The first time Aziraphale became acquainted with the little death, a miracle went unnoticed in the balmy London night.
After they took the bus back to Crowley’s gray Mayfair flat, Aziraphale sat in the shadows at the foot of the statue of good and evil. Crowley crept in to check on him. They talked. Aziraphale’s voice broke. Crowley settled beside him and slung his arm over his shoulder. Aziraphale pulled him into a desperate, back-breaking hug - and they held each other for a long time, two warm creatures on a cold, hard floor.
And then, in the sanctuary of the still, silent dark, Aziraphale took a leap of faith, leaned forward, and kissed him.
One kiss became two. Two kisses became three. Three became four. Four became Crowley easing Aziraphale onto his back. Crowley untying Aziraphale’s tie became unbuttoning his shirt. Two undone pairs of trousers became two pairs of kicked-off boots. One thing led to another, and before Aziraphale knew what hit him, he made a noise so rapturous that it echoed off the walls.
Crowley froze. Aziraphale blinked up at him with wide, shocked eyes, like he suddenly understood the mysteries of the universe. Crowley slumped onto Aziraphale’s chest as his forearms gave out, and they curled up around each other as they caught their breath.
And down the street, in its deathbed on the floor of a tailor shop, an old Jack Russell terrier squirmed and came back to life.
The next morning, Aziraphale stood at the bathroom sink and splashed cold water on his face as he examined himself.
He opened his mouth and studied it in the tall, forbidding mirror, and when he found no forked tongue or black teeth, he pulled his eyelids up. No red rings. No yellow irises. No thin, snaky pupils. He finger-combed through his fluffy blond hair and found no dark roots. No blisters on his skin, no scent of coal under his nails - everything clean and soft and flushed and in its proper place.
And then a familiar voice from the doorway made him jump.
“What are you doing?”
Aziraphale whirled around and composed himself. “Nothing.”
Crowley rolled his eyes. “I’m not stupid.”
“What were you looking for?”
“I have a very meticulous morning routine.”
“No you don’t.”
“How would you know?”
“Even you’re not weird enough to smell under your nails.”
“You wouldn’t understand.” Aziraphale paused. “Well, no. You of all people would.”
Aziraphale wrung his hands. “I fell.”
A long, uncomfortable silence came over the room.
“At least I should have.” Aziraphale eyed his perfectly normal nail beds one more time. “Bit strange that it hasn’t happened yet.”
Crowley sized him up over his nose. “Are you serious?”
“Of course I am. I consorted with… someone.”
“You. I consorted with you.” Aziraphale looked forlorn. “I don’t think I was supposed to consort like that with anyone. There are rules about that sort of thing.”
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen them.”
The silence descended again.
“We’re already in such trouble. And I…” Aziraphale trailed off - “I…”
Crowley pinched the bridge of his nose and asked, “You what?”
“Did the same thing you’ve been doing for thousands of years?”
Aziraphale stared at Crowley like he had two heads. “What do you mean?”
“No offense…” Crowley began - “by which I mean, full offense - but that ship sailed out of your sparkling harbor ages ago. I saw you eat that alfredo in Rome in 1924. Never mind Petronius’ oysters.”
Aziraphale cut in. “That was…”
“Alfredo is proof that God loves us and wants us to be well.”
“You’re missing my point.”
“No I’m not. I’m refusing to acknowledge it.”
“Oh, come off it, angel. You’re being ridiculous. They can’t kick people out of Heaven for a night like that. Not anymore.” Crowley leaned his head against the door frame with a careless thunk. “Look at Gabriel. You know he’s done it. Why else would he be so smug?”
Aziraphale grimaced. “Frankly, I’m not sure I want to know.”
“Ah. Yeah. Right.” Crowley nodded and sucked his teeth. “I could see it. Him on his knees, some angel in a white lace basque, high leather boots, riding crop…”
Aziraphale sulked at him. “You’re not helping.”
Crowley snorted. “What? Haven’t you heard that about powerful men?”
“I had, and chose to forget it.” Aziraphale turned back to the mirror. “Anyway, the fact remains that whatever transpired last night, we still had a rather large hand in preventing the end of the world. One way or another, there’s going to be a reckoning.”
Crowley scoffed, “They’re not going to love it down in Hell, either.”
“Yes, but you tempted an angel. They could give you time off for bad behavior.”
“Hell doesn’t give time off.”
“Eternal torment. That’s the point.” Crowley braced his foot on the other side of the door jamb. “Oh, and just for the record, if you’d fallen, you’d know.”
Aziraphale pulled his lip into his mouth. “Would I?”
“Trust me, you would.” Crowley peeled himself off the doorway and stepped inside in earnest. “Now. Who looked after Warlock? Us. Who saved Agnes Nutter’s book? Us. Who found the real Antichrist and stopped Armageddon? Us.”
“Who slacked off on Earth for literally thousands of years while our bosses were none the wiser?”
Aziraphale mumbled, “Us.”
“Exactly.” Crowley poked Aziraphale right in the chest. “So who’s going to get us out of this?”
Aziraphale asked, “Us?”
“Ding-ding-ding!” Crowley tapped his own temple with the same vigor. “Us.”
Crowley clapped Aziraphale’s shoulders. “You get my drift?”
“I don’t know. What do we do now?”
“Wait, I’m not sure either.”
Aziraphale’s eyes roamed everywhere - left, right, the shower, the door - and he set his jaw as the celestial cogs turned in his head. The longer he mulled everything over, the straighter he stood up, until he puffed his chest out and took a deep breath through his nose.
Crowley drew back a little. “I am?”
“Of course you are. If there was ever a time to screw our courage to the sticking place, this is it.” Aziraphale’s voice shook like he still needed to convince himself. “Though I would feel more up to planning if I had a cup of tea.”
Crowley retreated further and let his hands drop. “Uh, right, sure.”
Aziraphale steepled his fingers. “You do have a kettle, don’t you?”
Crowley shooed him out with a thumb over his shoulder. “Go. Put it on.”
As soon as Crowley freshened up and rearranged his hair, he headed to the kitchen with a morning-after spring in his step.
Aziraphale pottered around between the dishwasher and the stove, still in his ticking-stripe boxers and short-sleeved undershirt. He set the kettle on its stand and turned it on to boil, a bright spot in a kitchen that looked like the floor of a slaughterhouse.
“How’s the kettle?”
Aziraphale smiled and said, “Deplorable.”
“To be honest, I haven’t used it in years.”
“I can tell, but it’ll do.” Aziraphale folded his hands and watched the bubbles rise. “I didn’t want to go through your pantry. I’m not sure what you have.”
“Uh, whatever, I guess. I haven’t checked in there in months.”
“No matter. How do you feel about Jasmine Pearl?”
Crowley gave him a limp, noncommittal wave. “Yeah, all right.”
With a snap of his fingers, Aziraphale conjured a tin of tea, and he turned the kettle off when it whistled and puffed steam.
Crowley craned his neck back. “For what?”
“I know it’s not in a demon’s nature to be comforting.”
“What are you talking about? We comfort people all the time. The smut and liquor industries are what make the world go ‘round.”
Aziraphale gave him a disapproving under-the-brow look.
Crowley shrugged it off. “Not used to being thanked for it, though.”
Aziraphale gestured to the tea tin without a word, so Crowley shuffled over to the cabinet and pulled more supplies out.
Aziraphale poured water into each of the black teacups, then stuck in the infusers. “Now, what were you saying about fixing things?”
“I don’t know. I keep thinking about what you showed me at the bus stop.”
“The prophecy, you mean?”
“The ‘choose your faces wisely’ one.”
Aziraphale watched the water steep from clear to golden brown. “There must be something to it.”
“There is. I’m just not sure what.”
Aziraphale took the infusers out, picked up one of the cups, and stirred it counterclockwise three times without mentioning it.
“Everything else Agnes Nutter said turned out to be true. There’s no reason that’d be different.” Crowley slid onto a chrome bar stool. “My best guess is that it means we should swap places for a while. But how are we going to do that? We’d stick out like a sore thumb.”
Aziraphale took the teaspoon out and left it on the countertop. “Hmm. I wonder.”
“Just thinking out loud.” Aziraphale blew on his tea, took a sip, and held it out. “Indulge me.”
Crowley hesitated. “But that’s your cup.”
Aziraphale stared right at him and deepened his voice. “Bottoms up.”
Crowley eyed him with suspicion, but turned the cup around, brought it to his mouth, sniffed it, and took a cautious sip. His stomach lurched as he caught an aftertaste of altar wine. His ears rang. He saw stars. A shiver ran down his back. He grimaced and shuddered from head to toe as he came around, and he clattered the cup on the counter with a shaky hand.
Crowley clenched and unclenched his fists. Aziraphale caught his breath. In perfect unison, they looked down and examined their palms.
“Gracious.” Crowley’s face brightened. “I didn’t expect it to work.”
Aziraphale’s darkened. “You might be the craziest genius I’ve ever known.”
Late that fateful evening, when the Ritz dining room closed, Crowley and Aziraphale struck out into the jewel-blue night.
They took detours past Green Park and the Saudi Embassy, walking side-by-side as the city tucked itself in bed. Cars pulled into parking spaces. Storefronts locked their doors. Yellow windows snuffed out in the flats across the road. Everything settled down to sleep exactly as it should, tranquil and unbothered with what had happened the day before.
They strolled past glowing streetlamps and back into Berkeley Square, and a cool breeze scattered leaves and petals in front of their feet. They gazed at the winking stars, and in one absentminded move, Aziraphale nudged his fingers into the crook of Crowley’s thumb. Crowley hesitated. Aziraphale smiled up at the sky. Crowley turned his face toward the shadows and squeezed Aziraphale’s palm. The two continued down the empty park path hand-in-hand, with the full, white moon and the whole city to themselves.
Eventually, the two found their way back to the bookshop, and Aziraphale slouched against the door as he let them in. Crowley dug a pair of goblets out of the back room. Aziraphale unpacked the last of his Châteauneuf-du-Pape. And there they sat for hours, talking, nursing their nightcap, like six thousand years of friendship had passed in no time at all.
“Well…” Aziraphale yawned and heaved himself to his feet - “I’ve had a thoroughly trying day, and I suspect so have you.”
“You’re telling me.” Crowley eyed his jacket, then the toes of his boots, and wrinkled his nose. “I smell like hand sanitizer.”
“And I smell like soot.” Aziraphale dusted off his cuffs and brushed his shoe on the rug. “What I need is a bath. A long one. If you don’t hear from me soon, don’t ask after me. I’ll come out when I feel like myself again.”
Aziraphale answered, “With my vetiver soap. I think this is the special occasion I’ve been saving it for.”
Aziraphale started up the stairs, but before he could go far, Crowley slipped out of his armchair and sashayed after him.
“Wait a minute.”
Aziraphale stopped on the second step. “What?”
Crowley raised his eyebrow. “You actually have something up there?”
“Of course I do.” Aziraphale frowned at him like he had two heads. “A perfectly functional bed and bathroom, just like everyone else.”
“Huh. Look at that.” Crowley swayed over to the foot of the stairs. “Six thousand years, and there’s still things about you I don’t know.”
Aziraphale scowled. “I’m not an unwashed barbarian.”
“You reali…” Crowley started, but cut himself off. “Never mind.”
Aziraphale took his hands off the rail and folded them. “What?”
“I was going to say, ‘You realize we don’t need it?’ And then I remembered.”
“A good soak in a tub is mankind’s best and truest friend. Cures everything from boredom to a dark night of the soul.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, it is.”
Crowley smirked. “What about demonkind?”
Crowley laughed and leaned toward him. “Come on. I’m just pulling your leg.”
Aziraphale made a face like he’d known all along. “Oh.”
A short, uneasy silence fell, and they avoided each other’s eyes.
Aziraphale broke it. “Anyway…”
Crowley rubbed the back of his neck. “What?”
“Thank you for a lovely evening.”
Crowley brushed it off. “Least I could do.”
“No, it wasn’t.” Aziraphale’s face softened. “I owe you everything now.”
Crowley unfolded his glasses. “Yeah, well, same to you.”
The silence fell again, and Aziraphale swallowed the lump in his throat as Crowley slid his glasses onto his ears and turned his toes.
“Listen, maybe you shouldn’t…” Aziraphale said.
“It’s awfully late.”
“What is it, almost twelve?” Aziraphale asked. “There’ll be drunks on the road.”
Crowley shrugged. “I can handle it.”
“I know, but…”
“It’s not that far.”
Crowley hunched his shoulders. “Wouldn’t want to impose.”
Aziraphale took Crowley’s hand again. “You wouldn’t be.”
Crowley stared down at their fingers, but didn’t pull away.
Aziraphale chuckled. “I’m sorry. I’m being foolish.”
Aziraphale tightened his grip. “I just wish you wouldn’t go.”
Crowley hesitated. “Are you…?”
“Yes, it appears I am.”
“I thought last time…”
Aziraphale’s ears flushed. “All things considered, I’ve changed my mind.”
Crowley slid his foot forward. “In which case, if there’s room for one more…”
Aziraphale took a deep breath as his blush spread to his cheeks.
“I should warn you.” He bit his lip. “I like the water boiling hot.”
Crowley took his glasses off. “Suits me fine.”
“Yes, I suppose it would.”
Crowley inched closer and perched his foot on the lowest stair, and he splayed his hands across Aziraphale’s lapels. Aziraphale tilted Crowley’s chin up with his fingertip, leaned down, tipped his own head, and gave him a cautious kiss. Crowley cupped Aziraphale’s face and sighed through his nose. Aziraphale slung his arms around Crowley’s slender sides. They stepped with their left feet, then their right, and the light in the stairwell shone on Aziraphale’s back and hair as he led Crowley up.
And fifteen minutes later, on a dingy sidewalk mat, a busker opened his violin case and a thousand pounds spilled out.
Three days later, Crowley showed up for lunch in jeans with the hands from The Creation of Adam on the groin.
Aziraphale jostled the table as he scooted back. “Good God.”
Crowley smirked. “What?”
Aziraphale flung his menu down. “I don’t know you.”
“What’s the matter?”
Aziraphale puffed his chest out. “You know good and well what you’ve done.”
“What, these old things?” Crowley glanced at his legs. “Just threw them on.”
Aziraphale deflated, picked his menu up, and opened it, and glowered over the top like a soldier over a parapet.
Crowley stuck his hands in his pockets. “Made you look there first, though.”
Aziraphale huffed and looked away. “Oh, for Heaven’s sake.”
Crowley raised his eyebrows.
Aziraphale lowered the menu and waved him over. “Sit down before you embarrass both of us.”
Crowley sidled up the steps, wound around, and pulled out his chair, and he sank into the cushion with the posture of a rubber hose. Their favorite server waltzed over with her bouffant freshly fluffed, and Aziraphale tried to drape the tablecloth over Crowley’s pants.
“Good day, you two.” The server took her notebook out. “Back for…” she looked down - “oh. There’s a fashion statement.”
Crowley smirked up at her, too. “He doesn’t like them. Change his mind.”
“I’m afraid you two will have to sort that out amongst yourselves.” The server winked at Aziraphale and opened the notebook. “Now. What are we feeling this time?”
“I don’t know. The menu’s changed.” Aziraphale pored over the pages with an appraising frown. “What do you think of the wild mushroom consommé and brioche croûte?”
The server raised her eyebrows and shrugged. “I think they’re divine.”
Aziraphale grinned. “Well, with praise like that, how can I refuse?”
“You know me. I won’t steer you wrong.” The server noted it on the first line, then nodded across the table. “And for you?”
Crowley peered at the menu. “Uh, honey-spiced duck.”
“And for afters?”
Aziraphale chimed in. “Plum and armagnac ice cream.”
“All right, boys.” The server shut her notebook. “I’ll be right back.”
Aziraphale smoothed his coat and unfolded his napkin in his lap, and Crowley fidgeted, rolled his eyes, and begrudgingly did the same. The server poured them champagne and flitted back with their mushroom soup, and soon, she brought their entrées out on gleaming, blue-trimmed plates.
“You know.” Aziraphale broke the silence. “I’ve been thinking…”
Crowley perked up. “What?”
“Speaking of things to sort out amongst ourselves.”
Crowley glowered at him. “I’ve told you, you’re not getting my plants.”
“And I’ve told you that the way you speak to them is execrable.” Aziraphale picked up his knife and cut into his croûte. “No, I…” he hesitated, then trailed off. “I don’t know.”
“Go on. If you don’t say it now, you’ll sulk about it for eighty years.”
“I wonder what we should call this.”
Aziraphale said, “What we’ve been doing.”
“Stopping by on moonlit evenings for a bit of slap and tickle?”
Aziraphale looked crestfallen. “I wish you wouldn’t put it like that.”
“Sorry, angel. That’s what it is. You’ve been ravishing me.”
“Well, uh, technically, it’s you who’s been ravishing me.” Aziraphale wagged his finger at him. “But that’s beside the point.”
Crowley poked his food with his fork and draped his arm over his chair. “Right, so that’s out. But we’re not ‘just friends’ anymore.”
“But we’re not enemies.”
“No, let’s be honest. That died centuries ago.” Crowley sat up straight and started on his duck in earnest. “But then, ‘boyfriends’ - ‘boyfriends’ just seems kind of stupid, doesn’t it?”
Aziraphale sipped his champagne. “It is a bit juvenile at six thousand years old.”
“‘Friends with benefits’ is…”
“You’re being picky.”
Crowley frowned. “‘Having an affair’ sounds like we’re cheating on someone.”
“What’s wrong with ‘lovers?’”
Crowley curled his lip. “Do you really have to ask?”
“I like it.”
Crowley melted into his chair. “Of course you do.”
“It’s timeless.” Aziraphale smiled down at his plate. “Like us.”
Crowley reached for his champagne flute to wash the word down. “Eurgh.”
The hostess led a group of MPs to a table downwind from them, and Aziraphale’s eyes flashed blue as he gave them a venomous look. They shrugged and moved to a table on the other side of the room, and Crowley snorted at them and swallowed his next bite of duck.
“It’s not half bad, though, is it?”
Aziraphale prodded at his crust. “Is what?”
Crowley gestured between them. “I mean, you could see it being, like, a regular thing.”
“Gosh. If you’ll have me.”
“What’d you expec- th- ‘The wait wasn’t worth it? It sucked?’”
“I was afraid my hesitation in the Sixties had put you off.”
“You said I was going too fast. I assumed I’d scared you off.”
“No.” Aziraphale turned up his eyebrows. “The trouble was never with you.”
Crowley speared another slice. “Well then.”
Aziraphale blinked at him. “What?”
Crowley raised his fork to his mouth. “We’d better get a move on.”
One cloudy Soho afternoon, Aziraphale’s gramophone slipped, scratched, tilted its needle, and - like magic - began to play.
In Spain the best upper sets do it
Lithuanians and Letts do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love
Aziraphale and Crowley huddled on the bookshop couch, with the curtains drawn, the closed sign up, and the door blocked with a chair. Their legs bumped as they scooted and squished into the plush cushions, and Aziraphale fought with the knot on Crowley’s gray necktie. Crowley slipped it off his head and tossed it on a shelf. He cast his jacket off with it and popped open his shirt. Aziraphale bubbled up with laughter when Crowley undid his waistcoat, and their foreheads and noses brushed each time they stole another kiss.
One night, they scrambled into the shop as thunder rolled outside, and they smashed their mouths together as rain hammered the windows. They staggered toward the stairs and left a trail from their dripping clothes, and Aziraphale pushed Crowley’s sodden hair out of his face.
On another lurid evening, they came home from dinner, and Crowley swiped his phone aside and shoved Aziraphale onto his desk. Aziraphale gasped and watched the phone clatter on the floor. Crowley prowled over him and trapped him under his weight. A startled, but excited smile lit up Aziraphale’s face, and he bent his knees as Crowley pinned his hands over his head.
After one of their lunches, they strolled down the halls of the Ritz, until they passed an empty cloakroom with the door ajar. Crowley smirked and glanced over his left shoulder, then his right, drifted toward the doorway, and tugged Aziraphale’s lapel.
Aziraphale let out a nervous chuckle. “Crowley, have you lost your mind?”
But Crowley dragged him in and knocked the door shut with his hip.
The next time, they hunkered down in the back room of the bookshop, and they clung to the backs of each other’s shirts as they jostled the shelves. Aziraphale’s hand crept up Crowley’s neck and seized his hair, and he tipped his head, pulled Crowley close, and let it slip.
Aziraphale cradled Crowley’s cheek in the crook of his neck, and he breathed it into Crowley’s ear, oh, God, oh, God, oh, God. Two neighborhoods away, in an old widow’s window box, a new red rosebud popped out every time he called Her name.
On a warm, sunny day as people sauntered through Hyde Park, a hundred swans floated in perfect unison down the lake. The week after, a young man curled up in his dark, dingy flat, and as he watched the lottery, the numbers on his scratchcard changed. A tube kiosk spat out tickets. A girl’s balloons turned into doves. A writer nearly dropped her coffee as the words flew down the screen themselves. And when a mother screamed as her son ran out onto Regent Street, the light turned red and the oncoming bus slowed to a gentle stop.
Crowley threw his blazer over the back of his office chair, his headboard, Aziraphale’s headboard, and Aziraphale’s coat rack. Aziraphale dropped his bow tie on a pile of history books, the finial of his staircase, and beside Crowley’s favorite plant. Aziraphale threw his head back in his bed, on Crowley’s desk, in the back room, the cloakroom, here, there, and everywhere.
One late Saturday morning at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a bride and groom held hands and hurried down the wide front steps. As her veil streamed behind them and their families spilled out, they gaped, looked up, and pointed to the steeple over their heads. The bells clanged out a clear, bright song that filled Trafalgar Square, and Aziraphale sank into his pillow and sighed with breathless bliss.
The Sunday after, Aziraphale tidied up in his bathroom, and he brushed off his coat sleeves as he sauntered down the stairs.
He meandered through the shop’s aisles on light, unbothered feet, and he hummed as he dusted the maze of piles and displays. His Spenser. His Beowulf. His Dickens. His row of Oscar Wildes. His pint-sized P.G. Wodehouses with signatures inside. He stopped to linger on his copy of Paradise Lost for a while, smiling to himself as he stroked up and down the spine.
At half-past three, he yawned and shuffled into the back room, made himself a cup of tea, and turned his computer on. He settled into the low desk chair and read through his accounts, and frowned at the rows of green numbers.
And then his door opened.
Aziraphale listened for Crowley’s voice, and when he didn’t hear it, he stiffened, set his winged mug down, and crept out of the back room. He found a young woman in leggings, a bomber jacket, and Chelsea boots, with a puff of curly hair and a messenger bag on her side.
“Hi.” The woman inched closer. “I wonder if you could help me with something.”
“Maybe.” Aziraphale’s shoulders tightened. “What do you want?”
“I’m not here to buy anything, sorry. I’ve got a book to sell.”
“Then of course.” Aziraphale relaxed. “What can I do for you?”
“I got this secondhand from Blackwell’s a couple weeks ago.” The woman unfastened the latch on her bag and dug through it. “It was for a literature course, and I think it’s a first edition. But I showed it to the library, and they said they didn’t need it.”
Aziraphale paused. “Really?”
“Yeah, they said there are loads of them. They didn’t think it was worth much.”
Aziraphale scoffed. “What a problem to have.”
“Anyway, I looked online, and someone mentioned this place. They said you dealt in old books, so I thought I might bring it here.”
Aziraphale blinked. “I’m on the internet?”
The woman raised her eyebrow. “You’re not?”
Aziraphale chuckled. “Yes, I do match the merchandise a bit.”
“Either way…” the woman pulled the book out - “have a look at this.”
Aziraphale reached for it. “May I?”
“Of course. That’s why I brought it to you.”
Aziraphale took it from her and examined the dust jacket - Steinbeck, East of Eden, with green hills and a great blue sky. He cradled the spine in his palm and opened to the front page, checked the publishing date, and found - sure enough - 1952.
“Interesting.” He peered closer. “I don’t have many Americans. Maybe I should clear out a shelf and start collecting more.”
“It’s really awful, to be honest.” The woman screwed her face up and shrugged. “I just thought I might be able to make some money from it.”
“Oh, dear. Is it?”
The woman nodded. “Yeah, I’m glad to be rid of it.”
“Well, we don’t judge here. I have books that will singe your eyebrows off.” Aziraphale tucked the book under his arm and swept across the floor. “How much did you pay for it?”
“Uh, I think £8.99.”
“I’ll give you eight hundred.”
The woman gaped. “Really?”
“Buy yourself a hot cocoa.” Aziraphale beamed and flicked the end of his nose with his fingertip. “Now, let me get you sorted.”
With that, he turned around, rubbed his palms together, and ventured into the shadowy depths of the shop.
“Wonderful place, Eden,” he muttered. “Perfect weather year-round.”
The woman craned her neck over. “Sorry?”
“Just talking to myself.”
Aziraphale searched on every table and thumbed through shelf after shelf, but no matter where he looked, he saw no trace of the logbook. Not by the Bible bookcase. Not by the astronomy stack. Not by the books on demonology that lurked in a locked hutch. He even knelt down and excavated a dusty wooden chest, but thought better of it and pushed it back where it belonged.
“Ah.” Aziraphale stood up. “Seems I’ve misplaced my logbook. I’ll be right with you.”
The woman fished her phone out of her jacket. “Sure, no rush.”
Aziraphale dusted off his hands and poked into the back room, and there the logbook sat beside his spoon and cooling tea. As he dragged it off of the shelf, the woman checked her phone, and her eyebrows went sky-high when she read through her news feed.
Aziraphale emerged from the back room. “What?”
“Did you hear about this?”
Aziraphale set the logbook down. “Hear about what?”
“There was a hideous car crash on Tottenham Court Road last night.”
“What?!” Aziraphale peeked over her shoulder at the screen. “That’s terrible.”
“Looks like a delivery truck hit another car head-on.” The woman scrolled up to a picture of the burning wreck. “The car flipped and caught fire, but the driver climbed out unharmed.”
“Not even a scratch. They’re saying it’s a miracle.”
Aziraphale’s blood ran cold at her choice of words. “You think so?”
“That’s what the police said. They have no idea how she survived.”
Aziraphale’s stomach tightened. “And what time did this happen last night?”
“I don’t… ah, here.” The woman scrolled back up. “It says about 10 P.M.”
Aziraphale read and reread the paragraph on the phone screen, and his eyes grew wider and wider as it all sank in. He flashed back to where he’d been when the clock struck ten the night before - gasping against the hallway wall with his arms around Crowley’s neck.
“I mean, shame about the car,” the woman said, “but I’d just be glad to be alive.”
“Yes.” Aziraphale looked nauseous. “Isn’t it wonderful?”
That night, when Crowley showed up to take Aziraphale to dinner, Aziraphale snatched him by the shoulders and pulled him inside.
“Crowley!” Aziraphale slammed the door. “I need to talk to you.”
“Crowley, listen,” Aziraphale panted. “Something has gone terribly wrong.”
“Someone stole one of the books.”
Aziraphale shook Crowley’s shoulders. “No.”
“You got something on your coat again.”
Aziraphale dragged him deeper into the shop. “No.”
“You tried to watch porn on the back room computer and got a virus…”
“Wh- no!” Aziraphale grimaced in horror. “Crowley, please. This is serious.”
“Computer viruses are serious.” Crowley slipped his glasses off. “Devilish little buggers. Got one on my desktop. I just threw it out.”
Aziraphale begged him. “Crowley!”
Crowley stopped walking. “Oh. That serious.”
Aziraphale patted down the tousled hair on the side of his head. “You’re going to think I’ve gone mad, but I need you to listen to me.”
“You’ve been mad since I met you. I don’t notice it anymore.”
“I think our…” Aziraphale began, but trailed off.
Crowley furrowed his brow. “What?”
Aziraphale tried again. “I think our…”
Crowley waited for him.
“I think our… congress is causing miracles.”
Aziraphale’s ears burned. “Making love.”
Crowley tilted his head. “Making what?”
“Knowing each other in the Biblical sense.”
Aziraphale scowled. “Coitus.”
“Sorry, my Latin’s not up to snuff…”
Aziraphale turned purple. “Fornicating!”
Crowley cackled. “That’s more like it.”
The smile snapped off Crowley’s face. “Wait, what?”
Aziraphale twisted his pinky ring back and forth. “You heard me.”
Crowley squinted at him. “Which is it? The appetizer, or the main course?”
Aziraphale clutched his coat lapels. “I’m afraid it might be the dessert.”
Crowley’s face went through an entire tragedy in three acts - surprise, realization, then bewildered concern. “Oh.”
“This afternoon, a young woman came into the bookshop. She told me about a car crash on Tottenham Court Road last night.” Aziraphale gestured back and forth as he explained. “By all accounts, the driver should have died, but she survived. And it happened exactly at the time when we were… well… you know.”
Crowley mumbled, “You’ve really got to get over saying it.”
“That’s a very awkward conversation for another time.”
“Look, how do you know you aren’t reading too much into it?” Crowley slid into an armchair with one foot up on the cushion. “You could be - what’s the saying? Thinking giraffes instead of horses?”
Aziraphale cut in again. “Zebras.”
“Right, that’s the one.”
“You know what kind of powers we have. It’s too much of a coincidence.” Aziraphale gulped. “For now, we have no choice but to assume the worst.”
A brief, awkward silence descended over the bookshop, and Crowley leaned back in the chair and propped his chin in his hand.
“That’s not supposed to happen, is it?”
Aziraphale’s shoulders drooped. “I don’t know.”
Crowley let go of his chin. “What, did you step in something on your way out of Hell?”
“There’s no protocol for angels committing pleasures of the flesh.” Aziraphale took the other chair. “I’ve never seen it. I’ve never even heard them discussing it.”
“It’s the world’s oldest hobby. They’ve got to have something on the books.”
“We’re not of the world. That’s the point. It simply isn’t done.” Aziraphale’s fingers fidgeted every which way in his lap. “Either way, you and I have been up to a fair bit of mischief.”
Crowley rolled his head back. “Oh J- ‘mischief.’ It’s like being with a maiden aunt.”
“I have no idea how many miracles I might’ve caused. The imbalance could be massive. Our agreement could be as good as shot.”
Crowley mulled it over for a moment - then two - then three - and then, at last, he nodded and set the corners of his mouth.
Aziraphale held onto his chair’s armrest. “‘Well’ what?”
Crowley sat up straight. “Looks like I’ve got some catching up to do.”
“You’re not worried?”
“You’ve been written up for doing too much good before. Besides, I’ve got to get back to it.” Crowley stood up. “I’ve been slacking off.”
Crowley put his glasses on. “I’ll be back before you can say ‘Ars Goetia.’”
“Where are you going?”
“Where do you think?” Crowley winked. “I’m gonna even things out.”
Aziraphale watched him walk off with a look of confused chagrin.
Crowley swaggered out the door. “No rest for the wicked!”
Crowley skipped down to the corner where he’d parked his car, and the lanterns from the nearby restaurant glowed red on his face. He surveyed the block around him, then dug in his breast pocket, put in a pair of wireless earbuds, and turned on his phone.
“All right, Freddie. You’re on holiday for this one.” Crowley thumbed through his songs. “I’m up to a different kind of mayhem this time.”
Crowley stowed his phone and clapped his hands with a shower of sparks, and he stuck them in his pockets as the bass roared in his ears. He set off down the dark, damp street as the verse began - London calling to the faraway towns - now war is declared - and battle come down.
Crowley cut his way through Soho with long, jaunty steps, by the light of the moon and the neon signs up above.
He strolled past boutiques and bakeries and a used instrument store, through shortcuts and over crosswalks without watching the lights. Two streets over, he passed a flat above a pop-up shop, where two irate voices drifted out of an open window.
“Look, Grace, I’m telling you, I have to do this for me.”
“For you?” A woman hollered. “Since when have you done anything for me?!”
“I worked day and night at that shithole, and you never thanked me.”
“What, and she does?”
“Eight months, George. You lied to my fucking face!”
Crowley slowed to a halt in front of the shuttered shop, and he noticed a green sedan parked between him and the door. He paused. He thought about it. He smiled like a satisfied cat, and with a click of his tongue, all four tires blew out. The car alarm wailed as the man thundered downstairs and outside, and Crowley snorted to himself and continued down the street.
On his next turn, he ran into a large, gentrified pub, where a group of businessmen lounged at a table by the window. They sneered and sipped their whiskey, but with a curl of Crowley’s lip, one waved his hands and hollered as another threw his drink. One punched the man beside him. Another threw his blazer off. They dragged the fight into the road with a chorus of shouts and grunts. A policeman ran to break it up, but slammed into a wall, and an old woman picked up his baton and smashed the pub’s windows.
The further Crowley went, the more hostile the road became, until the drivers swerved and honked and rolled down their windows. The power flickered in the apartment building at the end of the block, and someone threw their window open and flung their computer out. A man leaned in close to a woman and talked a little too loud, until a pack of black dogs chased him into a convenience store. Something crashed behind him as the water in the gutters boiled - a raven squawked, an engine backfired, blood streamed from a mailbox - and Crowley threw his head back and reveled in it all, beaming from ear to ear as the wind ruffled his hair.
A gust stirred the leaves on the ground, and with a white-hot clap, lightning struck the marquee of the theater up ahead. He leaped onto a lamppost and swung around it with his arm outstretched, yelling out in time with the ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh! in the song.
Crowley let go of the lamppost and broke into a run, and a nearby woman screamed as her briefcase burst into flames. Finally, he hung a right and circled back to the bookshop, where he burst through Aziraphale’s door, slammed it, and caught his breath.
Aziraphale stood up from his armchair and paced toward him. “Well?”
“Every one.” Crowley set his earbuds down. “And a few more.”
“A few more?” Aziraphale stammered. “But that’s- I thought the point…”
Crowley grabbed Aziraphale’s cheeks and kissed him to shut him up.
Aziraphale tripped on his own toes and dragged Crowley with him, and they wriggled out of their boots as they capsized onto the floor. Aziraphale shoved Crowley’s jacket down to his elbows. Crowley fumbled down Aziraphale’s thigh and raked his pant leg up. He snapped the brown leather sock garter on Aziraphale’s calf, and Aziraphale yelped and clung to the collar of Crowley’s shirt.
Crowley grinned through his teeth and growled, “I hate you, you know that?”
Aziraphale laughed a breathless laugh. “Do you?”
“Pain in my arse for six thousand years.”
“Then I resent every day you’ve desecrated my bookshop.”
“Is that so?”
Aziraphale kissed Crowley’s fingertips. “Every…” kiss - “single…” kiss - “one.”
Aziraphale stared into Crowley’s eyes to dare him to go on, and Crowley dove down and bit right into Aziraphale’s neck. The two of them squirmed and scuffled and pawed their way onto the couch, too busy with their buttons to hear the sirens that blared outside.
On a quiet residential street somewhere in Richmond, a young woman awoke in front of a tidy brown-brick house.
She groaned and rubbed her neck as she peeled herself off the sidewalk, and as she got her bearings, she picked leaves out of her tangled hair. She dusted off her ripped jeans and weatherbeaten green peacoat, and she squinted at the warm gold light in the living room window.
The woman glanced left, then right, and found herself alone on the street. A dog barked in the distance. Dew gathered on the cars nearby. She deliberated for a minute, then crept up the stoop, and she studied the hedge in the planter box before she rang the bell.
A tired middle-aged woman unlocked and opened the door, and when she saw who’d come to call, the color drained from her face. She gaped. She grabbed the coat rack. She nearly crumpled to the floor. As soon as she could collect herself, she bolted down the hall, and yelled something in the kitchen until a man followed her back.
The man buckled at the knees and put his fist to his mouth. “Oh my God.”
“Mum?” The woman gazed at them with a bewildered smile. “Dad?”
The next morning, Aziraphale got dressed with a healthy glow in his cheeks, then headed out of the bookshop and went for a morning walk.
In a small, stylish barbershop on Newburgh Street, he reclined in a red leather chair with a black drape over his front. A tidy old man toweled off his face and lined up his hair, and the radio played in the corner beside the jukebox and magazines.
An absolutely unbelievable story this morning: The parents of the famous missing eighteen-year-old girl Sibyl Haring have reported that she returned to their Richmond home last night.
The barber nudged his straight razor behind Aziraphale’s ear, nicked a patch of hair off, and moved to the other side.
Sibyl, now 28, was rushed to Queen Mary’s Hospital, where she was found to only be suffering from mild vitamin deficiencies. She explained that she had wandered off during a family hike, and had lived on a naturist commune in the intervening years.
The barber spritzed the hair at the top of Aziraphale’s head, combed it forward, and snipped a half-inch off the fluffy back.
The case of Sibyl Haring gripped the nation ten years ago, when she disappeared during a summer camping trip in Cornwall. After months of cooperation between local police and Scotland Yard, they were forced to abandon their search, and the case went cold.
The barber combed the hair forward again and trimmed the front, and the clippings floated like feathers down to the checkerboard floor.
The incident caught fire on social media and in the tabloid press, where speculation about her fate became increasingly far-fetched. Suspicion fell on everything from werewolves to her boyfriend, with whom she had just ended a tumultuous relationship. When asked to comment, Sibyl stated that she “just needed to get away for a while,” and encouraged others to explore the benefits of vegetables and fresh air.
The barber leaned in. “Are you hearing this?”
Aziraphale nodded. “I am.”
“I remember when she first went missing. It’s a miracle.”
Aziraphale passed it off with a small, nervous laugh. “Quite so.”
The barber blended the new haircut in at the sides and crown. “You look cheerful this morning.”
“I am.” Aziraphale gladly changed the subject. “I met an old friend last night.”
“The one with the car?”
“That’s the one.”
The barber reached for his razor. “How long have you known each other now?”
“As long as I can remember.” Aziraphale closed his eyes as the barber cleaned up his neck. “I’m sorry to say, I don’t think he liked that new cologne.”
“He wrinkled his nose at it.”
“That’s good stuff. He can go to Hell.”
Aziraphale tilted his head so the barber could shave his sideburns. “I’m afraid if I told him that, he’d actually do it.”
After his haircut, Aziraphale left the barbershop and followed the smell of butter to the bakery down the block. He waved to the owner as she bagged him up a chocolate croissant, but gave the baby in the nearby high chair a suspicious look. When it kept its food to itself instead of flinging it at his coat, he smiled at it, paid for the croissant, took his bag, and set off.
He took the bus to the National Gallery and slipped into a long, high room, where he ate in front of a painting of Jesus cleansing the Temple. He gazed into its smooth, dark brushstrokes as visitors passed by, and none of them noticed the forbidden breakfast in his lap. When he’d had his fill, he made his way back to his neighborhood - a bus back to a bus stop, a sidewalk to a crosswalk - and while he waited at the corner for the light to turn, the voice of a shabby young street preacher cut through the crowd.
“Fear God, and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgment is come!” The man yelled. “And worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters!”
Everyone studiously ignored him.
“And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen!” The man ranted on. “That great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.”
Aziraphale rolled his eyes.
“And the third angel followed him, saying with a loud voice…”
Aziraphale cut in, “Oh, be quiet!”
The man turned red and shut up.
And then, when Aziraphale rounded the corner and reached the bookshop, he found a nearly six-foot-tall woman waiting for him.
Aziraphale gulped, put his feet together, and stood up straight, and he examined her from her white stilettos to her rose gold lipstick. A white mandarin-collar pantsuit. A white coat with huge fur lapels. A white feathered neck wrap that stared at him from a faux-swan head. And neat, straight blonde hair in a halo braid around her scalp, like an Eastern European politician he remembered from years ago.
“Oh.” Aziraphale paused to catch his breath. “Your Ladyship.”
The woman raised her eyebrow and sized him up, too. “Aziraphale.”
“Sabrael. Keeper of Miracles.” The color drained from Aziraphale’s face. “Goodness. How long has it been?”
“Are you going to let me in, or not?”
“Right.” Aziraphale fumbled in his pocket for his key. “Not much for small talk.” He fished it out and stuck it in the lock. “Come in.”
Aziraphale jiggled the key until the handle clicked, pushed the door open, stood aside, and ushered her in. As Sabrael shifted her weight and stepped toward the threshold, her shoe landed in a spot of spilled coffee on the pavement. Without flinching, she popped her leg, and with an effortless blow, the gritty stain whisked off her heel and floated into the air.
Aziraphale flew through the shop with desperate hands and a panicked face, miracling himself a cup of cocoa and straightening the books.
Sabrael’s coat swung from her shoulders as she followed him in - one foot in front of the other, each step the exact same length. She settled on the edge of one of Aziraphale’s armchairs, like the upholstery had needles that would prick her if she relaxed.
“So…” Aziraphale sat across from her with his winged mug - “You look well. Very different from the last time I saw you.”
“That’s because I was wearing panniers and a schooner on my head.”
“Yes, I’m afraid I’ve made some unfortunate fashion choices, too.” Aziraphale let out a small, somewhat conspiratorial laugh. “I do hope this is a social call. Earth is lovely this time of year. I can recommend you a heavenly French restaurant on West Smithfield.”
“Have I ever been the kind of angel who makes social calls?”
“No.” The false cheer wilted off Aziraphale’s face. “You’re not.”
“Good.” Sabrael crossed her ankles. “Now that that’s cleared up, I’m here because we need to discuss your recent miracle record.”
“Your Ladyship, obviously I-I mean no disrespect, but I thought I was a traitor. Disowned. Turned out of the flock.”
Sabrael lowered her eyelids. “Don’t be silly. If you’d fallen, you’d know.”
Aziraphale turned faintly green. “That’s not quite what I said.”
“All right.” Sabrael conjured an enormous white tome with a snap, opened it to a gold bookmark, and read in a clipped, monotone voice. “I have one here on 18 August, the night of Armageddon, in which a Fergus MacGillicuddy’s dog revived at 23:39. The next evening, 19 August, at 23:53, a busker, Alan Taylor, found a thousand pounds in his violin case.”
Aziraphale blew a shaky cloud of steam off his cocoa.
“On Thursday, the 23rd of August, at 16:18, five-year-old Delia Adeyemi’s balloons turned into doves. Then on Wednesday, 29 August, at 22:24, 58-year-old Charles Norton survived a lethal heart attack. On Friday, 31st of August, at 21:08, author Geraldine Williams saw her manuscript writing itself. The next month, Wednesday, 5th September, at 13:32, numerous witnesses observed a formation of swans in Hyde Park.”
Aziraphale’s fingers tightened around the wings of his mug.
“The next day, Thursday, 6th September, at 14:58, roses spontaneously bloomed in Lucille Miniver’s window box. After that, on Wednesday, 12 September at 19:29, Samer Fakhouri won ten thousand pounds from a lottery scratchcard. On Monday, 17 September at 7:18 in the morning, a kiosk at Bethnal Green Station spat out free tickets. The following day, Tuesday, 18 September at 15:12, 4-year-old Lucas Petherbridge was saved from a bus on Regent Street.”
Aziraphale’s chin sank lower and lower, but he kept listening.
“On Saturday 22 September at 11:23, unscheduled bells rang at the wedding of Victoria and Edward Sands. Then… ah. Interesting. Same day at 22:02, DS Jamie Ngo survived a fatal crash on Tottenham Court Road. Finally, last night, 23 September, at 20:28, missing person Sybil Haring reappeared. All times in GMT+1, of course.” Sabrael replaced the bookmark, but kept the book open. “There are a few others scattered through Central London here and there, but these are the miracles that we can definitively trace to you.”
Aziraphale blanched. “Goodness. That many?”
Sabrael glanced up. “You didn’t know?”
Aziraphale took a swill of his cocoa. “Must not have been keeping track.”
The bookshop fell so silent, the footsteps of passersby and a feeble car honk floated in from the street outside.
Sabrael sighed and leaned forward. “Aziraphale, we’ve talked about this.”
Aziraphale held his finger up. “I don’t think you understand.”
“I understand perfectly well. You’ve grown fond of humankind. So fond that you couldn’t help but save it at Heaven’s expense.” Sabrael laid her French-manicured hand across the crease in the book. “But the key to a power like that is the moderation with which you use it. When miracles become capricious, they’re not special anymore.”
Aziraphale fidgeted with his mug, but didn’t respond.
“Anyway, listen. They’re disappointed with your August report, but you still have seven days left in September to turn things around. I don’t turn my records in until the last day of the month, and I think a downward trend would smooth their feathers for a while.”
“I’m not asking you to stop. After all, it is your job. All I suggest is that you show a little…” Sabrael paused - “abstinence.”
“That’s. Uh.” Aziraphale floundered. “Mm. Interesting word choice.”
Sabrael peeked up again. “Is it?”
Sabrael stared straight at him. “Why?”
Aziraphale shook his head. “It’s not important. Funny coincidence.”
“Is it because you’ve been tippling at the demonic well?”
Aziraphale’s mug handle cracked. His stomach hit the floor. He cycled through his defenses - fight, flight, fawn - and landed on ‘freeze.’
“You don’t need to be embarrassed. Other angels have been tempted before.”
“Of course. You’re not the first. I doubt you’ll be the last.” Sabrael pored over the previous page for a minute. “Though I would appreciate it if you’d keep that between us. The non-disclosure agreements for that sort of thing are very strong.”
Aziraphale looked ready to faint. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“I don’t know what you see in him, but that’s not what I’m here for.” Sabrael closed her logbook, but kept it in her lap. “Now. Like I said last time, I think the path of least resistance would be to find something to distract you until the month is out. Close the shop. Put your feet up. Revisit some of your books. Take one of your baths. That seems to be suitably wholesome.”
“I’ve already spent a lot of time lately with my feet, er, up.”
“I told you, you can calm down. That’s not what I’m here about.” Sabrael tucked the logbook in the crook of her thin arm. “The good news is, we caught it early. It’s only one bad month. If you follow my advice, head office won’t even raise an eyebrow.”
Aziraphale implored her one more time. “I’m telling you, I’m not…”
“Aziraphale, please.” Sabrael’s nostrils flared. “Don’t lie. It’s not becoming of you.”
Aziraphale twisted his half-empty mug and fixed the crack, and his shoulders slouched as he stopped trying to explain.
“Chin up. Put the miracles on hold. Lay low for a while. Everyone will forget about them.” Sabrael stood up and took a step away. “I’d really rather not take it to litigation this time. You’re a good little soldier. I’d hate to have to slap your wrist again.”
“So this is…” Aziraphale pointed to and fro - “this, but Crowley… Armageddon… not.”
“Angels aren’t perfect, dear.” Sabrael shot him a sultry look. “Just forgiven.”
A couple of hours later, the bell jingled over the door, and Crowley sauntered in with a copy of a tabloid under his arm.
“Morning, angel. Is it still morning?” Crowley checked his watch. “Whatever. I’m out before noon. It counts.” He tipped his nose up and sniffed the air. “You got a haircut, didn’t you? Whole place smells like cologne.”
The door swung shut behind him and muffled the noise from the street.
“God, I love the Daily Standard. Never lets me down. Not two months after Armageddon, and they’re back at it again.” Crowley opened the tabloid and pored over the thin pages. “Listen to this. ‘Russian scientists used alien tech recovered from meteor crash on new ICBM.’” He flipped one page over. “Hey, look. They’ve even got a picture of the alien. Ah, wait, no. That’s that actor. Can never remember his name.”
The whole bookshop stood still. Not even the floorboards creaked.
“Hell’s bells, they’re not kidding. There’s a picture of it right here. Great big phallic nightmare.” Crowley eyed a photo of a Victory Day parade. “Whose idea was it to make weapons look like that, anyway? Was it the… wait a minute… the sword! That was one of yours!”
Aziraphale didn’t answer.
“That’s the trouble with repression. Comes out when you least expect it to…”
Still no response.
Crowley poked his head into the back of the shop. “Angel?”
And there he found Aziraphale sitting at his round table, quietly drinking port out of a small, cut-crystal glass.
Crowley slowed to a halt. “Oh.”
Aziraphale looked caught out.
Crowley frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Everything is…”
“Everything is not tickety-boo.”
“Yes it is.”
“You’re day drinking.”
Aziraphale side-eyed the glass. “Ah. Suppose I am.”
Crowley set the tabloid down. “Well, what… what happened?”
“I’ve just had a visitor.”
“Sabrael.” Aziraphale paused. “The Keeper of Miracles.”
Crowley cocked his head.
“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news,” Aziraphale said. “It seems you were wrong about Heaven and Hell using this as breathing room.”
Crowley squirmed to and fro and propped his elbow on a bookcase, and when it all clicked, he wrinkled his nose and squinted into space.
“Wait a minute. Is that who wrote you up in 1793?”
Crowley gestured up and down. “With the…”
Crowley drew a ring around his scalp. “Hair…”
“That’s the one.”
“Ooh. I remember her.” Crowley winced and let his hand drop. “Like a schoolmistress who’s a bit too fond of the switch.”
“She’s put me on notice for another bout of frivolous miracles. She says if I’m to avoid punishment, I should stop for the rest of the month.”
“How much does she know?”
“She knows about us.”
Crowley lowered his voice. “What about us?”
Aziraphale took another sip. “Let’s not do that dance again.”
“Wait, wait.” Crowley held his palm out in front of himself. “Wait.”
Aziraphale complied, and Crowley paced around the table.
“Let me get this straight. Armageddon…”
“She’s not choosing to pursue it.”
“Doing the horizontal mambo with a demon.” Crowley shrugged. “Enh.”
“But a few stray miracles, and Heaven’s at mission critical.”
Aziraphale chewed his lip and nodded.
“Does that make any sense to you?”
“Well, no, but…” Aziraphale huffed. “Look, will you please sit down? You’re making me nervous.”
Crowley stopped pacing and slid into the other chair. “Fine.”
Aziraphale polished off the last dark red dregs in his glass, and he gave the bottle beside him a guilty sidelong look. Crowley took pity on him and poured him two fingers’ worth, read the label, knocked it back, and took a pull of it himself.
Aziraphale sighed and gazed out the window. “What am I going to do?”
Crowley turned up his eyebrows. “Guess that depends on what they’re gonna do to you.”
“What do you mean?”
Crowley leaned forward. “Say Sabrael actually writes you up. What happens?”
“That’s what bothers me. I don’t know anymore.” Aziraphale ran his thumb back and forth along his glass. “Last time, it was just…”
Crowley finished for him. “A strongly-worded letter. Right.”
“And suspension of my duties for a short period of time.”
“But you’re in a different political position than you were then.”
Crowley grimaced. “Put your finger in a mass extinction event.”
Aziraphale grimaced back. “Precisely.”
“Or survived an execution.”
“If they can’t get you for anything else, they’ll clip your wings for that.”
A long, leaden silence fell over the table, and Aziraphale’s shoulders sank as Crowley helped himself to another swill.
“Well, if there’s any meager consolation in all of this, at least they don’t realize what’s behind it.” Aziraphale studied the facets in his glass. “Sabrael doesn’t know our exploits are causing the miracles. If she knew they were connected, we’d really be in the thick of it.”
“Wait.” Crowley plunked his elbows down on the table. “She doesn’t know? You said she did.”
“I meant that we were consorting. Not about the other bit.”
“You’re sure she has no clue.”
Aziraphale furrowed his brow. “As sure as I can be.”
Crowley’s face lit up like a headlamp. “That changes everything.”
“Don’t you get it? It buys us time to get them off your tail.” Crowley backed up to correct himself. “W- I mean, not ‘tail.’ That’s mine. Hem of your robe, or something.”
Aziraphale hushed. “Do you really think we can?”
“‘Course we can.” Crowley set the half-empty bottle down. “We stopped Armageddon, didn’t we? Everything’s gonna be fine.”
“Yeah.” Crowley nodded a little too hard. “Yeah. It’s all gonna be fine.”
Aziraphale smiled a little too wide. “Perfectly fine.”