Chapter 1: Surveillance duck
Aziraphale rapped lightly on the door to announce himself, before miracling it open and entering Crowley's flat. Under normal circumstances, he'd wait politely until Crowley answered and ushered him in. But these weren't normal circumstances.
Crowley had called him on the phone, a simple message, "Get over here, angel. I'm at my place. I knew it all along!"
His voice had sounded a bit crazed.
And so, Aziraphale, all puffed up with flustered concern, had hurried right over. Never mind that Crowley had spent the previous night at the bookshop and he'd only just left an hour before, well-loved and grinning. Obviously, something had changed for the worse between then and now.
Of all the worries that had crossed Aziraphale's mind from the time he set down the phone until the moment he strode purposefully through the door of Crowley's flat — none of them had included a scenario with a duck in the kitchen.
But there it was in the sink, which Crowley had filled to the brim with temperate water, and it was paddling its little duck feet contentedly to keep afloat.
"Careful," said Crowley, because the duck had begun to emit a series of soft warning quacks as Aziraphale came closer. "Gotta go slow. Or he startles."
Crowley's hair was noticeably messier than usual, and he was sporting a series of red welts on his face and neck that might well have been beak marks.
Aziraphale stopped a careful distance from the sink. His gaze shifted from the duck to Crowley and then back again.
"Well, don't look at me," he said to the duck, who was looking at him. "I don't know why he's brought you here."
"Hah!" Crowley said. "Don't let him fool you. 'S not a proper duck."
With the flick of a finger, Crowley lifted the duck out of water, its feet still paddling uselessly, and he levitated it to the dark, polished marble of the kitchen island. He set it down, very gently, and then when it reared up and flapped its wings, he asked it to settle down, please.
The duck obeyed.
"We've come to an understanding," Crowley said.
The duck quacked, as if in agreement, and looked expectantly at Aziraphale.
"Told him you'd get the surveillance thingy out of his eye."
"Oh, goodness," Aziraphale said once he'd moved closer to examine both eyes of the hapless waterfowl.
The left eye was a normal, beady duck eye, full of appetite and menace. The right eye, however — the right eye was something else altogether. A swirl of cold, angelic light clouded its surface and the pupil looked quite a bit like the lens of a camera.
"Do you think Heaven's been using ducks all along. Or is this something new?"
"Dunno," Crowley said. "Can you fix it? Make him a normal duck again? He wants to be a normal duck. Said so."
"Yes. I can fix this. I just have to–"
"Wait!" Crowley grabbed his hand, stopping Aziraphale before he began the miracle. "Not yet."
"What on earth... oh," Aziraphale said as Crowley pulled him into an embrace and then a kiss.
"Let's send them a message first. Before you destroy the camera."
Crowley resumed the kiss, and it was a lovely one, full of love and tenderness — those gentle things Heaven wouldn't have believed possible for a demon — with just enough desire mixed in to shock any angel that wasn't Aziraphale.
All the while, the duck kept its eye on them.
In another plane of reality altogether, a lesser cherub pressed the emergency call button at their desk, summoning Gabriel and Michael to the surveillance department. Perhaps the archangels could watch the live feed with them and help them make sense of what was happening.
What, exactly, were the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley doing to each other's faces? And also, what did it symbolize for the angel to gesture, like so, at the camera, his middle finger pointing skyward?
Chapter 2: Ark-ward Conversations
The Ark of Noah has limited space and a whole lot of animals. Also one angel. And one demon. An awkward conversation ensues. Inspired by that tweet.
For the first time in his earthly existence, Aziraphale felt weary. After checking on all the animals — and spending miracles to ensure their comfort — he found a quiet corner of the Ark and sat down to ponder the state of things.
Crawly slithered over. He shifted back to his familiar human form and glared at the angel. He still wasn't happy about all the drownings.
And who could blame him? The rains had been pouring down, brutal and unrelenting for seven days already. And still Aziraphale couldn't shake the memory of desperate voices crying out in vain for mercy and protection.
"Have fun, did you?" Crawly asked. "Checking on all the animals?"
"Fun?" Aziraphale snapped at him. "No, this isn't fun."
Aziraphale sighed and his tone softened. It wasn't Crawly's fault, all this misery. Not this time, at least.
"Exhausting is what it is. Do you know how many miracles it takes to keep the predators quiet? They all want to get free and eat the antelope. Or the sheep. Or the rabbits."
He sighed again.
"And on the topic of rabbits, well, there's another exhausting set of miracles. And not only the rabbits. Suppressing their urges is– it's just–"
He was grasping for a polite way to describe the difficulty of trying to prevent a shipful of very determined creatures from mating with one another.
"Well, I can barely keep up with them, is what I'm saying."
He glanced at Crawly, aware that he'd just unloaded all of his troubles without giving Crawly a chance to reply.
Beside him, the demon was quiet. He seemed a bit puzzled. After a moment, when he still hadn't resolved whatever was confusing him, he looked at Aziraphale.
"What'd you mean, 'suppressing their urges?'"
Aziraphale frowned at him. "Er, well... what else could I mean?"
Aziraphale watched his face. He saw the exact moment that it came to him and Crawly understood.
"Oh!" he said, sounding shocked by the revelation, but also relieved to have the answer.
"That's why there's two of each!"
Chapter 3: Mistletoe
I'm writing a bunch of small fics to participate in drawlight's Ineffable Husbands Advent Calendar project/thing/community fic writing adventure. Not sure if I have the time or focus to keep up with all 31 prompts. But the ones I complete will be added here.
"Got you something," Crowley said.
Aziraphale poked his head around the corner of a bookshelf and watched as Crowley set the gift down on the desk.
"Oh? Is it flowers?" he asked.
It looked like flowers. The awkward wrapping gave it away, with its loose paper all tucked and folded, secured with tape.
Crowley had been bringing him all sorts of little gifts lately, ever since the world hadn't ended. Most of them were given in earnest — pastries, flowers, chocolates, and other lovely things like that. But every now and again he would hand over one of those ridiculous greeting cards — with angels drawn on the cover and trite words of inspiration printed on the inside.
The most recent one said, "Be at peace. An angel holds you in the palm of his hand."
Aziraphale had rolled his eyes. And then he'd made a crude joke about more straightforward ways of requesting a handjob.
"No need to submit a formal request. You know all you have to do is ask."
And Crowley, who somehow hadn't anticipated a comment like that one, had gone speechless — his mouth gaping open, then working itself into a delighted grin. And after that, neither of them had said much of anything at all. They'd found other ways to occupy their mouths together. So, perhaps the religious cards weren't so terrible, after all.
But flowers were always lovely.
"Let's see them," Aziraphale said as he made his way to the desk
He stood beside Crowley and unwrapped the paper.
"Not quite flowers," Crowley said, now that they were both looking down at the twisted clump of greenery — sprigs of mistletoe, laden with small white berries.
"You know," he said. "The policy applies beyond handjobs. If you wanted a kiss, all you had to do was ask."
And suddenly, Crowley was laughing again — with that bright, dimpled smile and the laugh lines creasing at the corners of his eyes. And wasn't that the best gift in the world?
"Come here then," Aziraphale said, and pulled him forward until he had a demon in his arms and they were kissing.
Chapter 4: Snow
Written for day 2 of drawlight's Advent Calendar of Ineffable Husbands.
At first, Aziraphale thought something had gone wrong with his eyesight. Or alternatively, with the reading glasses, which he didn't need but very much preferred. (They were stylish!) But no, it wasn't his eyes — or his mind, for that matter — playing tricks on him. It really was snowing indoors.
And, of course, there was a demon behind it.
Crowley was leaning against one of the pillars in the bookshop. He was idly waving his hand and watching as all the nearby snowflakes swirled away from him as the air moved. He looked completely at ease. And — most delightfully — he didn't seem to notice that Aziraphale was watching. He was lost in his own little daydream.
(And, oh, he was handsome!)
Angels didn't feel this way, or at least they weren't supposed to. It hadn't been part of the design plan. But at some point in Aziraphale's long years on earth, some essence of humanity had crept in, unbeknownst to him, and staked its claim. And now it grew here within him, more and more each day — such an individual love, a comforting warmth of emotion, spiked all the way through with the thrill of desire.
All of a sudden, he wanted Crowley to look at him, to drink him in with those beautiful eyes.
"I trust you've considered the books?" he said.
It was disingenuous of him: the books were fine and he knew it. He could tell by the way each snowflake landed. They felt quite ordinary, melting against his face, but they left no traces. Not one drop of water.
At the sound of his voice, Crowley looked at him, shaken from reverie, and smiled.
There it was — the look he'd been hoping for. Crowley's grin was mischievous, yes, but that look was pure devotion.
"Relax, angel. The books are fine. Just a bit of real magic for you."
"It never snows anymore, not like the sixteen hundreds. That's what you said. So, I thought, welllll..." He drew the word out, gave it some personality. "...I have a thing for that."
He smiled again and flicked his hand through the air. Snowflakes spun away from him, eddying towards Aziraphale.
Chapter 5: Nutcracker
Written for day 4 of drawlight's Ineffable Husbands Advent Calendar.
Aziraphale wasn't drunk, but he was well on his way. He was very relaxed and tonight he sank further into the armchair than usual. As more of the wine hit his bloodstream, he kept miracling the cushions to get softer and deeper. And why not?
"They can't reprimand me anymore," he said. "I can do what I like with miracles."
"I like when you do that," Crowley said. He was sprawled across the couch, and perhaps farther down the road to intoxication than Aziraphale.
"Oh, what miracles do you like?"
Aziraphale knew exactly what sort of miracles Crowley liked, but he wanted to hear him say it. It was nice to be appreciated, after all.
"All of them," Crowley said. "I like all of them."
"You're not being specific. Name one. A miracle you like."
He was thinking about the sort of miracles they'd been exploring together recently — the ones that involved making an Effort.
He watched, a bit entranced, as Crowley pushed himself up, stretched his lean corporation, and reached for the bottle of wine. His glass was empty, but this time instead of refilling it, he drank straight from the bottle in a great gulping swig. Aziraphale admired the long line of his throat as he drank the rest of it down.
When he was done, Crowley tossed the empty bottle aside, wiped his mouth with his sleeve, and grinned.
"I always liked the ones where you helped people when you weren't supposed to," he said. "Remember when Michael reprimanded you for feeding those kids in Barcelona. Or that time with the ballet dancers — what was that one again?"
It wasn't the answer Aziraphale expected. But it was, in its own way, the exact sort of revelation he'd been hoping for. Crowley loved him. Crowley appreciated him for things that his former colleagues never understood.
Aziraphale did remember Barcelona — very fondly despite the reprimand. But he couldn't for the life of him recall anything about a ballet.
"You know the one," Crowley said. "The ballet when I was sleeping. You told me about it. You fixed all their feet."
"Oh!" Aziraphale sat forward, propelled by the sudden thrill of remembering something long buried. "Yes, The Nutcracker. In the 1890s."
"Nutcracker... riiight. With the wooden boy. Gets turned into a donkey?"
Crowley was confusing it with the plot of Pinocchio — a different wooden toy-turned-human. But Aziraphale wasn't correcting him. It was nice, sometimes, to glimpse behind the scenes — to observe the way Crowley's mind took things apart and then put them together again, but all mixed up. Missing pieces got filled in with other memories in ways that weren't quite right.
It was a comfort, in fact, because Aziraphale's mind did it, too.
Though he was wrong about the events of The Nutcracker, Crowley was right about the nature of the miracle. Aziraphale had been in Saint Petersburg for a different job altogether. He had gone to the performance alone, more than a hundred and twenty years ago. In a burst of Christmas goodwill, he'd healed injuries and removed all the pain that those beautiful dancers had been suffering. The rigors of their work had a way of wearing their bodies down, destroying the very instrument required by their craft.
"I did get a reprimand for that. Michael said it wasn't important and I shouldn't have done it. It wasn't securing souls for Heaven."
"And that's horseshit, by the way, because yes it was." Crowley was leaning forward now, waving his hand to underscore the point. "Hard to be good when it hurts. They don't understand that upstairs. I mean, downstairs... It's different down there. They all know."
"If you want," Aziraphale said. "I can tell you about other reprimands. And then we can say terrible things about Heaven together. I'll match you, insult for insult."
"You'd do that for me?"
"You know I would."
Aziraphale smiled, a bit drunkenly. Then he snapped his fingers, and sank even deeper into the now-ridiculous plushness of the armchair.
Chapter 6: Cranberry
This one's explicit. Features demisexuality, alcohol, voyeurism fantasy, and Aziraphale using words like "phallus" and "sexual union." I'm sorry, it doesn't have much to do with cranberries at all. Somehow this bit of self indulgence is what that prompt inspired...
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Aziraphale was sitting quietly and reading when Crowley returned to the bookshop. He'd gone out earlier. He'd been in a bad mood, which — judging by he way he slammed the door behind him — hadn't yet dissipated.
"I need to talk to you," Crowley said, terse and serious. "And not here."
"All right, let me just–"
Aziraphale had been about to say let me just get my coat. But Crowley had already interrupted that thought with a snap of his fingers. And now they were both standing in the kitchen of Crowley's Mayfair flat.
"I need a drink for this. Do you want one?"
There was a bottle of whiskey on the center island, along with two glasses filled with crushed ice, and a small bowl of fresh cranberries.
"Well, you've brought me here," Aziraphale said. "I may as well."
He was observing Crowley carefully. His dearest demon was energetic in a way that seemed barely contained. He was practically vibrating with it as he went about the task of assembling drinks.
"Is there something wrong?"
Crowley had retrieved a large knife.
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, you seem... agitated, for one thing."
"Agitated?" He was wearing sunglasses, so Aziraphale could see the lift of his eyebrow, but not the look in his eyes.
Crowley turned the blade to its flat side and began using it to crush the cranberries a few at a time. Their juices dripped onto the cutting board, and his fingers were wet by the time he was finished. He added several crushed berries to each of the glasses. Then he set the knife aside and poured the whiskey. When it was done, he rounded the island and practically thrust a drink into Aziraphale's hands.
"That's yours," he said.
Aziraphale took a sip and continued, very placidly, watching Crowley. He assumed that if he simply let things play out, Crowley would get to the point much sooner than if he kept interrupting.
"So, it's been — what?" Crowley said, "three months since Doomsday? Since they tried to kill us and failed spectacularly? Three months of — whatever this is."
He gestured back and forth between himself and Aziraphale with the hand that held his drink. The whiskey sloshed dangerously close to the lip of the glass, but didn't spill.
"And what do you think?" Crowley asked.
"Of us," Crowley said. "The things we've been doing together, you and me."
Aziraphale took another sip of his whiskey and worked very hard not to chuckle at the sheer amount of melodrama on display right now. In truth, he'd been expecting something like this for a while now. He'd seen it enough in humans, through the years, when friends or acquaintances of his had been infatuated with each other. They would enter into romantic relationships and, often, after a short while, one or both partners would find themselves wracked with panic.
"I like it," Aziraphale said. "Don't you?"
Crowley's mouth was open, his lower teeth bared, with his jaw thrust forward in that serpentlike way that Aziraphale always favored.
"Yesss, of course, I like it." A bit of hissing crept into his words.
"And that's upsetting you?" Aziraphale's tone was as mild and even as an angel could manage.
Crowley raised his glass and drank down half his whiskey.
"What I want to know is why. Is it Her doing? Does the Almighty find this entertaining?!"
"Oh, well, I don't know about that–"
Crowley cut him off.
"Do you have any idea how many orgies I've been to, angel?"
Aziraphale blinked. He hadn't expected that.
"I suppose I don't."
He downed the rest of his drink and slammed the glass onto the countertop.
Aziraphale was doing his best to hold onto that serene expression. Crowley was all worked up over this, clearly. And he wanted very much to listen carefully and then give some advice, whether called upon or not. But the thought of Crowley at an orgy, well — given what he already knew about Crowley and sexuality, the very idea of it made him feel both amused and fond.
"Did you bring books to read?" Aziraphale asked.
"Of course not."
"Then how on earth did you while away the time?"
Crowley poured himself another drink, added a few more cranberries.
"I'd sit alone and watch them writhing around together, so I could report back to Hastur. Another temptation complete."
He approached Aziraphale to top off his glass, and they shared a look. Crowley's eyes were a flash of yellow over the rim of his sunglasses.
"It was baffling to me why any of them wanted to do that," he added.
And all Aziraphale could think about were the intimate things they'd done together — starting right here in this kitchen — on that first night when the world hadn't ended. It had been a new set of pleasures for both of them.
Aziraphale could have availed himself of other opportunities through the years. And yet, like Crowley, he hadn't seen the appeal until quite recently. All the love and affection that he felt towards his dearest friend had built up to the point of crescendo. And then everything had shifted, like a switch being flipped and closing a circuit to turn on the lights.
"I understand, you know," he said. "Human men would invite me to bed with them sometimes. And I'd have to explain — as gently as possible, so as not to hurt their feelings — that I didn't share those desires. And now.... Well. With you it's different, isn't it?"
Aziraphale paused and took a moment to watch as the demon removed his sunglasses and set them aside. Seeing his eyes again felt like a small victory. He pressed forward with his question.
"If you could make it stop — the way it feels between us — would you?"
"No," Crowley said. "Which is why I think She's toying with us."
"Honestly, I don't believe that."
"You wouldn't, would you? Angel, and all." He gestured to Aziraphale with the hand that held his drink.
"If She's playing games with anyone, I don't think it's either of us."
"Oh, really?" Crowley smiled in that almost laughing way of his, which suggested he was more amused than intrigued to hear the rest of Aziraphale's theory.
"The archangels. And the dukes of Hell. I suspect they're keeping an eye on us, from a distance."
Crowley appeared to think it over. After a moment, he nodded.
"They wouldn't like it, would they?"
"Do you really think they've watched us?"
"Yes, of course," Aziraphale said. "I'd be shocked if they haven't increased their surveillance all throughout London."
Crowley shook his head. "Not what I meant."
His voice had a curious lilt to it, which hadn't been there before. And all of a sudden, Aziraphale understood exactly what he was suggesting.
"You mean... have they watched us while we're–"
Well, now. There was a thought Aziraphale hadn't considered. But no, it wouldn't be possible.
"We've got wards in place to keep them out — both here and at the bookshop. So no, I don't think they've seen any of that."
"But they might have?"
"Well, I don't think–"
Aziraphale's gaze darted downward for just a moment, but it was long enough to notice how their conversation was affecting Crowley.
"My word, are you hard right now?"
"Does it arouse you to think of them watching us?"
Crowley nodded. He looked just as surprised to acknowledge it as Aziraphale was to realize it.
"Perhaps I can help with that?" Aziraphale took a tentative step towards him. "What if I were to describe it for you? What they might see if they were to watch us?"
He wasn't sure where he got the idea. It was simply there now, lodged in his mind as a thing they might do. It was compelling enough that he wanted to see what would happen if he offered it up as a suggestion.
"Yes. I want you to do that," Crowley said.
"Perhaps another drink first?" Suddenly, Aziraphale felt nervous.
Crowley poured for him, topping off his glass. All the ice had melted and now the crushed-open cranberries bobbed awkwardly on the surface. Aziraphale miracled them away and drank it down. The whiskey burned in his throat.
The next thing he knew, he and Crowley were gazing at each other. Their gaze held long and steady, and Aziraphale was the first to glance away.
"Right, well. Best to just dive in, I suppose." He set the glass aside. "If Heaven were watching, you know, what they'd see is... well, the two of us."
He felt terribly awkward about this, to be honest. But Crowley was watching him — not just curious or intrigued; he looked hopeful. So, Aziraphale pushed his nerves aside and simply gave it his best go.
"I imagine we'd be kissing each other at first. And it would feel delightful, like it always does. You'd get impatient and miracle away all our clothes and we'd be... naked... together."
Crowley's breath sounded heavier.
"This does something for you, doesn't it?"
Crowley nodded fiercely, which went a long way towards banishing Aziraphale's uncertainty. He held a particular image in mind, and he set himself to the task of describing it in as much detail as he could manage.
"It would take them a moment to realize what we were doing," he said. "They'd be confused by it at first. They wouldn't understand why I turned away from you, and went to hands and knees. But then, when you knelt behind me, they'd know. They'd watch, mortified, but curious also. They'd find you handsome, I imagine. But they'd hate themselves to think it."
"Fuck," Crowley whispered, and he sounded astonished, as though still caught off guard that this sort of thing could affect him.
"They would see us there," Aziraphale continued, "copulating, as humans do — your hands on my hips, pulling me against you with all the force of your desire. And the full length of your phallus inside me. And mine, heavy and thick, would move back and forth beneath me as you thrust inside. They wouldn't see that I love you. They would only see an angel submitting himself to a demon. And the archangels would be wracked with despair."
"Fuck me. Aziraphale, how are you doing that?"
Crowley had come to stand beside him. Sweat beaded at his brow. And Aziraphale reached out to brush it away.
"I haven't even started on what the demons would think."
Crowley moaned, from the back of his throat. And Aziraphale had to work very hard indeed not to pull him close and kiss him. Now that he'd begun his story, he did have more to say.
"The demons might be pleased, at first, to see you defiling an angel — or so they might think. But later, they would learn their mistake. Wouldn't they?"
Aziraphale paused for a moment to look him straight in the eyes. Again Crowley nodded.
"Yes," he whispered.
"And what would they see, my darling?"
Aziraphale could feel his own heart pounding. He was just as fully aroused as Crowley. And the tightness in his phallus, which had been pleasant, was now starting to feel like an insistent reminder. He knew he could be experiencing all the physical joys of intercourse right now if only he asked for it. He could pull Crowley close to him, undress him with a thought, lift him up with another, then spread him wide and slick, and begin their sexual union.
It was still so new and interesting to desire this so desperately.
But no, not yet. A bit of patience now would reward him later on. Aziraphale had a sense for the sort of anxiety Crowley had been experiencing earlier. And he did want to help him, if he could, to get through it.
"What would they see?" he asked again.
This time Crowley was able to answer.
"They'd see you, above me... and... fucking me."
"I do enjoy it with you," Aziraphale said, to encourage him. It took some bravery to get started — talking to each other like this was a bit strange — but he was certain Crowley would get the hang of it.
"They'd see me looking up at you... they'd see my eyes and they'd know right away."
"What would they know, my darling?"
"You be saying things they hated. You'd call me good, the way you do... You'd call me your perfect love..."
"And you are."
Aziraphale took him by the hip and guided him closer, into a loose embrace.
"Fuck, Aziraphale. What's wrong with me?"
He looked up at Crowley and saw that his eyes were bright. He looked about ready to cry.
"What would they see in your eyes, my dear?"
Crowley shook his head.
"I don't think I can say it."
A tear had spilled over and rolled down his cheek. Aziraphale wiped it away.
"But perhaps you can," he said, once again encouraging him.
Crowley's knees trembled beneath him and Aziraphale responded by guiding him to the floor, sitting down with him, and holding him close.
"It's only me," he whispered, as he stroked Crowley's hair to comfort him. "I'm here with you."
Crowley sighed and relaxed against him. All the weight of his anxiety and agitation seemed to dissipate.
"What would I see in your eyes, my dear?"
Aziraphale did know the answer, of course. But that wasn't the point. Crowley needed to say it and didn't know how. So he coaxed him a little bit more.
"What is it that's so hard to tell me?"
"If I tell you, can we do more of that other thing? Where you talk about them watching us?"
"We very much can."
"All right," Crowley said. He lifted his head from Aziraphale's shoulder and looked him in the eyes to say it. "It doesn't matter if it's all a game to Her. It's serious to me. And I really love you."
Aziraphale smiled and said, "I know."
Is this even good? I have no idea. Holy Frances McDormand, I guess I have kinks!
Chapter 7: Fire
Day 5 of drawlight's wonderful Advent Calendar of Ineffable Husbands prompts. This one starts with hellfire, but it won't go badly for anyone. I promise.
The bed was literally on fire. Crowley opened his eyes and saw it all around him. And not only that. He could feel it, roiling through him with that dark, intoxicating power. Not of earth, then — this was hellfire.
And oh, shit!
"Aziraphale!" Crowley sat bolt upright in Aziraphale's bed, where last night the angel had fallen asleep beside him.
Surely this was a nightmare. It couldn't end like this, not after all they'd survived together.
"It's all right, my dear. Let's stay calm, shall we?"
Crowley felt the familiar weight of Aziraphale's hand, gripping his shoulder to steady him. The angel was, in fact, completely on fire. And yet he wasn't destroyed, or hurt, or even struggling to free himself.
"It feels a bit like breathing, doesn't it? The way it moves."
Crowley blinked at him, astonished. "Angel, this is hellfire."
With all the occult strength he had, Crowley reached down into the depths of Hell and drew up the power to extinguish the flames — restoring the bed, himself, and Aziraphale to a more natural state of not being on fire.
And then, without giving Aziraphale a chance to protest, Crowley was prodding him up, out of bed, and stripping him out of pajamas, button by button.
"We need to check you," he said, frantically worried that somehow a delayed reaction might happen. The fire was gone, but had it already begun its destruction? Would Aziraphale melt away before his eyes, leaving him powerless to stop it?
"Crowley, my darling, please." Aziraphale reached for his hands and held them tight. "I am quite safe."
"But how?" Crowley asked. He could feel the relief washing through him, though he didn't trust it yet.
"I fell asleep," he said. "And I had a nightmare. The archangels were trying to restart the end of the world. I had to stop them somehow. So I conjured up hellfire and I threatened them with it. And then I woke up to find that our bed was burning."
"It's not possible," Crowley said.
"Get dressed," Aziraphale said. "I think I might understand this. But I'd like to check on something first."
An hour later, Crowley followed him through the front doors of St. Paul's Cathedral. When they were well inside, Aziraphale stopped, turned to him and said, "Well?"
"All right, yeah," Crowley said. "I think you're onto something — unless this place got unsanctified all of a sudden."
"No pain, then?" Aziraphale glanced pointedly down at Crowley's feet.
"Not even warm."
Aziraphale led them further into the nave, moving east towards the rows of chairs set up for morning services, which hadn't yet begun. He took a seat, and then Crowley sat beside him.
"What's your theory?"
Aziraphale pointed to the nearest chandelier hanging down from the vaulted ceiling. Dozens of lights, made to mimic candles, were lit there.
"I'd like you to turn them off, please."
Crowley looked at him, not sure what the point was. But it had to be something, so Crowley obliged. He snapped his fingers and all the bulbs blinked out at once.
"Very good," Aziraphale said. "Now bring them back on again, but this time, I'd like you to pull the miracle down from Heaven."
"You know I can't do that–"
"Oh, I think you should try."
Aziraphale gave him a very meaningful look of please do this for me, my love. And since Crowley could hardly refuse him, he gave it a go. He reached up, the same way he would normally reach down.
He expected, of course, to connect with nothing, to reach uselessly towards a power he couldn't touch. But that wasn't what happened. There was, in fact, something there — a swirl of light that responded when he pushed it and obeyed him when he asked it to jump to the palm of his hand.
He imagined the lights turning on. And there they were, blazing forth in all their bright, lighty-lightness.
"I did that," he said, astonished again.
"As I suspected," Aziraphale said. And he stood up, led them out of the church, and headed back towards the Bentley, which was waiting safely outside in a no parking area.
"Well," Crowley said, now that they were together in the car, and well away from the prying ears of humans. "Are you going to elucidate?"
It was one of those pretentiously fun words to say. He made it sound as ridiculous as possible.
Aziraphale began his answer with a caveat. "Bear in mind that I can't be certain of the mechanics involved–"
Crowley cut him off with a gasp of shock and horror. "You don't think I'm turning into an angel, do you!?"
Aziraphale sighed. "Please don't fret, my dear, I don't think it's anything as drastic as all that."
"Well, good," Crowley said, genuinely relieved to hear it.
"I think it's something to do with the connection we've forged between us... on the, er, metaphysical plane."
Crowley grinned. "Oh, you mean it's all the mind sex we've been having."
Aziraphale glared at him, looking genuinely annoyed.
"Must you call it that?"
"What would you call it instead?"
Aziraphale paused. It appeared he had to think it over for a moment. Crowley watched him all the while, awaiting this very important answer.
At last he said, "It's a connection on the deepest level, an ecstatic bonding of immortal souls in loving communion. And it appears there's some lasting transfer of essence, a blending together and– oh..."
Crowley was grinning at him, rather smugly indeed.
Aziraphale sighed. "I suppose you're right," he admitted. "It must be all the mind sex we've been having lately."
Chapter 8: Sleigh Bells
Short and fluff. The bookshop feels like love, even to Crowley.
Sleigh bells rang, indicating the arrival of another customer.
Aziraphale had tied the bells to the door as part of his attempt to enhance the Christmas spirit in his shop. He'd also added a Christmas tree — tall and verdant, trimmed with sparkling lights and all manner of ornaments collected through the years. A good number of them had been gifts from Crowley. This year, at last, he could cherish that thought without reservation.
He greeted the customer and ushered them helpfully towards the newer books and away from the rare, old volumes he didn't actually plan to sell to anyone. But inevitably, they wandered towards the tree, to stand and admire it.
He glanced over at it. And, yes, it really was spectacular. How could it not be? This year he found himself brimming over with love and goodwill. And he'd poured all of that feeling into these bright and cheerful displays.
"You've gone overboard with all this. Even I can feel all the love in the air."
Aziraphale smiled at the sound of Crowley's voice behind him.
He said the word love as though it were something distasteful. But then he glanced up, smiling, to the place where a very Christmas-y sprig of mistletoe was floating in the air about a foot above him. He'd been miracling it there, on and off, since the start of December when Aziraphale had begun to decorate. And, like every other time so far, Aziraphale didn't hestitate to step close and kiss him.
"You like it," Aziraphale said, whispering the words against his lips as he broke from the kiss for just a moment.
"Never said I didn't." Crowley leaned in again. This time, he made the kiss truly delightful by virtue of a thing he did with his tongue.
Aziraphale pulled away, just enough to look him in the eye.
"Perhaps I should close the shop," he said.
"Yes, you should," Crowley said.
As if on cue, the last customer called out, "Sorry to interrupt you, gentlemen, I'll just be leaving now!"
Sleigh bells rang. And an angel and a demon found themselves alone with the rest of the afternoon and a whole night ahead of them. Christmas was the season of love, after all. And they were about to indulge in quite a lot of that.
Chapter 9: Silent Night
Gabriel searches for evil in Aziraphale's bookshop.
Gabriel tucks the note into his shirt pocket, which is not what he'd like to do with it. Incineration in a plume of holy flame, that's what comes to mind instead. But he can't. Not with this one. It came directly from Her, addressed directly to him: the Archangel Gabriel.
He ought to be flattered. She hasn't sent anyone a direct note in more than two thousand years.
But this is not a commendation.
It isn't a reprimand either, though it feels like one. It's a directive and it says, quite simply, Go and apologize to Aziraphale.
Those are Her words. And they sit like a stone in his pocket — rough hewn and heavy.
The problem with the task before him is that he doesn't want to do it. He isn't sorry. He doesn't think he ever can be. And yet, he is Her angel. She has asked him to do this, and so he will make an attempt.
The windows are dark when he arrives at the bookshop — and that's not by coincidence. He's been keeping an eye on the place for days, looking down from above and waiting for his former subordinate to step out for a while.
When Aziraphale finally leaves his little sanctuary, he isn't alone. Of course not. The demon is with him, and Gabriel can hardly stand the sight of them. They are arm in arm, a treacherous pair. Gabriel doesn't know for certain, but he can certainly speculate about the nature of that relationship. They've been in the bookshop for days together, just the two of them, and he's pretty sure the place will reek of lust. That's what he plans to confirm this evening by way of a short, clandestine visit.
As he unlocks the door with a miracle, he remembers the note in his pocket. His face twitches at the prospect of ever delivering an apology. He shouldn't have to. He's not the one who's secretive, deceitful, and compromised. He's not the one who betrayed his orders and threw all of Heaven into chaos and doubt. No, that would be Aziraphale, the traitorous little hedonist.
The one thing that's keeping him steady is that he's got Abraham on his mind. Abraham, the righteous man, was tested by the Lord. Abraham obeyed, though he didn't understand. He raised the knife in sacrifice — ready to slaughter his beloved son — and at the last possible moment, the Almighty intervened and stayed his hand.
For Gabriel, too, it will be like that; he's sure of it. Her note is a test. The important thing is that Gabriel obey. He must prove to Her, again, the truth of his righteousness. And then, only then, will She rescind the command. No ridiculous apology required.
It has to be that. He reminds himself not to doubt Her. She sees his heart. She knows he is ever faithful.
He takes a breath and crosses the threshold into darkness and utter silence. The bookshop smells of evergreen, which strikes him as odd until he realizes it's decorated for Christmas. What a blasphemous thing for them to do. He shouldn't be surprised at all.
He stands still and waits for the wave of evil to assault his delicate senses. And, in fact, it does smell spicier here than he remembers. But when he investigates the source, he comes to the Christmas tree with its cinnamon-scented ornaments. It's definitely that and not any lingering traces of sin in the air.
He had hoped not to do this, but it seems to be the only way to prove his point. He drops his metaphysical barriers and allows the full aura of the room to sweep over him. It's like the pull of a tide and he's crying out with anguish and betrayal, falling to his knees before he even realizes what hits him. His eyes are wet with tears and it hurts so much to feel this.
It shouldn't be here. It can't be here.
And yet, somehow, it is. The two of them, traitors — an angel and a demon — have brought this forth together. It's borne of their union and the whole shop is saturated with the truth of it: Divine Love, woven through and blessing this place. It's how Heaven used to feel, but doesn't anymore.
And the Archangel Gabriel lies down and weeps.