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The Stars That We Observe

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The day began, as it often did these days, with Aziraphale and Crowley meeting for breakfast at yet another London restaurant on the list of London restaurants the pair had decided to try now that they were on their own side, with angel and demon taking turns gazing longingly at the other when the other wasn’t looking.

It then immediately took a hard right turn into the annoying when lightning struck the pavement outside of said restaurant, formed into the shape of a man, and strode importantly inside to stand in before angel and demon rather expectantly.

“Gabriel,” Aziraphale said, expression going very tight. “What a pleasant… how nice to… hmm. Hello, anyway.”

“Aziraphale. Hi.” There was a long, awkward pause. Gabriel looked over at Crowley, wrinkled his nose as though he’d just stepped in something unpleasant, and looked back to Aziraphale. “Is there somewhere we can speak privately?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

There was more awkward silence. Aziraphale eventually got bored of the akwardness and returned to his breakfast; Crowley, however, decided to break it.

“So, Gabe. Just wondering- does your hair always go all frizzy when you zap yourself somewhere?”

Gabriel frowned. “What?”

“Well, usually it’s all, you know-” He mimed smoothing his hair down, an echo of Gabriel’s usual neat coif, “but when you zap yourself places, it’s all-” and now he mimed it fizzing up. “Why not just get better hair gel? I can recommend you some, my hair always stays put no matter how I travel. Even when I do the maggots thing. It knows better.”

Gabriel opened his mouth, then closed it again, then opened it once more as he turned to Aziraphale and said, “Aziraphale, if you must have a pet demon, can’t you at least put a muzzle on it or something?”

Aziraphale’s jaw clenched and unclenched and he said, “No, Gabriel, he has a point. Whenever I’ve seen you after you travel via lightning bolt your hair is very unkempt. I would have assumed such things beneath you- you take such great care of your appearance, after all.”

“I didn’t come here to talk about my hair,” Gabriel said.

“That’s unfortunate,” Crowley replied.

“What are you doing here?” Aziraphale asked.

“I came to give you… a second chance.”

“Second chance at what?”

“At Grace, of course! I’m here to save you from falling. Remove you from the influence of this… demon, with his serpent’s tongue and his…” He wrinkled his nose. “Sinfully tight trousers.”

“My trousers aren’t sinfully tight. I’ve still got circulation down here.”

“What?”

“For trousers to be sinfully tight, they have to cut off circulation.”

“You don’t need circulation,” Aziraphale pointed out.

“Yeah, but if they were any tighter I wouldn’t be able to get them on.”

Gabriel scoffed. “You mean you actually get dressed properly instead of just painting your trousers on?”

It was Crowley’s turn to scoff. “Who has time for that?”

“I rest my case.” Gabriel turned from him, effectively dismissing him, and returned to the matter at hand. “Aziraphale, just let me help you. I know we in heaven may have said some things that may have given you the idea that we didn’t want you…”

“Are you referring to the attempted murder, or the part where you, personally, told him to shut his stupid mouth and die already?” Crowley piped up. “Hard to see how else that could have been taken.”

“I don’t remember asking you, serpent.”

“If I waited around till people invited me into conversations I’d never get a word in.”

“You should take that as a sign to shut your mouth.”

“Why, gonna make me walk into Hellfire next? I could summon some up for you if you want to try.” He licked the tip of his finger, grinning when Gabriel took a step back as it ignited. He allowed it to fade out quickly- Aziraphale was right there, he wasn’t going to risk hurting him.

“Perhaps you ought to go,” Aziraphale said, taking Gabriel’s hand and patting it reassuringly. “I’m very happy with things as they currently are and I don’t need a second chance at Grace.” And added, smile taking on a rather knowing quality, “Unless you wish to join us for breakfast?”

He gestured at their food, and Gabriel’s gaze turned from the plate of American biscuits and gravy in front of Crowley and the pancakes and American bacon in front of Aziraphale. His nose scrunched up and he took a step back.

“I’ll pass,” he said, disdain dripping from his voice, and then he was gone.

“I can’t tell if that was his usual angelic snobbery, or just the natural reaction to American food,” Aziraphale said, picking up the syrup bottle.

“You are such a snob,” Crowley said fondly, and poked at his plate. “Though this was obviously made by someone who has never eaten handmade biscuits and gravy in their life.”

-/-

Gabriel paced the length of Raphael’s office. Michael tracked his movements as he went, but Raphael ignored him in favor of the book she had been buried in for the past- well, however long he’d been there. She’d lost track, but she’d also made it through most of her book.

Gabriel stopped pacing, and glared at said book. “What are you reading?”

“Only A Factory Girl,” she said, not looking up.

“Where’d you get it?”

“From Aziraphale. He’s happy enough to let me borrow his books as long as I take care of them.”

“Oh, books,” Gabriel scoffed. “Those… material objects Aziraphale loves so much. Why are you borrowing them from him?”

“Because he knows the best ones to recommend when I want to read something really juicy.”

“Why do you want to read anything at all?”  

“Well what else I’m I supposed to be doing? We’re on non-interference orders on earth and you and Michael have all of the management down to a science up here so I’m not really needed. It’s not like I’ve got anything else to do, so I’m reading. It’s fun. You should try it.”

Gabriel scowled, first at Raphael and then at the small stack of books on her desk. He picked up the top one and looked at it- “A Red, Red Summer Rose?”

“Ooh, that one’s a corker. You should try it. But be careful with the book, Aziraphale says the author was a good friend of his and personally gifted the books to him. If you get so much as a fingersmudge on them he’ll never forgive me.” [1]

Gabriel briefly flipped through the book, but after only glancing through it he set it back aside. “So what are we supposed to do about Aziraphale?”

“It was agreed that we would leave him alone,” Michael said. “Him and that demon as well.”

“I know that’s what he asked for.” Gabriel pushed off of the desk and started pacing again. “But I can’t just let things go. Aziraphale was good at his job, he was perfect for working among humans. He was so quick to embrace all their silly little ways and never complained about being there longterm.”

“Can’t imagine why,” Raphael said, still not looking up from her book. “Heaven has so much to offer, after all.”

If Gabriel caught her sarcasm, he ignored it, and said, “Exactly! What has earth got that heaven can’t give him?”

“Good books?” Raphael suggested. “Wine, food? Theatre? Antiques?”

“Demons,” Michael sighed. Gabriel stopped pacing and looked between the two as though he’d just had an epiphany.

“Demons,” he said. “Of course! It was that demon’s fault! He… must have tempted Aziraphale! And with all of the other little temptations of earth surrounding him, and no angelic company to turn to for support, Aziraphale was too easily led by his silver tongue and his tight, tight jeans.”

“Your fixation on Crowley’s trousers is a little suspect,” Raphael said. “I mean, I’ve talked to him nearly a dozen times and I almost never looked at his trousers.”

“Almost never?”

“Well, an Archangel has eyes, after all. Lots of them. You’re gonna notice at least once.”

“When have you spoken to Crowley?” Michael asked.

“Every time I visited with Aziraphale, honestly. He doesn’t like leaving him alone with other angels.”

Gabriel grinned. “Of course! That way he can continue to assert his influence!”

“I think it probably has more to do with the part where you tried to murder him, but whatever you say.” Raphael sniffed. She hadn’t found out about that till after the fact, and she’d been angry enough to spit hellfire herself when they told her.

“Execute,” Michael corrected. “It was an execution. That's not the same as murder.”

“Execution requires a trial,” Raphael said. “And since I wasn’t invited, it wasn’t a trial, it was murder. But whatever! Aziraphale is fine, his demon is fine, and you all got your slap on the wrist and everything’s fine.”

“At least we didn’t broadcast it, like Hell did,” Michael said, and then both jumped when Gabriel smacked his fist hard into his palm.

“I’ve got it!”

“Got what?”

“What we’re going to do about Aziraphale!”

Michael and Aziraphale exchanged looks and a silent debate to decide which of them would deal with him this time. Apparently Michael won, because Raphael stood up and took his arm.

“Of course, sweetie,” she said, leading him out of her office. “Why don’t you tell me all about it?”

-/-

[1- This was not entirely accurate. It’s true that Aziraphale and Rosemary Little- pseudonym Rosie M. Banks- were very good friends, and that she gifted him with first edition copies of all of her books, but the books he loaned to Raphael were in fact second editions. He trusts her enough to loan her some of his collection, but certain books are just far too precious for him to let them out of his possession.]

-/-

The day ended, as it often did these days, with Aziraphale and Crowley parting ways so that Aziraphale could return to his bookshop and Crowley could return to his flat, and the pair could go about their business that didn’t involve the other, which, as it often did these days, immediately took a hard left turn into pining.

Before going any further, there are some things that need to be made clear about Aziraphale and Crowley’s relationship and where it currently stands.

First of all, for the past fifty years and some, Aziraphale has been haunted by the look Crowley gave him as they parted ways after he delivered the Holy Water to him, after his parting words of You go too fast for me, Crowley had left something cracked between them. Putting the necessary distance between them was never something Aziraphale enjoyed at the best of times; hurting Crowley in the process made it even worse.

After hurting him that much, that often, and for that long, Aziraphale knew that he must in some way make things up to the demon before they could really, truly, start tearing down that barrier between them.

Secondly, after their failed executions, Crowley was quite shaken up over how closely they had come to being utterly destroyed. While it was more to do with their interference with Armaggedon and Crowley’s destruction of Ligur in the process (even if he did, eventually, get better, thank Adam for that), their partnership had been tied up in the accusations. They were being destroyed in part for their association with one another, which was exactly what Aziraphale had feared for so much of their friendship.

After pushing him that much, that often, and for that long, Crowley knew that he must in some way make things up to the angel before they could really, truly, start tearing down that barrier between them.

Thirdly, it must be known that Crowley has never held Aziraphale’s hesitance against him. He’s been frustrated, irritated, he’s been grouchy and exasperated and he’s longed, but he has always at least tried to respect the boundaries Aziraphale has set. Likewise, Aziraphale has never objected to Crowley pushing at his boundaries, because one of them needed to, just as one of them needed to ensure that those boundaries stayed in place, and Crowley never pushed harder than Aziraphale was prepared for.

In short, both of them think they have to make up for something that the other doesn’t hold against him.

In shorter, they’re both being very stupid.

-/-

Getting dragged into an unmarked van by Archangels in the middle of the day was not Aziraphale’s idea of a good time. At least they’d left him his hands this time, though he could feel the suppression of his powers preventing him from miracling himself away. He glared around at them, his gaze finally landing on Gabriel.

“Ah, I might have known,” he said coolly. “So you actually decided to get involved with the dirty work this time. Your second chance, I presume.”

“Something like that,” Gabriel said. “Though hear us out before you do anything… rash.”

Aziraphale leveled a cold gaze on him. Gabriel cleared his throat.

“You’re a good angel, Aziraphale. You’ve always been good at your job. And whatever else, you are still an angel— it stands to reason, then, that if you’re only half fallen, there’s still the chance to catch you before you land. So to speak.”

“Half… fallen?”

“Of course! You’re obviously still an angel, but you can resist hellfire. How else do you explain it?”

“Divine intervention?” he suggested, and looked around again. Apart from Gabriel, they had been joined by Michael, an angel he vaguely recognized from his own platoon, and in the driver’s seat, Raphael, which explained why they’d just gone at speed around a corner. Raphael had metaphorically attended the Anthony J. Crowley School Of Driving In London. Aziraphale began searching for a seatbelt.

“Don’t worry, Aziraphale,” Raphael said, twisting around in her seat to address him. Aziraphale scrambled for the seatbelt more frantically. “They’re not going to kill you, it’d be going against orders from all the way up.”

“There are ways of harming someone without destroying them,” Aziraphale said, finally locating his seatbelt and then dropping it as another sharp turn pitched him sideways. “I have spent enough time around Crowley to know that.”

“Yes, exactly!” Gabriel said, clearly delighted. “It’s that demon’s fault. He’s led you astray— away from the light. And we’ve come to save you from him. To remind you that you’re an angel and shouldn’t be consorting with… well, you know.”

Aziraphale stared. “Are you saying that this is an intervention?”

“A divine one,” Gabriel said, giving Aziraphale his most angelic smile.

-/-