Chapter 1: The Prelude
As if it were ever in any doubt, Pippin Galadriel Moonchild was a success. With a first-class English degree from Durham, and a work ethic that put even the best LinkedIn humblebrag to shame, Pepper had travelled the world as an overseas correspondent with the BBC. In her childhood, Pepper had always thought Adam’s love for Tadfield quaint. Tales of Amy Johnson and Ann Bancroft permeated her earliest memories, mingling with Famous Five adventures, the combined force of which ensured that Tadfield was the last place Pepper wanted to stay. Too small, too English, too… safe. Strange to hear the village gossip, then, that Pepper was not only returning, but had purchased a small cottage adjacent to the last remaining Post Office in an English village. Everyone in Pepper’s life – and she didn’t entertain the comments of strangers – knew better than to ask if she was returning to Tadfield to “settle down”, ideally with a “nice man”. Her desire to have a space to call her own was one borne of faceless hotels, united in their garish carpets, generic pictures and ghastly ‘cuisine’. Pepper saw a future of Liberty print bed linen and Penhaligon’s candles, a fish kettle (whether she knew how to use it or not) gracing her marble worktop and a summer house at the end of her garden.
That future required gainful employment; despite a healthy savings account, ‘location, location, location’ was never truer than in Oxfordshire. With the same speed and decisiveness an ordinary person might decide on a pair of new shoes, Pepper decided to turn to scriptwriting. Her summer house became a studio, in which her thoughts kept returning to the best adventure she knew of, one that Johnson and Bancroft couldn’t hold a candle to: The Them.
Aziraphale was positively ruffled by the volume of new customers visiting the bookshop recently. The only saving grace was, the majority seemed to be wearing tartan. How thrilling, to be back in fashion! he thought. What was quite the opposite of thrilling was, without question, the people. Often in twos and threes – usually with the aforementioned tartan, or, bizarrely, in sunglasses, regardless of the weather – they came in, looking at the books, yes, but also looking at him. He had overheard comments such as, “Check out that waistcoat, it’s
IDENTICAL,” and “I wonder where they found him? Reckon he works for Amazon?”
Aziraphale was aware of Amazon – what bookseller was not? – but found the thought of books in faceless warehouses so utterly depressing that he refused to even contemplate the thought of attempting to make a purchase, let alone working for them.
The combination of tartan, sunglasses (which reminded him of Crowley, of course, not that he would ever explain to Crowley why he loved the summer months so, beyond ice cream being more readily available…) and the perpetual question, “Do you have good omens?” made Aziraphale curious. He had established, from a gaggle of customers that marvelled (and took pictures of) his cufflinks, of all things, that good omens was, in fact, “Good Omens”, a popular book and recent television show. If Aziraphale was in the book selling business to sell books, he could have made a fortune from this one title alone, it would seem! He wondered, though, whether he had over-miracled the shop, as, when quizzed further about the premise of the book, his would-be customers often became bashful, or exclaimed that - SURELY! - he must know better than them, and beat a hasty retreat, mumbling about an “immersive experience”, or “cheaper online, anyway”, even though, on this occasion, he would have liked them to stay. It was very flattering to have recognition that he was a connoisseur of all things literary... but it only served to fan the flames of his curiosity.
Even if he had cared to, it would be near-impossible for Aziraphale to compare his prices to those of Amazon on the hulking brick he called his computer. Once a year, he miracled it into life, which was quite enough for him, thank you very much (Aziraphale was always prompt with his tax returns, and had nearly been reduced to tears when online submission became mandatory). Why would you forgo the scents, sounds and sensations of a shop? When he had broached this with Crowley, Crowley had looked at him, aghast, and prattled on about germs and noise and “what if they don’t have what you want?” and... well, Aziraphale wouldn’t be asking him to join him for a stroll down Regent Street any time soon, put it that way.
He did, however, care to use his computer to explore this “Good Omens” phenomenon more closely. Starting his computer was a miracle and a wait, so Aziraphale made his customary cocoa. He chose the big, blue “E”, as Crowley had shown him, and waited, whilst Bing loaded. A cursory search for “Good Omens” returned many links about television (Heaven forfend!) and news of a petition involving something or someone called “Netflix”. Trying again, with “Good Omens plot”, Aziraphale was rewarded with a Wikipedia entry:
“It is the coming of the End Times: the Apocalypse is near, and Final Judgement will soon descend upon the human species. This comes as a bit of bad news to the angel Aziraphale (who was the guardian of the Eastern Gate of Eden)...”
Aziraphale dropped his cocoa, the tiny wings on his mug breaking irreparably as they met with the edge of his antique desk. Aziraphale paid no heed, reeling from the ever-growing certainty that he was VERY FAMILIAR with this story. Fingers flying across the keyboard as fast as an annual internet user could manage, Aziraphale, desperate to be wrong, searched for more information. Searching “Aziraphale story” made him wish he had turned the cursed thing off and banished it to Alpha Centauri. “Aziraphale is in love with Crowley in Good Omens,” written by someone called Mary Sue, hit him with a force usually only associated with Gabriel’s most acerbic comments.
Feverently assailing every blue underlined section as Crowley had taught him (Crowley!) to find new material, Aziraphale had no time to pause and examine the implications of this revelation. He was down the rabbit hole now. Once, many moons ago, Aziraphale had explained to Crowley (who he was resolutely not thinking of, presently) that he found his methods of expression a little difficult to follow. Many of these articles were the same, requiring Aziraphale to search in a separate window (Crowley never expected him to need more than one tab) for terms like “shipping” and “fanfic”.
When the “Organization for Transformative Works” came up as a result, Aziraphale was so relieved to see something that sounded like a leading authority that he could even overlook the erroneous “z” in “organisation”. Searching within a website for the first time (a non- celestial miracle if ever there was one), Aziraphale resumed his search for “Good Omens”, expecting, as one would of an organisation, contact details, terms and conditions - in fact, ideally, a cancellation policy for this farce, and memory erasure, to boot. That, he did not find. Instead, he found a website full of stories about... himself. Or, at least, someone very much like him, but doing things that he had most certainly never done.
In a way that he hadn’t pored over text since Agnes Nutter, Aziraphale devoured AO3. It felt like the authors had seen into his dreams – his soul – and bared all for the world to see. Not only did they seem to know his deepest, darkest secret, they all had the fantastical notion that Crowley felt the same way. The first time Aziraphale encountered a scene in which his clumsy declaration of love was met with “Angel, I’ve loved you since Eden,” his belly did a strange flip-flop that had nothing to do with the fact he hadn’t eaten for an hour.
Clicking on the underlined words “First Kiss”, he was delighted to discover there were hundreds, if not thousands, of iterations of that scene. They often took place in the very room in which he now sat, which was… exhilarating. Sometimes he was the first to confess his love, sometimes it was Crowley… but it was always, always reciprocated.
To Aziraphale, it seemed like tags (which, he learnt, set the expectation of a text) were the very epitome of modern parlance: bewildering. “Denial is a river in Egypt” (he knew this, and couldn’t see what on Earth it had to do with the content of the story itself). “Love is a spare pot of marmalade” (he didn’t agree with this, finding quince jelly a more palatable option). “I will go down with this ship” (when there was not the merest hint of water, never mind an actual vessel, in the whole piece).
After several glasses of red wine (yes, it was three in the afternoon, yes it was a Wednesday, but cocoa just wasn’t going to cut the mustard here), Aziraphale began the ‘Explicit’ section. Here, there were stories that went (improbably!) beyond the first kiss, into activities he had only dared to contemplate alone, in the dead of night, after Crowley had gone home and he had drunk just enough that his imagination (and his hand) ran wild.
Some of the tags remained unclear (“BAMF Aziraphale” was a prime example), whilst others were as clear as day (“wing kink” left little to the imagination). One tag flummoxed Aziraphale beyond all others. “PILLOW PRINCIPALITY?!”, he thought. He knew that he had chosen a softer body than he could have, but ‘pillowy’ he most certainly was not. It took him three stories before he understood that, actually, he might have preferred his initial assessment of the situation.
Over the course of hours, of days, Aziraphale learnt the difference between crack and smut, edging and rimming, a service top and a power bottom. The more he read, the more amused he became by the speculations of the authors. Yes, Crowley had wasted a miracle cleaning his jacket (his heart skipped at the thought) but usually, Aziraphale just unbuttoned, like everyone else.
Aziraphale was midway through a particularly steamy story involving chains in the Bastille when a surge of demonic energy (and a bell above the door) alerted him to Crowley’s presence. He managed to minimise the browser window, but the computer was still visibly on when Crowley slunk into the back room.
“Just doing my accounts,” Aziraphale announced, trying (perhaps too hard) to sound breezy.
“Wouldn’t have thought that would take long,” Crowley said, slouching on the sofa. “When did you last sell a book?”
Aziraphale declined to answer that, busying himself instead with fetching some wine, painfully conscious of glaring Windows 95 logo drawing attention to an incriminating minimised window mere feet away from where Crowley sprawled. And, oh... how he sprawled. Fantasies involving Crowley draped over that sofa were not exactly new to Aziraphale, but, having spent several days immersed in graphic descriptions of said fantasy, it was rather distracting to now be presented with the reality. It was a true miracle his hands didn’t shake as he handed Crowley his glass.
Safely seated across the room, Aziraphale searched in vain for the words to describe how he had spent the last few days. The natural thing to do if you find something amusing, perplexing or endearing is to share it with your best friend. But what if you find something bewildering, yearning, hankering... arousing?
If only Crowley were in the habit of reading books, he might have discovered this “Good Omens” phenomenon himself, sparing Aziraphale the need to bring it up. But he couldn’t possibly have known, or he would surely be gleefully relishing his newfound fame, instead of recounting the entire week he had apparently spent gluing coins to pavements.
It was a childish tale, but Aziraphale was content to let Crowley talk, leaving him free to look and his mind to wander. Crowley was especially beautiful when talking animatedly about his particular brand of evil, which was really no more than low-grade annoyance. He had removed his sunglasses, providing Aziraphale with the perfect opportunity to enjoy the intensity of his serpentine eyes. He thought about how those eyes were described in fanfiction and had to conclude that writers did them a disservice.
About Aziraphale, though, writers were overly optimistic. In reality, he fell short of the standards fanfiction held him to. Not forthright, not about this, and too daunted by the crushing weight of six thousand years to do anything to change the course of their relationship now. But, he could wonder. What might it be like to be possessed of the confidence he sometimes exhibited in those stories? What would happen if he crawled into
Crowley’s lap, right now, grabbed his face, and kissed him? He knew what he hoped would happen next, but, in reality, Crowley would be so shocked he’d probably unleash some demonic curse that would discorporate him, or at least leave them both dishevelled for far less enjoyable reasons than Aziraphale hoped.
“You’re quiet tonight,” Crowley observed, interrupting the flow of Aziraphale’s thoughts.
“Oh, thinking about a book I read earlier,” said Aziraphale, skirting dangerously close to the truth.
“Well, that’s better than thinking about accounts, I suppose.”
Aziraphale’s gaze flickered guiltily to his computer. He took a large gulp of wine and, emboldened, added, “In fact, I was thinking I might write one.” He half expected Crowley to ridicule the idea, as was his wont whenever Aziraphale picked up a hobby, but instead he looked somewhere between amused and intrigued.
“You should,” he agreed. “I might even read it.”
No you most certainly will not, Aziraphale thought as he gave a noncommittal hum.
After Crowley left that night, Aziraphale, fuelled by newly vivid fantasies involving a demon sprawled over a dusty bookshop sofa, returned to his computer. He had come to think of himself as something of a leading authority in this odd online subculture (although, no matter how often he saw it, “Bottom Brian Clough” would continue to confound him). After all, who knew the machinations of angels and demons in love, if not Aziraphale himself? He cracked his knuckles, and began to write.
Chapter 2: The Conversation
Aziraphale was not being boastful in his opinions about his fics (it took him a while to stop calling them ‘stories’) and was now the holder of an AO3 account in the name of TemptMeWithCrepes. He had first posted a drabble, lampshading the tropes of ‘hurt/comfort’ and ‘only one bed’ (and clearly demonstrating his grasp of the ‘lingo’). On the annual opening of his emails, nestled amongst the badly misspelled attempts to sell genital enhancement products (to which he always politely replied, saying that assistance was not required, but thanking them for their offer, and recommending a dictionary) was the receipt for his tax returns. There was also a series of emails with the subject lines “[AO3] You’ve got kudos!” and “[AO3] Comment on Serpentine Desiresss.”
People liked his writing! Never one to disappoint his public (unless they were attempting to purchase a book), Aziraphale wrote more. The comments and kudos kept coming, hailing him as “the next Copperbadge” and his fics as “brilliant, like Bangor”. He knew what neither of these things meant, but could take solace in “brilliant”, alongside the other positive messages that flooded his now well-used inbox. Some of the comments, “DEAD”, for example, were inexplicable; Aziraphale would only return to writing once he had ascertained that the poster had commented more recently on someone else’s story and was, therefore, still very much alive.
All of the fic that Aziraphale penned became explicit, with a capital “E” (and, usually, a capital “X”, “P”, “L”, “I”, “C”, “I” AND “T”, too). Crowley’s tongue, Crowley’s arse, Crowley’s eyes...Crowley. The more outrageously explicitly he wrote, the more people devoured it. He particularly enjoyed writing Crowley in his serpentine form doing wonderfully wicked and probably implausible things with dual appendages. Despite this being a niche predilection, the effusive comments poured in. Six thousand years of observing, thinking, wanting, came out through the medium of TemptMeWithCrepes.
If Aziraphale had thought that having an outlet for his fantasies would ease the pressure he felt in his chest (not to mention somewhat lower down) every time he saw Crowley, he was sorely mistaken. There was barely anything Crowley did or anywhere Crowley went that he hadn’t read, imagined, or written in erotic circumstances. The bookshop, of course, but also St James’ Park (up against that tree over there, with the judicious application of frivolous miracles keeping the passers by oblivious), the Ritz (oh, that fic where they booked a suite for their first time!), even the theatre (Crowley would never burn a theatre down, of course - the nonsense these writers came up with!).
It was all so easy in fanfiction. From the topic first being broached, they could be naked in the space of a few paragraphs. In reality, how was one supposed to transition from “yes, dear, it’s lovely that you’re keeping up low-level demonic deeds in your retirement” to “by the way, I think it’s about time we, well... fucked”? While Aziraphale had a penchant for explicit stories, his favourites were those that made it seem so easy to just...get on with it. But, he knew, from one or two aborted attempts at lovemaking, that it really was not that easy. He could write the hottest, the smuttiest, the filthiest stories (his personal collection of erotica helped, naturally), and yet those that he wanted to read were those that told you which way to tilt your head when you kissed, whose legs went where when horizontal, how to not be embarrassed by the noises, when you should (indeed, if you should) take your socks off...the list went on.
Sometimes, he wanted to think less about what went where and more about what felt more… natural. After a particularly pleasant evening together, working through bottles of wine, or an evening stroll in the park, Aziraphale would go in search of softer fic. There was a delightful story in which they raised a family of snakes together, and many ‘holding hands on the bus’ stories (which had happened, and Aziraphale revisited the memory often, though - sadly - it had not led to anything further that night… nor any night since). The ‘Established Relationship’ tag led to an abundance of stories in which they moved to a cottage in the South Downs.
One author who particularly excelled in this arena was GoodOldFashionedLoverBoy. In their fics, the established - and very much in love - couple enjoyed tartan-rugged picnics where they sipped champagne, watched beautiful meteor showers and fantasised about a life together on Alpha Centauri. The way they wrote Aziraphale made the real angel blush; the fics themselves never even strayed close to a Mature rating, yet they made his whole body ache for more. There were lingering glances and casual brushes of hands, but the fics always ended with an agonising ‘fade to black’.
Aziraphale had learned first hand the gratification of a comment, so he clicked into the textbox and typed:
Your fic! Almost perfect! Your description of Crowley in the Bentley, gazing into Aziraphale’s eyes made my heart beat a little faster. Two things, though, if I may? Firstly, I really, honestly and truly believe that Aziraphale would never shy away from Crowley’s eyes. He loves him, as a snake, as a demon, as...Crowley. Secondly, my dear writer: what on Earth happens next?!
The reply came within a matter of minutes:
Crepes!!! Wow, I can’t believe you read my fic! You’re, like, the master of writing Aziraphale and Crowley! But yeah, I’m afraid, as much as I hope Aziraphale would learn to love Crowley despite the demon thing, the eyes are just too much of a reminder. Sorry!
Well, that would never do. Without thinking, Aziraphale hit the ‘Reply’ button.
If I could write the beauty of Crowley’s eyes, and, in fresh numbers number all his graces, the age to come would say, 'this author lies; such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.’ Remember, dear LoverBoy, that Crowley does not have an “earthly face”, but the most blessed of celestial countenances.
Whilst Aziraphale would never admit the sin of pride, it was an enjoyment of the amount of fondness others had for his work that led him to Twitter. To be able to join in the conversation and share snippets of his reality (“I truly believe that angels and demons wouldn’t waste miracles on undressing, but I do see where you are coming from - no pun intended - with the lubricant”) made him feel… important. He rationalised it as a service to the fanfiction community, rather than having to admit to hubris, supported by a recent direct message from LoverBoy:
Aziraphale stared at the screen for a moment, confused, before typing his response:
Aziraphale watched the ellipsis disappear and reappear several times, before going to make himself some more cocoa. When he returned, the screen held a new message:
Aziraphale set his second-favourite mug down so hard he feared for its integrity, too (his third mug was a travesty; he must be more careful). He considered his reply. Aziraphale was certainly not a prude, but broadcasting and conversing about carnal pleasures were two very different beasts. His desire to help overcame his embarrassment and he replied:
Aziraphale read the last message again. And again. And a few times more. He sipped his now-lukewarm cocoa and closed his eyes. He could picture it, almost unbearably vividly; Crowley pacing nervously, as he attempted his speech, tripping over his words (‘Ngk’ was an accurate tag, if ever there was one). To avoid any deeper contemplation of his reaction to the imaginary situation, Aziraphale’s eyes snapped open, and he looked back at the screen.
Aziraphale leaned back in his chair and let out a long, shaky breath. His hand was sticky and the post-orgasmic bliss was being overtaken by the creeping burn of shame at what he’d just done. With a stranger. The warmth drained from him as now abject mortification required him to re-read what he’d written. Somewhere in the middle he’d got carried away in his bookshelf fantasy and switched to the first person. At least LoverBoy had responded in kind! “I”, they’d written. “You”. Damn decent of them to ‘get into character’...
The thread on the screen suddenly jumped back to the bottom as a new message appeared:
Aziraphale hurriedly closed the browser and miracled away the mess - an entirely appropriate use of a frivolous miracle, given the circumstances. It was only a small lie, he reasoned. Perhaps he could call Crowley and ask him to join him for a glass (or ten) of Barolo? Although it was rather late, and Crowley did have a habit of sleeping in the nighttime hours... perhaps it was best not to disturb him. Despite the weight in his chest, he allowed his mind to drift over what might happen if Crowley were here, and willing. If Aziraphale were more like the fictionalised version of himself that he wrote into his fics, he’d know exactly what to do. To take his mind off the… situation, he opened a new Microsoft Word document and began to write.
By morning, he had ten thousand words of pure smut involving interchangeable genitalia and more than a little ‘snake-on-angel’ action. Ready to post it on AO3, he opened Internet Explorer. Twitter was still open on last night’s embarrassing exchange, but now with a new message at the bottom:
Aziraphale was not the only one who had been up all night writing erotica, apparently. With a smirk, he replied:
A minute later, the computer dinged to let him know that he had a new email from LoverBoy4004@gmail.com:
Thanks for your help (and your company…) last night. It was… inspiring! Attached is my take on the old bookshop trope. Please be kind!
PS: I saw on your profile that you live in London. Would you be up for meeting sometime?
Aziraphale read that postscript again and again. A part of him was curious to see what sort of person wrote these achingly romantic stories (and, what sort of a person participated in such late night… discussions). Perhaps Aziraphale’s resemblance to the angel of their fictional works could be written off as what had learned was termed ‘cosplay’? There was something appealing, too, about the idea of finally sharing his thoughts with another. He had never been able to speak about any of this before, and now here was someone who understood, who had read - and enjoyed! - his most torrid fantasies.
Aziraphale opened the attached Word document and began to read.
The angel’s lips brush over his ear and pour forth whispered endearments that flow like molten gold into Crowley’s bloodstream, warming him from within and gathering in his groin to fill the turgid flesh that strains towards Aziraphale....
Aziraphale was so startled by the bell over the shop door that he vanished his computer into oblivion. He hastily picked up the closest book and was studiously pretending to read it when Crowley slid into the back room.
“It is customary to telephone before turning up unannounced at a person’s residence,” Aziraphale said, without looking up from his book. His careful veneer of nonchalance barely withstood the lewd imagery currently racing through his head, and he hoped Crowley couldn’t tell that his heart was stubbornly insisting on racing.
“Actually, it’s customary to text,” said Crowley as he dropped into his sofa, “but you won’t discover mobile phones until the day they finally switch off landlines.”
Aziraphale carefully set down his book, realising too late that it was Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. He tried to discreetly push it under some papers on his desk. Contrary to Crowley’s assertion, he did know about mobile phones; people on Twitter talked about them constantly. He wasn’t sure how they could read fic on those tiny little screens, let alone write it, but he could see the appeal of not being confined to his uncomfortable computer chair when messaging with LoverBoy...
“I am quite capable of keeping pace with the humans,” he said. “I simply choose not to. Where would one procure a mobile telephonic device?”
Crowley looked at him, reminding Aziraphale that he had a serpentine form (snakes!) owing to his almost-unhinged jaw. “Uuuh… there’s an Apple store on Regent Street…”
So it was that an hour later found them on their usual bench in St James’ Park, huddled over a new iPhone XS, whilst Crowley demonstrated text messaging.
“You don’t need the rest of these buttons,” Crowley was saying. “Just ‘Phone’ and ‘Messages’.” He indicated the two green icons.
Which one is Twitter? Aziraphale desperately wanted to ask, but couldn’t bear the resulting Spanish inquisition. He settled instead for asking if he could file his tax return on this tiny computer, which resulted in a debate about which of their former sides was responsible for taxes (conclusion: both), and prompted Crowley to show him Safari, “the same as the big blue ‘E’, angel…”. That will do it, thought Aziraphale; he’d worry about ‘applications’ later.
Later, it struck Aziraphale as rather amusing that a day on Regent’s Street with Crowley was not as bad as he had feared. He had enjoyed Crowley mocking the overly-helpful Apple Store employees, asking trivialities like which way up the phone should be held and how to answer a call (“The red button? You should always press the red button…?”). In reality, his enjoyment was less in the exasperation of the employees (he was still an angel, after all) and more in the fact that it saved him asking what were, clearly, amazingly obvious questions to anyone other than Aziraphale himself. A part of him allowed himself to wonder whether his education was the reason behind Crowley’s mischief on this occasion; after all, he was just a little bit of a good person. Yet...that way, madness lay. A sumptuous lunch in Aubaine, complete with “selfie” on his new phone did not a date make. True, Aziraphale had got a little closer than strictly necessary to Crowley during the aforementioned selfie, but the restaurant was designated as “Instagram-worthy”; it seemed rude not to participate (Aziraphale had not yet ventured into Instagram, but liked to be prepared). True, Aziraphale’s unnecessary heart seemed to have found its purpose whenever he saw Crowley recently, merging his fantasies with his reading material, but...but.
True, he seemed to be in love with Crowley.
The realisation was less of a crashing tsunami and more of a lapping wave, one that had been tugging at the edges of his mind for...millennia. Aziraphale sighed; pragmatically, it would seem, this was not a new problem. What was rather new, not to mention unexpected, was that LoverBoy had sent another email:
PPS: To be clear, that was an offer of a date. I’m not in a relationship at the moment; there was someone, but we have been dancing around the subject for ages. I’m ready to...dance to a different tune and wondered if you’d care for a spin? 😉
This was really all too much. If reading his emails was to act as a distraction from thinking about Crowley, it had failed miserably. He was in a catch-22 (a small smile; he did enjoy a literary comparison); whilst meeting LoverBoy may cure him of his Crowley conundrum, meeting LoverBoy also felt like...cheating.
His reply was swift, and surprisingly painful to write, considering they had just ‘met’:
LoverBoy, how kind. Regrettably, there is someone else, for me. I think that he is unaware of the situation...yet, sadly, I am not. Friends, though, dear boy, I hope; would you care to join me -
He had been made aware by his ‘pocket friends’ of a convention, happening in Lane End, Buckinghamshire. It had been a delightful thought to visit Anathema and Newton again, perhaps even to call on any erstwhile Them still in the area (although he had heard Wensley was now a purveyor of over 100 flavours of ice cream in Norfolk and Brian was Head of Quality Control at Walkers, in Leicestershire). He had booked his ticket to The Ineffable Con poste haste, not in the slightest bit influenced by the photographers that frequented the bookshop remarking on how perfect his “costume” would be, because vanity was a sin. Should he invite LoverBoy? In all honesty, if they were to meet, he felt it would be more comfortable in a place where there would be other people; the situation was less likely to be misconstrued. They may have shared… an evening, but it could never be anything more.
Decisively - one could never have too many friends, after all - Aziraphale continued:
- at a convention? A little bit of fun, I hope - there will be costumes, contests, conversation - and possibly crepes! It would be lovely to see you there! https://theineffablecon.org.uk/
Later, with cocoa in hand and slippers on foot, Aziraphale checked his email before returning to his latest fic. A reply, short, yet perturbingly thrilling:
Sure - see you there...
Getting to Buckinghamshire without Crowley’s help took a few minor miracles, but a bus, a train and a taxi later, Aziraphale found himself at a corporate-looking conference centre in the countryside. The receptionist directed him to a nondescript building behind them. Nervously, he ventured inside.
It was a cacophony of noise, with groups of people talking, laughing. Some of them wore imitations of his beige clothing, others were dressed in black, with vivid red hair.
“Oh, absolute goodness!” a fluffy-haired cocoa-carrying woman in a reasonable facsimile of his own clothes cried, coming to stand in front of him. “Your costume is truly wonderful! You even did the wear around the buttons!” She reached towards him, and then hesitated. “May I?”
“Of course, my dear.”
She touched the buttons of his waistcoat almost reverently, muttering things like “the buttons are spot on!” and “oh, good heavens, the pocket watch!”
He heard someone shout, “It’s the bookshop dude! I knew he worked for Amazon!”
“Oh, most definitely not,” Aziraphale bristled. “Just a fan.”
Before long, there was a small crowd gathered around him, cooing over his jacket, his hair, his - “You’ve even got tartan socks!”
These people were much more forward than those in the shop, but being the centre of attention like this was really rather exciting so Aziraphale basked in it for as long as he could, before he really did need to consider it vanity.
“That coat is immaculate,” someone was murmuring, fingering the lapel.
“Why, thank you!” Aziraphale preened. “I’ve kept it in tip-top shape for over two hundred years!”
It was a slip of the tongue, but the best thing was, people laughed. He could be completely straightforward here and people thought he was playing a role; it was liberating.
“Excuse me, the new Aziraphale over there,” called a voice from behind him. Aziraphale turned around to see an officious-looking blonde women dressed - horrifyingly - as Gabriel, standing behind the registration desk.
“Good afternoon, my dear,” he greeted her with a smile that was only a little forced. Despite the blonde hair, her energy was the very embodiment of Gabriel.
“Badge name?” Gabriel demanded.
“Ah, yes! Quite the author… I have heard your snake porn is second to none. Your ability to stand in line and actually queue for a badge, though…” Gabriel rolled her eyes and stared.
“Ah, yes, I suppose…” Aziraphale fiddled with the chain of his pocket watch nervously. He hadn’t really thought this through, hadn’t counted on having to discuss his pornography out loud, particularly with Gabriel. Perhaps using his AO3 name on his badge had been a terrible idea...
Gabriel was drumming her fingers on the desk, waiting for him to take his bag and badge.
“Chr-, Sa-, Someone help me, not only can you not queue, now you have lost the ability to move altogether?! Honestly, Crepes,” she said, cuttingly, “quizzes to have, cocoa to drink, people to chastise, I don’t have all evening. Move along! Move along!”
Aziraphale, feeling suitably Gabrielled, took his bag and badge and moved to the side. At the mention of “Crepes”, one of the red-headed attendees had come over to express their (overenthusiastic) enjoyment of his snake fics, saying how one of the convention chairs was seriously into it and there were apparently snake porn colouring pages around here somewhere… Aziraphale could actually feel the blush creeping across his face and finally understood what people meant when they said they wanted the ground to open up and swallow them whole.
As disturbing as the thought was, it was Fanatical or Gabriel at this present juncture; everyone else seemed occupied.
“You again…” Gabriel stared. “I am sure that I gave you everything you could possibly need, because - why wouldn’t I have done?”
“I wanted to ask,” said Aziraphale, twisting his badge around, “I am meeting someone. Has GoodOldFashionedLoverBoy checked in? He sometimes goes by LoverBoy?”
Gabriel scanned her list. “Not yet. But, if you’re that keen to know who’s here and who’s not, why don’t you help out on the desk?”
Aziraphale liked the idea of being useful (he liked less the idea of working with Gabriel), and putting a desk in between himself and the crowd of excitable people seemed like an excellent idea. He moved over to the other side. Gabriel - or Bethany, she introduced herself as - showed him the list where he was to check off names (“Exactly like this, with this pen. If you lose the pen… well, I wouldn’t, if I were you…”). How the badges were ordered (“By number, obviously”), where the vegan options were and how to hand out the bags (“There’s no need to be polite, we’re about accuracy, not friendship, on this desk”) was ‘explained’, in a series of rapid-fire bursts. Fortunately, he found solace in the food-related instruction, which had him excitedly checking inside his own bag – chocolates! He happily unwrapped a chocolate and settled down to his new job.
It was quite a fun job, as it turned out, once you got used to Gabe. He got to welcome everyone and, while he couldn’t always answer their questions, he soon found the map in the back of the programme book inside his bag. Pointing at that made him very useful indeed.
He was checking in a rather lovely young lady with the odd badge name “Anathemmawww” when he heard a low voice state his name as “LoverBoy.” A constricting combination of excitement and nerves clutched at Aziraphale’s insides, and he had to take a couple of deep, steadying breaths before he forced himself to look up.
LoverBoy was tall and slender, dressed entirely in black, with vibrant red hair. Okay, so he was dressed as -
It was Crowley.
The first three parts of this fic were printed in The Ineffable Con zine. The rest is a work in progress - bear with us!
Chapter 4: Crowley
For the briefest of moments, time froze. Crowley met Aziraphale’s eyes, eyes he would have known anywhere, and his voice caught in his throat with the weight of too much left unsaid.
“Honestly, “ chimed in the Gabriel, “bag, badge, card, move. How many times do we have to have this conversation?!”
The spell was broken; Crowley snatched his proffered bag, stole his badge from the desk and fled, finding solace in a corridor full of bedrooms and, mercifully, no people. Despite breathing and heartbeats being unnecessarily human endeavours, Crowley truly believed that, even if he had not chosen the most corporeal form possible for the event, both would have manifested just to remind him of how shocking this turn of events was. His thoughts, jumbled, raced through his mind:
What. The Actual. Fuck.
Did he even know what this convention was? That there were people here who wrote and drew porn WITH THEM IN IT?! If not, he was about to find out. It would have been hilarious if it wasn’t already so mortifying that Crowley was here, too, and that Aziraphale had seen him.
Crowley found his room and closed the door behind him. He leaned back against it and let out a groan. As panic began to take hold of him, he considered how he had got into this sorry state in the first place.
“My face is on the side of a bus!” Crowley had exclaimed, when he had met Pepper in their usual haunt of The Enterprise.
The vagaries of publishing a screenplay are a dark art in themselves, whether or not Satan features in the story, but Pepper’s quintessential determination stayed true to form and seemed to leave no room for manoeuvre. A deal had been signed, with Amazon and the BBC, and there seemed to be no going back.
It had been bad enough when it was just the book. At least that could fly under the radar; no one read books any more, after all. Even Aziraphale, who was in the habit of reading books, could be trusted not to pay too much attention to modern science fiction and fantasy. He hoped. But television?
The only reason that Crowley had not just smited Amazon and all who sailed on her was that David Tennant was a rather stylish representation of oneself, after all, and Amazon suitably evil (not that he would admit either to his former friend Pepper, or anyone else, for that matter). Furthermore, Crowley was positive that Aziraphale would never happen upon “Good Omens”; his abhorrence for both modern literature and television would ensure Crowley could let the hype die down, then move on, with Aziraphale none the wiser, half of the profits and, hopefully, with everyone seeing more than a passing resemblance between him and the man that played Casanova.
His hope for Aziraphale’s ignorance was scuppered somewhat, however, by the bloody double decker buses passing up and down Oxford Street, perilously close to the bookshop, with their faces emblazoned two stories high upon the side.
“It’s not your face,” Pepper pointed out, reasonably. “It’s David Tennant’s.”
“But it’s obviously us!”
Pepper looked unconvinced. “They’re actors. No offence, but they’re considerably more attractive than you two.”
“We’re celestial beings,” Crowley protested.
Pepper shrugged. “Are you going to eat those chips?”
Crowley growled and pushed the plate towards her. Giving his blessing would belie the upstanding demon that he was, but oh, he would have his revenge. He considered swapping her birth control for Smarties, but thought that, even for someone who invented the M25, it was perhaps one step too far. He could ensure that her tights would perpetually be slightly too short, though, and that she always ran out of petrol at the least opportune time. Perhaps, if he really wanted to twist the knife, he would ensure that her every tweet would be replied to by a stream of mansplainers.
Crowley had been a social media user from the beginning; indeed, he had come up with the concept, much to the bafflement but eventual approval of Hell. A place where one incendiary comment lit a thousand - more! - fires that burned for days was the low-level mischief that Crowley was renowned for. Twitter was his preference for personal use; Twitter didn’t require photos in the same was the others seemed to. Filters helped to cover his reptilian eyes, but the puppy ears and flower crowns were too much: Twitter it was for Crowley.
So, when Pepper’s work made the small screen, he hadn’t been able to resist seeking out the #GoodOmens hashtag, and, from there, had ventured into the weird and wonderful world of fandom. Mere days after the release, the Internet was filled with detailed descriptions of six thousand years of his wildest fantasies. Crowley devoured them. When he could devour no more, he added to them, which had led him, for better or worse, to TemptMeWithCrepes.
The plan that Crowley had formed withered and died. It was one borne of another late night (read: drunken) conversation with Pepper. Crowley made a mental note to never speak to Pepper again; not drinking again seemed unnecessarily cruel, given the weekend he was about to have. In the wee small hours of the morning, after more whisky than was deemed survivable, she had decided that what Crowley and Crepes needed was… he shuddered as the string of awful euphemisms came flooding back to him. He could hear her slur, a drunken smile on her face and a fiendish glint in her eye. “Just, hit it and quit it, Crowley. Smash and dash. Pump…” she took a swig “...and dump.”
He never should have told her about Crepes. Crepes had said he just wanted to be friends; he had been abundantly clear about that. ”Friends with benefits,” smirked Pepper. “Who invites someone to a hotel unless they’re planning a repeat of…” She tapered off, but her gesticulations made her thoughts quite clear.
Bearing in mind, then, that he was, at heart, a demon, he had come to Lane End with the purpose of a small temptation. After a night researching ‘friends with benefits’ on Reddit, Crowley decided that he would (he WOULD) aim to ‘encourage’ Crepes to repeat the night they had shared, but this time in person - if only to try and lessen his feelings for one bookshop proprietor/angel. The night in question seemed to have been, to this point, a ‘one-off’; their correspondence thereafter remained as professional as the beta-ing of softcore porn could get. But, in the face of an actual demon, surely Crepes would agree to a… dalliance?
Still hiding in his bland room in the even blander conference centre, he could hear the hubbub of people enjoying themselves. People that, Crowley would have put money on the fact, would have the first clue how to actually have a dalliance...unlike Crowley. David Tennant might have made a wonderful Casanova; Crowley, whatever the similarities elsewhere, quite outstandingly did not. What a ridiculous idea.
Crowley rested his head on the wall, closed his eyes, and sighed.
The easiest thing to do was to leave. Crowley metally retraced his steps, back down the corridor, past the registration desk (Aziraphale!) and out of the double doors. He could be back with the Bentley in a moment and, with a miracle, back in his apartment even sooner. He would dearly loved to have risked a miracle to get safely out to the car park, but the evening was already too complicated and it wasn’t even 6pm.
Considering snaking, but deciding sneaking was less risky, Crowley stepped out of his room and made a break for the door. A diminutive Crowley (this would take some getting used to…), but with far more fantastic hair, stopped him in his tracks: “Tea? I’ll show you how to make it, if you’d like - it’s all about warming the cup first…”
Diminutive Crowley led Actual Crowley to the tea station, past gathered crowds of convention goers, laughing and congratulating each other on their costumes. Crowley let the talk of tea wash over him; he knew that Aziraphale had contributed to George Orwell’s 1946 essay on the perfect cup, and, as Crowley hung on his every word after nearly losing him in 1941, he had committed the method to memory. However, what was fast becoming clear was that Aziraphale knew nothing about tea making compared to Diminutive Crowley, who was creating a superlative brew whilst people thronged around them.
What Crowley knew, but had not quite actualised, was that The Ineffable Con was specifically a shipping convention. He had booked because Crepes had invited him to; nothing else had seemed important. Standing by the tea station, listening to the chatter of “ineffable husbands” and watching Aziraphales and Crowleys cuddling up for photos, he wondered what he had let himself in for. There seemed to be no escape: people were flocking up the stairs, excited for the start of the convention, and Diminutive Crowley was at his side, ensuring he found the way.
The room upstairs was full to bursting. It seemed like every person from Crowley’s past was here; Aziraphale in several guises, numerous iterations of himself from various time periods, and the welcome session was led by a horrifyingly accurate War, undercover as Carmine Zuigiber. No time was wasted in getting people to tables; Crowley was frantically searching for an escape that seemed just ever-so-slightly out of reach. Sheets of paper were thrust into hands and people began to “network”, an abhorrent concept designed exactly for venues like this.
Out of the corner of his eye, Crowley, stubbornly stationed at the back of the room, watched Aziraphale take to the human bingo like a duck (with ears) to water. People congregated around Crowley, waving their sheets near him and asking which of the boxes applied to him. Arguably, he was related to someone famous, but trying to explain the Almighty seemed like a lot for a Friday night. “Owns a bookshop” made his eyes roll; he settled for stealing “Is a licensed snake handler” and vowed to meet whoever was the owner of that accolade. If he had to stay here, he might as well make the most of it. He noted, with a pang, that Aziraphale gave his table a wide berth. He could almost understand why; it was crowded, it was new and it was confusing. If he had no idea what he would say, why would Aziraphale? But, rationalising it didn’t seem to lessen the pain in his chest.
Crowley was lost for a moment in musings about whether High Wycombe was better, or worse, than Hell. He wouldn’t allow himself to consider the fact that wherever Aziraphale was, was usually Heaven to him; even he had to have a limit. On the positive side, Aziraphale notwithstanding, everyone was bearable, wine was available and he could retreat to his room as soon as possible. On the reverse, Aziraphale notwithstanding, Crepes could be anyone in the room, he was sweating with nerves and not just because he wasn’t even the best-dressed Crowley in the room. Just as he was considering what he might say in a ‘bright and breezy’ message to Crepes, he heard:
“Aziraphale, Angel of the Eastern Gate…”
Oh, FUCK. Crowley knew that voice; the first time he had heard it, he had wondered how they had got the actual Almighty to feature in the TV show. While Crowley had been lost in thought, the room had gone quiet and, if he wasn’t very much mistaken, episode three had begun.
Crowley began to panic. Heart racing, palms sweating, he looked for the nearest exit. The lights had gone down, the room was silent and everyone was staring at the screen - could he sneak out, unnoticed? Then; a thought. Had Aziraphale even seen the show? Did he have any idea how the actors gazed at each other with undisguised longing? Would he be amused, horrified… maybe curious?
For a moment, Crowley was back in The Enterprise, pouring his heart out as Pepper poured the whisky. Gushing, some would say, about how the book left out all of the best bits...which Pepper had clearly squirreled away for the screenplay. If the book was Pepper’s recollection of events, with a side order of Crowley’s musings, the TV show was Crowley’s dreams.
Curious now himself, he sought Aziraphale out in the crowd. He was sitting a little way in front, so Crowley stared intently at the back of his head, trying to read his reactions from minute movements. He wasn’t getting much, the back of Aziraphale’s head being not terribly expressive even to the eyes of someone who had spent six thousand years watching and waiting.
The programme inexorably progressed, jolting from the group’s unanimous and hearty “Oi Shem!” to the sadness of the scene of Christ. He couldn’t remember telling Pepper any of this; he really must be more careful when the Talisker was open.
Crowley remembered with fondness the early days of the Arrangement, back when he had at least had to uphold the pretence of having to tempt Aziraphale into going along with it. The Globe scene was singularly painful to watch, though. How vividly must he have described it to Pepper, for an exact facsimile of the smile he remembered was now beaming from the face of Michael Sheen as he said, “Buck up, Hamlet!”
Crowley had to confess he may have overdone the Hamlet miracle, but he was a fool for that smile. Nearly four centuries later he had even tempted Disney to make an adaptation in which the characters were lions. That sang. He would claim no responsibility for the new CGI version, though; he wouldn’t have stooped that low even if he were still working for Hell.
Paris, 1793, was, without question, one of Crowley’s favourite memories. Pepper and her team had captured it far too well for Crowley to be in a room full of people, never mind one that contained both Aziraphale and Crepes. The memory of Aziraphale’s outfit, its portrayal on screen and the many, many fics in which it had featured both on and off his corporeal form, distracted Crowley for a moment; now was not the time for thinking about macarons and chains. He smiled wryly at Aziraphale’s French - never the best, unless it was to ask for crepes - before his heart skipped more than just a beat at the way he said “Crowley”. Surely - surely - he had never described such adoration in his late night talks with Pepper?
Then came their argument in St James’s Park. Crowley glanced back over to Aziraphale, not daring to linger for too long. It was still hard to gauge, from the back of his head, exactly what he was thinking...
Soon enough, it was 1941. The first time Crowley had watched this scene, he couldn’t help but think that Mark Gatiss might as well have held up a sign that said, “Crowley loves Aziraphale.” His heart hurt with the longing, the pain, the relief, captured perfectly on screen and he felt no differently now. He saw Aziraphale’s shoulders shake as he chuckled at Crowley hot footing it down the aisle; glad to be of service, he thought. At least the subtleties were being lost.
Then, as on-screen Crowley handed Aziraphale a bag of books, the score swelled to a romantic crescendo and the camera zoomed in on an expression of pure adoration. Crowley could see the real Aziraphale go very still. This part was pure fiction, of course; he’d walked towards the car, confident Aziraphale would follow him, their old argument forgotten. Not once had he looked over his shoulder to see the look on Aziraphale’s face. The one on screen was only what he imagined (hoped, dreamed) it might have been...
He was glad for the change of tempo to London, 1967; David Arnold warranted a demonic miracle or two for his soundtrack. However, as the scene progressed to the Bentley, Crowley began to feel maudlin. There were many times he should have said “thank you,” many times that Aziraphale had bailed him out, and yet; they never could find the right words. Now, here he was, in High Wycombe, of all places, to meet someone else, to move on, for Someone’s sake. Sure, they had dined at the Ritz on a number of occasions by now… but for what? Never so much as the stroke of a wrist or the hold of a hand, never mind a whispered promise of eternal love. And why?
There: the knife in his heart. “You go too fast for me, Crowley.”
Wrenching himself out of his stupor, he was amazed to see Aziraphale being handed a tissue, thanking the proferrer quietly and without looking up. Crowley’s mind left him and gave no signs of coming back. What on Earth could have got Aziraphale so upset? Crowley had no desire to find out. This was all too much. Crepes was seemingly nowhere; he had examined all of the badges he could see. Aziraphale was here, too here, upset for no reason - he hadn’t been the one told that they go too fast, after all.
Before the opening credits had even begun to roll, Crowley was in the hallway. His head was buzzing, his heart hurt and he was angry. At himself, at Crepes, at Aziraphale, at God herself. With a scowl, he stormed back to his room.
Safely ensconced in his nondescript room, Crowley listened bitterly to the sounds of the crowd filtering down to dinner. Aziraphale would be among them, no doubt surrounded by adoring fans cooing over his “costume” and lapping up every bit of attention, utterly oblivious to the torment that his presence represented for Crowley.
For an hour, Crowley lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling as a cycle of to leave, not to leave ran through his head. Buck up, Crowley, he thought, and that smile flashed vividly in his head, a hybrid of the real one, more than four centuries ago, but still burned onto his retinas, and the copy immortalised on film for anyone to see.
This was ridiculous. He needed to get over it, and that meant finding Crepes. He was sure, for Someone’s sake, he would at least be able to exchange pleasantries with Aziraphale whilst he searched..
With some effort, he hauled himself up off the bed and out to the lounge, where the con goers were filtering out of dinner. He wandered around trying to catch sight of everyone’s badges. Some he recognised from Twitter or AO3, others were a mystery. He was just trying to parse the name “Anathemmawww” when the owner of the badge started talking to him.
“Oh, you’re LoverBoy, aren’t you?” she exclaimed in a Northern Irish accent. “I absolutely adore your fic.”
Crowley tore his gaze from her badge. “You do?”
Anathemmawww wore a contented, wistful expression as she reminisced about “oh the picnics, and that one that’s just ten thousand words of Crowley gazing adoringly at Aziraphale while he eats? They’re so soft.”
“Yeah, well,” Crowley shifted uncomfortably. “Not all of them.”
“The one with the meteor shower is just the softest thing ever.”
Crowley’s gaze darted frantically around the room for Aziraphale, hoping that, by some small miracle, he hadn’t heard any of that. Crowley had a reputation to maintain, dammit.
Before he knew what was happening, Anathemmawww was taking him by the arm and leading him back upstairs.
“I was actually looking for someone,” Crowley tried to protest.
“Everyone will be there,” she assured him. “It’s the opening ceremony!”
Perhaps everyone was there, but Crowley didn’t have a chance to look for Crepes because they had randomly assigned seating for this session in an attempt to encourage “mingling” (most definitely a demonic invention).
The room went dark, and a video began to play. Crowley watched in horror as the highlights of the show played before his eyes. Then, in a trick of editing, TV Crowley and Aziraphale arrived at the convention. It would have been delightful in its irony if only Crowley were not distracted by the pang in his chest at the thought of coming here with Aziraphale. Instead, they had come separately, and exchanged not a word all evening.
There was no time to dwell on that, though, as it was on to the dreaded icebreakers. Despite himself, Crowley found he almost enjoyed it. After some very badly imagined Bentleys in Play Doh and a whole room of people shouting “PORNOGRAPHY”, it was time for “Kink Bingo.” As an avid AO3 reader, Crowley was no stranger to kinks… or so he thought. Settling down with his table, he was perusing his card, wondering what some of the terms meant, when he heard, “Oh, allow me, dear boy!”. Crowley’s head whipped around to see - and, mortifyingly, to hear - Aziraphale’s detailed description of “figging”. Crowley’s face turned the same shade of red as his hair, willing, for the first time in living memory, for the ground to swallow him up. If this was Hell on earth, at least the real thing was warmer and “fisting” was never a rallying cry…
Later that night, to break from staring at the ceiling, Crowley sent the email he had been contemplating all evening:
Did you make it to the con? Couldn’t find you this evening. Hope to catch up with you tomorrow? I’ll be in the lounge if you want to meet.
Then, with a heavy sigh, he threw his phone onto the nightstand, rolled over and groaned.
Let tomorrow be better, he pleaded with himself. Let me speak with Aziraphale, find Crepes and move on. Six thousand years is long enough.
Chapter 5: The Search
Crowley woke early on Saturday, momentarily disoriented by the small conference centre bed and the dull corporate furnishings illuminated by light streaming past the curtains he had neglected to close. Then he remembered where he was, and considered burying himself in the duvet and writing off the day.
No, he reminded himself, he had a mission: find Crepes, something, something, move on. To accomplish this, he would have to venture out of bed and face the throngs of people dressed like him. What if Crepes was one of them? Would that be better or worse than if he were one of the beige-clothes blonds that were a pale imitation of the real Aziraphale?
Who is also here, Crowley’s treacherous brain reminded him. He groaned into the plain white pillow. Nope, never leaving this bed.
What if Aziraphale meets Crepes before I do? What if he somehow finds out that we…
That thought was enough to have Crowley leaping out of bed. Getting showered and dressed required no more than the click of his fingers, so, a minute later, he was doing his best impression of an unconcerned saunter into the lounge...
...which was deserted, except for a solitary figure in the corner, a mug perched on his knee and his nose buried in a book.
Curse Aziraphale for never learning to sleep.
With dawning horror, Crowley realised that wasn’t a book the angel was reading; it was fanfiction from the convention reading library. Judging by the stack of similarly-bound documents by his side, he had apparently spent the night working his way through the box. Even worse, the one currently in his hands bore a cartoonish Crowley-like figure upon the cover, diligently marking the piece as “explicit.”
There was nothing for it; he was going to have to bolt for the Bentley and start a new life far, far away from here. Alpha Centauri was nice at this time of year.
He had managed no more than a tentative step backwards before Aziraphale had the audacity to acknowledge him with a brisk, “Good morning, my dear.”
Crowley stood rooted to the spot, glancing furtively towards the exit.
“Breakfast won’t be served for another twenty minutes,” Aziraphale continued, “but there’s tea.” He gestured with one hand towards the machine.
Lacking any alternative ideas, Crowley made himself a mediocre machine coffee - hastily miracled into something more palatable - and, instinctively, made Aziraphale a fresh cup of tea. He beamed when Crowley handed it to him. That smile had always done peculiar things to Crowley’s stomach, so before he could think better of it, he was folding himself into a chair by the angel’s side.
“What’re you reading?” he asked, trying - and failing - to sound nonchalant.
Aziraphale went very still, as though only just realising he’d been caught reading pornography. Then, slowly, he raised it to reveal the cover.
Any amusement Crowley may have been feeling withered and died. It was his fic: the only explicit one he’d ever written. The one he’d written after an especially exciting night of messaging with Crepes.
“Not your usual style, angel…” Crowley tried to laugh off the discovery.
“Well, when in Rome…” The openly graphic fic became the elephant in the room, growing larger with each heartbeat. “Salutaria!” Aziraphale raised his cup with a weak smile.
Change the subject, change the subject, thought Crowley, desperately. To what? I really enjoyed your description of figging last night, angel. Your descriptions of edging and rimming were second to none… Hardly. How did you like the cold open? 30 minutes of our lives together, being broadcast for the world to see how much I love you.
Realising he had been silent for too long - realising that, clearly, Aziraphale also couldn’t find the words to capture this situation - Crowley let out an anguished sigh. Aziraphale had obviously chosen to stay for the attention (fussy angel that he was). Crowley was determined to stay until he had met Crepes, no matter how uncomfortable the situation might now be.
Aiming for a casual tone but straying wide of the mark even to his own ears, Crowley said, “Didn’t think you’d seen the show. Did you just read the book?”
Aziraphale hesitated before he responded, “Neither, actually. Well, until last night. That was…” he trailed off and took a gulp of tea that was surely too hot.
“Oh?” Crowley found himself sitting up straighter, curious despite himself. “What did you think?”
“It’s strange, to see six thousand years of your life condensed like that.”
“Yeah,” Crowley agreed.
“And odd, which occasions they chose to represent in the cinematic show. I note that none of the occasions on which I rescued you from discorporation were included…”
Probably because I didn’t tell Pepper about those, Crowley thought, but, “Yeah, strange, that,” was all he said.
“And the chap they have playing me, well -”
But before Crowley could find out what Aziraphale thought of Michael Sheen, he was cut off by a rambunctious group entering the lounge, who immediately demanded photos with them both. Fics and drinks forgotten, they allowed themselves to be pulled in different directions, feebly joining in the shouts of “to the world” that seemed to replace the more traditional “cheese.” Aziraphale excused himself, after a time, to return to his room and collect his badge; Crowley thought to follow would be too forward - what would he even say? - so he watched sadly as Aziraphale’s back retreated from the lounge. He retrieved his now cold coffee, slumped into a chair, and waited to see whether Crepes would accept his invitation to meet in the lounge.
Saturday was clearly a packed day for the convention. Crowley’s mission was to find Crepes; he was increasingly beginning to wonder whether he had been stood up. Reading people’s badges was difficult; every time he got close enough, someone would decide to quiz him on his “tattoo” or how “screen accurate” his necktie was. He was considering going back to his room to email Crepes again (read: to hide), when one of the programme items caught his eye.
Meet and Greet with the Crowley Family
For fanfiction research of just for fun: meet some of Crowley’s serpent friends. Content Notice: contains live snakes (handling optional).
An idea formed in Crowley’s increasingly addled brain. If snakes were being passed around, surely this represented a prime opportunity for him to choose his snake form, and use it as an opportunity to ssslither right up to people’s badges…?
The rest of the day passed in a blur, with Crowley eager to get to the snake workshop, find Crepes and get the Hell out of High Wycombe. He declined to attend the panels, waiting, as he promised, in the lounge, but could hear the laughter from the floor above from his vantage point. He checked as many badges as possible as people walked past, procuring unfathomable amounts of tea. Aziraphale came through to do just that at one point, glancing in Crowley’s direction but not quite acknowledging him, before turning around, miraculously balancing numerous cups of tea in his hands. Of course he’s fetching tea for his new fans, Crowley thought, bitterly. Unlike him, Aziraphale had chosen to attend every panel going, including “Ineffable Husbands”, with the billing, “How much difference does it make to have the author openly acknowledge it as a love story?”
If Aziraphale wanted to attend a panel and make fun of their arrangement (one could hardly call it a “relationship”), then he was welcome to do so. Crowley, on the other hand, amused himself with some colouring; he didn’t think his heart could take the fic library right now. If Aziraphale saw him colouring a picture of the two of them kissing on Aziraphale’s desk, then so be it. Let him think Crowley was making fun of the whole thing, of Aziraphale’s rumpled shirt and Crowley’s unbuttoned jeans, pushed down to reveal his underwear (he coloured it red, decided he liked it, and miracled a quick change to the real thing).
Aziraphale didn’t come back, though, and there was still no sign of Crepes.
Finally, 14:00 arrived. The hubbub in the room had increased to peak excitement as the snakes were brought through the corridor and into the main function room. While no miracle was needed to change into his snake form, Crowley chose to use one not only to enter one of the boxes, but to ensure that the snake handlers didn’t balk at the addition of “CROWLEY!”, as everyone called out when a black snake was drawn from the plastic container.
Seizing his opportunity, Crowley was the most active snake in the bunch, twisting and turning around Aziraphales, Crowleys, Madame Tracys and more. Unfortunately, the majority of people had taken their badges off, so as not to get badge and snake entangled, which presented a major flaw in Crowley’s serpentine plan.
Still, the attention was nice. He was used to humans screaming in terror at his snake form, but these humans adored him. A nun from the Chattering Order was especially delighted by him, and he spent some time with them, enjoying the way they fawned over him.
It came as something of a surprise when he was handed over and found himself entwined with Aziraphale; actual Aziraphale. Of course, when he was Crawly, Aziraphale had had the opportunity to “gaze on his snaky countenance,” or however else he might put it, but it had been a while. Aziraphale gave no outward signs of recognition and, Crowley, being unfamiliar with the cadence of Aziraphale’s heartbeat, had no way of knowing whether its rhythm was faster than usual, or just the one he had chosen.
“My dear Crowley,” Aziraphale cooed. That’s it, angel, make a joke. Little do you know... All around them, pictures were being taken, Aziraphale smiling and encouraging Crowley to wrap around his neck, his wrists. Basking in the warmth of the autumn sun streaming through the windows and the not-inconsiderable heat radiating from Aziraphale’s corporeal form, Crowley’s search for Crepes was almost forgotten. He was brought back to reality with a jolt, however, when he heard Aziraphale whispering:
“Thine eyes I love, and they as pitying me, knowing thy heart torment me with disdain, have put on black, and loving mourners be, looking with pretty ruth upon my pain.”
Eyes. Shakespeare. Again.
It was all too much for Crowley; whilst there was no Heavenly way that Aziraphale could have known about Crepes, it felt like he was being mocked, being jeered through the medium of 17th century poetry, as only Aziraphale would.
Quickly, he disentangled himself and slid to the floor. Aziraphale raised no alarm… could he have known that it was Crowley? Don’t be ridiculous, thought Crowley. He’s likely run out of good citizenship for today, with all of the tea he’s been making for people, and will let me be someone else’s problem.
Before that problem could arise, Crowley found a quiet corner and miracled back to his lanky self, before meandering back towards the lounge as if nothing had happened.
As the snakes were put away, and with still no sign of Crepes, Crowley decided to take a look at the art show. It would be a quiet room, if nothing else. His breath hitched when he saw Aziraphale (For Someone’s sake, please, get out of my SPACE, angel!) staring intently at a painting of a fallen angel, shrouded in black and clutching at red hair. The raw emotion in the piece was enough to catch at Crowley’s throat; the tear in Aziraphale’s eye was the final straw.
Turning on his heels, Crowley made a break for the door. Now, he was angry. Aziraphale had no right to be upset - he hadn’t fallen, after all. No, he had chosen to attend a convention without telling Crowley (Crowley ignored the fact that he had done exactly the same thing). He had chosen to cry for sympathy and attention during the cold open, paying no heed to the hurt in Crowley’s heart. He had attended workshops to talk about their “love” for each other, mocking the millennia of stolen glances and unheard conversations. Well: fuck him.
It was with anger filling his head that Crowley made the short journey to the building in which the gavotte was to be held. He had had a cursory glance at the bring and buy sale, and might have enjoyed the beautiful paintings and cleverly crafted figurines had his head not felt like a swarm of bees had taken up residence. His desire to attend the gavotte came not from wanting to watch Aziraphale prance around like the fool he was, and certainly not to join in himself, but because he had yet to find Crepes; this only added to his annoyance.
Finding a seat at the side of the room, studiously not meeting anyone’s eyes lest he be called to join in, Crowley took out his phone and, for what seemed like the millionth time today, checked his emails. Nothing. Turning to Twitter, he checked the feed of @CrepesFTW. It was clear that Crepes had been busy; this appeased Crowley somewhat, although not quite enough to just wait patiently for his meeting. Patience wasn’t Crowley’s style (unless it was a 6,000 year wait for a certain angel…).
He dashed off a quick DM, asking if Crepes would be gavotting, and waited, as people filled the room.
With the ‘Aziraphales’ on one side of the room and the ‘Crowleys’ on the other, people partnered up, all smiles and excitement. Is there a non-festive equivalent of “Bah humbug”? wondered Crowley, as the sentiment seemed to sum up exactly how he was feeling: displeased. Displeased with the noise, the excitement, the camaraderie and, most of all, Aziraphale.
Of course Aziraphale was leading the demonstration. As the overtly cheerful music rang out, and the unanimous cry of “step, kick, step, kick” filled the room, Aziraphale’s face was filled with unbridled enthusiasm, smile beaming from ear to ear.
“That’s it! Keep it up! You can do it! Step, kick, step, kick and walk, two, three, four...”
Crowley overheard him turn to the teacher as the participants cantered on, commenting on the authenticity of the dance.
“An excellent job, my dear; so hard to see the steps themselves from the footage, it would seem!”
The teacher blushed, as she agreed that she had had to use some creative licence. Honestly, thought Crowley, why do people fawn over him? Acting like the leading authority on everything...Crowley’s thoughts degenerated into grumble, grumble, as he alternated between scanning the room and checking his phone.
“It’s more of a ganotte, really!”
The peal of laugher from the room that followed was the final straw for Crowley. He had realised, moments ago, that it was unlikely anyone would respond to a DM whilst gavotting (except Aziraphale, who Crowley was sure would do it just to demonstrate his multitasking abilities…). He might as well return to the lounge - which he did, with a stomp.
“He was bloody brilliant! I mean, where do you even learn to gavotte, never mind gavotte like THAT!”
Crowley, sulking in the lounge, heard the din of people returning from the gavotte workshop long before he saw them. “Gentlemen’s clubs,” Crowley called out, rather more spitefully than he had intended. Still, this crowd was phased by nothing; if an in-depth discussion about the taste of Chaucer’s semen (Crowley’s face contorted at the thought) didn’t shock them, a spin in a gentlemen’s club was hardly likely to. Sure enough, they laughed. “That’s what he said!” said one of the ersatz Crowleys.
Emboldened by this interaction, and still filled with a quiet rage that would not quit, Crowley ambled over to the tea station, as casually as possible. “Hey, I wonder if you can help me,” he asked the waiting group. “I’m looking for someone with the badge name of Crepes? Not seen them yet, and, well, we thought we might bump into each other here?”
The gathered crowd let out a peal of laughter. “Yes, obviously,” said one, shaking their head, presumably to mimic Crowley’s 1862 debacle. Crowley grimaced. “Although, ‘looks like Aziraphale’ isn’t exactly a useful description round here!” A snort from the crowd.
So he is here. The thought stabbed at Crowley’s chest. Give up, he thought, not for the first time. Go home.
“They’ll likely be joining for dinner, though.” (another “obviously” followed; he was becoming a standing joke, it would seem.) “At the Ritz!”
One last search? If Crepes doesn’t want to be found by the end of the evening, I’m leaving. With that, Crowley sighed, and settled resignedly in the lounge to wait for everyone to return. The Ritz, he nearly snorted. Aziraphale will love that...