LONDON - 1601
Crowley slouched against the bannister, elbows resting on the smooth wood, and allowed himself a moment of smug satisfaction. The delighted chatter of a few thousand theatregoers echoed through the Globe, which was packed so densely that the pedlars were having trouble manoeuvring their trays through the crowd.
The trumpet sounded and the last few attendees squeezed into the yard. The last to enter had a silver doublet and familiar white-blonde curls. Aziraphale watched the crowd with a wide grin, head twisting back and forth as he took it all in. Crowley’s lips twitched.
The angel turned slowly, scanning the crowd, until his eyes locked on Crowley up in the top floor gallery. His smile got even broader, and he gave a little wave. Crowley gave him a nod in reply, which Aziraphale apparently took as an invitation. He made his way back through the crowd to the stairs. Crowley shifted, resisting the urge to look back over his shoulder.
Aziraphale stepped up into the (miraculously) clear space beside the demon at the railing. They watched the actors down on the stage together.
“How was Edinburgh?” Crowley asked eventually.
“Hmm?” said Aziraphale, glancing away from the play to meet Crowley’s eyes. Crowley snapped his own gaze back to the stage.
“Edinburgh?” Crowley prompted again.
“Oh, fine, fine,” Aziraphale assured him. “All taken care of, blessing and tempting.” He hesitated, taking a breath. “Crowley, this is—”
“Survived the horse?” Crowley interrupted him.
Aziraphale blinked. “Oh, yes? But Crowley, you really didn’t have to—”
Crowley wiggled a hand surreptitiously at a nearby pedlar, and the man tripped. The contents of the tray he was holding tipped over a pair of merchants, and Aziraphale was occupied helping pick everything up for the next few minutes. The angel shot him a suspicious look when he returned, and Crowley raised his eyebrows airily.
“Well, I’ll see you around, angel,” he said before Aziraphale could voice his question.
The angel paused, surprised. “You’re not going to stay and watch the play with me?”
Something wiggled in Crowley’s chest, a decidedly odd feeling.
“You know I don’t like the gloomy ones, sweetheart,” he replied, pushing off the balcony and sauntering towards the stairs.
Aziraphale didn’t answer.
Puzzled, Crowley looked back at him. The angel was staring at him, mouth parted. He opened and shut his mouth several times while Crowley waited, nonplussed.
“Sorry?” Aziraphale said finally, voice squeaking.
Crowley frowned at him. “I don’t like the gloomy ones?” he repeated. Aziraphale continued staring at him. When the angel didn’t say anything else Crowley shrugged and turned away again, twiddling his fingers in a wave over his shoulder. “See you around, angel.”
Somehow, he got the impression that Aziraphale watched him all the way until he was out of sight.
PARIS - 1793
Crowley sat across from Aziraphale, watching the angel dab delicately at his mouth with a napkin, and wondering what, precisely, they were doing here. Strictly speaking, the Arrangement wasn’t ever intended to include… lunch. Nor, he supposed, was it intended to include frantically crossing the Channel during a revolution because you’d heard news that your idiotic Enemy had boarded a boat bound for Paris dressed like a particularly affluent British aristocrat. Crowley had been forced to miracle the weather conditions to create a favourable wind, otherwise he’d never have made it in time. It was the kind of grandiose use of power that was likely to draw the attention of his superiors, but he’d barely thought about the risk in his haste.
Still, it could be argued that it fell under the rather broad definition of “lend a hand when needed”.
Lunch did not. This wasn’t the first time it’d happened, either.
“Oh, that was scrumptious!” Aziraphale sighed, leaning back in his chair. Crowley hummed his agreement; the crepes had been good. “Still,” the angel continued, “I suppose I’d be best avoiding this part of the world for a little while.”
Crowley looked up, observing a pillar of smoke rising above the rooftops in the distance. He was supposed to stay, to continue his ‘outstanding work’ in the area. His lips pulled to the side in a grimace, and he suddenly regretted the food he’d just eaten.
When he looked back down, Aziraphale was watching him. The angel’s piercing eyes were a little too knowing, and Crowley shifted on his chair.
“You know,” Aziraphale said conversationally, “they’ve all gotten so carried away with this—” he waved a hand to indicate the city at large, “—that I suspect any attempt from either of us to influence events wouldn’t even register on the score card at the end.”
Crowley stared at him. Aziraphale raised his brows and tilted his head in an unspoken question. The tension in Crowley’s shoulders, that he hadn’t noticed until that moment, eased.
“That is an excellent point, sweetheart,” he agreed, leaning back in his chair and crossing his hands behind his head. “Seems a bit silly to stick around when it won’t make a difference.”
Aziraphale’s eyes widened. He took longer than Crowley expected to form a reply. “Right… uh, so, back home to London then?”
Crowley couldn’t hold back his smile, teeth gleaming. “Back home,” he agreed, getting up.
The angel stayed in his seat, staring at Crowley’s face.
The demon let his grin fade back into a smirk. “Coming, angel?”
Aziraphale startled, getting to his feet in a rush. “Oh, er, yes. After you.”
LONDON - 1800
“And then they left,” Aziraphale finished, gesturing upwards with the hand that wasn’t holding a wineglass.
Crowley hid a satisfied smile behind his own glass. “Did they? How odd.”
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m infinitely grateful they changed their minds,” the angel clarified. “Head office,” he shuddered, and took a long drink of wine.
“No arguments there,” Crowley replied. “I think I’d rather be posted back in Hell than stay here and deal with Michael.” He fished a chocolate from the open package on the table beside him and popped it in his mouth. “What a wanker.”
Aziraphale smiled at him, eyes soft. “You really didn’t have to, you know,” he said, nodding to the box of chocolates.
Crowley waved a hand dismissively, avoiding the angel’s gaze. “Chocolates are bad for you,” he mumbled under his breath. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Aziraphale’s smile get even brighter.
“So,” Crowley said loudly, ignoring the wiggling in his chest, “A. Z. Fell and Co. Who’s the Co?”
The angel paused, like he hadn’t considered that. “Oh, I suppose I just thought it sounded official.”
Crowley snorted. “I hope you’re not expecting me to be the ‘Co.’, sweetheart, I am unquestionably not a bookseller.”
Aziraphale froze with his wineglass halfway to his lips, startled eyes flicking up to meet Crowley’s. “No,” he said slowly, “I suppose you’re not.”
Crowley got up and crossed to where Aziraphale was standing next to the counter, and reached past him to take the wine bottle. “Top you up?” he asked when Aziraphale didn’t say anything else.
The angel looked down as if just noticing his glass was empty. “Oh, umm, yes thank you.”
The silence stretched as Crowley refilled both their glasses.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said tentatively as the demon put the bottle back down on the countertop. Crowley squinted at him, faint unease stirring in his stomach at the angel’s ominous tone. “Do you… that is, are you aware… I mean—”
Aziraphale cut himself off with an indrawn breath.
Crowley leaned against the countertop, propping his chin on his hand as he waited for the angel to continue. He didn’t.
“Yes?” he prompted, confused.
Aziraphale let out a sigh, shoulders slumping. “Never mind. It’s not important.”
LONDON - 1941
Crowley slid into the driver’s seat of the Bentley, and waited for Aziraphale to catch up. The angel, when he arrived, looked decidedly out of sorts. He was clutching the bag containing his books to his chest and blinking rapidly, and he made no move to get in the car.
Crowley leant over to open the passenger door from the inside. “You coming, angel?”
“Oh!” Aziraphale replied, voice too loud. “Yes, yes of course.” He tumbled into the car, meeting Crowley’s eyes for a moment before his gaze skittered away.
“Are you alright?” Crowley asked, brow furrowing.
“Perfectly!” said the angel, looking very much not alright. “It’s perfectly normal, I mean, I’m perfectly normal!”
Crowley squinted at him sceptically for a moment, then started the car. “Alright then,” he said, pulling away from the curb and manoeuvring the Bentley around the scattered rubble that was all that was left of the church.
Aziraphale was uncommonly quiet as they drove, staring straight ahead. He didn’t even caution Crowley to slow down, even when the demon blew through an intersection without checking for traffic.
“To the bookshop, then?” the demon asked, forgetting to keep the worry out of his voice.
Aziraphale gave himself a little shake, and looked over at Crowley. “Oh, yes thank you.”
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Crowley couldn’t help but ask again.
They passed by a street lamp, and golden light illuminated Aziraphale’s smile. Crowley stared at him, distractedly arranging matters so that the Bentley wouldn’t run into anything while he wasn’t paying attention to the road in front of them. His glasses had slipped down his nose a little, and he could see the angel’s eyes unimpeded over the tops of the rims.
“I’m fine,” Aziraphale said softly, returning Crowley’s gaze.
Crowley held his breath, feeling pinned in place.
Aziraphale leant forward. “Crowley—”
The interior of the car was abruptly filled with light, and Aziraphale yelled “Look out!”
Crowley yanked the steering wheel to the side, hauling the Bentley out of the way of the oncoming car. Oops. He must have missed one.
“Honestly,” Aziraphale snapped at him, straightening from when he’d braced himself against the car frame.
“Sorry,” said Crowley, grinning unapologetically.
Aziraphale tutted at him.
They pulled up outside of the bookshop, engine idling. Aziraphale hesitated, tightening his arms around the bag of books. “I know you don’t like thank yous—" he started.
“Don’t say it, angel,” Crowley interrupted.
Aziraphale subsided. “Right. Well, I suppose I best be going.” He opened the door.
“Try to be a bit more careful next time, sweetheart,” Crowley told him, “I’ve more than enough to do at the moment without pulling your wings out of the fire.”
Aziraphale, halfway through getting out of the car, tripped. He stumbled forward, throwing up a hand to catch himself on the car door. The bag of books thumped onto the footpath.
Crowley smirked at him as the angel scrambled to pick up the bag. “Need a hand?” he drawled.
“No!” squeaked Aziraphale, spinning to face him. “I’m quite alright.”
Crowley raised his eyebows. Aziraphale’s cheeks were flushed with embarrassment. “Going to shut the door?” he prompted.
“Right!” Aziraphale jumped back, pushing the door closed. He took several harried steps towards the bookshop, then spun back to face the Bentley again. “Err… goodbye!”
He scuttled the rest of the way into his shop, and shut the door without waiting for a reply.
Well, thought Crowley, amused. That was a thing.
LONDON - The very first day of the rest of their lives
Lunch morphed into afternoon tea, and then into dinner. Night had well and truly fallen by the time the angel and the demon finally settled their bill and left the Ritz. They walked down the street side by side, letting companionable silence fall between them. Crowley eyed Aziraphale through his glasses as they walked. The angel was relaxed in a way Crowley couldn’t ever remember seeing before, posture loose, smiles unguarded.
It almost made him brave enough to put a label on the familiar fluttering feeling under his chest. Almost.
They reached the corner of the street, and paused, both watching the traffic idling past. The humans swirled around them, going about their lives none the wiser to how close they came to losing everything.
“Shall we share a ride?” Crowley offered.
“Care for some more wine?” Aziraphale asked at the same time.
“Yes!” they replied together. Crowley ducked his head, embarrassed at the eagerness in his voice. Aziraphale chuckled.
“Come on,” the angel said fondly, waving down a taxi, “There’s still some of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape left at the shop, assuming it survived the fire and subsequent re-corporation.”
Crowley studiously avoided looking at Aziraphale on the drive back to Soho. He felt a little hot under his collar, like some of the hellfire was still lingering there. He rubbed at his chest.
“Oh look!” Aziraphale said happily as the bookshop came into view. “It is alright!”
“Would I lie to you, angel?” Crowley asked, chuckling.
Aziraphale turned back to him, grin fading into something more pensive. “No,” he murmured, “I don’t suppose you would.” The heat under Crowley’s collar spread up his neck.
Crowley went to the back room to fetch the wine while Aziraphale browsed his shelves, letting out tiny exhalations of surprise or dismay when he discovered the additions Adam had made.
“I wonder if he’s made any changes to your car,” he mused when Crowley walked back into the room.
Crowley stopped mid-stride, horrified. “He wouldn’t have?!” he exclaimed.
Aziraphale looked up from where he’d been examining a book titled Blood Dogs of the Skull Sea, and took in Crowley’s expression. “Oh,” he said quickly, “no, I’m sure it’s fine.”
The demon looked at him wretchedly. Aziraphale put down the book and walked over, pulling the bottle and glasses from Crowley’s hands. “Do you want to go and check?” he asked.
Crowley hesitated, glancing at the door to the shop and then back at the angel. He didn’t want to leave.
“No.” He cleared his throat. “I can check tomorrow.” The implications of that statement hit him the moment the words left his mouth. “Or, err, later tonight,” he backpedalled.
Aziraphale pushed a wineglass into his hands, and Crowley fumbled to take it. He couldn’t tell, because he was doing his best to avoid looking at the angel’s face, but he thought he might have been smiling.
“I don’t have plans, you know,” Aziraphale said, filling their glasses. “You’re welcome to stay, and help me finish the rest of the case.”
“Ah,” Crowley replied, keeping his eyes on the glass. He raised it to his lips and took a sip, then pulled it away, frowning.
“Oh, no…” Aziraphale said, and took a drink from his own glass. He smacked his lips, and held the glass up to the light. “Is that...?”
“Juice,” Crowley confirmed, scowling.
“I suppose he tried?” Aziraphale said, taking another sip.
Crowley sighed, taking off his glasses and rubbing at his eyes with the back of his hand. “I suppose he did.”
“Well,” Aziraphale said brightly, “it is quite nice juice, at least.” He beamed at Crowley, and raised his glass.
Crowley chinked his glass against Aziraphale’s. “Tell me you have something alcoholic left behind, sweetheart. After the day we’ve had I think we bloody well deserve the opportunity to get drunk.”
He took a swig of juice. Aziraphale didn’t, standing still with his glass held out. Crowley tilted his head at him, puzzled.
Aziraphale hesitated, eyes darting across Crowley’s face. Then he squared his shoulders, and nodded. “I’ll go and check, surely something’s survived…”
His voice went very low, soft enough that Crowley wouldn’t have been able to hear him if he wasn’t standing so close.
Crowley froze, eyes widening and jaw dropping open.
Aziraphale held his ground, spots of colour on his cheeks. Crowley stared at him, entirely and whole-heartedly astounded.
“Noticed that time, have you?” Aziraphale muttered, crossing his arms and shifting his weight. He didn’t look away from the demon.
“I—” Crowley tried, “You—” He couldn’t seem to remember how to form words. The last thing Aziraphale said finally registered in his tumbling mind. “That time?” he asked, strangled.
Aziraphale’s blush was deepening. “Err—”
“I sssaid it,” he realised aloud with dawning horror. “Just now, I called you…”
The angel was fighting back a smile. “You did,” he confirmed. “Also…”
“No…” Crowley whispered. The heat on the back of his neck had intensified to a fierce burning. “When else…?”
“At the Globe,” Aziraphale said promptly. His voice was turning decidedly smug. “When I got back from Edinburgh.”
Crowley shook his head.
“And Paris,” Aziraphale continued, “after we had lunch.”
Had he? Crowley thought, casting his memory back desperately. He had.
“Also, when I first opened the shop,” the angel said, eyes shining. “You’ve, uh, made quite a habit of it.”
“I think…” Aziraphale said, putting his wineglass on the shelf beside them and fiddling absently with it, “…that is to say, with everything that’s happened with, uh, everything—" he gestured vaguely around them, “—that we can, umm, if we wanted…”
Crowley stared at him, transfixed. Aziraphale looked up to meet his eyes for a thrilling moment.
“What I mean to say is, there’s no longer, uh… and therefore we don’t have to worry about, I mean, I don’t have to worry, and you don’t have to worry—"
“Sweetheart,” Crowley said firmly, putting his glasses and his wineglass on the shelf next to Aziraphale’s.
The motion brought him nearly chest to chest with the angel, who abruptly stopped babbling with an audible intake of breath.
Crowley had never been so terrified in all his six thousand years on Earth. He’d also never been so exhilarated. The moment stretched, neither moving. The demon could barely hear the low rumble of traffic outside the shop over the blood thudding in his ears. He hadn’t even been aware his blood could do that.
Slowly, Crowley started to raise a hand, then faltered, holding it still in the space between them. Aziraphale glanced down, then back up again. Crowley’s fingers twitched.
The angel gave the slightest nod.
Crowley moved, bringing his hand up to cup Aziraphale’s jaw. They both let out a shaky breath as his fingers made contact.
“I’ve been a bit of an idiot, haven’t I?” Crowley asked, stroking his thumb over the angel’s cheek.
Aziraphale took a small step forward, sliding shaking hands over Crowley’s chest. “I think we both have,” he agreed.
“Still, this is a bit… bizarre,” said Crowley. His voice was embarrassingly breathy, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.
Aziraphale smiled, and Crowley moved his thumb to the corner of his mouth.
“Not bizarre,” the angel replied, tilting his head into Crowley’s palm. “Perhaps just… ineff—”
Crowley tugged him forward, muffling the rest of the word against his lips.