Crowley dropped him off at his bookshop, of course. A while after they had finished lunch at the Ritz, they were waiting for a traffic light on the road that would take them to the bookshop. Crowley was drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, only half-paying attention to Queen’s soft ‘We Are The Champions’ that was playing on the ABBA disk.
‘So you’re saying that all is in its place?’ Aziraphale asked Crowley, sounding slightly worried.
‘Even the bibles are back.’ Crowley said. He decided wisely that he would let Aziraphale discover the extra first-edition children’s books himself.
‘And the wine?’
‘Hmmm.’ Crowley hummed. ‘Didn’t check the wine.’
‘Oh, that’s alright. He won’t have done anything with the wine.’ *
*Actually, Adam had done something with the wine. He didn’t understand why Aziraphale had drinks in his cellar with such an expired sell-by date. So he had replaced them all with ice cold Capri-Sun.
Aziraphale looked over at Crowley now and then. He seemed right at home in his Bentley. He wondered if Gabriel hadn’t treated him badly. Aside from putting him in the hellfire, of course. Gabriel could be so rude sometimes.
He looked back through the windshield at the same time Crowley turned his head to look at Aziraphale.
He vaguely wondered if Aziraphale hadn’t been too shocked by the demons down in Hell, then wondered why he thought so. It wasn’t as if Aziraphale hadn’t seen bad stuff before. Crowley shook himself of some lingering thoughts and focused on the traffic light.
It turned green.
Crowley resisted the urge to let the engine roar.
‘Here we are.’ Crowley said. Aziraphale looked up from his reverie and saw that the front was perfectly intact.
‘Oh. Ah, thank you.’
‘Don’t mention it.’ Crowley said, and reached over to open the door for Aziraphale. Who completely misunderstood the gesture and put his arms around Crowley for a hug.
Crowley stilled. So did Aziraphale, who immediately realised the social faux-pas he had made.
‘You.. you were getting the door..’ Aziraphale said.
‘…getting the door for you, yeah.’
They both looked away in sheepish silence. Crowley sat back up again.
‘Er.. Well, then. Er. See you next time.’ Aziraphale said, lightly punching Crowley on the shoulder and getting out of the car.
Crowley watched him fumble with the keys to the shop.
Bugger it all.
‘Aziraphale! Wait.’ he yelled, and stumbled out of the car, onto the pavement. Aziraphale turned around, still standing in front of the unlocked door.
Crowley grabbed him and pulled him in for a hug. A real one this time.
Aziraphale had his hands pinned by his side for half a second, and then reciprocated the gesture, putting his arms around the demon.
Who melted slightly into the touch.
Aziraphale was warm, warmer than Crowley ever could be. Demon or not, he was still cold-blooded, and enjoyed soaking up warmth in his snakelike fashion. Because he was stationed in rainy England, he had a heat-lamp put up over his bed. But this… This was almost as good as basking on a rock in Eden in the warm sunlight, after a swim.
For Aziraphale, who -as an angel- always ran at precisely five degrees above the correct human temperature**, feeling Crowley around him was like a breath of fresh air.
**That’s what not manifesting your halo does for you.
Feeling the closeness of the other, neither of them wanted to let go. As if God themselves had sewn magnets into their clothing. They might never want to let go again.
But they did. Because Crowley didn’t want to move too fast and Aziraphale didn’t want his friend to feel awkward or uncomfortable.
So they broke apart. Said goodbye again.
‘Be seeing you.’ Crowley said almost too jovially, and after a cheerful wave, he got in the car and drove away. Aziraphale watched him go, waving slightly.
‘Well.’ He said to himself. ‘Well.’
He opened the bookshop and went inside. If anyone was watching, they’d tell you there was a spring in his step.
But no one was watching.
Aziraphale made sure of that.
Months pass, as they do.
And everywhere -apart from Tadfield- it rained.
Except on Christmas Eve. Because Adam Young had decided that it should snow in England that day.
Crowley and Aziraphale had shared two more hugs since that day after the Armageddidn’t. Not that either party had been counting.
One was when they discovered that the American president had been impeached. Neither side had taken credit for the president being elected, and the man had been regarded as a wanker by both sides. ***
***There was still an anxious game of hot potato going on for the soul of the ex-president, should he die.
The second was when Crowley had won a strike in bowling.
That was then. This is now.
Now, Christmas Eve, the wind howled. Snow fell in soft but swift flakes against windows, drifting through chimneys and settling on top of cars. It was a sneaky sort of snow. The sort that looks really pretty and then covers all the roads with a white blanket so schools have to be closed.
Aziraphale had set a small fire going in his fireplace, and was sitting in his favourite chair, reading a rather amusing fantasy novel about a turtle in space. He had begun to get less picky about what he read, and was enjoying himself enormously.****
****As long as said book was a first edition, of course.
A gust of wind blew under his door, but he hardly noticed. Angel or not, whatever Aziraphale was, he didn’t get cold quickly.
Aziraphale turned a page.
The bell to the shop rang, but reluctantly. As if the newcomer didn’t really want to be there. But Aziraphale knew these footsteps from a mile away.
‘Crowley?’ He said as he put his book down and made his way to the front of the shop.
The demon’s lips were blue. His hair was covered in fresh snow. And he was shaking.
‘H-hey.’ Crowley said, trying to remain cheerful.
‘What on Earth happened to you?’ Aziraphale questioned, beckoning the demon towards his living room.
‘E-Electricity and h-h-heating went o-out.’ Crowley stuttered over the words, trying to rub some feeling into his arms. ‘B-bad joke fr-from Hell.’
Aziraphale remembered Crowley’s much-needed heat lamp and busied himself with making a fresh pot of tea and fetching Crowley a blanket.
Crowley seemed to be trying to crawl into the fire when Aziraphale came back.
‘Blanket didn’t help, I see.’ Aziraphale said, mostly to himself.
‘Can’t r-regulate body heat. Sssnnake y’know.’
‘Well, why didn’t you say so sooner.’ Aziraphale scolded him and before Crowley knew what was happening, Aziraphale had pulled him to his feet and had enveloped him in a hug.
Crowley shivered once, then went silent. If he had any less control over his shapeshifting, he might have transformed into his snake-form.
Half a minute later, his arms came up to hold the angel. He soaked up his warmth.
And it was perfect.
For a while.
They broke apart again, of course. The teakettle was whistling. Crowley congratulated himself on holding Aziraphale for longer than last time, and then scolded himself for thinking that.
A few months later, they were in the desert. Following a lead that might lead to another Antichrist. This one female.
Sun beat down upon their necks. Heat scorched the sand under their feet and made vapours in the air that took the form of water, of cool baths, of ice-cream sundaes...
Crowley loved every moment of it. He had gotten rid of his shoes and was walking barefoot, ankles sinking into the sand, soaking up as much heat as he could. He stretched himself, looking up at the cloudless sky. He smiled. He opened his mouth to taste the air. Warm, steeping, hot, heavy. Ahh, he was made for this…
A thump from behind him suddenly told him that his travel companion most certainly wasn’t.
Aziraphale sat on his knees, his wings out. Trying to fan himself. Desperately trying to make the faintest breeze, the slightest wind happen. But none came. His face was red, and if he could sweat, he would have.
‘Shit. Shitshitshitshit.’ Crowley said and went over to his best friend.
He put a hand on his forehead.
‘You getting heatstroke?’ He asked, only half joking. Aziraphale leaned his head into his hand.
Of course. Aziraphale ran even hotter than the average human. Shit.
Crowley pulled him to his feet.
‘Here’s hoping this works.’ He muttered, and embraced the angel.
Aziraphale exhaled. He burrowed his face in the crook of Crowley’s neck and enjoyed the cool skin there.
And it was perfect.
For a while.
‘C’mon.’ Crowley muttered. ‘Let’s get you out of here. Doubt there’s gonna be anything interesting anyway.’ He miracled them away.
They had come to the desert to see about the existence of a new Antichrist.
There never had been any. Just a little divine joke for Aziraphale.
Exactly six weeks later had Crowley sauntering to Aziraphale’s bookshop. It was summer again, and the English sunlight did wonders for his skin. He adjusted his sunglasses, and decided he and Aziraphale might go for ice cream. When he stopped by the bookshop, he heard raised voices. One of them, he was certain, belonged to Aziraphale. The other belonged to…
‘…I keep telling you, Gabriel. I do not have any intel.’
‘Then what about your… friend? Hasn’t he seen anything?’
‘Nothing. And what about it? What does it matter you have lost the former President of the-‘
‘It matters a lot! Do you know what he could do if he gets any sort of Divine power?’
‘…I expect it will be bad.’
‘Worse than that. Now, tell me where he is or…’
Crowley strode in.
Aziraphale was being held up by his collar by the Archdickhead Gabriel. Gabriel had him up against the wall, pinned with one hand.
‘Ah. Crawley, was it?’ Gabriel said politely, not bothering to put his former employee down.
‘Crowley. And we don’t know anything.’ Crowley told Gabriel.
‘Yes you do.’ Gabriel said. ‘Tell me everything you know about the former President of the United States.’
‘Know he’s a wanker.’ Crowley said. Aziraphale nodded, looking for all the world as if he was quite used to being held up by the collar. And Crowley realised that that was probably true.
Gabriel sighed and directed his attention back to Aziraphale. He held him up a little higher.
‘Try again.’ He said, and raised a hand. Aziraphale swallowed but shook his head resolutely.
‘We weren’t thorough enough with the hellfire…’ Gabriel mused. ‘We could have used oh so much more… Like pillars of salt. Maybe being a pillar of salt for 300 years will do you some-'
Gabriel didn’t get to finish his sentence, for Crowley had hit him on the head with a first edition of Les Miserables. *****
***** the Annotated Edition, two bricks high.
The Archangel looked dazed, and dropped Aziraphale, who immediately went to Crowley’s side.
‘I swear on everything that is holy and most things that aren’t that we haven’t seen that pathetic excuse of a former president. Now, I must ask you to leave. We have lunch plans, you see.’
‘Ice cream, actually.’ Crowley offered.
‘Really? Splendid idea.’ Aziraphale told him.
Gabriel glared at them.
‘We’ll get you both one day.’ He said. He put his hand to his head. Silver-colored liquid stained his palm. Les Miserables had had iron edges.
Gabriel began to glow. At first, it was only an outline, like the sun from behind a cloud. Then, he started glowing brighter and brighter.
Crowley’s sunglasses shattered. His eyes started to hurt. He put up his hands to shield them, but to no avail. His fingers let the light through. Burning. Burning. He screamed. Heat blazed through the room, almost too hot for Crowley.
Suddenly, he got turned around and collapsed into shadow. No. He collapsed into Aziraphale’s arms.
The angel and the demon held each other as Gabriel revealed his true form of pure light and flared up into Heaven. They buried their face in the other’s neck, hot and cold working together.
The heat dimmed.
Aziraphale was the first to open his eyes again. The light was dimming, dimming, gone. He sighed in relief, and patted Crowley on the back.
Crowley squeezed him tighter, one last time. Then he let go. Tried opening his eyes in the light without his sunglasses. The pupils of his golden-yellow eyes were narrowed into thin slits, and he could barely open them. They were teary. He started patting himself blindly, looking for his sunglasses.
‘Here, let me,’ Aziraphales voice in his ear. The angel took the glasses from Crowley’s inside pocket and unfolded them. He put them on the demons face and then quickly walked over to close the curtains. Both to give his friends eyes some respite, but also so he wouldn’t hug Crowley again.
When he turned back, Crowley looked fidgety and forlorn.
Aziraphale walked back to him.
‘Thank you, my dear.’ He said kindly, picking up Les Miserables and putting it back on its shelf.******
******Where it boasted proudly about revolution to the other books. ('I stuck it to the man! I did!')
‘No, thank you’ Crowley said, finally able to open his eyes in the semi-darkness. ‘I’d have been burned to a crisp.’
Aziraphale chuckled. ‘I quite like crisps.’
They stood in front of each other, just looking.
Crowley took off his sunglasses. His pupils were back to their normal size.
And Aziraphale wanted nothing than to embrace him again. But he held back.
‘Look, I, er…’ Aziraphale began. And Crowley wanted nothing than to be held in his arms until the end of time. But he shouldn’t.
But, why? Why shouldn’t he embrace his best, his only friend in the world? What kept them back?
A small voice in the back of Crowley’s brain told him the answer. The same answer that had the former President impeached for having a lack of…
‘Aziraphale.’ Crowley began, hating how desperate he sounded.
‘Yes?’ Aziraphale said, hating how eager he sounded.
‘D’you mind… Hugging me again?’
‘I would, my dear fellow, but…’
‘But what?’ Crowley looked dejected. He had expected this, wished he hadn’t said anything.
‘But I’m afraid I’d never let you go.’ Aziraphale said, so softly that Crowley had to read his lips to be sure.
Crowley gave him a look of choiceless hope and grief. Then, a small, sad smile.
They stepped forward at the same time. As if they were the tide, being pushed and pulled by an invisible, ineffable force. Crowley bent down slightly and Aziraphale stood only a little bit on his toes, and they hugged.
Time could have stopped. The Second Coming could have started. Adam could have had a little sister, and they could have been none the wiser. For them, there was only the other. Endless, ineffable, infallible. Breathing in the others scent, feeling the others lack of heartbeat, feeling the others skin, hot and cold. A perfect duet, suited for the ages.
They never needed to speak the three words that humans desperately want to hear from each other. For them, the three words were in every lingering stare, every casual touch, every dinner invite. Every embrace.
Crowley and Aziraphale had loved each other for more than 6000 years.
And they weren’t about to stop now.