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The Art of Dating

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It’s one of those long, summer evenings when the light lingers and the still air is thick and warm. There’s a sense of promise about the world after the narrowly averted apocalypse, and in the back room of a bookshop in Soho, Aziraphale is quite ready to begin this next chapter of his life as a not-exactly-fallen-but-certainly-no-longer-affiliated-with-Heaven angel.

Sprawled on the sofa across from him is a no-longer-affiliated-to-Hell demon, who has become progressively more horizontal as the evening has progressed. He is currently off on one of his animated rants, waving his wineglass around haphazardly but (miraculously) managing not to spill a drop. His increasingly slurred speech is tough to make out, but the gist appears to concern the lack of a “CD player” in his restored Bentley, such an item being apparently unfamiliar to an eleven year-old who prefers something with blue teeth.

All right, so Aziraphale isn’t entirely following. He privately thinks the CD player is no great loss anyway, but he’s nodding and adding agreeable noises in the appropriate places to encourage Crowley to continue while Aziraphale considers how much he would like to be on that sofa instead of across the room in this chair.

It’s a conundrum that would have been better addressed earlier, when they arrived at the bookshop fresh from a celebratory lunch at the Ritz. Had he started the evening sitting by Crowley’s side, the progression of time – and perhaps a little of the wine – might have chiselled away at the distance between them and led events in a more amorous direction.

Old habits die hard, though, and Aziraphale ended up in his usual chair without thinking this through. He has spent most of the intervening hours considering ways he might rectify his mistake, while watching with ever more despondency as Crowley’s slump towards horizontalness sees him take up more and more of the space, until there’s no longer any room for Aziraphale to join him even if he did, somehow, pluck up the nerve.

It's morning by the time Crowley slithers out of there, grumbling about plants that mustn’t be allowed too much freedom, and Aziraphale is alone. He takes a moment before he sobers up to scold himself for his own incompetence, and then he reluctantly opens the bookshop.

The bookshop is almost but not quite the same as the one he left behind. There are some new additions that he really ought to get around to cataloguing. He pulls out one unfamiliar volume and idly flips to the first page:

“Long before you actually start dating, you dream about it. Wistfully, you see other fellows and girls out together on dates, laughing, talking, going places, having a seemingly effortless, wonderful time. Before you ever get a date, you see yourself as the gallant hero or the glamorous heroine of a romantic situation. You imagine all the right words and actions so easily, so vividly, that you can hardly wait to start dating. Yet, somewhere inside you anticipate the awkward moments when you will stand tongue-tied and clumsy before some very special person, finding that dating is anything but wonderful. And so you swing between eagerness and anxiety, impatient to try your wings at one moment, and afraid of a take-off in the next.”

Aziraphale hastily closes the book. As an avid reader he’s familiar with the unsettling feeling of seeing a thought he believed unique to himself expressed perfectly on a page by a total stranger. Yet to have selected this book at this precise moment… Aziraphale glances up and wonders for a moment about ineffability.

He turns the book over to look at the cover. The Art of Dating, says the title, by Evelyn Millis Duvall, PhD.

“Well, Dr Duvall,” Aziraphale mutters to himself. “Let’s see if you can solve this pickle…”

Moments later, cocoa in hand, Aziraphale is settled into his most comfortable reading chair, The Art of Dating on his knee, and a notepad resting on the table beside him.

The book is overly concerned with gender roles and contains some advice (such as the seeking of parental approval) that Aziraphale dismisses as somewhere between impractical and inadvisable. Nonetheless, some hours later, he emerges with a set of scribbled bullet points and a Plan.

 

*

 

  • Asking for a date
    • Movie dates require one (1) week’s notice
    • Ask via telephone: refer to written notes
    • Start by discussing something unrelated
    • Be specific: state invitation in full, including location, hour, duration

 

“This is Anthony Crowley. You know what to do, do it with style.

The beep sounds, and Aziraphale hesitates for a moment. Too long, perhaps; he’s not prepared for this situation.

“Ah – machine – yes, well,” he blusters. “I was just calling to discuss the – ah – the bookshop. I have conducted a thorough survey of the inventory, you see. Quite a few additions, as it happens. I wondered how your car –”

“Hi Aziraphale,” Crowley’s voice cuts in.

“Oh, there you are – ah – where was I? Right. Well. Would you care to accompany me to a cinematic show?”

Oops. He was supposed to be starting with something unrelated, but he’s gone and got all flustered. Oh well, best to go with it. He rustles a newspaper he procured from a shouty man outside Oxford Circus station and finds the listings for the local picturehouse. “The Odeon on Leicester Square is showing The Lion King.” He doesn’t know what that is, but it sounds sufficiently grand. “It commences on Saturday at 19:15, and it has a running time of one hour and fifty-eight minutes.”

There is a pause on the other end of the line while Crowley absorbs the barrage of information. Aziraphale twirls the telephone cord in his fingers, waiting.

“On Saturday?”

“Yes, my dear. Are you available?”

 “This weekend?”

Aziraphale stares at his notes. He was so certain he was giving all of the relevant information and isn’t sure which part was unclear. “Yes,” he confirms. “Saturday. Shall I pick you up at seven?”

“Your place is on the way to Leicester Square from here,” Crowley points out reasonably. “I’ll swing by yours.”

Oh, but that isn’t what the book suggests at all, but Aziraphale can’t think of a reason to refuse, so he agrees, “Very well, then. I shall expect you at seven o’clock on Saturday.”

“Right.”

“Jolly good! Good night, my dear.”

“Night.”

There’s a note of uncertainty or confusion in Crowley’s voice that Aziraphale can’t decipher, but he has his date, so he chalks this round up as a win.

 

*

 

  • Going to the Movies
    • Help him out of his jacket and arrange it comfortably on the back of his seat
    • Then remove my coat and place it under seat or on lap
    • No talking during the film (as if I would!!)
    • It is socially acceptable to place your arm over the back of his seat (!)
    • Afterwards, invite him to stop at a soda fountain

 

“What made you want to see this?” Crowley asks as they stroll across Leicester Square. “Doesn’t seem your…thing.”

“I am trying new things,” Aziraphale says primly, because that’s better than it was the first listing in the newspaper. “Do you know what it’s about?”

Crowley’s mouth does that strange twitchy thing it does when he thinks Aziraphale doesn’t know he’s being laughed at. “Oh, you’ll like it,” Crowley says breezily. “It’s an adaptation of Hamlet.”

“Oh, how splendid,” Aziraphale says.

Crowley is struggling to hold back his smile, which Aziraphale takes as a very good sign indeed.

Inside, Aziraphale cannot choose between sweet and salty popcorn, so he procures both, before they are led into a large auditorium filled with seats covered in red velvet. The seats are sparsely occupied, so they have walked halfway down the aisle before Aziraphale registers that most of the patrons are families with young children. It is so nice to see that young people still derive enjoyment from Shakespeare!

Things begin to go wrong when they reach their seats and he tries to assist Crowley with removing his jacket. Aziraphale’s arms are full of popcorn and before he can help, Crowley flops down into the seat, still wearing his jacket, and looks up at Aziraphale expectantly.

Aziraphale manoeuvres himself awkwardly into his seat. He’s still wearing his coat, but, well the floor doesn’t look terribly clean and his lap is full of popcorn, so perhaps that’s for the best.

It’s been a while since Aziraphale saw Hamlet, but he’s fairly sure this adaptation has taken some liberties with the source material. He’s barely focusing on the film, though, preoccupied as he is with the next item on his list: casually resting his arm on the back of Crowley’s seat.

It’s not clear how he’s supposed to accomplish this. They’re so close together that their shoulders are almost touching, so his first attempt results in an elbow to Crowley’s face.

For his second attempt, he carefully manoeuvres his arm in between them and feigns needing to adjust the collar of his coat before stretching his arm out behind Crowley’s head. The seat backs are awfully high, though, and this isn’t a comfortable position. He manages to hold it for less than a minute before he retreats.

Next time, he reasons, they can watch a film on a sofa, perhaps at Crowley’s flat.

“I don’t remember there being so much singing,” he says as they leave the cinema.

“The animated one was better,” says Crowley, “but this is still less gloomy than the original.”

Aziraphale didn’t think much of it at all, but this is supposed to be a date and he wants it to go smoothly, so he grasps for what he’s supposed to say next: “Do you know of a soda fountain in the vicinity?”

Crowley favours him with a look that makes him wonder if he’s manifested a second head. “A soda fountain?”

“Yes. Where might one find such a thing?”

“America, circa 1955?” Crowley suggests.

Aziraphale just glares at him, the glare that he knows will be read as come up with a better answer.

“Anything you want, angel,” Crowley sighs, and leads him to a 1950s themed American diner in Soho.

Aziraphale is quite satisfied with that: their menu contains many baked and fried goods, and he doesn’t really know what a soda fountain is, anyway.

All in all, it is quite a successful date.

 

*

 

“Spectator sports are fun and usually not too expensive!”

 

It takes a frivolous miracle for Aziraphale to procure the Wimbledon tickets. They have excellent seats on Centre Court and the strawberries and cream are quite delicious.

The drizzle is unfortunate, though. Play is called off three times and it’s nearing evening before the game finally gets underway. Aziraphale isn’t complaining; he and Crowley remain miraculously dry and the whole point is to spend time with him, so the more it’s prolonged the better, as far as he’s concerned.

It’s when play does get underway that the problems start. The crowd gets agitated and even outraged when a linesperson calls a ball out; Crowley enjoys this far too much, and the next time it happens, Aziraphale is certain the line on the grass moves.

Spectator sports, he concludes, are not one of their shared interests.

 

*

 

“School events can be especially rewarding date experiences.”

 

“Why are we here?” Crowley asks as they walk through the primary school summer fair.

“It’s fun!” Aziraphale insists.

Crowley gives him a sceptical look, but then he spots the teacup ride and that forestalls further questions for a while.

Aziraphale can only manage one turn on the ride before he feels distinctly queasy, but then he discovers he can stand at the side with an ice cream and watch Crowley go round again (hands in the air, crying “Wheeeee!” as the ride gets up to speed) and that’s sort of fun.

Standing here, other people assume he has a child on the ride, and Aziraphale finds it prudent not to correct them. Then they start telling him about the problems their children are having, which presents opportunities to Do Good (not his job any more, strictly, but it’s nice to have a hobby).

By the time Crowley eventually swaggers off the ride, swaying even more than usual, Aziraphale has consumed three ice creams, cured one persistent cough and three cases of asthma, and made numerous suggestions of age-appropriate material to encourage children to read (all additions that Adam made to his bookshop, though he neglects to mention this so as not to encourage purchasing).

“That was fun!” Crowley declares and promptly falls over. Aziraphale instinctively reaches out a hand to help him up, and afterwards it tingles from the touch. He probably shouldn’t call that hand-holding, but he will anyway because that makes it sound like progress.

Once he has recovered his balance, Crowley makes a beeline for the hook-a-duck game, where he wins a novelty oversized plush duck. He beams as he hands it over to Aziraphale, who carries it all the way back to the bookshop and installs it proudly in his window display.

 

*

 

“Church programs…”

 

No, perhaps not.

 

*

 

“Many teenagers who complain that ‘there's nothing to do on dates’ overlook their own homes. There are countless ways of turning your home into a happy dating place for yourself and your friends.”

 

It’s silly to be nervous. He’s been to Crowley’s flat before, even spent the night here after the world didn’t end.

He’s never shown up with flowers and chocolates before, but Crowley’s done this for him plenty of times, so. No need to be nervous.

When Crowley opens the door, Aziraphale produces the roses with a flourish. Crowley looks taken aback. “Uh, thanks,” he says. “They’re… nice.”

“And spiky,” Aziraphale points out eagerly. “They reminded me of you.”

Crowley gives him a look he’s seen countless times over the centuries: it says you’re an idiot, but also you’re my favourite idiot, so that’s all right then.

They spend the evening drinking wine and talking about the world they saved – well, were present for the saving of – and if Aziraphale ends up eating all the chocolates Crowley doesn’t seem to mind.

This whole courtship thing is easy, Aziraphale thinks to himself as he half-listens to Crowley’s enthusiastic rant about some television show. Aziraphale had been a little worried; six thousand years is a long time to repeatedly spurn someone’s advances. Now that they’re free it’s time to put all of that behind them and finally get on with it.

Crowley is talking about something called Love Island, which sounds like a jolly pleasant place, but is apparently something Hell gave him a commendation for before all the Armageddon shenanigans so is probably not as nice as it sounds.

The next chocolate he pops in his mouth turns out to be a coffee, but he decides he would prefer a praline right now and it obliges. He hums happily.

“So that’s a yes, then?”

Aziraphale has no idea what he’s agreeing to, but he says, “Yes, of course, my dear,” and Crowley seems happy with that answer.

Aziraphale regrets not listening more carefully when Crowley turns on the television to a ghastly show in which humans behave terribly towards one another. Crowley cackles through it, and Aziraphale watches uncomfortably until he can think of an excuse to leave.

 

*

 

“No love is so painful as the aching love of frustration.”

 

It’s been months now, and Aziraphale has to confess that this is not going according to plan at all.

He’s been doing all of the things that all the literature he has consumed over the centuries has taught him he should do, and his relationship with Crowley is still stuck exactly as it was. Which is nice, certainly, but not as good as it could be. They ought to be holding hands by now. Possibly even kissing.

The book has quite a lot to say on the subject of kissing, but is frustratingly vague about when and how it should happen.

“Even though the first date is usually too soon for a goodnight kiss, there are important exceptions. If a couple have known each other for a long time before they date, they may feel that a kiss is appropriate.”

If this exception applies to anyone, surely it does to them, who have known each other since the Beginning! No such luck, though, and now so many dates have passed that Aziraphale thinks he has somehow drifted behind. He flips through his notes.

“Kissing should be postponed by a dating pair until they're fond enough of each other for the kiss to have special meaning.”

What is that supposed to mean? He is fond of Crowley, certainly; in fact, he can hardly imagine being more so. The idea of further postponing the kissing doesn’t sound very appealing at all. He’s not sure what special meaning it would carry, though. It just sounds nice. The humans are awfully fond of it, certainly.

“It's not just a matter of how long the two persons have gone together, but rather of what they have to express which can only be communicated through kissing.”

Well, this is no help at all. What is one supposed to communicate through kissing? The book is maddeningly elusive on this point.

As to how he’s supposed to know whether Crowley wants to be kissed, the book makes this sound like a minefield. Aziraphale is supposed to watch for signals; Crowley might lean towards him and look expectant. In fact, Crowley does that often, but the expectation is usually wine. And the book is quick to point out this may not mean anything at all, and Aziraphale might expect a slap if he were to interpret it as such. On the other hand, Crowley might want to be kissed but be reluctant to indicate his willingness due to shyness, according to the book, although Aziraphale considers this unlikely; Crowley has never been shy.

It might seem the obvious way through this tangle of confusing signals would be to ask, but, counter-intuitively, the book actually warns against this course of action, suggesting it would be tantamount to asking to be refused.

What is an angel hopelessly in love with a demon to do?

 

*

“Showing a boy you like him without expressing affection physically can be done in innumerable ways. You might express interest in what he is doing and planning; really listen to what he tells you; be sympathetic when he is in trouble; act pleased at his successes.”

 

“Crowley!” Aziraphale does a little spin, so delighted is he not have got Crowley’s machine.

“Aziraphale.”

“I, uh…” Aziraphale had this all planned out, he did, but now he’s tangled in the phone cord and has quite lost the train of his thoughts.

“Is something wrong?” Crowley prompts him.

“Just, oh –” a frivolous miracle later, and Aziraphale is free of the tangle, but now he can’t find his notes.

“Do you need me to come over?” There’s an edge of concern to Crowley’s voice, which is not at all how he was supposed to be sounding.

“Oh no, not at all, my dear!” Aziraphale chuckles, aiming for breezy but ending up somewhere south of awkward. “I was just wondering what you might be planning.”

“Planning?”

“For the weekend,” Aziraphale adds, belatedly realising that sounded rather ominous. Neither of them are in the business of planning deeds any more.

There’s a hesitation on the other end before Crowley asks, “What’s happening this weekend?”

“That’s what I’m asking,” says Aziraphale, a little tetchily now. Crowley can be so uncooperative sometimes.

“Uh, well, I sort of have a thing on Saturday…” Crowley trails off, then hastily adds, “It’s not important, though, y’know, if you need… anything?”

“Oh no, not at all!” Aziraphale rests against the edge of his desk and twirls the phone cord in one hand. “Tell me about this thing!”

“Oh, you wouldn’t be interested…”

“Try me.”

“Just a car thing…”

Ten minutes later, Aziraphale is fairly confident that he has listened and expressed interest but he’s still not sure what a Salon Privé is in this context or how one can competitively own a car. Crowley is excited about it, though.

Excited enough to invite Aziraphale along. So perhaps the book knows what it’s talking about after all.

 

*

 

Dr Duvall has a lot to say on the subject of automobiles, much of it quite shocking. The descriptions of what might ensue were they to engage in the heady practice of “parking” leave Aziraphale quite flustered.

“It's the likelihood of petting that gives parking such a bad name. So many young people use the freedom of the parked automobile for unrestrained, irresponsible sexual activity that anyone who parks is suspect.”

He’s been in Crowley’s Bentley plenty of times, though, and nothing untoward has ever happened. No more untoward than crashing into a cycling witch, anyway.

Still, an angel can hope.

Alas, what ensues is much more familiar; namely, that he spends most of the journey clinging on tightly and fearing for his corporation while listening to La Traviata with vocals by Mr F. Mercury.

“You managed to get a new CD player, then?” Aziraphale observes dryly.

Crowley shrugs. “The Bluetooth got boring. Tried to play Handel and it was, well, Handel. Even after two weeks.”

“How dull,” says Aziraphale, who has no idea what a blue tooth is but privately approves of its taste in music.

It’s otherwise a pleasant drive up to Oxford; there are no walls of flame on the M25 and when they park on the south lawn of Blenheim Palace no one shoots them with pellets of paint. All in all, one of their more successful journeys, so Aziraphale has no right feeling disappointed.

They’re at Blenheim Palace, too, which is lovely. Aziraphale is quite looking forward to enjoying the art and the architecture, but when he starts to walk towards the building, he realises that he is alone. When he turns around, he sees Crowley prowling around the Bentley, examining it carefully and occasionally miracling away an imagined blemish.

“Crowley…?” Aziraphale ventures. “Are you coming inside?”

“Inside?” Crowley screws up his face. “No, angel – we’re here!” He throws his arms out in a gesture that encompasses the whole south lawn, which, Aziraphale realises only then, is no ordinary car park. It is covered in vintage cars, many of which look very similar to Crowley’s. Although it is early, people are already milling in between the cars.

“We’re just here to… park on the grass with the other cars?” Aziraphale ventures.

“It’s the world’s largest gathering of Bentleys,” Crowley says excitedly, as though that explains anything.

“So it is,” says Aziraphale with an indulgent smile.

It’s then that he notices a flag nearby, proclaiming that this is the one hundredth anniversary of Bentley. Humans, Aziraphale knows from millennia of research, are fond of celebrating the passage of arbitrary intervals of time. Usually, they do so with the aid of cake, so Aziraphale thoroughly approves of the practice.

While Crowley fawns over his car, Aziraphale wanders off in search of cake. He finds an area filled with food vendors, but they’re still setting up, so he spends a little time ambling between the cars as he waits for them to open.

They all look the same to Aziraphale, who is not an expert in automobiles, in much the same way that he suspects Crowley walks into the bookshop and sees only books. Yet, without knowing anything of the various automobiles’ qualities, not one of them gives him the feeling of general, all-round loveliness that Crowley’s Bentley does. Hence, he feels quite confident privately declaring that Crowley’s is the far superior Bentley in this gathering.

When he returns to said superior Bentley (which, he now realises with a hint of pride, occupies a prime location directly opposite the grandeur of the palace), it is with a Mr Whippy and a red ice lolly. Crowley almost jumps on him in an attempt to keep the sticky treats away from his precious car, but he does accept the proffered snack and stands pleasingly close to Aziraphale – at a safe distance from the car – while they indulge.

“I have conducted a survey of the competition,” Aziraphale declares, “and yours is most definitely the superior vehicle on display.”

“That wanker over there disagrees,” Crowley mutters, nodding in the direction of a car in front of the palace which is – to Aziraphale’s untrained eye – identical to his own. “Says mine can’t be a 1926 original because it has a roof. As if I don’t know when I bought her!”

Aziraphale shakes his head. “What idiot would want a car with no roof? In England?”

“That’s my point!” Crowley gestures emphatically with his ice lolly.

The world's largest gathering of Bentleys at Blenheim Palace Crowley's Bentley, south lawn of Blenheim Palace A far inferior 1934 3 1/2 litre

 

*

It turns out that Expressing an Interest in Crowley’s interests is quite straightforward and primarily involves getting Crowley started on one of his rants and then nodding and expressing outrage in the right places as words about engine capacities and suspension systems fly over his head.

He is able to procure more snacks as the day wears on, and by the afternoon he has sampled pies, cakes, and something called a cronut (of which he generally approves, but determines that further investigations may be required). All in all, it’s a most satisfactory date, with one exception: they have been parked on this lawn the entire day and there has not been one single shenanigan of the sort that Dr Duvall would disapprove. Not one.

Still, the sun is shining, and he is with Crowley, who keeps pacing nervously and polishing imaginary dirt from his car, but is otherwise in good spirits. He should not be too despondent.

The afternoon culminates in Crowley being presented with award by an important-looking man in a suit. If Aziraphale were still in the business of being an angel officially, as it were, he might have to protest that it’s not entirely fair to compare this car – held together by miracles and imagination and entirely reconstituted by the Antichrist – to those maintained by mortals. But he’s supposed to be acting pleased at Crowley’s successes. And when he sees just how delighted Crowley is, there’s no acting required.

A photographer calls out to Crowley for a picture, and before Aziraphale knows what is happening, Crowley’s arm is around his waist and he’s being pulled into the photograph with a grinning demon. Aziraphale is so taken by surprise and so thrilled by the closeness and waves of joy rolling off Crowley that he momentarily glows. In that moment, a pulse of celestial energy flares out into the crowd around them. Later that evening, everyone who was at Blenheim Palace that day will return home to find that the meeting they were dreading has been cancelled, or the job application they were waiting to hear on was successful.

On the drive home, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata becomes We Are the Champions, and Aziraphale hums along.

There is none of the petting that the book warned him about, but Aziraphale can confidently call this day a successful date nonetheless.

 

*

 

“When a boy and girl date only each other to the exclusion of anyone else, they are said to be ‘going steady.’ This is something new in dating practice.”

 

Aziraphale is pretty sure that Crowley is his steady. At least, neither of them sees anyone else with any regularity. He’s rather proud of himself for having adopted such a new dating practice; perhaps he is becoming modern after all!

There still hasn’t been any petting, but Aziraphale has come to accept that. There is pleasure to be found in merely spending time with the only other being in the Universe who can understand what it is to have lived on Earth for six thousand years.

He’s in his chair again, because old habits die hard, and Crowley is sprawled out over the sofa, talking animatedly about a wildlife documentary he saw on an eye-player (whatever that is).

“And the dolphins, right, they have medicine,” he says, gesticulating with his wine glass in a way that would have resulted in a wine-soaked wall, if he were human. He’s not, fortunately, so the wine stays in the glass ready for Crowley to take a long gulp, which allows Aziraphale to interject.

“Medicine?”

It’s not that he’s that interested in dolphins, really, but he does enjoy Crowley’s animated rants. Crowley has long since discarded his sunglasses, and his eyes go almost entirely yellow when he’s really focussed; it’s mesmerising, and Aziraphale would gladly listen to a long discussion of the transmission systems of early 20th century luxury cars if it meant he got to see Crowley like this.

Which he has. Several times, in fact. But today, it’s dolphins.

Crowley swallows the last of his wine and continues, “It’s in the coral, right – it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-… bad stuff – and the dolphins rub themselves against the coral…”

For some reason, he deems it necessary to demonstrate by rubbing his hip against the back of the sofa. Aziraphale watches with what he hopes is scholarly interest.

“Told you they had big brains!” Crowley concludes triumphantly, as though this were a fact Aziraphale has disputed somewhere along the way.

“Indeed they do,” Aziraphale agrees, reluctantly tearing his gaze away from Crowley’s hips and sternly forcing his thoughts back on track. “I would like to hear more about this documentary… more wine?”

Crowley looks forlornly at the empty bottle. “Yeah. I’ll get it.” He leaps up from the sofa in one somehow-fluid movement and disappears into the back.

The brief pause allows Aziraphale to catch his breath and force his racing heart back to something resembling a normal rhythm (he doesn’t need it anyway; he can do without it giving him away like this).

He could, if he were feeling brave, take this opportunity to move to the sofa, so that Crowley has to sit beside him… He’s edging in that direction when a flash of light catches his eye. It’s Crowley’s phone, sitting on the table beside the empty wine glass, lighting up with a notification.

He’s not sure what makes him look. Curiosity, perhaps, about whom Crowley might be communicating with besides him. It’s just a cursory glance at first, but the words jump out at him: ‘Dude. Just tell him. Right now.’

Before he has time to think about it, he’s picked the phone up. It unlocks at a touch because it doesn’t occur to him that it wouldn’t. He taps on the notification, and it opens something called ‘Reddit.’

r/relationships Posted by u/inlovewithmycar 4 hours ago  I [6023M] have been in love with my best friend [6023M] since forever. How do I tell him?  Yeah, so, what the title says, pretty much. Known him since the Beginning. We used to work for rival companies so we were sort of official enemies? But used to help each other out on projects and stuff. We're both retired now and we spend a lot of time together. Can't quite get up the nerve to tell him that I'd like to be more than friends, though. He kind of has a history of telling me I go too fast for him.  I've tried making it obvious. I'm around him all the time, I go along with anything he wants to do. Even got him over to Netflix and chill, but we just watched Netflix and chilled.  One time while we were still working for the Firms I referred to our relationship as fraternising and he didn't speak to be for over a century. So. Bit worried that if I tell him I'm secretly in love with him I'll be watching Netflix alone for the next hundred years.  tl;dr: Like the title says. Been in love with best friend since forever. Terrified if I tell him he'll never speak to me again. Help.  45 comments

 

Aziraphale reads it four times, trying to convince himself he’s imagining things, but there’s no mistaking what this is. He’s an angel, not a fool.

Underneath, it appears several people have weighed in with their own thoughts on the matter.

rrelationshipsaddict 4 hours ago LOL at the typo in the ages... I'm guessing you meant you're both 23?  aragornsstubble 1 hour ago No way, read it again - he said they're both retired, so I'd go with 60? Or 62 or 63? Whatever, you're a grown ass man. Tell your BFF you're in love with him already, life is short.  youknownothingjonsnow 2 minutes ago Exactly! You can't not know. Be prepared for him to be a bit shocked, though. All you can do is make it super clear there's no pressure and you'll still be friends if he says no (assuming that's true), but yeah, you have to say something.  inlovewithmycar just now Crap I'm at his place now and I keep trying to but think I'll just have one more glass of wine first and now we're three bottles in and I can't stop talking about dolphins send help

 

“Uh…angel?”

Aziraphale drops the device as though it’s burned him. He’s about to grasp for a futile excuse for what he was doing with Crowley’s mobile telephone, when he realises Crowley isn’t even looking at him. He’s standing in the doorway, a bottle of wine tucked under his arm, holding the book: The Art of Dating, by Evelyn Millis Duvall, PhD.

“Oh,” Aziraphale jumps to his feet and self-consciously tugs on his waistcoat. “Just doing a little tidying, you know…”

Crowley pulls a loose piece of notepaper from between the pages. “Going to the movies,” he reads. He silently skims the page, his eyebrow climbing, until… “Soda fountain?”

Aziraphale’s heart is surely punishing him for the earlier admonishment, because it now stubbornly refuses to beat at all. And that shouldn’t affect him, but he feels dizzy and as though he definitely needs to not be standing right now. He manages to half-sit, half-collapse onto the edge of his chair. As his head drops into his hands, he catches sight of Crowley’s mobile telephone on the floor. He takes a deep breath and meets Crowley’s eyes.

“Should I perhaps have consulted the good people of Reddit instead?” Aziraphale asks. He’s aiming for a cool, icy tone, but it comes out a little feeble even to his own ears.

At first Crowley looks confused, but then his eyes flicker down to the phone on the floor and Aziraphale can see him reach the horrified realisation of what has just happened.

For a moment they stare at each other, perched on a knife edge. Aziraphale can feel the impulse to deny and deflect. He could write this off, come up with a story that neither of them believes, change the subject… but isn’t this just what they’ve been doing for six thousand years?

It takes more courage than he had to summon to face Hell itself, but Aziraphale manages a wry smile and says, “I suppose it’s rather fitting that we each had to turn to humans for advice.”

He can see the tension drain out of Crowley and a smile creep across his lips. “Yeah, I s’pose.”

Then it’s awkward again, because it’s all very splendid to have acknowledged the thing, but now there’s the part where they have to decide what to do next and the book was not at all instructive on this situation.

Crowley sighs. “I found the wine.” He holds up the bottle.

Aziraphale nods eagerly, and Crowley takes his seat on the sofa, pausing to pick up his phone from the floor and glancing ruefully at the new notifications.

Then Aziraphale does his second brave thing in as many minutes, and moves from his chair to sit beside Crowley on the sofa. Crowley pretends not to notice anything odd about this, but Aziraphale sees him fumble slightly over pouring the wine.

Crowley hands him a glass, and Aziraphale raises it. “To human wisdom.”

Crowley gives a rueful smile. “To humans,” he agrees.

Aziraphale downs his wine far too quickly and sets his empty glass back on the table, but then immediately regrets it because it leaves him with nothing to do with his hands. He gets flustered and blurts out, without thinking, “I would like to try petting.”

He’s not sure exactly what response he expected to that, but it’s not Crowley choking on his wine and doubling over in laughter.

“Well,” Aziraphale huffs, “a simple no would –”

“No,” Crowley interrupts. He sets his glass down and visibly forces himself to stop laughing. “I mean, not no – the opposite of no – just… please don’t call it that.”

“What would you prefer to call it?”

He doesn’t find out what the preferred terminology is, because Crowley positively launches himself at him, and Aziraphale finds himself with a lap full of very squirmy demon. At first, he’s not sure what to do with his hands, but they find their way up to the back of Crowley’s head, which he holds in place while he leans in for his very first kiss.

Dr Duvall was correct about one thing, after all: this is, indeed, a most satisfactory form of communication. It’s certainly easier than talking. It’s astonishing, really, that with something as simple as a press of lips he can tell Crowley that he loves him – has loved him longer than he’s even been aware of doing so, really.

When Crowley finally pulls away, there’s a tingling feeling left behind, which shivers delightfully down Aziraphale’s spine.

“Oh,” is all he can manage to say.

“Ngk,” Crowley agrees. Then he looks uncertain. “Not too fast?”

“Good heavens, no,” Aziraphale chuckles. “I believe the third or fourth date is customary. We are quite behind schedule.”

“Best catch up, then.” Crowley leans in once more, and Aziraphale is quite content to indulge him. He catalogues a number of new and exciting tingly sensations, and discovers that tickling the back of Crowley’s neck makes him wriggle most delightfully.

After a while, though, a worry begins to nag at the back of his mind, and he reluctantly pulls back. Crowley is straddling his lap and looking quite rumpled. His eyes are an intense gold all the way to the corners, and his lips have been beautifully reddened by their activities. The temptation to keep going is immense.

“Something wrong?” Crowley prompts when Aziraphale doesn’t say anything.

“Oh, not at all…” Aziraphale slides his hands around Crowley’s waist, holding him in place. “Only… well, I’m concerned about your telephone friends, you see.”

Crowley’s brow creases in confusion as he mouths the words ‘telephone friends.’ He follows Aziraphale’s gaze towards his phone, now replaced on the table, and then understanding dawns on his face. “Oh, Reddit?”

“Yes. Won’t they be concerned about you? Perhaps you should let them know that you no longer require their assistance?”

Crowley makes a face. “I can give them an update later.”

“Perhaps I could do it?”

“You want to update my Reddit post?” Crowley says in flat disbelief.

Aziraphale beams. “May I?”

Just as Aziraphale hoped, Crowley is just curious enough to allow him to do it. He leans back, picks up his mobile telephone and does a bit of typing, then hands it over to Aziraphale.

Crowley has added the word ‘UPDATE:’ underneath his previous text. Next to it, a cursor blinks in invitation.

Crowley begins to explain, “To type, you just –”

“Yes, thank you,” Aziraphale interrupts. “I am not a complete philistine. I am the only angel ever to have owned a computer, you know.”

He’s not looking at Crowley, too focused on his task, but he knows that Crowley’s gaze is drifting towards his hulking brick of a computer and that he’s thinking something along the lines of if you call that a computer. On some days, Aziraphale would take the bait. Today, this is more important.

He types slowly; the keyboard on this tiny screen is quite difficult for his perfectly ordinary-sized fingers. He can feel Crowley wriggling with impatience in his lap.

Finally, he hands the device back to Crowley with a triumphant smile.

UPDATE: This is the "friend" writing. It appears my partner was under the false impression that I was unaware of his affections. He seems to believe he is capable of subtlety, you see. We have in fact been in a very happy and loving relationship for some time, of which he was apparently unaware. I am happy to say matters have now been clarified. Reader, I kissed him.

 

Crowley smiles as he reads it, but then turns a look of indignation on him. “I think you’ll find I kissed you,” he insists.

“A kiss was had,” says Aziraphale.

And to make sure Crowley can’t argue any further, he decides it’s time they had another.

 

*

 

“When two people love each other, each is a better person for the expression of their mutual feeling.”