As a rule, Aziraphale vowed long ago to never miracle any of his wardrobe into being; it was less an act of virtuous self-restraint and more an attempt at balancing out everything else that he frequently allowed himself to indulge in, such as miracled sweets, miracled port and sherry, miracled dinner when he was too engrossed in a book to bother dragging himself from the sofa in the bookshop’s back room to the kitchen – but never miracled tea. Some things one’s ethereal powers simply couldn’t do for you and properly preparing a cup of tea was one of them.
Unfortunately, vowing against miracling one’s wardrobe into being included accessories – which included the ring that Aziraphale found himself staring at in a shop window around late November of 1945. Now, it wasn’t the ring itself that had initially stopped him in his tracks on the way back to his cozy bookshop from St. James’s Park – that would have been terribly covetous. No, what stopped Aziraphale in his tracks was the fact that, even after all the bombings and destruction that London had seen in the past few years, the shop was still standing. It had been there nearly as long as his own shop had; it wasn’t always a jewellery shop of course, but it was the precedent of the thing. The sheer resilience that the building demonstrated. It was physical proof that, even when things were at their bleakest, the human race would find a way to carry on. They’d overcome hatred and return to love – to buying engagement rings and heart-shaped lockets and so on, so forth.
But he could hardly say that aloud - at least not to the demon who had stopped walking a few paces ahead of him when he realized Aziraphale was no longer strolling along at his side.
“-but the point I’m trying to make is… is…” Turning in a small circle until he realized where the angel had gotten to, Crowley furrowed his brow, causing his sunglasses to slip slightly down his nose. “What are you looking at?”
Now, it wasn’t that Aziraphale was worried Crowley would mock him for waxing poetic about human resiliency (because the demon would be inclined to agree with him), nor was he concerned that Crowley would call him overly sentimental. They’d both experienced the horrors of the past two wars, after all; the sentiment wouldn’t be lost on him.
What Aziraphale really couldn’t bear to say aloud around Crowley was anything pertaining to the topic of L-O-V-E… and certainly not while sober. For, you see, as of late (i.e. the past several thousand years) the angel had run into a bit of a dilemma; rather a… moral conundrum, if you will, because love is never a bad thing. No, no, no; love is always indefinitely good.
But coming to the realization that he was in love with a demon? The very demon standing five feet ahead of him on the sidewalk? A demon who could in the most literal sense be called “a bad thing” – even if Aziraphale was quite certain there was a spark of goodness in him, deep down inside? That was the conundrum. Thus, for centuries now, he’d found himself flustered whenever the topic of love was broached in Crowley’s presence, lest his true feelings accidentally slip out – and today was no exception.
Stuttering slightly in his search for words, Aziraphale flit his eyes rapidly over the contents of the shop’s display window until they settled, finally, on a simple gold ring sitting on a velvet cushion.
“Me? Oh, it’s nothing, my dear, it’s just… that ring! Isn’t it stunning? The craftsmanship is truly spectacular.”
Begrudgingly backtracking with his hands stuffed into the pockets of his black pea coat, given that he was not a fan of cold November evenings with the threat of an oncoming sleet lingering in the air (especially when he’d been promised wine), Crowley peered through the window at the ring Aziraphale was pointing to.
“Since when do you like rings?” Crowley asked, his shoulders slightly hunched against the cold, and Aziraphale gave a haughty sniff.
“I’ve always liked rings.”
“I’ve never once seen you wear a ring, angel.”
“You don’t have to wear something to like it, Crowley. I’ve told you I like your shoes on multiple occasions, but would I wear them?”
The demon arched an eyebrow at that comment before looking down in a way that all but screamed ‘what’s wrong with my shoes????’ and Aziraphale blushed. He was getting flustered. He never should have stopped walking. They could be halfway to being sloshed by now - or at least halfway to being warm.
“Do you want it?”
That certainly didn’t help with his being flustered. Stammering for a moment after Crowley looked up again and asked him that question, Aziraphale asked, “What?”
“The ring. Do you want it?”
“I… I… Well, that is… It’s lovely, but I… I couldn’t possibly…”
Going into a jewellery store with Crowley? Buying a ring with Crowley? A ring that he’d only pointed out to begin with as a way of getting away from the subject of ‘love’ before he said something foolish? He really couldn’t possibly. So, he did what he always did when faced with his feelings; he deflected.
“My dear boy, look at you! You’re positively frozen, standing here on the street. Let’s get a move on before you turn blue.”
Linking his arm through Crowley’s, who did look quite cold, Aziraphale pulled the demon away from the jewellery shop window and down the street to the warmth and security of his bookshop, where they did go on to get thoroughly sloshed. Thankfully, ‘love’ didn’t threaten to come up again, even if it was constantly on the tipsy angel’s mind and perpetually at the tip of his tongue.
After a month had gone by, Aziraphale had forgotten all about the ring in the shop window; it had only been a silly deflection tactic, after all, and not of any real consequence. So imagine his surprise when he walked out of the back room on December 25th to look for a particular Wilde first edition that he’d felt like rereading, only to find a small box sitting on the counter, wrapped in red paper, with a note propped up against it. He hadn’t heard the tinkling of the bell over the door so it had to have been miracled there, but he couldn’t imagine any of his fellow angels sending him a gift. Contrary to popular belief, angels don’t tend to make a very big deal about celebrating Christmas any more than they would about throwing birthday parties for each other up in Heaven. It simply wasn’t done.
That only left one person. Pursing his lips, Aziraphale pulled his spectacles from where he’d tucked them into the collar of his sweater, slipping them onto his nose before plucking up the note and reading what it said:
Commercializing Christmas really was one of my better ideas, wasn’t it? I’d say it’s right up there with corsets and toilet queues. Anyhow, consider this my unholy contribution to removing the spirit from the season and replacing it with the almighty dollar; just call me Father Christmas. Ho ho ho and all that,
Scoffing, Aziraphale had rolled his eyes as he sat the note aside and picked up the box to tear the red paper from it, and he’d had every intention of chucking whatever it was straight into the bin; after all, what sort of an angel would he be if he indulged Crowley’s insistence upon stealing Christmas from Heaven, even if they didn’t celebrate it? It was still their holiday. But then he popped the velvet box open and his eyes had widened to the point of almost being as round as his spectacles.
It was the ring. That silly, meaningless little trinket that he’d used to distract Crowley - and himself - from his feelings. The ring that he hadn’t given a second thought to. Except now it was hardly silly and meaningless, and all it was doing was bringing his feelings right up to the forefront of his mind and his heart.
Crowley got him the ring. He’d listened to Aziraphale babble about how lovely it was, and then he went back and got it for him after they parted following their evening of drunken nonsense. And, looking at it now, wedged into its little box and shining so brightly in the dusty little bookshop, Aziraphale realized that it really was quite beautiful.
“Oh bother,” he muttered to himself, pulling the ring from the box and staring at it in the light for a long moment before sighing and slipping it onto his left pinkie finger. It fit perfectly.
Despite his very best efforts not to, he smiled.