Egypt, 45 BCE
The noontime sun beat down on the desert, the heat heavy enough to have an almost physical presence. Crawley reveled in it, sprawled out and soaking in the warmth, his snakelike eyes mostly closed.
Beside him, in the shade of a small palm tree, the Principality Aziraphale was settled eating his lunch. He opened his eyes just slightly as Aziraphale said, “So, are you in Egypt for long?”
“Nah,” Crawley sighed. He shifted slightly, getting comfortable, and his foot brushed against Aziraphale’s leg for just a moment before he pulled it away. It had been difficult enough, over the centuries, to convince the angel to keep meeting him— he didn’t want to scare Aziraphale away by getting too touchy. By being too much.
“Where to next, then?” Aziraphale asked, popping a small hunk of bread into his mouth.
Crawley raised an eyebrow. “Trying to figure out where you need to go to thwart my wiles?” he asked without any real malice.
Aziraphale frowned slightly. “Oh,” he said. “I was just trying to make casual conversation. I hadn’t thought of that.”
Crawley resisted a lazy smile. “Well, I‘ve got work in Rome later this year. Big plans for next March. Couldn’t possibly tell you about it, though. You?”
“I’m heading over to China soon,” Aziraphale replied thoughtfully. He smiled slightly. “I hear they do delightful things with pheasant.” Crawley chuckled.
Aziraphale picked through his lunch, and then offered Crawley a piece of fruit. “Would you like a bite?” he asked.
Crawley waved him off. “Nah, I’m fine.”
Aziraphale shrugged. “Suit yourself. I was happy to share.” The angel seemed so put out that Crawley gave in and stole a small bit of cheese from his basket of food, popping it in his mouth before leaning back again and closing his eyes, drinking in the warmth of the afternoon.
In truth, he wasn’t nearly as interested in eating as Aziraphale was. But, over the decades, he had found that he had the most success inviting his Heavenly counterpart out if there was food involved. To be fair, in the dozens (perhaps even hundreds) of times their paths had crossed since Eden, there had been far less discorporating than either of their head offices would probably like.
They had spent enough time together for Crawley to develop an irritating, pesky, bothersome affection (one might even, if they were discerning, call it a crush) for Aziraphale, fussy and petty and Good as he was. That affection made him want to be around Aziraphale more, and if it took inviting him out for food? Well. It had worked, that was the point. When Crawley had approached with a nice basket of food on his arm and an offer to lunch by the Nile, Aziraphale had agreed with a lovely smile and absolutely no smiting.
“Crawley,” Aziraphale said suddenly.
Crawley wrinkled his nose. He had been thinking of changing his name, lately— he wasn’t the biggest fan of its squirmy connotations. But there was no use in telling Aziraphale about that until he managed to settle on something different, something that fit him better. “Hm?” he said quietly, drifting a little in the hot sun.
Aziraphale didn’t say anything else for a long moment, and Crawley peeked at him from under his eyelashes. The angel was staring intently down at a fruit in his hand, a small frown on his lips. Crawley closed his eyes and studied the bright insides of his eyelids.
“Crawley,” Aziraphale said again, and this time his voice was softer. “Is this a date?”
Crawley’s heart lurched painfully in his chest, and he choked a little bit on his own spit, sitting up abruptly. Aziraphale didn’t seem to notice his distress, and for just a moment Crawley foolishly let himself hope— hope that an angel could like him, could one day love him, might feel affectionate about him in the same way— but no, Aziraphale was still studying the fruit in his fingers with a furrowed brow and obviously, obviously that was what he was talking about.
Crawley bit back a scowl. He wasn’t familiar enough with Egypt’s agriculture to know for sure, but answered anyway, “I guess so?” He shrugged, irritated that he had gotten ahead of himself. Gone too fast. Let his hopes fly high. He huffed out a small sigh. The point was moot, anyway, if Aziraphale wanted dates he could just miracle himself some dates. “It could be if you wanted it to,” he pointed out.
Aziraphale looked up at him for the first time, and absolutely beamed. “Oh, I’m glad!” he exclaimed. “I had wondered— well, hoped, I suppose, and I did ever so want— that is, I do want—” He cut himself off and popped the fruit into his mouth with a pleased little hum.
No celestial energy itched at Crawley’s skin, so it seemed his guess at the identity of the fruit had been correct. It was a bit strange for the angel to be so excited about it, but Crawley just marked that down as one of Aziraphale’s quirks.
“Thank you,” Aziraphale said earnestly, reaching out and brushing the back of Crawley’s hand with his fingertips, for just a moment. “This was an absolutely wonderful lunch, I do so appreciate it.”
Crawley grunted, glancing up at the sky and hoping that Aziraphale would interpret the blush in his cheeks as sunburn. It just wasn’t fair— “Don’t mention it,” he muttered.
Aziraphale smiled slightly. “Of course.”
Rome, 41 CE
Crowley sat at a low, rough wooden table at the back of Petronius’s restaurant in Rome, picking at his oysters. Across from him, Aziraphale slurped another oyster from its shell with a sound that should have been indecent, and only wasn’t because Crowley was trying very, very hard not to think that way.
“Are you going to finish yours, Craw- Crowley?” Aziraphale asked, correcting himself quickly.
Crowley shook his head slightly and pushed his plate halfway across the table. The oysters, he suspected, would be far more appealing to him in snake form rather than his human corporation. This was the first time Aziraphale had ever asked him out to lunch, though, so there was no way Crowley would have refused. It was a bit embarrassing for everyone involved, how taken he was with the angel.
Aziraphale smiled, picking up one of his oysters. “Thank you, my dear,” he said happily.
Crowley’s eyes widened behind his tinted glasses. Had he… had he heard that correctly? Had Aziraphale honestly just called him… just called him… dear? Crowley blinked hard several times, his mouth dry.
Aziraphale, curse him, seemed to notice, and frowned slightly. “Crowley, are you alright?”
Crowley exhaled slowly, clenching one fist on his knee. “Ngk. Yeah. Of course.”
Aziraphale raised one eyebrow, an expression he had absolutely picked up from Crowley. “You look a bit red,” he replied.
Crowley huffed. “Don’t.”
Aziraphale shrugged, ate his last oyster. “Alright.” He raised a hand, hailing the bartender, and called out, “My dear girl, could we have another pitcher of beer, if you please?”
Crowley’s stomach sank, and then he violently forced it to unsink. Of course, right. Aziraphale calling him by any sort of endearment didn’t mean a thing, he did it to everyone, that was just how he was. It meant nothing. Aziraphale meant nothing by it.
Crowley repeated that a few more times to himself to make sure it stuck, and then said a little gruffly, “I need to get going, actually.”
Aziraphale looked surprisingly disappointed. “Of course, I understand,” he said.
Crowley still felt the need to make up an explanation. “Temptations, you know, gotta fill my quota this month, lots of sin to spread—”
“My dear,” Aziraphale interrupted, and he was smiling again, a little knowingly.
Crowley’s face heated embarrassingly, and he quickly ducked his head before Aziraphale could notice. “Right,” he mumbled, getting up and inadvertently banging his knee on the underside of the table. “Thanks for the oysters, I guess.”
“Best of luck with your temptations,” Aziraphale said a bit absently, and then made a face, wrinkling his nose. “Or, worst of luck, I suppose.”
“Hm,” Crowley muttered, already turning.
“Until next time, my dear,” Aziraphale added quietly.
That was too much. Crowley fled.
And, even though they crossed paths again, Aziraphale didn’t call him ‘dear’ for another five hundred years.
Wessex, 537 CE
“Don’t understand what you’re playing at,” the dread Black Knight muttered into his beer, already most of the way to sloshed. He made a face and raised the pitch of his voice, imitating. “’No, Crowley, I don’ wanna have an Arrangement, I jus’ wanna keep doing my bleeding job an’ we’ll both get nowhere. But ssssure, let’s get drinkssss after we fight, sounds tickety-boo!’”
Across from him, Sir Aziraphale of the Round Table sighed quietly. “My dea— my— Crowley,” he said. He hadn’t been drinking quite as heavily, and was more tipsy than plastered. Crowley glared sullenly at him, but the effect was ruined a bit by the fact that his eyelids were drooping sleepily.
Aziraphale sighed again, and this time he sounded a tad frustrated. “I think it’s best not to mix work with any, er… personal arrangements,” he said. “That’s all.” He tilted his head to one side, shrugged slightly. “My side sent a memo last year about a work-life balance seminar I was meant to attend, so really, I’m just doing what they want.”
Crowley snorted, took another long swig of his drink. “Heaven’s work-life balance is to not have a life,” he grumbled.
Aziraphale smiled, positively angelic. “Well, I wouldn’t know, I had to miss the seminar,” he said innocently. “Much too busy thwarting the wiles of the great tempter.”
Crowley couldn’t help but preen a little at that, but his bitterness was not in any way assuaged. “Don’ understand why you won’t work with me,” he said a bit petulantly. Suddenly a little sleepy, he rested his arm on the table and his chin on his arm. “No one caressss wha’ we do, anyhow. ‘d be easier.”
Aziraphale pursed his lips. “Perhaps I’ll think it over,” he said softly, and maybe it was just Crowley’s alcohol-soaked brain, but he seemed a little wistful as he added, “It would be nice to see more of you.”
Crowley made a sound halfway between choking and scoffing. Aziraphale gave him what might have been a disapproving look, but the world was just a bit too blurry to be able to tell for sure. “Crowley, you’re very drunk,” was all he said. “Maybe you ought to sober up.”
Crowley considered that for a moment, and then closed his eyes. “Don’ wanna,” he mumbled. The alcohol had warmed his chest and softened the razor-sharp edges of his mind, and he wasn’t quite ready to be sober and face how embarrassing he was probably being.
Something that might have been fingers brushed tenderly over his hair. “Where are you staying?” Aziraphale asked. “I’ll help you home, at least.”
Crowley arranged his words into an order that probably made sense, and slurred out the address.
“Alright,” Aziraphale said. His chair scraped against the floor and then there was a gentle hand on Crowley’s arm, pulling him upright. Crowley opened his eyes, blinking slowly, and then leaned heavily against Aziraphale as the angel helped him out of the bar. They had both abandoned their suits of armor before going out, and Crowley could feel the warmth of Aziraphale’s body through the thin linen of their shirts.
Aziraphale grunted a little and readjusted his arm around Crowley’s waist. Crowley let his head loll against Aziraphale’s shoulder as they staggered slowly down the street, his nose pressed against the angel’s neck.
“You could at least help me a little, Crowley,” Aziraphale murmured, his breath a little heavier, but he sounded more amused than anything.
“Ssssnakes don’ have legs,” Crowley pointed out.
Aziraphale genuinely chuckled at that. “I suppose that’s true,” he replied.
They stopped, and when Crowley opened his eyes he could vaguely see the ratty inn he had been renting a room at. “Here we are,” Aziraphale said, helping him in and up the stairs, snapping his fingers to miracle open the door of Crowley’s room.
Crowley closed his eyes again soon as Aziraphale helped him into bed. He was still awake, mostly, to hear Aziraphale puttering around, gently pulling off his shoes and pulling a blanket over his body.
“You’re going to have a dreadful hangover if you don’t sober up,” Aziraphale murmured. Crowley cracked his eyes open, the world spinning, and then Aziraphale sat down on the edge of the bed. “I… I could, I suppose…” he said to himself.
“Hm?” Crowley hummed. Aziraphale sighed, long and slow. In the dim light of Crowley’s rented room, his shirtsleeves rolled up and his hair a little ruffled, he looked so soft. Crowley was overwhelmed with the urge to gather him up, hold him close, lack of any Arrangement be blessed. “Angel,” he mumbled, too drunk to fit his tongue around Aziraphale’s name. He reached out and weakly grasped at the hem of Aziraphale’s shirt. “Ssstay?”
When Aziraphale smiled, there was a touch of sadness to it. “I can’t, Crowley,” he said quietly. “You know I can’t. But…” He pressed his lips together. “I’ll make sure you don’t wake up with a hangover, at least.”
Then he leaned over, brushed Crowley’s hair off his forehead so tenderly that it made Crowley’s heart feel like cracking, and pressed a soft kiss to his forehead. He got up, the bed creaking slightly. “Sleep well, my dear,” he whispered. “I hope our paths will cross again soon.” Crowley’s eyes slipped closed as Aziraphale left, and he slipped into a restless sleep.
When Crowley regained consciousness three days later, he woke with no headache, no nausea, no dry mouth, and only very blurry memories of drinking too much and chewing Aziraphale out for not wanting to agree to the Arrangement.
He also woke up alone.
The Globe Theatre, 1601 CE
“Tails, I’m afraid,” Crowley said with a falsely regretful smile, gazing down at the coin on the back of his hand. “You’re going to Scotland.”
Aziraphale pouted, and gave Crowley what probably approximated a pleading look. Crowley just spread his hands in a helpless, what do you expect me to do? gesture. Aziraphale huffed. “Fine,” he murmured.
A bit of a ways away from them, William Shakespeare was complaining in a low voice to the woman selling oranges. “It’s been like this every performance, Juliet,” he said, looking very tired. “A complete dud. It would take a miracle to get anyone to come and see Hamlet.” He pointed irately at the stage, where Burbage was still posturing his way through his soliloquy.
Crowley’s eyes unintentionally followed the gesture, and then he glanced over at Aziraphale. That was absolutely the kind of do-good thing the angel would love, making a play for the gentry a hit.
To his surprise, however, Aziraphale turned to look at him. He raised his eyebrows just slightly, cautious hope in his expression. Crowley frowned for a split second, and then he got what Aziraphale was trying to ask— for whatever reason he was unwilling to make Shakespeare’s play popular on his own, and worse, he wanted Crowley to do it. As if Crowley was some kind of miracle-dispensing vending machine!
But there was something, something in the fragile question in his eyes, the way he leaned ever-so-slightly towards Crowley… Crowley huffed, averted his eyes, scoffed. “Yes, alright,” he said, shaking his head in the best imitation of exasperation he could get. “I’ll do that one, my treat.”
“Oh, really?” Aziraphale said breathlessly, as though he hadn’t wordlessly entreated Crowley to do exactly that with his worst puppy eyes. But he was smiling, the most unabashedly happy Crowley had seen him in a long time, and Crowley’s heart skipped a beat a little. That smile was directed at him.
Before he could do something embarrassing like blush or swoon, Crowley started to turn away. “I still prefer the funny ones,” he said over his shoulder, to remind Aziraphale before he started getting any Ideas about what Crowley was willing to do for him. But, as he strolled away, intentionally scuffing his shoes on the ground, he could sense the angelic joy practically radiating out of Aziraphale’s every pore.
As soon as he was outside the Globe, Crowley caught the shoulder of a passerby. “You should go in, see a play,” he hissed temptingly. “Hear Hamlet’s one of Shakespeare’s best, something in it for everyone to enjoy. Go on, tell all your friends.”
The human nodded thoughtfully and hurried away. Crowley did this a few more times, until he had directed a couple of people into the theatre with his miracles and more humans were flooding in, following the crowd. If his suggestions worked, if his miracles stuck, Hamlet would be one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays by the end of the day.
Crowley took the long way back to his flat, wandering through the streets of London as he considered how he was going to justify his miracle to Hell. Probably wouldn’t be too difficult, in hindsight— Hamlet was all about murder and betrayal and such, seemed right up Beelzebub’s alley. There would be no need to mention Aziraphale, or his god-blessed cute face, to anyone.
When Crowley got back to his flat there was already a letter waiting for him just inside the door, envelope tacky with celestial energy when he picked it up. Crowley’s lips twisted slightly into a reluctant smile, and he slid one finger under the envelope’s flap to open it before teasing the letter out. Sure enough, Aziraphale had sent him a kind of… commendation.
My dear C,
Thank you ever so much, the second half of Hamlet had such a lovely audience! Perhaps when I get back from Edinburgh, we could go see another play together. One of the funny ones?
Crowley’s breath caught, and he brushed his fingers over the signature, the address. He knew, of course, he knew that that was just how people wrote letter. But it was almost nice to think…
Crowley memorized the letter and then let it burn between his fingers— it was dangerous to keep that kind of communication around. But as he wandered into his barren kitchen in search of a stiff drink, the words echoed nicely around his head.
My dear C… Yours, A. Yours.
Crowley stopped dead, clapped a hand over his mouth. He wasn’t just lusting, or crushing, or fondly affectionate anymore. It was far worse than that. He was smitten.
“Fuck,” Crowley whispered, and tried to pretend like he wasn’t grinning. “Bless everything.”
Soho, 1800 CE
Crowley picked up his flowers and his chocolates from where he had tucked them away with a quick miracle into the ether of the universe, and then strolled into Aziraphale’s shop. “Oi, angel, you still here?” he called cheerfully, taking off his hat and tossing it at the hatrack by the door.
“Oh, Crowley!” Aziraphale said, and he still sounded a little anxious even as he bustled out to meet Crowley in the entrance. “Gabriel and Sandalphon just left, they might still be back—”
Crowley smirked. “Nah, don’t think so,” he said.
Aziraphale gave him a slightly suspicious look. “You wouldn’t have anything to do with them changing their minds, would you?” he said slowly. “Crowley, what did you do?”
Crowley sidled past Aziraphale into the shop, looking around at the mostly empty shelves. “Nothing much,” he said casually, running the fingertips of one hand along Aziraphale’s desk. “May have given Gabriel the impression that you’re the only one who can thwart my wiles.”
The paper wrapped around the flowers he had brought crinkled slightly when Crowley set them down. He carefully placed the chocolates next to them, and said without turning, “Got you these. Opening gift, and all.” He cleared his throat.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said softly. Crowley heard the floor creak as he approached, and felt a gentle hand on his upper arm. “Thank you,” Aziraphale said, so quietly it was almost inaudible, his breath warm against Crowley’s ear. Crowley whirled around, startled and flustered, and Aziraphale was so close that his lips brushed against Crowley’s cheek in an accidental kiss—
Crowley jumped back with a cut-off yelp, and Aziraphale went red. “Oh, oh,” he said, fluttering. “My dear, I’m sorry.”
Very grateful for his glasses to hide his eyes, Crowley turned his back to he could gather himself. “’Sss’alright,” he mumbled.
He heard Aziraphale make a small humming noise, and then heard the crinkling of paper. “Oh, my dear, these are lovely,” Aziraphale said quietly, and when Crowley turned back the angel was smiling down at the roses he had brought. “I’ll find a vase for them in just a moment.” He turned his attention to the chocolates, deftly opening the package and exclaiming in delight at what he saw. “My favorites, you remembered!” he said happily, picking one up and nibbling at it.
Crowley dared to inch a little closer, once he was sure he had his emotions under control. “Thought you’d mentioned it once,” he mumbled.
Aziraphale beamed at him, and Crowley’s heart literally skipped a beat, stuttering in his chest. “Thank you ever so much,” Aziraphale said earnestly.
Crowley felt as though the wind had been knocked out of him. He was struck, suddenly, horribly, amazingly, with the knowledge of how much he was willing to do for Aziraphale. How much he was willing to risk, how much he was willing to give up, just to make the angel smile like that.
“Sssure,” Crowley managed to whisper, having a minor crisis.
Aziraphale reached out and squeezed his shoulder. “I have some wine in the back room, would you like a glass?” he offered. “To celebrate, of course.”
Crowley just managed to nod, frozen in place. He watched as Aziraphale hurried away, and found himself sighing wistfully at the sound of cheerfully humming and light footsteps.
Satan, was he in deep. Crowley sighed, steadied his nerves, and followed Aziraphale deeper into the shop.
St. James’s Park, 1862 CE
Crowley lingered by the pond in St. James’s Park, both hands tightly clutching at his walking stick as he stared blankly down into the water. It only took a small demonic miracle to keep the mortals’ eyes and mind off him, and soon enough a familiar figure casually approached him, off-white top hat jammed on his head. Crowley forced himself not to acknowledge Aziraphale with more than a small nod as the angel took up position beside him, taking off his hat before throwing some breadcrumbs in the general direction of the pond’s ducks.
“Look,” Crowley started in a low voice, still refusing to look at Aziraphale. It was still a little hard, after realizing how much he loved Aziraphale, to be around him without giving anything away. Crowley had made it one of his most important missions. “I’ve been thinking, what if it all goes wrong?”
Aziraphale flung more bread from his hat, hummed almost inaudibly. “Well, that’s the risk, isn’t it?” he murmured. “Of everything we do?”
“We have a lot in common, you and me,” Crowley said, trying to angle towards his point.
Aziraphale frowned slightly. “I suppose. I don’t know.” He sighed. “You’re Fallen, after all.”
Crowley’s heart panged at that, at the reminder that, right, he was a demon. And Aziraphale was an angel. There could never be anything between them but cautious friendship, and even that was an enormous risk. He exhaled a little shakily, and tried to push the hurt deep down within himself.
“I didn’t really Fall,” Crowley found himself mumbling, the words bitter on his lips. “Just… sauntered vaguely downwards.”
Aziraphale quirked an eyebrow slightly, as though he didn’t buy the excuse.
“I need a favor,” Crowley said quickly, before Aziraphale could jam more metaphorical word-knives between his metaphorical ribs.
“But we already have the Arrangement, my dear,” Aziraphale said quietly, his fingernails scraping audibly against the fabric of his hat as he scrabbled for the last few breadcrumbs.
Crowley pressed his lips together, sobered by the reminder to stay professional. Right. Right. “This is something else,” he said firmly. “For if it all goes pear-shaped.”
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Aziraphale’s expression grow momentarily dreamy. “I like pears,” the angel sighed.
“If it all goes wrong,” Crowley snapped, losing what little patience he had come into their meeting with. He took just a moment to settle, focus. Convincing Aziraphale to help him was going to be hard enough, and it would be even harder if he drove the angel away by being to snappish, irritable. Demonic.
“I want insurance,” he said levelly, distantly. His voice didn’t sound completely like his own. “I wrote it down. Walls have ears. Trees have ears. Ducks have ears.” He handed Aziraphale the paper, aware on some level that he was babbling nervously. “Do they? Must do, so they can hear other ducks.”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale breathed, and Crowley dared look over at his friend. Aziraphale was staring down at the scrap of paper in his hands, shaking just slightly. “My dear,” Aziraphale said, and he sounded genuinely upset. “This is out of the question.”
“Why not?” Crowley blurted before he could stop himself. He couldn’t bear to look at Aziraphale, couldn’t bear to see the way the angel’s mouth was open slightly in horror, his eyes surprised and already… filling with tears?
“It would destroy you!” Aziraphale hissed. “I’m not bringing you a suicide pill, Crowley!”
Crowley’s stomach clenched. “Not what I want it for,” he snarled when Aziraphale tried to hand him the paper back. Really, really? Aziraphale thought, of all things—
“I’m not an idiot Crowley,” Aziraphale said, his voice cracking a little on Crowley’s name. “I cannot get this for you. No.” He scowled, a very un-angelic expression. “Do you know what kind of trouble we’d be in if we got caught… fraternizing?”
That, Aziraphale’s words, his tone, made Crowley’s stomach churn. “Fraternizing?” he repeated, his teeth clenched. As if. If only.
Aziraphale looked frustrated, as though Crowley was missing the point. “Whatever you wish to call it,” he said dismissively. “I do not think there’s any point in discussing this further.”
“I have plenty of other people to fraternize with, angel,” Crowley snapped, his mind still snagged on that one word. It sounded so cold, so clinical and positively bureaucratic. Was that really how Aziraphale thought of all their time together over the millennia? Mere fraternization? Not even friendship?
Hurt flashed across Aziraphale’s face, mixed with surprise. “What?” he said.
Crowley’s lip curled and he struck out, to protect his own bruised ego. “I don’t need you,” he sneered.
The hurt on Aziraphale’s face shifted into anger. “The feeling is mutual,” he said, drawing himself up. “Obviously.” He tossed Crowley’s request into the pond and then stomped away, shoulders hunched.
Crowley swallowed hard. “Obviously,” he imitated mockingly, to fight back the sick regret and acidic self-hatred in the pit of his stomach.
Crowley clenched his fingers around his walking stick so hard it cracked under his palm. Already, pathetic creature that he was, he wanted to chase after Aziraphale. Beg for forgiveness, make everything OK again.
He wanted to scream at the sky, watch the entire park burn down. He settled for setting his request for holy water on fire where it floated.
Soho, 1967 CE
Crowley gazed down at the small tartan thermos in his hands, painted pink and red by the neon signs lining Soho’s streets. Beside him, Aziraphale fidgeted, as though anxious to get going.
“After everything you said,” Crowley whispered, something almost like hope welling in his chest. He looked up at Aziraphale, who was staring fixedly out the front windshield. “Should I say thank you?” he asked, remembering a prison cell in Paris, fraternizing echoing faintly in his memory.
“Better not,” Aziraphale replied primly.
Crowley looked down again, heard the holy water slosh around just slightly. He was overwhelmed, his insides mixed up and his thoughts three steps behind. “Can I drop you anywhere?” he offered, half hoping Aziraphale would invite him back to the bookshop for a nightcap, or out for a very late dinner.
“No, thank you,” Aziraphale answered quickly, and something in Crowley cracked. He knew he had messed up, one hundred and five years ago, and he knew that saving a pile of books from a bomb wouldn’t be enough to make up for it. But he had hoped— had thought—
“Don’t look so disappointed,” Aziraphale added, frowning slightly. “Perhaps sometime soon we can get dinner. Have a picnic.”
Crowley swallowed, blinked hard behind his dark glasses. That was a peace offering if he had ever seen one. It was just like Aziraphale, really, to reach out with food. Crowley threw caution to the wind. “I’ll take you anywhere you want to go,” he said a tad desperately.
Aziraphale gave him a small, oddly fixed smile. His fingers brushed absently over the Bentley’s speedometer. “You go too fast for me, Crowley,” he said softly, and then he was gone.
Crowley stared after the angel until he disappeared into the crowds of Soho, and then jerked his gaze back to the thermos. “What the fuck,” he whispered, “Is that supposed to mean?”
Crowley made quick work of getting home to his flat without narrowly missing more than a dozen pedestrians, and took the steps two at a time with Aziraphale’s thermos held tightly in both hands. Once he was upstairs in his office, Crowley carefully set the thermos down before collapsing into his throne and letting out a strangled yell.
“I go to fast for him?” he said out loud, taking off his sunglasses and throwing them at the desk. “What the bloody Heaven does that mean?” He lolled his head back, staring up at the ceiling. “Too fast?” he repeated in a whisper. “If I go any slower, I’ll be going fucking backwards.” He bit his lip, squeezed his eyes shut.
That wasn’t fair, though, was it? It wasn’t fair of him to expect anything from Aziraphale. Not friendship, not companionship, and certainly not love. It was downright cruel, actually, to expect an angel to love something like him.
Crowley was a demon, Fallen from Grace, cast out. It was in his job description, hardwired into his dark wings and reptilian eyes, to be unloveable. To be unworthy of love. And it was even crueler, he thought, for a demon to dare fall in love with an angel.
So why did Crowley feel like his heart was cracking in two, his ribs splintering and his blood freezing? Why did it hurt so, hurt nearly as much as his Fall?
He should have accepted by now, accepted that Aziraphale didn’t love him.
Wouldn’t love him.
Couldn’t love him, not if he hoped to keep Heaven’s favor.
Crowley choked on what he convinced himself wasn’t a sob and catapulted himself to his feet, stalking into his plant room. He only had a few houseplants, so far, but he had plans to cultivate a veritable Eden in his flat.
Crowley grabbed one of his plants, a small one with light blue flowers. Flowers nearly the color of Aziraphale’s eyes. Which was why he had bought the plant in the first place.
Frustration, rage, hatred welling up, Crowley flung the plant at the ground. He stared at the spilled potting soil, the broken terra cotta pot. When he stumbled backwards, the heel of his shoe crushed one of the flowers.
Crowley leaned against the wall and then slowly sunk to the floor. “God,” he whispered, the blasphemy all but burning his lips. “God, if I hadn’t—“ He cut himself off, clutched at his hair and pulled his knees up to his chest. “Fuck,” he whispered, and that four letter word didn’t feel much better on his tongue.
And if Crowley cried that night, muffling pitiful, pathetic, ridiculous tears into the velvet of his shirt, it was no one’s business but his own.
Tadfield, 2019 CE
The bus back to London pulled up to the bench where Crowley and Aziraphale were sitting side by side. Aziraphale stumbled a little tipsily to his feet, and then the wine bottle he was holding half refilled itself.
Aziraphale offered Crowley a hand. “Ready, my dear?” he said with a small, tired smile.
Crowley hesitated just a moment and then accepted the hand, grunting as he stood. To his shock, Aziraphale gave his fingers a small squeeze before letting go of his hand as they got on the bus. They sat down next to each other again just as the bus pulled away.
“That was quite something,” Aziraphale breathed, absently fiddling with the wine bottle, and Crowley let out a broken laugh.
“That’s the understatement of the century, angel,” he said, slumping in his seat. His adrenaline was running out, and his exhaustion was catching up to him. Stopping time was no small feat, not to mention preserving his Bentley for so long.
“It’s alright if you want to close your eyes and rest, my dear,” Aziraphale murmured, patting his knee. “I’ll wake you when we get back to London.”
Crowley hummed and closed his eyes most of the way, resting his head against the window. He could practically hear Aziraphale hesitating, and then the angel reached over and carefully took his sunglasses just as they were about to slip off his nose. “I’ll hold these for you,” Aziraphale murmured.
Crowley’s heart panged, a familiar longing settling into his bones. He was used to it by now, the pining, the pain. Decades had dulled its sharp edges into something he could swallow down without making his throat bleed. “Thankssss, angel,” Crowley mumbled, his head bumping slightly against the cold window.
“Of course, dearest,” Aziraphale all but whispered. For the barest moment, he rested a hand on Crowley’s shoulder, and then turned away again and faced the front of the bus, fidgeting in his seat.
Crowley closed his eyes again and sighed silently. Perhaps it was pathetic, perhaps it was sad for a demon to feel so… but Crowley was willing and happy to take what Aziraphale was willing to give. Even if it was friendship, after living in a world without Aziraphale for a few short hours…
Crowley was ecstatic and grateful to have anything he could get.
The Ritz, 2019 CE
“To the world.” Aziraphale returned Crowley’s toast with the most affectionate of voices, his smile wide and unguarded.
Crowley’s heart leapt to his throat, and for just a moment he forgot how to breathe. They clinked glasses and then Crowley took a large gulp of champagne to distract himself from the fact that Aziraphale was practically glowing with happiness.
Even after centuries, he made Crowley short of breath and fluttery, like a blessed smitten teenager. It should have been infuriating. It should have been even more infuriating that it wasn’t.
Their dinner arrived shortly after, an entree for Aziraphale and soup for Crowley, and they dug in. Crowley tried earnestly to listen to what Aziraphale was talking about, he really did. But he was more focused on the low buzz of anxiety in the back of his brain, the anxious churning in his stomach.
The apocalypse had put everything into perspective now that he had had a moment to think, was the thing— Crowley had known, for just a little while, what a world without Aziraphale was like. He knew, now, that he would never be able to live in that kind of world. And if he told Aziraphale how he felt, told him the words that had been on the tip of his tongue for hours, days, months, decades, centuries… that might be a world he would have to live in again.
Crowley jiggled his leg anxiously and picked at his soup, pushing the carrots around in the broth.
“My dear,” Aziraphale said softly, and Crowley looked up abruptly, suddenly struck. “Huh?”
Aziraphale was studying him, and then slowly, telegraphing his movement as though he was afraid Crowley was going to flinch, he reached out and placed his hand over Crowley’s lying on the table. Crowley valiantly managed not to flinch.
“You look a bit distracted,” Aziraphale said. “Is everything alright?”
Crowley’s mouth was suddenly dry, and he swallowed hard around his useless tongue. “Ngk. Yes?”
Aziraphale’s pale eyes were calm, unfazed, and Crowley felt like they could see right through him. “Is this alright?” Aziraphale said, and then gently turned Crowley’s hand over before lacing their fingers together, squeezing just slightly.
Crowley short circuited, his heart thumping in his ears, his face flushed. “Yh… sss,” he managed to wheeze.
Aziraphale gave him a smile so bright it would have outshone Alpha Centauri. “Lovely,” he said, and then went back to eating his dinner.
Their fingers remained laced together, their palms pressed against one another. Crowley stared down at their hands, his soup completely forgotten. Crowley’s fingers were longer than Aziraphale’s, whose were also a bit pudgier, and his skin was incredibly soft where it brushed against Crowley’s calluses. Aziraphale’s pinky ring sparkled cheerfully against the white tablecloth, and Crowley let himself imagine, for just a moment, what a ring would look like on Aziraphale’s ring finger.
As if noticing his attention, Aziraphale squeezed his fingers. Crowley exhaled slowly, and then dared to squeeze Aziraphale’s fingers back. Aziraphale smiled fondly.
They held hands for the rest of dinner, and through Aziraphale’s dessert, only letting go when it was time to leave. Crowley magically banished the sweat that had collected on the palms of his nervous hands, and then fidgeted while Aziraphale miracled enough money to pay their bill.
As they left the restaurant, Aziraphale asked with a fond, slightly nervous smile, “Would you like to come back to the bookshop for a drink? I haven’t gotten the chance to see if Adam restored my wine cellar.”
Crowley smiled just a little shakily back. “Sounds fine.”
They got into the Bentley and Crowley turned the music’s volume down low, so Freddie Mercury didn’t drown out Aziraphale when he said, “That was a lovely dinner, don’t you think?”
“Hm,” Crowley agreed, pulling out of his spot without looking behind him.
Aziraphale fiddled with his bowtie, an action Crowley just noticed out of the corner of his eye. “You know,” he said with a kind of affected nonchalance, “Now that Heaven and Hell are off our backs… we could do that more. If you liked? Just go out, for going out’s sake. No pretenses.”
Crowley gripped the steering wheel hard and tried very much not to show how much that idea terrified him. His relationship with Aziraphale was built on a foundation of pretenses, supported by a veritable scaffolding of excuses and justifications. To think that they might slough that away, to think that without the excuse of the Arrangement, Armageddon, that Aziraphale might still want to be around him…
Crowley realized that he had been quiet for far too long, and managed to mumble something to the effect of, “Nice to go out walking and not have to look over our shoulders.”
“Exactly,” Aziraphale said, sounding pleased, and relieved. There was a strange, almost conspiratorial, note to his voice, when he added, “Perhaps. Even. Do more. If you liked.”
Crowley’s attention snapped to him at that, and Aziraphale squawked. “Eyes on the road, my darling!” he exclaimed, slapping at Crowley’s shoulder.
Crowley swerved around a pedestrian, his thoughts going a thousand kilometers an hour. What was Aziraphale saying, what did he mean? Because if he was saying what Crowley thought he was saying… if he was trying to say that he was finally ready to go a bit faster, that he might in some small measure return Crowley’s affections… if it meant that some of Crowley’s lewdest daydreams might truly come to pass, debauched activities like kissing and holding hands and cuddling… He was half surprised he didn’t discorporate on the spot.
They got back to Aziraphale’s Soho bookshop in one piece, no thanks to Crowley’s driving, and once they were inside Aziraphale set about cataloguing his alcohol.
Crowley took that time to collapse on the couch in the back room, pulling his sunglasses off and rubbing at his eyes. He tried to calm down his racing, useless heart, and think rationally. Because rationally, rationally, Aziraphale was an angel. There was no way he could, should, love a demon.
In the six millennia Crowley had known him, there had been little indication that Aziraphale felt anything but platonic affection for him. And yet they had abandoned Heaven and Hell for each other (and the world), they had held hands at dinner, Aziraphale had hinted that he might want their relationship to go faster, he had called Crowley darling.
Aziraphale picked that moment to bustle back in with two glasses and a bottle of wine, smiling softly. “Here you are, my love,” he said sweetly, handing Crowley one glass and keeping the other for himself, setting down the bottle on a table.
Crowley crashed, and he rebooted himself as the angel sat down on the couch beside him instead of in his customary chair across the room, their thighs pressed together. Crowley stared at the wine in his glass, and then chugged it all in one go. Aziraphale tutted disapprovingly and muttered something about him not properly appreciating the vintage, but Crowley was already turning to look at him, their knees knocking together.
“Angel,” he said breathlessly, and took his glasses completely off so Aziraphale could see his eyes.
Aziraphale took a coy sip of wine. “Yes, dear?”
“Nuh, no, you, you, you called me your love,” Crowley said accusingly, his heart hammering in his chest. If it didn’t stop acting up, he was going to have to shut it off. Same to his blasted circulatory system, he could already feel his cheeks flushing.
Aziraphale bit his lip, his eyebrows coming together slightly. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I can hold off, if you like? I thought, well…” He shrugged. “We don’t have to be as careful anymore. But I understand if you’d rather still take things slow—“
“Angel!” Crowley all but shouted. He clapped a hand over his mouth, squeezed his eyes shut, counted to six. Six again. Once more. When he opened his eyes, Aziraphale was studying him carefully, his wine glass cupped in both hands.
“Angel,” Crowley whispered, and then took the plunge. He miracled his wine glass across the room, along with Aziraphale’s, and then gently took the angel’s hands. Aziraphale let him, looking perplexed.
Crowley exhaled slowly. “Aziraphale,” he said, his voice hoarse. “I… I need to tell you. And I understand if you don’t feel the same, if you can’t, or won’t, or just don’t want to, trust me I completely understand, and I’ll respect you, but I need you to know, can’t just keep sssswallowing it down, and I—“
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said, his voice gentle. “It’s alright, we’re alright.”
“Angel, I love you,” Crowley blurted, and fixed his eyes on Aziraphale’s bowtie, unable to look him in the eye. “I’ve been in love with you for, for, I don’t know, centuries? And I understand if you don’t, but I, I need you to know. That I love you. Romantically,” he tacked onto the end, as clarification, to make sure there was no way his confession could be misconstrued.
He closed his eyes, the silence of the bookshop pressing in on his ears. This felt, he was sure, worse than Falling.
Aziraphale’s fingers twitched under Crowley’s, and for a moment he was sure the angel was going to pull away, show him the door with distant platitudes of I’m sorry, my dear, I can’t feel the same, best if we take some time apart—
But then Aziraphale was lifting his hand, bringing Crowley’s fingers to his lips. “Oh, Crowley,” he sighed, and Crowley opened his eyes just a crack in time to see Aziraphale kiss his fingers. “I know. I love you too,” Aziraphale said with an adoring smile. “Of course I do, my darling.”
Crowley’s brain snagged on one part of that sentence, and it wasn’t the part it probably should have. “You know?” he repeated dumbly, and then mentally kicked himself. Of course, of course. Angels could sense love. Aziraphale had probably been picking up the tsunamis of love and devotion cascading off Crowley for decades. And he thought he had hidden it so well—
“Of course,” Aziraphale said with a happy, if bemused, smile. “We’ve been dating for two thousand years. Oh, dearest, I’m so glad to finally say the words to you, though. I’ve known for so long, I just didn’t want to push you too fast—"
Too stunned to appreciate the irony of that, Crowley pulled his hands away, his eyes going wide. “Two thousand years?” he rasped. “Us, dating?”
Aziraphale frowned, bemusement slipping towards concern. “Yes?” he said slowly. “Since, oh, around 45 BCE, wasn’t it? You asked me out in Egypt?”
Crowley cast his mind back, remembering, and oh— With this added context, so many of their hundreds of encounters made more sense. Something seemed to click into place in Crowley’s chest, like the last piece of a puzzle neatly completing the entire picture, and oh, yes, they had been dating, hadn’t they?
Across from him, though, Aziraphale was growing more distressed. “Oh, dear,” the angel fretted, one well-manicured hand coming up to cover his mouth. “Oh, it seems I’ve had a dreadful misunderstanding. Crowley please forgive me— you must think me awful—“
“Angel, angel, no,” Crowley said, snapping back to the present and reaching out again. Aziraphale let him take his hands, their fingers laced neatly together again.
“We haven’t been dating, have we?” Aziraphale said miserably. “I’ve been the worst fool.”
“No,” Crowley said honestly. “I think we have. I was just the one too dense to realize it.”
Aziraphale looked at him from under his eyelashes, his lips pursed. “We’re both just a bit stupid, aren’t we?”
Crowley laughed what sounded a little bit like a sob, and nodded. “I think so.”
Aziraphale’s thumb brushed over the back of Crowley’s hand, and he tried not to let that overwhelm him. “Well, are we dating now?” Aziraphale asked, and there was just a touch of humor to his voice. “I suppose we ought to be clear, make sure we’re on the same page.”
“For somebody’s sake, please,” Crowley said desperately, and Aziraphale laughed.
They both shuffled on the couch, getting closer, until Crowley ended up curled into Aziraphale’s side. Aziraphale sighed happily, stroking Crowley’s hair. “I’m ever so fond of you, dearest,” he said quietly, and leaned down to plant a kiss on Crowley’s forehead.
“Ngk,” Crowley choked, and cuddled closer to Aziraphale in response. “Love you too,” he mumbled into the velvet of Aziraphale’s waistcoat.
Aziraphale brushed a gentle hand over his shoulder before resting it comfortably on his back, holding him close. “You know,” Aziraphale said conversationally, and when Crowley looked up he saw that the angel’s eyes were glinting mischievously. “Oftentimes, people who are in love with each other kiss. Would you like to try that later tonight?”
Flustered, and also utterly unwilling to be out-wiled, Crowley sat up and planted a quick kiss on Aziraphale’s lips.
Aziraphale gasped in surprise, and then smiled against him before kissing him back. When they parted Crowley was certain he was bright red, and Aziraphale wasn’t much better. “Wonderful,” the angel breathed, his fingers tangled in Crowley’s short hair. “Let’s try that one again.”
Crowley squeaked, and then leaned in to kiss him again. Now that they were on the same page, actually, really, dating, this free affection was going to take some adjusting of his habits.
But, Crowley decided as they gently kissed once more, it really was the best thing in the entire world to have to get used to.