Crowley and Aziraphale meet when they are five years old and Crowley gets thrown out of Sunday school for talking out of turn. Actually, he got sent out into the hall “until he could be less disruptive”. By his estimation, he couldn’t be less disruptive, so he didn’t bother coming back.
Aziraphale, upset that someone hadn’t gotten their snack, went out in the hallway to offer him carrot sticks and a juice box. The teacher tried to stop him, saying kids in time out didn’t get snack. Aziraphale had wanted to put forth a complex moral argument pointing out that Jesus showed up to help people who’d lost their way or who society shunned, and Jesuswould have given Crowley a juice box just like Jesus healed the Centurian’s daughter in that one story, because even though you live differently than someone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be kind, and Jesus wasn’t a rule follower anyway, so fight the power, he’d probably be chilling in the hallway too if he was five.
Aziraphale was still five years old, though, so instead of a complex moral argument he stomped his foot and shouted, “LOVE THY NEIGHBOR!” before exiting with great dignity.
Crowley picked the apple juice so Aziraphale drank the tropical punch flavor, which, if he were entirely honest, tasted a bit like apple too.
Crowley didn’t want to be friends, but Aziraphale wasn’t one to be deterred once he’d set out to be nice to someone. He was of the opinion that ‘kill them with kindness’ was “a bit too extreme” and he’d really rather gently prod someone with tentative sweetness until they gave in and befriended him. Growing up with a mess of older siblings had turned him into the kind of quietly nervous child who’d much rather hide in a kitchen cupboard with his battered copies of The Chronicles of Narnia than attempt drastic actions like aggressive friend-making.
So he just sort of…enabled friendship…without having to do the hard part such as actually being the first person to speak when sitting next to another human being.
When in doubt, smother someone with kindness until they cried uncle and agreed to be your friend or socked you in the face and stole the best bits of your lunch.
(In point of fact, Aziraphale had been socked in the face twice in his short life, both by kids in his kindergarten class, and frankly, by this point he was getting a little desperate and his nose was getting a little sore.)
So Aziraphale wasn’t feeling particularly brave when he defied the Sunday school teacher to bring refreshments to the naughty corner (or naughty hallway, as it actually was). He was coasting on the brazen high one gets when one does something that one simultaneously knows is a.) phenomenally stupid, and b.) probably pretty cool, all things considered. That high of course vanished instantly when he was faced with the daunting task of actually having to speak to Crowley himself. With his words. In person. Eye contact was probably required.
So Aziraphale just sort of held out the juice boxes, let Crowley pick one, offered him a plastic baggie of goldfish crackers, then plunked himself down on the bench next to him, pseudo-bravery entirely exhausted for the moment.
He was examining his sneakers – white, scuffed, definitely hand-me-downs from one of his veritable army of siblings – and wishing they were something a little more glamorous than scuffed white sneakers, when the other boy cleared his throat pointedly beside him.
Aziraphale couldn’t decide if he should look up or not. He probably should – his Mummy told him that was the polite thing to do when someone was obviously trying to get your attention – but he really didn’t wantto look up and he’d heard somewhere that following your instincts was important. Aziraphale wasn’t sure if he had any instincts. He mostly seemed to have worries, fears, and bursts of wild indignation that landed him in awkward hallways with the Sunday school bad boy.
The Sunday school bad boy cleared his throat again. Pointedly. Aziraphale snuck a look at him through his white-blonde curls. The other boy was wearing all black clothes, he noted. A slightly too-big black button-down and black trousers with the cuffs rolled up and mostly black sneakers (there were bits of other colors on them – it’s hard to find all-black children’s shoes and people give you funny looks if you ask around too much). He looked like a tiny undertaker.
“Hey,” the other boy said, frowning. He was wearing sunglasses indoors. Aziraphale knew blind people sometimes did that, but this boy didn’t seem blind. At least he didn’t have a cane or a dog or a helper. And he seemed to be able to tell when Aziraphale offered him a choice of juice boxes.
Oh god. What if Aziraphale had offered a visual choice of juice boxes to a blind boy? Did you get smited for that? Smote? What was the proper conjugation of ‘smite’, anyway? And was it going to happen to him for offering a possibly-blind Sunday school drop out a choice of juice boxes without any verbal indicators of what was going on?
Aziraphale didn’t think so, but there had been some rather grisly stories in the old testament, so he mentally apologized to whomever might be listening in just in case.
Always best to hedge your bets. Smiting sounded like a terrible way to go.
The other boy was still staring at him. Or at least his sunglasses were. He had the reddest hair Aziraphale had ever seen in real life. It was long, too, and fell in lovely tangled curls Azirphale really wanted to touch but knew he probably shouldn’t.
“Why’d you come out here?” the boy with the pretty hair asked.
Azirphale cleared his throat. He was only five, after all, and couldn’t be expected to perform well under this much social pressure. “I felt sad,” he managed to mumble.
“Huh?” the other boy asked.
Azirphale cleared his throat again, “I FELT SAD,” he said, louder, too loud, really – he quieted down, “I felt sad that you were sent away. Everyone should get snack time.”
“Uh-huh,” the other boy said skeptically, crunching on a fistful of goldfish, “But I was bad, wasn’t I? Got kicked out and all. ‘S stupid anyway,” he interrupted himself, turning away from Aziraphale and kicking his feet. The black sneakers swung like dark pendulums – back and forth, back and forth. “I didn’t wanna come. But the fosters say I’ve got to. I wanted to stay in with the grown ups and listen to the music and do the bread and grape juice thing. Instead I get sent here.”
“There’s goldfish and apple juice here,” Aziraphale offered.
“Yeah,” the other boy conceded, “that’s pretty alright.”
“What’s your name?” Aziraphale, feeling a little braver, asked.
The other boy hummed. It wasn’t a hymn, or a song Aziraphale recognized at the time (it was ‘We Are the Champions’ by Queen, but Aziraphale wouldn’t learn that for a long while). “Crowley,” he finally seemed to decide after much consideration, “You can call me Crowley.”
“Why do you wear sunglass indoors, Crowley?” Aziraphale asked. He figured if Crowley was answering questions he might as well go for the big one.
Crowley chewed on the straw to his juice box, “it’s my eyes. They hurt when it’s too bright. It’s just easier.”
“S’not your fault.”
“I can still be sorry your eyes hurt.”
Crowley stares at him and takes a long drag on his juice box. “You’re pretty alright.”
Aziraphale practically glows at that. He’s never been deemed ‘pretty alright’ before. That seems like something of an accomplishment. Especially considering it was the Sunday School Bad Boy saying it. “You’re pretty alright too,” He offers.
“I know,” Crowley says with complete certainty.
Aziraphale decides then and there that he and Crowley are going to be best friends or mortal enemies. He’s not sure what a mortal enemy entails, but based on the handful of cartoons he’s seen, mortal enemies spend and awful lot of time together and that’s what he wants to do with the strange boy with the red curls.
“Do you want to be mortal enemies?” he asks, then, realizing he should really offer another option in case mortal enemies doesn’t appeal, “Or best friends?”
“Those the only options?” Crowley at least seems to be thinking about it.
Aziraphale shrugs, “Well, I want to spend lots of time with you and those seemed to cover it.”
He can’t see Crowley’s eyes behind the sunglasses but Aziraphale has the distinct impression he’s being blinked incredulously at. After a long pause that probably wasn’t all that long but felt like a small eternity to two kindergarteners, Crowley declares, “Best friends. Enemies sounds like too much work.”
They shake on it just to make sure it sticks.