Crowley tipped the plastic bag full of water into the bowl and watched with some satisfaction as the goldfish slid out. It made a tiny plunck as it hit the water, righted itself, and came face to face with another fish, known as The Great White Bastard, Jaws of Steaming Hot Death, Tour Guide of the River Styx, Gilled Terror, and Your Ass Between My Teeth.
He was also known as Crowley's newly acquired pet.
Before the past week Crowley had never given much thought to fish. Oh, he had thought of them as food, of course, and as...well, food. Except for one notable occasion as a rather nasty projectile. And when a few had fallen on his head during Almostaggeden, as he had come to call it, during the mass downpour of fish that took place - like being slapped about the head by an old seal, it was, having a fish land on you from that height. The place had been covered in fish. And that was as far as they had entered into his life thus far.
That was because he didn't know there was such a thing as a fighting fish.
Crowley had purchased the white and pink creature on a whim, sensing a deadly pissed-off little bugger. He'd put it into a bowl with the bug-eyed goldfish he'd bought because it looked like Aziraphale, innocent and well-read. It was a boring, good-natured, bookish creature he figured the angel could give a boring, good-natured, bookish home. When he returned to the bowl after a good half-hour of floral intimidation, Aziraphale's fish had been reduced to a single floating bug-eye and some rather interesting entrails. Crowley was suprised and delighted that he, seemingly by chance, had acquired an aquatic psychopath.
He looked up the breed of fish, bettas. Turned out they fought. That they liked to fight. And Crowley, in turn, had developed a new hobby, for each replacement fish he bought for Aziraphale and meant to put in a separate bowl inexplicably ended up sacrificed for the demon's entertainment.
He watched with giddy anticipation as The Great White Bastard, Jaws of Steaming Death, Tour Guide of the River Styx, Gilled Terror, and Your Ass Between My Teeth sized up his quite alarmed, bobbling opponent of the day. In all of the six days Crowley had owned him he hadn't yet lost a match. This fish was a champion in the way not even his plants were, for he didn't even require fear to excel. He was just a complete lunatic.
Crowley sat on the floor between the coffee table and the white leather couch, staring at the fishbowl. The betta was poking about the rocks, ignoring the goldfish. It was only a matter of time. He manifested himself a nice slice of german chocolate cake and waited for things to happen.
"The smart money's on Harlow," he muttered absently.
He reached over to his phone and buzzed Aziraphale in before the angel, three floors down, had extended his finger to press the doorbell. The doorbell, as though Crowley might be unaware of his presence, as though he couldn't sense the angel coming for miles.
And he said so. "You and the bloody doorbell," is what he said, to be exact, when Aziraphale poked into the apartment, politely removing his hat. "Always with the doorbell, you. Cake?"
"What kind of cake?"
Aziraphale blinked and gave the tiniest indication of an amused smile.
"That wasn't clever at all, was it?"
"They can't all be winners," the angel admitted.
"Shut up, you smug bastard. Cake." Crowley manifested another slice and pushed it across the table at him. "Come here and watch this."
"What's this? Fish?" Aziraphale asked, sitting on the couch, which creaked and sighed orgasmically in the way only an very expensive leather couch can. "What drove you to fish?"
"Shh-shh," he said. "Watch." The Great White Bastard, Jaws of Steaming Hot Death, Tour Guide of the River Styx, Gilled Terror, and Your Ass Between My Teeth floated, completely still, next to the little plastic argonaut stepping out of the little plastic sunken ship, next to the assorted Homies, and the figurines of Slimer and Egon from a "Ghostbusters" Happy Meal which had lived in the pencil drawer of Crowley's desk for eighteen years.
The goldfish bobbled about the surface, swimming back and forth, poking about excitedly; the betta was apparently asleep.
"They're lovely," Aziraphale said carefully. "How long have you been...watching them?" He asked in a tone that questioned Crowley's health.
"Dammit! What's wrong with the bloody bugger?" Crowley snapped, slapping the side of the bowl. "Kill! Kill! Kill!"
"The white one's a fighting fish. From Japan. He usually beats your fish silly. Great fun."
Crowley blinked, realizing his slip but trying not to let it show. "Other fish."
"You said my fish."
"Well, they start out as your fish. I mean, they always intend to be your fish, you know, they look at me from the tanks in the store and say Oi, look at us, we belong to Aziraphale! Take us to him! But they always end up dead before you get here, so they never have a chance to be your fish. You know, cycle of life, and all that."
"So they were my fish in spirit. Purchased for me?"
"And fed to your fish?"
"Not fed!" Crowley thought fast. "Put to the test."
"Ah," Aziraphale said. "I see."
"I can't very well give my friend an unworthy fish, can I?" Crowley wailed. "Any pet of yours, he has to be a tough bastard. He has to put up with a bit of the old rough and tumble to live in such a quaint little bookstore."
Aziraphale stared at him for a silent moment. "Well...it's the thought that counts, I suppose..."
"I owe you six fish," Crowley muttered bitterly. The demon summoned a very expensive bottle of brandy and a couple of snifters. "We'll toast to it."
Aziraphale swished the brandy in the snifter as was proper practice. Crowley downed his in one gulp and slammed the snifter down on the table. The Great White Bastard, Jaws of Steaming Hot Death, ecetera, didn't even move.
"Is he dead?" Aziraphale asked.
"No, he'd float. He's just a lazy wanker." What would be a proper discipline? Perhaps a few drops of Tabasco in the water? He looked up at Aziraphale, who was sniffing the brandy like some sort of Regency dandy. "What brings you here, angel?"
"A woman came into the store today," Aziraphale said, taking a sip of the brandy.
"Oh, bloody-" Crowley started, exasperated. "Would you just drink already? Stop with all the swishing about, you'll make the brandy sick. Honestly."
"This is how it's supposed to be done," Aziraphale replied.
"Shit or get off the pot, angel dear."
Aziraphale blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"Drink it or I'll take it."
"Brandy isn't to be gulped!" Aziraphale cried.
Crowley waved his hand and the brandy turned into a bottle of Petron. "Thatis. Eternity isn't long enough to watch you play with your liquor." He poured a shot into a shotglass that appeared a third of a second before the tequila hit the table. He held the glass out to Aziraphale. "Have."
The angel took the shot.
Crowley to raised his glass. "To stuff."
"And things," Aziraphale echoed. "Oh, and fish."
"Not so fast. I believe in order to properly salute the fish there should be six shots imbibed. One for each." He grinned.
"Keen this evening, demon?"
"Keen always. Cheers." Crowley downed the tequila, Aziraphale followed suit.
"So, what's this about a woman in your shop? Looking to buy a book? Did you subtly terrorize her until she left?" He poured another pair of shots.
"No. She wasn't interested in books. Wanted to talk."
"Well, she comes in and says, Ah, you're an angel, then."
Crowley winced. "Oh dear. I don't like those. Who know."
"Yes, it is a bit disorienting, isn't it? Working so long under a guise and one of them just spots it. Frightening, really."
Crowley was silent, thinking of the terror of exposure he'd felt when Adam Young had gazed upon him, reading his entire being easily as a street sign. It still made him shudder.
"What did you do?" Crowley asked, handing Aziraphale another shot, raising his. "Stuff."
"Fish number one."
"We did fish number one, I thought."
"No no, that was pre-fish."
"The fish were mentioned."
"Yes but not specifically toasted to. It was more an acknowledgment of the fish situation. You see-"
"Buggerall, fish number one it is," Aziraphale said.
"So the woman looks very tired, harried," Aziraphale said, wiping his mouth. "She says she's been struck by lightning just a month ago, poor dear, and she hasn't slept a wink since."
"Struck by lightning and given the second sight? Sounds like one of yours."
"One of ours? I beg to differ, it sounds much more like one of yours. It's not current thought, anyway, to administer psychic powers by way of a nasty shock and leave the poor human traumatized in the wake of excess information, sent out all bobbled into the world to do heaven knows what sort of damage."
"But your people are dead fond of that big showy Seigfried and Roy nonsense. Parting of the red sea, burning bush and all that. Dramatic buggers, the lot of you. We demons prefer a sort of silent, moldy, slow despair," Crowley said. "Subtlety, subtlety, subtlety."
The angel's jaw dropped. "Hitler? Chernyobl? Canada? Those were subtle?"
"See, but they are! There's no proof of occult intervention in any of them! We prefer to do our work in silence. You prefer to have the Mother Mary appear in a tortilla."
"We had nothing to do with that tortilla business. Pure silliness, that."
"Really? Was a startling likeness, have to admit." Crowley got to work pouring the third pair of shots. "We weren't at all responsible for Canada. Well, some aspects of Quebec I'll admit to, but other than that we were sure it was your work. Those people are just so damned pleasant."
Aziraphale's brow folded. "Yes, you see, that's why we were suspect...figured something awful must be up."
Crowley nodded. "But, as to the topic at hand...so your people fried the divine sight into this girl, and-"
"I told you, we had nothing to do with it. We're not that ostentatious!" Aziraphale cried desperately.
Crowley pointed at Aziraphale. "Flaming sword." He pointed at himself. "Persuasive garter snake."
The angel crossed his arms. "More like a tree boa, as I recall, with glowing yellow eyes and-"
"Flaming sword, Aziraphale."
The angel huffed and gave a cross look. "As I was saying, the poor dear hasn't slept for this whole month since she's been struck. Spying angels and demons and sprites and fearies left and right. Near out of her mind, she says, near out of her mind. Says she's planning on bringing herself to an end soon and asks for my absolution."
"She didn't mean it." Crowley handed Aziraphale his drink. "The ones who do don't tell anyone, they just do it."
"Not even an angel? I think they might tell an angel, were they to see one."
Crowley gave it a thought. "Point made," he said, raising his glass. "Stuff. Fish number two."
"One fish, two fish."
"Red fish, blue fish. Cheers."
Aziraphale coughed and undid the first button of his collar. "Anyhoo, I tell her heaven can't give absolution to suicides. She says, can't you be a dear and make an exception in my case, since my life has turned to...to...you know..."
"Yes, just that exactly. She says her life has turned to...that, and why should she be blamed for putting herself out?"
"She has a point."
"No she hasn't. It's a gift from God."
"After all that fuss about how you're not responsible for her ailment?"
"Her fish, Crowley, is a gift from God. And it is a mortal sin to throw it away."
"Even if you've been dealt a smelly lot like that?"
"Even if. Gives you a chance to...er... rise above, ineffable plan, such. We've had this discussion. Dear me, I do believe this is starting to kick in."
"Good. Have more."
"Trying to tempt me, old demon?"
"Oh, shut yourself and get pissed. On with the story." Crowley was pouring another pair of shots when he started to feel himself sink into the first warm effects of swiftly imbibed tequila.
He watched Aziraphale watch his hands. The angel did that sometimes, interlaced his white hands in his lap and looked at them, as though they would tell him what to say next. It was charming, really.
Aziraphale absently pushed his soft blonde hair out of his eyes and continued. "So she...where was I?"
"The woman wants to off herself."
"Did she give you a method?" Crowley handed the angel another shot.
Aziraphale cocked his head."What do you mean?"
"How did she intend to do the offing?"
The angel looked take aback. "Well that is a bit morbid, isn't it? Even for you?"
He paused. "She was going to poison herself, I believe," Aziraphale said stiffly, as though he were revealing a secret he shouldn't have.
"Oh, pfff. Pfff and pfff. And pff. Next time you see her, tell her to get herself a good shot in, right in the mouth, so it blows out her spinal cord and she'll actually die. You wouldn't believe the silly buggers who shoot themselves in the temple and just end up vegetables."
Aziraphale's jaw dropped.
"What? It would be doing her a favor. I mean, if she wants to do it, she should at least do it correctly."
"Crowley, really! You honestly expect me to tell her that?"
The demon looked at the angel for a long moment, smiled, and sighed. "No. No, I don't, Aziraphale." he raised his glass. "Fish number...number... what number?"
"Right right. Three. The third fish. Tres."
"Oi," Aziraphale said. "It's starting to taste a bit like water."
Crowley laughed. "You always say that. You said that right before you died once." The demon slapped the table. "D'you remember that? Seventeenth century, France, I think-"
Aziraphale flushed. "I remember."
"I made you drink all that whiskey and absinthe and you died like some kind of lightweight. I had dragged you into the stairwell of that whorehouse, oh, if you could have seen that way those whores fawned over you, it put me in bloody hysterics. I mean, they just thought I was drunk, because they had no idea how funny it was. Because you...you..." Crowley was laughing so hard at this point he ceased speaking.
Aziraphale closed his eyes as though he were dizzy. "Crowley..."
"...because after you passed out you kept sending me /Crowley, I think I'm dying./ And I'd send back /Ah, well, that's going to be a hell of a thing to explain, now, isn't it? An angel dying of alcohol poisoning? Good luck with that, getting a new body and all./ And you just kept sending nonsense, telling me to look after the bookshop till you got back, and I just kept saying /Dammit, Aziraphale, are you dead yet, because I'd really like to throw your body in the river and go home, this place reeks of manure./. Remember, there was that stable across the way? You remember that, right? It was a right riot."
"And the whores, the whores wailed over you like anything, because you were just so beautiful, they said. All these whores wailing about the death of what they didn't know was an angel while what they didn't know was a demon laughed beside them like a drunk goat. Brilliant. Fucking poetic."
Aziraphale closed his eyes and shook his head. "That did take some explaining. Why, er. Why. Why I was out drinking with a demon."
"They have their eye on us, don't they?" Crowley waved his finger up and down in the time- honored gesture that indicated their superiors.
"My people don't say much."
"No? Mine either."
"I think they think...I think that...they think the contact is bene... posi ...a good thing."
"I certainly do." Crowley smiled at him and poured another two shots. "I do."
"I do too, demon dear," Aziraphale took one. "This would be fish four," he said, raising the shot. He slurred a bit. "Thass a lot of fish. You owe me all these fish."
"I do!" Crowley exclaimed like an elated child.
They looked at each other for a moment and then laughed. Crowley tried to pour more shots. A great splash of tequila hit the table. "Whoops," he said. "It's on the table."
There was a few moments of silence as Crowley tried his damnedest to pour the drinks and Aziraphale lost himself in thought. The demon was dimly aware of the angel looking at him, studying him, but most of his mind was absorbed in the aim and trajectory of the liquor.
"We should just put everything on the table," the angel said finally. He slid off the couch and onto the floor between the coffee table with Crowley.
"Whadyoo mean?" The demon clinked the mouth of the bottle clumsily on the shot glass, knocking it over. "Whadyoo mean by that, angel?"
"You ssssaid table."
"And you were getting at?"
Aziraphale's look was apparently blank, but if Crowley had been sober enough to look beneath it he would have seen some wheels turning. Some sparks.
"I don't know," Aziraphale said finally.
Crowley knocked over the second shot glass and cursed. Aziraphale gently took the bottle from him and successfully landed the shots on the second try.
"Good bloody show! Is thiss the ssssame angel I left in the whorehousse to die?"
"Is is." Aziraphale laughed. "Or as you say, issss."
"Am I hisssssing?"
"You tend to. When drunk."
They were silent for a moment, looking at the couple of full shots, then taking them.
"The fifth," Crowley hissed.
"My," said Aziraphale. They drank. The angel slammed his shot on the table. "Look at the fish," he demanded.
Crowley rested his chin on the table. Nothing much was happening on the fish front. Both creatures were alive and well. Seemingly asleep.
"Think they're drunk too." Crowley stated. He hit the side of the fishbowl again. "Fight! Fight, you sssstupid bugger, or I'll throw you out. Throw out the fish with the...the fishwater."
"If they fight you'll owe me more fish," Aziraphale said pointedly.
Crowley crossed his arms on the table and rested his head on them, looking at Aziraphale between straight black bangs. "Not if your fish winsss," he replied.
"My fish has never won so far, you said."
The demon gazed at the angel and blinked slowly, like a sleepy cat. "You win sometimesss," he said quietly. "I can't deny that. You win more than you think you do."
The looked softly at one another for a moment before Aziraphale averted his eyes, a little too quickly. His gaze fell on the tequila. "Who's this rum customer?" he muttered, pushing a shot at Crowley.
"This rum cusstomer is fisssh number...er..."
"Yess. Thisss is the sixteenth fisssh. Or sssomething."
They toasted and drank.
"Rum cussstomer," Crowley said. "What the bloody hell is a rum customer?"
Aziraphale shrugged. "Buys rum."
"I AM A GOLDEN GOD!" Anthony Crowley shrieked into the streets of London
He stood on the thin railing of the balcony. It was not quite wide enough to support his feet; the demon had to rock back and forth on the soles of his snakeskin boots to balance himself. Aziraphale was concerned with this. It took him a good while to realize it, but he was. He sat up and hit his head on the underside of the coffee table.
"I AM! A GOLDEN! GOD!" Crowley shrieked again, waving a half emptied bottle of rum. After a moment he tipped some into the street below. "One for my comradesss," he said. "Pissss on thisss sssstreet."
Aziraphale managed to make it to the sliding doors. How he did this is still considered a divine mystery, but there he was. He leaned against the doorjamb, really quite unable to remain standing on his own.
Crowley turned and grinned. He had fangs.
Aziraphale said so.
"Ho. You know why?" Crowley asked. "Because I AM A GOLDEN GOD! Heh. Ssaw that in a movie, you know. Bugger ssstood on the roof and yelled I AM A-"
Someone from downstairs threw a vase at Crowley. It hit the wall of the balcony and shattered. (Crowley lived in a building where the occupants were wealthy enough to use vases for shooshing purposes. Mating cats got it all the time. Quite a posh neighborhood, really.) "IT'S THREE IN THE BLOODY MORNING, YEH GREAT NOISY FAGGOT!"
Crowley looked about dizzily, figured out that the voice had come from below, and grinned. "I'M sssSORRY, WHAT WASsss THAT?"
Aziraphale dragged himself to the balcony next to Crowley. He tossed his arms over and supported himself by his armpits. He was in direct line of sight to Crowley's boot. "Crowley," the angel said in a tone that, without added alcohol, may have registered as firm.
Crowley blinked. "Hey. Are you going to vomit? 'Causssse you ought to vomit on th' flibb'ring fuck who jussss threw a bottle at you."
Aziraphale opened his mouth. What he had intended on saying had stopped to check out his chest cavity and didn't make it out. Crowley interpreted the blank, openmouthed stare as shock. Another sharp grin. "Thass right. He threw it at you, angel. Get your flaming ssssword, it'sss time to do sssome sssmiting." The demon thought for a moment. "Asssmite 'em mysself. No one throwss thingss at my angel. D'yo HEAR THAT? NO ONE! Not at-"
"Crowley," Aziraphale said. He tugged lamely at the demon's pant leg.
"-my angel. Yess?"
"Get down from there."
"Why? Look at the lightssss." Crowley admired the view for a moment then stumbled a bit, pinwheeling his arms.
"You'll fall," Aziraphale said.
Crowley righted himself. "What? From here? Three floorsss? Thass nothing! Try a dessscent into hell. Thassa big one. Melt your face right off."
Aziraphale blinked. "You'll fall," he said again. But differently.
Crowley spun on his heel. "'Fi fall," he said, leaning back teasingly, "You'd catch me. Wouldn't you now? Very like you, to catch me."
"Crowley," the angel said, extending his hand to help him down.
"Crowley." The angel's head had lifted. His eyes burned blue.
In Crowley's mind there was, quite suddenly, a powerful image of a blazing white lion.
The demon's grin faded.
Without another word he took Aziraphale's hand and let the angel guide him down from the balcony. He stumbled and his friend steadied him, but, his friend being also unstable, they both ended up falling to the floor. Crowley hit his head on the pot of a plant he had left there for tme-out.
"Yes. Fucking thing."
"Got right in your way, didn't it?"
"The bloody hell it did." Crowley rubbed his head. He looked over at Aziraphale. He was tugging at the band that held his blonde ponytail in place. It was tangled up in there so it was quite a struggle, but finally he freed himself of it. He shook his hair out about his face and looked at Crowley.
"Lion," Crowley said softly.
"Snake," Aziraphale replied. "You'll never guess what I'm about to tell you."
Crowley gave a high hoot of a laugh. "Yeh. We should probably sober up."
There was a moment. Then another. And another.
Aziraphale, whose face had been folded in concentration, suddenly laughed. "I can't sober up. Crowley. I'm too drunk to...to..to sober -" The angel was cut off by his own laughter.
Crowley found himself bubbling with laughter as well. It was true. They were indeed too drunk to sober up. "My God," Crowley said, giggling.
"What you just say?" Aziraphale had doubled over. He pointed at Crowley. "You just say!"
"I said "my G- G-G-" Crowley fell on his side, eyes tearing.
"R-r-rum customer!" Aziraphale said, pointing at the bottle, then at Crowley, and back again. He gasped and hit the wall, which sent Crowley into another fit. The demon kicked the glass sliding door.
"Don't!' Aziraphale protested through laughter.
Crowley howled. "Why..why do you...care if I..kick the door? Sss'my door! I c-can k-kick the bloody-" He kicked the door a few more times to get his point across.
Aziraphale flipped on his back next to Crowley, tears streaming down his cheeks. "I-I don't know!"
"You can kick the door too! Kick it!" Crowley gasped.
Aziraphale kicked the door. Hard. "Fucking door!"
Crowley gasped and pointed. "You- you- you-" he raised his hand. "Gimme five!"
The angel tried, missed. Tried, missed again. Gasped. Aziraphale had run out of breath. His inhalation came as an extremely loud, wet snort.
They roared, and then there was silence, because they were both laughing too hard to produce sound, so hard they forgot to breath, so hard that the universe pounded around them. Inside them. They rolled toward one another, holding their stomachs.
Finally, after a moment that by some dimensional perceptions really had lasted an eternity, they quieted, their foreheads resting together. Thier eyes were closed but neither was asleep.
A breeze blew through. They listened.
Aziraphale opened his eyes halfway. Had Crowley's been open he would have seen that the look on the angel's face was one of deep inner stillness.
But his eyes weren't open. He was listening to the breeze. It whipped a lock of his hair onto the bridge of his nose, his eye. Aziraphale raised a careful hand and brushed it aside with the backs of his fingers. He stroked Crowley's cheek, his hair.
The tips of their noses touched.
"What're you playing at...?" Crowley barely whispered.
It wasn't so much a kiss. It was lips finding their proper places.
And as neither had to breath, it lasted quite a while.
Crowley's hand rested against the back of Aziraphale's neck. Part of him was aware of the kiss; the other was more acutely aware of misty fifth dimensional waves that radiated from the angel, lapping at the edges of Crowley's being. There were image / feelings; The white sun sparkling through a stream of water poured from a jug into the vegetable garden. The particular temperature old wine has when you've just taken it from eighty quiet years in the cellar. An unexpected current on a stifling London afternoon.
Crowley attempted to pull away from the kiss to take in an unneeded breath, to back away, to gain perspective (what was happening here, anyway?). Aziraphale pulled the demon closer, sent another thoughtform:
Cool, powdery air blown on Crowley's face from the first beat of an angel's wings.
It took Crowley a moment to realize Aziraphale was making a request.
The angel radiated forgiveness for any action the demon took, any choice he made, any response he gave to this ancient question. Aziraphale, he realized, was fearless in his offering. Which scared the living shit out of Crowley.
He was going to refuse. He was going to push Aziraphale away, laugh a little, and go in to feed the fish, or something. He was going to do anything but what he did.
Which was open himself to the angel. Just a little. Just to see.
Aziraphale flowed into Crowley, the coolest, smoothest salve into a white hot fissure.
Thier human bodies, unable to register the intensity of sensation, arched, cried out, and went limp. Thier inhabitants abandoned them. They were a hindrance.
Crowley was screaming. It was not a scream so much of fear as it was profound terror, not so much of pleasure as true, undiluted bliss. Aziraphale was upon him, around him, inside him, reaching into the tightest locked corners of his being, softly sealing shut wounds and rends along his way. Crowley had lost himself somewhere, panicking as he searched for his identity, yet finding amazing release in having lost it and having gained...Aziraphale. But the fear returned, redoubled, and Crowley shoved the angel out of his spatial dimensions.
Aziraphale complied and withdrew.
Crowley thundered back down into his body, back to the relief of solidity. It was still in shock and unable to move. He withdrew into it further, a small ball of consciousness burning inside a fortress of flesh.
Aziraphale hovered above him, registering only as a soft presence, a slight breeze, utter compassion. The angel sent him images. A soothing mother, a brave look, a reassuring laugh, a genuine apology. Bright, bright wings.
Crowley sent back spit. A child weeping over his mother's body. A screaming cat. Desperate hunger. Death by bayonet, by fire, by flaying. Rape. That, he thought, should drive the angel away.
There was a pause.
Aziraphale sent back an image of an apple.
Crowley demanded an explanation in a very loud tone of thought.
The angel sent:
/a little bit i've learned from you:
want to know something neat?/
Crawly had hissed that very phrase in Eve's ear six thousand years previous.
The apple gleamed before the demon.
Crowley was letting Aziraphale touch him in a way that was beyond intimate. It was ultra-violet, spectral black, subvocalized and supersonic.
/Atomic/, Crowley sent.
/Nuclear/, Aziraphale replied.
Though technically, it was neither.
What exactly they were doing is a bit hard to explain. You kind of had to be there. But for the sake of clarity, let's just say that Aziraphale was strolling about the streets of Crowley City, planting flowers in the lawns and kissing all the lightposts, putting bells on the doors and little notes in the iceboxes, dancing at the clubs and wiping the dust off things Crowley had long ago forgotten were pleasure colored.
Aziraphale saw some pretty gross things in there, too. Crowley squirmed when he went into the ghettos, the red-light districts, and the more touristy bits. The angel did what he was best at, what he was made to do, which was take the shame, wrap it in a warm blanket, and sing it to sleep. He saw plain as day everything maggot filled and writhing about the demon, everything shameful and disgusting, but he sent it all warmth and smiled, all the same, and wasn't afraid or disgusted by any of it. Thankfully. Even as a demon, he didn't know what he would do with such an intimate disapproval.
Which was why it was so dangerous. Aziraphale could just as easily kicked over mailboxes and burnt down neighborhoods. He was, after all, The Enemy. But instead, every movement the angel made tasted like creme brulee or felt like a back rub or sounded like a violin concerto or spoke of other lovely things that are beyond human understanding.
Crowley melted. There are some things even a demon can't resist.
Aziraphale stroked Crowley from the inside and told him stories, gave him reasons. The demon suddenly saw what made those damned snuffboxes so appealing. It's just that...they were small. And ornate. And shiny. And they opened and closed and you could hide small things in them. And during the Regency period Aziraphale had acquired quite an affinity for snuff, which Crowley didn't know. And probably wouldn't have known any other way, because the angel wouldn't have readily admitted to it.
In fact, as Crowley took a look around, there were quite a few things here that Aziraphale wouldn't admit to. Fair was fair. The angel let him in, putting himself in a foolish amount of risk. Giving a denizen of Hell such admittance to his everything was really, really asking for trouble.
But Aziraphale trusted.
And it was a jolly good thing he did, too.
Because Crowley had hidden behind his metaphorical back a metaphorical twelve gauge guilty pleasure gun, which he lowered to Aziraphale's metaphorical head, and fired.
Two could play at this game. Crowley let Aziraphale experience the slow, methodical seduction of a catholic schoolgirl, drowned him in high quality drugs of assorted varieties, had weeks and weeks of amazing sex, the more forbidden the better, got into a few barfights (Crowley knew very few pleasures greater than the feeling of delivering a solid punch to someone who had been pissing him off, Aziraphale should damn well know what it felt like). He topped it off with the four acute pleasures: participating in full-scale ground war, eating meal after gluttonous meal, watching the sun rise after a night of dancing and LSD, and an unexpected blowjob from someone who really knows what they're doing.
Aziraphale was still spinning like a top when Crowley, grinning, offered him the metaphorical keys to the metaphorical Bentley.
Eventually, it all boiled down to them grasping, needing, demanding more of each other, Aziraphale sucking in sin and Crowley digging on the divine (in a major way). This supersexual writhing and gasping went on for quite a while, until there was no more forbidden good and ecstatic evil left to delve into.
The deeper they dug into each other, the more apparent it became that their titles, Angel and Demon, were just that. Titles. Hats they wore. They were more more than angel and demon. a thousand leagues more, they stretched on into infinity. Two fully conscious entities attuned to every nuance of thought, expression, and personality of the other, devoid of prejudice, devoid of sides in the cosmic "war". There was a sensation of climbing up two sides of a horseshoe, shedding skin after skin along the way, until finally they reached the curve at the top and saw only each other, two beings and their most essential, most pure.
They smiled. Smiled like old, old friends.
When they reached over the top of the horseshoe finally pressed their consummate selves together, a sensation thundered through them that made human orgasm look like a nervous tick.
In an instant so quick it fell outside time, Aziraphale and Crowley knew what it was like to be one being.
It very quickly returned to being an angel and a demon. Not even supernatural creatures can maintain omniscience for more than a fraction of a second.
But, Somewhere Else, they stayed combined forever.
When they awoke back in their bodies, it was raining, and they were covered in feathers.
Sometime during the night they had reverted back to their true forms and, quite unconsciously, each had extended his wings to shield the other from the rain. Underneath the mess of wings it was humid and dark. Crowley's lips were pressed against Aziraphale's damp hairline. The upstairs neighbor was practicing her violin. The sound was muffled by the pattering of raindrops, but it was there.
"Azzphale...?" Crowley whispered.
"You reek of rum," he replied softly.
But that was all right, because underneath the wings, everything was sacred.
So Crowley said something sacred.
And Aziraphale said something sacred back.
After a moment, Crowley asked: "Does this make you less of an angel?"
"Does this make you less of a demon?"
Aziraphale thought a moment, then reached for Crowley, who reached back.
Everything was sacred.
A couple of hours later, Aziraphale and Crowley were quite cleaned up and entirely sober. And sitting in the middle of what appeared to be a jungle.
The demon's plants had inexplicably sprouted new plants, and from those new plants, until the entire apartment was filled with lush green leaves, some of them wide enough to shield two men from rain.
"They finally learned," Crowley had said casually on his way to the bathroom. Aziraphale had gaped at the flora, and was making his way towards the kitchen when Crowley said, "Don't even think about it, Angel."
Aziraphale turned. "You were going to make us breakfast. I can see it in your face. Well, I won't have it."
"Why not?" Aziraphale asked, dissapointed.
"Because. Well, because. It would be strange."
"It would be lovely," Aziraphale said.
Crowley paused. Laughed uneasily. Ran his hand through his hair. "This is...odd."
Aziraphale smiled knowingly.
"What do I do with you now?" Crowley asked.
Aziraphale shrugged knowingly.
"You're being impossible," Crowley said, and got into the shower.
When he came out a rather nice, large breakfast was laid out on the kitchen table.
"Bloody hell. At the table, even," Crowley'd remarked. "I haven't eaten at the table in years. In fact I haven't eaten a meal at home in years. Nice work, wifey."
"Because that's what I'm going to start calling you if you keep this up. Don't you dare touch my laundry."
Aziraphale shook his head.
"There's the spirit. This is the best damn scone I've ever had. With honey butter too. I love that. You're bloody impossible. You're so impossible I'm going to buy you a new car. Because I hate you. Don't ever mistake that, you're a right bastard. And you've got a bit of jam on your...no, here- " Crowley leaned forward and wiped a spot of jam from Aziraphale's cheek. "Anyway. You're an awful smug git. These are the best scones in history. What am I going to do with you?"
Aziraphale looked extremely amused. Crowley's hand shook. "You can't possibly understand the quandary I'm in right now."
Aziraphale stepped softly to Crowley, leaned against the arm of his chair, and stroked the demon's hair. He lifted the demon's chin and looked into his eyes.
"I understand. I know all about love," Aziraphale whispered.
"I don't," Crowley whispered back.
"Yes you do," the angel replied, and gently kissed the demon's forehead.
Crowley was about to argue for his limitations when suddenly, he realized, he did know. He remembered everything about love. It was bizarre. And familiar. And enormous. And pointed very much in the angels' direction.
Crowley touched Aziraphale's chin, tilting his head down to meet his eyes.
"What do you know about sex?" the demon breathed.
"Oh my," Crowley said. "Oh my dear."
Aziraphale's eyes suddenly widened.
"I seem to recall there being two fish in that bowl last night."
Crowley turned. And was startled. "Bloody-"
"That's a lot more than two fish, demon dear."
"I'd say that's hundreds of little fish, angel."
"What are we going to do with hundreds of fish?"
"Keep them in water," Aziraphale said, very seriously.
Crowley closed his eyes and laughed. "You're a great silly bugger," he said. "Keep them in water. I wonder if they'll get bigger? Shall I have a koi pond put in?"
"Oh, I rather like koi."
"So do I. Remember that huge koi? The old fat one in that sushi restaurant?"
"The one that had the pattern of scales that looked like the Greek word for 'dry'?"
"Ironic," Crowley said.
"Highly," Aziraphale replied. "You know, with all this fish and greenery it looks rather like the Garden in here."
Crowley took a moment to consider the implications of that before kissing Aziraphale.
Which he did for over an hour.
"What of the woman?" Crowley asked some time later against Aziraphale's jaw line.
"The suicidal one. Who came into your shop."
"Oh." Aziraphale smiled. "Well, she went to sleep, and-"
"And dreamed of whatever she liked best."
The angel smiled. "You know me too well."
"I'll never know you well enough."
"Likewise," Aziraphale whispered.
And they kissed again, knowing they had eternity to work on it.