It was a truly beautiful day, and spring could be felt in the air. Aziraphale always had been one to enjoy every little joy life had to offer, even in the darkest of times, but this morning was particularly pleasant. Humans were smiling, trees were blooming, and he had just acquired an old and precious book.
The day was so warm, and the singing of the birds so enchanting, he decided to go back to his bookshop by foot, and not by bus as was his habit.
He almost missed it, so used he was to it. It only tugged a little at the border of his Grace, like a movement caught from the corner of an eye.
Surprised, the angel stopped dead into his tracks, causing the person walking behind him to almost collide with him and snap a nasty remark. Without a glance at the woman (he always had judged the best way to berate rude people was to ignore them), he turned at the street’s corner to get closer to the familiar presence.
What was Crowley doing in this part of London at this hour?
Not that he should know, of course. Living under the same roof didn’t mean constantly keeping track of each other’s whereabouts, but it was only mid-morning, and the demon usually slept at least two more hours.
Smiling, he hid his presence as he kept walking. Maybe with a little luck could he startle his friend. That was always very amusing. But first he had to check if the demon was performing some devilish endeavour. It would be rude to interrupt a carefully planned temptation and risk destroying weeks of work only to make the demon jump.
Better observe at first, and try to assess the situation before acting.
Aziraphale entered the building behind a customer, invisible to everyone present, and looked around him. Crowley was there, sitting at the other end of the room, talking to a middle aged woman, and…
The angel felt his blood freeze in his veins. The demon was…
He looked at him for an excruciating minute, refusing to believe his own eyes. This was… impossible. Crowley would never… and yet he was there, doing… this, while talking to that stupid human, and smiling, at that!
Everyone startled as the door slammed brusquely. Crowley turned on his seat. Strange. There wasn’t the slightest gust of wind outside. Shrugging, he got back to his discussion.
Aziraphale was not angry. Anger was an ugly feeling, not angelic in the slightest, and wrath, in this instance, would be absolutely uncalled for.
Crowley had done nothing bad, after all. No one on this planet or the realms beyond could find anything to reproach him.
Then why am I feeling so betrayed?
Ridiculous, that’s what he was. A ridiculous, selfish Principality, who was apparently not satisfied enough with the sins of gluttony and pride, but had to add jealousy to the count.
He was not angry, he decided. Absolutely not.
His feet had brought him to his bookshop faster than any bus could have, and he crossed the street without looking, not even deigning to look up at the sound of screeching tires and blaring horn. The door opened before he even touched it, and he felt the wave of comforting, concerned warmth of the building engulf him.
“Well at least you wouldn’t do that to me,” he declared sharply, snapping a glass full of whiskey into existence. The bookshop didn’t answer, but the angel’s armchair softened even more than usual, and Vivaldi’s Summer started playing softly on the gramophone.
Aziraphale drank morosely, feeling very old and slightly ridiculous.
By the time Crowley came home, the angel was feeling very sloshed and highly irate.
The demon felt something was wrong immediately. The way his hand hurt as he tried to open the door to the bookshop was a good clue.
“Ouch!” he erupted, snatching his hand away as the spark of electricity startled him. He glared at the door. “What’s wrong with you?”
A second push at the door had it resisting and Crowley snarled. “Oi! What the fuck, you jackass? Do I have to remind you I live here?”
The third attempt seemed to work, and the demon finally stepped in, a little hesitantly. No need to be a bloody genius to understand that the bookshop was furious at him. And that meant he was in trouble. And not even on purpose, which was the worst part. Angry Aziraphale was always a sight to behold, and well, Crowley loved to yell, but he also liked to know why. He headed to the back room, wondering if he’d forgotten something important.
Aziraphale was reading in his usual armchair near the fire, an empty bottle and glass near him on the coffee table. There was a plate full of cheese, and a little white mouse was having the time of his life with it.
Crowley bit his lower lip in worry. Aziraphale hadn’t touched the cheese. This was bad. The angel must have been very troubled.
“Err… Aziraphale? Is everything all right?” he asked cautiously, in the same tone one could use to talk to a wild animal.
His friend didn’t answer, flicking a page very loudly, his frown deepening.
Oh. Ignoring me, eh? Silent treatment? thought the demon, his own anger starting to rise.
“What did I do? I’m not a mind reader, you know! If you have something to say, say it instead of acting like a child!”
That worked beyond the demon’s expectations. Aziraphale slammed his book on the table, startling the poor mouse who looked at him accusingly before getting back to his meal. Algernon needed more than an angry angel to get truly afraid.
“A child? I am the childish one? How dare you, Crowley! I know what you did!”
Crowley blinked. His hackles were rising, like every time an argument started, but something was off in his friend’s expression. There was the usual Holier-than-thou tone, the familiar (and worrying) ice-blue eyes, blazing more and more by the second, but the anger was not alone here. There was hurt on his angel’s face. Aziraphale’s feelings had been hurt, and he tried to hide it, and Crowley didn’t like that one bit.
“What the fuck are you talking about? I didn’t do anything today! If it’s about the Great British Bake Off being rescheduled again it’s not my fault this time!”
Strangely, the angel seemed even more peeved at this denial.
“I saw you! I was there! How can you lie like this to my face?” he shouted, his voice breaking slightly on his last words.
This time, the demon didn’t yell. This discussion was not going to end well if he kept shouting back, he could feel it. And the anger was almost gone on his friend’s face, while the hurt only grew. This was not good. He raised his hands placatingly.
“Angel? I have no idea of what you’re talking about. Can we… sit down and… I mean… what did you see exactly? I don’t understand, honest!”
Aziraphale’s shoulders sagged and he looked down at his hands, fretting nervously with his waistcoat’s buttons. This was a nervous tic the angel had demonstrated less and less since Armageddon, and seeing it coming back unsettled Crowley deeply.
“What did you see?” he asked again, softly.
“I… oh, I am being ridiculous!” huffed the angel. “It’s just… I know it didn’t mean anything to you, of course. But I have wanted to eat a nice udon for a while now, and I wanted to try this place I have heard of, and I know I was in the area this morning but I didn’t think about it and then I felt your presence and-”
Crowley raised his hands again. “Wait a minute… you where there earlier? At the restaurant? I didn’t see you.”
His friend blushed and focused even more on his hands. “I… I hid my presence.”
The demon huffed. No need to ask why, he would have done the same. Trying to startle the other was a game they never tired of. “You’re such a child, Aziraphale. So, what happened then?”
But as he asked the question he understood the answer. The angel had seen him sitting in a restaurant, talking animatedly with someone while he ate. While he ate the exact meal his friend had been craving these last few days. Without him.
Crowley didn’t eat. Not a lot. And always in Aziraphale’s company.
“Oooooooh… nonononono, angel! That’s not what you think!”
His friend shook his head, avoiding his eyes. “I shouldn’t get angry for something so ridiculous. You have a right to… to enjoy food. Without me. I’m sorry I yelled. Was… was the udon good? I heard it was.”
“Ngk! F… You… I didn’t want to eat udon, you wanted it!”
Surprised, the angel finally looked up. “I… I don’t under-”
“You wanted udon! Couldn’t talk about anything else lately! And there’s six restaurants in London that serves them, I had to find the best one!” explained Crowley in a rush, flailing his arms in his panic. Why? Why was this happening? He didn’t want to explain, but he couldn’t let his friend suffer like this. This was the worst day of his life. Okay, second worst. Maybe third. Not a good one anyway.
Aziraphale looked at him in silence, stunned. “What?” he finally managed to whisper after a minute.
“Well… you… you wanted udon,” repeated Crowley feebly.
“So you… what, tried them all?” wondered Aziraphale, frowning in confusion.
“Ahhhh, no. Not exactly. See, I kind of paid someone to do it. Then she told me this one was the best and I came there to see if it was worth it...”
Crowley was feeling more and more self-conscious by the second. This was one of his darkest secrets, and he had a pretty good idea of how Aziraphale would react. He braced himself for the worst.
The angel straightened up, blinking slowly. “I knew I had seen that woman before. She’s a food critic! On the journal! I thought you were working a temptation of a sort on her...”
“What? Eww, no! M’not tempting people while eating!”
The angel didn’t seem to hear. “You hired her to try every udon in London to know which one was the best… because you wanted to bring me there?”
Crowley’s eyes shot left and right nervously, his brain trying to find an escape. He was so doomed. “Ahhh…. Yeah.”
“Why are you making that face, my dear?”
“I didn’t want you to know how I do it,” admitted his friend.
Aziraphale gasped. “Are you telling me you are doing this every time I appear to crave a particular food?”
The demon looked at his feet forlornly. Aziraphale beamed. “So this is how you do it! I never understood how you always managed to find the best every time. Do you hire her regularly?”
His friend nodded silently, closing his eyes. Oh, this was not going well.
“Crowley, this is so nice of you!”
The demon grimaced. This. This was precisely the reaction he’d feared. In a minute Aziraphale would call him adorable or thoughtful or something equally disgusting. “Oi! That’s rude, angel!” he managed to mumble, hiding his hands in his pockets.
“But it is!” interrupted Aziraphale, his eyes shining with emotion. “It is so thoug...”
Oh, he thought, seeing the demon’s dejected stance. That’s the problem. Crowley hated to be caught being nice. The angel tried to appear as stern as he could.
“It is… well, it is very wicked of you, Crowley.”
His friend’s head shot up, eyes squinting. “Uh… whot?”
“Really, I thought we were close enough for you to stop using your wily tricks on me. Tempting me to indulge in gluttony, really,” he tsked, shaking his head disapprovingly. “I suppose I should have known better”.
Crowley sighed in relief, and his face brightened, a wide grin spreading on his lips. “Hey, no hard feelings, angel. I’m a tempter, that’s who I am. Plus it’s good for you, help you practice resilience.”
Aziraphale smiled at him fondly, and for a second his friend responded in kind. Then they both got back to their act, perfectly aware of the other’s thoughts.
Aziraphale petted the little white mouse before heading to the door.
“Hold down the fort, Algernon, we will be out for the evening.”
He stopped to grab his coat and turn to Crowley. “Well, dear boy, what are you waiting? I am afraid your skills are way too strong for my resilience today. I cannot wait to try that restaurant.”
The demon joined him, picking up the keys to the Bentley on his way. “And I didn’t even mention the edamame, angel,” he drawled. “I’ve heard they’re sinful.”