[Prompt: Silent night.]
A bookshop in Soho
Listen. What do you hear?
Bells. The sound of sleigh bells, silver bells. The carol of the bells singing out hear me, hear me (get out of the way).
“Pass me the ornament hooks, dear.”
“Sure,” Crowley says, turning to fetch the packet from the table. He hands them over and then places another golden bulb on the tree. “What d'ya think? Here?” He quirks a doubtful brow. “It’s kinda bare on the other side.”
“Oh!” Aziraphale says. He reaches for another box, tucked under a table and easily missed. “There are more."
Crowley stares, open-mouthed. "You’re bloody mad. How many blasted ornaments do you have?”
“As many as we need,” Aziraphale says, a smirk curling his lip, a self-satisfied flourish to the latest bulb finding a home.
“We’re gonna be here all night,” Crowley groans, exaggerating himself as he often does. He lets his shoulders fall in a dramatic huff.
Aziraphale catches his eyes. Holds them there. Gold cupped in his open palms, two burnished eyes glittering with white lights and reflections from blown-glass bulbs and shining ribbon. Aziraphale feels very warm. “We might be,” he says, a quietness in his tone.
Please don’t make it a joke. We both know what this is. Where we’re going. I’ve loved you since the dawn of time. Please, let us do this right. Don’t push me away.
Watch how the shadows stroke Crowley’s throat, how the paintbrushed light travels along his cheekbones, the tip of his aquiline nose. Gleams off his too-expensive watch, his snakeskin shoes (presumably). Bounces off the silver-threaded necklace at his throat. Aziraphale cannot look away.
“Okay,” Crowley says, the hush carrying over to his voice. “Well, kick me out when you’re ready, otherwise I’m just gonna be here, you know, fucking up your cushions and drinking up all your good scotch. But yeah, don’t - let me interrupt - ”
“Interrupt?” Aziraphale asks. His heart is strange and scattered, light and unmoored. A wind has taken up space in his chest, threatening to take him with it.
Crowley waves his hand, his long fingers gesturing out. He tries to fix his sunglasses and (clearly realizing at the last moment that he is not wearing any) adjusts to run his hands through his copper-wire hair. “You know, with your stuff. What you’ve got, er, going on.”
It’s you. You must know that. You’re what I “have going on”. To interrupt would be to leave. Don’t, please don’t. Not yet. Stay.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale says, stepping forward. He still has ribbon and ornaments in his hands. Breathe in. “You’re never an interruption.” He clears his throat, looks away. See this bookshop. His warm-hearted home. Every surface is covered with a memory of Crowley. If he dusted this shelf, there would be a memory of Crowley leaning against it. Should he polish that lamp, Aziraphale would remember remarking on it as they had once passed by a shop. Crowley had turned up with it later that same week, claiming that he’d received it as a gift and can’t bear having the thing clash with his flat and look, angel, you’d be doing me a favor, just take it.
“I would, well, I would like it if you stayed. Of course, please don’t feel obligated on my account.” Aziraphale looks up again at Crowley. The wide eyes haven’t shifted, haven’t slithered. The only movement is the barest shaking of those pointed pupils. His sheer focus betrayed. “You could stay, if you like.”
(You can stay at my place, if you like.)
“You want me to stay,” Crowley says. His brow arches, yes, but his attention doesn’t shift. Doesn’t scatter. Doesn’t shatter on the floor, desperate to find something else to talk about. No, he stays very still, one hand on the table, his cocked-gun hips leaning in too.
“Well,” Aziraphale says, flushing. (He hopes that it can be blamed on the wine, blamed on the lighting.) “It can’t be good to be cooped up all day simply reading. You’re a wonderful diversion, my dear.” Please. Divert me. He tries for light humor. “Think of it this way, Crowley, you’d be doing me a favor.”
Crowley nods. Swallows. He does look away then, dropping his eyelids like dropping a curtain. “Well, I mean. Yeah, if you want a diversion. I’m good at that. The best.” His own nose and sharp cheekbones have gone as flushed as Aziraphale’s own. “Anyway, come on, angel. Break that damn box open, let’s see how long we’re in for.”
Hours later, Aziraphale makes himself a cup of cocoa. The fire has burnt low. Embers don’t make a sound. The tree is decorated, there’s no tinkle of glass. The record has played and played out, stopped now.
He settles in, there on the sofa, tucked in between the arm and one sleeping demon, flung out across the cushions like stars. Like paint splatter. His ribbon-red hair spilling across the fabric, his breathing deep and even. Silence lays steadily. Gentle quiet in every corner, every memory looking on as another is added to their number. Crowley’s dark boots are kicked off, his feet tucked up now against Aziraphale’s thigh.
Listen. What do you hear? (Do you hear what I hear?)
Nothing. No bells ring, nothing clamors. No, there is nothing but earthly peace. The night stretches on, hour by hour. Crowley doesn’t leave, doesn’t fuss. Curled up there in the light of a tree, topped with a white star (it reminds me of you, you hung them in the sky to cover us all with light). Aziraphale’s wide thumb running over his skinnyboned ankle.
No bells ring of warning. Not tonight, this silent night.
All is calm. All is bright.