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Oh, not again

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“Oh, not again,” Mr. Crowley groaned.

In the sitting area of the bookshop, Sam, a makeup artist, had been giving another lesson to Audrey, the trans teenager he’d met at the shop a few months earlier. Audrey had brought her friend Lloyd with her this time, and they’d started out discussing lip-liner, Sam matching colors to both Audrey’s and Lloyd’s skin tones. But for the last few minutes, the three of them had just been staring in horror as a customer quite blatantly flirted with Mr. Fell. A younger man, who didn’t seem to care much for books, was leaning close, laughing too loudly, and nearly putting his hand on Mr. Fell’s shoulder.

And then Mr. Crowley had walked by and caught sight of it. “And of course, he can never tell,” Mr. Crowley groused, waving an annoyed hand in his husband’s direction. “Aziraphale sees the good in people first. Takes him a little while to realize someone’s ignoring the fact that he’s got my ring on his finger.” He muttered something that sounded something like, “Major design flaw in the species, if you ask me.”

Audrey turned her wide green eyes on him. “What are you going to do?”

Mr. Crowley dropped into one of the armchairs. “Now, why ever would you insinuate that I might possibly do something about the fact that there is a man hitting on my husband?”

Sam and the teenagers made some sort of vague noises of agreement. This was Lloyd’s first visit to the bookshop, but Audrey must have told him something about how Mr. Fell and Mr. Crowley seemed to be able to give the middle finger to reality, because the wiry, dark-haired kid was quite excitedly staring at Mr. Crowley.

Mr. Crowley, however, was now absently pawing through Sam’s pouch of lipsticks.

The man flirting with Mr. Fell belched quite loudly. Mr. Fell seemed a little nonplussed. 

As Mr. Crowley opened a lipstick to see what color blush pink delight actually was, the man slipped and knocked over a pile of books.

Mr. Fell looked from the customer to Crowley a couple of times. And then his expression grew displeased, in the way only Mr. Fell could look displeased, as if he was able to somehow think something rude in a polite manner.

“Oh, I should have left the books alone,” Mr. Crowley whispered.

Sam didn’t expect what came next though. Sweet Mr. Fell looked directly at his husband and then rested his hand on the customer’s arm. Mr. Crowley sat straight up in his chair, and Sam wasn’t entirely sure he was still breathing.

And then the customer tripped again and crashed into a bookcase, nearly knocking the whole thing over.

“Crowley!” Mr. Fell exclaimed.

Crowley shot to his feet. “I—it wasn’t me!” He waved an uncharacteristically ungraceful hand in the air. “Not my fault he’s just clumsy!”

The customer staggered to his feet, and gave them all a sort of panicked look and then rushed out the door. 

Mr. Fell just stood there with a faint smile on his face. Mr. Crowley gaped at him and then suddenly growled, managing to sound both angry and impressed. “Angel! That was you! You set this entire thing up!”

“I’m sorry, darling.” Mr. Fell did not look in the least bit sorry. “But you shouldn’t have forgotten our anniversary.”

Mr. Crowley sputtered. “Our anniversary is April 4. Four-four, there’s only one number to remember, and it’s the number four, and I remember it, and today is—I have no idea what today is, but it’s October, and that’s number ten!”

“Oh, not our wedding, my dear. I meant the first time that you kissed me. You do usually remember it, and—”

“Oh—oh!” Mr. Crowley stammered. “Well, what, was that yesterday? I thought it was today! I have something for you upstairs, I’ll just run and get it.” He was gone toward the stairs before anyone could say anything else.

Over a snort of muffled laughter, Sam said, “I did not know you had that in you.”

Mr. Fell smiled. “Oh, Heavens. Living with Crowley, you learn your way around a prank. Besides, it’s…well, the thing is, Crowley comes from a place where no one ever showed him a moment of kindness. Sometimes it’s hard for him to accept that an ang—ah, that someone who is kind by nature loves him. He’s a little more comfortable being married to someone who’s a bit of a bastard sometimes.”

Audrey gasped in delight. “Is it even your anniversary?”

“Crowley first kissed me at Mardi Gras. March, not October. He’ll figure it out in a minute.”

As the other three tried to smother their giggles, Mr. Fell said, “You know, what Crowley went through—being cast out of his family—he wasn’t meant to be able to survive that and still be himself. To still be nice. To still be able to love. He’s the strongest person I’ve ever met.” He glanced toward the stairs. “But when they told him that he’d never be loved again, because of who and what he is now, that part he believed. Someday I’ll convince him to believe me instead.” He suddenly looked a little mischievous again. “For now, if I want to spoil him, it takes a bit of doing.”

There was a clattering on the stairs and Mr. Crowley burst back into the room, looking severely annoyed. “Angel! Mardi Gras is in Spring! If you think I don’t remember our first kiss—”

Mr. Fell turned to them and said laugh, and though Sam didn’t really feel like it now, with Mr. Crowley looking so angry, a gleeful laugh somehow magically burst out of him, all three of them, as if they’d been holding it in until Mr. Crowley figured out the joke.


Mr. Fell slipped a hand over his husband’s arm. “Oh, darling, I’m so sorry.”

“No, you aren’t.”

Mr. Fell grinned up at him. “I’m not. But will you let me make it up to you? I found a bottle of your favorite wine in the cellar yesterday. Maybe we could go for a drive tonight, a couple of hours into the country and do some stargazing? Somewhere very private?”

Mr. Crowley blushed just a little, and he hauled his husband into his arms. “For a start, angel,” he grumbled.

Mr. Fell glanced at the three on the couch and winked.