaking my heart. Then I met this business student who wasn’t all rough edges and punk music and art, who wasn’t sarcastic and constantly trying to annoy me just to get a reaction…Elijah was just so…he wasn’t you.”

A silence settled in the room as Crowley took in what he had been told, and if he hadn’t been so focused on how deeply he had hurt Aziraphale then he would have wondered at the wording of his friend’s explanation. He could feel Aziraphale staring at him and he merely nodded, taking a deep breath.

“He also got the added bonus of not running away when things got bad.” Aziraphale continued, his words barely above a whisper. “Before I came out, we had arguments over how long it was taking me and I kept expecting him to disappear like you did. But as frustrated as he was, he stayed and let me take the time I needed to be myself.”

“Do you regret it?” Crowley found himself asking, amber eyes slowly moving to look at blue eyes. “Do you regret Elijah being your first?”

“No. I learned a lot from my relationship with him.” Aziraphale answered. “Even with how bad things got towards the end, I don’t regret it.”

“’S good.” The red head nodded and started eating his food again. “Meansss it was worth it. In the end.”

Crowley watched as Aziraphale nodded and took a bite of his own food. He racked his brain for something to say in order to lighten the mood, but it seemed that his brain couldn’t get over the hurt he had caused. He knew he had hurt Aziraphale, that had been made clear in their previous conversations about their past, but he hadn’t realized just how deep that hurt had run until now.

“It was more than worth it.” Aziraphale’s voice drew Crowley out of his thoughts. “It led me back to you, Crowley.”

The red head just looked at the blonde, and he wondered if the flash in those blue eyes came from Aziraphale or came from his own mind projecting. But before he could even think of pushing for any sort of clarification, Aziraphale launched into a rare book that was going to be auctioned off in the upcoming week.

And just like, Crowley realized that he had been imagining the flash of emotion and the charge in the atmosphere.

Chapter Text

October 2011

Looking back on the evening, Crowley should have known something bad would happen; his birthday had been going too smoothly considering his luck. For the first time since he had been kicked out of his parents’ house, he had allowed himself to do something besides stay in and watch horror movies. Of course he had only broken away from his tradition because Aziraphale had wanted to take him out to celebrate, and Crowley had never been able to say no to him.

They had gone out for a quick dinner before ending up at Crowley’s friend’s drag show, something that had surprised the red head considering it was a Monday night. Although he should have known better since it was also Halloween, and his friend was known for putting on a hell of a show for the holiday. Crowley and Aziraphale had been shown to their usual table in front of the stage, if it could even be called that. The stage was more of a cleared space outline by black tape, and surrounded by chairs and tables.

By the end of the show, Crowley found himself covered in glitter and light makeup from when his friend had dragged him out of his chair. Apparently Aziraphale had found a way to pre-arrange for the red head to be pulled on stage and done up in quick drag, and as much as Crowley wanted to be annoyed at his friend he couldn’t bring himself to be. It had been fun, but he could now safely say that drag was definitely not his scene. Of course during his “performance” he had found a way to get back at Aziraphale, and that was how the blonde found himself sporting a lipstick stain on his cheek.

All in all, it had been a fun night. So much so that Crowley ignored the bad feeling that had formed in his stomach when Aziraphale realized he had forgotten his jacket when they had reached Crowley’s car. Without saying a word, the red head had taken off back towards where they had come from.

He hadn’t been gone for more than fifteen minutes and when he came back, Aziraphale was on the ground with three men standing over him. There hadn’t been any time for Crowley to really think things through before he threw himself at the one who had slammed his foot into Aziraphale’s midsection. Everything after was a blur and Crowley couldn’t exactly recall what had happened, except that the three men had left Crowley laying on the pavement and Aziraphale standing against the brick of the building behind him. The blonde was clutching his phone and looked as if he was dialing a number.

“Isn’t…isn’t your mobile dead?” Crowley gasped as he slowly pushed himself into a sitting position, wincing at the pain in his side.

“They didn’t know that.” Aziraphale muttered before rushing to help him up. “You need a hospital.”

Crowley shook his head rapidly and instantly regretted it at the pain he felt. He didn’t feel like arguing with Aziraphale over the subject of hospitals so he simply limped towards his car, sighing when he saw the shattered sunglasses at his feet. He couldn’t even remember when that had happened. He could hear his friend yelling at him from behind and merely frowned at the taste in his mouth, spitting out blood on to the curb.

“At least my teeth are okay.” He mumbled after he ran his tongue along his teeth. “Get in, angel.”

“Crowley, you can’t seriously think you can drive.” Aziraphale rushed over to the car and pushed the door closed, glaring at Crowley.

“M’not. You are.” He said simply before pushing his keys into the blonde’s hands. “My flat’sss close. I have everything we need there.”

There was a moment as the two just looked at each other and Crowley noticed the rapidly forming bruise on Aziraphale’s jaw and the small streaks of blood coming his temple. He made a mental note to clean up Aziraphale as soon as they got into his flat, his own injuries could wait.

“We should really be going to a hospital.” The blonde muttered before he finally got into the driver’s seat, watching as Crowley slowly made his way around.

“Why? We’ll jussst get overcharged for sssomething I can do for free.” The red head pointed out once he was settled into the passenger seat, his eyes closing against the pain and nausea that was rising up. “Another unexpected gift from my parentsss.”

He didn’t need to have his eyes open to know that Aziraphale was looking at him with that tight-lipped look of annoyance. The brief drive to Crowley’s flat was made in silence, which followed them until they stumbled into the flat. Before anything could be said, the red head made his way to where he kept his first aid kit.

“Sssit down.” He told Aziraphale as he came back with the kit, placing it on the kitchen table. “It might sssting.”

“I can wait, Crowley. You need…” Aziraphale trailed off with a hiss of pain as Crowley dabbed at the small cut on his temple with an antiseptic wipe.

Crowley was glad that Aziraphale wouldn’t need stitches, although he could already see a faint bruise forming around the cut. Anger at what had happened mixed in with a sense of guilt as he wiped off the dried blood from the blonde’s face. Any protest Aziraphale gave about being cleaned up first went ignored, much to the blonde’s frustration. He carefully taped a small piece of gauze to the blonde’s temple, grateful that it seemed to be a shallow enough cut to have stop bleeding already.

“Shirt off.” The red head softly ordered.

“Crowley, this isn’t necessary.” The blonde said even as he slowly lifted his shirt, sucking in a breath of air at the slight pain.

“You’ll be sssore for a while, but nothing looksss too bad.” Crowley muttered as he looked at the red patch of skin from where Aziraphale had been kicked, his fingers running over the area to make sure nothing felt out of the ordinary.

As soon as Crowley was satisfied that no serious damage had been done to Aziraphale, the blonde quickly switched places with him and set to work. There was a bit more blood to clean off of the red head, but that wasn’t surprising to either of them considering the beating his face had taken. The worst of it was the cut above his right eyebrow that Aziraphale assumed had come from the sunglasses breaking.

“At least I put up a fight.” Crowley chuckled weakly as the blonde wiped at the open tears on his knuckles.

Instead of answering, Aziraphale gently tugged the shirt off and gasped when he saw the array of dark bruises that were already littered across his torso. Crowley just waved off the concern and went about inspecting the area, wincing slightly.

“Crowley, you should really be in the hospital.” Aziraphale said softly as he stared at him, tears gathering in his eyes.

“M’fine, angel. Nothing’sss broken, jussst bruised.” Crowley assured him as he carefully pulled his shirt back on. “’S not even that bad compared to my dad.”

“That’s not funny.”

Crowley had the decency to at least look apologetic for the poor joke. He watched in silence as Aziraphale went about wrapping his battered knuckles and dressing the cut above his eyebrow. Once Crowley was patched up, he reached into the kit for the bottle of pain relievers he kept in there and shook enough out for the both of them. The next few minutes passed by in a dragging quiet and it occurred to Crowley that everything was just finally hitting Aziraphale.

“Angel?” Crowley said softly.

When Aziraphale didn’t even look at him, the red head knew he had to be in some type of shock. Not that he blamed him; being attacked by strangers because they thought you were a certain type of way was enough to send anyone into shock.

“Aziraphale, come on.” Crowley gently touched his friend’s shoulder, giving him a reassuring smile when Aziraphale flinched slightly. “I’m taking you home.”

“No. You shouldn’t drive…” he shook his head as he trailed off.

“I’ve driven in worst conditionsss.” The red head said softly. “Besidessss, you have class in the morning, and I won’t be the reason you miss it.”

It only took a few more minutes to actually get Aziraphale to agree to let Crowley take him back to his dorm. And, for the most part, the drive had been quiet until it seemed the blonde couldn’t take it anymore.

“I know things like that happen more often than anyone would want to think about. But…it’s…it’s different. Especially when…when…” Aziraphale stopped talking when his voice cracked, and it was clear he was fighting back tears.

“When it happensss to you.” Crowley supplied.

He wanted to apologize, to let Aziraphale know how sorry he was that this had only happened to him because they were friends. But he knew that wasn’t what his friend needed to hear. Right now, Aziraphale needed someone to listen as he slowly processed what had happened. And that’s exactly what Crowley did.

“Can you…I don’t want to be alone.” Aziraphale whispered as they pulled up to the curb near his dorm building. “Can you stay?”

“Just tell me where to park.” Crowley answered because, deep down, he didn’t want to be alone either.

Twenty minutes later found both young men in the private suite Aziraphale called home during the school year. Crowley looked around and faintly smiled at how much like Aziraphale the place felt; slightly cluttered with items that were well loved to give the space a completely cozy atmosphere. He had been so busy taking everything in that he hadn’t noticed the blonde had disappeared to change, only realizing it when a shirt was being held out to him.

“It might be a little big but…it’ll be better than sleeping in that one.” Aziraphale said softly, his gaze flicking to the bloodstained one Crowley had on.

Crowley just nodded and changed shirts. In any other situation he would have chuckled at how ridiculous he probably looked wearing a shirt that was a couple sizes too big, but there was nothing funny about the moment. He watched as Aziraphale turned off the lights except for the bedside lamp before slowly climbing into the bed. The red head looked around as he tried to figure out where he was going to sleep. It seemed his only options were either the floor or the standard issued loveseat that was most likely in every room of the building.

“What are you doing?” Aziraphale’s voice cut through the dimly lit room, stopping Crowley from lowering himself on to the floor.

“Getting ready to sssleep?” Crowley hadn’t meant to sound so uncertain but there was something in the blonde’s face that told him he had made the wrong choice.

“The bed is plenty big enough for both of us.” The words were said so bluntly that Crowley couldn’t even find it in him to put up any type of argument.

There was a sort of hushed quiet that fell over them as Crowley slipped out of his jeans and if Aziraphale had any issues with Crowley laying next to him in just his boxers, he didn’t say anything. A soft click from the lamp sent the room into darkness, Crowley staring up at the ceiling as he ignored the pain in his body.

“I’m sorry.” The words were spoken so soft that Crowley was almost sure he had imagined it, but the sniffling coming from Aziraphale told him that he hadn’t imagined the words.

“For what?” Crowley asked softly as he turned his head to find the blonde curled up on his side, staring at him with guilt in his blue eyes.

“If I hadn’t forgotten my jacket, then we would have…we would have been in the car when they…” Aziraphale took a shaky breath as he tried to keep his tears from falling.

“What happened wasn’t your fault, angel. If it hadn’t been us, then it would have been sssomeone else leaving.” There was a pause as Crowley carefully turned to settle on his side, his fingers twitching with the urge to run through blonde curls. “I’m the one who should be sssorry. You were only there because of me…people only think you’re gay because you’re my friend. You don’t deserve any of thisss.”

There was just enough light coming through a window to allow Crowley to see Aziraphale shake his head rapidly. Crowley’s breath caught when he felt Aziraphale grab his hand, gently squeezing his fingers.

“You don’t deserve this either, dear. We shouldn’t be judged for who we are or who we associate with, no one should.”

Silence settled over the two of them as they lay there, occasionally offering some words of comfort until exhaustion took over and sleep claimed them. Even in sleep, Crowley was faintly aware that Aziraphale was still holding on to his hand.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Present day

I’m chemically drawn closer to you…” Crowley sang along softly with the song coming from the shop’s speakers as he focused on closing up for the night. “Will you be my future or just an escape? Love me, love me, love me. You’ll never get to heaven on a night like this.”

The bell above the front door sounded and Crowley mentally cursed for not remembering to lock up. He took a breath to prepare to let whoever had walked in know he was closed, his words dying when he looked up to see Aziraphale. The smile that had appeared was short lived once he registered the expression on his friend’s face. It was a mixture of heartbreak and anger, and suddenly it didn’t matter to the red head that it was nearly one in the morning.

“What’s wrong, angel?” he asked softly.

“Me, it seems.” Aziraphale practically scoffed before turning to lock the door.

“What…?” Crowley trailed off when the blonde turned back to look at him.

“Finish up closing and then we’ll talk.”

Amber eyes followed the other man as he walked further into the shop, making his way up the back stairs that led to Crowley’s flat. He had no idea why, but the red head had a feeling that whatever Aziraphale wanted to talk about somehow involved him and that left him a confusing feeling of dread.

It only took Crowley ten minutes to finish doing everything he needed to do. And when he walked up into his flat, Aziraphale was pacing and looking more uncertain about whatever he was thinking.

“Am I unattractive?” Aziraphale asked without looking over at Crowley.

“Wha…uh…w-w…ngk.” Crowley shook his head and tried again. “What?”

“When you look at me, do you think I’m attractive?” Aziraphale stopped pacing and turned so he was facing the red head. “Am I someone you would want to sleep with, regardless of the situation?”

Sounds that weren’t exactly words came tumbling out of the red head as his brain frantically tried to find an answer that wouldn’t give him away. He wanted to deflect the question and find out why he was being asked that, but it seemed the English language had abandoned him. Not that it mattered to Aziraphale.

“Last week I ran into Elijah, and he was dating someone new.” The blonde looked down as he wrung his hands in front of him. “We were catching up and, um…well, he said something that I’ve been thinking about since. He mentioned how his new partner was the best thing to happen to him, that it was nice being with someone that looked as good as him. Someone that turned heads wherever they went.”

Any confusion was quickly replaced by anger directed at Aziraphale’s ex-boyfriend. Of course, this would be were this conversation had stemmed from. But before Crowley could say anything, the blonde was continuing.

“And then Michael came by this afternoon and…” Aziraphale took a few breaths before he looked back up. “Are you only my friend because you want to sleep with me?”

“Do I really have to answer that?” Crowley stared at his friend; offended that Aziraphale would even ask that. “I don’t use friendship as way to shag people.”

“That’s what I told Michael, and he said something that brings me back to my point. Am I unattractive?” the blonde looked at Crowley before he started pacing again, launching into a rant before the red head could even make a sound. “Because Michael said that if you’re not using our friendship as a way to get me into bed then it’s because you don’t find me attractive. And after…after what Elijah said…what if it’s true? I mean, it’s…it’s…it’s not exactly as if I have people lining up to date me, let alone sleep with me.”

Crowley narrowed his eyes as he watched Aziraphale move back and forth. The need to go find Elijah and Michael was being overshadowed by the need to assure Aziraphale that he was, in fact, attractive. But that was hard to do when the blonde couldn’t seem to stop his rambling.

“Angel.” Crowley said as he slowly made his way towards Aziraphale.

“I know I’m not the…well, the most appealing as far as looks are concerned.” Aziraphale rambled on as if the other man hadn’t said a word.

“Aziraphale.”

Crowley let out a small growl as he was ignored; his heart breaking the more he listened to Aziraphale let out all of his self-doubt and insecurities. He closed his eyes as an idea to get his friend’s attention came to mind, taking a few deep breaths. Ignoring the hammering of his heart, Crowley grabbed Aziraphale’s wrist and pulled him over.

“What…?” Aziraphale’s words were cut off as Crowley’s lips were pressed firmly against his.

The red head pulled back after a few seconds and looked at the other man. He gave a small apologetic smile at the shocked look on the blonde’s face.

“I needed to get your attention.” Crowley explained softly, trying to pretend he didn’t notice how close they were. “You are attractive, angel. ‘S bit distracting sometimesss when I look at you. I wish you could see what I see.”

That little voice was screaming at him to stop talking but it seemed his mouth wasn’t listening. Crowley looked at Aziraphale and waited for whatever would happen next, practically holding his breath. Whatever he expected, it wasn’t the blonde reaching up to grab the collar of his shirt to pull him down for another kiss. His shock was short lived before he kissed back, his arms wrapping around Aziraphale’s waist to hold him closer.

Crowley found himself deepening the kiss at the small sound Aziraphale made in the back of his throat, his fingers tightening in the fabric of Crowley’s shirt. The red head was sure that any moment Aziraphale would push him away and sputter out some reason why the kiss shouldn’t have happened, and he was prepared to apologize for starting this whole thing in the first place.

What Crowley hadn’t been prepared for was Aziraphale’s hands pulling up the shirt he was wearing, and the red head was faintly aware that now would be the time to put the brakes on whatever was happening. Instead of pulling away, Crowley responded by pulling the hem of Aziraphale’s shirt up until it was completely untucked from his trousers.

“Bedroom.” Crowley gasped as Aziraphale moved to kiss along his jaw and down his neck.

They stumbled their way into the bedroom, losing their shirts along the way. Crowley pulled back enough to give Aziraphale a soft smile as he lightly ran his fingers along the other man’s sides, smirking at the small shiver that ran through the blonde. Crowley leaned forward to kiss him slowly as he gently backed Aziraphale towards the bed, his fingers fumbling with the blonde’s belt buckle.

There was a flurry of motion as both men worked on undressing the other; laughter filling the room as Crowley nearly fell to the floor trying to kick off his jeans. They were both down to just their boxers and Aziraphale was lying in the center of the bed, blue eyes avoiding Crowley and it was clear that the insecurities were still weighing on the blonde.

“You’re perfect, angel.” Crowley said fiercely, slowly moving to cover Aziraphale’s body with his. “Every sssingle inch of you is perfection.”

“You don’t have to flatter me, Crowley.” Aziraphale blushed, squirming slightly when he felt the red head’s lips slowly trail down his body.

“Not flattery. ‘S fact.” Crowley mumbled against him, his fingers hooking in the waistband of Aziraphale’s boxers.

Amber eyes focused on Aziraphale’s face as Crowley slowly pulled off the last piece of the blonde’s clothing, looking for any sign that Aziraphale wanted to stop. Seeing no trace of second-guessing, the red head tossed Aziraphale’s boxers over his shoulder and teasingly ran his tongue along the underside of the blonde’s erection. He smirked slightly at the sharp intake of breath from Aziraphale, taking the other man into his mouth.

He kept his ministrations slow and teasing, enjoyment dancing in his eyes at the reactions he was coaxing out of Aziraphale. Crowley let out a moan at the feeling of Aziraphale’s fingers tugging on his hair, his own hands running up the blonde’s thighs to grab at his hips.

From the way Aziraphale’s body was shuddering and the sounds he was making, it was clear that he wanted more from Crowley. And as much as the red head wanted to move right along, he felt the need to prove to Aziraphale exactly how perfect he thought the blonde was. And the only way he knew how to do that was by taking his time and worshipping the body under him.

“Crowley…” Aziraphale moaned softly. “Please.”

Crowley slowly lifted his head and just smirked up at the other man before turning just enough to gently nip at the inside of Aziraphale’s thigh. The little yelp of pleasure the action received went straight to Crowley’s already hard cock.

“Patience, angel.” He murmured as his kissed and nipped his way up Aziraphale’s thigh. “I have a lot of terrible thoughtsss to erase from that pretty head of yoursss.”

A shiver of excitement moved through Aziraphale and Crowley placed a soft kiss on his hip. The next several moments were pure torture of the best kind for Aziraphale as the red head mapped every inch of his body with his mouth and hands. Crowley delighted in the way the other man responded to his touches, chuckling every now and then whenever Aziraphale practically whined about not being able to touch him.

“Thisss is about you, not me.” Crowley reminded him as he reached towards his bedside table; fishing in the drawer for the small bottle of lube he kept in there.

If Crowley had thought the moans and sighs Aziraphale made earlier were intoxicating, he found those noises were nothing compared to the ones the blonde made as Crowley worked a finger into him. While he slowly moved his finger, Crowley took Aziraphale back into his mouth and amusement shined in his eyes at the absolute pleasure on the blonde’s face. Aziraphale’s hands flew to the back of Crowley’s head as a second finger joined the first.

By the time Crowley had finally entered Aziraphale, the blonde was a heaving wreck and so very close to his orgasm. Not that Crowley was faring much better despite how calm and collected he appeared. He stroked the other man’s chest slightly as he held still, letting the blonde adjust as well as trying to regain control of his own body.

“Alright?” Crowley asked softly after a moment as he looked for any sign of pain on Aziraphale’s face.

“If you don’t start moving, Crowley…I will punch you.” Aziraphale threatened, although the slight breathlessness took away from the threat.

Crowley just chuckled as he kissed Aziraphale deeply, his hips starting a slow pace. If he had been with anyone else then Crowley would have been nothing but hard thrusts, would have been the right amount of rough and passion as he chased after pleasure. But he wasn’t with anyone else, he was with Aziraphale and the blonde deserved much more then a fast, hard shag.

So the red head took his time, doing everything he could to give Aziraphale as much pleasure as he could handle and then some more. A low groan escaped Crowley as he felt Aziraphale gently bite his neck, his hips bucking forward enough to cause the other man drop his head and moan loudly. It amazed Crowley just how well the fit together, how in tune they seemed to be with each other and it made everything that much more exciting.

“Crowley…” Aziraphale panted as his body writhed on the bed, his nails digging into Crowley’s back.

“That’sss it, angel.” Crowley whispered before nipping at his ear lobe. “Let go. I’ve got you.”

If there were only thing Crowley could experience for the rest of his life, he would have it be watching (and feeling) Aziraphale fall over that orgasmic edge. The sound of his name leaving the blonde spurred him to chase after his own release that, in the process, brought more pleasure to Aziraphale.

Crowley had wanted everything to last; after all he wasn’t sure if he would get this chance again. But that kind of control had been difficult to maintain at the moment and judging by the look of Aziraphale, he wasn’t exactly upset with the where things were heading. The blonde let out a small moan at the sound of Crowley growling his name as he found his release, the red head’s fingers gripping the bed sheets tight enough that neither of them would have been surprised if they had ripped.

Before Crowley had the chance to move to Aziraphale’s side, the blonde pulled him down for another kiss. The need for air was the only reason Crowley pulled back and he took the moment to take in the other man’s face. He wanted to commit everything about what had happened to memory.

“Be right back.” He whispered as he carefully pulled out of Aziraphale, smirking at the small whimper the blonde had let out at the loss.

Once the condom had been taken care of, Crowley returned to his bed with a warm washcloth and carefully cleaned Aziraphale. He looked up when he heard a soft chuckle and quirked an eyebrow.

“This is very intimate.” Aziraphale explained, his fingers running through Crowley’s hair.

“And what we just did wasn’t?” the red head smirked as he finished up what he was doing.

“I just…well, I didn’t expect it.”

They shared a quick smile before Crowley dropped the washcloth on to the bedside table before he settled on to his back. He was somewhat surprised when Aziraphale moved to his side, his head resting on Crowley’s shoulder before softly kissing his collarbone. Crowley couldn’t help the happy little sigh that left him as he soaked in the moment, his right arm wrapped around Aziraphale so he could lightly stroke the blonde’s side.

Tell him. You wanted a perfect moment, and one is being served to you on a silver platter.’ That voice in the back of his mind told him.

“How wasss it?” were the words that left Crowley instead.

Coward.’

“Beyond anything I’ve imagined.” Aziraphale said softly, his own fingers running along Crowley’s chest and stomach.

“You’ve imagined?” Crowley angled his head so he could look at the blonde.

“Of course I have.” Aziraphale propped himself up enough so he could look at the red head properly. “It’s a bit hard not to when it seemed as if you had slept with everyone you knew.”

Amber eyes playfully rolled even as a small blush appeared on Crowley’s face. Aziraphale laughed softly before kissing the corner on his mouth as he slowly moved to straddle Crowley. There was a sense of contentment that fell over the two as Aziraphale looked down at Crowley, his fingers continuing their task of stroking his chest. Crowley smiled up at Aziraphale while his own hands moved up and down his sides.

“Thank you, dear.” Aziraphale’s voice was soft, almost as if he was afraid of scaring away the moment.

“For what?” Crowley asked just as softly.

“For trying to cheer me up.” The blonde smirked at the small gasp when his fingers brushed over Crowley’s nipples. “For trying to make me feel good about my body, I mean.”

“I didn’t succeed? We can’t have that, angel.”

Aziraphale yelped as Crowley deftly rolled until Aziraphale was under him once more, his legs wrapped around Crowley’s hips. The sound of laughter followed the yelp and the red head set to kiss away the look of annoyance on the blonde’s face, a moan joining the laughter when Crowley’s teeth nipped at Aziraphale’s lower lip.

“You are absolutely beautiful, Aziraphale.” Crowley whispered as he looked at the other man, trying to convey what he really wanted to say with his eyes. “And I will keep you up all night until you believe me.”

“Would that be such a bad thing? Keeping me up all night?”

Crowley found himself on his back again before he could even open his mouth to reply, groaning softly at the feeling of Aziraphale’s lip making their way down his throat. He knew he should stop things before it was too late, wanting to make it clear to Aziraphale that what they had done actually meant something to him. And if he was going to do that then he needed to do it now before Aziraphale’s wonderful mouth moved any lower.

“Angel…” Crowley gasped as he ran his fingers through the soft blonde curls.

Aziraphale looked up from the spot on Crowley’s hip he had just playfully nipped, his blue eyes shining with excitement. Crowley swallowed and took a few breaths to collect his thoughts, which was admittedly rather difficult with Aziraphale’s fingers ghosting along his hardening cock.

I love you, it isn’t that hard to say.’ His brain yelled as he stared at the blonde.

“You can’t get mad at me when you realize how exhausted you are later on.” Crowley said instead with a smirk, despite the feeling of guilt that settled in his chest.

“I won’t. If you can actually keep me up all night, that is.” Aziraphale smirked before moving between Crowley’s legs and taking his semi-hard erection into his mouth.

“Bastard.” Crowley moaned, his fingers tightening in Aziraphale’s hair.

Chapter Text

July 2012

“What do you think, angel?” Crowley grinned as he held his arm out for Aziraphale to see.

“What, exactly, am I looking at?” Aziraphale asked as he took in the small tattoo that rest on the inside of Crowley’s right arm, just above the elbow. “I mean I know it’s a tattoo. But…um, what is it of?”

“One of my favorite horror moviesss.” The red head said as he looked at the simple outline of a lollipop designed to look like a jack-o-lantern, a bite mark showing towards the top. “Makesss a nice addition, yeah?”

Crowley watched as Aziraphale studied the newest tattoo and he suddenly found himself nervous that his friend might not like it. He couldn’t help but notice a few passer-bys stare at them, and that only added to the red head’s nervousness. Of course he wasn’t sure why he was worried about Aziraphale not liking the small design; if there was a tattoo that would cause problems with the blonde it would be one of the few occult designs on his arm.

“Why does it have the number thirteen?” blue eyes looking up from the tattoo.

“Friday the 13th. The shop did a ssspecial for flash tattoosss.” Crowley explained as he finally lowered his arm, giving a shy smile. “I designed this one, ssso…”

“Well, I like it. Even before I knew you designed it, dear.” Aziraphale gave him that soft smile and Crowley returned it with one of his own. “Why did you want to meet at the park?”

“’S rare I get a Saturday off. Figured we could ssspend it together. If you want, that isss.”

Aziraphale gave a small huff and somehow managed to give Crowley the most annoyed smile. Crowley just shrugged and shoved his hands into his pockets, turning his head to the small group of ducks that were waddling over towards them.

“Of course I want to spend the day with you, dear. To be honest, I’m offended you’d think otherwise.” Aziraphale pointed out before turning towards the ducks, giving them a small wave.

“They just want food, angel. Greedy little thingsss.” Crowley muttered even as he smiled at one of the smaller ducks that approached him. “Sssorry, duck duck. No food today.”

“You do know the ducks don’t know a word of what you’re saying, yes?”

Crowley turned to look at Aziraphale, his mouth slightly open in shock. He bit back his smile at the sound of his friend’s giggle when he looked at the red head.

“Rude, angel. ‘Course they know what I’m sssaying. They do have earsss.” Crowley looked back at the ducks, his eyes narrowing behind his sunglasses. “Do you have earsss? You must have otherwise you couldn’t hear the othersss.”

“Are you really talking to a duck?” Aziraphale asked softly, shaking his head when Crowley nodded. “You are absolutely ridiculous.”

Crowley simply gave a toothy grin before shrugging. The two spent a few more hours in the park, alternating between walking around and stretching out somewhere in the grass as they enjoyed the nice weather. Crowley had even bought Aziraphale an ice cream, which earned a little wiggle of happiness from the blonde.

“Sometimes you’re too good to me, dear.” Aziraphale said softly as he walked next to Crowley.

“Well, we’re best friendsss. How else am I supposed to treat you?” Crowley asked with an amused smile.

“I don’t think best friends really describe our relationship anymore.” Aziraphale pointed out as he glanced at Crowley. “We’re more than that, and we have been for a while.”

Crowley’s eyes narrowed slightly as he tried to figure out exactly what Aziraphale meant, his heart skipping when he felt the blonde’s fingers brush against his. Before anything more could be said about the subject, Aziraphale started talking about the latest novel he had started reading and Crowley couldn’t bring himself to cut in on his friend’s excitement.

By the time they had left the park, the sun had disappeared behind a cluster of grey clouds and both men had decided to grab a late lunch from the Thai place nearby. Lunch had gone on as normal whenever they went out, the only exception being the way Crowley would catch Aziraphale looking at him whenever he thought the red head wasn’t paying attention. It wasn’t the looking so much that was out of the normal, but the expression on the blonde’s face that had grabbed Crowley’s attention.

Maybe that had always been how Aziraphale had looked at him, and he had just never noticed. That wouldn’t have exactly surprised Crowley if that were the case, many of his past casual relationships had pointed out how he had been a little slow on realizing certain things. Although if that was the case, then why was he now noticing it?

Might have something to do with how weird Aziraphale’s been acting today.’ A little voice pointed out, and Crowley found himself agreeing with the voice when he thought about the curious things his friend had said.

“Oh! I forgot to tell you!” Aziraphale’s voice dragged Crowley out of his thoughts. “I heard back about the graduate program I had applied for.”

“And?” Crowley looked at Aziraphale from where he sat next to him.

“I got in.” the blonde said with a bright smile.

“Angel, that…that’sss fantastic!” the red head grinned as he fought the urge to pull Aziraphale towards him. “I told you you’d get accepted.”

“Yes, you did.” Aziraphale said softly as his hand moved to rest on Crowley’s forearm.

Crowley’s gaze darted to his arm and swallowed slightly. This was definitely new; they hardly touched unless they had been drinking, and even then their touches didn’t hold any sense of intimacy the way Aziraphale’s hand resting on his forearm did. He refocused his gaze on Aziraphale and felt his stomach do that stupid little flip at the way the blonde was looking at him.

What the hell is going?’ he practically screamed inside his head.

“We…we have to celebrate, angel.” Crowley finally said before getting their server’s attention. “Whatever you want to do, we’ll do it.”

“How about a movie and then dinner later on?” Aziraphale suggested, removing his hand to grab his wallet when their bill was brought back.

Their conversation took a slight detour as Crowley brought out his wallet, insisting on paying for their lunch. The small back and forth brought a little bit of comfort to Crowley, considering this always happened whenever they went out to eat. In the end Aziraphale had given in and put his own wallet away, Crowley smirking in triumph at having won the little argument.

“I’m paying for the movie then.” Aziraphale said as they made their way out of the restaurant.

“No you’re not. Everything today is my treat.” Crowley insisted, putting on a show of ignoring his friend’s protests. “You’re not paying for a sssingle thing, angel.”

Aziraphale huffed as he glared at the red head. Crowley merely grinned and led Aziraphale towards his car.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

True to his word Crowley had paid for everything, much to Aziraphale’s annoyance. They had ended up seeing two movies since Aziraphale had been conflicted on which one he wanted to see more. The first had been a musical and Crowley hadn’t been surprised that Aziraphale wanted to see it considering his love for musicals, but Crowley’s interest had been caught when his friend told him that it was all rock music from the 80s. The second would have been considered an independent film and carried more of an emotional tone to it. While both had been love stories, Crowley had clearly stated he preferred the first movie simply because of the soundtrack. Although he had really enjoyed the second film, not that he would admit it out loud.

After the unexpected double feature, they had made had made their way to one of Aziraphale’s favorite sushi restaurants. Conversation about the movies had been halted as Crowley drove them to dinner and he couldn’t help the grin at the way the blonde braced himself against the dashboard. It seemed no matter how many times he let Crowley drive him around, Aziraphale still wasn’t used to the way the car sped along the streets and weaved through traffic.

“One of these days you’re going to get pulled over, or get into a crash.” Aziraphale said as he tried to regain control of his breathing, straightening out his bow tie.

“Nah. Want to know why?” Crowley drawled as he locked up the car, smirking at the curious look on Aziraphale’s face. “Because I will everything to be okay.”

“You know that’s not how things actually work?” the blonde huffed as he followed Crowley towards the restaurant.

“’S worked ssso far.”

Dinner had pass by in the same fashion as lunch had, and that did nothing to clear up the confusion Crowley had been feeling since that afternoon. And then he felt ridiculous for even being confused because, really, nothing was all that different from any other day he spent with Aziraphale.

Except for the looks, and the touching. And the comments.’ That voice was back, and Crowley tried to shut it down before it said what he was trying not to think about.

They spent the rest of their meal talking about whatever came to mind, although Aziraphale did most of the talking while Crowley listened to him. If it wasn’t for the sunglasses hiding his eyes, Crowley knew that the other man would have seen the complete adoration in his amber eyes as Aziraphale talked excitedly about having gotten in to his graduate program.

“Thank you for tonight. For everything, really.” Aziraphale said nearly an hour after they had arrived, both men slowly walking towards Crowley’s car.

“Don’t thank me, angel.” Crowley grumbled as he gave a playful scowl.

“But I have to. Ever since we met…since I started coming by the pub more often, you’ve been…well, you’ve been nothing but kind to me.” Aziraphale stopped walking and turned to look at the red head, his expression making it clear that he didn’t want to do their usual banter. “You put up with my rambling, indulge me in whatever silly thought I have…I meant it earlier when I said you’re too good to me.”

“’S nothing, angel. Really.” Crowley shrugged before turning to continue walking.

He only stopped when he felt Aziraphale’s fingers wrap around his wrist, gently pulling him back.

“I’m being serious, Crowley. I don’t want you to think that I don’t notice what you do for me because I do.” The blonde said as he gave that soft smile again. “You’re more than my best friend.”

Crowley looked Aziraphale and felt his breath catch in his throat. He was completely aware of the fact that the other man was still holding on to him, and suddenly all he could think about was all the little moments they had shared for nearly three years; all the little moments that made the red head question how the blonde really felt towards about him. Amber eyes flicked down just in time to notice Aziraphale run his tongue over his lower lip.

Just kiss him. He’s been giving hints all day.’ That little voice whispered in the back of his mind.

He took a deep breath and stepped forward. Before he could talk himself out of what he was about to do, Crowley quickly leaned down and captured Aziraphale’s lips with his own. He was faintly aware of how his fantasies didn’t compare to the reality of kissing Aziraphale, his heart slamming against his chest when he realized the blonde was kissing back.

But as quickly as it had happened, it ended with Aziraphale leaning back slightly. This was it; this was the moment that he had been waiting for since he realized he had fallen hard for the blonde. Crowley stared at him from behind his sunglasses and held his breath, waiting for what would happen next.

“What are you doing, Crowley?” Aziraphale asked softly.

“What…I’m…I’m kissing you. Obviously.” Crowley said with a slight nervous chuckle.

“I know that. I just meant…um, why?”

Crowley swallowed and took a step back. He looked at Aziraphale in the hopes that the blonde was trying to get a rise out of him for some reason, but the confusion on his face told Crowley that he was being serious.

“Because…be…because that’sss what people do when they like each other, angel.” Crowley explained as he tried to ignore the way his heart was hammering, although it was for an entirely different reason now. “It’s what two people do when they date. Or…or…or want to anyway.”

“Crowley, I’m…” Aziraphale started. “I’m sorry. I can’t…I can’t do this with you. Not right now, at least.”

“Can’t do what?” the red head asked.

“This. Whatever it is you want to do.” The blonde sighed as he motioned between the both of them. “I’m just not like you. Not matter how much I want to be, I just…I can’t.”

Crowley took a deep breath and shook his head slight, turning his gaze to the pavement. He wanted to be angry but how could he when he had known that Aziraphale was straight, when it was suddenly clear to him that he had just been projecting his own feelings.

“If people knew…if people thought that we were…” at those words, Crowley found it in himself to become slightly angry.

“People already think that about you, Aziraphale!” Crowley snapped as he looked up at his friend. “You got jumped because strangerssss thought you were like me. Your own siblingsss think we’re together, and they’re right, in a sssense. What we’ve been doing is basssically dating.”

“Yes, I’m aware of all that.” Aziraphale stared at Crowley. “So I don’t see why things have to change between us.”

“Because you either want to date me, or you don’t.” the red head ran his fingers through his hair. “I don’t want to be the friend in your life, the one who’s good enough to do all that with but not good enough for you to call it what it isss.”

“Even if…even if I could say…” the blonde took a deep breath and looked at Crowley, somehow managing to look him in the eyes despite the dark lenses. “I could lose everything if I even hinted…do you realize that? My family, the church…”

“I am well aware of what can be lost, or do I need to show you the bloody scarsss on my back again?” Crowley hissed.

They stood there for a moment, Aziraphale trying to hold back tears while Crowley tried to calm himself down. A soft sigh left Crowley when Aziraphale turned away slightly.

“I wish I could…I want to, Crowley. You have to believe me.” Aziraphale whispered. “But I can’t. Not right now. Maybe…in a year.”

“A year?” Crowley scoffed before shaking his head. “I hid who I was for yearsss, and I was missserable. I won’t hide again just because you asked me to.”

“It’s too soon for me, Crowley. I’m sorry.” Aziraphale looked back at Crowley, his voice breaking slightly.

“Ssso am I.”

Silence filled the void between them, and Crowley found himself wishing he could take everything back. After all, things had been fine before. It wasn’t ideal to be hopelessly in love with his straight friend, but he had been fine with how things were for the entire course of their friendship. And now he had given himself away and there was no turning back.

“I’m going to get a cab. I’ll talk to you later, Crowley.” Aziraphale broke the tension.

That was it, that was his sign that he had ruined everything. Crowley just nodded before turning and stalking towards his car, completely missing the heartbroken look on Aziraphale’s face. The red head paused for a moment in the hopes that the blonde would have followed him. But when he saw Aziraphale slowly walking away through the rearview mirror, he started the car and quickly tore out on to the street.

It was too quiet in the car and Crowley growled softly. He turned on the radio, wanting to be distracted from his thoughts.

Love of my life, don’t leave me. You’ve stolen my love, now you desert me…” Crowley’s grip on the steering wheel as the car filled with the soft singing. “Don’t take it away from me because you don’t know what it means to me.”

Another soft growl escaped before the red head violently turned off the radio. He had a feeling turning to music was only going to serve to remind him of what had happened. So instead he made his way towards a bar, planning to drink as a way to forget the night’s events.

And if he happened to leave with a stranger who had blonde hair and blue eyes, well that would just be a coincidence.

Chapter Text

A small groan filled the bedroom as Crowley rolled over on to his back, his eyes slowly opening to stare at the ceiling. It took him a few seconds to look towards his right and a small wave of disappointment hit him when he didn’t see Aziraphale sleeping next to him.

Of course he’s gone. Probably realized it had been a mistake.’ That little voice said darkly.

If it wasn’t for the familiar ache of his body, Crowley almost would have believed that everything had been a rather exciting dream. In fact, he almost wished it had all been a dream; at least that way he wouldn’t have been so hurt waking up alone. He dragged his hand down his face before twisting and turning until he felt his lower back pop, sighing as the pressure was relieved.

It only took a few minutes for Crowley to run through his normal routine of stretching his body until certain areas gave in with loud pops. He could already tell that it was going to be a more difficult day as far as his body was concerned, the dull pain in his lower back and knee already throbbing. Shaking his head slightly, Crowley pulled himself out of bed and set about putting on black pajama pants and a plain grey shirt.

By the time he had brushed his teeth, he was faintly aware of the soft grumbling in his stomach. Crowley narrowed his eyes as the smell of bacon greeted him as he walked out from the back of the flat, the soft sounds of one of his Queen records filling the area.

“What the…?” Crowley tilted his head in confusion when he saw Aziraphale in the kitchen. “What are you doing?”

When I grow older I will be there by your side to remind you,” amber eyes snapped towards the record player as he finally realized what song was currently playing. “How I still love you. I still love you.”

“Oh!” Aziraphale jumped slightly before turning around with a smile, and Crowley was almost sure he was imagining the way his eyes lit up. “You’re up.”

Crowley wanted nothing more than to quickly turn off the music but he figured that would cause questions, and right now he had his own questions he wanted answers to. He swallowed and slowly walked towards the kitchen, wincing slightly at the slight shock of pain on his left side.

“What are you doing?” Crowley asked again.

“I’m making breakfast.” Aziraphale chuckled as he turned back to his cooking. “Although it should be considered an early lunch at this point.”

Crowley looked to the digital clock on the stove and let out a small chuckle when he read that it was five minutes until noon. That would explain why he felt as if he hadn’t gotten any sleep; it hadn’t been until just a little after six in the morning that the two had finally given in to their exhaustion and fell asleep.

“Seemsss I didn’t exhaust you then.” Crowley yawned before running fingers through his sleep tussled hair.

“Oh no, you did. But hunger overrides exhaustion for me.” Aziraphale said he looked over his shoulder with a small smile. “I would have woken you up but you looked so peaceful.”

Crowley felt the tips of his ears heat up and he rubbed the back of his neck. For a brief moment, he allowed himself to picture this becoming a daily routine; Crowley waking up to find Aziraphale making breakfast in just his undershirt and a pair of boxers, music playing in the background as the red head watched the blonde. He mentally shook away the image and shifted his weight as he tried to find the words to say what he needed to say.

“I supposed you want to talk about what happened, but let’s eat first.” Aziraphale said softly, glancing over at Crowley. “Or do you typically not eat with the person you slept with?”

“W-w-why do you ask that?” Crowley narrowed his eyes slight as he watched the other man put scrambled eggs and a few strips of bacon on two plates.

“I don’t know exactly how this works, Crowley. You’re the expert in this area.” Aziraphale handed one of the plates to Crowley before they both made their way to the kitchen table.

“You don’t know how a morning after shagging worksss? Did you and Elijah never have sssex?”

Crowley smirked at the annoyed look on Aziraphale’s face, the look that it seemed only he ever received. They sat down on opposite sides of the table and the red head merely watched as the blonde closed his eyes, taking in the smell of his breakfast. Aziraphale gave a small wiggle before he took a bite of his eggs while Crowley snapped off some of his bacon, popping the small piece into his mouth.

“I merely meant that I don’t know how you go about sleeping with someone you’re not in a relationship with.” Aziraphale said after a moment, almost as if there hadn’t been a pause in their conversation. “Casual sex has always been your domain.”

“What makesss you think thisss was casual?” Crowley asked as he kept his eyes focused on his plate.

He felt his heart pounding against his chest as he pushed his eggs around with his fork. A part of him knew it would be better if he just came right out and told Aziraphale how he felt, but he was afraid of a repeat performance of the last time he told the blonde how he felt. And this was his chance to at least avoid the embarrassment of revealing his feelings only to find out they weren’t return.

“Well, I know you don’t do relationships.” Aziraphale said slowly. “Which is why we should talk about what happened, I suppose. To make sure we’re on the same page with how to move forward.”

Crowley glanced up and felt his heart drop slightly. He had hoped that he could get a sense of what Aziraphale was feeling by looking at him, but the blonde held a somewhat blank expression; not even his eyes gave anything away. How the hell was he supposed to confess how he felt when the other man gave nothing away?

“I just…well, I don’t want one of us thinking it was one thing when it was something else entirely.” Crowley felt his heart free fall into his stomach at the words.

“We don’t need to talk about what happens, Aziraphale.” Crowley said softly as he looked back at his plate. “Nothing has to change between us.”

“Um, right. Of…of course not.” Aziraphale said, and had Crowley been looking he would have seen the hurt on Aziraphale’s face. “I’m sure we’re not the first, uh…the first friends to fall into bed together. Especially when emotions were running high as they were.”

Crowley kept his gaze down as he tried to hide the disappointment he felt. He had been hoping Aziraphale would have something to disagree with him.

“Exactly. It doesn’t have to mean anything.” The red head looked up briefly. “Unless you want it to?”

“No, no. Um, same page and all that.” Aziraphale said with a brief smile.

“Good. Glad we talked then.” Crowley nodded before taking a few bites of his eggs.

A silence filled the flat as Crowley pushed around his eggs, occasionally nibbling on a strip of bacon. He glanced up to find Aziraphale thoroughly enjoying his breakfast, and the red head couldn’t help but smile at the joy on the blonde’s face.

But I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me…” the record player continued play and Crowley tried to focus on the song to keep his mind preoccupied. “Spare him his life from this monstrosity. Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?”

Crowley was well aware that he should still tell Aziraphale the truth, to just lay everything out for the blonde to see and deal with the aftermath. But at the same time he didn’t want to scare Aziraphale and end up losing his best friend once again. He didn’t think he would survive not having the other man in his life again. Although Crowley wasn’t sure how he could go on now that he knew what it was like to be inside Aziraphale, to know what it the blonde looked like at the moment of pure ecstasy.

Amber eyes dropped down when he realized he had been staring; luckily, Aziraphale had been wrapped up in enjoying his food that he hadn’t seemed to notice. Crowley shifted in his seat slightly and tried to ignore the hours old memories.

Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me…” normally music had always helped Crowley keep focus and calm down, but it seemed to be doing anything but at the moment. “So you think you can love me and leave me to die? Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby!”

Without saying anything, Crowley pushed himself up from his chair and pushed his unfinished plate towards Aziraphale. He just shrugged when Aziraphale looked up, his question in his blue eyes.

“I’m not really hungry.” Crowley simply said, although the truth was he couldn’t stand sitting across from him when all he could think about was kissing him again.

“You never seem to be hungry.” Aziraphale pointed out even as he took the plate.

“Call it a gift.” The red head smirked before making his way towards the record player in order to change what was being played.

“More like a curse.” There was a tone of teasing in the blonde’s voice.

Crowley chuckled and shook his head, looking through the collection of records he had started a little over a decade ago. He felt relief hit him at the teasing in Aziraphale’s voice; at least their friendship didn’t seem to be ruined in some way by the casual sex. He grabbed an album and quickly changed the records, adjusting the volume just as the new song began playing.

I’m sorry for everything, oh, everything I’ve done…” Crowley couldn’t help but smirk as he felt Aziraphale’s eyes on him at the change music. “I can’t have you and I’m only gonna do you wrong. Oh, I’m gonna mess this up. Oh, this is just my luck. Over and over and over again.”

Crowley turned around and smirked at the way Aziraphale’s brow was furrowed. That little voice in the back of his head was yelling at him for the album choice as the lyrics filled the flat, but he couldn’t help but agree. There wasn’t anything he could do about it now, however. Changing the record so soon might seem too suspicious given the context of the lyrics with what had happened between them.

“I know this song.” Aziraphale said before finishing up the last bite of egg. “In fact, I rather like this band.”

“What? You know modern music without my influence?” Crowley teased as he slowly made his way towards the kitchen. “I’m a bit impressed.”

Aziraphale rolled his eyes before following him into the kitchen before setting about cleaning up. The two fell into a quick rhythm of working around each other as they cleaned up the area Aziraphale had used to cook and for a second Crowley allowed himself to indulge in imagining that this would become a daily occurrence, despite the fact that the blonde next to him had wanted to keep it casual.

“You might want to think about wearing a collar for the next few days.” Aziraphale softly as a soft blush appeared on his cheeks. “I seem to have gotten…um, a bit carried away.”

“I’d say the same thing but you already wear collared shirts.” Crowley said as his eyes took in the marks he had left on Aziraphale’s neck, knowing that his own neck most likely looked the same.

They shared a brief smile and Crowley found his mind wandering to the images of all the other marks he left on Aziraphale that were hidden by his clothing. He ran his fingers through his hair and turned away, pausing at the stab of pain in his lower back. Luckily he didn’t have anything planned until Sunday dinner, so that would give him some time to rest up.

“I don’t think we should let this happen again.” Aziraphale’s sudden statement caused Crowley to spin back around.

“What?” he asked as his eyes narrowed slightly.

“Sleeping with each other, I don’t think we should let it happen again.” The blonde clarified.

If there had been any shred of doubt that Aziraphale could have wanted more, it had been effectively laid to rest with a simple sentence. Crowley swallowed as he let the words sink in. This would be the time for him to speak up and say something; maybe not admit that he was desperately in love with Aziraphale, but that he wanted more than just a one time, no strings attracted shag.

And there’s always time to change your mine. Oh, love, can you hear me?” the music continued in the background and Crowley tried to find the courage to say something.

“Yeah, n-n...no…um, I…I agree.” Crowley fumbled over his words and he wanted nothing more than to kick himself.

Oh, I shot, shot, shot a hole through every single thing that I loved.” It seemed as if the music was suddenly mocking him, and Crowley wanted nothing more than to slap his past self for picking that album. “Let me make it up to you...”

“I just don’t want this to become a situation where…where one of us gets attached, and then our friendship is ruined.” Aziraphale rushed to explain as he turned his face to look at the floor. “You mean so much to me, Crowley, and I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you again.”

Crowley nodded and rubbed the back of his neck. He took a small breath and managed a small smile just Aziraphale looked back up at him.

“I know what you mean.” The red head said softly, hoping that the heartbreak was nowhere to be seen on his face. “I, um…I should wash up and get ready for the day.”

“Right, I need to do the same.” Aziraphale nodded and gave a small smile of his own. “I’ll see you at Madame Tracy’s for dinner?”

“’Course you will. I mean, you ssstill want me to pick you up, yeah?” Crowley wanted to cringe at how uncertain he had sounded.

“Of course, I do.” Aziraphale assured. “I just wasn’t sure if you…well, I wasn’t sure if you had changed your mind.”

Crowley swallowed and gently shook his head before giving a reassuring smile. His fingers twitched at the sudden urge to grab Aziraphale’s hand but he moved to slightly tug at his own earlobe, a nervous habit he hadn’t done in years.

“No. I didn’t know if you had changed your mind after…well, I wasss being ssstupid.”

“No you weren’t.” Aziraphale said softly before moving out of the kitchen. “I’ll just get dressed and leave you to your day.”

Before Crowley could say anything, Aziraphale had already disappeared into the bedroom and reemerged a few moments later completely dressed. They shared a quick goodbye and the red head found himself alone in his flat. He sighed softly and slowly walked towards the back, looking forward to the hot shower he was about to take.

Crowley stripped out of the pajamas he had thrown on once he had the water running. He looked at his reflection and took in the scratches, love bites, and small bruises that stood out against his pale skin, smiling at the memories each mark triggered. The smile was short lived as his mind reminded him of the conversation that had just happened, and he quickly moved into the shower.

“I’m a complete fucking idiot.” He whispered to himself as he stood under the spray.

As much as he wanted to take back what he had said to Aziraphale, he knew it wouldn’t do him any good to admit anything. It had been made clear that Aziraphale didn’t want to pursue anything further and, deep down, Crowley didn’t blame him. He hadn’t been enough for Aziraphale to come out for, so it was really no surprise that he wasn’t enough for Aziraphale to want beyond an unexpected, emotional fuck.

Crowley shook his head and reached for his shampoo. It didn’t do anything to think about what had happened and what would never happen, he just needed to accept it and move on. Again.

Because that worked out so well for you last time,’ that voice muttered.

Crowley let out a small growl as he worked the shampoo into his hair. He was determined to let go of his hopeless desire to be anything more than Aziraphale’s best friend, even if he had to lie to himself about getting over the blonde. After all, he had done for seven years so there was no reason why he couldn’t do it again.

You hadn’t made love to him before,’

He was really starting to hate his inner voice and he stepped back under the water, ignoring all the logical reasons why he wouldn’t be able to let go of his feelings for Aziraphale. Crowley went about his normal routine before just staying under the spray after his body wash had been rinsed off, enjoying the sting of the hot water working wonders on his sore body.

Eventually he shut off the water and set about getting ready for the day, sitting down on his couch with his sketchpad once he was fully dressed. The record player continued to play music in the background but Crowley wasn’t paying it any attention as he started drawing, deciding to start on designs for his next personal tattoo.

Chapter Text

Crowley sighed softly as he connected his phone to the wireless speaker he kept in his kitchen, wanting to just get lost in the shuffle of music instead of putting on one of his records. He had some time before Anathema showed up for Girls’ Night which meant he had plenty of time to think of a convincing one night stand story.

Dinner the night before had been an interesting affair, to say the least. Crowley hadn’t even tried to cover up the marks on his neck because he knew wearing a collared shirt would make everyone immediately suspicious, and luckily he had gotten Anathema to keep from saying anything the entire night. The only mention of his neck had come from Madame Tracy, who had pointed out that the young man he had been with must have been special for Crowley to have such visible marks. The red head had noticed the blush on Aziraphale’s face at the statement, but it seemed he was the only one.

The rest of Sunday evening had gone on as normal, and Crowley was glad that there didn’t seem to be any sort of awkwardness between him and Aziraphale. But nearly twelve hours later and he hadn’t even thought about the lie he was going to tell Anathema; he couldn’t tell her that he had slept with Aziraphale because that would just lead to him reliving that heartbreak all over again.

He selected the shuffle button on the music app and set the phone down. Amber eyes stared at the small selection of liquor bottles that made up his mini-bar as he considered pouring a glass while he waited for Anathema to come over. Crowley shook his head when he realized that would only make her even more suspicious that something had happened.

It’s strange what desire can make foolish people do…” Crowley sighed softly as he walked towards the bookshelf that held his movie collection, humming along to the lyrics that came from the speaker. “No, I don’t want to fall in love with you. What a wicked game you played to make me feel this way. What a wicked thing to do to make me dream of you.”

Just as he settled on a few movies to pick from, the sound of his door opening drew his attention. And even though he knew it was Anathema, there was a small part of him that (foolishly) hoped Aziraphale would be the one walking through the door. He gave the young woman a smile just as she crossed through the threshold.

“You’re here early.” He pointed out as he went back to looking at the movie. “Wine’sss in the fridge already.”

“Tell me what’s going on, Crowley.” Anathema shut the door behind her and walked over to him.

“Why’d you think anything isss going on?” Crowley scanned the shelves, refusing to look over at the American.

“Because you have hickeys all over your neck, for starters.”

Crowley swallowed slightly before turning to look at his friend, giving her a smirk. He just hoped that she would buy the lie he was about to give her.

“I had a one night ssstand, obviously.” He made sure to keep eye contact, knowing that she would figure out the lie if he looked away. “I had a bit of sexual tension built up and met up with some bloke from one of those appsss.”

“And did he happen to be a blonde bookshop owner that lives right across from you?” an eyebrow raised above the wired framed glasses as Anathema looked at him.

The question caught Crowley off guard and he stumbled over his words as he shook his head. The knowing smirk on the young woman’s face told him that he had been figured out, but he refused to make it that easy. There was still hope that he could convince her he had slept with someone at random.

“W-w-w-wha…why do you ask that?” Crowley managed to get out, hoping he looked innocent enough.

“Because I managed to see just a little bit of a mark on Zira, although his shirt covered it well.” The young woman explained as she leaned against the bookshelf. “And while casual sex and hook ups are your thing, I don’t really think he would be a fan of that.”

“You would think.” The red head muttered before he could stop himself.

There was a brief pause and Crowley hissed out a curse when he realized what he had said. Anathema was too smart to not hear that and put everything together, especially if she had caught a glimpse at one of the marks he had left on Aziraphale.

“Oh my God, Crowley…that’s huge! Why didn’t you tell me that you and Zira finally got your shit together?” she gently slapped his shoulder as she laughed, the laughter quickly dying at the lack of reaction she received. “Why aren’t you happy? I thought you wanted this to happen…”

Crowley closed his eyes and exhaled softly, dragging his hand down his face. No words were spoken as Anathema made her way to the kitchen and poured two glasses of wine, the two getting comfortable on the couch. He had wanted to keep things quick and simple, not wanting to talk about what had happened too much and ruin Girls’ Night. But once he started, Crowley couldn’t stop the words from tumbling out. Anathema listened intently as he told her everything; the conversation fuelled by Aziraphale’s insecurity that led to them falling into bed for the next few hours, and the conversation over breakfast.

So I think it’s best we both forget. Before we dwell on it,” the song currently playing was the only thing that could be heard as Anathema took in what she had been told, Crowley draining the rest of his wine in one swallow. “The way you held me so tight all through the night, till it was near morning.”

“Did you tell him how you feel?” the young woman finally asked, her eyes tracking Crowley as he went to pour more wine.

“I was going to. I…I wanted to, ssso badly.” Crowley answered as he stared at his wine glass for a second. “But then he was talking about how he doesn’t know how to act after casual sex and…it went pear shaped from there.”

“Maybe he thought that’s what you wanted to hear?” Anathema suggested, softly thanking him when he refilled her wine.

“Why would I want that with him? He should have…he should have known that I didn’t want…” he ran his fingers through his hair and closed his eyes, taking a small breath. “I thought I had been…obviousss when I kept telling him how perfect his body wasss and how beautiful he is and…and…I thought I had been clear that what happened…that it wasss more than a fling to me.”

Anathema sighed softly and took a sip of her wine. Crowley looked around, narrowing his eyes at one of his houseplants. He set his glass down and got up to busy himself with caring for the plants, even though it wasn’t really needed. But the red head needed something to protect himself with, and since he wasn’t wearing his sunglasses the plants were the next best things. He had never been good with letting his guard down and this whole conversation was making his skin crawl.

“It may have been obvious to you, Crowley, but Zira doesn’t know what you do and don’t do when you sleep with someone. To him, you say all that to every guy you have sex with.” Anathema pointed out, rolling her eyes at the glare Crowley gave her. “I’m just saying that you need to be an adult and use your words. He might feel the same way.”

“No, he doesn’t.” Crowley shook his head before leaning in to inspect one of the plants, narrowing his eyes slightly. “He wasss the one that sssaid it had been nothing but friendsss falling into bed after an emotional conversation. He sssaid he wanted us on the sssame page, that he didn’t want one of us thinking it had been more than what it wasss.”

Crowley felt Anathema’s eyes on him as he went about misting his plants, growling out threats at a few that were slacking in their looks. He tried his best to ignore the American as she tried to convince him to tell Aziraphale how he felt, regardless of what he thought would happen at the confession. Of course he knew exactly what would happen, the truth of Crowley’s feelings would be out in the open and their friendship would never be the same; Aziraphale would possibly question every look, every touch, every meal, and every word that came from Crowley.

“Why does it matter to you if I tell him or not?” Crowley asked as he spun around to look at Anathema, a small spark of anger dancing in his eyes. “It’s my life, and…and…and it doesn’t effect you if I tell my best friend that I’m in love with him, and have been for nearly nine yearsss.”

“It matters because I care about you, Crowley. You’re like big brother and I just want you to be happy. And everyone can see how happy you are with Zira.” She pointed out as she looked at him.

“And if I tell him then it all changesss.” Crowley said softly. “Trust me when I sssay that he doesn’t feel the sssame as I do. I know him, and I know how to read him because he hasss no bloody poker face. During that entire conversation yesterday, there wasss nothing to make me think he wanted what I want.”

It isn’t easy for me to let it go ‘cause I swallow every single word” Crowley’s fingers curled into a fist at the urge to grab his phone and throw it at a wall. “And every whisper, every sigh eats away this heart of mine. And there is a hollow in me now.”

Anathema sighed and shook her head softly at the look of hurt on Crowley’s face. She set her wine glass next to his and pushed herself to her feet before walking over to him. Crowley raised an eyebrow as he watched her.

“What are you doing?” he asked as she wrapped her arms around him, causing him to squirm slightly.

“I don’t know why you’re convinced that you don’t deserve to be happy, but you do. You deserve to be as happy as everyone else is.” Anathema said softly as she hugged him tightly. “And even though I think you should still tell Zira, I don’t know him as well as you do. And I wasn’t here yesterday when you talked.”

“Now you ssstart talking with sssome sense.” He muttered as he awkwardly patted her back.

“But you should tell him because he deserves to know, and you can’t keep something like that to yourself forever.” The young woman leaned back and gave him a pointed look.

Crowley rolled his eyes and gently shoved her off of him, heading back towards the couch. A silent decision had been made between the two that they would skip watching a movie this week and decided to just talk about whatever they wanted. It wasn’t lost on Crowley that Anathema was trying to cheer him up, and he was grateful for that. Although he would never admit it out loud, he had a persona to maintain.

“I would say change your sad boy playlist…” Anathema said as refilled their glasses in the kitchen.

“Sssad boy playlist?” Crowley turned to lean over the back of the couch, tilting his head in confusion.

“Yeah, you know…this playlist is full of emotional songs and heartbreak.” She explained before carefully walking back over. “But back to what I was saying, I would say change it but you do have good music on it.”

“Only the best.” The red head grinned as he took his glass from her, taking a slow sip. “Mm! C’mon.”

Crowley struggled to get to his feet before holding his hand out to Anathema. He grinned at the slight drunken giggle that escaped her as she looked at him.

“Where are we going?” the young woman asked as she took his head, Crowley nearly falling back into the couch trying to pull her up.

“We’re going to…going to pretend that we’re not listening to sssad boy music, and we’re going to dance.” The red head beamed as he began swaying to the song that was currently playing, humming along softly.

“We’ll put on our own concert!” Anathema exclaimed, easily grasping the chance to take Crowley’s mind off of his heartbreak.

The two fell into a routine of singing as badly as they could, occasionally throwing in some dance moves. It quickly developed into seeing who could out do the other even though they weren’t keeping score of any kind.

“Oh no.” Crowley muttered as he came to a stand still, his gaze locked on the speaker.

“What…” Anathema trailed off when she realized what song had come and all she could do was shake her head, a grin on her face. “Is this your moment to shine?”

“Oh, abso-fucking-lutely.” The red head beamed as he walked over to finish the rest of his wine.

Anathema could only laugh as she listened to him try to sing and drink at the same time. Crowley dramatically spun around to face her as he sang along to the lyrics, doing his best to make his friend laugh. He made quick work to clear the coffee table before leaping up on to it, wobbling a bit as he tried to keep his balance.

“I swear, if you fall and I have to take you to the hospital…” Anathema scolded despite the giggling.

“That won’t be needed. I’m as graceful as a…a…sssome type of graceful animal.” He muttered before shaking his head to continue the song.

“You’re ridiculous, Crowley.” The American shook her head as she made her way over to him.

Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on.” Crowley crouched down on the table, ignoring the pain that shot through his body. “Whatever happens, I leave it all to chance. Another heartache, another failed romance. On and on, does anybody know what we are living for?”

He tried to ignore the relevance the lyrics held to his current situation. In hindsight, this song probably wasn’t the best one for him to sing but Crowley had never been one to pass up performing a Queen song and this was going to be no different. A grin made its way on to his face as Anathema played the part of an excited fan, nearly making Crowley laugh a few times.

I’ll face it with a grin! I’m never giving in!” He was back to standing on the table as he belted the lyrics, carefully pulling Anathema up as she cheered him along. “Ooh, I’ll top the bill, I’ll overkill! I have to find the will to carry on…”

Chapter Text

In the near two months since the Incident (that’s what Crowley had taken to referring to his night with Aziraphale) everything had seemingly gone back to normal, although Crowley had taken to actively trying not to flirt with Aziraphale. The two still went had lunch and dinner together from time to time, and spent their Sunday afternoons together before going to dinner at Madame Tracy’s. The two had slept together and their friendship hadn’t ended, in fact it seemed to be even stronger than before; which was somewhat ironic considering their friendship had practically ended over a kiss when they were younger.

The only downside to everything was the realization that his efforts to move on weren’t working as well as they had the first time; of course, Crowley hadn’t been living right across from Aziraphale that first time around. It had taken about a week or so before Crowley made any actual effort to get over his feelings for the blonde, and that effort had been the red head going out to fuck a random stranger. He knew one night stands and hook-ups weren’t exactly the healthiest ways to move on, but his actions were doing their job of burying his feelings.

The only time that plan of action had failed had been two weeks after the Incident when Crowley found himself pinned the front of his shop by one of his old flings early one morning. He had briefly forgotten that anyone could see them as things were rapidly building (again) and somehow through the lust filled haze, the red head had noticed Aziraphale staring at him from across the way. The shock on the blonde’s face caused a rise of guilt in Crowley, and the passionate goodbye had been put to an end. Crowley had spent the rest of that morning distracting himself with work; it hadn’t helped and the red head spent the rest of the day berating himself for feeling guilty.

If you love me let go ‘cause these words are knives that often leave scars, the fear of falling apart.” Crowley hummed along to the song that filled the shop, focusing on the currently tattoo he was doing. “And truth be told, I never was yours…”

The tattoo was simple enough; an occult symbol that fit his client’s calf very well. The young man had been a walk-in, and while Crowley didn’t normally take walk-ins on the weekdays he had made an exception since the young man was a regular of Aziraphale’s bookshop. Crowley hadn’t even known that bookshops could have regulars until the blonde had come over with his regular and asked Crowley to break his own rule, giving that look the red head had never been able to say no to.

“Thank you again for doing this. Zira’s been raving about your work since I told him I was looking to get a tattoo.” The young man’s voice pulled Crowley out of his thoughts. “He thinks the world of you, you know?”

“Well, we’ve known each other for a long time.” Crowley muttered as he lifted the tattoo gun, wiping away the excess ink.

“I had thought you two were together when I first starting coming into the shop.”

It was a good thing that the needle was nowhere the young man’s skin, seeing as how the statement caused Crowley to tense up slightly. He quickly recovered and went back to finishing up the design.

“We’re not, never were.” The red head said. “Just best friendsss.”

“Either way, I’m jealous of what you have with him. I’d love to have someone that cares about me the way he cares about you.” The young man said before silence fell over them.

It didn’t take much longer for Crowley to finish setting ink to skin and cleaning the area, wrapping the man’s calf as he went over the aftercare process with him. He watched as the young man made his way out of the shop and over towards the bookshop, no doubt wanting to show off the tattoo to Aziraphale. Crowley sighed softly and went to clean up his station to get ready for his afternoon appointment. No sooner had he gotten everything ready then the bell above the front door sounded, Crowley turning with a grin as his afternoon appointment walked in.

“Alright Martin, ready to finish today?” Crowley asked as he patted the chair.

Crowley had known Martin for the better part of six years now. They had met when the other man became the new apprentice at Nine Circles, the tattoo shop Crowley had gotten his start at. The two had become fast friends and Martin had decided that Crowley would be the only one allowed to give him tattoos. Of course, the red head felt bad that he didn’t get to see his friends from his old shop as much as he used to but it’s what happened when both shops were as popular as they were. But seeing Martin now, Crowley made a mental note to try and see everyone more than once a month.

“Before we start, let me see your new tattoo.” The other man grinned as he grabbed Crowley’s right arm, taking in the vibrant plant life that wrapped around the forearm to frame the red apple tattoo that had been there for years. “Bee has been telling me all about it for the last week. It looks so much better than I imagined.”

“’Course it doesss. Bee is nothing but perfection with a tattoo gun.” Crowley grinned as he proudly showed off his old co-worker’s work. “She has a way of making my designsss that much better.”

Martin rolled his eyes before finally sitting in the chair as Crowley went about preparing to finish the sleeve he had started two months ago. He inspected the work that had already been done, wanting to see if he needed to touch up anything.

“Please, everyone knows your designs are what make her skills look good.” The other man chuckled.

“You sssaid it, not me.” Crowley grinned before preparing to get to work.

Crowley could feel his friend watching him as he worked on the outline on Martin’s forearm, neither of them saying a word as music continued to play throughout the shop. Even though he was used to being watched as he worked, he could almost sense that there was something the other man wanted to say. It didn’t take too long to finish the outline and it seemed that had given Martin enough time to find his words.

“I heard you and Mattie started up your…whatever it was you two had again.” The other man said softly.

“From who?” Crowley asked as an eyebrow peaked over the top of his sunglasses.

“Bee, her and Mattie went out for drinks and he mentioned it.” Martin said.

“He really hasss no idea what discretion isss.” The red head mumbled as he went back to the tattoo.

“Is everything alright with you?”

Crowley paused before lifting his head to look at Martin. The concern on the other man’s face was clear as day, and it made Crowley shift slightly in his chair.

“What, just because I started shagging Mattie sssomething has to be wrong?” Crowley shook his head and redirected his attention back to the tattoo. “Casual sex isss my domain, Martin. That’sss never changed.”

“Yeah, but normally you don’t have multiple partners.” Martin pointed out as he stared at the red head. “You’ve never had one night stands when you had your flings.”

“’Spose Mattie told you that too?” he was suddenly feeling stupid for calling up his old fling a few weeks ago.

“The last time you were sleeping like this, Crowley, you had fallen out with your mate.” Martin sighed, and Crowley could feel his eyes on him once again. “What happened this time?”

There was a pause that was filled with the buzzing of the tattoo gun, and Crowley debated on what he wanted to say. He didn’t exactly want to bring up what had happened again, but he also knew that Martin wouldn’t let him completely sidestep the conversation. After all, he was one of the few people who knew how Crowley behaved with a broken heart.

“I’m trying to move on from sssomething ssstupid.” The red head finally said. “I fucked up and now I’m trying to let thingsss go.”

“What was the stupid thing?” Martin asked.

“I fell in love knowing there wasss a high chance it wouldn’t be returned.” Crowley went back to what he had been doing, knowing that would be enough of an answer for Martin.

The rest of the hour and a half was spent with the two men catching up as Crowley worked. By the time Crowley had announced that he was finished, plans had been made for him to meet up with his old shop for drinks the following Thursday so he could see everyone else.

“Your birthday’s in a few days, doing anything besides your horror marathon?” Martin asked as he signed Crowley’s copy of his receipt.

“I’m being dragged to a Halloween party at sssome lounge.” Crowley sighed. “I’m only going because I wasss promised there would be no mention of my birthday at all.”

“You dressing up?” the other man smirked and the red head knew he was remembering a few memorable Halloween events Nine Circles had thrown before Crowley opened his shop.

“You’ll just have to keep an eye on my Facebook and Instagram to find out.” Crowley chuckled at the annoyed look on Martin’s face. “I’ll see you Thursday.”

He laughed loudly at the hand gesture his friend gave him before walking out of the shop.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Crowley climbed out of the cab he had taken, shaking his head when he saw Newt and Anathema waiting for him. Newt was wearing a simple black suit, complete with a black bow tie, while Anathema wore what seemed to be a black leather trench coat that stopped mid-calf.

“And what, exactly, are you two?” he chuckled as he approached them.

“You can call me Madam Satan.” The American smiled, rolling her eyes at Crowley’s confused expression. “From Chilling Adventures of Sabrina? You really need to get better at watching Netflix, Crowley.”

“I’m sssorry I’m not a teenager.” The red head turned his attention to Newt. “And you are?”

“Bond, James Bond.” Newt said as he tried to give his best to look suave.

“It’s really just an excuse for me to admire him in a suit.” Anathema pointed out.

Crowley laughed softly before looking between the two. He waited for a few moments before sighing in annoyance when the couple merely stared at him.

“Well, isn’t anyone going to ask me what I’m dressed up as?” Crowley said as he gestured to himself.

“It’s a bit obvious, Crowley.” Newt pointed out as he took in the blue suit and red Converse the other man was wearing.

“’S not obvious.” The red head pouted slightly, crossing his arms over his chest.

“I don’t even watch Doctor Who, and even I know who you are.” Anathema gave him an apologetic smile. “Although I am proud of you for not wearing your sunglasses tonight.”

“You’re no fun.” Crowley muttered as he ran his fingers through his hair. “Anywaysss…ready to head in?”

“We’re waiting for Zira.” The American said.

Crowley’s eyebrows rose slightly. He was surprised that Aziraphale would be joining them; after all, parties had never been the blonde’s scene. But he was excited to see what costume Aziraphale would be wearing, his mind recalling the two Halloween events hosted by the pub he had worked at; Aziraphale had shown up to them dressed as characters from classic literature.

He listened to Newt and Anathema talk about…well, he wasn’t entirely sure what they were talking about. But that didn’t seem to matter since they hadn’t exactly been talking to him. It wasn’t long before Crowley heard his name called, turning to see Aziraphale getting out of a cab just ahead of him.

“Any bets on who he’s supposed to be?” Anathema asked as the three of them took in the very Victorian looking clothes the blonde was wearing.

“I promise you it’sss from a book.” Crowley grinned.

The grin was short lived as Aziraphale helped someone out of the cab, a young man with brown hair appearing next to the blonde. Crowley recognized the man as the blonde’s regular he had tattooed a few days earlier, and he instantly felt a stab of jealousy.

“Oh, hello. Who’s that?” Anathema muttered as she turned to look at Crowley.

“I didn’t expect him to bring a date.” Newt added.

“It’sss not a date.” Crowley snapped, shoving his hands into his pockets.

In the few moments it took Aziraphale and his companion to reach the three, Crowley had managed to get a hold of his feelings. He gave the two a smile and listened as Aziraphale explained to the young couple what his costume was. The red head had been right about his friend arriving as a character from a book, giving a smug grin when Aziraphale announced he was Dorian Gray for the night.

“Oh! I’ve been terribly rude, forgive me. This is my friend Peter.” Aziraphale said suddenly, motioning to the young man next to him. “Peter, this is Anathema and Newt. You’ve already met Crowley.”

“Hi.” Peter gave a wave.

Crowley ignored whatever it was that Peter had gone on to say, suddenly wishing he had worn his sunglasses. At least that way he could watch Aziraphale and Peter without being caught. He couldn’t help but notice how close the two stood next to each other; not that it was anything that should have been noteworthy, but Crowley had never known Aziraphale to let anyone into his personal space like that.

Well, no one but me.’ He corrected himself.

“Crowley, are you alright?” Aziraphale broke through his thoughts, and Crowley realized he had been caught staring.

“What? Y-y-yeah, no…M’fine.” Crowley sputtered as his brain went into overdrive to find a reason why he had been staring. “I wasss just…just…try…trying to figure out who Peter is.”

He gestured to the young man and hoped that no one would question his sudden jumpiness. Crowley hadn’t been lying; he really had no idea who the other man was supposed to be. The immaculate looking suit didn’t really give anything away.

“Everyone’s favorite cannibal, Hannibal Lector.” Peter said with a wide smile. “The show version, that is.”

Crowley just nodded, his gaze flicking towards Aziraphale in time to see the bright smile he was giving the young man. There was that stab of jealousy again and the red head did his best to ignore it.

“Let’s head on in.” Anathema said, grabbing Newt’s hand and dragging up towards the entrance of the lounge.

Peter followed the couple and Aziraphale flashed a smile at Crowley, which he returned with a quick smile of his own. He turned to head inside when Aziraphale grabbed his forearm. The red head turned around and tilted his head to the side at the almost shy smile on the blonde’s face.

“I just wanted to say before we head inside and everything’s too loud… happy birthday, Crowley.” Aziraphale said softly, his fingers giving Crowley’s forearm a gentle squeeze. “I know it won’t be the same, but…um, if you’d like, we could…we could watch a horror movie tomorrow. To celebrate your birthday, that is. Especially since tonight is definitely not about that.”

“Yeah, I’d like that.” Crowley smiled before tilting his head in the direction of the lounge’s entrance. “Let’sss get inside before Anathema comesss out to drag us.”

Aziraphale laughed softly and nodded his head, the two making their way after the other three.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Nearly two hours later, and the party was in full swing. Music played throughout the lounge, the dance floor that had been arranged was packed with partygoers, every table and booth was occupied, and the upscale atmosphere was ruined by the various costumes everyone had worn. Newt and Anathema had secured a booth for their group while Peter had dragged Aziraphale to the dance floor.

Crowley had watched the two from his spot at the bar while he had ordered drinks for Anathema, Newt, and himself, that stab of jealousy mixing in with a small spark of rejection. He knew he had no right to feel any sort of rejection, or jealousy for that matter, but he couldn’t help how he felt. He shook his head and carefully grabbed the three drinks he had ordered, weaving his way through the crowd towards the booth.

I’ll take back what I’ve been saying for quite some time now. I gotta feel you in my bones again…” it seemed the lounge didn’t care about genre of music for the party, if it sounded good then it was being played; not that any one seemed to mind. “I wanna taste you one more time again. I’m all over you, I’m not over you.”

“How do you think they met?” Newt’s voice cut over the music, and three pairs of eyes found Aziraphale and Peter on the dance floor.

“Peter’s a regular at the shop.” Crowley said before taking a drink of the old fashioned he had ordered. “Apparently, they’ve been great matesss since the bookshop opened.”

“Jealousy doesn’t look good on you, Anthony.” Anathema said with a teasing smirk.

Crowley rolled his eyes and took another sip of his drink.

This life is way too short to get caught up and all mixed up when I just want you to love me back. Why can’t you just love me back?”

Luckily, Anathema dropped her line of teasing and Crowley listened as she announced the exciting news of Newt moving in with her. He listened as the couple took turns explaining how both of them living above the occult shop made more sense then them finding their own place, especially since the restaurant Newt worked was a few streets over.

“That’s great.” Crowley grinned as he finished his drink. “I have one request though, Newt doesss not get to crash Girls’ Night.”

“Of course, he doesn’t! That’s our night, Crowley.” The American assured him.

After a few more minutes of talking, Crowley excused himself to the patio outside. The music could still be heard thanks to the outdoor speakers and some of the partygoers were spread out on the patio’s seating and into the small garden. Crowley sighed softly and pulled out his pack of cigarettes and lighter, quickly lighting one of the cigarettes. He closed his eyes as he exhaled the lungful of smoke he had taken, his free hand rubbing at his left temple.

Inside the lounge was a little loud, not from the music exactly but just from the amount of people at the party. Crowley didn’t mind the noise, but it made for a good excuse for the headache that had been creeping up on him ever since the first surge of jealousy hit him.

“Are you ever going to quit that terrible habit?”

Crowley turned his head to see Aziraphale walking towards him, a small smile on his face and two drinks in his hands. The red head took the offered drink and thanked him softly before taking another drag of the cigarette.

“Maybe one day, or maybe not. Who knowsss?” Crowley said with a smirk as he turned to look ahead of him.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Aziraphale lean against the railing next to him and they fell into a comfortable silence. Down in the garden they watched as a small group of friends take a series of photos while a couple huddled close in the corner deep in conversation.

I’ve been keeping secrets from you dear. There’s things in me I’m scared that you might fear…” the music fell over the laughter from the group in the garden. “You’ve been coming closer to the edge, wondering what goes on in my head. So I shut you out…”

“Peter showed me the tattoo you did the other day. It looks perfect, just like all of your tattoos.” Aziraphale broke the silence. “Thank you for doing that, by the way. He’s been wanting to get a tattoo done by you for a while, but…well, you know your own schedule.”

“You don’t have to thank me.” Crowley said as he took a sip of his drink, flicking away some of the ash from his cigarette. “What, um…what made you invite Peter tonight?”

“He’s been inviting me out to things here and there for the last few months, but…well, things hadn’t worked out. Until now.” The blonde said as he glanced at the red head. “He’s good company, I’ve always looked forward to him visiting the shop. I’m a little sad that I hadn’t spent time with him outside of the shop sooner.”

Crowley swallowed as he stubbed out the cigarette, not entirely sure how to take that statement. He didn’t understand why now, of all times, conversation between them had to be difficult. These past two months there had been no problem with them going on as they always had, being best friends who teased each other and talked about every little thing. But now, Crowley was finding it hard to think of anything to say.

I’m sure the jealousy has something to do with that.’ That little voice whispered in his ear.

And, as much as he didn’t want to admit it, he knew that voice was right. He didn’t know exactly what Aziraphale’s relationship with Peter was, and it was causing Crowley to question what he could and couldn’t say to his friend.

I promised you that we would never change, that you and me would always be the same. How I let you down…”

“Are you and Peter dating?” Crowley found himself blurting out.

His eyes went wide and his grip tightened on the glass in his hand, heat rising to his cheeks as he felt Aziraphale stare at him. There was a moment, and Crowley tried to find the words to backtrack.

“No, we’re just friends. I just thought it would be nice for everyone to meet him.” Aziraphale said softly, his eyes still trained on Crowley’s profile. “Would it matter if I was dating him?”

“No, no…no. I wasss just…curiousss.” Crowley turned to look at him with a reassuring smile. “But if you were, well…I think you could do better. Based on what I’ve ssseen of him so far.”

He tried his best to give his usual teasing smirk, but all he received was that little huff and look of annoyance from Aziraphale. Crowley swallowed slightly and felt his heart drop to his stomach.

“You don’t have a right to be...be jealous, Crowley.” Aziraphale kept his voice low. “Just because I went to bed with you one time doesn’t mean…it doesn’t mean that you have say over my love life. Besides, it’s really none of your business. I don’t comment on all the different men you take home.”

“That wasn’t…I wasn’t doing…ngk.” Crowley growled softly before closing his eyes, taking a deep breath. “I wasss joking, Aziraphale.”

“Oh.”

Crowley just nodded and looked at the floor, knowing Aziraphale’s gaze was most likely bouncing around the way it did whenever he was anxious.

And I guess that we don’t mean to be falling apart, but you will always have a special place in my heart. I never wanted this to end, can you forgive me friend?”

“I’m sorry, Crowley. I shouldn’t have…” Aziraphale started.

“No, ‘s fine. Guess we know where the line is with teasing.” Crowley gently cut him off, giving him a hesitant smile.

“It would appear so.” The blonde agreed with a hesitant smile of his own.

There was a pause as they both took sips of their drinks, and Crowley scrambled for something to ease the awkward tension that fell over them. A slow smile made its way on to his face as he thought over the last few moments, chuckling softly.

“What’s so funny?” Aziraphale raised an eyebrow as he watched Crowley leaned against the railing.

“Jussst…two monthsss later and we get awkward around each other.” Crowley managed to get out, grinning as he watched the realization wash over the blonde.

“I suppose that is a bit funny.” Aziraphale giggled. “I don’t like it though.”

“Can’t sssay I’m a fan either.” Crowley said, pushing himself off of the railing. “Now that we got the awkward afterwardsss out of the way finally, we should get back in and join the party.”

They shared another laugh about the situation before making their way back into the lounge. The rest of the night continued much better than it had started, and it was just before midnight before the group decided to call it a night. Anathema and Newt said their goodbyes before getting into the first cab, two more showing up shortly after they had left.

“You coming, angel?” Crowley asked as he paused before getting into his cab.

“I’m going to ride back with Peter, actually.” Aziraphale said as he turned to look at Crowley. “I left my clothes at his place. But I’ll see you tomorrow for lunch?”

“Right. Um, yeah…I’ll sssee you for lunch.” The red head muttered as he watched Aziraphale duck into the cab that Peter had gotten into. “Night.”

He sighed softly when the sound of the cab door closing answered him, slowly getting into his cab finally. The stab of jealousy hit him again and there was an accompanying rise of anger directed towards no one but himself. He fished his phone of his pocket and pulled up his messages. He sent out a brief text to his friend Mattie, asking if he had any plans for the rest of the night. When he received a reply stating that his friend would meet him at his shop, Crowley smiled slightly.

At least his birthday would end on a good note.

Chapter Text

A groan filled the shop as Crowley gripped the edge of the front counter, taking a deep breath as he rode out the wave of pain radiating from his lower back and down his left side. He had known it was going to be a bad day when he had woken up that morning, but he hoped that the pain would have been manageable enough to keep his shop open later into the night; not barely making it through all of his appointments and closing up by four o’clock that evening.

He had made the appropriate social media posts to announce the early closing, apologizing to anyone who had been hoping to come in later on. This wasn’t the first time he had to end his workday early due to pain and his clients (and followers) understood, but it didn’t stop the small feelings of guilt from overcoming him. Luckily days like this weren’t a frequent occurrence, and Demon Ink could take the finical loss.

A knocking on the door echoed and Crowley closed his eyes, preparing for the walk to tell whomever it was that he was closed. He exhaled softly and opened his eyes, surprised to see Aziraphale standing on the other side of the glass door. As soon as he saw the look of concern on the blonde’s face, a surge of determination to mask his pain washed over him as he slowly limped over.

“What are you doing here?” Crowley asked as soon as he opened the door, leaning against the doorframe.

“I saw your post about closing early and I wanted to come check on you.” Aziraphale gently pushed his way into the shop. “What do you need me to do to help?”

“I’m fine, angel. I just…” he swallowed as he turned to look at his friend, inhaling sharply at the twinge in his left knee. “You follow the shop’s page?”

“Of course I do, and you’re deflecting.”

Crowley opened his mouth to deny the statement, but thought better of it at the pointed look Aziraphale gave him. As much as he wanted to seem like he was better, he also knew that Aziraphale had seen enough of the bad days to know he would be lying. So instead of arguing, the red head sighed and relocked the front door.

“There’s not much left…” Crowley sucked in a breath after a few steps, his hand reaching out to grab Aziraphale’s shoulder. “Just…jussst helped me to the counter.”

As soon as Aziraphale wrapped his arm around Crowley’s waist, the red head allowed the blonde to support him and help him to the front counter. Aziraphale watched as Crowley finished closing the register before closing his eyes and taking a deep breath.

“Let me help, Crowley.” The blonde said softly. “Just tell me what to do.”

“I need to put this in the safe.” Crowley nudged a spot under the counter where the safe sat.

Without a word, Aziraphale gently moved Crowley over and knelt in front of the safe. Blue eyes looked up from the floor and Crowley felt a brief rush of arousal as his mind flashed a particular memory.

Cut it out.’ He thought, glad that he was in too much pain for his body to really react.

“What’s the combination?” Aziraphale’s voice pulled Crowley out of his mental scolding.

“Huh? Um…right. 2-0-0-9.” Crowley coughed slightly in an attempt to cover the slight break.

He noticed the way Aziraphale’s brow furrowed and, for a moment, Crowley wondered if he was going to voice what it was that was on his mind. Instead, the blonde held up his hand as soon as the safe was open. Crowley passed the zipped pouches that held the bills and coins from the register drawer, handing the pouch of credit card slips last.

“What else?” Aziraphale asked as he slowly stood back up, a loud creak coming from his knees.

“Alright there, old man?” Crowley teased as he managed a smirk, sighing at the blank look the other man gave him. “My stations needsss to be cleaned up.”

“Tell me where everything goes.” The blonde requested as he helped Crowley to a nearby chair.

Crowley walked Aziraphale through the cleanup and how to properly put away his kit. The entire process took longer than normal, but Crowley wasn’t all that surprised considering the situation. He shifted into a slightly more comfortable position in the chair and leaned his head back, his eyes closing behind the dark lenses of his sunglasses.

And I want you to know that my feelings are true. I really love you,” Crowley hadn’t even been aware that the shop’s playlist was still going until Aziraphale’s soft singing reached his ears. “Oh, you’re my best friend…”

Crowley lifted his head slowly and watched Aziraphale wiped everything down. A small smile appeared on the red head as he took in the way the blonde bobbed his head to the beat of the song.

You know I’ll never be lonely. You’re my only one, and I love the things…” Aziraphale noticed Crowley staring at him through the mirror, blushing slightly at being caught singing.

“Oh, don’t let me ssstop you. I wasss quite enjoying the concert.” Crowley smirked slightly.

“Hush, you insufferable serpent.” The blonde teased before grabbing Crowley’s phone from where it had been plugged in to charge

Crowley let out a laugh, causing Aziraphale to giggle slightly as he finished up the last of what he was doing. He waited for Crowley to give an approving nod before making his way over to the chair, helping the red head to his feet and handing the phone over. Crowley shut off the music as the two slowly made their way to the back stairs.

“Are you going to be able to make it up?” Aziraphale asked as he glanced at Crowley.

“I’ll be fine.” Crowley assured.

A moment passed between them before the blonde sighed. It took a while for the pair to climb the stairs, stopping every few steps to allow Crowley to get his bearings. As soon as they made it into the upstairs flat, Aziraphale led Crowley over to the couch and helped lower him into the cushions. The red head gave a grateful smile as the blonde set to the task of unlacing the Converse Crowley had thrown on.

“Heating pad’s in the hallway closet.” Crowley vaguely gestured in the direction once Aziraphale had helped remove his shoes. “And pain reliever’s are in the medicine cabinet.”

Aziraphale gave a curt nod before walking to get the items while Crowley shifted carefully until he was practically lying across the couch. It wasn’t long before Aziraphale returned, plugging the heating pad in and helping arrange it under Crowley’s lower back. Four tablets were placed in Crowley’s open palm before the blonde walked to the kitchen, the sound of the freezing ringing out.

“No more Ziploc baggies full of ice for compresses?” Crowley could imagine the amused smile on Aziraphale’s face.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, angel, but I’m not quite as broke as I wasss bad then.” Crowley chuckled as he took his sunglasses off, setting them on the side table.

“Funny.” Aziraphale huffed as he suddenly appeared next to the couch, holding out two compresses.

Crowley just smirked as he took them, placing one between the back of the couch and his hip while the other was placed on his knee. The smirk was quickly replaced with a look of confusion as Aziraphale carefully lifted Crowley’s legs, taking a seat before letting the red head’s legs settle on his lap.

“What are you doing?” Crowley asked.

“You can’t really think that I’m leaving you alone like this, Crowley.” Aziraphale turned to look at him, his brow furrowed slightly.

“I don’t want you spending the rest of your day babysitting me.” Crowley said softly. “I mean, if you already had plans…”

“I already let Peter know that we’d have to reschedule our dinner for another night.” The blonde said as he gave him a small smile.

“You didn’t…you didn’t need to do that, Aziraphale. Go have dinner with…with Peter.” The red head forced the words out before plastering on a tight smile. “I can get on just fine on my own.”

Aziraphale stared at Crowley, a look between disbelief and slight outrage on his face. Crowley had the good sense to feel somewhat ashamed of what he had said, a shy smile appearing on his own face.

“I’ve never left you alone when the pain’s been this bad before, and I’m not starting now.” Aziraphale said firmly. “I’d never forgive myself if I left and you ended up seriously hurting yourself, Crowley.”

Crowley just nodded and glanced away. There was a moment of silence between them, and it was right then that Crowley’s mind flashed through memory after memory of all the times Aziraphale had given up his evening to help him out; flashed to a memory of a similar night when a blonde student in a bowtie insisted on staying with a red head he had barely known for a month, saying he was only doing what any friend would do.

“Aziraphale.” Crowley said softly as he looked back at his friend.

“Hmm?” Aziraphale glanced up from his phone and turned his attention to Crowley.

“You know that I…that I…um, I just…” the red head let out a small hiss as he stumbled over his words, taking a deep breath before trying again. “You know that I care about you, right?”

Aziraphale stared at him and Crowley shifted in the cushions, the unreadable expression on the blonde’s face making him want to take back the words.

“Of course, I do. Everything you’ve done for me has practically…screamed about how much you care about me, Crowley.” Aziraphale said with a soft smile, his hand moving to rest on one of Crowley’s shins. “I may have questioned all of it when we weren’t talking, but your actions since we’ve reconnected have reassured me. What brought this up?”

“I wasss just thinking about…well, about everything sssince I met you. And you’ve never been shy with telling me how you feel, or showing me for that matter.” Crowley said softly, his eyes focusing on the hand that was still resting on his leg. “I know that I’m not the easiest person to be around, or the most open with my feelingsss…”

Crowley sighed softly and ran his fingers through his hair, amber eyes moving from the hand to land on Aziraphale’s face. The blonde just sat there and waited patiently for him to continue speaking, and it made Crowley’s stomach do that annoying flip.

“I just wanted to…for once I wanted to be honest with you. You’ve been ssspending a lot of time with Peter, which is fine. You can have more friendsss than just me, that’s not what I’m sssaying.” He was rambling and by the amused smile on Aziraphale’s face, he knew it as well. “A-a-a-after everything lately, I jussst…I care about you. And I wanted you to know that, um…you mean a lot to me, Zira.”

A small blush appeared on the blonde at Crowley’s use of his given name, and not the nickname the red head had only ever called him by since the beginning of their friendship. Crowley rubbed the back of his neck as he felt a blush of his own spread, still very much aware of the weight of Aziraphale’s hand on top of his shin.

“You’re right. You’re not the easiest person to be around sometimes.” Aziraphale’s voice cut through the silence, his fingers gently squeezing Crowley’s leg. “But that is what makes knowing you so rewarding, Crowley. For whatever reason, I’m one of the lucky ones you’ve allowed somewhat pass those walls you’ve built around yourself.”

They shared a small smile and fell into another silence. That voice in the back of Crowley’s mind was telling him that this was the perfect time to correct what he had said after the Incident, to be completely honest and finally let Aziraphale in on his best kept secret.

“Have you ever thought about what things would be like if that night had played out differently?” Aziraphale asked in that hesitant voice, his fingers now picking at the seams of Crowley’s jeans. “What I mean is, did you ever wonder what would have happened if I had been braver when you kissed me that night?”

“Sometmesss.” Crowley managed after several attempts.

“I did, quite a lot after that night. Especially after we stopped talking.” The blonde continued, his gaze landing everywhere but on Crowley’s face. “I thought if I had been braver, if I hadn’t pushed you away the way I did that it would have been you I introduced as my boyfriend when I came out to my family. That it would have been you that I would have been busy planning a future with. If I had been braver.”

“I used to pretend that sssome of the men I took home were you.” Crowley admitted softly, his own gaze dropping away from Aziraphale. “I thought one night standsss and casual sex would help me get over you, but I somehow alwaysss ended up with sssomeone who reminded me of you in a way. That’s why I never…it’s why I kept away, in the end. I felt guilty for ssstill wanting you when you didn’t want me.”

“I did want you, Crowley. I just wasn’t ready then, and I know that I wasn’t being fair to you by asking you to wait for me.” The blonde corrected and Crowley could him staring. “I had no right to ask you to pretend like there wasn’t…to ask you to pretend that we were just friends. It doesn’t make it right what you did after but…we’re both to blame for the last seven years.”

“No, you’re not. I know how wrong being yourself can turn out, especially when you have homophobic pricksss in your family.” The red head should his head and looked up; amber eyes focusing on blue ones. “I shouldn’t have tried to make you move any faster than you were comfortable with. And I shouldn’t have cut you out like that, no matter what I wasss feeling or doing. At the end of the day, you were my best friend and I should have treated you better.”

Aziraphale nodded slightly and Crowley just swallowed, not sure what else to say. It seemed his friend wasn’t too sure what else to say, and there was that voice again yelling for him to be honest.

Be as brave as he thinks you are!’ that voice screamed inside his head.

“If you had been braver, then you wouldn’t have met Elijah.” Crowley pointed out.

“It wouldn’t have mattered if it was you taking his place. Don’t get me wrong, I loved him dearly. I mean, we were talking about marriage and what the future held for us. But…” Aziraphale sighed softly brought his hands together, wringing them slightly as he looked away from Crowley. “In a perfect world were I had kissed you back, where I didn’t walk away and gotten into your car that night…well, these last seven years would have been very different.”

“Would you do it differently, if you could?” Crowley asked softly. “Or even if you couldn’t change what happened, if you had the chance to…take something back, would you?”

Crowley felt the need to inhale deeply when Aziraphale looked back at him, a jumble of emotions swimming in his eyes. The red head found himself holding his breath as he watched the blonde open his mouth slightly. There was the sound of a duck quaking coming from Crowley, and he quickly fumbled to get his phone out of his pocket and ignored the text message he had received. He dropped his phone into his lap and was relieved to see that the interruption hadn’t scared Aziraphale away from answering.

“It would depend on the circumstances, I suppose.” Aziraphale said, and there was an intensity in his gaze that shot through Crowley.

“If the circumstancesss were perfect, would you?” Crowley had no idea why, but suddenly it seemed as if everything hung on whatever Aziraphale would say next.

Another quack rose up between them and the phone’s screen lit up, pulling both men’s attention. Crowley’s eyes went wide at the picture of a very familiar body part shone; the picture was large enough to clearly see from where the phone sat. The red head quickly snatched up the phone and clenched his jaw, resisting the urge to throw the device across the room.

Maybe he didn’t see it.’ He tried to tell himself, ignoring the following message he received from Mattie.

“I didn’t think you gave your number to one night stands.” That was all the confirmation Crowley needed to know that Aziraphale had seen the picture.

“I don’t. Um, Mattie…he’s not…he wasn’t a one night ssstand.” Crowley said softly, guilt raising up to block his throat.

“Oh.” Aziraphale said blankly, his eyes moving to stare his fidgeting hands. “I wasn’t aware you were seeing someone.”

“It’s not…I’m not. ‘S jussst fun.”

Aziraphale nodded and gently lifted up Crowley’s legs, slowly standing up. He tugged at the hem of his waistcoat and it was painfully noticeable that he refused to look at Crowley. The red head couldn’t help but noticed how rigid Aziraphale suddenly seemed, or help but notice the change in the atmosphere between them.

“You should move the heating pad to your thigh.” Aziraphale said simply as he reached out to grab the compresses, making his way to the kitchen. “I also don’t think you should really have…that type of company over tonight. You can barely walk, and I don’t think shagging someone is going to help.”

“I wasn’t going to have him come over, Aziraphale.” Crowley said as he carefully removed the heating pad from under him, turning it off.

He gingerly shifted to be able to sit up on the couch, his left leg stretched out to rest on the coffee table. It was a few moments before Aziraphale came back from the kitchen, holding out a glass of water for Crowley. It didn’t go unnoticed that the blonde sat in the nearby armchair and Crowley felt his moment of honest slipping away.

“If you want, you can go have dinner with Peter. I’ll jussst ask Mattie to come over to help me out.” Crowley mumbled as he watched Aziraphale avoid looking at him.

“It’s fine, Crowley. I already told him…” Aziraphale started.

“Then tell him that plansss changed and you’re free again.” Crowley cut him off. “No point in both of us missing out on a nice Saturday.”

“It wouldn’t be right.” The blonde said softly, even as his fingers twitched around his phone.

“It isn’t right for you to give up your plansss because my body’s fucked. You don’t have to take care of me, Aziraphale.”

There was a pause before Aziraphale unlocked his phone, and Crowley couldn’t help but sigh softly. He knew he had brought it up, but a part of him was hoping that Aziraphale wouldn’t really take the out he had been given.

“Call me if something happens.” Aziraphale said as he finally looked up at the red head, slowly getting to his feet.

“I’m not ruining your date. Besidesss, I’ll have Mattie here.” Crowley pointed out.

“It isn’t a date. We’re just friends.”

There was an awkward paused before both men muttered their goodbye, Aziraphale leaving only when Crowley assured him that he was going to have someone come over to help him. And even as Crowley made a show of going to text Mattie, he knew he wouldn’t actually ask. But thinking that someone would be with Crowley gave Aziraphale some type of comfort, and that was what mattered.

And while Aziraphale was out doing whatever it was that he had planned with Peter, Crowley would do whatever he could to keep his mind occupied. When all of his attempts to draw ended in angry scribbles, he would pretend it was the pain that kept him from concentrating and not the jealousy he felt at the idea of Aziraphale spending his evening with someone who definitely wasn’t Crowley.

Chapter Text

The change between Crowley and Aziraphale had been subtle, but it was there if one knew where to look. Crowley had been fully aware of how tired he had become of pretending that he only wanted friendship from the blonde since the heart to heart they had had a few weeks ago. And the red head made every effort to talk to Aziraphale alone, needing to be honest and put an end to whatever dance they had been doing since the beginning.

It seemed as if Aziraphale was a step ahead of him and always found a reason to not be alone with Crowley. There was always something that needed to be done for the shop, a family gathering during the week, or plans with Peter that limited Aziraphale and Crowley’s interactions. Apart from the blonde putting some distance between them, everything else went on as normal; Crowley and Aziraphale still joked and teased one another whenever their friends got together, Crowley still dropped by the bookshop in between appointments, and everything continued on the way it always had for the most part.

But there was still that underlying something that had formed when Aziraphale had talked about a perfect world, when Crowley had decided to be honest. The red head couldn’t put a name to what it was that hung between them, but he knew a good portion of that something was his growing jealousy of Aziraphale’s friendship with Peter.

It was Peter who was always having lunch or dinner with Aziraphale now; Peter who the blonde was spending Sunday afternoons with before dinner, and it was Peter who was receiving slight blushes and shy smiles. Every time Crowley caught an interaction between the two, he noticed as much closer they seemed to be and jealousy would swell inside him. And with every day that passed, Crowley felt the hope that Aziraphale’s ‘what ifs’ created slowly flicker out.

But Crowley didn’t want to think about all of that at the moment. All he wanted to do was close up the shop for lunch and work on a design for a client, wanting to have a few different ideas drawn out for his client to pick from during his appointment the following week. A grin appeared on his face as the music changed over to a new song, his body moving to the beat of the song as he made his way to the lock the front door.

Until we dance into the fire, that fatal kiss is all we need.” Crowley hummed along to the song as he flipped the sign from ‘Open’ to ‘Close’, looking up just to see Aziraphale and Peter leave the bookshop. “Dance into the fire to fatal sounds of broken dreams…”

Crowley felt his body tense as he watched Aziraphale turn from locking his door, only to be met with Peter leaning forward and kissing him. Aziraphale’s hands came up to rest on the other man’s chest while Peter’s hand went to the blonde’s waist, and Crowley had to force himself to turn around before anything else happened. As he made his way towards the back stairs, the red head could feel his jealousy being replaced by heartbreak.

His last little bit of hope sunk, and he knew that he had missed his chance.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

A soft sigh escaped as Crowley stared at the invoice in his hand, having trouble recalling the count he had just done. It had been a few days since he saw the kiss between Aziraphale and Peter, and he had hoped that he was doing a good job of acting like everything was business as usual. And he had been until the end of dinner the night before, when the blonde had left early to see a movie with Peter. If Aziraphale had noticed the way he had reacted, the blonde didn’t let it show but everyone else made it clear that had noticed the change in Crowley.

He had managed to avoid the questions by leaving shortly after Aziraphale, knowing he wouldn’t be able to avoid the subject when it came time to help Madame Tracy with inventory in the morning. For the first hour and a half of helping with the inventory, the two worked in silence as music played softly from Crowley’s phone. He was mildly surprised she hadn’t pressed for any type of information right away and for that he was grateful; he wasn’t entirely sure he was ready for that conversation so early in the morning.

“Did I ever tell you the story of how Mr. S and I got together?” Crowley was pulled out of his thoughts, his eyes narrowing behind his sunglasses as he looked at Madame Tracy. “Back when I was much younger, I ran a very different kind of business out of my flat. I was discreet but it didn’t take much to figure out what exactly it was I was doing, and this very dashing man who lived just across from me had put two and two together.”

“I’m guessing the dashing man wasss the Sergeant?” Crowley asked.

“No one could be surprised that my very Christian ex-military neighbor had issues with my involvement in sex work.” The older woman sent a mild glare when Crowley shook his body and pulled a face. “I have no problems slapping you, young man.”

“Sssorry. Hearing that is like hearing your parentsss talk about their sex life.” He mumbled. “Anywaysss, the Sergeant had issuesss with what you did?”

“We got on like cats and dogs those first few years, even more so when he found out I also worked as a psychic medium. It wasn’t until, oh…five years after we had met that I noticed a change in how I was seeing him.” She continued, moving about the shop as she put away items. “He was the rudest man I had ever met, and so closed minded among many other qualities that got under my skin. But there was always something underneath all of that, something that was endearing. Something he would let show in these little moments we had.”

Crowley made a small noise to let her know that he was listening as he went back to counting the shipment. He listened as Madame Tracy talked about the gradual process of falling in love with her husband, chuckling at the frustration clear in her voice as she recalled how oblivious he had been to her advances back then.

“I wasn’t even sure if he felt anything romantic towards me, but I knew that he felt a certain desire that wasn’t uncommon among my clients. It was all the way he would look at me when he thought I wasn’t looking, in the jealousy in his voice when he would lecture me about my business.” The smile in her voice was clear, and Crowley couldn’t help but smile as well.

“How did you find out that it wasn’t jussst sex he wanted?” Crowley asked softly.

“He saved me from a rather aggressive client I had one day. If it hadn’t been for Mr. S, then I would have been another statistic in the world of sex work. There was a kindness about him afterwards, this tenderness I had never seen before. He had let down his guard, and I saw it in his eyes.” Madame Tracy said softly, her eyes focusing on her wedding ring. “I kept dropping hints after that, thinking he would finally say something. It was another six years before we finally had our first date, and that’s only because I finally told him how I felt.”

Crowley looked up from the box he had been working on, his brain finally understanding where exactly she was going with her story. He had to admit; it was a nicer touch than Anathema’s method of point blank telling him how to handle his feelings for Aziraphale.

“Is thisss your way of telling me that I need to tell Aziraphale?” he asked as he looked up to stare at her.

“I can’t tell you what to do, Anthony. But I can tell you that if I had kept quiet about my feelings, then I would have missed out on the best thing to happen to me.” She said softly as she looked up at him, a soft smile on her face. “I know what it’s like to think you’re unlovable, that no one could possibly want you because of your past.”

“But you got a sssign that the Sergeant wanted you like that, that you had a chance with him. Every little moment I’ve had with Aziraphale that gave me that hope, sssomething happened and it disappear.” Crowley sighed, his focus trained on the box in front of him. “And now I’ve fucked up enough that he’s with Peter. I’ve pushed him into another man’s armsss again.”

Madame Tracy sighed softly and Crowley heard her walk towards him. He jumped slightly when he felt her pull him into a hug. They stood in a brief silence as she held him for a moment.

“You haven’t fucked up anything, sweetheart. You may have made some mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you’ve ruined anything. You owe it to yourself to be honest with Zira because you can’t keep holding that secret.” She ran her fingers through his hair in a comforting manner. “And if he doesn’t feel the same way, then you’ll know for sure and you can stop torturing yourself with what ifs.”

“I don’t want to lose him as a friend.” Crowley whispered.

“If he’s truly your friend, then you won’t lose him. Things might be awkward for a while, but you’ll get through it.” She assured him. “Who knows? He could be waiting for you to say something, Anthony. Don’t do what I did and waste time waiting for him to say something.”

Crowley swallowed slightly and nodded.

“You deserve to be happy, sweetheart. And, until recently, I haven’t seen you as happy as you have been since Zira opened his bookshop.” Madame Tracy gave him a smile.

“Why doesss my happiness matter so much to you?” he found himself asking.

“Every mother wants her son to be happy.”

Even with the sunglasses on, the surprise on his face was evident and the reaction pulled a warm laugh from the older woman. Crowley recovered just enough to give a shy smile before going back to counting the shipment, ignoring the blush that had appeared across his face.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Wednesday night had rolled around and Crowley was looking forward to going out for karaoke with everyone, and determined to find a moment to talk to Aziraphale. He wasn’t sure what exactly he would say to the blonde, but he did know he was going to find out exactly what Aziraphale’s relationship with Peter was. And once he got that answer, then he would decided his next course of action.

Of course, he hadn’t anticipated Aziraphale inviting the young man to join them. Crowley was civil enough and decided to channel that death grip jealousy had on him into whatever song had been picked for him to sing. As the night went on, he felt his jealousy grow as he watched Aziraphale and Peter interact. Several times he had caught Anathema’s eye and he could see the curiosity on her face, and every time he would subtly shake his head and drink whatever he had ordered.

It wasn’t until Aziraphale got up to sing the song Peter had picked for him that Crowley could feel his control on keeping collected slip. And when he noticed the smiled and glances the blonde sent to the other man, the red head got to his feet and left the private room. He needed some air and a cigarette to try to recompose himself before joining the group.

“Get a fucking grip.” He muttered to himself as he lit a cigarette. “I’m going to push him away completely if I keep acting like thisss.”

He paced along the front of the karaoke bar as he took in a lungful of smoke, closing his eyes as he tried to relax. His free hand was shoved into the pocket of his leather jacket as he tried to ignore the cold. He knew he couldn’t stay outside too long but he also wanted to make sure he was back to being his cool and collected self before he went back in.

“Are you alright, Crowley?” he jumped at Aziraphale’s voice, turning to look as the blonde stepped out on to the pavement. “You left rather abruptly.”

“Yeah, s-s-s-sssorry. Needed a sssmoke.” Crowley said as he lifted the burning cigarette up slightly, a weak smile on his face.

Aziraphale nodded slightly and pulled his jacket tighter around him. Crowley busied himself with the cigarette as silence settled over them, and he knew that this was his chance to talk to Aziraphale. No one else was around and it seemed as if the blonde wasn’t in any hurry to run off.

“I thought you and Peter were jussst friendsss.” Crowley mumbled around his cigarette, his gaze locked on to the building across from him.

“We are.” Aziraphale said softly, and he could feel those blue eyes staring at him.

“You jussst sssnog all your friendsss then?”

There was a heavy pause and the red head exhaled smoke. This wasn’t exactly how he had wanted to approach the subject, but now it was too late to worry about that.

“What are you talking about?” Aziraphale asked softly.

“You don’t need to play dumb, Zira. I sssaw you two kiss last week.” Crowley said as flicked his cigarette out into the street.

“You’re spying on me now?” the blonde accused.

“Of course not. I wasss closing up for lunch and…and…and you were out in public.” Crowley turned to look at him, glad that the sunglasses were hiding the hurt he knew was in his eyes. “’S not ssspying if you do it for all the world to see.”

“Regardless if I was in public or not, why are you watching me?” Aziraphale huffed. “Why does it matter to you what my relationship may or may not be with Peter?”

“Because I want to know why I’m not enough for you?” Crowley asked.

As soon as the words left his mouth, Crowley felt his body tense slightly and just looked at Aziraphale. The blonde just stared at him with wide eyes, very clearly at a loss for words. A silence settled over them as they just stared at each other.

“What do you mean?” Aziraphale’s voice was barely audible, and Crowley was amazed that he had even heard him.

“I mean, why am I not good enough for you? Why am I only good to…to…to go through the motions with but never…never…ngk. What makesss Peter ssso special?”

“Peter is just my friend, Crowley.” A cold look crossed over the blonde’s face when Crowley opened his mouth. “I swear, Crowley, if you say one word about me snogging my friends, I will punch you in the face.”

Crowley’s mouth quickly closed.

“He thought there could be more, and I thought that too to be honest. It’s why he kissed me, but there wasn’t…why am I even explaining this to you?” Aziraphale finally looked away from Crowley, the frustration clear on his face. “You don’t get to stand there and make demands for why I may want to be with someone when you’re actively shagging your way through Soho.”

“I’m not demanding anything, Zira. I jussst want you to be honest with me. I asked a sssimple question.” Crowley was trying his best to keep his voice from rising, but he wasn’t entirely sure if he was succeeding or not.

“Just because you…you…just because I let you…fuck me once, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to what goes on in my love life.” Aziraphale snapped.

Crowley took a slight step back, completely caught off guard by Aziraphale cursing. In any other situation, he would have made some type of quip about what the other man had said. But this wasn’t any other situation, and any type of comment would have resulted in Aziraphale actually punching him.

“You don’t get to…to be jealous of my friendship with another man.” Aziraphale continued as he turned to look back at Crowley.

“’M not jealousss.” The red head mumbled.

“It is rolling off of you in waves, Anthony!” a few passer-bys looking over at the blonde’s outburst. “You have absolutely no right to be like this after telling me that what did meant nothing to you.”

“I never sssaid that, I said it didn’t have to mean anything if you didn’t want it to.” Crowley hissed as he took a step forward. “You sssaid it wasss casual.”

“You didn’t exactly disagree with me.” Aziraphale pointed out, managing to look into Crowley’s eyes despite the dark lenses.

“How could I have? How do I disagree with that when it’s sssaid by the man I’m in love with?”

Crowley didn’t even realize what he had said, not until Aziraphale asked a very simple question.

“You…you’re in love…with, um…with me?” the stunned tone matched the look on the blonde’s face.

Amber eyes widened behind dark lenses and Crowley felt as if he had just plunged into freezing cold water. He felt his chest tighten the way it did when breathing became a difficult task, his hands balling into fists. He could see the confused look on Aziraphale’s face and it did nothing to help the situation, especially when questions shone in those bright blue eyes.

“Crowley…” Aziraphale began, and that was all it took to jumpstart Crowley into action.

Without saying a word, the red head spun around and took off as fast as he could down the street.

Chapter Text

When Crowley had arrived to his flat the night he had told Aziraphale how he felt, he had gone straight to his bedroom and buried himself under the covers. He watched as his phone lit up with concerned text messages from Anathema and calls from Aziraphale for a while before he turned off the device all together. He knew he was being childish but he wasn’t sure how to handle his slip up; after all, this was nowhere close to how he had imagined telling Aziraphale about his feelings.

He had fallen asleep at some point and when he woke up the first time, it was due to Anathema having burst into his flat using the spare key. Crowley had given her the excuse for his sudden departure and his behavior on not feeling well, completely surprised when she didn’t call him out for the terrible lie. He had been grateful when she didn’t stick around and left him to go back to his restless sleep.

The next time he saw Aziraphale had been two days later, and Crowley had spent that time convincing himself that he had made a huge mistake. He had planned to take back what he had said, planned to blame it on his jealousy and whatever else he needed to avoid Aziraphale rejecting him. But what he had ended up doing was making an excuse of being busy to avoid talking with the blonde.

And that’s how it went for the next three days. Any time Aziraphale came to the shop, Crowley would rush him out and mumble something about an appointment or a consultation with a potential client. And when it came time to close up for the day, the red head would lock himself in his flat and turn his phone on silent; even Anathema had gotten the message that he wanted to be alone after he had threatened to change the locks when she let herself in Sunday morning.

Crowley was well aware that he was repeating his actions from seven years ago, but he didn’t know what else to do. If he told Anathema what would happen then she would have dragged him over to the bookshop and forced him to be alone with Aziraphale. And if he actually talked to Aziraphale, then he was opening himself up to be hurt in a way he didn’t want to experience. He also had a feeling that Madame Tracy would try to get involved the minute she noticed him avoiding Aziraphale, so he had called her to let her know he wouldn’t be at dinner.

Skipping Sunday dinner had been the tipping point, it seemed, for Anathema as far as Crowley’s behavior was concerned. She sent him a text to tell him that there was no avoiding Girls’ Night, letting him know she was coming over at the normal time and he was going to stop isolating himself. As much as he wanted to argue, he knew there was no point in trying to cancel their weekly routine. And that was how Crowley found himself getting out of the shower just in time to hear his door open and close.

“I’ll be out in a tick!” he yelled through the open door, not worried about Anathema walking down the hall. “Wine’sss in the fridge, and a few moviesss are on the table to pick from.”

He finished pulling on his black pajama pants and ran the towel over his hair again before doing the bare minimum to make sure it w
ouldn’t dry sticking up in all directions. Once he was sure his hair would dry somewhat normally, he pulled on the faded Donald Duck shirt he had gotten as a birthday gift a few years ago.

“Look, I know you’re going to want to talk about what’sss been going on but can we please get halfway through the movie?” Crowley pleaded as he made his way into the living room, pausing when he noticed that it wasn’t Anathema who had come into his flat. “What are you doing here, Zira?”

“I’ve been trying to talk to you since Wednesday.” Aziraphale said softly, his hands twisting slightly as he stood there.

“And I’ve been busy.” Crowley muttered as he made his way to the kitchen, busying himself with pouring a glass of whiskey.

“You’ve been avoiding me, is what you’ve been doing.” The blonde corrected as he watched Crowley. “I’m not letting you push me away this time, Anthony.”

Crowley looked up slightly at the use of his first name, not surprised to see the serious look on Aziraphale’s face. He sighed softly before taking a drink. If he was going to be forced to have this conversation, then he was going to at least have a buffer in case he needed a way out.

“You said you were in love with me.” Aziraphale said. “And then you left me standing there.”

“Yeah, about that…I…” Crowley trailed as Aziraphale talked over him.

“You don’t get to just decide to love me because you’re jealous. You can’t suddenly decide you want me because you think I’m…I’m dating someone.” Aziraphale’s voice was slightly raised as he stared at Crowley.

“I didn’t jussst decide to love you, Zira. What I sssaid wasn’t a…a…a ssspur of the moment thing.” Crowley’s grip tightened on the glass in his hand, mildly hurt that Aziraphale thought that little of him. “It wasn’t the right time to tell you, I know. But…but I meant it.”

“And yet you walked away?”

Crowley swallowed and looked down at the counter his free hand had been gripping. He drained the rest of his whiskey, pulling a face at the burn in his throat. He contemplated pouring another but knew that it wouldn’t look good if he was drinking while trying to convince his friend he had told the truth.

“I wasn’t going to ssstick around for you to reject me, wasss I?” the red head said softly, his eyes focusing on the empty glass in his hand. “Pathetic, isn’t it? Being in love with sssomeone for a decade when the signsss are all telling me to move on, to let you go.”

“A decade? You’ve…that long?” Aziraphale asked softly.

“Ever since that night I first ssseranded you.” Crowley whispered, knowing there was no point in trying hide. “You had my sunglasses on and looked the most relaxed I had ever seen you, and sssuddenly I wasss…I wasss falling, and never stopped.”

Crowley looked up to see Aziraphale staring at him with a look he couldn’t name, and it made him squirm. He felt completely vulnerable under those blue eyes.

“You never said anything before…” Aziraphale started, his hands tugging on the bottom of his waistcoat.

“What would have been the point? You told me you were ssstraight, and you were my best friend. I wasn’t going to push anything on to you.” Crowley shrugged and looked away again. “I tried to get over you, I really did and for a while I could pretend that I had. And then you came waltzing back into my life and…and I wasss right back to being that ssstupid twenty-sssomething in love with his best friend. Only it wasss worst because now you’re out and I can’t hide behind the excuse of you being ssstraight for when I break my own heart.”

“Why didn’t you say anything after we slept together?” Aziraphale asked as he took a few steps forward.

“You instantly started talking about it being casual sex and…I didn’t want that, but I didn’t know if you did.” Crowley explained as he ran his fingers through his damp hair. “I gave you an out and…”

“And I took it thinking that’s what you wanted.” The blonde said softly.

Silence settled over them and Crowley ran his finger around the rim of his empty glass, amber eyes focused on the countertop. If it wasn’t for the fact that they were standing in his flat, he knew that he would have found some excuse to run away from the conversation and go back to trying to avoid Aziraphale. He closed his eyes at the urge and sighed softly. That wasn’t fair to Aziraphale, the time to run and avoid had passed the minute Crowley admitted his feelings five days ago.

“So what happens now?” Aziraphale broke the silence.

“That’s up to you. I told you how I feel, and that won’t ever change. If you want to only be friendsss, then I will gladly take that.” Crowley looked up and took a deep breath. “And if you want me to fuck off, then you won’t ever have to worry about seeing me again.”

“You’re leaving it up to me? You…you say you love me but you’re not going to fight to…to…to keep me in your life?” Aziraphale narrowed his eyes, the confusion darkening the blue into an almost greyish color. “You’re not going to try to convince me?”

“Why would I do that? Declaring how I feel isn’t sssome…sssome tactic for me to manipulate you, Zira.” Crowley shook his head as he stared at the other man. “I can’t make you want me, or…or…or love me. And I wouldn’t to make you do that. I’m not in the business of guilt tripping sssomeone to be with me. When I sssay I’m in love with you, that meansss I will respect whatever you decide. No matter what that meansss f-f-f-for us and our friendship.”

Aziraphale nodded slightly but didn’t say anything, and Crowley could feel his skin start to prick as anxiety slowly wrapped around him. As much as he wanted to hear the blonde say that he wanted to remain friends, he wouldn’t blame him for telling Crowley to disappear. And he had meant it when he said he would respect whatever it was that Aziraphale decided. He just really hoped that he wasn’t about to lose his best friend.

“I can’t very well end our friendship right now.” Aziraphale finally said. “Ever since I found out our shops were across from each other, Mum has been wanting to see you. I think she missed you more than I did when we weren’t speaking.”

Crowley tilted his head to the side as he tried to follow where Aziraphale was going with train of thought.

“I promised her I would bring you to the New Year’s party for her job, and that I would drag you to Christmas dinner.” Aziraphale continued as he looked at Crowley, something flashing in his blue eyes. “And I can’t break those promises, especially when she was so happy to hear that we were friends again.”

Amber eyes widened as Crowley finally understood what Aziraphale was saying; his relief quickly replaced by annoyance. He glared at the blonde who was now smirking.

“Why can’t you sssay that we’re still friendsss?” Crowley asked as a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

“Where would the fun be in not adding just a little bit of suspense?” Aziraphale grinned.

“You really are a bastard, you know?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, my dear.”

At the term of endearment, Crowley felt his face light up. He hadn’t realized how much he missed hearing Aziraphale say those words until that moment. And judging by the way the blonde’s smile seemed brighter, Aziraphale had missed saying it. They found themselves relaxing into the couch with a glass of wine each, music playing softly in the background.

“You know, I had hoped that you would tell me it wasn’t casual after we slept together.” Aziraphale said after taking a sip of his wine. “I had this idea as I waited for you to wake up that you would sweep me off my feet and…well, and do some big romantic gesture.”

“What?” Crowley raised an eyebrow.

“I didn’t kiss you that night because I was feeling lonely, I had picked an awful time to finally do what I should have done seven years ago and I realized this was my chance for that perfect world I had imagined, that I could tell you… and then you were standing there as I was cooking breakfast and…well, I never was the brave one.”

“I think we’ve established that I’m not as brave as you think I am, Aziraphale.” The red head pointed out as he took a sip of his wine.

“You’re braver than I am, Crowley. You’ve told me how you feel without knowing what would happen after, and I can’t even find the words to tell you that I want to take things slow.” Aziraphale rambled, his gaze focused on his wine glass. “So much has happened and while I want to be with you, I don’t think jumping right into a relationship would be the best thing for either of us. And…and…and I suppose I don’t have to figure out how to tell you all that now, do I?”

Crowley just looked at him with a bright smile and he knew Aziraphale could see the love that was undoubtedly shining in his amber eyes. He leaned forward and softly kissed him, chuckling at the look on the blonde’s face when he pulled away.

“I agree that we shouldn’t jump into anything, but you looked too cute not to kiss.” Crowley smirked as he settled back into the cushions. “I don’t want to sssay we’re jussst friendsss but…I don’t want to sssay we’re in a relationship either.”

“We could…we could just not put any labels on us right now.” Aziraphale suggested. “We could go on as we always have while we…while we talk things over, because we do have to talk, Crowley. Not about what’s happened recently but about everything.”

“’S lot of ssstuff to talk about then.” Crowley pointed out as he glanced down at the wine in his glass, slightly swirling it to keep himself busy. “Might take a bit to really unpack all of it, you know?”

“Yes. And, um…and I’d understand if…if…well, if you couldn’t wait. Or didn’t want to wait for all of it to be, um…unpacked, as you said.” Aziraphale looked down at his glass, the anxious tone causing Crowley to look at him.

“I’ve waited ten yearsss for the chance to be with you, angel. I’ll wait as long as it takesss.” The red head assured him. “It could be another…six thousand yearsss, and I’ll ssstill be here completely in love with you.”

Aziraphale looked up and inhaled sharply. The reaction pulled a soft smile from Crowley but he made no move to do anything, wanting to show the blonde that he was serious about going as slow as Aziraphale needed.

“You can’t just say things like that, Crowley.” Aziraphale huffed slightly.

“And why not?” Crowley asked with a teasing smirk.

“Because I want to kiss you.” The blonde pouted slightly, and that only made Crowley want to kiss him as well. “And that makes it very difficult to take things slow and work everything out before we do anything.”

“You could jussst kiss me then. Or we could ssstart going ssslow in the morning?” Crowley lifted his eyebrows slightly and just looked at Aziraphale.

“Absolutely not, you tempter.” The smile could be heard in Aziraphale’s voice even though he was giving Crowley an annoyed look.

Crowley just laughed softly before taking a long sip of his wine. He sent a wink to Aziraphale, grinning at the blush that instantly appeared on the blonde’s cheeks. He would have his fun for the time being, but once Aziraphale said the word he would stop his teasing. Although, judging by the smile the blonde was trying to hide, it didn’t seem as if Aziraphale minded the teasing.

Crowley knew that there were still things that they needed to talk about, but right now he wanted to enjoy the fact that he hadn’t lost his best friend. And he knew, no matter how bad their future conversations might get, they would be okay in the end.

Chapter Text

December 2019

Crowley laughed softly as he watched Aziraphale be dragged on to the dance floor by his mother, already forming ideas on how to get out of the dance that Mrs. Fell would no doubt drag him into next. It had been a little over two weeks since Aziraphale had forced Crowley to talk about his feelings and in those weeks, things had quickly gotten intense. There had been a few times where Anathema had barged in to yell at the two because their shouting had woken her up. After that, Crowley and Aziraphale had taken to having their conversations in the flat above the bookshop.

There had been a brief panic a few days ago where Crowley thought that Aziraphale would take back the invitation to the New Year’s party, but they had both made a very good effort of not letting their conversations interfere with their friendship. It was hard at times to not carry over arguments about things that had happened in the past, but nothing worth having had ever come easy.

“You look even more like an aging rock star then before.” A voice sounded from his right and Crowley turned to see Aziraphale’s sister looking at him.

“Are you talking to me? Or…?” he made a show of looking around him.

“I don’t like this anymore than you do, but it’s something that has to be done.” Uriel said as she crossed her arms over her chest. “I know your type, and if you hurt my baby brother again I will make you regret ever getting involved with him.”

An eyebrow peaked over the top of his sunglasses as he stared at Uriel. He fought the urge to fidget, not wanting to show just how intimidated he really was. She nearly reached eye level with him, and the heels she was wearing weren’t that high.

“You know my type?” he found himself saying.

“You fall under the category of tragic back story, and in my experience men like you are looking for someone to fix them. You think Zira can fix whatever it is that’s broken inside you.” She said as she looked at him, and Crowley was able to see the fierce sense of protectiveness in her eyes. “And you’ll see that he can’t, and then you’ll leave.”

“I know you’re looking out for him, Uriel, but I’m not the one to give that lovely little ssspeech to. I don’t expect your brother to sssolve my problemsss, to fix whatever shit I have going on.” Crowley said softly. “But I promise you, I don’t plan to hurt him. Not intentionally, that isss. And I have no plansss on leaving unless he tellsss me to.”

They stood there for a moment as they looked at one another, both refusing to back down from the other. Crowley had to admit that he appreciated this protective side Uriel was showing him, it gave a little more credit to all those times Aziraphale had mentioned the complicated relationship he had with his sister. Of course, he couldn’t let her know that. He had a reputation to maintain with the Twat Triplets, regardless how many years it had been.

“Besidesss, we’re just friendsss.” Crowley added, forcing a grin.

“You two have never been just friends.” Uriel said before making her way to where an attractive woman stood.

Both of Crowley’s eyebrows rose as he watched Uriel place a rather sweet kiss on the woman’s lips before they made their way on to the dance floor. A memory of Aziraphale telling him about Uriel following her brother’s lead and coming out about her own sexuality floated in his mind, but it was still a surprise to see. He stood there in his shock until a gentle arm on his shoulder made him jump, spinning around to the matching smiles on Aziraphale and his mother.

“I nearly forgot how jumpy you are, Crowley.” Mrs. Fell chuckled.

“I jussst pretend to be because I know how much you enjoy laughing at me.” Crowley grinned. “’Spose you’re dragging me out there now?”

Instead of answering, the older woman led him out on the floor. He looked over his shoulder to see Aziraphale laughing before heading towards an empty table. His attention was pulled back to Mrs. Fell when he heard her soft laughter. He had no idea what he had done to cause her laughter but he felt the tips of his ears heat up in embarrassment.

“There’s no need to be embarrassed, Crowley.” She assured him as they began dancing to the soft tune that was currently playing. “I’ve always thought it was rather sweet the way you and Zira are around each other.”

“We’re jussst…” he didn’t get a chance to finish his statement.

“Just friends, yes I know. Zira has filled me in on everything.” The panic must have shown despite his sunglasses because the older woman gave that soft laugh again. “Nothing bad was sad, I promise.”

“What was sssaid then?” he asked, his gaze moving to find Aziraphale talking with a couple.

“All he said that was that you two are having a long overdue talk.”

They danced in silence for a moment, Crowley’s eyes locked on Aziraphale from behind the safety of his sunglasses.

“You know, I never hated you for falling out with my son.” Mrs. Fell’s voice pulled his attention back to her, and he really shouldn’t have been surprised that Aziraphale had told her. “Sometimes we fall out with the people who mean the most to us, and you two are among the few lucky ones who get a second chance.”

“How much did he tell you about what happened?” Crowley asked, uncomfortable with the idea that she knew more than she was saying.

“I knew enough to know that you two would eventually find your way back to each other.” She gave him a soft smile and he suddenly knew where Aziraphale had gotten that smile.

“How could you have possibly known that?” he found himself chuckling softly.

“Call it a mother’s intuition.” Mrs. Fell grinned. “Well, that and the fact that you both remind me so much of myself and my husband.”

Before Crowley could question that statement, the song ended and she had excused herself. He stood in his spot on the dance floor, narrowing his eyes slightly as his mind tried to work through what Mrs. Fell had said. He hadn’t even realized he hadn’t moved until Aziraphale was standing in front of him, a bright smile on his face.

“Care for a friendly dance, my dear?”

Crowley shook his head slightly to gather his thoughts before returning the smile. The two fell into an easy rhythm as they danced. Crowley was glad that their current situation hadn’t created any awkwardness between them for this particular activity; after all it wasn’t uncommon for them to dance together.

You were the brave, I was the weak, you were the army. You were the faith, you were the truth, I was the sorry.” Crowley smiled slightly as he heard Aziraphale humming along softly to the song. “You were my one, you were my one. When all has been said, all has been done…”

A smile slowly appeared on Crowley’s face when he felt Aziraphale gently squeeze his hand, moving just enough to rest his head on his shoulder. Crowley placed a soft kiss in the blonde curls and held the other man closer. Even though they were remaining just friends for the time being, one moment of slight intimacy wouldn’t hurt.

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April 2020

After their dance on New Year’s Eve, Crowley and Aziraphale had done a good job of maintaining the boundaries that had been set up. And while they had been making progress in their talks, neither of them felt comfortable enough to really move beyond friendship. But tonight was a special occasion, and Crowley had decided to make sure Aziraphale still knew where he wanted things to eventually lead to.

“I know it’sss not the Ritz or anything remotely as posh but…” Crowley drawled as he led Aziraphale into his flat.

Aziraphale gasped softly when he entered the flat, his eyes falling on the set up of the kitchen table. There was a small spread of take away from his favorite sushi restaurant and a terribly wrapped present.

“Happy birthday, angel.” Crowley smiled as he looked at the blonde, seeing the question on his face. “I had Anathema ssset everything up while we sssaw the movie.”

“You didn’t have to do this, Crowley. It was enough that you closed early today.” Aziraphale said as he looked at the red head.

“I know I didn’t have to. I wanted to.”

They shared a smile before Crowley motioned for Aziraphale towards the table, chuckling at the small wiggle the blonde did before heading further into the flat. Aziraphale had insisted on eating before he opened his gift and Crowley wasn’t about to tell him what he could and couldn’t do on his birthday. Conversation focused on Aziraphale’s plans to celebrate his birthday with his family the next day as they ate.

It didn’t take long before the food was gone and the blonde was staring at the poorly wrapped gift in front of him. Crowley felt a blush over take him, realizing he should have asked Anathema to rewrap the present. He should have known by now that gift-wrapping was a skill he did not possess. Of course, Aziraphale didn’t seem to notice or mind the wrapping and carefully unwrapped the gift.

“I know it isn’t much.” Crowley began as he rubbed the back of his neck.

“I love it.” Aziraphale assured as he looked at the picture frame in his hands; behind the glass was a photo of the two of them sitting next to each other on a picnic blanket, Crowley propping himself up on his elbows while Aziraphale leaned back on his hands. “I know this was from that picnic we all had on Valentine’s Day, but I don’t remember the picture being taken.”

“Either did I until Anathema showed it to me. Apparently, Newt isss quite the shutterbug lately.” The red head explained as he got up, working on clearing the table.

“Well, it is a lovely photo of us.” Aziraphale looked up with a bright smile. “Thank you, dear.”

Crowley just smiled before disappearing into the kitchen, throwing out containers and setting the plates into the sink. He could hear Aziraphale moving around while he pulled out the small cake he had bought, glad that Anathema had already set a few candles into it. He glanced over his shoulder and smiled when he saw the blonde over by the record player. Crowley quickly lit the candles and walked back over to the table.

“Angel, let’sss do cake.” Crowley said once he realized that Aziraphale was looking through his records.

“Hold on. We need music.” The blonde said as he pulled a record out of the small crate he had been looking through.

“Really? Out of all the recordsss in there, you picked thisss one.”

Aziraphale merely turned around with a smile as he made his way back over to the table. There was a brief pause as the blonde closed his eyes before he blew out the candles, Crowley shaking his head in amusement. The red head watched as Aziraphale enjoyed the piece of cake he had cut for himself, small noises of enjoyment escaping.

I feel like I win when I lose. Waterloo I was defeated, you won the war. Waterloo promise to love you forever more.” Aziraphale blushed when he noticed Crowley was watching him, a shy smile appearing on the blonde’s face. “Waterloo couldn’t escape if I wanted to. Waterloo knowing my fate is to be with you…”

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July 2020

For the first time since Demon Ink had opened, Crowley changed his hours to be able to spend an extended weekend at the beach with his friends. Anathema and Newt had rented a cottage on the beach for a brief getaway, and had invited Crowley and Aziraphale along. Both men had been hesitant at first, claiming that they didn’t want to miss out on Sunday dinner at Madame Tracy’s. It wasn’t until Newt had mentioned that the older couple would be having their own getaway to the French countryside that the two changed their minds.

And after having watched Newt clumsily propose to Anathema, Crowley had been glad he had changed his mind about joining. It was their last night in the cottage and the red head watched the newly engaged couple dance from where he sat on the small patio. Aziraphale was scrolling through the pictures he had taken on his phone, a soft smile on his face.

“’S about time he proposed.” Crowley said softly. “Anathema wasss getting ready to do it herself.”

“You can’t rush something like that. You can know you want to spend the rest of your life with someone and that they want the same thing, but there’s a small fear that you might be wrong. And there is nothing more embarrassing then your proposal being rejected.” Aziraphale’s smile brightened as he looked at a photo he had captured; Newt had been sliding the engagement ring on to Anathema as he looked up at her, the love he felt for her showing clearly on his face. “Oh, this is a lovely photo.”

“Ssspeaking from experience?” Crowley turned to look at his friend, narrowing his eyes slightly behind his sunglasses.

“It doesn’t take experience to know this is a lovely photo.” The blonde giggled as he turned his phone so Crowley could see the screen. “Just look at it. You can just see how in love they are.”

Crowley glanced down at the photo and nodded his head, making a small sound of agreement.

“I wasn’t talking about that, angel. I meant the rejected proposal bit. Sssounded like you’d been through it before.” Crowley watched the brief look that crossed over Aziraphale’s face, and he knew what the answer would be before the blonde opened his mouth.

“I had proposed to Elijah a few nights before I left him. He loved me, but he didn’t see me as marriage material.” Aziraphale said softly as he turned to watch his friends. “At least, the way I was wasn’t marriage material. But he told me if I changed then…well, I told you my reasons for why I broke things off.”

Crowley reached out and gently took Aziraphale’s hand, lacing their fingers. He gave a shy smile when Aziraphale turned to look at him and for a second Crowley was afraid he had made a mistake. They had agreed that they would talk about changing their status from friends to dating, but it had seemed there was something that prevented them from even bringing up the subject. But in that moment, Crowley wanted to make it very clear that he thought it was time to move forward.

“You are marriage material, angel. I know it’sss early for any of that but…but…I will sssay yes, if you decide to propose.” Crowley said softly.

“If?” Aziraphale tilted his head to the right as he looked at Crowley.

“Well…I alwaysss figured if I got married, I’d be the one doing the whole down on one knee thing.” The red head smirked, completely aware that his hand was still holding on to the blonde’s. “

“What makes you think I’d say yes? If you proposed that is.” Aziraphale did his best to look as if he could say anything besides yes.

“You should know by now, angel, I’m very good at tempting.” Crowley grinned. “But we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves. We haven’t even had a first date, or even decide if we want…”

The rest of Crowley’s statement was cut off as Aziraphale leaned over and kissed him softly. Time seemed to have come to a halt as they shared the sweetest kiss Crowley had ever experienced, and he was mildly aware of Aziraphale scooting closer to him. When the kiss eventually ended, both men wore matching smiles.

“Doesss that mean you want to move past being friendsss?” Crowley teased slightly.

“I did tell Mum that next I brought you around it would be as my boyfriend.” Aziraphale smiled as he squeezed Crowley’s hand.

"Why can't you just sssay yesss?" Crowley groaned softly.

Aziraphale laughed softly as he brought their joined hands up, placing a soft kiss to the back of Crowley's hand.

“Care to dance, angel?” the red head asked, tilting his head towards the stretch of land in front of them.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

A grin spread on Crowley’s face before he jumped to his feet, gently pulling the blonde up. He led Aziraphale out to where Anathema and Newt were dancing. They fell into an easy rhythm as music played from the Bluetooth speaker Newt had brought out, both couples simply enjoying the moment.

I’m not looking for somebody with some superhuman gifts. Some superhero, some fairy tale bliss,” Crowley couldn’t keep the smile off of his face as he held Aziraphale to him, oblivious to the fact that Anathema and Newt were staring. “Just something I can turn to, somebody I can kiss. I want something just like this.”

He pulled back just enough to look down at Aziraphale, who was looking at him with that soft smile he saved for Crowley. The red head leaned down and placed a kiss on the blonde’s lips, both men jumping at the loud shriek that cut through the air.

“Finally!” Anathema exclaimed as she practically tackled them in a hug.

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November 2020

If Crowley were to guess how November would be based on the first day, then he would say it would be one of the best months of the year. Aziraphale had surprised the red head that morning by having breakfast already made when Crowley woke up, a neatly wrapped gift sitting on the kitchen table. They hadn’t been able to celebrate his birthday since Halloween had fallen on a Saturday, but it seemed Aziraphale was determined to use their day off to celebrate.

Crowley had insisted on unwrapping his gift when they got back from dinner, wanting to spend the day cuddled up on the couch as they watched horror movies. Of course, the cuddling had turned into a rather hot and heavy make out session at some point after lunch. Aziraphale had chastised Crowley for acting like a hormone-controlled teenager, but the red head could easily see how much the blonde enjoyed the fact that Crowley couldn’t keep his hands off of him.

Dinner had been a nice surprise of a birthday dinner, the group of people he had come to consider his family singing to him as Madame Tracy brought out the birthday cake when it came time for dessert. There had even been a few presents for him as well; he had gotten a lovely new houseplant from Anathema and Newt, a new paint set from Madame Tracy, and a book on the history of witchcraft from the Sergeant. He had thought the day couldn’t get any better until he had gotten back to his flat with his boyfriend, unwrapping the Valentino sunglasses he had been eyeing for the last several months.

And that was how the couple found themselves in Crowley’s bed, both trying to accomplish vastly different things. Aziraphale was determined to make their first birthday celebrating as a couple one to remember while Crowley was focused on showing the blonde how grateful he was for the expensive gift. Neither of them would really complain as they fought over who was the focus of their foreplay, not when both men got pleasure no matter what.

A groan left Crowley as his fingers tightened in blonde curls as his boyfriend took his time pushing him to the brink of climax. It amazed Crowley how Aziraphale seemed to know exactly what to do with his mouth and tongue to give the red head the most pleasure without receiving any type of cues as to what Crowley liked; it was almost as if it was instinct.

“Angel…” Crowley panted as he gently tugged on Aziraphale’s hair. “As…as much as I’m enjoying thisss, I really...fuck…really need to be inside you.”

He felt Aziraphale’s moan vibrate around his painfully hard erection, and he nearly came right then and there when the blonde let Crowley’s cock slip from his mouth with an obscenely loud pop. There was no time wasted in Crowley pulling his boyfriend up and kissing him deeply, putting forth all the passion he had.

Crowley took his time in making sure Aziraphale was thoroughly prepped, taking enjoyment from the moans and sighs spilling from the blonde. It wasn’t until Aziraphale was practically begging Crowley to stop his teasing, and there was no way he could resist.

Memories of their first time together flickered through Crowley’s mind and he couldn’t help but notice the difference over a year had made. The first time Crowley had caused Aziraphale to moan in ecstasy, they had just been shagging despite how much the red head wanted it to be more; this time they were making love, and it made all the difference in the world.

Both men soaked up every sigh, moan, and whimper; every jolt of pleasure as Crowley angled his hips just right; every second of wonderful pain as nails dug into skin and teeth nipped wherever they could reach; and every utterance of the other’s name. It hadn’t taken long before the slow and deliberate movements became fast and hard, both doing what they could to push the other to climax.

In the end, Crowley had hung on long enough to watch as he brought his boyfriend over that edge before quickly following him over. Aziraphale had wrapped his arms around Crowley and held him as they both tried to catch their breath, the red head eventually pulling away to take care of the condom.

When Crowley had come back to the bed, Aziraphale instantly curled up against him and they whispered sweet nothings to each, ignoring the sticky mess that clung to both of them. There wasn’t a point in really cleaning up when they knew there was a high possibility of another round, wanting to make up for lost time.

“It was different this time.” Aziraphale mumbled from where his lips where gliding along Crowley’s collarbone.

“Good different?” Crowley asked softly as his fingers lightly ran along Aziraphale’s spine, a grin forming at the slight shiver that ran through the blonde’s body.

“Very good different.” Aziraphale assured, scooting away just enough to kiss and nip along the tattoos that littered the red head’s upper right arm.

“Probably that thing I did with my tongue you liked ssso much.” Crowley teased.

He let out a laugh at the playful smack his chest received, Aziraphale propping himself up to give him the signature Fell look of annoyance. Crowley grinned and rolled on to his side, leaning forward to place a kiss on his boyfriend’s chin.

“No, it wasn’t that. Although I did enjoy that wicked tongue of yours.” Aziraphale smirked as he settled into the bed once more, his hand coming up to trace a finger along the tattoo on the side of Crowley’s face. “It was different because I’m not going to wonder what will happen when it’s all over. I’ll get to wake up in your arms and stay there. It was different because I know you love me.”

“And I know you love me.” Crowley smiled as he ran his fingers through those soft curls.

“Happy birthday, my dear.”

They kissed softly and Crowley let Aziraphale gently push him on to his back.

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February 2021

Crowley grinned as he led Aziraphale out into the garden, his grin somehow growing at the delight on his boyfriend’s face when he saw the blanket spread out in the grass with a wicker basket resting on a corner of the blanket. The night sky above them was clear and the stars were out for the world to see. Even though it was too cold to stay outside for very long, Crowley had wanted to make some type of romantic gesture for their first Valentine’s Day as a couple.

They had rented a cottage in a quaint little village that Anathema had told them about, making it clear that Tadfield was the perfect place for a romantic getaway. And the couple had been pleased to find out that it was everything their American friend had sad it would be.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, angel.” Crowley said once they had taken a seat on the blanket.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, dear.” Aziraphale smiled softly.

It had taken half a glass of wine each before they gave into the cold, quickly moving back into the cottage. Laughter filled the kitchen as they talked about how ridiculous they had been thinking they could withstand the cold temperature. Crowley set about lighting a fire before clearing a space in front of the fireplace to spread of the blanket, doing his best to keep up the romantic atmosphere from the garden.

The two relaxed into each other as they watched the fire, the flames and wine working together to warm the couple up. The conversation had somehow changed from planning what they would do in the morning to their friends’ upcoming wedding, and Crowley found it completely adorable the way Aziraphale’s eyes lit up at the subject.

“I’ve always loved weddings. Which is rather strange considering I’ve hardly been to any.” Aziraphale smiled as he ran his fingers through Crowley’s hair.

“I’ve never been to a wedding, let alone been in one.” Crowley said from where he was stretched out on the floor, his head rested in his boyfriend’s lap.

From there, the conversation dissolved into Aziraphale talking about how he imagined his own wedding, Crowley paying close attention to what was being said. By the time they had finished the bottle of win, the red head had set up his phone to play the playlist he had carefully created for the night.

“I’m impressed.” Aziraphale said softy as he let Crowley pull him to his feet, pleasant surprise flashing in his blue eyes as the red head pulled him close and placed his hands Aziraphale’s hips.

“Why?” Crowley asked as they began swaying once the blonde brought his hands to rest just below the back of Crowley’s neck.

“I didn’t think you were this romantic.” He smirked slightly.

Crowley just rolled his eyes playfully and held him tighter, the amusement dancing in his amber eyes as he looked at his boyfriend. He had decided to keep his sunglasses off, not wanting to hide behind anything. A bright grin appeared on Aziraphale’s face after a few minutes when he heard the next song.

“Oh, I absolutely adore this song.” His voice exclaimed from where his head was resting against Crowley.

“’S a good sssong.” Crowley agreed, his fingers gently stroking Aziraphale’s lower back through his shirt.

Oh yeah, your skin and bones turn into something beautiful. You know, you know I love you so.” The two held on to each other as they both hummed along. “You know I love you so…”

A comfortable silence settled over them as they swayed gently to the song, Aziraphale’s lips occasionally brushing along the underside of Crowley’s jaw. He counted himself very lucky that he was currently sharing this moment with Aziraphale, that he would get the chance to share moments like this for as long as Aziraphale would have him.

He thought back to that night in the pub when a blonde student ordered a round of drinks from him, the bow tie making him seem very out of place among the other students. He thought back to the terrible first conversation they shared during Crowley’s smoke break, to how there was something that drew in the red head even as he was unintentionally insulted. His mind played out every moment the two had shared, and Crowley couldn’t help but feel as if this was always where they were meant to end up.

“You’ve gone quiet. Should I be worried?” Aziraphale’s voice pulled him out of his memories.

“Nah. Jussst thinking about everything.” Crowley smiled softly as he looked at the blonde in his arms. “Thinking about us and everything we’ve been through. After everything, these past eight monthsss feel…it’s sssort of feelsss…”

“Ineffable.” Aziraphale supplied after a moment.

“Yeah, it feelsss ineffable.” Crowley grinned before leaning down to kiss him softly.

Look at the stars, look how they shine for you. And all the things that you do.” The song softly faded out but neither of them seemed to have noticed.

Crowley slowly ended the kiss and smiled softly, his stomach doing that wonderful flip at the love shining in Aziraphale’s eyes. He didn’t know what he had done to deserve Aziraphale, but he knew that he needed to keep doing whatever it took to continue to be deserving of the love that radiated from the blonde.

“I love you, Crowley.” Aziraphale used that soft tone and Crowley knew without a doubt that he was going to marry Aziraphale one day.

“I love you too, angel.”

As they shared another kiss, Crowley made a mental note to start looking at rings.