“Are you the devil?”
“Am I the— excuse me?” Mr. Crowley looked down at Nadine with obvious surprise.
At the coffee shop where Nadine worked, across the street from Mr. Fell’s, her co-workers were convinced he was. They said Mr. Crowley had snake’s eyes behind those sunglasses, and maybe black wings too. And it was true that Mr. Fell seemed not to have aged since he’d opened the shop. Hazel was the one who clinched it, though, asking the obvious question. Why else would sweet Mr. Fell be with a guy like that?
Nadine had spied on him for weeks. When she saw Mr. Crowley snap his fingers and disappear, she knew the truth. “I want to make a deal,” she said, with a courage that came not from some fire within but from simply being at the end of the road. “For my soul.”
Mr. Crowley sighed and leaned back against the doorjamb of the shop. “And what kind of favor from the devil do you think is worth your soul? Fame, fortune? Short-sighted, you humans are. What, 80 years here on Earth to enjoy it, and an eternity in Hell.”
Nadine reminded herself that it was a good thing that Mr. Crowley hadn’t denied being the devil. “It’s worth it,” she said. “My husband is sick.”
For a second, Mr. Crowley’s demeanor softened, making him look decidedly undemonic. But he quickly grew cool and impassive again. “Nope, can't help you. Out.”
Nadine held her ground. “Please! I will do anything!”
“Keep your voice down!” Mr. Crowley hissed. “Do you know how hard it is to get him to actually sleep?”
And then Nadine heard another voice from within the shop. “My dear?”
Mr. Crowley let out a low (but frankly terrifying) growl at Nadine as Mr. Fell rounded the door, looking sleepy, although he was fully dressed.
It was easier for Nadine to address Mr. Fell—well, unsurprisingly, it was easier to address anyone who was not possibly the devil. “I came to make a deal with—” she pointed a shaking hand at Mr. Crowley. “Like you did.” Mr. Fell looked confused. “So—so that you’re immortal."
Mr. Fell’s lovely blue eyes went wide. “You...think I traded my soul for eternal life?”
It had not occurred to Nadine that she might be misunderstood on this point. “Well—uh—” she stammered, “you live together, so we assumed—”
A look of delight crossed Mr. Fell’s face. “You think I traded sex for eternal life. To him.” His eyes flicked to his husband. “Now that is an interesting idea.”
Mr. Crowley’s face had gone bright red. “It is not, I will not have people think that I would—” He sputtered. “That you would—”
Mr. Fell was dissolving in giggles. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he gasped, holding up a hand, but he couldn’t stop laughing. He managed to say, “Come in, Nadine,” and she did, wondering when she’d told him her name, before she found herself sitting on a couch with a cup of tea that as far as she could tell, had come from nowhere.
Wiping his eyes, Mr. Fell said, “I’m afraid it’s not possible to meet the devil in my bookshop, he’s much too large. What did you need, my dear?”
Nadine’s cup rattled in its saucer. She looked at Mr. Crowley. “You can’t help me? But I’m willing to trade—”
Mr. Fell’s voice grew graver. “I wouldn’t keep saying that, Nadine, someone down there will eventually hear you.”
“But I mean it! My soul for my husband’s life!”
As Mr. Fell’s expression filled with sympathy, Mr. Crowley gave an exasperated growl. “Aziraphale, no.”
Mr. Fell just frowned at him. “I am perfectly capable of—”
“Oh, yeah? Let’s see it.”
Nadine’s cup ended up missing the saucer altogether, landing on the floor, as she watched two beautiful white wings spread out from Mr. Fell’s back.
“You’re an angel?” she gasped.
Mr. Crowley was still glaring at her. “And do you see that weak glow? Should be blinding. And do you know why that is? Because he spent today visiting the heart ward.” He switched his focus to his husband now. “Shouldn’t have done, should you? And now you want to go to the cancer ward, but you can’t because I am not dealing with you either endangering your health or coming home heartbroken that you couldn’t save them all.”
“Well,” said Mr. Fell in what was a remarkably calm voice for someone getting scolded in such a menacing tone, although maybe angels were just naturally brave, “that does suggest one other possibility.”
“No, it does not. One of us has to keep up their strength, you never know when they'll come back. My job is to protect you, angel, and if that means I can’t do this, then I just—I just won’t.” Mr. Crowley’s voice broke just a little on the last word.
Mr. Fell's eyes grew soft. “Oh, my dear. Yes, I understand. I shouldn't have asked. I'm sorry.”
Mr. Crowley folded his arms again. “Right. So it’s settled.”
Mr. Fell turned back to Nadine, who was still holding a saucer with nothing on it. “I’m very sorry, my dear, but—”
“Fine!” Mr. Crowley growled suddenly, throwing his hands up in the air and making both of them jump. “But I am charging a price. You wanted a deal with the devil, I'll give you one.”
Mr. Fell was looking at his husband with surprise that quickly brightened into a rather dazed adoration.
“I thought you weren’t—” Nadine started.
Mr. Crowley removed his sunglasses. Nadine dropped the saucer.
“I’m close enough,” he assured her as he stalked closer. “And this is my price. For the life of your husband, and only him: not a word about this to anybody. Ever. Aziraphale already does too much, I won’t have the whole of humanity knocking down the bookshop door.”
“You don't want my soul?” Nadine squeaked.
“He already owns mine, dear,” Mr. Fell said, in an extremely fond voice, “along with my heart. I don't think he needs anyone else’s.”
For the second time in the evening, Nadine watched Mr. Crowley lose his composure, a bright red blush flaming over his face. He seemed not to know what to do with his hands. “Angel, for Hell’s sake!” he snapped quietly, shoving his sunglasses back on.
The next day, Nadine wasn’t surprised to find the entire cancer ward making miraculous recoveries. After all, she knew what it was like to love someone so strongly that you would do anything for him.