Aziraphale held out on having a telephone installed in the bookshop until 1921, mostly because Crowley kept badgering her about it, and Aziraphale was still feeling miffed about the fact that Crowley had slept through the telephone’s invention and a great many other things, as well.
“What if I need to contact you?” Crowley said one afternoon at the Savoy.
“You can send a note, I assume, which has worked perfectly well for much longer than the telephone has been in existence,” Aziraphale said firmly as she stirred sugar into her tea, and considered the matter quite closed.
Crowley’s carmine lips pursed briefly, and then she changed tack. “But it's changing the world around us, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we endeavor to keep up? Think of the steam engine, angel. These human inventions are transformative.”
Aziraphale puffed her wings out a bit in another plane of reality, and Crowley’s lips, damn her, curved into a cat-with-the-cream smile. Aziraphale did so love the ingenuity of humans, and divine inspiration was one of her favorite miracles. Still, she had to put her foot down. “I can appreciate innovation without owning one. You won’t catch me buying one of those automobiles, for example, although I concede it’s a fair improvement over riding horses.”
“Well, I’m buying one, just as soon as I see one with a bit more style,” Crowley said, a covetous look on her face. She’d bobbed her hair, which was ever so in fashion at the moment; Aziraphale found she missed the tumbled waves of her long red hair more than she expected.
“Good for you, dear girl, but please leave me out of it.”
Crowley leaned forward, encroaching on Aziraphale’s space. “What if I need to contact you urgently?”
Aziraphale’s teacup rattled as she placed it back down on its saucer. “When you say urgently—“
Crowley nodded meaningfully.
Aziraphale swallowed once, and flicked her eyes Heavenward nervously.
“Better to stay one step ahead, angel,” Crowley said, deadly serious. “Nobody knows the world like we do. It’s a distinct advantage. We’d be fools not to take it.”
Aziraphale frowned at her, because that was dangerous territory. The Arrangement was one thing, but Crowley of late had started to sound deeply paranoid.
“My dear,” Aziraphale said. “Is there something I should know?”
Crowley slumped back in her seat, aided by no longer wearing corsetry of any sort. Her exact reaction to waking up to fashion in 1921 had been, “Thank fuck, fuck those whalebone stays, whose fucking idea was that.”
Finally, Crowley blew out a sigh, and instead of answering, poured Aziraphale more tea, unasked, and applied herself to covering a scone in clotted cream and jam and putting it on Aziraphale’s plate.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said gently, and reached out one hand across the table to still Crowley’s fingers where they tapped anxiously on the table.
“Nothing specific, all right?” Crowley muttered. “I just want to be able to tell you straight away if that changes.”
“Oh,” Aziraphale said. “Well, if it will make you feel better, my dear, of course.”
Crowley’s nose wrinkled. “It’s not about making me feel better—”
“You should have just said,” Aziraphale continued mercilessly. “Consider it done. It’s hardly a favor at all.”
Crowley spluttered indignantly at her, and Aziraphale just smiled and took a bite of the scone Crowley had prepared for her. It was, of course, delicious.
Aziraphale had the telephone installed in the back room of the shop, and as it turned out, not a moment too soon.
“America!” she protested when Crowley stopped by the shop one afternoon, valise in hand. “Why are they sending you there?”
“Why do you think?” Crowley said acerbically. “They outlawed booze, angel—there’s work to be done.”
Aziraphale took credit for the temperance movement but couldn’t say she agreed with it, personally, as was evidenced by the wine collection she was amassing in the cellar.
“But you’ve only just—“ woken up, she almost said. She might have said, returned to me. She might have said, I was sick with worry for five years until I found you asleep in your flat and then I was furious with you for making me think you’d left me here all alone, and that we’d never see another concert together, never feed the ducks at the park, never—
“Will you be gone long?” Aziraphale asked instead.
Crowley shrugged. She was wearing an elegant traveling costume and looked like the cover of a women’s magazine. The decade was young but its lines favored Crowley’s shape. She looked like the future.
She looked like she was going to quite literally leave Aziraphale behind.
“Perhaps you’ll telephone from time to time?” Aziraphale said, and swallowed once. “If you have—news.”
Crowley went still. Over the top of her dark glasses, her eyes were unblinking. “Could do,” she said eventually.
“A drink before you go?” Aziraphale said, wringing her hands.
Crowley looked at the clock and shook her head regretfully. “I have a steamer to catch,” she said.
Aziraphale saw her to the front door. “You should let me know where you take lodgings,” she said. “In case I have need to contact you as well.”
She’d evidently surprised Crowley twice in one day. “Yeah, of course,” Crowley said, staring at her. “Very—sensible.”
“I’m glad you agree,” Aziraphale said. “Now. Travel by ship is much better than it used to be, but just the same, my dear, travel safely. If you’re discorporated, I’m afraid I’ll be very cross.”
“Can’t have that,” Crowley said, and Aziraphale had the idea that she meant that to sound a great deal more sarcastic than it did.
“Telephone me so I know you’ve arrived safely,” Aziraphale said, and made a minute adjustment to Crowley’s lapel without so much as a by-your-leave.
“The minute I can,” Crowley said, her voice gone husky.
Aziraphale had had nearly fifty years to think about what she would do when Crowley came back to her, but she hadn’t considered Crowley leaving again, and oh, she could barely stand it. So she steadied herself with her hands on Crowley’s shoulders, and went up on her toes to kiss Crowley’s cheek. Even then, Crowley had to bend down a bit for Aziraphale to reach.
When Aziraphale drew back, Crowley’s eyes were safely hidden behind her glasses, but her mouth was gently parted in what looked like astonishment. Finally, she cleared her throat. “Take care of yourself, angel,” she said. “I mean it. Don’t get into any trouble—not without me.”
“Who else would I get into trouble with?” Aziraphale said.
“Exactly,” Crowley said, and then bent down to kiss Aziraphale’s cheek swiftly before stepping down to the street and striding off.
Crowley’s lipstick stayed on Aziraphale’s cheek through three attempts to wash it off, and finally, she used a very frivolous miracle to remove it.
But underneath it all, she still knew it was there.
Aziraphale was startled out of her reread of Persuasion by the shrill of the telephone ringing. She let it ring three times before she hesitantly picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Hi, it’s me.”
“Is someone else calling you at indecent hours of the night, angel?” Crowley asked, a hiss finding its way into her throaty voice.
Aziraphale took off her glasses and leaned back in her chair. “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re the only person who calls me at all, never mind the hour.”
“Oh,” Crowley said, sounding somewhat mollified and maybe a touch sheepish. “Well. I’m in New York.”
“How is it?” Aziraphale asked, excited and a little envious. “I haven’t been since—well, it was still a colony then, wasn’t it?”
Crowley let out a breath of a laugh. “I’ve been here for all of two hours, angel, and one of those was spent on Ellis Island, going through immigration.”
Aziraphale wrinkled her nose in confusion. “Surely you could just—“ she waved her hand in the air, even though Crowley couldn’t see it.
“I did,” Crowley said.
“But then why—“
There was silence from Crowley for a moment, and then she said, “Look, it’s just that—I got to know some kids on the way over. Families moving to America for a new start. Only—it wouldn’t have gone well for them when they got off the boat. Immigration quotas, you know.”
Aziraphale’s breath caught. “Oh?”
“Anyway, I had to cock up all the forms and files as I came through. Practically a professional obligation.”
“Oh Crowley,” Aziraphale sighed happily.
“Angel, please,” Crowley said, pained.
“I’m sorry, my dear. It was very dastardly of you. All that paperwork, completely out of order.”
“Exactly,” Crowley said, and cleared her throat. “Anyway, I’ve taken rooms at the Waldorf-Astoria. You can ring me here. You know. If you need to.”
“The Waldorf-Astoria! I hear the food is divine,” Aziraphale said.
“Well, I wouldn’t know yet.”
“I read all about the maître d'hôtel—he’s supposed to be phenomenal, Crowley.” Aziraphale sighed dreamily. “I do hope you’ll have a chance to dine there a few times.”
“Lady’s got to eat, I suppose,” Crowley allowed, even though she was a demon and had to do no such thing.
“I insist that you call me and tell me all about it when you do,” Aziraphale said. Something about having Crowley in her ear like this made her feel a little more bold.
“Greedy,” Crowley said, her tone somewhere between teasing and appreciative, in a way that made something warm pool at the base of Aziraphale’s spine.
“I’m living vicariously through you,” Aziraphale said primly.
“Could just pop over and see for yourself.”
Aziraphale sighed regretfully. “I don’t know that I could get away at the moment. The shop, you know.”
“You don’t give two figs about staying in business,” Crowley said. “Come on, what treasure are you trying to wheedle out of some covetous old bastard’s grip now?”
Aziraphale sniffed. “If you must know, I only wish to read the text in question. It’s the catalogue of a publisher, who printed a book of prophecy I’ve never been able to find.”
“You have some very strange hobbies,” Crowley told her seriously.
“They’re only the true prophecies concerning the end of the world,” Aziraphale said, a bit stung. “I can’t imagine why either of us would have any interest in that.”
“All right, I’m sorry,” Crowley said, and she did sound it. “‘Course you have to stay.”
“I’m glad you understand, now.” She felt her metaphysical feathers unruffle.
“Right. So. Guess I’ll telephone you again after I dine? Tell you what all the fuss is about.”
“Oh yes, please,” Aziraphale said. “I’ll be waiting. Oh! You could take notes.”
“I’m not taking notes, you daft thing,” Crowley said, and it sounded—affectionate?
“But you’ll tell me everything,” Aziraphale said, not exactly begging, but definitely somewhere in the range of hopeful demand.
“Oh angel, I’ll tempt you to cross the ocean yet,” Crowley purred.
“Do your worst,” Aziraphale said happily.
“There’s a new sound here, angel,” Crowley said one night. She sounded languid, the way she did on the other side of a bottle of wine.
“Are you drunk? Should I catch up?” Aziraphale asked.
“Should you—yeah, may as well,” Crowley said. “Tell me you’re drinking something better than the bathtub gin they have here.”
Aziraphale made a face but poured herself a drink. “Single malt Scotch.”
Crowley hummed in approval. “The ‘76?”
“The very one,” Aziraphale said, and drank it a good deal faster than it deserved. “Bathtub gin, really?”
“Moonshine all over the place,” Crowley said. “And nothing to do with me—the people just want a drink.”
Aziraphale licked her lips. “As well they should—one of their better inventions.”
“Well. Some versions of it,” Crowley said distastefully. “I had one sip of the local at a club tonight, and I’m here to tell you, there’s going to be a big boom in smuggling.”
“I feel as though I ought to disapprove,” Aziraphale said.
“You wouldn’t, if you were here,” Crowley said. Aziraphale heard her swallow, and it piqued her curiosity.
“What are you drinking, then?”
“Oh, hmm, that Burgundy we liked so much—what year was that?”
Aziraphale sighed in delight. “Oh, that was a revelation, wasn’t it?”
“The way it develops—” Crowley made a noise that was, frankly, an invitation to sin.
And Crowley couldn’t see her, and had no way to know that Aziraphale had gone a little warm all over at that sound directly in her ear, no way to know that it made her shift in her chair.
“You were saying something about a new sound?” she said, picking up the inebriated conversational thread with the ease of very, very long practice.
“They’re calling it jazz,” Crowley said. “It’s like—improvisation. Kind of alchemy? Whatever you call it. It’s humanity all over, angel—make it up by the seat of their pants, and then they just soar.”
“Would I like it?” Aziraphale asked.
“Dunno. Not exactly your style. But you know—sometimes, you surprise me,” Crowley said, and there was something in her voice, something almost self-mocking and just a touch vulnerable.
“Nobody knows me better than you,” Aziraphale said impulsively, but she meant it. “If you think I’d like it, then I’m sure you’re right.”
“Oh angel, I’m not sure at all,” Crowley said, almost wistful. “But I’ll tell you what you would like—I had creme brûlée tonight that was positively sinful—“
It wasn’t at all that Aziraphale had taken to waiting by the telephone for Crowley’s calls. Rather, she had a lot of work to do in the back room of the shop, and if that happened to be where the telephone was, that was pure coincidence.
“I might have to go to Chicago,” Crowley griped one night.
“What? Why on earth would they send you there?” Aziraphale said, straightening in her chair in alarm.
“Between you and me, they don’t need any help, from what I’m hearing,” Crowley said. “I’d just as soon not have to freeze my tits off in the Windy City, if I can avoid it.”
Aziraphale tutted reprovingly. “Language, dear.”
Crowley ignored her. “Although apparently the music is pretty good. And they’re smuggling in real booze from Canada, so I suppose it’s got that going for it.”
“I wish you’d come home,” Aziraphale blurted out, and then shut her mouth, mortified.
There was silence on the other end of the line.
“You getting sentimental on me, angel?” Crowley said softly.
Aziraphale bit her lip. “It’s just—it’s the solstice. Of course you’re not obligated to—it’s just that, now that you’re awake, I was rather looking forward to—”
“Sssharing a little something special on the longest night?”
It was true that Aziraphale had laid in some very fine vintages for the evening, but that wasn’t what made it special. She forgot when it started, but it had been cold, and dark, and she’d feared for Crowley in serpent form. Crowley wouldn’t transform for some reason, or perhaps it was that she couldn’t, so Aziraphale had gathered Crowley up in her arms and curled up in front of a fire, blankets swaddled around them both.
Up until Crowley’s long sleep, they’d never passed the winter solstice apart except when duty dictated otherwise. No one had to know, Crowley said. No point in us both freezing, she said. Pour us something to drink, angel, warm me up—
“Don’t be so far away,” Aziraphale said, her throat tight.
“Are you lonely?” Crowley asked, and it wasn’t mocking. Not at all. “It’s like I’m there with you, isn’t it? When we talk like this.”
“It’s just your voice,” Aziraphale said unhappily.
“Just my voice,” Crowley repeated meditatively. “Not enough for you?”
And Crowley’s voice curled around her, just as her serpent form had done once on a winter solstice. They’d never been so close again, and Aziraphale—
It should probably make her burn with shame, because angels didn’t want, not for anything. The Almighty had created her with one purpose.
And it wasn’t to cradle the telephone receiver closer to her ear, with a feeling piercing her chest that could only be longing. “Of course it’s enough,” Aziraphale made herself say.
Crowley was silent for a moment, and then snorted delicately. “Pardon my French, angel, but what a load of horseshit.”
“That isn’t French at all,” Aziraphale felt compelled to point out.
“You can tell me, can’t you?” Crowley said, cajoling. “What else do you need?”
“I don’t need anything; I’m an angel,” Aziraphale said immediately. She knew that particular party line, down to her very ethereal essence.
“Mm,” Crowley said, and Aziraphale knew what she sounded like when she was tempting, and this wasn’t it, and yet. “What else do you want?” she asked.
“You do,” Crowley said, her lovely voice tripping all the way down Aziraphale’s spine. “Just ask me. You can’t think—you can’t think there’s anything I wouldn’t give you.”
Crowley could be painfully generous, especially when Aziraphale deserved nothing of the sort. “You wouldn’t,” Aziraphale said, feeling quite wretched. “Not this.”
“Anything at all,” Crowley said, her voice low and determined.
Aziraphale bit her lip, and said nothing.
“An embrace, maybe?” Crowley said. “These corporeal forms are meant to be touched. No shame in it.”
Aziraphale sucked an unsteady breath, because that image—Crowley wound around her in human form, her spare lines flush with Aziraphale’s curves, that was what Aziraphale wanted, yes, but only the start. And she feared there was no end, no end at all to this want that was threaded through her.
“Ah,” Crowley said, and she sounded alarmingly knowing, like she could see Aziraphale in her chair, and feel the hot flush of her cheeks. “Angel, I’d wrap my arms around you and never let go, if you gave me the chance.”
“My dear,” Aziraphale said, because that sounded like—
Like Crowley missed her, too. Like Crowley felt this tangle of—well, lust, she supposed, but also love.
Crowley was an ocean away, and couldn’t see her, and somewhere in all of that, Aziraphale mustered the courage to say, “If you were here—I’d want you to. Hold me.”
Crowley exhaled sharply. “Just that?”
Aziraphale bit her lip again, and fretted that she’d asked for too much. “You don’t have to,” she hastened to say. “I don’t need it, I’m more than content with your company—”
“I’m not talking about what you need, or what you think you need. I’m talking about what you want.”
On her cheek, she could still feel the lipstick mark Crowley had left behind. She touched her cheek softly, and then brushed her fingertips over her lips, and whispered, “Kiss me.”
“When I get home,” Crowley said, “you better be ready to close the shop, because that’s all I’m going to do. I’ll kiss you for days, all over—”
“All over?” Aziraphale said, shifting in her chair, because surely Crowley didn’t mean—
“All over,” Crowley confirmed. “Starting with those lips of yours—pink and perfect, just begging for kisses.”
“Oh,” she said, because it wasn’t hard to imagine. Instead of Crowley kissing her goodbye on the cheek, Crowley kissing her hello on the mouth, red lips fitting perfectly with Aziraphale’s. “Oh please,” she said. “My dear, please.”
“I’ll kiss you breathless. And then—”
“If you think I haven’t been dying to get my mouth on your gorgeous tits for almost five thousand years—”
“Five thousand?” Aziraphale repeated, astonished.
“Touch them for me,” Crowley begged. “If you knew how many times I’ve looked at you and just wanted to worship you—”
Aziraphale did as she was bidden, and gasped when she brushed her nipples through her brassiere.
“What was that? Sounded good.”
“It is,” Aziraphale gasped.
“I can’t see; you have to tell me. Tell me what feels good,” Crowley said, her voice low.
“I’ve always been—a bit sensitive. There.”
Crowley moaned a bit, and Aziraphale could hear the rustle of cloth. “I miss seeing you in lower necklines, getting an accidental peek.”
“Crowley,” she said, and it was probably meant to be a scold, but it thrilled her, to think that Crowley had looked upon her and wanted, just as surely as Aziraphale did.
“Are you just as pink as I remember?” Crowley asked, and Aziraphale could picture exactly how her teasing, wicked smile.
“More, when I’m like this.” Aziraphale gasped again as she rolled her palm over her hardened nipples.
“What I wouldn’t give to kiss you there, suck at your nipples until you beg me to stop. Want me to pinch them, angel? Like a bit of teeth?”
Aziraphale pinched her nipples and said, “Yes, Crowley—”
“I’d do it until you were dripping down your thighs,” Crowley promised.
Aziraphale could only moan helplessly in response.
“You already there, sssweetheart?”
Aziraphale nodded, then remembered Crowley couldn’t see. And then—well. She did like to surprise Crowley on occasion. “Darling,” she sighed, and pushed her hand down her knickers. “I’m positively sopping.”
Crowley inhaled sharply. “Ngk,” she said.
Aziraphale smiled into the phone, and dipped her fingers inside to bring some slick up to her clit. “Would you kiss me here, too?”
“I’d do anything you want,” Crowley said tightly, and Aziraphale thought she could hear the wet noises of Crowley touching herself.
“All I have are my hands,” Aziraphale said, rubbing her clit in slow circles. “I can only imagine what you’d do—”
“Have you? Imagined?”
“Yes,” she breathed.
“I’d make it so good for you. Lick you until you cry for mercy, suck your sweet clit until you beg, fill you up with my tongue and my fingers and ravish you—”
“You want that? Put your fingers in, angel, for me, pretend they’re mine—”
Aziraphale cried out, high and helpless, so wet that she felt sloppy with it, rubbing her clit with one hand and thrusting her fingers in herself with the other, trying like hell to keep the telephone receiver cradled between her ear and shoulder.
“Tell me you’re close,” Crowley said hoarsely, breathing hard, and Aziraphale strained to hear the noises of Crowley’s pleasure over her own. “Give it to me—I want—”
Aziraphale cried out and came so deliriously hard that it took her several moments to realize she’d dropped the receiver. When she leaned over to pick it up again, Crowley said, “Hang on, I want to try something. Hold the phone out away from you.”
Aziraphale frowned in confusion, and there was a strange crackle, and then—Crowley was there in front of her, still breathing hard, color on her cheeks and wearing a black silk nightgown that was dreadfully wrinkled in places, like it had been pushed up to her waist—
Because it had been. Because Crowley had been—while Aziraphale was—together they’d—
“Hello,” Crowley said, and she sounded uncertain, almost shy.
Aziraphale struggled to her feet, her legs feeling unsteady, but she dared to put her hands on Crowley’s shoulders. “Hello,” she whispered, and then pulled Crowley down into a very long awaited kiss.
Much, much later on the longest night, Aziraphale murmured, “How did you do that? Traveling through the telephone, I mean.”
“Buggered if I know,” Crowley said.
“Really, darling,” Aziraphale said, half reproving, half still in delirious wonderment that she could call Crowley that.
Crowley’s eyes were soft and her carmine lips were curved into a sweet smile that Aziraphale fancied was for her and her alone. “Call it a little solstice miracle.”
“Well,” Aziraphale said. “That’s all right, then.”
“Pour us another drink,” Crowley said. “Warm me up.”
Aziraphale did pour them a drink, and then settled back into Crowley’s arms. “Not warm enough yet?”
“I could be warmer,” Crowley said.
Aziraphale looked at her.
“If you sat on my face,” Crowley clarified, and then waggled her eyebrows.
“You’re ridiculous,” Aziraphale said fondly.
“I’m just saying, what a way to welcome the sun.”
“Let me finish my drink first,” Aziraphale said. “Hold me a while longer yet.”
“Forever, if you want,” Crowley said, and went red in the face, because she could say the most ribald things without flinching, but softer things made her blush and stammer.
“I do,” Aziraphale said, and kissed her.
Several years later, Aziraphale was reading a newspaper article that trumpeted the completion of a transatlantic telephone cable. “Darling, listen to this—people here in England can now telephone people in America.”
Crowley frowned. “They couldn’t do that before? But we—”
They looked at each other for a long moment as realization dawned on them.
Aziraphale felt the corners of her mouth turn upward. “Did you want to talk to me that badly?” she asked, delighted and also eager to give Crowley merry hell over it.
Crowley flushed pink. It clashed terribly with her hair; Aziraphale thought it was adorable. “Look, how was I to know—I just assumed—”
Aziraphale waved a hand to turn the shop sign to closed.
“Why, you were calling me every night, darling,” she said. “How many miracles was that, I wonder?”
“It was forty-six,” Crowley said, and then looked even more embarrassed. “You know. Approximately.”
“Approximately,” Aziraphale said, and pulled her down onto the back room sofa.
She nudged the telephone receiver off the hook as her lips met Crowley’s—after all, it wouldn’t do for anything in the world to interrupt them.