Chapter 1: Autumn 1862
“Proposition for you.” Crowley was draped back over his chair, the warm light of the place glinting off his glasses.
“If it’s another glass I’m afraid I can’t,” Aziraphale returned. “I have somewhere to be.”
“No, no, it’s- not. And it’ll only take a minute, I think,” Crowley said, nerves threatening to tighten his voice. “London’s good, isn’t it?”
“Yes, of course.” Aziraphale was obviously amused, even if he wasn’t picking up on anything yet.
“Good as anywhere,” Crowley continued. “I mean, I think it’s brilliant, don’t you-”
“Are you alright? Is something wrong?” Aziraphale asked quickly.
“You’re nervous, it’s making me nervous.”
Crowley scoffed. “No I’m not. Nope, but- listen. It’s great. Great, brilliant city. We should live here.”
“Live here?” Aziraphale’s eyebrows dropped, and he let his head fall an inch to the side in ponderous confusion. “But we-”
“Don't technically need a place, I know.” Crowley put his hands on the table. “But we’d never have to go around looking for one another when we need a miracle covered. Never again.”
“Well, London’s a terribly big city,” Aziraphale said slowly. He took a sip of his scotch.
“What?” Crowley scowled at him. “London is a terribly- angel, you’ve been outside Britain before, I know you have.”
Aziraphale shrugged, and looked a touch embarrassed. “It’s… the roads… it’s easy to get lost.”
Crowley chuckled. “Fly.”
“Not in front of everybody,” Aziraphale gasped. “And besides, I think there’s merit in taking carriages.”
“Have it your way. Doesn’t matter.” Crowley shook his head. “What I was saying was… a place, right? A place where we could crash if we needed to and where we could find each other if we…” He stopped. The look on Aziraphale’s face was far from promising.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said slowly. He didn’t say anything else.
In truth there was a necessity to the idea, at least in Crowley’s mind. He needed to have a place where he knew Aziraphale would be, because decades and centuries between chance meetings was impossible - impossible - to live through. If he could die, he’d have died of it already.
“Think about it,” he said. “It makes sense.”
Aziraphale shook his head slightly and stopped looking Crowley in the eyes. “No, no it doesn’t.”
“Oh, come on-”
“Absolutely not! What would people think- what would my people think?” Aziraphale sounded like just the idea of it was stressing him out. “If Gabriel-”
“It does make sense, though,” Crowley insisted.
Aziraphale glared at him.
“It does,” Crowley replied, dragging the word out and hoping he sounded petulant enough to be charming. “If you need something covered, and I’m obviously the only one who’s got you but- whoops! Where’s Crowley? And then you’ve got to try and look for me but you’ve got no idea where I am… might as well just do your own miracle at that point, huh?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Well, yes, but- no, no, not at all!” Aziraphale was doing that thing where he’d pretend to be cross because he figured he should be cross but didn’t have it in him to actually be really cross. There was definitely something behind it now, though. Maybe not anger, but something. He sighed. “I will not betray the heavenly powers for your convenience.”
“And yours,” Crowley added. “It’d be your convenience, too.”
“I am not moving in with you!” Aziraphale huffed.
“Because,” he said. “Because I… because.”
“Because?” Crowley echoed.
“My people wouldn’t like it. They wouldn’t- stand for it, and,” Aziraphale said with conviction, “I’m pretty sure it’s illegal.”
“Oh, you’re a bore.”
Crowley leaned forwards over the table and lowered his voice. He knew that no one was listening in, neither from above nor below - they didn’t care half enough to - but he also knew it would make Aziraphale feel better. “I’ve already got somewhere picked out, I’ve already dealt with buying it, you don’t need to talk to anyone to get it.”
Aziraphale opened his mouth to say something contrary.
“And! And I’ll let you pick the furniture,” Crowley finished.
“Oh,” Aziraphale sighed. “That sounds…”
“Yes, it does, doesn’t it.” Crowley leaned back, satisfied, his heart hammering in his ears. “So?”
“So I’ll think about it, Crowley.”
“You’ll think about it,” Crowley repeated.
Aziraphale nodded. Then, after a moment of silence, he added, “That was very kind of you to buy it first. I get so anxious about things like that.”
“I know, angel.” Crowley shrugged. “And I’m not kind, don’t call me kind.”
“Yes you-” Aziraphale stopped. “I didn’t call you kind, I said that what you did was kind. The action itself was kind, not the actor.”
Crowley grimaced. “Just don’t say it again.”
“Just be terrible, and I won’t have to.”
“I am terrible,” Crowley grumbled. “You know I couldn’t be, though, not to you.”
Aziraphale smiled, and there was a definite air of accomplishment to it. “Good.”
Crowley made a face he hoped was mocking.
“I should be going,” Aziraphale said, reaching across the table and almost taking Crowley’s hand, then pulling his own back awkwardly and abruptly. He smiled. “I’ll see you soon.”
“Think about it,” said Crowley, holding a finger up.
“Yes. Yes, absolutely. Got to think about it,” Aziraphale said firmly. “I shan’t forget, then. Toodle-oo.”
Crowley watched him hurry out of the bar. “Toodle-oo,” he repeated, wrinkling his nose.
Crowley had kept a telephone for the past ten years, since he could buy one. He felt like he was trying to put forward a persona that would have the latest inventions and machines, and it was only fitting that he put a telephone in his flat, as they were new and miraculous - no pun - and more or less expensive.
It wasn’t soon after he bought his first one that Beelzebub and her bastards figured out how to tap into his line and talk to him that way. It was easier than a materialization, that was for sure. Less taxing for both Crowley and whichever poor sucker ended up having to deal with him. It was convenient, but it did make Crowley loath the instrument in a way he wished he didn’t.
The moment he stopped hating his telephone was the moment Aziraphale called him for the first time.
It was a lazy spring afternoon - all his afternoons were lazy - and his phone rang. Ligur and them never actually called, just spoke straight through the speaker without bothering to dial him up first, so it took him by surprise.
He hauled himself up out of his chair and answered. “Hello, this is Crowley-” He stopped, realizing people had first names and then last names and that he only had one name, which wouldn’t do at all.
“Crowley!” It was obviously Aziraphale - no one else said his name like they were happy to - and he was obviously excited. “The telephone!”
“Right,” Crowley said, a little bit baffled. Aziraphale hadn’t spoken to him in over twenty years. And the telephone wasn’t exactly brand new. Well, it could relatively be considered as such, but only if one was very out of touch with modern technology. Like Aziraphale.
“Right,” Crowley said again. “Yes, it is. It’s been around for a bit, actually, it’s not really new-”
“I’ve just figured out how to work mine,” Aziraphale said, and he wasn’t embarrassed in the slightest. “It confused me for the longest time, but I just had to plug in some wires and then talk to a human through this piece. I thought you might have one too, so I asked for you and here you are! Splendid.”
“Right,” Crowley said, for a third time.
“Right!” Aziraphale repeated. “When can I see you?”
“Hang on- let me check my schedule,” Crowley said, and stood there doing nothing for what he considered to be an appropriate schedule-checking time. “Alright, looks like I’m free whenever. Now?”
“If that works for you,” Crowley added.
“Course it does. Tip top.”
“Good. See you soon, then.”
“It’s so strange,” Aziraphale said. “I can hear you and you’re nowhere even close to me. Did you know our voices are going through a wire? Terrific.”
“It is, isn’t it.” Crowley’s heart ached, sort of. He didn’t know why. It was so mundane.
“Yes. Well, I will-” There was a long pause, followed by the crackling of the phone line. Finally, Aziraphale finished, “see you soon!” and abruptly hung up.
Crowley slowly put the mouthpiece back on its hook, marvelling at how much of an Aziraphale thing it was to figure out the telephone a decade late and even then use it with a very shaky grasp on how to do so.
He spent an absolutely futile half an hour wondering which of his many pieces of clothing would be the most impressive, which ended when he couldn’t decide on anything and left his flat in what he already had on.
Ten minutes later saw him on the path by the water in St. James Park, which was the place he and Aziraphale decided a long time ago would be theirs if they ever wanted to schedule a meeting. He stood there and pretended he wasn’t anxious and tapped his foot against the cobblestones in agitation, because he wasn’t fond of waiting. It made him worry, which he wasn’t fond of either.
Finally, he caught sight of Aziraphale practically skipping down the path towards him. Not literally, but there was a definite difference in the way Aziraphale held himself, and moved, and it was very obvious.
“Crowley,” he exclaimed, once he’d gotten within speaking distance. “The telephone’s not the same as in person.”
“Hey, you,” Crowley said, chuckling as he started to walk.
“Hello,” Aziraphale returned, falling into step beside him.
“Been a while.”
Aziraphale frowned. “Only a handful of years, that’s-”
“A while,” Crowley finished, shooting him a glare.
“We used to go centuries without speaking, remember? That was a while,” Aziraphale pointed out.
Crowley shrugged. “Sure. Whatever. Still, though.”
“It’s good to see you,” Aziraphale said carefully, coaxingly.
“It’d better be,” Crowley muttered, because he knew it would make Aziraphale smile.
It did. Then Aziraphale said, “Oh! Listen, remember the last time we spoke?”
“On the telephone?” Crowley offered.
Aziraphale blinked. “What? No, that wasn’t a real conversation, I couldn’t even see you. It was in that little bar place in the West End and you- asked me to move into a flat with you.”
“Oh, that time.” Crowley wondered if it would be better if he pretended he couldn’t remember it.
“And I told you I’d think about it.”
“I’ve thought about it,” Aziraphale concluded.
Crowley felt his heart stop. “You had twenty-seven years, I sure hope you did.”
“Yes. I’ll move in with you. I do not condone what your purpose here on Earth is but I could keep a much closer eye on you if we’re in the same flat,” Aziraphale said, and he was beaming. “There’s just one thing.”
“Anything,” Crowley said, too quickly to stop himself.
“I’ve got a lovely bit of corner property that I’m setting up a shop in, and I’d like to live close enough to walk to that,” Aziraphale said. “Is the flat a walking distance?”
“I don’t know where your shop is, angel.”
“Oh, right. Absolutely ridiculous, me. Here.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a piece of paper on which was written an address.
“I’ll buy a new flat,” Crowley said promptly. “Two blocks, is two blocks good walking distance? I can do two blocks by this weekend.”
Aziraphale’s smile faltered. “I don’t want to cause you any trouble, if you’ve already got one-”
“It’s just a bunch of rooms, I’m never home anyway.”
“Are you sure-”
“Of course.” Crowley looked out over the water, scowling mildly, because he had an image. “It’s no trouble at all.”
“Well, wonderful.” Aziraphale grinned. “Wonderful!”
They walked in a very contented silence for a while, until Crowley asked, “What changed?”
“It’s just that when I first asked you wouldn’t have it.”
“Nothing changed,” Aziraphale said softly. “I’ve been reading an awful lot of Wilde lately.”
They walked until they reached the place Aziraphale always liked to feed the ducks at, and then they stopped, and Aziraphale conjured a piece of bread. He tore half off and offered it to Crowley.
“No thanks, you go ahead.” Crowley tucked his hands into his jacket pockets so Aziraphale wouldn’t keep trying to get him to take it.
“Very well.” Aziraphale tossed little pieces of bread into the water and watched, contentedly, as ducks hurried to snap them up.
Kind eyes, Crowley realized for the hundredth time over. Aziraphale had the kindest eyes he’d ever seen. “What’s your shop?” he asked.
“Books,” Aziraphale said. “Naturally. Books and books and books. I have quite a collection, and I thought…”
“People will try to buy them,” Crowley pointed out.
“Oh,” Aziraphale sighed, horror creeping onto his face. “I’ll… I’ll always be closed. Or I’ll have people look at them and borrow them but not take them for good.”
“You just need a whole building to hold all your books now, don’t you.”
“Well, yes,” Aziraphale said. Then, defensively, “They’re good books, Crowley, and I don’t want to clutter up your flat.”
Crowley knew with certainty that no one was listening, because large bodies of water upset demons like Hastur and them, and he pulled a bit of bread out of Aziraphale’s hand and tossed it in for the ducks. “Our flat, isn’t it?”
we stan an absolutely soft absolutely whipped crowley only
Crowley had gotten into the regrettable habit of walking Aziraphale home from work. He wasn’t sure when it had started - somewhere over the course of the past five years - but now he’d get stressed out if it was time for the bookshop to close and he wasn’t waiting outside on the little street corner. There were times when he had otherworldly responsibilities, and he’d rushed through them as quickly as he could so he could be free in time. Ligur had commented that he was very efficient, which was a bonus.
He didn’t know why he started doing it nor why he’d become so attached to doing it. It had just happened. So there he was, scuffing his heel on the pavement outside the bookshop at seven at night. The sky was dark already, due to the help of thunderclouds, and the humans who were out were hurrying along on their ways.
A little bell rung as the bookshop door opened, and Aziraphale stepped out, locking it behind him. He had an umbrella, closed and hung over one arm, and some hat he thought might have been in style some time along the line there but certainly wasn’t now. “You would not believe the kind of- this- this man I had in the shop today.” He sounded extremely bothered.
Crowley offered an arm just like he did every time - a courtesy - and Aziraphale didn’t take it, as always. “Oh?”
“Just the most irritating- ugh, customers!” Aziraphale fumed. “And this one in particular, he was talking himself in circles - no sense of decorum - and raising his voice, I mean- it’s a book? Who yells about books?”
“You do,” Crowley pointed out.
“Right, well- I’d… I’d never be rude about it like he was,” Aziraphale grumbled. “I’d never call anyone names like that over something material.”
Thunder made a sinister, exciting drumroll in the distance, then closer.
“Names?” Crowley felt cold, and, suddenly, like it wasn’t something he could make light of anymore.
“Yes, but- oh, don’t do anything,” Aziraphale said scoldingly. “It’s not worth it, it doesn’t matter.”
“It’s one person, he’ll probably be dead in fifty years,” Aziraphale continued. “It completely doesn’t matter, I was just… getting angry over nothing.”
“You have a right,” Crowley said, “to be angry.”
“Oh, but I hate being angry,” Aziraphale replied. “It gives me a headache.”
Crowley, knowing full well that Aziraphale loved getting angry over ridiculous things as much as he did and that he was just saying that to hold up a reputation of some kind, shrugged. “Whatever you say.”
More thunder, louder, and then finally the first heavy drops of rain. In instants, it was pouring.
Aziraphale opened his umbrella as quickly as he could, holding it out.
Crowley stepped under it. “Thanks.”
“Well, you know what they say about demons and water,” Aziraphale replied. He was only half under the umbrella so Crowley could be all under it, and one shoulder of his jacket was already soaked. “Shall we?”
Crowley nodded, and they made the walk home to their flat.
The rain kept hurtling down, and they were the only people on the street save for an odd one here or there racing this way or that, a soggy newspaper held over their head. It was truly tempestuous.
When they got home Aziraphale shook his umbrella out by the door and hung his jacket up to dry.
“Guess what’s today,” Crowley said as they came to rest on their sofa.
“Thursday,” Aziraphale said firmly. “I know for a fact it’s Thursday.”
“Is it?” Crowley raised an eyebrow. “No, not that.”
“Then I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you.” Aziraphale frowned. “Is it a holiday?”
“Five years ago today we moved in here.”
Aziraphale looked surprised for a second, and then he smiled. “I never would’ve guessed. It feels like no time at all.”
“Got you a cookbook,” Crowley continued. “Humans get things for each other on- when there’s days like this, so I thought… I thought you might want to try making things instead of going out whenever you want something to eat.”
“I couldn’t,” Aziraphale said. “I’d set something on fire, I couldn’t.”
“You can try. It’s by the kettle if you want to take a look,” Crowley said, and hoped he sounded extremely nonchalant.
Aziraphale looked daunted, and finally he said, “Why didn’t you tell me I was supposed to get you something? I feel like an idiot.”
“Oh, you’re not supposed to get me something,” Crowley said quickly. “It’s just humans that-”
“But you got me-”
“But I wasn’t supposed to, follow? Humans are supposed to, not us. I think we’re not supposed to.” Crowley pulled his glasses off and set them on the coffee table. “And you angels always do what you’re supposed to do, don’t you?”
Aziraphale tipped his head from side to side, considering. “Well, when you put it that way. I still feel-”
“Crowley.” The low voice snuck out of the radio, cutting off whatever clarinetist had been going at the etude they had on.
“Hullo,” Crowley replied tentatively, glaring at Aziraphale and putting a finger over his lips. “Who’s this?”
“Hastur,” hissed the voice. “Just checking in about that latest memo you sent.”
Aziraphale sat petrified on the sofa, holding the towel he’d been using to dry his hair twisted tightly in his lap.
“Right, that old thing,” Crowley said. And then, because he knew that if he said it they’d never, ever do it, he added, “You know, I wouldn’t have to send them if you lot ever came-”
“Did you actually erupt the Soufriere volcano?”
“Well- yes. Course I did.”
“How does one actually erupt a volcano?” That was Ligur.
“You just make it really, really angry. Now-” Crowley summoned his most commanding tone of voice and sat up a little straighter. “-is there anything you actually wanted?”
“I just wanted to ask about the volcano,” Ligur said.
“I,” Hastur said, with an air of authority, “was instructed to inform you of a meeting you’ve been asked to attend. Tomorrow when the sun falls. And to check in vis-à-vis your memo.”
Crowley leaned closer to the radio. “Everything’s tip top, I’ll be at your meeting. Bugger off.”
“Tip top?” Hastur questioned.
“I’ve never heard anyone say that before,” Ligur chimed in. “Who says-”
“Oh, you sound like a pair of grandmothers. Come up to Earth more than once a century,” Crowley quipped. “Au revoir.” He switched the radio off and turned back to Aziraphale. “I am so sorry about that.”
Aziraphale swallowed, loosening his grip on the towel. “No, no it’s- it’s fine, don’t worry about it. It’s work. I understand that.”
“No, I’ll switch them off straight away next time. Sorry.” Crowley felt guilty.
“I don’t think- hm.” Aziraphale shook his head. “I don’t think I should be here.”
“I’ll turn them off,” Crowley repeated and was suddenly seized with fear.
“No, it’s not proper.” Aziraphale sighed. “I’m interfering with your work, with what you’re meant to do.”
“Angel, you’re meant to interfere with what I’m meant to do.”
Aziraphale looked at him solidly for a minute. Then, finally, he smiled a tiny smile. “Oh, that’s a terrible relief. I didn’t want to have to move all my things out.”
“Too much work,” Crowley agreed, steeped in solace.
“Maybe I can get used to hearing them,” Aziraphale added, looking over at the radio. “They didn’t sound entirely… despicable.”
Crowley tipped his head back and cackled. “You just don’t know them yet.
yes hastur and ligur actually believe everything crowley puts in his stupid memos. yes crowley has started picking up some of aziraphale's speech patterns. cheers.
The Germans had been bombing London for three months straight. There were nights when it was worse and nights when it was better, but Aziraphale hadn’t been out to his bookshop in a week, and that meant it was bad.
It wasn’t so much the threat that they could die - they couldn’t really die, at least not from this - it was the fact that real, human people were dying, all around them, in multitudes.
Aziraphale knelt on the living room floor, extending a shielding aura around the flat. He’d been doing that every night, just in case.
Crowley watched him, leaning against the doorframe. The more time he spent with Aziraphale, it seemed, the more he worried. He was worried out of his skin now, and he couldn’t exactly go and take the car out for a drive to blow off steam. The most worrying thing about what was going on was Aziraphale’s stupid shield.
He kept doing it every night even though he’d never had to do it to that extent before and even though he basically had to sleep all day in order to continue the next night. It was taking everything out of him. And if the flat was destroyed, it wouldn’t even matter, that was the kicker. They would be fine, and they could find another place. It was just material. Aziraphale was wearing himself out for nothing.
Crowley cleared his throat. “You need anything?”
“Crowley, shush,” Aziraphale snapped. “I’m concentrating.” He opened his eyes, and they were glowing blindingly white.
It was chilling. Crowley realized that he’d gotten to the point where seeing anything not-human on Aziraphale seemed strange. “It’s just… you’ve been at it all week,” he said carefully, hoping he didn’t sound like he cared.
“It’s not my fault. I don’t control the war,” Aziraphale said sharply.
“Right, which I know, but nothing’s fallen on us.” Crowley ventured a step into the room. He could feel the magic Aziraphale was putting out. It seared him. “Take a break. Just for a night, huh?”
“Even if we do get hit what’s going to happen to us? You can do a trick, a miracle, and we’ll be fine.” Crowley realized that the air close to Aziraphale was so laden with the heavenly ozone he was maintaining that it burned his lungs when he breathed. “And what’s the worst that can happen? Discorporation? It’s inconvenient, but it’s not like it’d actually kill us.”
“I can’t,” Aziraphale repeated, turning his face up to stare through Crowley with those floodlight eyes.
“Why not?” Crowley shot back.
“Because it’s our home, Crowley.”
“It’s just a flat,” Crowley said, shrugging.
“It’s not just a flat!” Aziraphale was glowing. Even down on his knees and even without a single light on in the room he was shining like anything.
Crowley was rooted to the spot. He could feel the divinity in the air eating away at him but he couldn’t move. He knew exactly what Aziraphale was trying to say, and couldn’t put words to it any better than Aziraphale had himself. But the fact that Aziraphale had made an attempt, had said something that neither of them had said in thousands of years, hit him harder than he thought anything could. “What- what do you need?” he stammered. “What can I do to help?”
“Give me a hand,” Aziraphale said, and it might have been just the sheer amount of noise outside but it sounded, for just a moment, like more than one voice spoke his words. He held up his own hand.
Crowley took it, and swore immediately. He could’ve been sticking his hand in holy water, that was how bad it was. He yanked it out of Aziraphale’s grasp subconsciously, just as an innate reaction, and bent over, holding it to his chest.
“Crowley?” Aziraphale blinked several times, the light around him quickly dimming.
“S’fine. Fine.” Crowley shook his head, took deep breaths through gritted teeth.
And suddenly, the flat was completely dark. The shielding aura was gone, and Aziraphale had all of himself back. “Oh my goodness-”
Crowley snapped with his good hand, filling the flat back up with regular, electric light. “Shit.”
Aziraphale went to touch Crowley, to help him down or just help him, and pulled his hands back before he could. His eyes were his again, and they were wide, and terrified. “Crowley, I’m- I’m so sorry, I can’t believe I-” He held his hands over his mouth.
“Don’t worry about it, it’s fine,” Crowley muttered. He wiggled his fingers. “See? Better already.”
Aziraphale stood up and shook his head, backing away.
“Come on, don’t- angel. Come back.” Crowley grimaced. “I’m fine.”
“I just wanted to keep the flat safe, I didn’t- I wasn’t thinking,” Aziraphale whispered, panicked. “I hurt you.”
“Nah,” Crowley said, drawing it out. “It was just like a static shock. It’s nothing.”
“It is not nothing!” Aziraphale yelled. He never yelled, not ever, and now he was yelling. “The city’s on fire and everything’s falling apart and I’d never hurt you, not ever, and I did!”
“Oh, please,” Crowley said, and he couldn’t pretend he wasn’t shocked. “It was an accident, and it’s not going to happen again. You know it’s not.”
“No, I don’t know-”
“You’re not poison,” Crowley barked. Then, softer, “You’re not, I know you’re not.” He went over to Aziraphale. “Here. Give me your hand.”
“Really? Come on, just-”
Crowley grabbed Aziraphale’s hand.
“-touch me,” Aziraphale finished slowly, looking up at him in horror. “Why did you do that?”
“Because nothing’s happening,” Crowley answered. “I’m fine, you’re fine. Just feels like a hand. It was an accident, angel. Accidents happen and it was as much my fault as it was yours, right? I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“Are you alright?” Aziraphale was staring down at their hands. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Course I’m alright. I’m never not alright.”
“Do you hate me?” Aziraphale asked.
“What?” Crowley scoffed. “No, not ever. Actually, I actually- like you quite a bit.”
Aziraphale sighed, closing his eyes. “Thank you. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Crowley said, shrugging. “Doesn’t matter. You know, I don’t know how you’ll survive Armageddon.”
“Armageddon, y’know- the war for Earth, heaven against hell, you against me.” Crowley snorted. It was overdramatic. “Like this war but ten thousand times more.”
“I know what Armageddon is, you idiot.” Aziraphale gently tugged his hand out of Crowley’s. “And I’m deciding not to think about it. It’s not going to happen.”
Crowley gave a surprised chuckle, just glad he could get Aziraphale off a topic he’d be guilty about. “Armageddon? Is not going to happen?”
“Well, it’s- it’s obviously going to happen at some point,” Aziraphale amended, his voice taking on the scholarly tone it did when he was trying to explain an idea. “And when it does, I’m sure it’s going to be- necessary, and- and righteous. A terrific smiting of evil, you know how it goes. But it’s not going to happen when we’re here. It’ll be long after our time, I know it.”
“How do you know?” Crowley asked.
“They can’t end an entire world so soon, especially not a world as brilliant as this one,” Aziraphale said, with a gentle surety. “They have to give it at least ten thousand years, or it wouldn’t be fair.”
“You ever heard humans say that life isn't fair?” Crowley said, playing devil’s advocate because it was his job to.
“The host of heaven,” Aziraphale said crossly, “rules with a well-balanced scale. Armageddon can’t happen soon, we won’t let it.”
“Isn’t there… a prophecy, or some such?” Crowley said reluctantly. “Six thousand years, and the world will end in-”
“The Almighty’s plan is ineffable, dear, and what that means is we can’t guess at it, not ever,” Aziraphale explained. “If the prophecy were true it would be going against the fact that Her true plan is unguessable and unexplainable. So, not six thousand years.”
“If you say so,” Crowley murmured, wishing the windows weren’t all blacked out.
“I do say so,” said Aziraphale firmly.
They stood in silence - a good silence - for minutes, looking at their hands and at some of the things strewn about the room and at nothing.
Then there was the heavy thunder of a bomb exploding near enough to make Aziraphale jump. He gasped, and said, “Oh, heavens, the flat! I need to- but- I can’t shield it-”
“I’ve got it,” Crowley said, and looked up at the ceiling. He roared, “If any of you bastards come near this flat you’ll spend the entirety of your immortal lives - for eternity - boiling alive in the deepest pits of Hell, courtesy of me, and I’ll make sure it hurts!” He cleared his throat, rolled his shoulders.
“That was good,” Aziraphale commented.
And whatever it was Crowley had done, it worked. Over the entire course of the war, not a single bomb fell on the flat, nor did anything damage Aziraphale’s bookshop. Both properties made it through untouched and in perfect condition.
we stan a much spookier less human aziraphale!!
Chapter 5: Autumn 1941
church scene aftermath babeyyyyy
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Bentley was miraculously undamaged by the church’s explosion and Aziraphale and Crowley sat in it in silence.
Aziraphale was staring at Crowley, and whenever Crowley looked at him he’d look down at his briefcase.
“What?” Crowley said finally, because he wasn’t sure what Aziraphale was really doing, or who exactly Aziraphale thought he was fooling.
Aziraphale met his eyes. “It’s just that- what the hell did you think you were doing?”
Crowley raised his eyebrows, and tried not to yell. “What the hell did I think I was doing? What the heaven did you think you were doing? ‘Oh, I’m just going out for a spot of work, won’t be late-’”
“I thought you meant the shop!” Crowley exclaimed. “You could at least tell me when you’re going out to kill Nazis! I’d have come with-”
“It was work, though,” Aziraphale said, loudly. “It was work! I was thwarting evil-”
“Not my evil, that’s-”
“You’re not the only evil thing! I have a right to go out and do bad people in.” Aziraphale crossed his arms.
“You have a right to get yourself killed by walking into stupid situations, is that what you’re saying? Because that’s what I’m hearing.”
“Oh, that is so rich coming from you,” Aziraphale said angrily. “You walked straight into a church-”
“I had to-”
“You did not have to! It was completely-”
“Necessary,” Crowley finished. “It was necessary, I wasn’t going to let them shoot you.”
“I would have been fine,” Aziraphale insisted. “I could have handled it.”
Crowley shook his head; a small movement. “No. Maybe you could’ve. Didn’t want to see what would happen if you couldn’t. It was a chance, alright? And I couldn’t take it.”
“That’s so classic-ly you, Crowley,” Aziraphale muttered. “I told you I’d be home-”
“And I knew you wouldn’t be, not unless I went after you.” Crowley winced. It sounded harsh, and horrible, and it was true. In all his thousands of years on Earth, Aziraphale never learned how to actually keep himself safe.
“But it must have been so painful for you,” Aziraphale said, much less argumentatively. “Are you alright?”
“I’m always alright, remember?” Crowley replied.
“Oh, Crowley,” Aziraphale sighed.
“Oh Crowley what?” Crowley, for the first time in a long time, didn’t try to keep the care out of his voice. He cared very, very much, and now, there was no way Aziraphale couldn’t know.
“Does it still hurt?”
“Just tingles now, really.”
“I wish there was a way I could fix it.” Aziraphale sighed again. “My- anything I could do would probably only hurt more.”
“I’m fine.” Crowley pulled back his lips in a smile that probably looked sinister.
“Oh!” Aziraphale exclaimed, and he cupped his hands together. A light emanated from the cracks between his fingers for a moment, and then he passed Crowley the bottle he’d just conjured up.
Crowley read the label. “Aspirin.” He snorted, and then full on laughed. “Aspirin! Angel, I-” He stopped. He’d been about to say something stupid. Something fatal, something human. “Thanks.”
“No, thank you.” Aziraphale was still watching him. “Can we please go home now?”
“Yes,” Crowley agreed, and put the car in gear.
Bomb sirens wailed around them, but the ultimatum Crowley had given during World War 1 seemed to stand, and to stand for the Bentley as well: they could cut a path through the city completely unharmed.
When they got home Aziraphale locked the door of the flat behind them - something he rarely did without prompting - and set his case of books down by the coatrack. He pulled off his jacket, hung it up, and he was shaking.
Crowley followed him nervously to the living room, watched him pick up a book absentmindedly and set it back down without even opening it. “You alright?” he asked.
Aziraphale smiled, and shook his head. There was so much tension in how he stood and how he moved and how his hands shook. He looked a second away from breaking.
Crowley didn’t know what to say, just like he never knew what to say, and he pulled Aziraphale into a tight hug. He knew that it probably wasn’t Aziraphale’s thing, but it was all he could think of.
Aziraphale stood still for a few seconds, and then he gently pushed Crowley off him. “What you said in the car was right, you know,” he said. “I am helpless.”
“I froze up. The second the gun was on me.” Aziraphale gave a little shrug. “I can’t save myself.”
Crowley glared at him incredulously. “You saved you and me both,” he said. “That bomb would’ve blown us up right along with those bastards if you hadn’t-”
“Without you they’d have shot me before I got the chance.”
“But that’s… that’s not fair,” Crowley said, and it wasn’t. “You don’t have to be able to do everything all the time. That’s what I’m here for, remember? To cover you.”
“That’s not right.” Aziraphale shook his head, pursing his lips together. “It shouldn’t happen this way.”
“Come on, what are you on about?” Crowley squinted at him.
“I’m moving out, Crowley,” Aziraphale said flatly.
“Wait- what?” Crowley felt a chill creep up through him. “That doesn’t make sense, I can help you-”
“Well, I shouldn’t need your help,” Aziraphale snapped. “I don’t need your help.”
“But- I don’t-” Crowley couldn’t wrap his head around it. “What did I do wrong?”
Aziraphale finally looked him in the eyes. “Nothing, of course. I just need to be able to- handle my own affairs.”
“But that’s not- fair,” Crowley returned. It was all he could think of to say.
“Haven’t you ever heard humans say that life isn’t fair?” Aziraphale sighed. “I have to go.”
“And another thing,” Aziraphale spoke over him. “If you’re going to keep doing silly things I’d rather not be there to see them, because it kills me to see you when you’re hurt.” He turned and walked quickly to the door, picking up his briefcase.
“Wait,” Crowley repeated, louder.
“Please come by my shop,” Aziraphale said, and tried to open the door, forgetting he’d locked it. He set his case down and searched his pockets for the key. He seemed past upset, and when he finally pulled it out of a pocket his hand was shaking so much he dropped it.
Crowley joined him at the door. “You’re being ridiculous.”
Aziraphale picked the key up and unlocked the door. “I’ll visit,” he said, and stepped out of the flat. “I care for you very much, Crowley.” He practically ran down the stairs, and the door slammed shut behind him, moved by some unseen angelic hand.
“Come back- angel- you need me,” Crowley yelled at the door, lost for the first time in thousands of years. “I need you.”
He threw a kick at the door trim, and his eyes fell on Aziraphale’s briefcase.
“You forgot your books,” he yelled at no one, because no one was there. He picked up the case and muttered, again to no one, “I’ll bring them by on Wednesday.”
the other angels, who aziraphale looks up to: aziraphale you can't do anything
aziraphale, when he's in a situation where he has to do something: what the fuck??? why can't i do anything? there's literally no reason why i can't do anything
Life apart was life apart. Despite Aziraphale’s dramatic exit things went back to normal almost immediately, save for the fact that Crowley was alone in the flat. They still went for tea or bourbon almost every week. Aziraphale still offered Crowley book recommendations, and Crowley still never took them. How good Crowley’s day was going to be still hinged on whether or not he could make Aziraphale smile.
Ten years didn’t feel quite like ten years, because the pattern they’d fallen back on was the same one they’d always had up until 1889. It was familiar, and it was painful but doable.
It was a heavy day in August and they sat on their bench in St. James’ Park side by side, like they always did.
Crowley was kicking stones from the path as close as he could to the lake.
Aziraphale watched the ducks, which were all having miraculous escapes from the stones Crowley did manage to get into the lake. “Did you start Sense and -”
“Nope.” Crowley sat up a little more- he’d fallen into an unbearable slouch, even for him. “Absolutely not.”
“It’s good, I promise you’d like it,” Aziraphale insisted.
“I don’t read.”
“You read that silly book about stars,” Aziraphale pointed out.
Crowley grimaced. “I like stars.”
“I know.” Aziraphale smiled.
“S’there something wrong?” Crowley asked, lowering his eyebrows. He could always tell when Aziraphale was off, and now, Aziraphale was off.
Aziraphale laughed lightly, and looked down at his hands, which were folded in his lap. Then he frowned. “Someone tossed a brick through the window. In my shop. Smashed the glass to pieces.”
“What?” Crowley felt like he’d just been hit in the face. “Who?”
“Just teenagers. Don’t do anything, please,” Aziraphale said. “Kids being kids, that’s what it was.”
“Really.” Crowley squinted at Aziraphale through his glasses, trying to read him.
“Yes, really.” Aziraphale shook his head. “Oh, but they said horrible things. Horrible, horrible things. Words. It was awful.”
“Was it true?” Crowley ventured.
“What they said, was it true?”
Aziraphale whispered, “Of course.”
Crowley nodded, and spread his arm further out along the back of the bench. It didn’t really do anything, but it gave him the sense that he was shielding Aziraphale, just a little bit. “I could conjure up a car crash,” he offered. “Kids these days, never looking where they’re going-”
“No!” Aziraphale sounded horrified. “You can’t hurt them, and- it doesn’t even matter. It’s just an inconvenience, getting a new glass, getting it fitted, sweeping up…”
“Just giving you the option,” Crowley said. “I want to keep you safe, you know that.”
“It’s not me I’m worried about, it’s the books,” Aziraphale replied. “They’re so old, and so precious. If anything happened to them it’d kill me.”
“I don’t think any bricks are going to hurt your books, angel.” Crowley hoped it would make him feel better.
“I know, but what if it was a match? What if next time, it’s a match?” Aziraphale looked distressed just thinking about it.
“There’s not going to be a next time,” Crowley said with surety. Just because Aziraphale wouldn’t hear about the car crash didn’t mean there wouldn’t be one.
“You don’t know that.”
“I’m a pretty good guesser, though.” Crowley chanced a smile. “It’s okay, right?”
Aziraphale looked over at him and sighed. “Yes, it’s okay. It’s terrible. But at least we’re here and it’s summer and there’s a breeze. It could be infinitely worse.”
Crowley considered it. “Yeah. I love that.”
Aziraphale nodded, and looked back out at the water. “I am alright. I’m fine.”
They sat quietly, side by side, and enjoyed some visage of solace. The sun was shining, and, like Aziraphale had said, there was a lovely breeze. Only in times of extreme comfort or extreme discomfort did two people end up speaking at the same time, and this certainly wasn’t a time of discomfort. They both began a sentence at the exact same time.
Crowley shook his head, waved a hand. “No, you go ahead. Mine was about dinner tonight.”
“What about it?” Aziraphale inquired, ever polite even when he’d been talked over.
“Well, how about dinner tonight?” Crowley offered.
“Yes, sounds lovely.” Aziraphale smiled.
“What were you going to say?”
“Just-” Aziraphale shrugged. “Would you like to move back in together? I’m not leaving my shop, but there’s a lovely loft upstairs.” Before Crowley could answer, he added, “It’s quite cluttered, but I’ll clean it up. Right in SoHo. Tip top spot.”
“Oh.” Crowley supposed he should take a moment to pretend to consider, which he took. “Question.”
“I’ve been picking up plants here and there, is it alright if I bring them over too?”
“How many?” Aziraphale asked. “It’s just- I haven’t got much room.”
“Oh, only a few,” Crowley promised. “And I swear they’ll be the most beautiful plants you’ll ever see.”
Aziraphale smiled. “Well, I can’t say no to that.”
Crowley chuckled. “Dinner, then?”
“We could do lunch first,” Crowley offered with a shrug.
“You’re certainly speaking my language,” said Aziraphale, still smiling.
“It’s the only one I know,” Crowley returned. He stood, offering Aziraphale a hand up, which, naturally, Aziraphale didn’t take. “Do you have a place in mind?”
Aziraphale stood as well, brushing his jacket off although it seemed perfectly clean. “I have several, my dear.”
They walked off down the path back out of the park, and Crowley was ecstatic. He felt like he could run, just for the sake of expelling some joyful energy, and almost like he wanted to run, which was never a feeling he’d had unprompted by danger before. He was going to live with Aziraphale again. And not just with Aziraphale but in Aziraphale’s bookshop, which seemed much more personal than sharing a flat. He was just glad he wouldn’t be alone anymore.
Often, over the ten years they’d been apart, he’d found himself concentrating on something and saying a sentence or two to no one because in his mind, Aziraphale was in the armchair across from him, tucked up with a book. On those occasions he’d felt stupid and put out and his chest ached like it was hollow. He was looking forward to not experiencing the tragedy of accidentally talking to someone who wasn’t there anymore.
And, he figured, he didn’t need to fabricate an accident to do those kids in. Not if he was there at the shop to make sure they wouldn’t do any further harm. They probably deserved it, but Aziraphale wouldn’t like it, and he himself didn’t like taking lives unless it was necessary.
He looked over at Aziraphale as they made their way out of the park and out into the city. “You’re insanely brave, you know that?”
“No, I’m- I’m so serious.”
“I’m a complete coward.” Aziraphale smiled up at him, and something in the way he said it told Crowley that he’d heard it over and over and over again. “I’m soft.”
“I think you can be both,” Crowley continued. “Soft and brave. I think they can coexist.” He said the word slightly too dramatically, hitting the ‘t’ at the end of it hard, to avoid sounding dangerously genuine. “And you’re definitely not a coward.”
“You really think so?” Aziraphale sounded much too pleased by a simple affirmation.
Crowley wanted to tell him how there was an indescribable amount of courage in presenting oneself in a way that made people want to hurt you and continuing to do so after you’ve been hurt, but something told him that Aziraphale wouldn’t want to hear that. So he said, “Absolutely,” and didn’t elaborate.
“Crowley, I’m so glad to have you back.”
Crowley was so charmed by the sentiment he almost laughed. “I never went anywhere,” he said, a joyful fascination in his tone. “I’ve been here the entire time.”
Aziraphale looked reproachful for a moment before saying, “So you have.”
By the end of the week, Crowley’s old flat was empty, and the loft above the bookshop was completed by several potted houseplants and one demon.
“But would it kill you to just close early?” Crowley was leaning over the counter of the bookshop.
“Saying it more than once isn’t going to make it more convincing,” Aziraphale pointed out. He sat on his stool behind the counter and looked up for a second at Crowley over the rim of his reading glasses.
“It’s raining like anything out, no one’s going to stop by,” Crowley continued, draping himself further across the counter. “Shop’s totally empty. It’s already getting late-”
“Three in the afternoon is not late,” Aziraphale said firmly. “And what would we even do? Keep talking, just up in the loft? Like you said, it’s raining like anything. We’re not going out.”
“I’m bored out of my skull.”
“You can go up,” suggested Aziraphale. “You can even take some poetry, if you find something you like.”
Crowley groaned. “I don’t want poetry.”
“You’re being childish.” Aziraphale was smiling.
“You’re being cruel,” Crowley returned, trying to get Aziraphale to look at him. “Best demon on the entire planet, and you’ve got me locked up in a tiny shop.”
“I’m in no way keeping you here,” Aziraphale argued, laughing. “Go out, if you want to go out. I’d encourage it.”
“But it’s raining.”
“You’re ridiculous.” Aziraphale reached over the counter and pulled Crowley’s glasses off.
Crowley couldn’t breathe for a second. Then, he said, as angrily as he could, “Hey.”
“I have something for you,” said Aziraphale, setting down the book he was reading and messing with something behind the counter. “I wanted to be able to actually see you when I gave it to you… here.” He placed a book on the counter and pushed it across to Crowley.
Crowley turned it around and looked at it. “Astronomy,” he murmured. “Angel, I-”
“You said you liked stars,” Aziraphale said, “in the forties, was it? And I remembered you had a book like this but I thought… Well, these things change so much any book on them must be quite temporary. This one should be good for a few years, though.”
“I don’t… know what you want me to say,” Crowley said slowly, paging through the book and stopping cold when he saw a galaxy he hadn’t seen since his hand shaped it thousands of years ago.
“Right, now isn’t that magnificent?” Aziraphale peered over at the photo. “The moment I heard they were taking actual pictures of other stars and clusters and whatnot I thought I had to get them for you.”
“Thank you,” Crowley said simply. He couldn’t look up from the book.
Aziraphale suddenly put a hand on Crowley’s shoulder, and immediately, Crowley was on the ground behind the counter.
Crowley glanced around, shocked. “Wh-”
“Hush. Stay there,” Aziraphale whispered, and stepped out around the counter as the shop bell rung despite the door never having been opened. “Gabriel! And-”
“This is Sandalphon,” came the voice of Gabriel, an archangel. It was a voice that, despite its commonness, chilled Crowley to the bone. “Do you remember-”
“Yes, Sodom and- yes.” Aziraphale sounded off.
Crowley wished he could see, but moving at all seemed too risky. He stayed on the floor, hidden away.
“Bad vibe in here.” That must’ve been Sandalphon. “Really bad.”
Crowley held his breath.
“Yes, actually,” Gabriel chimed in. He laughed a very controlled, deep laugh. “You’re not harboring some kind of evil in here, are you?”
Aziraphale made an attempt at a laugh, too. “I think what you’re sensing is the energy of customers.”
“Customers?” Sandalphon said it like he’d never heard the word before.
“Absolute beings of evil, and I’m not kidding,” Aziraphale continued. “You don’t know until you've had to deal with them. I’m sure the concept of them was made up by someone on the other side, if you know what I’m saying.”
There was a pause, and then, “Whatever. First of all, hey, buddy.” Gabriel’s voice was jovial but absolutely transparent. “Long time no see, huh?”
“Oh, has it been?” Aziraphale laughed a high pitched, nervous laugh. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Uh, yeah, it has,” Gabriel said. Every word he spoke seemed so intentional. “You were-”
“Don’t,” Aziraphale exclaimed, “touch that, please, just- don’t- put it down. Gently! All these books are- they’re hundreds of years old! And without gloves-”
“A hundred years is hardly a long time.” Sandalphon again. “Must be cheaply made.”
Crowley tried to get at an angle where he could see, but he couldn’t find a single place to look out of. He felt a possessiveness over the books he hadn’t known he had, and didn’t want anyone touching them, especially not without Aziraphale’s permission.
“They are not,” Aziraphale said indignantly. “They’re just paper, and paper decays, and-”
“Aziraphale,” said Gabriel. “You interrupted me, bud. Do not do that, alright? And we’re actually here for a reason right now, so if you want to keep your stupid mouth shut for just one minute that would be great.”
And Crowley had certainly been angry before, but he wasn’t sure if he’d ever been this angry. The angels weren’t even talking to him and he felt ashamed, and he was furious. He just tried not to move, and tried not to make a sound, and gritted his teeth as hard as he could.
“We had a meeting up at head office last week, pal,” Gabriel continued, “and you weren’t there. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal, but a couple of years ago I sent you that message, remember? That message telling you you had to be here for this one? And you missed it anyway, so… what’s up with that?”
“I must have- forgotten it?” Aziraphale offered tentatively. “Here on Earth a couple of years feels like a much longer time than up there, and you know me, I’ll probably forget my own-”
“I wanted an answer, not an excuse,” Gabriel said, and laughed that laugh again. “I mean- I don’t know why I’m surprised. I’m talking to-” Still laughing. “-the shoddiest, most piece-of-garbage angel I’ve ever met.”
And Aziraphale laughed too. A small, pitiful laugh.
Crowley had to do something, and he settled for a strike of lightning down the street. The lights in the shop flickered for a moment, and in the short periods of darkness he had the odd experience of seeing the vague glow of the archangels. It was weird. Anbaric, almost. It made his skin crawl almost as much as their conversation did.
“Terrible weather,” muttered Sandalphon.
“I just want one thing from you, Aziraphale,” Gabriel pressed on. “Two days from now, we’re meeting with Michael and Uriel, and you’re going to be there, yes?”
“Yes, absolutely,” Aziraphale promised. “I’m so terribly sorry about-”
“You’re just saying words, buddy, they don’t mean anything. If you wanted to be there, you’d have been there.” Gabriel just had this strange, manufactured paternality to everything he said. “Two days from now.”
“Yes,” Aziraphale repeated.
“Can I borrow this?” Sandalphon asked. “Looking to do a bit of light reading.”
With that, a bright flash of light filled the shop and immediately disappeared. The bell rang. Aziraphale sighed.
“What the fuck was that?” Crowley demanded, finally escaping the cramped corner of the counter he’d been shoved under and standing up. “Who do those guys think they are?”
“They’re- they’re archangels-”
“You are not shoddy,” Crowley said, coming around the counter to jab a finger at Aziraphale’s chest. “They’re full of shit.”
Aziraphale gasped. “You can’t say that!”
“They are!” Crowley exclaimed. “Bloody demons’ll treat you better than that, even Beelzebub-”
“You weren’t even meant to be here! They weren’t supposed to show up, you- you and them were never meant to coincide,” Aziraphale snapped.
Crowley shook his head. “And here I thought angels were the good guys.”
“We are,” Aziraphale murmured.
“You are, not them,” Crowley said. “I mean, what was that? What was that?”
“We all are,” insisted Aziraphale. “You’re just- a demon. You don’t understand.”
“Maybe not,” muttered Crowley. “Maybe not, but next time they come down here I’m going to give them a piece of my mind.”
Aziraphale glared at him. “That lighting- that was you, wasn’t it? You really ought to be less careless.”
“And you ought to see you’re worth more than that,” Crowley barked back.
There was a tense silence in the shop, filled only by the pouring rain outside, and then, finally, Aziraphale said, “Sandalphon took This Side of Paradise . I’ll never get it back.”
“Oh, not This Side of Paradise ,” Crowley commiserated, wondering where he could get another copy in the back of his mind while he wondered in the front of his mind how to make Aziraphale feel better immediately. “First print?”
“Of course.” Aziraphale sighed, and then brought his hands up to cover his face. He took several deep breaths, and looked small. “I’m sorry you had to be there for that. They’re usually very nice, it’s just- I messed up. My fault.”
“Did you actually forget that meeting?”
Aziraphale looked up at him miserably. “No,” he said. “I didn’t go on purpose. I just thought- maybe it didn’t matter that much, and that they’d never realize I wasn’t there, or- they wouldn’t care, or-” His voice rose in pitch and volume. “I can’t breathe up there, Crowley, you don’t understand!”
“No, I understand,” Crowley said slowly. “Good on you for not going.”
Aziraphale stared at him. “But it wasn’t good.”
“I beg to differ, and I have a proposition for you,” Crowley offered, and hoped it was enough. “You can definitely yea or nay this one. So- we go upstairs. I’ll make you a cup of whatever you want and I’ll even read whatever you want. You’ve been nagging at me for a decade about Sense and Sensibility , I’ll give that one a go, and by tomorrow I promise you I’ll have thought of something so vile that I’ll go out and do the day after that it would be irresponsible of you as an angel to go to your meeting while you knew I was here on Earth, doing that.”
Aziraphale chuckled. “That’s very sneaky.” He wiped his eyes, and sighed again. “You’re such a strange creature, my dear.”
“Is that a yea or a nay?” Crowley chanced a smile.
“Yea to the tea and book,” Aziraphale answered. “Maybe to the rest of it. I’ll think about it.”
Aziraphale locked the shop door, and they went up to the loft together. Crowley asked him what book he ought to try, and Aziraphale told him the astronomy book, but out loud, please. Aziraphale had his tea. They sat together on the sofa.
“Constellations,” Crowley read, “are often made up not of faraway stars, but instead of entire galaxies, orbiting in their- I know all this. I can tell it better than this, hang on. Y’know Ursa Major?”
“Not by name, dear,” Aziraphale murmured, tucking his feet up onto the sofa. “It was never my department.”
“Well, bunch of galaxies. Spiral galaxies, mostly,” Crowley began. “People thought it looked like a bear. Or like something that looked like a bear. So, name. When I was planning it out and drawing it up I thought it looked more like a horse, but tomato tomahto. I threw the stars out first, and then…”
The storm raged outside, tossing rain against the windows, and Crowley told Aziraphale about all the stars he’d known.
predictably, i'm all over the crowley was the universe's architect thing c'est la vie
Chapter 8: Winter 1967
holy water scene .... yeah.....
“I just don’t understand why you need it.” Aziraphale had an arm around Crowley’s waist, and was resting his chin on Crowley’s shoulder, looking down at the crossword puzzle Crowley was trying.
Last night, Aziraphale had given Crowley the holy water. Since then, he hadn’t let Crowley out of his sight once, and had been holding onto him in some way almost the entire day. It was so obviously an effect of what happened the previous night, and Aziraphale was usually so indifferent at best about contact, that Crowley felt almost guilty letting him do it.
“It’s a just-in-case. I already told you.” Crowley realized that the clue he was working on in his crossword puzzle had multiple answers, and he had no way of knowing which was right until he got some of the acrosses, which he also couldn’t even guess at.
“Just in case what?” Aziraphale pressed.
“Just in case things go wrong.” Trying to focus on a conversation and on his crossword both was impossible, because he felt utterly taut. He’d never had this much prolonged contact with Aziraphale, not ever.
“They won’t ever go that wrong, will they?” Aziraphale sounded nervous.
“No. Maybe. Probably not.” Crowley put down his crossword, concluding that they were impossibly frustrating only to remember that around fifty years ago, he himself had invented them, for the sole purpose of infuriating the user.
“I don’t think I’d be able to bear it, if you…” It sounded like it was painful for Aziraphale to say.
Crowley wished he had his glasses on, just so he could feel less bare. There was no actual need - they were in the loft - but he almost summoned a pair before thinking better of it. He said, carefully, “This is an if-you’re-gone scenario, angel.”
“Gone?” Aziraphale was sort of absentmindedly rubbing his thumb in circles on Crowley’s hip, which made it impossible for Crowley to think, or even to breathe.
“Um- yeah,” Crowley managed. “Like- I don’t know. Again, worst case scenario. Absolutely and only worst.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Aziraphale said quietly, and very sincerely.
“Clearly. You’ve been glued to me all day,” Crowley muttered, because he didn’t want to talk about it seriously any more.
Aziraphale immediately let go of him and withdrew to his normal corner of the sofa. “I was just…” He shook his head. “Sorry.”
Crowley wished he’d never said anything about it, because he couldn’t exactly ask Aziraphale to come back to him and hold him again. He felt cold without him. “I’m not going to use it,” he said, finally.
“I know.” Aziraphale reached over and picked up the crossword puzzle. “Could I have a pen, dear?”
“Pencil.” Crowley handed it to him. “Better for these.”
“Thank you.” Aziraphale started to take notes on the different clues.
“Y’know, I actually won’t do anything. With the water. Not unless I have no other choice,” Crowley insisted.
“And I’ll make sure you always have another choice,” Aziraphale promised. Then, tapping the crossword, he added, “This isn’t even hard, you’re just being silly about it. You never think things through before you do them.”
Crowley snorted. “Neither do you.”
“I’m thinking this through, and I think it’s rather easy.” Aziraphale leaned back in closer to him, showing him the paper. “Because if you have fourteen down here, and use ‘calcified’, your across there at the end won’t fit, but there’s nothing that states past tense. It’s assumed, but not necessary, so ‘calcifies’...”
Aziraphale babbled on about the crossword, and this and that, and Crowley felt, for the first time since last night, that a great deal of pressure was off him. For whatever reason, Aziraphale finally believed him when he said he wasn’t going to hurt himself with the water, at least not immediately.
Aziraphale hadn’t let him keep it in the house, though, and so he’d brought it to his old flat, the one he’d moved out of in the fifties, and had put it in the refrigerator there. He’d never used his fridge, had never even plugged it in, but when he opened it the light inside was on, and it was cold, so he figured it was a fine place to put the water. Besides, Hastur and Ligur - and therefor Hell in its entirety - thought he still lived there, so if ever they were going to try something, it would be there.
“Hey,” Crowley said. “I owe you. For the water.”
“Hm?” Aziraphale looked up from his crossword, which was half finished. “Oh, no you don’t. It was a favor.”
“Come on. Anything you want. Anything in the world.”
“Typical demon fare, isn’t this?” Aziraphale smiled. “What are you trying to do, tempt me?”
“No, I just- I was trying to be-” Crowley scowled. “Nice.”
Aziraphale chuckled. “Isn’t that something.”
“In all honesty, though,” Crowley continued. “Anything. Say it and it’s yours.”
“You’re rather good at this,” Aziraphale noted.
“Well, are you going to-”
“I want you to put seatbelts in your car,” Aziraphale said firmly.
“But- it’s a genuine- it’s fifty years old! I can’t change it!” Crowley argued. “Something else. Anything but that.”
Aziraphale shrugged. “Then I don’t know.”
“Think of something.” Crowley wasn’t sure why, but he was disappointed. He didn’t know what he expected Aziraphale to ask of him - or why he was expecting anything at all - but he felt like he’d been close to something for a moment there, and now he wasn’t.
“You really don’t have to-”
“I want to.”
“I have everything I want in the world,” Aziraphale replied, “as long as you stay alive.”
“Oh.” Crowley nodded. “That’s alright, then. I guess.” He wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do. He felt like there wasn’t enough space in his body for what he was feeling. He added, “Not even a cup of tea?”
Aziraphale winced. “Actually, now that you mention it…”
Crowley grinned. He snapped his fingers, and the stove started up under the kettle. He hoped there really wouldn’t be an end to this world, at least not any time soon, because he’d just realized that he could do this, this stupid, impossible, domestic, fooling-nobody schtick forever.
“Special day,” Crowley said.
They were sitting in a nearly empty mall cafe just so they could hear music that wasn’t Queen.
“Day before All Hallow’s?” Aziraphale guessed. “I know you love All Hallow’s.”
Crowley winced. “Halloween. Please just say Halloween. No one’s called it All Hallow’s for hundreds of years. And no.” Although it was the thirtieth of October, Halloween had only breezed through Crowley’s mind, leaving it to dwell on something altogether much more important.
“I’m terrible at guessing,” said Aziraphale, and he was almost pouting. “And I don’t favor surprises either…”
“Yes you do,” Crowley argued, and then added, “It’s our anniversary.”
“Our- y’know-” He made an indescribably vague gesture, and several sounds that could have been the beginnings of words but were never finished. “Day we met. It’s today.”
“Today!” Aziraphale exclaimed. “Oh, heavens, I don’t know what to do! Should we do something? Is there something we’re meant to do?”
Crowley laughed. “No, I think it’s just- it just happens. And it’s neat, isn’t it?”
“Very.” Aziraphale sighed. “How many years is it?”
“Couldn’t tell you,” replied Crowley, leaning further back in his chair. “Can’t do maths.”
Aziraphale looked at him disapprovingly. “I’ll do it, just give me a moment.” He stared up at nothing for a second, and then said, “Five thousand nine hundred and eighty.” He chuckled, almost disbelievingly. “This is our five thousand nine hundred and eightieth year.”
“Incredible,” Crowley returned. “Really. Almost six thousand years, that’s…” He shook his head. “We should do something to celebrate.”
“If we’re that close to six thousand maybe we ought to wait and celebrate then, hm?” Aziraphale had always existed somewhat outside of the normal passage of time, and he was always happily indifferent towards temporal benchmarks that didn’t seem to hold that much weight.
Crowley shrugged. “Nah, we should do something now.”
Aziraphale looked very entertained. “Why not just wait?”
“Because-” Crowley struggled to put it into words without bringing up Armageddon. “Because we’re both here right now and it’s the day we met thousands of years ago and I… don’t know. Feels right to do something.”
Aziraphale let his head fall to one side, regarding Crowley. “What have you in mind?”
“Dunno. Something.” Crowley racked his brains. “Picnic?”
“That sounds…” Aziraphale nodded. He’d been doing that a lot lately; starting sentences he couldn’t or wouldn’t finish. His intentions were always clear, so it was fine, but it was odd.
“Let’s go, then. I’ll drive.” Crowley stood.
Aziraphale winced. “Better not. I’ll meet you there, dear.”
“Where? We haven’t even decided on a place-”
“Out of the city. In the country somewhere,” Aziraphale said. After a moment, he sheepishly added, “Please.”
“Of course.” Crowley wished he were easier to read. “Of course. Sure we can’t just go together?”
Aziraphale looked guilty. “I can’t stand how you drive,” he admitted. “It just isn’t safe, and I’d rather not be discorporated just yet, if it’s all the same.”
“Fine.” Crowley shrugged. “It is all the same. I’ll find somewhere, you just find me.”
“Done and done.” Aziraphale sounded like he wanted to be smiling, but he wasn’t.
“Well- not yet. Haven’t done anything yet.” Crowley raised an eyebrow. “See you in a mo, then.”
“Will do and will do,” Aziraphale amended.
Crowley nodded, snapped his fingers, and was in his car. He reached into the backseat to pull out a tattered gift shop map of the country he’d picked up a few decades ago, and wondered whether there was a place, a capital ‘P’ place, for picnics. Even if there was, he reasoned, he wouldn’t know just by looking at an old map.
He knew Aziraphale wouldn’t mind, that any place would be fine, and he drove out of London. He continued driving until all he could see was fields, and then he parked the car on the side of the road, clambered over the stone wall that bordered the fields, and stepped out into the grass.
He realized, looking around at how open it was, how bright and how clean and how alive, that Aziraphale had asked for a place like this for his benefit. Aziraphale himself wasn’t terribly fond of open spaces, he’d told Crowley to drive all the way out here because it was the perfect place for Crowley.
He sighed, nodding. Should have known. His heart felt too big and too alive for his body.
He found a place to sit in the grass, and the moment he did, Aziraphale appeared beside him.
“Hullo, dear,” Aziraphale said, smoothing out the wrinkles in his jacket. “Drive alright?”
“Yeah, it was fine. Champagne’s in the car, if you want.”
“Maybe in a bit.” Aziraphale let out a breath, looking out over the field. “Lovely spot.”
Crowley nodded. “Happy anniversary.”
“Happy anniversary,” Aziraphale repeated. He sounded happily bemused, and under that, he sounded off.
“What’s wrong?” asked Crowley.
“It’s just- how long do you think this can go on?”
“How long do I think what can go on?” Crowley wanted to hold him.
Aziraphale huffed a nervous little sigh. “This world. Us in this world.”
“We’ve got another couple hundred years,” Crowley said, knowing full well that Aziraphale’s theory about the world not ending was complete bullshit and that they were really and truly running out of time. They had thirty years, maybe. And thirty years was nothing. “At least.”
Aziraphale kept messing with his jacket, even though it was perfectly smoothed out. “I want to stay here forever. Isn’t that the silliest thing you’ve ever heard?”
“Nah. Not at all,” Crowley replied. He held out a hand that he knew Aziraphale wouldn’t take - just in case - and when Aziraphale inevitably didn’t take it he trailed it through the grass between them.
“It’s just that it’s the perfect place,” Aziraphale murmured.
“You’re saying that Earth is better than Heaven?” Crowley stared at him incredulously. The statement had long been implied, but never, never said.
Aziraphale pursed his lips, and nodded.
Crowley grabbed Aziraphale and pulled him closer, pressing a kiss to the side of his head. Then he laughed, as loud as he could. “Finally talking sense!” he exclaimed.
For once, Aziraphale didn’t try to push him off right away, and instead just sort of sat there passively, jostled by Crowley’s movement. After a minute, he started laughing too. A quiet laugh, under his breath, but a laugh nonetheless. He looked up at Crowley almost regretfully, and he was smiling. “Sorry.”
“Oh, you’re brilliant,” Crowley said, and he’d gotten an immense high off Aziraphale finally, finally mirroring his own feelings towards Earth. “Cheers.”
“Don’t tell…” Aziraphale stopped, realizing there was really no one Crowley could tell.
“Let’s stay here forever,” Crowley proposed, another thing that had been taken as gospel in the past but never actually stated. “Okay?”
“Forever and ever,” Aziraphale agreed. “And ever.”
“I’m just popping out for a drive,” Crowley said, and he absolutely wasn’t popping out just for a drive. He’d gotten a message from Hastur, and he had a meeting he absolutely couldn’t miss. A graveyard, near midnight. So, classic. It was important, because they were going traditional.
“Where?” Aziraphale’s voice was disembodied- he was somewhere between stacks of books out of Crowley’s sight.
“If you’re going downtown would you pick some wine up for me? I had that little market down there order a-”
“I’m not going downtown,” Crowley said, because a quick consultation with the clock on the wall told him he was already late.
“Alright, then. Be safe,” Aziraphale called from somewhere in the shop.
“You wish,” Crowley replied, and he stepped out onto the street, his nerves getting the better of him. He hated lying to Aziraphale. And it wasn’t just any meeting, it was a meeting that would kickstart the end of the world. He felt sick, and he got into his car and put on Bach. He sped much faster even than he needed to, in the hopes it would make him feel better, and Bohemian Rhapsody blared.
The world was ending. The world was really, definitely ending, and it was ending in eleven years. Eleven years was like a snap of the fingers. It wasn’t fair.
He bullshitted his way through a conversation with Hastur and Ligur in the graveyard when he arrived, mist creeping around the tombstones and sneaking around their feet. He signed a contract, which he tried to avoid doing at all times. He couldn’t exactly talk his way out of this one, though, so he signed, and he took the basket, and he drove to the nunnery.
On the way over, he kept looking back at the basket in his rear view mirror. He could just bring it home. Just take it back to Aziraphale and ask him if they could keep it and make sure it never does anything, especially not bring about the end of the world. Or he could drown it. He shuddered. Just the thought of doing that made him so uncomfortable he wanted to shed his skin. He couldn’t kill it. He couldn’t.
And he’d signed the contract anyway, so if he did anything other than bring it to the nunnery he’d probably be put to death. Demoted, at least. And that wouldn’t be fun at all.
There had to be another way, he reasoned, to stop the kid from growing up and doing what it was meant to. He could drop it off and then steal it back. He could make sure the parents had an accident and then adopt it. Both those plans were flawed, though, because any child he raised would probably do as much evil as it was intended to do. He was a being of wickedness, after all.
He dropped the baby off, as he was told. He drove back home. He tried not to panic.
He stood outside the bookshop, wondering what to say. How to phrase it. He’d have to admit he lied to Aziraphale. Hey, sorry, I wasn’t just out for a drive, I was delivering the Antichrist. He winced.
Taking a deep breath, he walked into the shop. “World’s ending,” he called, not knowing for sure where Aziraphale was.
Aziraphale came down the stairs after a moment, and locked the door behind Crowley. “What, dear?”
“I said, world’s ending.” Crowley sniffed, and pulled off his jacket.
Aziraphale’s smile dropped. “What?”
“Your theory’s proven wrong, how about that? Six thousand years, and the world’s ending.” Crowley felt cold.
Aziraphale looked immensely distressed. “How do you know?”
“I just brought the Antichrist to its human parents,” Crowley said flatly. “I’m sorry I lied about going out, I didn’t want you to worry.”
Aziraphale shook his head. “How many years have we got?”
“Eleven,” Aziraphale repeated. “And then to war.”
Crowley nodded. “More or less, yeah.”
Aziraphale nodded back.
“We could drink.”
“We could drink.”
They sat across from one another in the loft, and drank most of the alcohol Aziraphale had in the shop, which was a lot.
“Remember,” Crowley said, taking his time so it would come out right. “Remember? Remember when you said - eighties - you said Earth was the best place.”
Aziraphale stared at him.
“I remember, d’you remember? You said-” Crowley considered trying on an Aziraphale voice, and then decided against it. “You said Earth was better. Better than up there, right? Yeah. I think you were onto something.”
“I was in…” Aziraphale shook his head. “I didn’t know what… what I was saying. That was nonsense.”
“Nonsense?” Crowley spluttered. “That was the most sense you’ve ever made, are you really going to go back on-”
“Armageddon’s good,” Aziraphale snapped. He looked miserable. “Armageddon’s n… niss… it has to happen. Doesn’t it?”
“Who said that?”
“Everyone ever.” Aziraphale shrugged, swirling the wine around in his glass. “My bosses.”
“Your bosses are…” Crowley searched for a word that was offensive enough, but articulate. He couldn’t come up with one, and finished, “big idiots.”
“Oh, enough,” Aziraphale whined.
“Say you’ll stop it with me,” said Crowley. “I bet you we could stop it. Armageddon.”
Aziraphale was silent, and he looked like he was trying to do the world’s hardest math problem in his head. “Really really?” he asked after a minute.
“Yes!” Crowley repeated, leaning across the coffee table. “This is our home, this is our… it’s our home. And it’ll be gone. Aziraphale- we wouldn’t- even if we survived the war it’d still be over. You’d be… I couldn’t do it.”
Aziraphale reached over and patted the side of Crowley’s face. “It is our home, isn’t it. Alright.”
“Oh, thank you.” Crowley hoped he wasn’t showing any hints as to how breathless Aziraphale’s hand on his cheek had made him, and how absolutely relieved he was that Aziraphale would go along with whatever plan he could think up when he was sober. “And- the Antichrist-”
“The child,” Aziraphale corrected. “Names- power- something. Don’t call it that.”
“The child,” amended Crowley. “If you showed him good, and I showed him… less good, then d’you think he’d be in the middle? Wouldn’t be either?”
Aziraphale considered. “Just a normal child?”
“Mm. Human.” Crowley nodded. “Then he wouldn’t go all… fire and evil and horsemen.”
Aziraphale pointed at him. “Clever. I like it.”
“We’d be like godfathers.” The moment after saying it, he wondered if it was too informal.
“Godfathers,” Aziraphale repeated, and he smiled, looking down into his wine glass. “Oh, I do love that.”
Aziraphale nodded. “Cheers.”
crowley: im a demon i love lying >:)
crowley upon telling one (1) lie to aziraphale: fuck what did i do holy shit i need to fix it this is the worst feeling in the world
Hastur was gone, at least for a while, and Ligur was gone for good, but the thrill of that success was gone as well. Crowley knew Aziraphale had been about to tell him something he needed to hear, and the urgency to get back home was tugging at him, daring him to go thirty, forty, fifty miles above the speed limit. He’d gloat over how clever it was to lure the demons over to the old flat where the holy water was later. Now he had to go and hear what Aziraphale was going to tell him.
He felt that something was off the second he turned onto the street, though, and before he could get himself ready for bad news he saw the fire.
His heart stopped, and he pulled the car over, and fumbled with the door handle until he could finally get it open and get out and he ran into shop and it was all gone.
All the books were blackened and curled, and if he breathed on them he was sure they’d crumble away. Fire licked its way through the shop, bolstered by shelves and shelves of fuel. The flames were hissing, climbing up charred beams and across archways. The sofa wasn’t a sofa, and the desk wasn’t a desk, and it was all ruined and burnt and unsalvageable.
Crowley looked up, and he knew the loft was gone too. The fire had been pouring out of the upstairs windows when he parked the car. His plants must have gone up like matches.
But Aziraphale wasn’t stupid, Aziraphale had to have made a clever escape with his most important things and left something through which they could talk.
Crowley yelled for him, and tried to sense him, his energy, and came up with absolutely nothing. Aziraphale was utterly gone, just like all the words in all his books.
Something hit him, water, and he was on the ground, and he didn’t know what he was supposed to do. Everything, he’d always thought, had to happen for a reason, but if there was a reason for this he didn’t care to know it. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair.
He screamed at no one, at the fire, and sat there with his home burning around him.
He’d never been alone - not really, not truly alone - since he’d slithered up onto that wall in the Garden six thousand years ago. He hadn’t realized how much of him had been Aziraphale until now, when he couldn’t find Aziraphale’s aura anywhere on Earth. Aziraphale just… was not. Was not here, was not anywhere. He wasn’t. And Crowley was half a person.
He couldn’t bring himself to move. He was going to get himself discorporated but he couldn’t get up. He found a book that wasn’t burnt to ashes and picked it up and held onto it like it would bring Aziraphale back.
It was too much to comprehend, too much to compute. There shouldn’t be a world without Aziraphale in it. There couldn’t. It wasn’t a thing that could exist.
Crowley hugged the book to his chest, and he didn’t have anything else to scream so he cried. The fire burned closer and closer to him, and the shop must have been a thousand degrees. He put a hand on the floor and was burnt, and he longed for how Aziraphale had burnt his hand half a century ago. He was so utterly empty, and so alone, and so hollow.
The Earth, he reasoned, could be dead already. He wouldn’t notice.
Eventually, he had to move or his body would die, and as much as he almost wanted that, he’d end up back in Hell, which he couldn’t take. Not now. So he hauled himself up and didn’t let go of the book and stumbled out of the shop, snapping the doors closed behind him.
He pulled out another pair of glasses - his had cracked and burnt in the shop - and drove to a bar, and drank.
The world was ending. Probably even as he sat there. And it was odd, because he loved Earth. He loved it. But now he didn’t feel like he was losing anything despite the fact that it would be over before night fell. His home was gone. His angel was gone. And the fact of the matter was that Aziraphale had been the reason Earth was so good anyways. Without Aziraphale, the sun was just shining and not illuminating. The people were just boring people, not brilliant or funny or even outstandingly human. And it was all moving, but none of it was alive. It was pointless. It was all just pointless.
He drank two bottles of bourbon without stopping.
When Aziraphale appeared before him, shimmering and ethereal, demanding he follow some instructions and complete some task, he started crying again, instantly.
They went through a strangely detached conversation about the Antichrist, and how Crowley could still stop Armageddon, and finally, Crowley said, “It’s all gone.”
“What’s all gone?” Aziraphale sounded like he was talking from the end of a long tunnel.
“Home. Your shop, the loft.” Crowley shrugged miserably. “S’burnt to hell and back. Huge fire.” And then he realized that angels and fire didn’t tend to mix, and that of all the ways to lose a body, that must have been the worst. “I am so sorry.” His words were slurring together. “Was it- are you-”
“I’m fine, dear, just stepped into a portal a little hastily.”
Crowley sighed. That was such an immense relief. He knew his hand would go right through the image Aziraphale was projecting if he were to reach over the table, but he wanted to touch him more than anything.
“I’ll find a body, you go to the address I left in the book.”
Crowley’s heart was still going a mile a minute, because Aziraphale wasn’t gone. There was still something to save the world for. “Aziraphale-”
“You’ll do wonderful!” Aziraphale promised. “Just get a wiggle on. We’re running out of time.”
“Toodle-oo.” Aziraphale’s projection vanished.
Crowley glared down at the bottle of bourbon, grimacing. Even if Aziraphale had stayed, he couldn’t have said it. He’d blame not saying it on Aziraphale leaving, though. That would make it easier.
He finished what was in his glass, sauntered out of the bar and to his awaiting Bentley, and, just as he’d done since the beginning, set out on a path laid down for him by his angel.
i've been tallying the times they almost say 'i love you' and i think we're up to four (?) now
They’d sat too close to be decent on the bus home from Tadfield with no thought towards it. There were no consequences, after all. No one was really keeping score anymore. There were bigger things to tally.
When they reached their stop, it was past midnight, and they were at the door to the old flat, the one before the bookshop.
“Oh,” Aziraphale sighed, seeing it. “I should’ve known you kept it.”
“Of course,” Crowley replied, and held the door open. “After you.”
Aziraphale paused at the door, not stepping over the threshold, looked up at Crowley, and held his gaze for a second.
Crowley knew that this was one of those moments, one of those times where he had a choice to make and what he did would actually matter. So he cleared his throat, couldn’t find anything to say, and held out a hand. At this point, it was just a gesture. He’d been conditioned to know Aziraphale couldn’t actually take it, but it would show him they were in it together, whatever it turned out to be.
Aziraphale swallowed, eyes still on Crowley’s. Then he gave a tiny nod of his head, and grabbed Crowley’s hand. After a moment, he stepped inside and started up the stairs, pulling Crowley along behind him.
And Crowley gritted his teeth so hard he was sure they’d break just so he wouldn’t cry. Aziraphale’s hand was warm and soft and it hit him then for the first time that the world wasn’t ending. Not right now.
“Old times,” Aziraphale murmured, as he opened the door to the flat.
“Haven’t you heard that one? Just like old times?”
“Yeah, I just…” Crowley shrugged. “It’s not like old times. We’re not- bound to any loyalty anymore, are we? We’re our own thing, we’re our own people. When we were here before-” He gave the flat a once over. “-Heaven and Hell were here with us. Now it’s just us.”
“You’re right,” Aziraphale agreed. Then he said, “They’re going to kill us. They’re going to-” and dropped Crowley’s hand to clap his own over his mouth.
“Not tonight they’re not,” argued Crowley, even though the thought of facing repercussions was weighing on him too. He snapped his fingers, and the lights came on. “They’ve got too much to do.”
“Should we really do it?” Aziraphale blurted out. “What Agnes suggested, should we really-?”
Crowley gave it a moment’s thought. “I don’t think we have a choice.”
“What if it doesn’t work?”
“Isn’t it a bit of a pipe dream anyways?” Crowley led Aziraphale over to the kitchen and put the kettle on. “If it works, it’ll be a pleasant surprise. I’m not expecting it to.”
“But we’ll die,” Aziraphale squeaked.
“We helped Adam save billions and billions of people today, isn’t that enough?” Crowley pulled his glasses off and set them on the counter.
Aziraphale looked up at him. “No,” he whispered. “We don’t have anyone to answer to, don’t you want to live?”
“Course. Course I want to live.” Crowley shook his head. “Of course. It’s just- dying, and dying now… it wouldn’t be all that bad.”
“I don’t want to lose you.”
“I-” Crowley stopped. “I know.”
“I can’t, it- it wouldn’t be fair,” Aziraphale continued.
“Actually,” Crowley said, hoping to maybe lighten things up a little, “humans tend to say that life isn’t-”
“Oh, I know,” Aziraphale snapped, and he reached up and pulled Crowley down into a kiss.
And Crowley floundered. His hands fluttered from Aziraphale’s face to Aziraphale’s hair, from his shoulders to the small of his back. He didn’t know quite what to do with himself, and he couldn’t quite believe this was happening. Aziraphale’s mouth was on him, on his mouth, and it was so perfect he couldn’t help but wonder if this was what was meant to happen all along. Maybe this was the Plan.
Aziraphale took a tiny step back, his hand still on Crowley’s cheek. “I love you,” he said, and his voice sounded tight.
Crowley felt like he might pass out. “Then I’ll be fine,” he said, and as he said it he realized it was true. “We’ll both be fine. It’ll work out. I promise.”
And Aziraphale kissed him again, and again.
Crowley was burning up, but he was also getting the hang of this. He couldn’t really breathe, but he decided that was alright. He braced his hands on the countertop on either side of Aziraphale, and figured that even without considering humanity, or any of it, he’d save the world again just for this.
“I’ve always loved you,” Aziraphale breathed, between kisses. “Always.”
Crowley pressed his forehead to Aziraphale’s. “I love you. I love you so much.”
They were both wonderfully out of breath.
“We’re going to be okay,” Aziraphale murmured.
“They can’t hurt us,” returned Crowley.
“Not at all.”
“I’d like to see them try.”
“They definitely will.”
“And we’ll weather it.”
“Oh, angel.” Crowley held Aziraphale to his chest, tucked his chin over the top of Aziraphale’s head.
They stood like that for a long time, and they were safe and untouchable and soft and together, and then the kettle went.
“Tea and then bed?” Crowley let Aziraphale go so he could get mugs.
Aziraphale nodded. “We’ll swap in the morning, then.” He was tugging at the sleeves of his jacket and at his tie.
“Right.” Crowley poured tea, and calmed his nerves with the idea that no one could hurt them. They loved each other, and they’d actually said it. No one could possibly hurt them, they were untouchable. He passed a mug to Aziraphale.
Aziraphale blew on his tea. “Good job today,” he said.
Crowley felt himself flush. “You too, obviously.”
Aziraphale cleared his throat, and then didn’t say anything.
After a minute, Crowley asked, “So- will we have this forever?”
“If we can pull tomorrow off-”
“Which you will, I know you can.”
Aziraphale smiled. “Thank you. I was going to say yes. Or at least- I hope so.”
Crowley leaned down and kissed his cheek. Every trace of fear and uncertainty he’d felt about tomorrow was utterly gone. Of course he’d survive. Aziraphale loved him. “I hope so too.”
Aziraphale leaned back into Crowley, resting his head on Crowley’s shoulder.
It was so odd and reassuring to think that the only reason why Aziraphale had never touched him before was because of the other angels. Without having them looking over his shoulder, he was genuinely a tactile person. It made Crowley’s heart hurt. He said, almost involuntarily, “Angel, I love you.”
“I know,” Aziraphale said, and he took Crowley’s face in his hands. “You’ve been telling me for centuries, dear. It’s on me for being so cold.”
Crowley snorted. “You’ve never been cold. Just… better at handling things than I am.”
“You’re too kind to me.”
“No, you’re- you’re the one that’s too kind,” Crowley said, and he smiled. “You couldn’t ever be cold, you’re… you’re made of love. I know, alright? I can feel it.”
“Oh, Crowley.” He rubbed his thumbs gently back and forth on Crowley’s cheeks.
Crowley struggled to keep his eyes open. There was something undeniably intoxicating about engaging in this sort of casual intimacy. “I love you so much,” he murmured.
“I thought it would feel strange to actually say that, you know?” Aziraphale shook his head slightly. “It doesn’t, though. Of course it doesn’t.”
“Like you said,” Crowley replied. “Saying it for centuries. Right?”
“I suppose so.” Aziraphale sighed. “Let’s go to bed.”
And they did. Crowley’s old bed was miraculously free of dust despite him not having slept in it for over sixty years. Once they were in a place where they could sleep, they started feeling the exhaustion they must have been collecting, and they undressed in tired silence, exchanging only the occasional nervous smile.
Once they were in their underclothes they got into bed, and within minutes, Crowley was snuggled up to Aziraphale’s side. Within a few more minutes, they were both soundly asleep, and tangled up with each other like they’d been doing this forever.
guys you should have KNOWN that if they said i love you once it would give them too much power and they'd never stop saying it!!
also shout out to that one commenter who pointed out how rough it was that aziraphale never took crowley's hand when he offered it because they are the reason i went back and edited in some closure for that
Chapter 13: Autumn 2019
A month had passed since Armageddon, since the trials, since everything. The bookshop was back, and it was fine, and so was the car. Everything was fine. More than fine, it was all good. It was all wonderful. Perfect, even, although saying so sounded slightly too creationist for comfort.
Crowley’s days consisted of nothing, of whatever he wanted to do, of no pressure whatsoever, no fear Hell would ring him up. He read what Aziraphale bothered him about reading and, after about a minute of Aziraphale begging him to, he put seatbelts in the new Bentley. He was the happiest he’d ever been, ever. It was odd to realize that he was nothing but happy, but he got used to it. It became routine.
It was impossible to forget that Aziraphale was in love with him. Aziraphale wouldn’t let him. Not a day went by without Aziraphale telling him, or kissing him, or just looking at him in that way. And Crowley couldn’t stand it. Well, he could, and he loved it, but he died tiny deaths every time he felt adored. It was almost too much for him.
He hung around the new bookshop - the old bookshop, really, just miraculously restored to its pre-fire condition - most days, and made sure Aziraphale’s tea never went cold. Sometimes he even helped Aziraphale come up with new ways to scare customers off, which was always fun.
But overall he just lived. They both did. They lived, and Earth was better than Heaven ever was.
One beautiful afternoon - all the afternoons were beautiful, but this one really was, sun shining, nice breeze - the bell over the shop door rang, and Adam Young stepped inside. It was funny how kids grew. It happened so quickly. They’d seen him just a month ago and yet now he already looked older.
He smiled at them. “I’m sorry about the mud,” was the first thing he said, shortly followed by, “How are you?”
“Mud?” Aziraphale inquired, before following Adam’s gaze down to this shoes and letting out a little gasp. “Oh, you didn’t…”
“I said I was sorry,” Adam muttered. “I was just out in the garden with Brian.”
“It’s fine,” Aziraphale said, and it sounded like it hurt him. “May I ask-”
“Why I’m here?” Adam smiled. “I’m just checking in. You know. I want to make sure everything’s back the way you wanted it here. I did try my best. If anything’s off, I can fix it.”
Aziraphale patted the top of Adam’s head. “It’s wonderful, my boy. You did a very good job. Couldn’t have asked for it better.”
Adam beamed. “Is your car good, Mister Crowley?”
“Brilliant,” Crowley assured him. “It’s brilliant. Thanks.”
“Course.” Adam nodded. “Are you two all set, then?”
It was odd, having an eleven year old check up on you like that.
“As all set as we’ll ever be, I think,” Crowley answered.
“And how are you?” Aziraphale added. “How have you been?”
“Y’know.” Adam shrugged, and despite all his power he was still very obviously a child. “School started back up, so that’s no fun, but my parents are letting me keep Dog through winter. He can stay in the house now.” He glanced around the shop. “This is a nice place. It feels nice here.”
“Thank you,” Aziraphale replied. “And- how did you get here? You didn’t bicycle all the way from Tadfield, did you?”
“Nah.” Adam chuckled. “Anathema’s boyfriend gave me a lift in his stupid car. Cars are destroying the environment, did you know that?” He shook his head. “Anyway, he’s moved in with her and she bought the cottage. I think they’re… I dunno. Settling down.”
Crowley snorted. “Ew.”
“I know,” Adam agreed.
“Is he waiting outside?” Aziraphale asked, shooting Crowley a ‘don’t-encourage-him’ look. “It would be rude not to invite him in.”
“No, he’s doing some shopping. He’s picking me up at the park later.” Adam held a hand out towards a stack of books. “Can I?”
“Thank you, thank you for asking,” Aziraphale rushed. “Yes, of course.”
Crowley raised an eyebrow. Aziraphale was acting like Adam had authority over them. Maybe he did, but it still didn’t matter. They weren’t extraordinary beings anymore, none of them were. They were just two very old people and one child. He smiled. It was funny. It was a funny old perfect old life.
“And, Adam,” Aziraphale added, his voice becoming softer, “another thing. You can borrow them, any of them. Just bring them back same as they were when you took them.”
“Really?” Adam grinned, eyes scanning the shop. “Can I look?”
“Of course, dear. Go ahead.” Aziraphale ruffled Adam’s hair rather awkwardly.
Adam took off, racing back between the shelves of the shop, running his hands along the spines of the books.
Crowley whistled. “Never saw that one coming, I’ll be honest.”
Aziraphale glared at him for a moment before leaning his head on Crowley’s shoulder. “He’s perfect. He’s so human.”
“Is him coming to visit getting to you?” Crowley asked, disbelieving. He knew Aziraphale was full of all sorts of emotion all the time, but he didn’t expect it to come out over something like this. And oh, he loved Aziraphale so dearly.
“No,” Aziraphale snapped defensively. “It’s just- he’s- oh, you already know.”
“Yeah.” Crowley put an arm around Aziraphale’s shoulders, gave him a squeeze.
“You two,” Adam called from deep in the shop, “are worse than Newt and the witch. Gross.”
“Oh, tish tosh,” Aziraphale called back. “Just pick something already.”
Crowley kissed Aziraphale’s temple. “Tish tosh?” he echoed. “You’re ridiculous.”
Aziraphale nodded, and gave him a smug smile.
A moment later, Adam reappeared from the back of the shop. “I’ll take this Tintin , please.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have any-” Aziraphale stopped, looking down at a book that was very clearly Tintin . “Very well. Must’ve forgotten about it. Of course. Bring it back without any folds or tears, then?”
“I will, thanks.” Adam tucked the book under his arm. “Well, good to see you. I should head to the park.” He paused for a moment, then added, “I’m glad everything worked out.”
“Adam,” Aziraphale blurted out. “If- if you ever need it, or even if you don’t need it, even if you just- want it… you’ve got a home here, alright?”
Adam stared up at them.
Aziraphale looked over at Crowley.
“Really,” Crowley added. “Seriously. Whenever you feel like it. Drop by for a day, or for… for as long as you want. Also goes for if you need a ride somewhere. Just call me up, I’ll come get you.”
Adam didn’t move, or do anything, for what seemed like the longest time. Then his face broke out into that grin again, and he nodded. He let Aziraphale give him one last pat on the head and then he ran to the door of the shop. He stopped there for a minute, looked over his shoulder at them, and said, “I’ll see you around!” before jogging out the door, comic book in hand.
Aziraphale sighed, and looked from the door back up to Crowley.
Crowley stared down at him, and when he still couldn’t figure out what Aziraphale wanted him to say, he just asked, “What?”
“Nothing,” Aziraphale murmured.
“What?” Crowley repeated, and elbowed him gently.
“Nothing, I just love you.” Aziraphale shook his head slightly. “You’re so darling.”
Crowley felt himself flush. “I am not darling,” he managed. “I park in front of people’s driveways.”
“You’re my darling,” Aziraphale amended.
Crowley scowled, and pretended that hearing it didn’t make his chest clench. He and Aziraphale really didn’t have to play the not-in-love game anymore, but sometimes they ran lines from it, just for kicks. For old time’s sake. So he’d pretend he hated being complemented, and it would make Aziraphale laugh. “In all honesty, though,” he said, eventually, “why’d you give him that book? You never give people books, not ever.”
“He gave me my entire shop back, I figured I owe him,” Aziraphale answered. “And he’s going to be such a brilliant human. He is such a brilliant human. He’s… I don’t know.”
“And the loft, too,” Crowley continued. “You want kids running around in here all the time?”
“No, it’s just… if you have a home why not share it? I’m sure he’ll be a teenager one day, and teenagers get into fights with their parents, and I just want him to have somewhere else to go,” Aziraphale said defensively. “I’d rather him come here than go out and do something dangerous, alright?”
“You’re perfect,” Crowley muttered. He pulled Aziraphale into a hug.
Aziraphale leaned up and pressed a kiss to Crowley’s tattoo. “I’m not, I’m just… nice.”
“You’re a bastard, and you’re perfect,” Crowley said firmly. “Let’s go out, I want to drive somewhere.”
“We could do dinner,” Aziraphale offered. “And please- speed limits.”
Crowley laughed, and held out an hand. “Come on.”
Aziraphale took it, and, together, they walked out of the shop and into the afternoon sun.
we love a happy ending :')