It all began with a single envelope lying on Aziraphale’s desk.
When Aziraphale had readied himself for the day, he can’t say he had expected it to be anything more than ordinary. Or at least, as ordinary as it could get with an angel maintaining a semi-human lifestyle with his demon best friend.
In fact, he and Crowley had planned to meet for dinner that night at a reasonably new restaurant. Aziraphale had been looking forward to it for quite some time, not having been there yet.
He had a warm cup of cocoa in his favourite angel-winged mug. He was preparing to continue reading a new science fiction novel he had been taken with when he noticed something out of place. Beside his book on his desk he saw an envelope that had not been previously there.
Aziraphale just thought of it as strange until he turned the envelope over.
His ordinary day came crashing down around him.
The letter was sealed with an angelic rune. It was the archangel Michael’s sigil.
At the sight, Aziraphale accidently let go of his mug with a gasp. The mug fell to the ground, shattering into pieces and the cocoa spread out across the floor.
He hadn’t heard from Heaven in almost a year. Not a single word had been uttered. Not ever since he and Crowley had fooled them into thinking that the other was impervious to the destruction of holy water and hell fire.
Aziraphale hastily opened the envelope, reading the letter inside. He read over its contents at least three times to makes sure it was real. It was. His face turned pale, almost grey.
Heaven knows of your little act of swapping bodies with the demon Crowley.
After much consideration of your multiple transgressions you are to be demoted. A new angel will be sent to replace you to watch over humanity.
And you will return and remain in Heaven for the foreseeable future.
We are generously giving you 24 hours to set your affairs in order and to return to Heaven.
Fail to comply with these orders and we will have no choice but to cast you out of Heaven into Hell.
Management will be in touch.
Oh! And please note that if you dare to mention a word of this to your precious demon, we will have no choice but to remove him. So, do the right thing, Aziraphale.
The Archangel Michael
Aziraphale threw the letter along with the envelope into the steel bin beside his desk. The papers were instantly set aflame. Aziraphale hadn’t wanted to look it any longer.
The real message of the letter was clear to the angel.
Heaven couldn’t figure out what to do with him, so they wanted him back in Heaven where they could keep him under watch. If he refused, they’d finally have a proper excuse to cast him out.
It was an ultimatum.
Return or Fall.
He had a thought that perhaps he could try and secretly tell Crowley but brushed it off almost immediately. It was a horrible idea. He couldn’t risk it.
Remove him. That’s what Michael had written.
Aziraphale didn’t want to entertain to idea, but his mind was immediately plagued with thoughts of what Heaven might do to Crowley. Every one of them was a horrible fate worse than death.
If I tell him, I’d be condemning us both. Aziraphale silently concluded. It was a risk that Aziraphale was not willing to take.
Aziraphale looked back at the mess below him. His mug in pieces and yet somehow the wings that made the handle were still in one whole piece.
He could’ve miracled it back together, but instead he chose to keep it in shambles. It would be a reminder to him that what he read was real.
Instead he cleared the shards and mopped the leftover cocoa from the floor with small towel. After it was clean once more, he picked up the broken shards once more.
With the pieces of his favourite mug in his hands, he sat on the nearest chair.
And so that's where Aziraphale sat. Thinking for hours of what he'd do. A meaningless feat as he already knew what his choice was.
The real thing bothering him was the matter of what to tell Crowley.
Aziraphale nervously fidgeted his hands in his lap. That was the only real question.
What was he going to tell Crowley?
Aziraphale hated lying to him. During when they thought the end times were among them, he had lied to Crowley because he had thought he could stop it with some heavenly intervention. The obvious fact of being that his mindset of allegiances turned out to be for naught.
Regardless, that was all in the past. They were on their own side now.
Heaven and Hell were out to remove them where they could. Heaven was just the one to make the first move. And it was Aziraphale to make the second one. And Heaven was only really giving him two choices: to give up or to take a stand.
Crowley felt himself in an unusually good mood. Not that he would often be in a bad one. It was because of some unknown reason, he felt that the day was better than ones he had recently… but it also may have been for the fact that he knew that he was going to see Aziraphale.
In his Bentley, Crowley was not going the speed limit (as usual). Crowley was fully immersed in his own thoughts as he drove. He strummed his fingers against the wheel, absentmindedly humming along to the tune.
Dining at the Ritz, we'll meet at nine precisely
(One two three four five six seven eight nine o' clock)
I will pay the bill, you taste the wine
Driving back in style, in my saloon will do quite nicely
Just take me back to yours that will be fine (come on and get it)
Ooh love, (there he goes again just like a good old-fashioned lover boy)
What're you doin' tonight, hey boy
Everything's all right
Just hold on tight
That's because I'm a good old-fashioned fashioned lover boy
Crowley swiftly parked the car right out front of the bookshop. He grabbed a large red box from his passengers’ seat and continued to saunter into the bookshop.
Crowley heard a sudden scramble of footsteps from the other side of the store. Crowley walked over to find Aziraphale in his back room standing there looking lost.
“Crowley? I thought our reservation tonight wasn’t until seven.”
“It is. It’s six thirty.”
“Oh,” Aziraphale glanced at his clock, confirming what Crowley had said. “Quite right.”
Crowley shook his head with a faux roll of the eyes. It was not an irregular occurrence for Aziraphale to lose track of time, especially if he was particularly taken with a book. Crowley assumed it was the same case.
With a smirk on his face, Crowley waved the red box in his hand.
“I got you some of those truffles you like so much down from that shop on Old Bond Street. You know, that French sounding one.”
Crowley had expected Aziraphale to do his regular happy wiggle and thank the demon while making a remark about accepting such a ‘temptation’ from a demon.
That’s not what he got.
“Hmm? Oh – Thank you. Yes.” Aziraphale mumbled as he straightened a nearby pile of books.
Crowley frowned, but quickly shrugged it off. As Crowley went to place down the chocolates, he noticed the broken pieces of what was once Aziraphale’s mug.
Crowley waited for Aziraphale to come back to the back room before he lifted what was left if the mug's handle.
"You broke your mug." Crowley had meant for it to sound like a question but instead it just sounded as a statement.
"Ah. Yes. That," Aziraphale looked away, attempting to brush it aside as nothing. "Well, you see, I was being quite clumsy while reading before. One moment I'm reading the next thing I know, it's in shambles."
".....Right." Crowley mumbled as he absentmindedly fiddled with broken piece, twirling it around in his grasp. Aziraphale hastily approached the demon.
"Come on now. Don't do that, you'll cut yourself." Aziraphale scolded, gently pulling the shard from the others grip.
Crowley stared at Aziraphale. Something just seemed….off.
"You alright?" Crowley asked.
"Yes. Of course, everything is all tickety boo," Aziraphale hastily said. "What makes you ask?"
Crowley wordlessly shrugged.
“Right, well, we should best be off then. I’ll be right back. I just need to grab my coat.” And Aziraphale went to do just that.
When Aziraphale quickly returned, he froze where he stood when he noticed what Crowley had done. Crowley silently looked back at Aziraphale as he placed the restored mug on his desk. Aziraphale didn’t have to see past Crowley’s glasses to know how tender the others gaze was.
Aziraphale felt flustered under the other’s gaze, opting to look at the mug instead.
“Thank you.” Aziraphale said, a small smile on his face.
Crowley responded with a smile of his own.
Aziraphale knew that Crowley spoiled him with a range of many different things over the millennia.
This was because Aziraphale was always so overjoyed at the smallest of things done for him, whether it be taking him to lunch, cleaning a coat, or even making a boring play a hit. Aziraphale was always easy to please with those kinds of small acts and indulgences. And seeing Aziraphale smile because of such a thing always made Crowley so happy himself. Because as Crowley would put it - who wouldn’t be happy after seeing Aziraphale smile?
So, in short, Crowley loved to spoil the angel, and Aziraphale was completely and utterly aware of this fact for several centuries.
However, it was by the act of fixing his mug, that Aziraphale knew what his decision was – or rather what he knew needed to be done.
It took everything Aziraphale had to force a smile on his face.
“Shall we go?”
The drive and dinner went as it usually would. There was nothing out of the ordinary about it. Aziraphale had complained as he often did how Crowley would speed through the streets of London. And the pair wined and dined happily. Aziraphale savoured his food to its last bite, whilst Crowley would practically unhinge his jaw and slide it down his throat.
It never bothered Crowley that Aziraphale was a slow eater. At first glance it seemed strange that Crowley liked to watch Aziraphale eat. But the truth wasn’t as so. Crowley liked to see Aziraphale happy. The angel was always most expressive with his happiness when eating. So, it wasn’t all that strange at all, really.
What was strange to Crowley was that Aziraphale seemed to be eating faster than normal. He wasn’t savouring so delicately as he normally would.
As Aziraphale was close to finishing, Crowley thought he’d check to see if Aziraphale was enjoying the food rather than eating it to be polite.
“So, what do you think of it?”
Aziraphale delicately dabbing his napkin over his mouth, finally finished with his meal.
“That was delicious.” Aziraphale set the napkin to the side as the waiter took the dishes away.
Crowley nodded. “We ought to come here again.”
“Yes…we ought to.” Aziraphale mumbled as he stared down at the table.
“Thoughts on dessert?”
Aziraphale didn’t answer, he just continued to stare at the table, his mind obviously elsewhere. Crowley’s eyebrows furrowed.
The nickname seemed to bring Aziraphale back.
“Hmm? Oh- yes. Sorry, what was that?”
“I was asking if you wanted dessert.” Crowley couldn’t help but feel the slightest amount of worry, though he didn’t know why.
“Dessert. Perhaps not this time.”
Crowley stared at the angel. Had he heard right?
“Are you sure that you’re alright?” Crowley asked.
“I don’t have the slightest clue what you mean,” Aziraphale forced a smile. “You did get me those truffles. I thought it might be worth to not spoil my appetite for them.”
“It’s just that you never….”
“I never what….?”
“Nevermind,” Crowley reluctantly let it go. “Back to your bookshop then I take it?”
“Good weather for a spot of cocoa, don’t you think?”
Back at the bookshop, Crowley silently drank his tea as Aziraphale explained the blend he had chosen. Crowley didn’t particularly like cocoa, so instead he opted for a cup of tea. Aziraphale always had a large assortment of exquisite tea.
Aziraphale had still made himself a cocoa in the process, topping it with freshly shaved chocolate. A decadent brew. It was almost sinful.
Crowley had all but claimed the couch in Aziraphale’s study, leaving the former to seat himself in the chair across from the demon. Nothing out of the ordinary. It was where they usually sat when Crowley would come to visit. But Crowley couldn’t help but feel a distance between himself and Aziraphale.
He still couldn’t quite place it, but something seemed off. However, Crowley merely assumed that it was all his head, and he continued to brush it aside.
Crowley happily drank his tea as he watched as Aziraphale began to eat the truffles with his hot cocoa. Crowley frowned as Aziraphale stopped eating after two.
“Salted caramel was the flavour I got,” Crowley said. “You don’t like them?”
Aziraphale instantly shook his head. “No – I do like them! I will finish later; I just feel it’s too many sweets at once.”
“Too many sweets at once?” Crowley echoed. He made a mental note not to get the same flavour, thinking that’s what bothered the other. This was because Aziraphale had never rejected sweets. First, he didn’t want dessert and now no truffles. It was strange.
Aziraphale tightly gripped the handle of the mug that Crowley had restored. He stared down at the distorted reflection in his cocoa.
Now or never.
“Oh. I’ve just remembered that there was something I forgot to tell you,” Aziraphale instantly caught Crowley’s attention. “I… I’m going to busy for the next few days.”
“M-My bookshop. Nothing serious, I assure you. It’s just some business-related things that need attending to. Quite mundane, really, but it will take me out of London for a while.”
“Why didn’t you mention this before?”
“I didn’t think it would matter. As I’ve said, it’s nothing serious. In fact, it’s not at all important enough that I thought to mention it. Even I had all but forgotten. But luckily, I did remember because it’s still a pressing matter, but of course, not too pressing.” Aziraphale knew he was babbling, but he couldn’t help it.
Aziraphale hated lying, especially to Crowley, but Aziraphale knew the lengths that Crowley would go to protect him. Aziraphale was only just coming to the realisation of how far he’d go for Crowley.
Crowley placed his empty teacup down, standing up with a stretch.
“Well, since you’re busy tomorrow, I best be off.”
Aziraphale felt a spike of panic. Crowley wanted to leave so soon? Aziraphale bit down on his lip. It had to be for the best.
“I’ll see you when I get back.” Aziraphale said, a false smile on his face.
Luckily Crowley hadn’t seen, his back was already turned toward the door. Crowley raised his hand as his own silent farewell as he left the shop. The bell of the door had chimed as he left. Aziraphale felt himself fidgeting nervously where he stood.
This won’t be the last you see him, Aziraphale told himself. No matter what happens, you’ll see him again. It’s going to be okay.
But something else Aziraphale realised in that moment was that he was getting too used to lying that he had begun doing it to himself.
Look – Despite how tomorrow goes, do you want to do this without him at the least knowing how you feel?
That was all the self-convincing Aziraphale needed. Aziraphale quickly placed his mug down and practically threw himself out the door. Aziraphale was relieved to see that the other hadn’t quite got into the Bentley yet.
“Yeah?” Crowley hadn’t expected to see Aziraphale already in front of him as he turned around.
“I-I-I want to tell you something.” Aziraphale jittered where he stood, waiting until his courage was at its peak.
Crowley blinked at the odd behaviour from the angel. He knew Aziraphale was always physically expressive, but he’d never seen the angel like that before.
“I…well, you see, I… I-I..” Aziraphale couldn’t bring himself to say it.
Maybe it was his fear or maybe it was because it would’ve felt wrong to say it with the circumstances that Crowley wasn’t even aware of. He couldn’t say he knew for sure.
Crowley was about to ask if the other was alright, but he never got the chance to.
This was because while the words had escaped Aziraphale, there was a small way in which he felt that he could express it.
Aziraphale surged forward with one hand on Crowley’s shoulder as the other rested on his chest. Aziraphale placed a chaste kiss on the other’s cheek. After the kiss, Aziraphale let his forehead rest and linger on the side of the demon’s cheek for a moment. With his eyes shut, Aziraphale imprinted the moment in his mind. He wanted to remember it all. After a moment longer than needed, Aziraphale began pulling away. Aziraphale’s tender gaze never shifting from Crowley once.
Crowley’s mouth was slightly agape in shock and he just stared back at Aziraphale, astonished.
Aziraphale let himself stare for one more moment before he realised what he was doing. The angel hastily let go and backed away back toward the bookshop, avoiding all eye contact with the demon.
“Well – You see – Hah – Yes – U-Until next I see you, Crowley,” Aziraphale threw the door open. “Goodnight!” He promptly slammed the door shut behind him.
Aziraphale stayed leaning against the shut door, panting as if he had just finished running. He slowly slid down sitting on the ground, processing what he had just done.
He had kissed Crowley’s cheek.
If any humans had been watching, the kiss would have been nothing more than an innocent display of affection via a peck to the cheek. To Aziraphale, it as the most scandalous thing he had ever done in the entirety of his existence. The moment he chose to do it was the moment he had officially crossed the line. A line that always stared him in the face each time he could feel his feelings for Crowley beginning to cloud his judgement.
It was a line that protected the two from the wrath Heaven and Hell if it was never crossed. But after the almost-apocalypse, it had taken Aziraphale to that very day to finally accept that the line was currently obsolete. But that was no surprise. It was almost 6000 years’ worth of feeling fear with the line being the only thing that’d protect them, but most of all, it protected Crowley from their respective sides. It was a hard feeling to shake after all that time.
A kiss to the cheek was all he could muster. The fear being one of the reasons. The other reason being something else. Aziraphale wouldn’t exactly say that he was the smartest angel in the world (even though he was), but he knew it’d be in poor taste for him to kiss Crowley on his lips.
A first kiss was something Aziraphale wanted to do with something caused from their feelings and not on his fear. A first kiss was something the human romance novels had often explained had to be in a spur of great passion between two lovers.
But a kiss on the cheek goodbye in such novels also meant a permanent and tragic farewell.
Aziraphale forced himself to shake off such thoughts. He couldn’t afford to think of such things. If he told Crowley what he had decided, he would only try to stop him. Aziraphale was convinced of his resolve, but it didn’t stop the fear he felt heavily weighing down in his stomach.
All in the meanwhile as Aziraphale was dealing with his inner turmoil, Crowley was still standing in the street, his mouth still agape as he remained staring off at the bookshop’s entrance where Aziraphale had ran back into.
The small peck to the cheek had short circuited the demon’s brain. Crowley felt like his brain had become a program on a computer.
MANUAL RESET… … … REBOOTING SYSTEM … … … SYSTEM DIAGNOSIS … … …
… …. SOURCE OF ERROR FOUND: Aziraphale had kissed his cheek … … … … …
ERROR ERROR ERROR
Crowley.exe has stopped working
Suddenly, the lights illuminated the whole street blew up simultaneously. Crowley still did not flinch nor move, not even when car alarms were suddenly set off whirring along the whole neighbourhood causing nearby dogs to howl and bark.
In fact, when maintenance was exploring what had caused it the next morning, it was chalked up to be an accidental problem with the circuitry that caused a power surge on that street. The car alarms were assumed to be just a strangely timed coincidence.
And that was to be expected because how could any human guess that it was caused unintentionally by a demon getting a kiss from the love of his life.
Aziraphale was never one to sleep, but if he were, he wouldn’t have been able to get a single moment. Aziraphale merely sat and stared at his clock. He watched as every minute would pass. It wasn’t what one would call fun, but at the same time it wasn’t supposed to be.
The night moved to dawn and dawn became day. Aziraphale knew that any moment the faces of his judgement would arrive.
Finally pulling his gaze away from his clock he walked over to his window. He shut his eyes and let himself enjoy the sunlight streaming through. He imprinted the feeling and memory into his mind. It was a small joy he wanted to remember in that moment as he was.
The moment he opened his eyes, he grew alarmed at the sound of his phone ringing.
Aziraphale stared for a moment.
Heaven’s using phones now? He thought.
Hesitantly he pressed the phone to his ear.
A few seconds passed before the person on the other end of the line babbled something out.
“H-Hi. Hey. Y-Yeah, it’s me- Crowley- I’m Crowley.”
Aziraphale had barely caught what the other said, but he did understand that it was his best friend.
“Y-Yeah. I was just wondering if-”
“I’m sorry, my dear boy, but now isn’t a very good ti-”
“Hello sunshine. Your time is up.”
The angel snapped his head toward the source. Both Gabriel and Michael stood in his bookshop. A good few feet of distance was between them.
Well, isn’t their timing wonderfully impeccable. Aziraphale mentally sassed.
A little preoccupied, Aziraphale couldn’t quite hear Crowley’s panicked garble on the other end.
“Gabriel. Michael,” Aziraphale firmly greeted the pair. “The two of you seem well.”
As Aziraphale placed the phone back on the hook he missed Crowley’s words as he hung up. The archangels didn’t bother with a greeting back. It was straight to business.
“So, what is your answer, Aziraphale?” Michael asked.
Aziraphale let his gaze go back and forth between the two.
He had his answer.
Crowley. Forgive me.
The houseplants were so very confused. Their master was acting strange. He had been spraying the same plant with water for a good few minutes.
But above all the strangest part of it all was the fact he wasn’t yelling at them.
The plants couldn’t read minds. That much was a fact. If they could, they would’ve known that Crowley’s mind was elsewhere.
Was his mind dwelling on how the angel had pecked the demon’s cheek with a kiss? The answer was complicated, but also a very clear yes.
Not that Crowley was going to admit it, but he whom so often slept as an indulgence didn’t sleep at all the previous night. Thoughts of Aziraphale kept him wide awake.
Many of those thoughts included, but also were not limited to such things as ‘I never thought he’d do anything like that, ever!’ and ‘is he finally ready to face what’s between us? Because I thought I was ready too, but one little act of romance and my mind became mush’.
It was on his mind, but Crowley felt as if he couldn’t indulge on those thoughts.
Let it be known that Aziraphale was completely and utterly convinced that he had successfully lied to Crowley. This was because he was correct and had successfully lied. To anyone else, human or angel or even demon alike, would’ve been able to tell that Aziraphale was a horrible liar. However, Crowley on the other hand had no reason to suspect that Aziraphale was lying. He had never known the angel to lie to him, even though, unknown to Crowley, Aziraphale had lied a few times before.
It had not been the lies that told Crowley something was wrong. It was how Aziraphale had ate at the restaurant.
Crowley had watched how Aziraphale ate for many millennia. Crowley wouldn’t call himself the observant type, but Aziraphale was the exception, as he always was for many other of Crowley’s decisions. The angel always savoured the food and its flavour, a characteristic act that Aziraphale did not do the previous night.
To put it into simpler terms: Crowley knew something was wrong because Aziraphale had eaten too quickly and he hadn’t talked as much as he normally had.
However, Crowley was kidding himself if he were saying to himself that it was how Aziraphale was at dinner that made him realise something was amiss.
It had really started with the broken mug. Crowley knew that Aziraphale had adored his tacky mug with the wings as the handle. Anything in relation to angels that was human made always amused Aziraphale. In his words, he thought it was touching. It was by that logic that it became a mystery to the demon why the angel didn’t just simply miracle it back together if it was just from a clumsy act.
So, the equation was: 1 broken mug + eating fast+ no dessert+ more quiet than usual.
And what did it all equal?
Crowley was no mathematician. Well – that was not the truth but not a lie either. By technical means, Crowley would be what they called a mathematician for he invented a mathematic formula. But he also wasn’t technically a mathematician because he had no idea how to use said formula. Crowley had invented algebra on a drunken whim. Somehow, the humans made their own sense of it.
So, when it came to his current problem of the ‘odd Aziraphale’ equation – he was still no mathematician by any means, if the definition of mathematician meant understanding and solving the equation. In short: Crowley had no idea what was wrong with Aziraphale.
Some days Crowley felt like he knew Aziraphale like the back of his hand, but in some rare instances he was an enigma. And this was one of those rare instances.
But another thought did cross Crowley’s mind that perhaps Aziraphale had been acting normal and he just wanted an excuse to see him again before Aziraphale left on his business trip.
It was in that moment that Crowley realised that Aziraphale never said when he was leaving.
A quick call to check on him wouldn’t hurt, right? Crowley thought to himself.
But he knew that he wanted to see him in person instead, but perhaps it wasn’t the greatest idea in the state he was in.
It was then that he realised that the plant mister had run out of water a while ago. Placing it down and flicking the remnants of moisture from his hand he began to stroll over to his desk.
His mobile phone sat there, beckoning him to call the angel.
Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.
Next thing he knew he was dialling Aziraphale. If he were lucky, Aziraphale was still home.
And with that, Crowley felt all confidence drain out of him.
He didn’t think Aziraphale would answer which of course was itself a counter-intuitive thought since he had been the one to call Aziraphale in the first place. However, Crowley believed he was good at playing cool in moments of panic.
Be smooth! he told himself.
“H-Hi. Hey. Y-Yeah, it’s me- Crowley- I’m Crowley.”
It should be noted that Crowley in that moment could be described as smooth, but only in certain ways of phrasing it. Like the phrase ‘smooth like crunchy peanut butter’ being one of the only ways to describe it.
“Y-Yeah,” Crowley lowered his voice by a few octaves. “I was just wondering if-”
“I’m sorry, my dear boy, but now isn’t a very good ti-”
“Hello Sunshine. Your time is up.”
Crowley immediately felt his heart sank as newly found panic clawed through him. He recognised that second voice almost immediately.
The archangel Gabriel.
“Aziraphale, what’s going on?” Crowley’s question got no answer, but he did overhear Aziraphale speaking to Gabriel.
“Gabriel. Michael. The two of you seem well.”
Crowley felt as if the blood in his human form had frozen over. The archangel Michael was there too!? It quickly became obvious to Crowley that Aziraphale was in very immediate danger.
“Aziraphale, I’m coming, alright? I won’t let them-”
The call had dropped and all he heard was dial tone.
Crowley didn’t spare another thought. He immediately bolted out of his flat and down the flights of stairs. The elevator would be too slow.
He had to get to Aziraphale! He didn’t know what the angels wanted with Aziraphale, but it couldn’t mean anything good.
As soon as he was in his beloved Bentley, he slammed his foot on the accelerator. He wasn’t going to let anything stop him. Crowley had no plan in mind, but he was always very good at improvising.
Crowley was too focused on getting to the bookshop that he couldn’t hear how the Bentley was faintly playing a Queen song as it so often did. But this time it was like it was trying to warn the demon.
If you can't make up your mind
Torn between the lover
And the love you leave behind
You're headed for disaster
'Cause you never read the signs
Too much love will kill you - every time
If Crowley had been listening, he would’ve realised that the Bentley wasn’t talking about him.
That was Aziraphale’s answer.
Blunt. Simple. To the point. And most certainly not what the archangels had been expecting.
Gabriel and Michael exchanged a confused glance. After a long moment, Gabriel cleared his throat.
“No? Um-Aziraphale, you do understand what we have just said, don’t you?”
“I do, and my answer is still no,” Aziraphale stated. “I am not going anywhere.”
Of course, this was not the first-time instance of rebellion against Heaven that Aziraphale had displayed. However, it was the first-time he got to say no to Gabriel himself.
“You do understand that with the snap of my fingers and you’ll fall from grace,” Gabriel threatened. “So, it’s that you return to Heaven – effective immediately, or you’ll be sentenced to fall. Okay?”
Gabriel had that fake and smug smile on his face. One Aziraphale had grown so weary of seeing. Gabriel was so obviously confident that at his words the Aziraphale would come grovelling back to Heaven.
But that’s not what he received. Aziraphale’s answer was blunt once again.
“I am not child. I understand what you’re saying. What part of no doesn’t make sense to you?” Aziraphale didn’t say it aloud, but it felt oh-so good to talk back to Gabriel.
“How dare you speak to me like that!? I am your superior!” Gabriel spat.
Michael raised a hand, urging Gabriel to calm down.
“Aziraphale, so instead of returning to face judgement, you want to stay here like the coward you are?” Michael mocked.
Aziraphale had to take a moment to take a deep breath that he didn’t need.
Michael was pulling that sneaky little tactic that his superiors had done for years. Back-handed comments. Belittlement. And many other things just as two-faced.
It should be said that no other angel had never raised a hand against Aziraphale – it just wouldn’t be very angelic. The other angels, most of all the archangels, would always go for the emotional and verbal abusive road. They would get up close and scold him like an animal, and that’s if it were a good day in Heaven.
Aziraphale never spoke to Crowley about these instances, because in a way that Aziraphale wouldn’t admit to was that he felt as if he deserved it.
But that was before. After the Apoco-Nope his eyes were fully opened to the cruelty of Heaven. For years he was in denial about it. But he had to eventually realise that the fake kindness from his superiors was as cruel as any belittlement. Aziraphale said to himself that he would no longer tolerate such behaviour. He owed himself that much.
And even though Aziraphale had tried to convince himself that they’re words no longer held meaning over him, the words still stung. However, he made sure to not let them know as he tried to shake it off.
He stood tall.
“That’s just it. I am done being a coward. This time I’m choosing to be brave!”
“Bravery or stupidity? Be serious, Aziraphale,” Gabriel snorted. “And what? Your choice is to become a demon over returning to Heaven? To choose Hell over your own side?”
Aziraphale shook his head and stood his ground.
“This isn’t about my allegiance to either Heaven or Hell. I’m choosing this world. I’m choosing humanity,” Aziraphale’s expression softened. “My choice is and will always be love.”
Aziraphale said it knowing that indirect mockery towards them as they had never known any love other than that from what Heaven had given them. Angels were beings of love, most specifically, God’s love. That was a fact. But Aziraphale knew that he hadn’t known what it was to truly feel and experience love until he walked among the humans himself.
Michael took a step toward Aziraphale.
“Enough of this foolishness. We are filled with Her love. We are the side of love. This is your last chance. Willingly return to Heaven with us now or you will fall, Aziraphale.”
Despite the fear that Aziraphale felt, his resolve was stronger.
“I suppose it doesn’t matter now. I already fell a long time ago.”
The angels exchanged looks of confusion. Aziraphale was still an angel (not for much longer as they assumed), but regardless, he had obviously not fallen from grace.
“You are no demon yet. Start to make some sense, Aziraphale.” Michael demanded.
Aziraphale clenched his fists so tightly that they began to shake. The angel mustered every morsel of bravery in his entire being. And so, with a large shaky breath he told the truth.
“I’ve already fallen, and it’s not as an angel. I have fallen in the way that humans do again and again,” Aziraphale stood as tall as he could. “I fell in love.”
And that was the truth. Aziraphale didn’t know for how long. It was hard to pinpoint the exact moment he did. However, it was when Crowley had saved his books during the church bombing that he realised three things that night. One: He had fallen in love with a demon. Two: It seemed to him that Crowley had felt the same. And three: if Heaven or Hell were to every find out, they’d destroy them.
The third realisation being the only thing to keep him from saying anything. Aziraphale wanted nothing more than to keep Crowley safe. The angel had never considered that of his own safety, only that of Crowley’s. It had been like that since they had begun their arrangement. In hindsight, on that night, Aziraphale felt as if he should’ve realised his feelings earlier.
Michael and Gabriel were visibly disturbed at the confession.
For all that the two archangels knew, it wasn’t possible.
Angels were beings of love, yes, that was a fact. But falling in love – romantic love, at that – with not just a person, but a demon…..well, that was never considered for an angel’s design.
Gabriel shook his head and rolled his eyes.
“Be serious, Aziraphale. You’re not in love,” Gabriel faked a chuckle, it sounded more nervous than anything. “You’ve been down here too long. It’s made you native. You’re merely in love with the human’s idea of love.”
Aziraphale felt anger spike throughout his being.
“Don’t make assumptions about me. I know how I feel and it’s more real than anything you would have ever been able to experience!” Aziraphale glare held so much unkept fury. “You can’t change how I feel by telling me how I should. Neither you, Heaven or Hell can. Just because you can’t understand it, it doesn’t make you right!”
The archangels were obviously shaken at the outburst. They had all assumed that Aziraphale had no backbone when it came to Heaven’s higher authority.
“You have no right to call yourself an angel. You’re a vile abomination.” Michael spat.
Aziraphale felt his eyes begin to sting with tears. The words cut deep into him, but with all his might he held any sign of tears back. He refused to give them that satisfaction. He had enough.
“You want to know how serious I am?” Aziraphale challenged. “Damn me, right here and now!”
Not once did Aziraphale hinder after he had said it. He was completely serious.
The archangels straightened up their postures.
“Very well. You have made your choice.” Michael hid her smirk.
They were angels. They weren’t meant to take joy in the punishment of another, but in their case, Aziraphale was the exception.
Gabriel lifted his hand, his fingers already to click.
“Aziraphale, principality and guardian of the eastern gate. You have committed crimes against Heaven for the last time. And for that, you will be damned to Hell.”
Aziraphale shut his eyes. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t scared. However, on a brighter note, he and Crowley would both be demons, so the fear of the opposing side keeping them apart would perish completely.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad.
I promise, I won’t be long, my dear Crowley.
“Goodbye, Aziraphale.” And with that, Gabriel clicked his fingers.
The snap echoed throughout the shop, setting into motion the celestial command.
Silence filled the air.
Aziraphale expected that at any moment he would feel his wings burning from the fall, to only land in a boiling pit of sulphur.
A second passed………then another one did……. Then another……... Then another –
Does damning an angel always take this long? Aziraphale thought to himself.
Another click was heard. It didn’t sound like Gabriel’s – so Aziraphale assumed it would have been Michael.
Aziraphale felt himself flinch, half expecting to feel himself falling at the other archangel’s click…. But that’s just it. He still didn’t.
The both on them were clicking now. It almost sounded like they were having a finger clicking competition as they all clicked multiple times.
Aziraphale couldn’t say for sure what was done for an angel to fall. He had never truly witnessed any firsthand, but he also didn’t believe that it would contain so much clicking.
Suddenly the clicking stopped. After a few moments of silence and nothing happening, Aziraphale dared to crack one eye open to see what was taking so long.
The angels were conversing quietly to each other as they stared at Aziraphale as if he had grown extra limbs.
Aziraphale patiently stood by, his hand cradling the other in front of him, as the other angels continued their dispute. Once the other angels realised Aziraphale was just standing by watching them, they immediately went quiet.
“I’m terribly sorry to interrupt,” Aziraphale cautiously began to complain, “but I was struck by the thought that damnation would be quicker than this.”
The pair adjusted where they stood uncomfortably. They kept looking back at Aziraphale with panic in their eyes.
Well… it sure didn’t seem like it was the usual ritual for casting out an angel. Perhaps they forgot to do something before? Aziraphale didn’t know for sure.
An awkward silence filled the air between the three of them just staring at each other.
Gabriel pretended to cough just to break the silence. And it was in that moment that Aziraphale felt the realisation had struck him like light in a dark room.
“You…..You can’t seem to do it, can you?” Aziraphale slowly asked.
Gabriel forced another fake cough. That meant a very clear and reluctant yes.
They were all as surprised as each other.
Michael looked back at Aziraphale and grabbed Gabriel by the arm. The two seemed to get into a heated debate in which Aziraphale overheard - and not by eavesdropping, mind you. They weren’t exactly discussing it quietly.
“How is it that it’s not working? We’re archangels. We have the authority. Did you fill out the correct expulsion papers?” Michael asked.
“Of course, I did!” Gabriel rolled his eyes. “You were there!”
“But that’s impossible unless….”
“Unless what, Michael?”
Michael glanced over back at Aziraphale with wide eyes. Swiftly Michael leant close to Gabriel’s ear, whispering what she had realised. Aziraphale couldn’t hear a word they were discussing.
Suddenly, Gabriel’s eyes widened with a gasp.
“Seriously?” Gabriel spat, shaking his head. “No, no. That can’t be.”
“It’s the only explanation.” Michael said, shooting a glare over at Aziraphale, whom had no idea what they were on about.
“I think we need to investigate this further,” Gabriel looked back at Aziraphale with a fake smile. “We’ll be in touch.”
And with that they were gone and Aziraphale let out a breath he hadn’t realised he had been holding.
Aziraphale had many thoughts racing through his head at once. What had that meant? Why couldn’t they do it? A slip up?
No, that likely hood of that was extremely unlikely.
He hadn’t time to process what had happened for another for a very protective demon came barrelling through his bookshop.
It can be said that Crowley had been going a lot faster than 90 miles an hour. It cannot be said the exact speed because it altered between fast and what can be considered too-fast.
As he came down the corner of the road, Crowley saw the two heads of the archangels Gabriel and Michael through the windows of the bookshop. Crowley slammed on the brakes. Crowley flung himself out of the Bentley.
No, no, no, no! He couldn’t be too late!
With his demonic power, he telekinetically threw the doors to the bookshop open as he ran in.
“Get away from him!” Crowley yelled.
Crowley suddenly froze where he stood. Michael and Gabriel were gone. All that remained was a shocked Aziraphale, whom was standing and staring at him with wide eyes.
“Crowley!? What are you doing here?”
The demon ignored the question. Instead he rushed over to the angel. Crowley grabbed Aziraphale by his arms as he hastily scanned the angel for any signs of wounds or change.
“Are you alright? Did they hurt you?”
“W-Wha – No, I’m quite alright. They didn’t lay a finger on me.”
Crowley loosened his grip on Aziraphale with a soft breath he had been holding.
“What did they want? Why were they here?”
“They gave me a choice. They were here for an answer. I gave them one.”
Crowley suddenly became very aware of what Aziraphale had been implying. Crowley slowly released his grip on the angel.
“You knew they were coming.” Crowley said. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement.
Aziraphale slowly nodded.
Crowley took a few steps back. It almost seemed like a stagger backward like he had been punched.
“What did they want?” Crowley asked the question not entirely sure he wanted to know the answer.
Aziraphale did what he had wanted to do from beginning and he told him the truth.
“Well, you see, they wanted me to return to Heaven permanently and to have a different angel remain on Earth instead. If I refused, they said that I,” Aziraphale hesitated, “…that I would be damned.”
Crowley was never one to outwardly express his emotions. He instead hid them behind sarcastic remarks. However, it was one of those rare moments that Crowley broke out of that mould.
“What!?” Crowley angrily began to pace. “Bastards! The whole lot of them! They didn’t want you here, but up there so they could do what? Make you miserable? They’re just as bad as my lot!”
Aziraphale knew he needed to tell Crowley the rest of the story; the rest of the truth, before he got even more worked up.
“I never intended on going back to Heaven,” Aziraphale confessed.
Silence lingered between the pair of them. It gave Crowley a moment to process what he had just heard. The pieces all fell into place and Crowley understood what Aziraphale had been trying to say.
“You…You were going to choose to fall?” Crowley expression became blank.
Aziraphale remained silence. He knew that it would speak louder to Crowley than simply saying it. The two stood in a heavy silence. Perhaps it was a good thing that he couldn’t see Crowley’s eyes through his dark spectacles.
The cogs in Crowley’s mind kept turning as he processed the situation.
His fall was one of the few things that he never spoke about. It was always a sensitive subject that Crowley would deflect if brought up in a serious conversation. The only time he brought it up himself was more so for a smart remark.
It still seemed like a recent memory. The burning that no amount of fire could amount to. The unbearable pain like being ripped inside out three hundred times over. It tore at everything and only left a shell of the angel he once was.
If someone were to ask Crowley what he was like before he fell, he wouldn’t have been able to give an honest answer. Not because he would lie, but because he genuinely didn’t remember anymore.
Whilst Crowley couldn’t say that he would have wanted to remain an angel, he never would choose to fall. But he also couldn’t say that he regretted it either. It happened because the consequence of his actions, not because he intended to fall, but in the end he did.
Never would Crowley want to experience such a thing again.
And the thought of Aziraphale going through all that….
“You were going to choose to fall and you weren’t going to tell me anything?” Crowley asked, his voice was calm.
That’s when Aziraphale knew that Crowley was pissed. That kind of calm only came from a very cold type of rage.
To place the words simply, Aziraphale knew he was in trouble.
“Crowley, please understand I-”
“You planned on falling and not telling me a word!?” Crowley yelled. He was too absorbed in his new found rage that he didn’t notice how Aziraphale had flinched. “So, what? Did you think you’d fall and just stroll back into your bookshop and everything would be the same!?”
They had their fair share of disagreements and arguments over the ages, but never had Crowley ever raised his voice at Aziraphale with such rage until that moment.
“This wasn’t easy for me!” Aziraphale knew Crowley was angry, but he needed him to understand. “What else could I have done? You would have only tried to stop me.”
“No shit!” Crowley hissed. “Look me in the eyes and tell me you thought this through.”
“Don’t lie to me. But oh-wait, too late for that now, I guess.”
“Would you allow me to speak!?” Aziraphale snapped.
There was so much more that Crowley wanted to say but complied regardless. He bit his tongue, mockingly motioning that it was Aziraphale’s turn.
“Thank you,” Aziraphale muttered, because even when arguing, he refused to lack his manners. “What I’ve been trying to say is that this was the only way.”
“So, lying to me was the only way?” Crowley played it off as mockery, but Aziraphale knew better. He knew that Crowley was hurt by it.
“Yes, it was,” Aziraphale stood by what he had done. He had to; it was already done. “Let’s say that hypothetically I had told you about it. What then? What could you have possibly been able to do?”
“Stop them.” Crowley’s answer was blunt and to the point like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Aziraphale rolled his eyes.
“How?” Aziraphale folded his arms across his chest. “How would you have possibly stopped two archangels?”
Crowley immediately shrugged.
“We would have figured out something.”
And that was the truth.
Crowley never lied to Aziraphale – or at least never when it really counted. The same couldn’t be the said for the many times he had made some fake excuse to see the angel, or like saying he didn’t like Golden Girls, when in fact, it was one of his favourite shows.
And Aziraphale knew this fact. It made his heart ache that out of the two of them, he had been the one that lied. So, he told the truth.
“They said in the letter that if you tried to interfere, they would remove you,” Aziraphale held his own hand with the other to stop them for jittering and shaking. “I couldn’t risk your life.”
“They had to have been bluffing, Aziraphale. They all think that we’re immune to holy water and hellfire.”
Aziraphale slowly shook his head.
“They know we swapped.”
Crowley quietened at that and confusedly blinked at the other.
“I’m not sure. I suspect they finally realised that something was amiss. Maybe it was– oh, what am I saying,” Aziraphale sighed. “Why are we still talking about this? Nothing happened. We’re just talking about what-if’s now.”
“Well, that, and that you lied to me.” Crowley sneered. Whilst Aziraphale was done with the argument, Crowley was not. “Don’t try to deflect the conversation.”
“I already told you it was to protect you!”
“Doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change that you -” Crowley poked Aziraphale’s chest. “- should’ve told me.”
Aziraphale frowned, taking a step backward away from Crowley attempting to gain some ground back.
“And get us both killed or worse?” Aziraphale genuinely thought he had Crowley at that.
Crowley was quiet for a long moment. His annoyed façade had cracked slightly. He stepped right back in front of Aziraphale. There was barely distance between the two. Crowley kept his gaze on him.
The angel felt himself crumbling under it, and not in a nice way, but neither in a fearful way. Crowley may have been wearing his glasses, but Aziraphale still felt the pressure that came from Crowley’s eyes. In a word, it felt tense. Aziraphale felt himself averting his gaze from Crowley’s, choosing to favour the floor instead.
When Crowley finally decided to answer, his voice was low almost like a whisper.
“At least we would have done it together.”
Oh… Aziraphale felt that one cut deep.
“And you really don’t get it, do you?” Crowley quietly began. “Aziraphale, falling isn’t like any pain you’ve ever known. It doesn’t just burn away at what’s left of your being, it also burns away at everything you once were. It’s like dying because you don’t end up the same after all that. Everything once good in you would be gone.”
They stood there in a heavy silence.
Aziraphale turned around pretending to scan one of his bookshelves. It was just an excuse to not have to look at Crowley. His hand slowly stroked the spine of one of his older books.
“I…I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m sorry.” Aziraphale’s hand froze on an old copy of the Bible. “Would you have rather that I’d return to Heaven to never return?”
Aziraphale was honestly afraid of the answer.
Heaven may have been…. well, Heaven, but Aziraphale held no fond memories there. To oversimplify it, Heaven was big and cold. The opposite of his bookshop. And Crowley was an angel once, so he knew what it was like – at least at the beginning. Even all those millennia ago, it wasn’t a warm and welcoming place like Earth.
To be in such a place forever, never to return to Earth and to never see Crowley again. Well, then Heaven would’ve become Aziraphale’s Hell.
And it was in that moment that Aziraphale felt like what he had been fearing was coming true.
Crowley was silent.
Silence sometimes spoke louder than words could. Aziraphale took that as his answer. Aziraphale attempted to swallow down the hurt in his voice. He turned back to face Crowley.
“I can’t believe you,”
Crowley threw his hands up.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“You didn’t have to.” Aziraphale failed to hide the upset tone in his voice that time. It was the last thing Crowley had wanted to hear, so he quickly scrambled to explain himself.
“That’s- I was - Just – Okay, look. Despite what the idiots up there say,” Crowley pointed his finger upwards. “You are the best of them all. And I know you love being an angel. You practically are what an angel should be. So, by falling……Falling would destroy you, Aziraphale.”
Aziraphale felt that one sting.
“And,” Crowley continued, “To think you considered this so carelessly-“
“Now hold on,” Aziraphale interrupted. “Did it ever occur to you that I would rather be damned than be up there for eternity? Hell, I’d rather be dead than doomed to be there for the rest of my existence!”
Crowley sarcastically snorted.
“You think Hell is any better than Heaven?”
“OH, FUCK HEAVEN!”
Crowley had to stop from his mouth going agape. Instead he opted for a wide-eyed look that was subsequently hidden by his glasses. He had never heard Aziraphale swear before. And not that Crowley would admit it (he was still angry, mind you) but in that moment, he had never found Aziraphale more attractive. In that moment to the demon Crowley, there was only one thing hotter than hellfire and he was standing right in front of him.
But the heat of the argument did reconquer and drowned out such thoughts.
“Y-You heard me!” Aziraphale tried to keep strong despite being shocked at himself that he had just sworn. “I love being an angel, yes, that’s true. But I love it because I enjoy doing good for humanity. Not because I care about what they want so they can do their blasted paperwork! They treat me horribly it’s a wonder that I haven’t told that to their faces yet!”
“And how do you think demons treat their subordinates?” Crowley shook his head. “The occasional written warning or scolding isn’t what my lot do! They’d do far worse than any angel would be capable of.”
Aziraphale’s expression went blank. It did unsettle Crowley, but he felt like he had won a point in their debate. But that was not the case. Whilst demons could get physical with their torment, at least they were outward and honest when they didn’t like someone. Angels were the opposite of that; two-faced.
Crowley had no idea how Heaven truly treated Aziraphale. Crowley knew that the angels were in his words, ‘outright wankers’, but he always assumed that they had only begun to mistreat Aziraphale when he started to attempt to avert the apocalypse. Crowley didn’t know how wrong he was.
“You don’t know what they’ve done.” Aziraphale quietly said. He honestly hadn’t meant to say it out loud. Aziraphale didn’t want Crowley to hear such a confession, but the words had already escaped him.
Much of the anger Crowley had quelling inside him died in his chest.
“What?” Crowley murmured.
Aziraphale didn’t dare to look at Crowley. He couldn’t bare it. He didn’t want to unpack it all at that moment. The day had already been taxing enough as it was. That was something to talk about for another day.
“It doesn’t matter anymore. Forget I said anything!”
Against Crowley’s will, the anger came bubbling back up as words he didn’t really want to say.
“Why won’t you tell me? Is it another one of your lies? You seem to be doing that a lot recently.”
Aziraphale clenched his fists.
“I am done trying to explain to you why I lied.”
“Sure, but how many more times have you lied to me?” Crowley hoped it’d be a rhetorical question. He was wrong once again.
The angel crumbled under the gaze. Aziraphale felt Crowley’s stare squeeze out the truth and the guilt came bubbling out of his mouth.
“It was only once! At the bandstand, when you asked me if I knew anything about the Anti-Christ. I said I didn’t, but I already knew who he was and where.”
Out of the many things that Crowley thought would come out of Aziraphale’s mouth, that had to be one of the last things he could think to imagine.
“I was still so convinced I could fix it on my own!” Aziraphale hastily explained, “And with the talk of sides of Heaven and Hell, I still thought I had to choose. I didn’t know what to do! But I know I should’ve just told you from the start, and for that lie I am incredibly and deeply sorry.”
It was that exact moment that Crowley felt the memory of the previous night clawing into his mind. Aziraphale kissing his cheek. Crowley felt his heart sink.
Was that just another one of those lies to ensure he didn’t know what the angel was up to?
Had Aziraphale not truly meant it?
Crowley had enough. Everything became just too much to process.
“How could you have kept that from me!? How can I trust you again?” Crowley realised what he said and scoffed. “Isn’t this rich? A demon being lied to by an angel.”
“I can’t change what I’ve done.” Aziraphale said, his right hand gripping his left deathly tight.
“Well, obviously!” Crowley hissed. “Actually – No, I’m just about done with this today.”
Suddenly, Crowley turned and started walking toward the door.
“Where are you going?” Aziraphale called after him.
Crowley stopped, but only for a moment to answer the question.
“Out. I need space. We could both use some right about now.”
Crowley didn’t want to leave it at that, but that was the best he could do. He was too fired up. They – No…. He needed room to think.
“Crowley, please.” Aziraphale’s plea went ignored.
After everything that happened that day, Aziraphale didn’t want Crowley to leave in such a way. And watching Crowley walk away awoke a fear inside that Aziraphale kept buried deep inside. Such a fear came rushing to the surface once more. It was the fear that it would be like after their fight in St James Park in 1862. After that fight, they hadn’t spoken to near to a hundred years.
Aziraphale desperately didn’t want history to repeat itself, but he also knew why Crowley wanted to leave. The guilt he felt kept him quiet. So, Aziraphale remained where he stood, his heart quaking ever so slightly as he watched Crowley leave.
It was when Crowley was mid stride on his way out that a sudden realisation dawned on him. Beyond everything they had just argued about, one thing suddenly stuck out. Aziraphale had said that Heaven had gave him the choice to return to Heaven or fall and become a demon.
Even after all the arguing, Crowley had only then realised that he was scolding him for making such a decision. A decision Aziraphale had already made clear to two archangels. Gabriel and Michael were gone and yet Aziraphale was still in his bookshop.
Crowley froze in his tracks and turned back toward the angel.
“Wait! Hold on! This doesn’t make sense,” Crowley began. “You’re not…. You’re still here.”
Aziraphale didn’t quite understand at first and he tried to fire himself up for another round of arguing.
“Well, obviously. That’s very well spotted. This is my shop after all. You’re leaving because I’m the one that lives here.”
“No! Not that! I mean, you told them no. You agreed to fall, but you’re here just fine.”
The ‘how’ went by unsaid. Aziraphale felt more anger melt away and hesitance took its place.
“W-Well…You see, they tried, but it…it didn’t work.”
Crowley stared at Aziraphale. Had he just heard right?
“I-It didn’t work.” Aziraphale repeated, growing more anxious at Crowley’s response.
“It didn’t work?” Crowley repeated. His mind slowly turning the cogs. “You…You couldn’t fall?”
Aziraphale’s hands trembled, but he did a very good job at concealing it from Crowley.
Crowley was quiet for a long time. Minutes could’ve passed. It may have been hours. It was hard to tell. Regardless, it did feel like an eternity before Crowley said anything.
Another stretched silence hung over the pair. The next sound to break it was the sound of the bell ringing from the doors to the bookshop.
Crowley had left and Aziraphale had never felt emptier.
Aziraphale – the angel who couldn’t fall. It had been no wonder why the archangels left as quickly as they did. He may have not been immune to hell fire, but he was immune to their holy conviction.
After knowing that, Crowley truly needed space to think.
Crowley wasn’t a fool. The only power that could stop the archangels from condemning such a sentence could only be one being. God. So, that meant that God Herself hadn’t wanted Aziraphale to fall.
Deep and buried within him, Crowley felt a spark of jealousy. He didn’t want to admit it to himself, but a very dark part him thought, ‘why is he Her favourite? Why couldn’t that have been me!?’
But such thoughts were not him. At least, he didn’t want to believe it was, for a louder part of him felt greater relief at the fact than anything. And that part of him, argued against all the other thoughts.
‘If he has been noticed by the Almighty and saved by Her. It means She is watching over Aziraphale. It means that no matter what Heaven may try and pull, Aziraphale is safe. He will remain as he was always meant to stay: an angel.’
And no amount of envy inside the demon could compare to that feeling of relief.
Such emotions often frightened Crowley. It wasn’t in the sense that he was afraid of love. That wasn’t it.
He knew that he loved Aziraphale. He may have never admitted that aloud, but he had accepted that long ago.
It was rather how much he loved Aziraphale, that frightened him.
Crowley had tried to convince himself for so long that while he had strong feelings for Aziraphale, if needed Crowley could live without him.
Time and time again he proved himself wrong. He had finally accepted it the day that the Apocalypse was meant to begin.
The memory of that day still scarred itself in his memory. When Aziraphale’s bookshop in flames, Crowley thought that Aziraphale hadn’t just been discorporated, but destroyed altogether.
When Crowley walked out of those flames, he had finally come to terms with the fact if Aziraphale were gone, he didn’t want to live in a world without him. He’d rather watch it all burn. Crowley had known in his heart that perhaps there would have been a slim chance that he’d attempt to save the world to honour Aziraphale’s memory.
Luckily, he didn’t have to mull over such thoughts. It had been nothing short of a miracle that Crowley ending up being wrong and Aziraphale was in fact, still alive.
That day he discovered that he loved Aziraphale more than he had ever loved anything or one.
And knowing that very same person had lied to him truly cut deeper than any weapon could. Crowley stared in the darkness at the ceiling above. He let his mind wander once more.
Crowley knew that Aziraphale wouldn’t have lied without his reasons. Hell, Aziraphale had repeated his reasons many times, but Crowley had been too angry to truly listen.
He wasn’t mad that Aziraphale had lied per say. It was more that Aziraphale had made such a big decision without him.
If he had fell, there was still the possibility of that going wrong. Beelzebub could’ve imprisoned Aziraphale, buried deep within Hell to do some mediocre tasks as a new demon.
But the thing Crowley feared most about it, the thing he wouldn’t admit to that scared him, was if Aziraphale fell, and he’d change. Most demon’s personality drastically changed from when they were angels.
Crowley was one of the rare exceptions whose personality had changed all that much (or at least he liked to think so). The what-if Aziraphale ended up no longer caring about humanity frightened Crowley.
No – that was a lie. It wasn’t if Aziraphale stopped caring about humanity. It was if he stopped caring about him.
Crowley suddenly sat up.
Aziraphale lied to him, but it was then that Crowley realised he no longer cared.
Crowley decided right then and there that he’d bid it all goodbye. It didn’t have to be as complicated as he had convinced himself it was.
Aziraphale had been right about one thing, there was no point thinking on the what-if’s.
Crowley decided he was would do something a demon would never have been thought to be capable of. He’d give love a try all because he loved him.
So complicated and yet so simple.
And so, Crowley hastily changed his clothes and found himself back in his Bentley, driving in the moonlight to a certain bookshop in Soho.
Aziraphale honestly didn’t know what to do with himself. He felt horrible and lonely. He had fought with Crowley before but never like that.
He switched between pacing and sitting. He didn’t know what to do. Aziraphale kept getting haunted by panicked thoughts.
I hope Crowley’s alright.
What if it takes another 100-year absence until we talk again?
What if I never see him again?
What if the angels return in that time and I fall for good?
Would Crowley ever forgive me for that?
What if – Oh my cocoa is still out from yesterday
Aziraphale abruptly stood. Perhaps a walk would help him filter out his thoughts. It was all too muddled.
He quickly washed out his old cocoa and placed the mug away. As Aziraphale left his shop he finally noticed that it had gotten dark.
When did become night? He thought.
The moon was high, and the streets were near-dead. A great atmosphere to think.
After walking for a few minutes Aziraphale realised that there wasn’t much he needed to filter through. It all came down to two things.
More than anything, he just wanted to talk it through with Crowley. And he never wanted to lie to him again.
Aziraphale paused out the front of an old clothes shop, staring at his reflection in the glass with a sigh. As Aziraphale blinked, suddenly in the glass he saw Gabriel standing next to him suddenly.
Aziraphale felt sharp panic shooting through him as he turned to face his ex-superior. Aziraphale fixed his posture and tightly held his hand in the other behind his back.
“So,” Aziraphale began. “Did you find out why it didn’t work?”
There was a long stretch of silence between the two until Gabriel sighed.
“You’ve been reinstated.”
Aziraphale blinked. “What?”
“You’ve been reinstated.” Gabriel repeated, his tone sounding more monotone than the previous time.
Aziraphale couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He just hoped that he wasn’t hallucinating.
“I don’t recall ever being fired.” Aziraphale remarked.
“Reinstated. Rehired. Whatever you want to call it,” Gabriel’s eye twitched. “You are to remain here on Earth.”
“Why the sudden change?” Aziraphale’s curiosity overrode his fear. A last-minute change of mind was almost unheard of when it came to a divine decision.
“There was nothing wrong with the paperwork. It should have and would have worked, but…” Gabriel’s face softened slightly. “…. But as it would turn out, someone willed it to not happen. And there’s only one being that could’ve stopped it from happening.”
Aziraphale attempted to pinch himself. He did so and nothing changed. He was wide awake, and he had just heard that.
“Are you implying to me that God Herself stopped it?”
Gabriel avoided answering the question. “We’ll be checking in every now and again.”
Aziraphale had to take a moment to recover from his shell-shocked state.
God saved him? Did that mean she approved of what he had said? Was it Her way of telling him to stay with Crowley?
He had so many questions that he knew wouldn’t be answered, but he believed what he needed to in that moment. So, Aziraphale felt the need to make it clear to Gabriel what his future intentions were.
“Do as you please, but as I’ve said before, I am done siding with Heaven. My side is now –“
“Yeah, yeah. ‘Love’,” Gabriel shivered. “You don’t need to repeat the speech. But time will tell and maybe that might change.”
“It won’t,” Aziraphale stated it with all the conviction he could muster within his voice. “I am loyal to Her, but not to you.”
Gabriel merely shrugged once more.
“You can deny it all you want Aziraphale, part of you will always be loyal to Heaven. Eventually it will bring you back to us whether it’s what you want or not.”
Aziraphale shook his head, attempting to keep his cool.
“You clearly don’t know me then.”
Gabriel slowly stepped closer and closer to him. Aziraphale stood his ground despite the uncomfortable closeness between them.
“Oh- But I do, Aziraphale. You are –“ SLAM!!
Angels had wings, and so with that logic, they could fly. An angel however could not fly without their wings present. So, to see the archangel Gabriel suddenly being flung through the air was an enigma until all the variables were revealed. Aziraphale glanced over to source and the explanation was a clear example of Newtons third law of physics, which was with each action was an equal and opposite reaction.
The action: a stationary Gabriel being hit into at a high speed.
The equal and opposite reaction: Gabriel’s body and a car.
The result: A broken body and a dented car bonnet.
Aziraphale gasped as he stared at Gabriel’s broken body. As soon as he heard a broken cough come from the body, Aziraphale’s first compulsion was to go over and heal the other angel’s corporeal form. Gabriel may have been in a word, a dick, but Aziraphale didn’t lack empathy like the former.
But before he could, suddenly Aziraphale’s attention was turned back to the car whom had hit Gabriel to begin with. It was the music. Aziraphale recognised it immediately. There was only one being in the entire world that he knew would blasting a Queen song with such timed lyrics to an affair.
So, don't stop me now
Don't stop me
'Cause I'm having a good time, having a good time.
Aziraphale finally got a good look at the car. A black 1920’s Bentley. And the driver? A demon. But not just any demon, his demon. Aziraphale couldn’t say he was completely surprised, but he also couldn’t say he wasn’t.
Crowley stuck his head out the open window with a large grin plastered on his face.
“I got him!” Crowley cheered with a laugh as he climbed out of the Bentley. He strutted over to what was left of Gabriel’s human form. “Hope you liked that, you bloody celestial-bastard! Ha-ha!”
Aziraphale watched as Crowley crouched down next to Gabriel’s dying vessel. Aziraphale was too gobsmacked at seeing Crowley again to react. He merely stared.
Crowley smiled down at the archangel had blood dribble down his chin. Gabriel was attempting to speak, but it instead came out was something akin to a groan. Mind you, Crowley was a demon, yes, but he never liked to watch the suffering of others. There were only few cases for people that Crowley thought deserving of such suffering.
Gabriel was one of those cases.
“I’ve been waiting for this,” Crowley admitted as he glared down at the archangel. “You didn’t even give Aziraphale a trial. You just sentenced him to death, the whole lot of you. But you, Gabriel, you especially piss me off. And even after that, you’re still trying to threaten him back into Heaven? Pathetic.”
Crowley leaned down to Gabriel’s ear.
“Now you listen to me carefully now because I’m not going to repeat myself. You’re going to leave him alone for good. He’s an angel that can’t fall, you ought not to mess with that, don’t you think? Otherwise, next time, I’ll be the one to end you for good. Agreed?”
Gabriel’s response was just him choking on his blood. Crowley leaned away, standing back up.
“I’m glad we’re in agreement. So,” Crowley let himself smirk. “Just shut your stupid mouth and die already.”
Gabriel suddenly became unmoving body on the pavement a few feet away. His purple eyes open and empty.
The vessel was empty. Gabriel had been discorporated.
Crowley proceeded to gloat further by flipping off Gabriel’s human corpse while swaying the crude display back and forth at Gabriel’s body.
Aziraphale looked around to see if anyone was watching. He quickly realised that Crowley had froze time around them just before his Bentley had hit Gabriel. Aziraphale didn’t want to imagine what the humans around them would think if they just saw a man gladly disrespecting the body of a man he hit with his car. It would’ve been quite hard to explain that one.
“You might want to step back.” Aziraphale said.
Crowley wordlessly complied.
With a snap of Aziraphale’s fingers, Gabriel’s body and blood vanished. And the dent on the Bentley’s bonnet was no more.
An uncomfortable silence hung over the two immortal beings. Aziraphale knew that he couldn’t pretend that everything was alright between them once more. Not after the fight they had.
However, against his better judgement Aziraphale ended up asking the first question he had.
“What happened to needing some space?”
Crowley ignored the question for a moment looking over his car.
“I never said I’d be long,” Crowley shrugged, avoiding eye contact with the angel. He was convinced it was a fine excuse. “What are you doing?”
“Walking around helps me think.”
“I know that,” Crowley rolled his eyes. “I meant to ask why are doing it now? It’s three in the morning.”
Aziraphale stared incredulously at the demon.
“I could say the same for you. Why are you even here?”
Crowley strolled back over to his beloved car, still avoiding eye contact with Aziraphale.
“I wanted to talk to you about all of this. Properly this time. I didn’t want to wait until morning,” Crowley confessed. “Besides, I know that you don’t sleep. I just didn’t think you’d be wandering about.”
“Oh.” It was all Aziraphale could muster.
It was because in the first time in decades, he wasn’t sure where he and Crowley stood.
It was like when they saw each other again for the first time in a century in that church during World War II all over again. They had ended terms badly when Crowley had wanted holy water. Near to one hundred years later Crowley came strolling in on holy ground to save him. Even after their fight, they were still friends. But that was a different time. A different situation.
And Aziraphale felt that time made all the difference when it came to Crowley.
Ever since Aziraphale had known the demon, Crowley was always doing something unexpected or changing his mind about something with a flick of his wrist. When Aziraphale felt closer to being able to confidently say that he knew Crowley completely, something would change. Whether that meant an opinion or haircut or clothes, he’d change. Aziraphale felt like he couldn’t ever catch up. Crowley just went too fast for him.
A voice broke Aziraphale out of his thoughts.
Aziraphale looked up to see Crowley holding open the door to the passenger side of the Bentley. It was an offering, not just for a ride home, but one that told Aziraphale ‘I want to start this over again, please, I’m ready to talk now’. And really, how could Aziraphale refuse?
“Thank you,” he murmured as he climbed into the car.
The two remained silent after that. The only thing that was heard was the faintest trace of a Queen song playing in the Bentley. Aziraphale had to focus to hear a semblance of the lyrics.
Oh, you're the best friend that I ever had
I've been with you such a long time
You're my sunshine and I want you to know
That my feelings are true
I really love you
Oh, you're my best friend
Aziraphale glanced over at Crowley only to find him doing the same thing. Crowley was the first to look away and back toward the road in front of him. Aziraphale slowly turned away, looking out the window.
The drive was quiet and silent, but surprisingly not awkward. It wasn’t quite comfortable, but it didn’t feel strange either.
They stayed silent until they were in Aziraphale’s bookshop. Crowley sunk into the nearest couch. Aziraphale kept his distance, standing a few feet away. Crowley was the first to break the silence.
“I don’t want to argue with you anymore, angel.” Crowley sounded so tired.
“Neither do I.” Aziraphale nervously gripped one hand in the other. “I should’ve told you the truth. You were right, we probably would’ve come up with something.”
“I know you were just trying to protect me,” Crowley swallowed a lump forming in his throat. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have gotten so mad at you. I should’ve tried to see it from your side more when you told me. You were pushed into this. It’s not your fault.”
“But I – “ Aziraphale was cut off.
“Can we leave it at that and move on?”
Aziraphale stared. Was it that simple? Could they just move on with it?
Suddenly Crowley slid off the couch and slowly walked toward Aziraphale.
Aziraphale on instinct, flinched as he saw Crowley lifting his arms. Crowley instantly paused at the sight. Aziraphale mentally scolded himself at the action and he averted his gaze to the floor. He knew that Crowley would never hurt him. But after having the other mad at him, it was purely an old habit from when he’d receive his reprimands from Heaven refusing to disappear.
Having never been told, Crowley was slowly piecing it together of the years. However, Aziraphale’s flinch was only making Crowley conclude the most heinous of things. It made his blood boil to think how Heaven treated Aziraphale.
Crowley ever so gently placed his hands over Aziraphale’s. It was a slow movement. He tenderly slid his hands between Aziraphale’s tense ones. It caused the angel to finally look back up at him.
Aziraphale’s eyes were filled with equal amounts of surprise and trust. It was only after a moment of staring back into those blue eyes that Crowley moved his hand from the angel’s check to the back of his head.
He guided Aziraphale’s head towards his shoulder. Crowley brought his other arm around the angel, pulling him into a firm yet gentle embrace.
It was a strange thought to realise that it was the first time in 6000 years that they hugged. It was a form of physical intimacy that they both had never done together, but silently yearned for. But the barrier between them via their sides kept that from ever happening. It only took them the Apoco-let’s-pretend-this-never-happened to get to where they were in that moment.
Aziraphale had to let the shock of being embraced by Crowley settle before he could truly process how it made him feel.
The way Crowley held him was both tender and comforting. There was not a hint of tension filled with anger in Crowley’s being, and Aziraphale could feel it.
In that quiet moment, Aziraphale could only feel one thing coming from Crowley.
It was unlike any love he had been able to sense before. Old and overwhelming, yet it still felt as fresh as a newborn love. It was familiar because Aziraphale had the same kind of love hidden within him as well.
Crowley had let down a barrier that he had been concealing. He had been shielding his feelings from the angel, but no more. Knowing that, Aziraphale slowly wrapped his own arms around the demon, letting any and all tension he had melt away in Crowley’s embrace.
For far too long they had let it go by unsaid and unacted upon. For once, Aziraphale let himself fall to the temptations his heart had begged for him to yield to for so many years.
Without realising it, Aziraphale pressed his forehead closer into Crowley’s shoulder. As a silent response, Crowley tightened his grip around the angel. They held each other in silence.
Neither needed to say anything more for a long time. The silence was a thousand unspoken words. Aziraphale nor Crowley had said anything until the sun had started rise. The bookshop bathed in the beautiful orange light.
“I meant what I said before, you know,” Crowley said it in a soft tone that was purely reserved for his angel. “We’re in this together. So please don’t go running off where I can’t follow, alright?”
Aziraphale nodded into the other’s shoulder.
“No more secrets and no more lies,” Aziraphale promised. “Just you and me. Our side.”
Crowley smiled. That’s what it was always going to be. Him and Aziraphale. Their side against it all; Heaven and Hell. Crowley rested his cheek on Aziraphale’s head. Good and evil didn’t matter. All that Crowley knew is having the angel he loved in his arms felt right.
“For what it’s worth I’m so relieved that you didn’t. Fall, I mean,” Crowley held Aziraphale a little tighter. “Let’s face it, angel, there was no way you’re cut out to be a demon. You’d be a pretty pathetic one. I can imagine it now. You’d think that not holding the door open for someone as the evillest deed ever conceived.”
Crowley felt Aziraphale holding back a huff of laughter.
“I suppose you’re right,” Aziraphale smiled into Crowley’s shoulder. “But with that logic, I would be no less to be cut out to be a demon than you.”
Crowley couldn’t help but smirk at the angel’s mischievous tone.
“Watch it. Stop being a cheeky bastard,” he told Aziraphale. “I’m still mad at you.”
Of course, Crowley’s words held no heat to them, but he also wasn’t not mad. But then again, he could’ve said it without holding Aziraphale in his arms, but alas, he didn’t.
“Are you really?” Aziraphale lifted his head to look Crowley in the eyes.
Crowley looked down into those eyes, and for Hell’s sake a part of him wished he hadn’t. Aziraphale’s eyes were filled with silent apologies with a melancholic tinge to their usual softness. Crowley took one look into those beautiful blue eyes and Crowley felt the small remnants of his anger melted away.
“You’re not playing fair,” he pouted.
“So,” Aziraphale playfully smirked. “That’s a no?”
Aziraphale continued to smile as he once again pressed his forehead between Crowley’s neck and shoulder. He shut his eyes and just let himself feel it all. Soft. Warm. Comforting. Safe. All the words that shouldn’t be described for a demon. All of course, except one. Everything he felt in Crowley’s arms was the opposite of what he felt in Heaven.
His home was never Heaven. It never really was.
Home was where he stood. Home was his bookshop in the arms of the demon he loved more than words could describe. A word to describe the indescribable, there could only be one word. Ineffable.
Aziraphale pulled his head away to look up at Crowley, whom had already been tenderly gazing at the other.
A silent question rose in their eyes. The answer was within them before the other asked.
Mutually leaning in they pressed their lips to the others. It was chaste. There was nothing like sparks. There were no fireworks as romance novels would often suggest.
It was, however, warm and soft, and had felt so right.
And just like that, it ended as quickly as it began. They both pulled away smiling at the other.
Their first kiss had come and gone. And it most certainly wouldn’t be their last.
They stayed in a state of smiling bliss for a moment longer before Aziraphale was the one to break his daze.
“I wanted to do that yesterday,” Aziraphale confessed, looking anywhere but Crowley’s eyes. “But it wouldn’t have been right.”
Crowley let out a small hum, acknowledging what the other had said.
“So, it was meant as a goodbye kiss?”
“If…If anything went wrong, I….I wanted you to know how I feel. You deserved to know.”
Crowley held one hand to the other’s cheek, making Aziraphale look him in the eyes.
“I think we’ve both always known, angel.”
Aziraphale softly smiled.
“Perhaps, you’re right. But we never have really spoken about it, have we? Not even after all this time.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that.” Crowley said, grabbing Aziraphale s hand.
Crowley caressed Aziraphale’s knuckles with his thumb before pressing a small kiss to them. Another first gone.
“We have all the time in the world.”