Aziraphale wanted space. Not a plethora of space or for things to go back to how they were Pre-Armageddon, but he was feeling a tad bit...cramped.
He was reading on his couch with Crowley laid up next to him. The demon was sleeping on his back, his knees up and hooked over the back of the couch behind Aziraphale’s shoulders. Every now and then he would twitch and his thigh would bump unexpectedly into Aziraphale’s arm. He’d been snoozing for about a day, his forgotten cup of tea sitting on the coffee table still steaming from a small miracle to keep it hot and fresh for whenever he decided to wake up.
The demon’s boots, his snakeskin feet, would occasionally twitch too close for comfort toward Aziraphale’s other shoulder—like the threat of a kick.
Yes, Aziraphale wanted space.
Not that he would tell Crowley to move further away or seat himself at his reading chair across the room. He rather liked being close, but this tight, cramped feeling was staring to gnaw away at him. Crowley had been spending more and more time at the shop, getting comfortable and testing boundaries.
He would help out with the dusting (sort of) and rearranging the shelves. He was good at making unwelcome customers get the idea and Aziraphale appreciated that. Crowley would also put his feet on stacks of books and bend pages of volumes he flipped through with no intent to read them.
It was painfully obvious that he didn’t fit in to the aesthetic of the shop any more than Aziraphale fit in with the décor of Crowley’s flat. And yet, here the demon was—the lion laying down with the lamb—at least trying to adapt. He came over because he knew how poorly Aziraphale adapted to his flat, and it wasn’t always perfect, but it was nice to have him around.
If only it didn’t leave the shop feeling claustrophobic. It shouldn’t—there was plenty of room—but perhaps he’d gotten too accustomed to having the shop all to himself.
Crowley twitched again, his left knee now snug in the bend of Aziraphale’s neck.
Yes. He was too accustomed to having the place to himself.
“My dear boy, your leg is playing the part of Napoleon,” Aziraphale said, pushing his hand against Crowley’s thigh.
The demon moaned sleepily and shuffled around on the couch a bit, opening his eyes.
“I said your leg is playing the part of Napoleon. A futile attempt at invasion into my personal space,” Aziraphale said, pushing Crowley’s thigh again until the demon retracted his legs and sat up.
“Sorry,” Crowley hissed, stretching groggily and settling in to a new position on the couch. He reached for his cup of tea and took a sip. “It’s cold in here.”
“Do you want me to get you a blanket? I have several upstairs.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Crowley said, licking his lips and taking another drink of tea. “I should be going. I need to water my plants—make sure they’re not thinking about growing leaf spots. Those bastards will start thinking they can get away with anything if I leave them alone for more than a couple of days.”
“Well, if you do think it’s necessary...” Aziraphale said, fixing Crowley with a disapproving stare. He knew how Crowley treated his plants and it was far from anything the angel could properly condone.
“Trust me. It’s necessary,” Crowley said, fixing him with a woozy smile as he sipped his tea, his head swaying the slightest bit back and forth like a snake trying to keep its balance before moving between branches of a tree.
Part of Aziraphale wished the plants were just here so Crowley could, perhaps, go upstairs for a few hours and tend to them (get his pent up emotions out) and come back down for dinner. Another part was glad he didn’t have to hear the screaming. If Aziraphale were ever to sleep, he was positive he’d have nightmares about the screaming Crowley did at those poor plants.
“Can you check the letterbox on your way out?” Aziraphale asked, turning the page in his book.
“Expecting some new catalog are we, angel?” Crowley asked, finishing his tea in three quick swallows and standing up with a loud groan. He stretched his arms over his head, then sauntered over toward the front door of the shop where the sign was politely flipped to “Closed.”
“Oh, the bill for the electricity usually comes in the next few days,” Aziraphale answered.
“You mean you don’t just miracle the lights on?” Crowley asked, hanging partially out the door in order to reach into the letterbox.
“No! I didn’t want reprimanded for frivolous miracles again.”
“You miracled my tea warm.”
“Well, one tea warming is certainly less notable than a daily miracle for electricity.”
“I’m just saying, it’s still frivolous,” Crowley said, coming back to the couch to hand Aziraphale’s the letters.
Bill. Advertisement. Flier, flier, flier. Advertisement.
Ah, this was different.
“Look at this one, Crowley!” Aziraphale said, holding up a white, square envelope with rather luxurious golden engravings. “‘To Mr. Fell and Mr. Crowley! That’s us!”
“Who’s it from, angel?” Crowley asked, standing behind the couch so as to read over Aziraphale’s shoulder.
Aziraphale examined the envelope with a smile. He rather liked it and couldn’t place his finger on why. The parchment was fine stock, an appealing shape… Why, it reminded him of the calling cards he used to get back in the 1800s inviting him to the very best of parties. Or, perhaps, he was excited that he had received a letter addressed to both himself and Crowley.
“Angel? Who’s it from?”
“Oh—oh yes. I suppose I should open it, shouldn’t I?” Aziraphale said, laughing to himself.
“Would help,” Crowley said. And suddenly, his nose was pressed to Aziraphale’s ear—nuzzling him but only the slightest bit. Aziraphale had the thought Crowley was just as excited to receive a letter meant for both of them.
“Hand me my letter opener, would you? It’s on my desk over there.”
“Just tear it.”
“No! That would ruin it,” Aziraphale said, jerking away from Crowley’s incessant nuzzling of his ear and neck. “Please?”
Crowley retrieved the letter opener and gave it to him—but not without the fanfare of first coming behind him with it and holding it to his neck. Not so close as to actually press against his skin, but enough to send the message that he was pretending to slit the angel’s throat.
“Oh, do calm down,” Aziraphale said, grabbing Crowley’s hand in order to get the letter opener out of it without grabbing it by the blade.
“I’m just trying to play, angel,” Crowley said, nuzzling him one last time before stepping back. “What does it say?”
Aziraphale slit the top of the envelope carefully and pulled out the white card inside. Lovely, matte cardstock—a suitable weight and thickness.
“Angel, the suspense is killing me. What does it say?”
“It’s a wedding invitation!” Aziraphale said, smiling as he ran his fingers over the front of the card—decorated with the same gold embellishment as the envelope. An elegant “You’re Invited” in not too ornate, not too over-pronounced script.
“For whom?” Crowley asked, his forehead pressed to the back of Aziraphale’s head—nuzzling him again. He did this from time to time, usually when it was time for him to go back to his own flat. It could be a bit much to be rubbed on as if by a pet cat wanting treats, but Aziraphale would rather tolerate it than put a stop to it. There was a time in the past when Crowley used to massage his shoulders at odd intervals throughout the day and he asked him politely to stop—meaning just for the moment—and Crowley had never done it again.
“That nice American girl and the gentleman from the airbase. Anathema and Newt!”
“Oh, Book Girl!” Crowley declared. “When’s the wedding? How did she get your address?”
“I imagine I’m not so hard to find. She is a witch after all. Oh, but I am excited!”
“When’s the date, angel?” Crowley asked again, his lips dangerously close to Aziraphale’s neck.
Aziraphale had been having the inkling these past few months that the demon wanted to kiss him, but he’d never tried. Aziraphale, for what it was worth, wasn’t opposed but didn’t feel right making that move on his own. After all, what if he was wrong? A move like that could ruin everything.
“Oh, you really are useless,” Crowley said, snatching the invite out of Aziraphale’s hand. “October. Great. Lovely. Uh—put me down for the fish.”
“You’re planning to eat?” Aziraphale asked, turning around on the couch to smile at the demon.
“I’ll have to keep up the appearance of being human, even if you already told the witch and her beau that I’m a snake.” He hissed the word into the back of Aziraphale’s neck and dropped the card down into the angel’s lap. “I have to go. Dinner? Night after tomorrow?”
“Yes, yes perfect. You decide the place,” Aziraphale said, picking up the card and examining it happily.
“Goodbye, angel,” Crowley said, pausing briefly between his word of departure and the word of endearment, like he wanted to say something more.
Aziraphale peered after him as Crowley made his way to the door and left—watched as the illegally parked Bentley roared into life and started off down the street.
He returned his focus to the card and smiled at the little handwritten note added just for him and Crowley beneath the typed details for the wedding. It stated she and Newt would be so happy to have them in attendance, that Adam Young and the other children would be joining, and even added a phone number so that he might call if he had any questions regarding human customs.
He didn’t know why she thought he wasn’t familiar with human wedding ceremonies and customs, but tried not to dwell on it. Maybe that was more so for Crowley. After all, it seemed odd for a demon to frequent love ceremonies since they weren’t technically known for experiencing love.
Aziraphale tried not to dwell on that thought either.
He set to making arrangements, marking the date on the calendar and picking out what suit he wished to wear. It felt in bad form to wear the one he had been wearing at the airbase. He liked his suit, it was his favorite, but he didn’t want the humans to think he was only in possession of one.
The following afternoon after he’d received the invitation, he decided it would be in good form to give Anathema a call and congratulate her on her engagement and the wedding.
“Do extend my greetings to Newt when he gets home,” Aziraphale said halfway through the call.
“I will! And you can tell Mr. Crowley I wish him well—or bad. Or however demons want to be wished,” she said, laughing.
“Yes, I certainly will. I think he was absolutely thrilled to be included on your invitation. Outside of myself and Mr. Shadwell, I don’t believe he has many friends.”
“I just took a wild guess at putting him on the card. I assumed if you’ve known each other for as long as you say, the best way to reach him was through you. I didn’t know if he’d even be interested in coming at all. Weddings don’t seem like a serpent’s favorite past time.”
“Well, he’s definitely more than just a serpent,” Aziraphale said, not sure why he was pursing his lips in distaste. “Anyway, so long as there are spirits, he’ll definitely have a good time. Not—Not in the rambunctious way, of course. I wouldn’t let him try to steal your spotlight. Not that he would. Crowley’s really quite shy when he’s out of his element.”
For some reason, Anathema chuckled at him.
“I-I do believe I’ve missed something,” Aziraphale said, licking his lips anxiously. He did so hate to be butt of other’s jokes.
“You two really are something,” she said. “I expect an invitation for your wedding. Assuming you two aren’t already—”
“Crowley and I aren’t a couple!” Aziraphale said, laughing anxiously. “At any rate, even if we were, a holy matrimony… Well, it’s not meant for angels or demons. It’s for humans. A beautiful, beautiful blessing of the Almighty for you humans.”
“Oh—Oh, I’m glad you mentioned it,” Anathema said, cutting him off. “There’s… Well, I hate to be falling for some kind of stereotype or anything, but I don’t want… Look, there’s going to be priest because Newt’s mother wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s going to be some...some aspects of blessings. Is Mr. Crowley going to be alright for that?”
“Oh, dear… Yes, that does pose a problem. I think so long as he himself isn’t blessed, he’ll be alright.”
“Good. That’s good. Say—Mr. Fell, I don’t know too many people over here and my mom is coming for a few days to help with the dress and everything, but… I wondered if you’d like to join in some of the planning? I haven’t gone cake tasting yet and thought you might know some good local places.”
“I know all the best,” Aziraphale said, positively beaming at the thought.
“Anything to stop his mother from baking the cake. She wants to be helpful, but...I want a big cake. Like the movies.”
They talked a while about mothers and traditions, cakes and lace gowns.
And then ended up talking about Crowley. Aziraphale wasn’t sure if it was Anathema or himself who brought him up again. But he did know, by the end of the call, that he was terribly excited to discuss it all with the demon himself.
( ) ( ) ( )
Aziraphale was waiting outside the bakery, holding a wrapped gift in his hands. He didn’t think it was customary to bring a present to a cake-tasting, but he was so delighted to have been included in the wedding planning that he just had to express his gratitude somehow.
“Ah, Anathema!” He called, waving as the woman appeared around the corner of the block. She had her mother with her, he knew, and Newt’s mother.
“This is him, Mom. Be polite,” Anathema said.
“He’s the shopkeeper, right?” Her mother whispered.
“He’s old!” Newt’s mother whispered.
Aziraphale could hear their conversation even though they were still too far away for it to be natural by human ear. He didn’t let the bickering get to him, though.
“Mr. Fell, it’s good to see you again,” Anathema said, hugging him as soon as they were close enough to touch. It caught him off guard, but he tried to act natural and hug back while the two mothers stood awkwardly behind her, smiling at him.
“I brought you a little something. No need to open it now. Let’s focus on getting you the most splendid cake for your big day,” he said, beaming as she accepted the present and showed it to her mother—well, mothers Aziraphale guessed.
They went into the bakery and tried two more throughout the day, resulting in a decision and celebratory drinks over dinner at a lovely Italian spot, Aziraphale’s suggestion. The mothers seemed to have warmed up to him (not that it was particularly hard for an angel to charm people), but after two bottles of white wine between the four of them, their politeness became a bit intimate.
“She mentioned you had a little, er, gentleman friend,” Newt’s mother said, smiling at him in a way that made Aziraphale nervous.
“Well, I-I have many friends,” Aziraphale said, smiling anxiously and taking a sip of wine.
“No! No, no! A special friend,” she pressed.
“Oh—You do mean, Crowley. Yes. My best friend.” He looked anxiously down at his empty plate, having nothing but his wineglass to hide behind.
“Please don’t,” Anathema said, trying to sound lighthearted. “Mr. Fell, I’m sorry,” she said, offering him a sympathetic grin. “They’re just very curious about you.”
“Nothing to be curious about. Good friends are quite common. I’m sure you all have best friends at home,” Aziraphale said, trying not to kill the joyful mood.
“Oh… Oh, is he not…?” The mothers shared a knowing glance with each other, then looked at Aziraphale. He did very much feel like an exhibit in the zoo.
“No,” Aziraphale said, rather more firmly than he’d intended. “He is not. We are not. We’re not a couple,” he said, looking to Anathema for help.
Anathema changed the subject rather quickly and the whole ordeal ended with a rather polite and apologetic call from the bride-to-be later that evening after she returned home.
“I am so, so sorry. I might’ve told them… I assumed before that you and he… I’m sorry. That was entirely my fault. I didn’t expect her to interrogate you over dinner. They’re just curious about you is all.”
“I do understand,” Aziraphale said, putting aside his own discomfort as he could tell how upset it had made Anathema. “It’s alright. In another hundred years...” Realizing what he’d been about to say, Aziraphale promptly bit his tongue. Reminding the woman of the fragility of human mortality was not a thing to say before a wedding. “Ah, what I meant to say was, a hundred years ago I would’ve feared being persecuted for such a thing. For me, as you’d imagine, that still feels rather fresh. I forget that in today’s climate, no one is going to come for me and Crowley with pitchforks. But, even so, we are not a couple.”
“Of course, of course! I’m sorry. I did tell them that on the drive home. I don’t think they believed me.”
“I just hate that it seems to have distracted from your big day, is all,” Aziraphale said, by way of trying to trick the American into ending the discussion.
“Mr. Fell, I know before you said that marriage was for humans… Is that to say, for angels and demons, you don’t need romance or anything? Do angels fall in love?”
“We love everything,” Aziraphale said, looking over his shoulder as if he expected the Metatron to appear and scold him for talking about any of this with mortals. There wasn’t a law that said he couldn’t, but it certainly wasn’t wise. It could lead to all sorts of trouble.
“But what about romantic love? I’m sorry… That’s too personal to ask. I’m just curious. I thought for sure you and Mr. Crowley were a pair at the airbase. You seemed so—”
“Well, we are a pair,” Aziraphale said. “Just not in that sense. We don’t have human impulses or customs to uphold. That is to say, we don’t have the urge to...to reproduce or anything of that sort which might define a human couple.”
“And you wouldn’t want to? Just to see what it’s like?”
Truly, the question had him rather stunned. It wasn’t that he hadn’t thought about it, but to have another living creature ask him (a creature who wasn’t Crowley, at any rate) left him speechless.
“Sorry… Must still be the wine,” she said, clicking her tongue. “I hope we haven’t upset you. I had a lot of fun today and I-I really don’t want to make you uncomfortable. We’re trying on dresses next weekend.”
“Oh, that will be lovely,” Aziraphale said. His mind felt pulled in seven different directions as the call wound down to an end. When he’d placed his phone back on the receiver, he felt his heart sink and wasn’t sure why.
Greed wasn’t really a sin he enjoyed entertaining. Gluttony, maybe when it came to sushi and crepes, but not greed...not envy.
So why did he now feel that he had been denied something? That he should want something more?
As quickly as the feeling rushed him, Aziraphale shook it away. How could he even think he wanted more when he’d already determined that the bookshop felt cramped with how often Crowley was here? He couldn’t both want him around more and less.
Foolishness. The human girl had just gotten into his head. This was not going to be like the time he got caught up in Shakespeare’s sonnets or Byron’s poems… Or dear Oscar’s words of love. He wasn’t going to make that mistake again and spend a decade wallowing in self-pity because, as an angel, he didn’t get to enjoy in romantic love. God made him to love all things equally, not to love one thing more than all else—except Her of course. Of course his love for Her came first, but…
This was silly. He had no right to be jealous of the gift of love which She instilled specifically in humankind. He had no right to be greedy and wish for more. What he had was enough.
( ) ( ) ( )
“Since when have you got a smart phone?” Crowley asked, peering over the back of Aziraphale’s reading chair.
“Oh this? Anathema added me to her and Newt’s ‘family’ plan! She said they get a discount on their rate and got me this phone for next to nothing. She was rather happy with the vintage wines I gave her for the wedding.” Truthfully, Aziraphale struggled to make sense of the device, but he enjoyed this new website called ‘E-Bay’ where he could place bids on rare books. It was like being a part of the world’s largest auction at any hour of the night!
“You didn’t give her the bottle I gave you, did you?” Crowley asked.
“Of course not! What sort of friend would I be?”
“Friend… Yes.” All at once, Crowley had pulled away and draped himself across the couch. He put on his sunglasses which Aziraphale thought a touch strange, and crossed his arms behind his head. “I hear there’s going to be a priest.”
“I think I’ll come round for the reception. Ceremonies aren’t really my thing.”
“I worried the blessings might make you uncomfortable...”
“I probably shouldn’t go at all. It’s not like they’re my friends.”
“They are too! And you’re going. Adam will be there!”
“Right. Antichrist. Of course… Sounds like the opening to a joke. An angel, a demon, and the Antichrist walk into a wedding.” His voice held no humor.
“What’s got you so upset?”
“Nothing, angel. It’s nothing. What’s the next activity she’s invited you to? Dresses?”
“No. She settled on one last weekend. And the venue was already decided. I...er, dissuaded her from a church. I knew you wouldn’t be able to go if that were the case.”
“You don’t have to go ruining her wedding just so I can come.”
“Ruining? Crowley, don’t be silly. She’s a witch and didn’t want a cathedral wedding that much to begin with. It was the boy’s mother who wanted it the most. Now, do tell me why you’re in such a bad mood.”
“Demon,” he said, as if that were an excuse.
“You’re pouting. Did you want to go dress shopping? If you’d asked—”
“No, I didn’t want to go dress shopping,” Crowley snapped, fixing him with an exasperated gaze.
“Then what’s this about?” Aziraphale asked, meeting his eyes with a rather put-on pout of his own.
“Why did you get a smart phone?”
“I told you! Anathema gave it to me.”
“I offered to buy you one months ago—you told me no. You said they were stupid.”
“You’re jealous!” Aziraphale said, more out of surprise than an accusation. Crowley took it for the latter and sat up on the couch.
“They’re going to die,” he said.
“That’s rude! Don’t go saying that at the wedding,” Aziraphale said.
“I—That’s not… Do you really think I’m that dumb? Angel, these are humans. Haven’t you learned by now not to get attached to humans? They have this awful habit of doing this tricky little thing called dying. What are you getting attached to them for?”
“Life is for living, Crowley. I would like to spend my time on the Earth knowing the humans rather than just watching them. It’s very rare I’m invited to such personal things. I’m going to enjoy it.”
“Yeah… Enjoy knowing them,” Crowley muttered, settling back down on the couch.
He was mad, but he didn’t want to leave. That was what made the shop feel so cramped half the time. Crowley would do things like this and Aziraphale had absolutely nowhere to go to be rid of him, and he feared asking him to leave would cause him to stay gone for good.
“You didn’t text me, either,” Crowley said after some time.
“You’ve had this phone for how long and still had me calling the shop to talk to you? Were you not planning to give me your new number?”
“I was going to give it to you while you were here! Stop reading into things.”
Aziraphale stood from his reading chair and came over to the couch, reaching down to grab Crowley’s legs and lift them—earning a startled “mmf” from the demon—so he could sit down with the demon’s ankles crossed over his lap.
“I know they’ll die,” he said softly, rubbing his hand gently over Crowley’s leg, near his ankle. “But I do enjoy making friends. Don’t you get lonely?”
“When I get lonely, I come here,” Crowley said, shrugging as best he could while lying down. “I spend time with you. Because you’re immortal. And neither of us are going anywhere.”
“And if I weren’t?” Aziraphale asked. “If I were just a human, would you still come by and visit?”
“But you’re not… And you won’t ever be.”
“Well, if you were human, I’d still visit you,” Aziraphale said, patting Crowley’s ankle.
“Like you did with Oscar Wilde?” Crowley asked, head tipped back as he stared at the ceiling.
“Oscar was a bright young man… Terrible what they did to him. But yes. I would visit you like I did Oscar.”
“Anathema isn’t some great writer. She’s not going to leave behind a legacy of literature for you to pour over. And neither is Newt.”
“And neither will you,” Aziraphale countered.
“But I’m not going anywhere.”
“Eventually you’ll get bored of my shop and you—”
“Or you’ll get bored of having me in your shop, is that it?” Crowley sat up, pulling his legs away from Aziraphale and made to stand. “You like humans because they die. I get it.”
“Oh, shut it!” Aziraphale snapped. “I don’t want to hear you talking like that. For your information, I’ve been glad to have you around the shop. You’ve been my only friend for six thousand years and I’ve enjoyed being able to spend this much time together without being in fear of getting caught. Now tell me why you’re upset!”
Crowley, instead of answering, made his way to the bookshop door and left, muttering something about “friends for six thousand years” under his breath as he did so.
( ) ( ) ( )
“And this ‘app’ is for making friends?” Aziraphale asked, peering at the screen of his phone through his reading glasses. He didn’t need them, but he imagined he must look charming as he wore them to examine his gadget.
“Yeah—for making new friends of all kinds,” Newt said, careful not to touch the phone in case it malfunctioned.
“Oh, that’s rather exciting! I have struggled in this modern era. It’s not like the old days. You know, I used to be part of this gentleman’s club back in the day—no, I know what you’re thinking. Not like today’s clubs, at any rate. Why, all you had to do back then was go up to a person and say ‘hello’ and you could be invited to join a club or be invited to meetings and rallies. Today, if I were to do that, I might end up shot at.”
“Well, no one’s going to shoot you on here. Unless they ‘shoot you a text,’ right?” Newt asked, smiling at him.
Over the next hour or so, the nice boy helped to set up Aziraphale’s ‘profile,’ promising the photos he selected were tasteful and appealing. They came up with a short, two sentence description of himself and listed off his hobbies. Almost immediately, he started to get little notifications of people who wanted to be his friend.
Around the time he had begun conversations with three different gentlemen about books and local restaurants, Crowley and Anathema came back from the grocery store. She had thought it a good idea for all of them to spend more time together as friends instead of just her and Aziraphale after he’d told her about the row he and Crowley had had. Crowley must be lonely, she told him, and too ashamed to admit it. He didn’t want replaced by Aziraphale’s new human friends.
“How was the trip?” Newt asked, going to her and kissing her. Aziraphale watched them, noticed the way Crowley leaned away from the happy couple, and then felt like a voyeur and turned his attention back to his phone.
“It was good. There’s still more groceries in the car. Can you help me?”
“Of course. Er, we’ll be right back,” Newt said, nodding to Aziraphale before stepping out to help unload groceries.
“You look pleased,” Crowley said, coming to sit beside Aziraphale on Anathema’s couch.
“Newt showed me this new ‘app’ to meet friends.”
“Which one’s that? Facebook? I’ll add you on mine.” Crowley started taking his phone out of his pocket, lifting his sunglasses to rest on the top of his head.
“No. I’m not sure what he called it. Here—look! I’m already making friends,” Aziraphale said, showing his phone to Crowley who, for some reason, immediately looked close to tears. It was an expression Aziraphale had never seen on his face before—a look close to betrayal. A look of absolute pain. “Oh… Oh, dear. Are you alright?”
“Course,” Crowley said, his phone sliding back into his pocket and his sunglasses coming down to cover his eyes.
“Crowley?” Aziraphale asked, beginning to feel nervous. He checked his phone screen, wondering if there had been something rude written on it—or maybe one of the people he’d made friends with had sent a verse from the bible. One had really enjoyed Aziraphale’s spirituality. Perhaps he sent a message too holy that hurt Crowley just by looking at it.
However, the screen showed nothing except the list of messages. The single one left unread, in bold text, simply said “You are something else!” That shouldn’t upset Crowley.
“Whoa… Everything okay in here?” Anathema asked, suddenly reappearing in the doorway.
Aziraphale looked at her and then glanced at Crowley, stammering for words. Crowley was ignoring both of them in favor of staring at the wall beside the couch, one fist raised to his mouth as if he were poised to cough though no sound came out. His posture was the very definition of tense, however, and Aziraphale didn’t know how to explain it.
“I… Maybe he just needs a minute,” Aziraphale said, trying to place a hand on Crowley’s shoulder just to have the demon shrug it away forcefully.
“Did something happen while you were shopping?” Newt whispered to her, getting a roll of the eyes in response.
“Give them a minute,” she whispered back, pulling him into the kitchen to put away the groceries. They continued whispering to each other, though Aziraphale could hear much of what they said. “What did you and Mr. Fell get up to?”
“I showed him Tinder.”
“You did what?”
“Tinder! He said he wanted to meet people.”
“Meet—people! People, people. Not meet people. You idiot.”
“Oh… What’s that got to do with him though? Why’s he all mad?”
“Oh, I don’t know, probably because his boyfriend is now on Tinder? You moron.” Someone got hit with a dish towel.
“Was it…the website?” Aziraphale asked, wondering why Anathema had gone back to the assumption that he and Crowley were more than friends.
Crowley took in a deep, long breath and shivered.
“It’s nothing, angel,” he said, forcing his posture to relax though his lips remained pressed in a thin line.
“You’re very upset...”
“Now’s not the time, Aziraphale. Later. Just… Later. Have your fun. I’m going to wait in the car. Don’t hurry on my account.” And with that, he stood up to leave and was gone before Aziraphale or Anathema could say a word to him.
“I don’t understand,” Aziraphale said, chuckling anxiously. It had never been his intention to cause a scene. “I’m afraid we must be going...”
“Are you sure? We could take you home… Or if you wanted to stay the night—”
“I think it best we talk about this sooner rather than later. I’m afraid if I let him stew, he tends to disappear.”
“Mr. Fell?” Anathema said, smiling at him almost piteously. Newt, behind her, was looking rather sheepish while tucking produce into the fridge.
“Tell Mr. Crowley how you feel.”
“I’m afraid I don’t—” He didn’t get a chance to answer as the woman hugged him. “And delete that app off your phone. Those men only want one thing from you.”
Aziraphale stared at her a moment, mulling over the words until the realization dawned on him.
“Oh—Oh! Oh, no. No. You think that—?”
“Yes. I know it. And so does Mr. Crowley.”
“You mean to say… He thinks that I…? Oh dear!” Aziraphale departed the home as quickly as if it were on fire and practically fell into Crowley’s death trap. “Good heavens!”
“What are you on about?” Crowley asked, starting the car with a heavy sigh.
“I hadn’t realized the groom-to-be put me on a sex workers’ website! You really must show me how to delete it when we get home.”
“When we get home?” Crowley asked.
“Yes! Back to the shop at once. I should like to stop this charade before it goes any further. Why, the authorities could even become involved. It has my photograph!” Aziraphale protested. No wonder Crowley had been so upset at him when he saw the app. He’d thought Aziraphale was going to go meeting mortals to lay with them for money! Why, Aziraphale would’ve been equally repulsed if Crowley had suggested doing such a thing.
Why in the world had Newt gotten that impression of him?