Monday, 12 April, 2021
Crowley was in a mood that would best be described as ‘gritchy’ - a hybrid of grumpy and bitchy. He’d been agitated and irritable about this night for weeks, and now it was here. He was in the back of a limo with Anathema, his manager, headed towards the Ritz for a ‘date’ with a contest winner, and not happy about it. For the last twenty years, he’d worked his arse off, writing music, performing in dingy clubs and pubs until the big breakthrough, and now his name was synonymous with ‘rock n roll’. But that hadn’t saved him from tonight, when he’d basically agreed to sell his body for charity. He’d spent the last six weeks dreading tonight and the nightmare it was sure to be, pushing thoughts of it aside as best he could. But he couldn’t do that any longer.
“Do I have to do this?” he asked Anathema for what had to be the fiftieth time.
She didn’t look up from the paperwork in her lap, and her long, brown hair shrouded her face. Crowley knew what he’d see, though - total concentration on the task in front of her and no care at all for his whining.
“Suck it up, Crowley. You’re not doing this for you.”
“I’d rather not be doing it at all,” he griped.
Anathema shot him a look. “This contest raised a lot of money for children with cancer. You’re a hero.”
“I don’t feel like a fucking hero.”
“Well, you are,” she said matter of factly in that way she had, and went back to her paperwork.
Anathema rolled her eyes. “It’s one dinner, Crowley. Forty-five minutes of your life.”
“Yes, but that’s forty-five minutes I’ll never be able to get back,” he pointed out. “I’m going to have to pretend to give a shit about whoever this person is, and I don’t.”
“That’s not true. You love your fans.”
“I don’t love the nutters. And this person is almost certainly one of the nutters. The superfans. The stans. You know the type. They love me, but they also want to wear my skin. I might die tonight,” he finished dramatically.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake. You won’t be dying tonight.”
“I might!” he countered. “And even if I don’t die, I’ll have to keep a shit-eating grin plastered on my face the whole time and pretend to be interested in whatever they’re talking about. I mean, what if this person really is certifiable? What if they’re actively obsessed? What if they stab me with cutlery?”
“You’re catastrophizing,” she said absently. “That’s a thinking error, and you know it.”
“What if she tries to poison my drink? Or he, whatever. What if they try to roofie me?”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen. Security vetted them. My understanding is that he seems like a nice guy. And if he’s not, all you have to do is call for Shadwell, and he’ll be gone in a minute.”
“What if he’s boring?” Crowley tried again, feeling petulant.
Anathema flipped a page idly. “Then you take a leaf out of Robert Pattinson’s book.”
Crowley was confused. “What does he have to do with anything?”
“He had this fan that was obsessed with him and wouldn’t leave him alone. So he asked her to dinner. And all through the meal, the only thing he did - literally, the only thing he did besides eat - was complain about his life. He left such a bad taste in her mouth, she left him alone after that.”
He blinked. “That’s… pretty genius, actually. Do you think it would work?”
Anathema shrugged. “It worked for him. But I don’t think you’re going to need to do that. This doesn’t seem like an obsessed fan.”
“Well, they never seem like it, do they? The really whacko ones always seem normal, on the surface.”
His manager had had enough. She slammed her hand down onto the papers in her lap frustratedly and turned to him, her eyes flashing behind her round glasses. “I wish I could record this and play it back for you later. You don’t even sound like yourself, you sound like a whiny child. Not like a huge rock star whom I know for a fact is wholly dedicated to his fans.”
Crowley muttered under his breath.
Anathema sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “It’s going to be fine, Crowley. This man has been vetted, like I said, and there were no red flags. He might be boring, but if he is, it’s literally only forty-five minutes. I promise - I swear to come rescue you after forty-five minutes. I won’t make you wait an extra second. But by doing this, you raised a boatload of cash for Great Ormond Street Hospital. Just think about that while you’re wearing your shit eating grin, alright? Almost two hundred thousand pounds. Kids with cancer. You’re a hero.”
Crowley sighed as they pulled to a stop beside the Ritz. “Alright, alright. I’ll do it. And I’ll pretend to be happy about it. But I won’t be happy, and I want you to know that.”
“You’ve made that abundantly clear.”
The door to the limousine was opened and Crowley took one more deep breath before he got out and ducked into the back entrance, Shadwell in tow.
“‘Hi, I’m Crowley’,” he said in a low voice, practicing sounding polite and interested, smiling at no one. “‘Hello, I’m Crowley.’ No, that’s too fucking formal. ‘I’m Crowley, how do you do?’ Christ, that’s worse.”
Across the restaurant, he saw Anathema sweeping in, followed by a man dressed all in light tones. The man looked a little nervous, but Crowley figured he should have expected that. What was striking, though, were the man’s clothes - he was dressed very oddly for 2021 in waistcoat, bowtie, and longish coat. He had snowy blond hair, but Crowley couldn’t really see his face. He closed his eyes behind his glasses and sent up a prayer that the next forty-five minutes would fly by.
“Crowley,” Anathema said when she was close enough, “I’d like to introduce you to our contest winner. Mr. Aziraphale Fell.”
Crowley opened his eyes to look at this man, Aziraphale, and nearly lost his breath. This man - this man was gorgeous. He had fine, delicate, sweet features and stormy blue eyes, the kind of eyes that would likely look different based on his moods, or his clothes. He was still looking around the room, paying Crowley very little attention at all. Nobody ever ignored Crowley. He was always the center of attention in whatever room he was in. The fact that this man wasn’t looking at him was… intriguing.
He was still wary - sometimes the nuttiest ones were the prettiest ones. Crowley couldn’t let his guard down. But blimey, this man was gorgeous. It wouldn’t be a hardship to look at him for the next little while.
“Hi, I’m Crowley,” he said, stepping forward and offering his hand.
The man finally looked at him with an unsure smile and oh, shit, he was even more gorgeous when he smiled. He looked like a goddamn angel. Shit.
“Aziraphale Fell,” he said, offering his hand in return, and Crowley took it. He felt a pulse of electricity skitter up his arm and he realized with a jolt that he was attracted.
“I’ll just leave you two to it, shall I? Crowley,” she said to get his attention from behind Aziraphale, and he tore his eyes away from the angel to look at her. She gave him a bolstering smile, mouthed ‘forty-five minutes’, then gave him a thumbs-up and turned to leave.
“Shall we sit?” Crowley said, once they were finally, mostly alone. Aziraphale looked a bit uncertain, not eager the way Crowley had anticipated, and again, Crowley was intrigued. They went to the table and he resisted the temptation to pull out Aziraphale’s chair, like a gentleman. Barely.
As soon as they were seated, a waiter appeared beside the table to bring menus and a wine list.
“Oh,” Aziraphale said, looking down at the wine list. “I, um, I don’t quite know what to order.”
“Do you prefer red or white?” Crowley asked politely. He found that he wanted to please this man, ridiculous though it may seem.
Crowley turned to the waiter. “We’ll have a bottle of Pape Clément Blanc and two glasses, please.”
“Very good, sir,” the waiter said, then left.
Once he was gone, Crowley turned back to Aziraphale with a smile. “I hope it’s alright that I ordered for you.”
“Oh! Yes, that’s fine. I had only intended to order something more inexpensive…”
Crowley tilted his head to the side, confused. “Why would you do that?”
“Well, I understand this meal is being paid for by the charity, and I’d like for as much of it as possible to go to the children…”
“I’ll pay for the meal myself,” Crowley said quickly, surprising himself. “That way, the hospital gets all the money.”
“Oh, I couldn’t let you do that. Would you consider letting me pay for my own meal?”
Crowley was flabbergasted. This man wanted to pay for his own meal? Was he kidding?
“Are you serious?” he asked, his eyes wide behind his glasses.
“You don’t have to do that. I’m happy to pay,” Crowley said, unable to believe he was having this argument. Was this a ploy of some sort?
“But I’ll feel ever so much better if I did,” Aziraphale said, looking earnest, and Crowley believed he was earnest. He truly did want to pay for his own meal. Unbelievable.
“Well, alright,” he said, still stunned, and not entirely sure what to think.
Aziraphale gave a smile and a little wiggle and goddamn it, it was the cutest thing Crowley had ever seen. Baby animals had nothing on Aziraphale. Crowley felt his attraction grow. Shit!
The blond man was going over the menu, and Crowley turned his own attention to the menu in his hands, glancing up at Aziraphale every few seconds. Aziraphale never looked up. Crowley might as well have not been in the room. He had no idea how he felt about that - but he thought he liked it.
The waiter returned with a bottle of wine and took their orders. Crowley noted that Aziraphale didn’t order the cheapest thing on the menu, but it was towards the bottom of the price list. He was still stunned. He had only known Aziraphale for a few minutes, but he had a strong hunch that Aziraphale was unlike anyone he had ever known. Crowley didn’t know whether that was terrifying or exhilarating.
When the waiter left, Crowley picked up his wine, took a sip, smiled a genuine smile, and said, “So what do you do, Aziraphale?”
“I own a shop,” he said with a small smile in return, then took a sip of his own wine. “Oh, this is very good,” he said with his brows knitted in surprise.
Crowley grinned. “It is good,” he agreed. “What type of shop?”
“It’s a bookshop.”
“Any particular types of books?”
“No, we’re just a typical bookshop - except we do have a rather large section of rare and antiquarian books.”
“Oh? That’s interesting.”
Aziraphale laughed and the sound was like music to Crowley’s ears. He wanted to hear that again and again, and resolved to try to make Aziraphale laugh more.
“It’s not that interesting, really, unless you’re into rare books?”
Crowley was seriously considering getting into rare books.
“I don’t know much about them,” he said honestly. “But I’d be interested to learn.”
“What types of books do you like to read?” Aziraphale inquired.
“I, um, I don’t always have time to read. It’s sporadic. Work keeps me busy.”
“Oh? And what do you do for work?”
Crowley gaped at him, stunned. How could he…? No. This had to be a fucking prank or something. Anathema was having him on. It had to be. There was no way this man didn’t know who he was.
“You’re taking the piss,” he said, smirking to hide his disbelief.
Aziraphale flushed. “I’m not. I know you must be famous, but I’m afraid I don’t know what for. I do hope you’ll forgive my ignorance.”
Crowley watched him carefully as he answered, just as he had with the thing about splitting the bill. Again, he seemed genuine. As unbelievable as it was, he suspected that Aziraphale was telling the truth and did not know who he was.
He scrambled to think of what to say next. Finally, he landed on, “I’m a musician, actually.”
“Oh? What do you play?”
Still stunned, Crowley said, “A little bit of everything, but I’m mostly known for playing guitar and singing.”
“What kind of music do you play?”
Whatever you like, I’ll play anything you want, he thought.
Crowley cleared his throat to get rid of the wayward thought and said with a smile, “I play rock and roll, mostly. I guess you could call it pop rock, but I fucking hate that label. I’m not like Gwen Stefani or Lady Gaga. More like Coldplay or Imagine Dragons. Maybe Foo Fighters. Someone like that.”
“Oh, you might as well be speaking Greek, I’m afraid. I’m not terribly familiar with much modern music. I like it alright, when I do listen, it’s just that I’m more of a relic of the past, I suppose.”
Crowley was even more stunned. “Well, what do you like to listen to?”
“I enjoy classical music most, but I also like to listen to jazz and big band music. Billie Holiday, people like that. But I’m willing to listen to anything, truly. Perhaps I’ll look up some of your music tonight.”
“Don’t,” he said suddenly, startling both of them.
“Why not, dear?”
Crowley couldn’t articulate an answer, but had a good reason. If Aziraphale was being genuine - and Crowley believed he was - that meant that Aziraphale had no preconceived notions about him. His opinion of Crowley would be shaped solely by Crowley, not any outside influences. That prospect was dizzying, and Crowley wanted to take advantage of it.
“I just...I don’t think you’ll like it, and I would hate for you to waste your time.”
Aziraphale smiled kindly. “I doubt it would be a waste of time, but I’ll respect your wishes nevertheless.”
Crowley smiled in something like relief. “Can I ask you something?”
“Why did you enter the contest, if you didn’t know who I was?”
“Oh,” Aziraphale said, looking taken off guard. His cheeks colored again. “Well, I’ve always wanted to dine at the Ritz. It’s long been a bucket list item of mine, if you will, and I very much enjoy supporting various charities, so I bought an entry. I never dreamed I’d win...”
“So you bought an entry to win a date with someone you didn’t know because you wanted to eat at the Ritz and support charity?” Crowley asked, smiling in disbelief, utterly charmed.
“Yes, that’s right. Is that - is that wrong?”
“Nuh-uh,” Crowley said, shaking his head. “No, I’m very, very glad you did that.”
Aziraphale’s cheeks were rosy and he looked away. Crowley just grinned.
The waiter reappeared with their plates of food, breaking the moment, and served them both with a smile. When he left again, Crowley looked at Aziraphale and found him peering at his plate, frowning.
“Nothing, really, I just asked for no onion and there’s onion on here.”
“No problem,” Crowley said, raising his hand to call over the waiter. “I’ll just --”
“No, don’t!” he said, reaching out to stop Crowley. Then he flushed. ”It’s not a big deal, just a trifle annoying. I’ll pick them off.”
“You shouldn’t have to do that. You’ve always wanted to come here, your meal should be perfect. They should have gotten your order right. What if you had an allergy to something?”
“It was just an honest mistake, truly. Here,” he said, quickly picking off the onion. “Now it’s like it never happened. Please don’t upset our waiter.”
“I don’t think he’ll be upset,” Crowley said. “But okay. Whatever you want.” He couldn’t help but be a bit mystified by this response. It had been nearly twenty years since he had been around someone who was truly selfless, as Aziraphale seemed to be. Most of the people in Crowley’s life were brash and abrasive, out for number one. More and more, Aziraphale was looking to be completely different from anyone and everyone in Crowley’s life.
Aziraphale treated him to another smile that was nearly blinding and holy fuck, did Crowley want to see more of that. He knew, in that moment, that he wanted to see Aziraphale again. And again. And again. Fuck it all, he had a crush.
Feeling himself flush, Crowley turned to his meal. He’d just speared a bite of his food when he heard the most erotic sound he’d ever heard outside of a bedroom or a porno in years. With wide eyes, he looked up to see that the sound had come from Aziraphale, who had just taken a bite of his food and was chewing, his eyes closed in bliss. Crowley swallowed hard and tried to ignore the way his cock was twitching in his pants.
“Is it good?” he asked in a slightly choked voice.
Aziraphale opened his eyes wide and nodded slowly, still chewing. When he swallowed, he said, “Absolutely scrummy,” with a smile.
Scrummy. Fuck, even that was charming.
Crowley cleared his throat and began to eat his meal, looking for something else to say. “So, um, Aziraphale is an unusual name…”
Aziraphale gave a tired smile, as if he heard that a lot. “It is. My parents were religious scholars. Aziraphale is the name of an angel.”
“An angel?” Crowley said, a smile quirking his mouth. “Really?”
“Yes. A principality, actually. Why?”
“It’s just that when I met you, I thought you looked like an angel,” he replied flirtatiously, his heart thudding in his chest with nerves. When was the last time he’d been nervous flirting with someone? It had been years and years! But he was now. Swallowing, he went on. “It seems I was justified in thinking so. You really are an angel.”
Aziraphale flushed becomingly, smiling and looking down at his plate, and bloody hell was that cute.
“Thank you, dear,” he said, his cheeks and ears still red.
“You’re welcome, angel.”
Aziraphale blushed even redder, and Crowley smiled to himself.
“What’s your name?” Aziraphale asked a moment later, when he’d recovered.
“Yes. I assume Crowley is your stage name?”
“Ah, yes. It is.”
“So what’s your real name? Or is that too forward of me to ask? Oh, please do forgive me…”
“No, it’s fine,” he hastened to assure him. The truth was, he was flustered. His name was an open secret in the music industry, the same way Madonna’s and Sting’s real names were. No one had actually asked his name in a long time. It was refreshing.
“Crowley is my surname. My given name is Anthony. Anthony Jay Crowley.”
“What does the J stand for?”
“It’s just a Jay, really.”
“Well, I think that’s a lovely name. Would you prefer if I called you Anthony?”
You can call me anything you want, he almost said, but bit it back just in time.
“Only my mother calls me Anthony, and I’d really rather not lump you in with my mother.”
Aziraphale chuckled. “No, quite right.”
“So do you live here in London, angel?”
“I do. I have a flat over my shop, in Soho.”
“Ah, Soho. I spent a lot of my time there in the late 90’s and early 00’s, playing in pubs.”
“Yes, it has quite a thriving music scene. Where do you live?”
Crowley debated how to answer without sounding like a ponce. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to. “I live here in London, mostly. I have a flat in Mayfair.”
Aziraphale looked intrigued. “Mostly?”
He could feel himself blushing. “Well, yeah. I also have a home in Scotland, and one in L.A. But I spend most of my time here, in London.”
“Goodness,” Aziraphale said, sounding impressed. “You must really be famous.”
“I… yeah. I kinda am.”
“Well it was very good of you to donate your time and your name to charity. Very good of you, indeed.”
Crowley suddenly had the impulse to lend his name and time to loads more charities. As many as he could make time for. Anything to get that admiring smile from Aziraphale again.
“It was my pleasure,” he said, fudging a bit. “I’m glad to have done it - especially now that it led me to meet you.”
Aziraphale’s cheeks flamed again, and Crowley thought that was a good thing, wasn’t it? He devoutly hoped so.
The waiter reappeared to remove the plates and bring dessert, and Crowley panicked a little at the thought that their time was coming to an end. He scrambled to try to think of a way to prolong it. He needed to see this man again. Soon. But first, he needed to know…
“Can I ask you a personal question, angel?”
Aziraphale’s cheeks were still a little pink, but he nodded. “Of course.”
“It may seem a little forward.”
“O - okay…”
“Are you married? Or seeing anyone?”
“I, um, no. I’ve never been married, and I’ve just recently ended a relationship.”
Thank fuck, Crowley thought, smiling in relief.
He leaned across the table a little, eager. “I’d really like to see you again. Would you be willing?”
Aziraphale looked surprised, caught out, but before he could answer, Anathema appeared in the worst case of bad timing ever.
“Good evening, gentlemen. How was your meal?”
Crowley glared daggers at her, willing her to go away. “It was lovely. We were just…”
“Aziraphale, I came to tell you that the limo that will be taking you home is here.”
“Oh. Oh, well, thank you. Can I call the waiter quickly so I can pay my part of the bill?”
Anathema looked confused. “Your part of the bill? What do you --”
Crowley spoke over her, smiling at Aziraphale. “Why don’t you let me pick it up this time, angel, and I’ll let you cover next time. Alright?”
Aziraphale flushed a little but gave a small smile. “Alright.”
Crowley just gazed at him, getting lost in the blue eyes until Anathema unhelpfully interrupted again.
“Alright then, since that’s settled… Aziraphale? Did you have any last requests? Would you like to pose for a photo or something? Maybe an autograph?”
“Oh, no. No, that’s very kind of you, but no.”
“Alright, then,” she said brightly, ushering Aziraphale from his seat. Crowley had never wanted to fire her before that moment.
He got to his feet and offered his hand. “Aziraphale, it has been my very great pleasure. I hope to do it again sometime. Soon.”
When Aziraphale took his hand to shake it, Crowley brought it to his lips and pressed a kiss to the knuckles, his eyes never leaving Aziraphale’s face. The other man flushed brilliantly, and once again, Crowley hoped that was a good thing.
“Ooookay,” Anathema said. “Aziraphale, if you’ll just come with me. Crowley, I’ll be right back.”
Crowley watched appreciatively as she led Aziraphale to the door, and was smiling when Aziraphale turned to look over his shoulder at him. Crowley gave a wave, and Aziraphale blushed again before he was ushered out of the door.
Once he was gone, Crowley collapsed back into his chair, heaving a happy sigh, wondering how long he needed to wait before he sought out Aziraphale Fell again. He didn’t think he’d be able to wait long.