It just came out one day in conversation.
“By the way, how did you figure out who Adam was, and where he lived?” Crowley said one day as they were lolling on a bench in St. James’ Park. Crowley had his head leaned back so the weak winter sun was shining on his face, and his eyes were closed. Aziraphale was enjoying just watching him bask on this rare, relatively mild January morning. “I never asked. Pretty clever, that.”
Aziraphale blinked, surprised by the question. “Well, that takes me back – but I suppose it was the book,” he said. “I believe I stayed up most of that night after we came back from Tadfield, reading and cross-referencing various things in the book of Revelations, and I ended up with the idea that maybe I was working with a phone number. I called it as early as I dared the next morning, and one of Agnes’ predictions played out right in front of me. It was really most interesting – “
“Wait,” Crowley said, sounding confused. “That can’t be right -- you’re mixing up your days; I called you the next day and you hadn’t sorted it out yet.”
Aziraphale sucked in a breath. Oh goodness. “Ah, well,” he said lightly, “ancient history, I suppose. I can’t be expected to remember the exact timeline of everything we’ve done.”
Crowley craned his neck back up and looked closely at Aziraphale over the top edge of his glasses. “It was only two years ago, angel. And I know you have near-perfect recall.”
Aziraphale fidgeted uneasily and examined the duck pond, which was inconveniently free of duck-shaped distractions, with it being winter and all. He dug his hands further into his pockets and tried to conjure some warmth. “So do you, my dear,” he said mildly. “You hardly need me to tell you these things.”
Aziraphale believed strongly in the angelic virtues of obedience, reverence, and intelligence. Nowhere, however, did the almighty or any of the written words of God indicate that angels were necessarily truthful. Over the years, beginning with that first heart-stopping lie in Eden, when he looked god directly in her face and lied about the sword, Aziraphale had had many instances in which he found himself bending the truth, using subterfuge, and outright lying.
He used to feel guilty about it, but honestly, it had become increasingly essential over the centuries to his continued survival on earth, particularly after he met and paired up with Crowley in the early arrangement. He had no choice but to lie, then, to hide from both Heaven and Hell that they were friends, partners. He had to lie to people around him on occasion if they noticed something they shouldn’t have. He had to lie to Crowley for many years, to protect him, to stop him from doing foolish things, and to conceal and hide the depth of feeling that could have signaled the demon’s destruction.
Lying was apparently something angels were good at, Aziraphale had finally decided, and no point in agonizing over each and every occurrence. But there were lies that didn’t matter all that much, and there were lies that did. And with the way Crowley was looking at him, he realized with a sinking feeling that there was no question about where this one fell.
“You’re evading the question,” Crowley said sharply. “Whatever you did, spit it out. I can tell you’re keeping something from me.”
Aziraphale sighed. “I was hoping this wouldn’t come up, to be honest.” He broke off suddenly, looking a little nervous. “Keep in mind, this was some time ago and things were much less clear cut than they are now, and my behavior then shouldn’t be taken as any indication of my behavior now.”
Crowley frowned at him. “Not making this easier, angel.”
“I figured it out the night after we got back from Tadfield,” Aziraphale said, all in a rush. “I made contact with them the following morning after reading for most of the night. I didn’t tell you right away.”
The silence as he kept his eyes trained firmly on his knees was, in a word, deafening. He could feel Crowley’s eyes on him, and it burned. When he finally worked up the courage to look, the look on Crowley’s face sent a tendril of fear into his stomach that he hadn’t felt in ages. Crowley looked like he was somewhere between fury and outright wrath.
“I called you. Asked if you knew anything.” Crowley’s words were clipped. “You lied.”
“I did, I’m so sorry, my dear I was just –”
“And then at the bandstand. You said of course you’d tell me if you knew anything. You lied.”
“I – I did, yes.” Aziraphale swallowed. “I’m not proud of it.”
“Too busy breaking up with me to give me the truth, eh?” Crowley gritted out. “Why tell the demon anything? It’s just the end of the bloody world!”
“Well now, I did tell you, eventually.”
“After you’d discorporated!” Crowley shouted.
Aziraphale found he had nothing to say to that. He watched Crowley helplessly, looking for any signs of reprieve. This was surely ripping the scabs off a lot of old wounds.
“Not until after you ran off to tell Heaven, I assume?” Crowley spit out, voice bitter. “Just one more case where you chose them over me, isn’t it angel?” His voice was picking up speed. “How could you decide to keep that from me when we were days from the end of the entire world? I know you’ve played fast and loose with truth over the years, but I never thought you’d – I mean, in those circumstances -- how could you betray me like that?”
Aziraphale paled. “I didn’t – I needed – I – “ He tried to bring some order to his thoughts. “I just needed time to think before I did anything with the information.” He leaned forward and held out a mittened hand beseechingly to the demon, who shrank back from him most alarmingly.
“Don’t touch me,” Crowley snapped. “I’m a demon. Clearly I can’t be trusted.”
“I’m so sorry, my dear. I should have confessed to this ages ago, and I’m sorry it’s coming up now,” the angel said, starting to feel the beginning of tears and fighting them back. “There just wasn’t time to come clean with you as it was happening because I was discorporated shortly after, and then we were on the run for the final showdown, and… and afterwards, I felt terribly bad about it, but we’d won and it was over and I suppose I just let it fall by the wayside.”
Crowley was no longer looking at him. He looked sick, Aziraphale thought, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen him so angry.
“Please tell me how I can fix this,” Aziraphale said. “I would do anything to make this right.”
Crowley sat completely still for a moment, as if pondering something, then stood up decisively. “You can’t, at least not right now. I’m going to need some time with this one.”
Aziraphale stood, feeling shaky all over. “Of course,” he said quietly. “Whatever you need.”
“I’m going back to Mayfair for a few days,” Crowley said gruffly. “Give me some space.”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale whispered, his throat refusing to cooperate. “It was two years ago! Must we do this? Please just stay.”
Crowley gave him a long and unreadable look, then stalked off towards home. Aziraphale followed a few steps behind, and stood by mutely, twisting his ring and absolutely aching as Crowley grabbed a bag and packed a few random things, then swung out of the shop without another look at him.