There wasn't much about the human race that irked Aziraphale. It was like watching over children; one couldn't be too mad, kids'll be kids. Humans will, by definition, be human. As an angel, he had all sorts of things he disapproved of, naturally. Murder was a nasty thing. He wasn't all that keen on those frightening little jack-in-the-box toys they kept churning out. But gender, that was something that got under Aziraphale's skin, that was what truly annoyed him. The very concept was a bit-- Itchy.
"Fucks sake, angel, stop fussing."
Queen Victoria ruled, Aziraphale had been run over by a carriage two weeks ago, and Crowley had his lip curled as he watched Aziraphale ethereally tug and pull at the body he was assigned. Both stationed in the dead end of the alley Aziraphale had the dumb luck or dumb spite to recorperate in. It wasn't that he necessarily had to configure the body more to his liking; it was always the same basic template for the sake of efficiency. But, thankfully, there was also always time to fiddle with the details.
"You don't have to be rude," Aziraphale said, chin jut out as he tried to focus on rearranging his bone structure to something less overtly masculine. Fiddly work, that. "I have to settle down a bit before this body sets, as you know full well. Tell me about the assignment you have for me, won't you? Regarding our deal. If it'll convince you to stop griping."
Forgive him if he was a bit tetchy after making the idiotic mistake of stepping into the street without willing it clear.
Crowley and him had met the night before Aziraphale’s mishap, and though there was vague talk of Aziraphale paying back a blessing Crowley had completed for him regarding a rather self-obsessed, soon-to-be humanitarian, it was all mostly an excuse for the two of them to go out and get sloshed. Aziraphale had bought them bread at one of his favorite establishments, Crowley had stolen the cheese and wine and fruit from a store well known for fleecing wages, and they’d picnicked on the floor of Aziraphale’s shop. And then, just drank on the floor of Aziraphale’s shop, which felt marginally less quaint.
It’d been Aziraphale’s own fault that he lost track of time and stayed up until dawn with Crowley, it’d been his own fault that he hadn’t bothered to sober up or give his body a bit of sleep or stop sipping the delightful wine Crowley had picked out, and it’d been his own fault that he stepped out into the street without one singular God-fearing thought of horses in his mind once the dawn took hold.
So, yes. He still felt a bit ruffled.
But Crowley looked pleasantly surprised by his tone, and Aziraphale had to firmly tell himself that he couldn't read into it, not unless he wanted a headache on top of the usual growing pains of a new body. And besides: Crowley had picked a rather handsome form this time, all graceful curves and short, slicked back hair to match his silk coattails.
Crowley'd gotten very fond of cursing those who disapproved of a woman dressing in such a manner to suddenly find themselves in the exact opposite side of London, right under a window someone happened to be emptying their chamber pot out of. He'd fashioned himself a new cane, and gestured with it wildly whenever he was sitting ("Sowing chaos, angel, sowing chaos," he'd say, easy grin on his lips, and Aziraphale couldn’t help but feel pleasant about Crowley taking up a bit more space for himself). He liked to perform in orange-lit underground morsels of places, calling himself a 'male impersonator.' Aziraphale thought it was all terribly funny, and terribly wonderful, but he'd never admit that. Certainly not to himself.
Currently, Crowley was draping himself over an overturned crate and the alley wall, cane resting over his knees. One eyebrow piqued, the yellows of his eyes only just peeking over his glasses as he studied the angel. He was looking at Aziraphale with something not unlike interest. And that was terribly-- Something.
But the point was, really, that Crowley had clearly put thought into his form. And Aziraphale wanted to put in the same effort. He craved the same confidence Crowley seemed to own in each thread of himself. It wasn't Envy. Just... Want. But want was a terribly heavy word, too.
Aziraphale was slowly becoming aware that Crowley hadn't spoken yet. He watched, passive and respectfully approving, but he didn’t speak, which felt... Unlike him. Silence was a rare commodity between the two of them, though Aziraphale felt horribly silly for acting as if he'd spent forever and a day with the demon when the singular night they’d spent together was more time than they’d managed to steal over the past three thousand years. Maybe Crowley liked quiet. Maybe he spent his time off in blissful silence.
Somehow, Aziraphale doubted that.
"Well?" Aziraphale said with a start, aching to break the tension. It felt revealing, to have no distraction of conversation while he was busy coaxing his hair down to his shoulders in soft curls. He rather liked making himself look nice, it was soothing to brush one’s hair and iron one’s clothes, but to be observed during a far baser process was almost too much. “About the assignment?”
"Damn good thing you reappear with clothes on," Crowley noted absentmindedly.
"Excuse me." Aziraphale scoffed, dubbed it ill-fitting, and reapplied the dimples to his cheeks. It wasn’t that he was scandalized, nudity was something he rather missed from living in his ethereal form, but he was surprised. Perhaps Crowley had forgotten to sober up. "I can’t say I disagree. Now about the assignment?” he prompted.
Crowley sighed, in that far-fetched, grandiose way his. "Refresh my memory. It's been a dreadfully dull two weeks, thought my head would drain empty by the end of it."
"You've gone without me for centuries, dear," Aziraphale said, and regretted it the moment he did. The wording felt... Odd. But it did help him confirm that his circulation was alright; his cheeks had gone a light pink. Crowley hummed approval at the color, and they went pinker. A protective reaction to demonic flattery, no doubt. Aziraphale added, "Not that your head is exactly overflowing when I am around, is it?"
Crowley made a decent attempt at looking emotionally wounded. "I thought your lot was supposed to be nice."
"We are good, not necessarily nice." Aziraphale smoothed his palms down his sides once more, as if double checking that there was a suitable amount of chub to him.
Once, the paperwork for bodies had gotten confused and Aziraphale had been stuck with a particularly skinny one for nearly eighty years. He’d despised it, hated the shift in temperature regulation in particular. Even if he couldn’t quite puzzle out where on the human pendulum of gender and sex he fell, he knew full well when aspects of his body felt wrong.
The suit he was sent down in felt the slightest bit ill-fitting around the chest now, so he blinked down at Crowley pointedly, hand barely upturned to him like the smallest prayer on Earth. Crowley seemed to get the picture though, because he smiled in that oh-if-you-insist, don’t-mind-if-I-do way of his as he pushed himself up and offered his arm to Aziraphale.
“Would you like me to escort you to a seamstress, Ms. Fell?”
“Only if we discuss the deal as we walk,” Aziraphale said, and it was meant to be stern, or stern-ish. Because they’d been wasteful with their time, and their drinks, and general Gluttony. And he still wasn’t sure of how Crowley looked at him, or how he’d looked at Crowley. But he wasn’t deluded enough to believe he’d pulled off an act of indifferent seriousness, no, he was well aware of smugness when it crept into his tone. It was just that folding his arm over Crowley’s felt very right, and the sneaking suspicion that he was being cared for was lovely, and Crowley himself seemed to hold himself even prouder with a golden-haired woman on his arm, and Aziraphale suddenly felt tender, quiet things about being said woman.
“Of course. Of course we’ll discuss it. Hell, I’ll start right now,” Crowley said, and the relaxed tone he used felt more genuine than it ever had before.
Then— It was almost as if the index cards in Crowley’s mind had been shuffled again, his expression fell drastically into something teetering between guilt and hesitance. He spoke anyway. “I’m… Only asking you this because I trust you, angel.”
Aziraphale blinked. “Well, yes. Best not to ask any old angel to do your dastardly bidding.” But not even the dramatic wording seemed to cheer Crowley up completely; he was still looking down at his shoes with a vested interest. “Crowley. It’s alright. Ask, and we can discuss details from there.”
“I need you to act as my lover until I fulfill my Wrath quotas.”
Aziraphale almost tripped over his own shoes, then. “Pardon?”
Crowley’s voice caught and stammered around the edges, but he pushed on, and kept their pace. That was impressing in and of itself, Aziraphale had to admit.
“Just for a bit. It won't be real, not really. But Hell’s been claiming I’m 'falling behind' on my general, er, sin-insisting. This body of mine handles the Lust and Envy departments perfectly, not to brag, but I was assuming it handled Wrath as well. Since the usual lackadaisical human hasn’t put in the thought processes to handle anything slightly outside of the norm.”
The words were spoken as if they tasted bitter on the tip of Crowley’s tongue, and Aziraphale found himself gently running his thumb over Crowley’s arm in haphazard reassurance.
“But it isn’t enough. Half the people I see mistake me for a bloke.” And that was said negatively, too. Now, that was a curious thought, did Crowley like inducing a bit of confusion, to have a body people had to mull over?
Aziraphale felt quite the opposite: he wanted a body that people simply thought nothing about. But those two wants seemed more parallel than at odds.
“See, angel, I’ve been slacking with Wrath, since I haven’t exactly incorporated it into my schedule. I need something to make damn sure people know who I am, what I am, and that I’m not planning on changing unless I want to. That I’ve found even more happiness than they could ever imagine.”
He turned, stilling their walk just outside of the seamstress’ shop. His mouth was set in a thin line, braced for denial, or rejection, or perhaps even acceptance. And Aziraphale wanted to see his eyes so very badly. He wanted to ask Crowley to keep speaking, his tone full of promises like that. He wanted to coax Crowley’s hand to his own golden hair and kiss him as sweet as he could and ask him if they could get on with the whole lover business, please and thank you.
“You are happiness, Angel. I need you.” And that was better than anything Aziraphale could think to want. He knew full well his eyes had gone shiny with tears somewhere along the way—it was too easy to empathize with the demon, when everything in Aziraphale’s heart seemed to be echoed in Crowley’s words—but he didn’t try to wipe them. Just nodded, twice, and said,
“I do believe we can manage that,” He exhaled in one forceful breath, blinking back the last remains of saltwater. “It’ll be good for the both of us. You can get your Wrath, though I will never understand why you willingly put yourself through—”
“Aziraphale,” Crowley groaned, but it was through laughter, it was relieved and grateful and distinctly undemonic. “I’m not ‘putting myself through’ a thing. This is only a useful happenstance of what forms are comfortable to me.”
“Yes, yes, but I do wish you’d be more careful. Or at least allow me to bless you, that would work wonderfully if it held, I rather think that-- Oh, where was I?”
Crowley was smiling strangely, it all looked very fond. He really was a decent actor. “Good for the both of us.”
“Right. Wrath, and I’ll do my little righteous smitings for the century. Well. Metaphorical smitings. Filled quotas galore. Now,” he glanced towards the door of the shop, hoping that no one inside had seen their animated conversation. It always was a bit embarrassing, to realize those besides Crowley could actually see him. “Shall we find me something that fits this body a bit better?”
“Oh, angel,” Crowley purred, pulling him closer with a pointed glance towards the shop window. There was definitely someone watching. That seemed like secondary information, though, considering Crowley’s hands had slid around Aziraphale’s waist and seemed to belong there. “As if your pretty little jacket and vest don’t suit you.”
“I didn’t say suit, I said fit, dearest.”
“Yes, you’re fit, same as ever.”
Aziraphale laughed, startled and delighted and confused. “What on earth does that mean? Are you trying to get words to catch on again?”
If he didn’t know any better, he would’ve assumed that Crowley looked a little flustered. Which meant that the answer was both ‘yes’ and ‘I’d forgotten it wasn’t already popular slang,’ which was darling. And Crowley was still holding Aziraphale with a tenderness Aziraphale had quite forgotten about after his years alone, which was…. He had a sweeping impulse to lean up on his toes and press a careful kiss to Crowley’s cheek.
And, well, now was a better time than any, when the fashions of the era and the place allowed it, and they each had the excuse of work to hide behind. But Aziraphale didn’t quite move. And Crowley pulled back slightly, clearing his throat.
“Right. Well. After you, Ms. Fell.”
He held the door open, one hand coming to rest on Aziraphale’s lower back as he ushered the angel inside. The seamstress--who’d been the one peeking out from behind the window, no doubt--looked rather delighted rather than furious, full of knowing, giddy glances. She introduced the two of them to her companion, she began to fit Aziraphale for the most wonderful dresses at a fraction of the cost, and Crowley promised to pay her double the original amount anyway.
Aziraphale felt rather love-drunk, with all of the affection radiating off of each person and surface here. And when he looked at Crowley, lounging in a chair and watching Aziraphale stand prim as the hems of a nice blue gown were pinned, a pleasant hint of a smile on his face—Well. It felt perfectly reasonable to personally add to that mull of affection in the air.
More than reasonable, it was natural, it was necessary. Aziraphale let himself believe, in that moment, that things could stay like this for a year. Or five. Or for a luxurious century, if luck and utter boldness was on their side.
More than believed. He hoped. So very fully that it hurt, made his shoulders ache down to his spine, where wings once were.
Crowley kept murmuring little agreeing notes of approval each time Aziraphale beamed down at the skillful curve of the hemline. Things could stay like this, at least for the hours of fitting and measurements. That alone was a promise.