It was hard to adjust, after the Apocalypse.
Well. It would've been harder to adjust if the world had actually ended. Aziraphale wasn't sure if you could really call it the Apocalypse if the world hadn't ended; it felt like 'the world actually ending' was an integral part of the whole concept. The Near-Miss Apocalypse, perhaps, Crowley had suggested, or The Little End Times That Couldn't, or perhaps just Armageddon't. Regardless of what silly name you called it, it could've been worse--it could've been The Sound of Music, for all of bloody eternity.
Still, what they'd ended up with was hard to adjust to as well. Aziraphale found himself thinking, when all was said and done, that even if the world hadn't ended, his personal place in the world as he knew it certainly had. He was an aimless angel, a purposeless principality. He'd been receiving direction from Head Office for millennia: a blessing here, a miracle there, a wile or two thwarted, report back to his side about how much better the world was as a result. Crowley was in the same boat--a directionless demon. He'd been receiving his own instructions for just as long: a temptation here, a miracle there, a good deed or two thwarted, report back to his side about how much worse the world was.
Now there were no sides to report to. They received no guidance. Everyone was, as expected, giving the two of them a very wide berth and would continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
"We can do what we want," Crowley said. He was pacing around the bookshop, which made Aziraphale nervous. He ought to stop him, but it made the customers nervous too, and nervous customers were unlikely to buy anything, which Aziraphale was wholly in favor of.
"We can do what we want," Aziraphale echoed. "And that's the problem, isn't it."
Crowley stopped pacing. "What d'you mean? Doesn't sound like much of a problem to me."
"It isn't, in theory. But what is it that you want to do?"
"Oh." Crowley made a face and dropped onto the nearest piece of furniture, which happened to be the bare edge of a table that was otherwise covered in books. Aziraphale watched as the books parted for him, as though he also made them nervous. Aziraphale didn't blame them.
"It doesn't feel quite right, not...doing my job," Aziraphale said. He said it with considerable emphasis, to make sure that Crowley knew what he meant.
"I know what you mean." Crowley waved his fingers irritably at the nearby customer who seemed poised to interject himself into their conversation, presumably to agree that Aziraphale was terrible at doing the job of running a shop where people are able to buy books. The man found himself suddenly overcome with the urge to be anywhere but here.
Aziraphale noticed--he noticed more these days, the things that Crowley did for him without him asking--and knew he ought to say something, but didn't.
"Perhaps we...keep doing the job?" Crowley suggested, a hopeful quiver in his voice. "Nothing wrong with putting more of what we do out into the world."
Aziraphale couldn't help but feel he ought to disagree with that statement, at least in part. He was fairly emphatically against the idea of more evil being put out into the world--the world had more than enough of it as it was. But he and Crowley had been cancelling each other out, good-and-evil-wise, for most of recorded time. A little more evil in the world, properly countered, wasn't the end of the world.
Few things were, it turned out, including the Apocalypse itself.
They realized fairly quickly that this was going to be more difficult than they'd thought. Crowley, freed of the necessity of impressing his superiors, did a large number of minor demonic miracles; Aziraphale, freed of the spectre of admonition from on high, did a smaller number of much less minor angelic miracles. When they compared notes at the end of the fourth day, Aziraphale was horrified to find that he'd countered "an invite to a Monday meeting earlier than you normally get in" with "the public transit in greater London runs on time for an entire morning".
"Fuck," Aziraphale said. It seemed like the appropriate word.
"Oh, the miracles I'm gonna have to do to balance the scales," Crowley said. He looked delighted by this turn of events, a big grin on his face.
Aziraphale groaned. That was what he'd agreed to. He hadn't thought he'd get so carried away.
There was nowhere comfortable to sit in Crowley's flat. Aziraphale had looked. He made a mental note to get some furniture with fewer angles delivered at some point. Then he stepped back, metaphorically, and made another mental note to examine what made him think he had any say in how Crowley's flat was furnished. Then he sat down on the bench that Crowley referred to, quite charitably, as a sofa. It was made entirely of angles of hard, molded plastic. It was designer, Crowley said, but Aziraphale didn't know why that mattered--all things were designed. It was better than nothing, but not by much.
Crowley took a seat next to him and frowned. "D'you know, I'm not sure I've ever sat on this before." He shifted, frowning more deeply. "I'm supposed to make other people miserable, not me."
The sofa, Aziraphale realized, was concave, higher on the ends than it was in the middle. It would, by means of gravity and time, bring its occupants into the same spot in its middle. He could imagine Crowley seating the demons who came to check on him on it, watching gleefully as they wound up with their elbows in each other's ribs.
What it would mean for Aziraphale directly was a lapful of Crowley.
"Perhaps furniture shopping can be what you do tomorrow, instead of balancing the ledger," Aziraphale said carefully. Crowley was definitely sliding towards him, but Aziraphale couldn't--or possibly didn't want to--move.
"What, and leave you to, I don't know, try to unfuck Heathrow?" Crowley got up off the sofa, and Aziraphale was not as surprised as he ought to be to feel a little pang of disappointment. "No, Angel, if I'm going, you're going. If today has proven anything, it's that I can't leave you unsupervised at the moment."
"That hardly seems fair," Aziraphale said, but he made no attempt to hide his smile.
"Do you think they've replaced us?" Aziraphale asked, once the furniture salesperson was out of earshot.
Crowley looked up at him from an overlarge armchair. He was currently lounging in it, to see if it would be appropriate for his place. "There are other people here, and I'm sure they want to sell furniture to all of them--"
"Not here! At Head Office. I always got the impression that our, ah, assignment was a fairly important one. Surely there will be replacements."
"I'm sure that whatever poor suckers replace us, they'll have them on an incredibly tight leash this time around." The confusion must have been visible on Aziraphale's face, because Crowley continued, "They saw what happened last time, and they can't risk something like us happening again."
"Something like us," Aziraphale repeated faintly. He suddenly remembered Uriel, calling Crowley his boyfriend.
"Beings who don't know their place."
Aziraphale's first impulse was to protest that he did know his place, and that his place was, well, with Crowley. He didn't say this, though, opting instead for something more restrained. "God forbid."
"Nah," Crowley said, grinning. "I tend to think She likes us."
They didn't go out and do any miracles the next day either, as the furniture store had told them that someone had to be at home to receive the things that Crowley had bought. The store had given them a 'window'; the movers might show up any time between ten and four.
At four-thirty, Aziraphale allowed himself to groan. "This window business, that's one of your lot's, isn't it."
"Not my lot anymore," Crowley said, automatically, "But yeah."
"And the second I decide to walk out that door and get on with my existence--" Aziraphale said, gesturing at the front door.
The doorbell rang.
"Right on time." Crowley smiled.
Getting the furniture into the flat was an ordeal, since Crowley could not be dissuaded from purchasing the largest, softest things available. Crowley had explained, with some glee and more than a little wonder, that he didn't have to be dark and spiky anymore unless he wanted to, and he didn't want to. Aziraphale had been almost overwhelmed with tender fondness, and the furniture had been purchased.
(One of the things purchased had been a bookshelf, which had surprised Aziraphale. Crowley very pointedly did not read books. Perhaps he would cover it in souvenirs.)
When everything was finally situated, Aziraphale sank onto the new loveseat and looked out at the evening sky. The world really was lovely, wasn't it.
Crowley, who had been clattering around in the kitchen, returned with two glasses of wine in hand. He gave one to Aziraphale and took a seat next to him. They clinked them together wordlessly, and Aziraphale couldn't help but feel that his small slice of the world had gotten a little bit lovelier.
"I'm glad it's still here," Aziraphale said. He gestured to the window, meaning something else.
Crowley regarded him for a moment, then said, softly, "Me too."
"What if," Crowley said, pushing the sushi around on his plate with a fork, "What if we swapped?"
Aziraphale boggled at him. He tried to remember the last time they'd gone for sushi, if Crowley had forgone chopsticks then too or if Crowley was just doing it now to antagonize him. (He found, to his amused embarrassment, that the only thing he remembered about the last time they'd gone for sushi was that Crowley had been there and that they'd eaten sushi. Those were, apparently, the only important details.)
He managed to pull his attention away from that particular atrocity and look at Crowley's face. It helped that it was a very good face. "Swapped what?"
"You know, swapped. You'd try taking the temptations for a while, and I'd do some blessings."
Aziraphale wondered if the fork gambit was intended to get him to agree to this scheme, just to make it stop.
"We've done it before," Crowley continued.
Aziraphale nodded. He didn't dare take his eyes off of Crowley's face; he could still hear the fork clinking as the sushi moved from one corner of the plate to another.
"And it's not like we'll get in trouble. No Head Office."
Aziraphale lifted a piece of his sushi to his mouth with his chopsticks, hoping at the very least to set a good example. "You want to--do good?"
Crowley hesitated before answering. Behind his dark glasses, his eyes seemed to be searching Aziraphale's face. "I don't know. It seems like it might be worth a shot."
The fork clinked against the plate again, and Aziraphale finally snapped. His hand shot out and grabbed Crowley's.
The fork noise stopped.
Then, Aziraphale felt Crowley's other hand cover his, felt him lace their fingers together. Oh.
"I only wanted you to stop with the fork," Aziraphale said, weakly. Even as he said it, he knew it wasn't entirely true.
Crowley knew it too. Aziraphale could tell by his astounded smile.
Aziraphale suddenly found that the question of what he wanted to do with the foreseeable future had, very definitively, resolved itself.
Crowley kissed him. He shoved Aziraphale up against the brand-new bookshelf and kissed him. The empty shelves of the bookshelf rattled with the impact of the shove, and the noise startled them apart.
"I should--" Aziraphale started to say, breathlessly, but Crowley kissed him again before he could finish the thought.
They kissed some more, until the shelf rattled again.
"You should bring some books over," Crowley said.
Aziraphale nodded emphatically. He had too many books, and he liked the idea of having things at Crowley's place. He liked it quite a lot. "I was just about to suggest that myself. Make this place--" He hesitated, then plunged onward. "Make this place feel like home."
"Great minds," Crowley said, and Aziraphale laughed.
They kissed some more, neither one of them wanting very much to stop. Aziraphale found that he also liked the feeling of Crowley's skin under his fingers; the little noise Crowley made in the back of his throat when Aziraphale buried his hands in Crowley's hair; the taste of Crowley on his tongue; how even though Aziraphale was the one with his back to the bookshelf, he was also very obviously the one in charge. It sent a shiver down his spine, thinking about it.
He could get used to this, he thought. He'd like to.
Crowley pulled away eventually, resting his forehead against Aziraphale's. "You know," he said, with a smile that Aziraphale found infectious, "When I said earlier that I wanted to do good, this is not entirely what I had in mind."
Aziraphale raised an eyebrow, unable to stop smiling. "But it was a little bit?"
"I want to do good, and you're the most good thing I know," Crowley said. Aziraphale knew it was an innuendo, but Crowley's voice had a sort of naked earnestness to it that Aziraphale had never heard before.
Aziraphale, at a loss for words, shook his head fondly and kissed Crowley again.
(They each did miracles, when they felt like it, and didn't worry about keeping score, because they knew that they were living the biggest miracle of them all. Turned out all you needed to adjust to an Apocalypse was someone to adjust with.)