Crowley and Aziraphele were making the drive out to Tadfield together to visit their new friends the Youngs, and the Pulsifers. It was a lovely, sunny day and Crowley had Queen’s Who Wants To Live Forever blasting through the Bentley’s revamped sound system. Aziraphale, struggling valiantly to tolerate Crowley’s loud, garish taste in music, was gazing out at the pretty British countryside as it flew past the window. They were going way too fast, but at least out here, away from the city, there were far less chances of striking and killing a pedestrian. Although… he wept for the fate of any wildlife careless enough to stray into the Bentley’s path.
None of it really mattered to him at the moment though because he was in a wonderful mood. Armageddon had been averted, Adam Young had refuted the Almighty Satan and had stood his ground with Crowley and Aziraphale at his side. He’d chosen his own, earthly father over the Dark Lord. Their lovely world, full of fascinating, clumsy, beautiful, gloriously imperfect human beings had been saved from ultimate destruction. And on top of that, he and the demon were on their way to visit five of their very favorite humans.
The thought was a very pleasant one. As a matter of course, Aziraphale didn’t often make friends with humans. True friendships required attachment, and attachment required emotional connection. And emotional connections hurt when they were severed by humans dying, which they inevitably did. And so would Adam and his dear parents Deirdre and Arthur. And so would Anathema and Newt.. The thought of losing his newfound friends caused a melancholy twinge in the Angel’s chest, but for some reason, these friendships had seemed more important than other possible connections that had presented themselves over the millennia. They’d all shared in something very profound together.. Had all played a pivotal role in the saving of the world, and that made these connections different. Once the confusion was resolved and the dust had settled, they’d all realized that they quite liked each other’s company.
“What’s wrong?” asked Crowley, his tone irritable on the surface, with a tinge of genuine concern for Aziraphale. He’d reached over and turned down the music so that they could hear each other without shouting. “You’re brooding. I can tell”. So much of Crowley’s interactions with Aziraphale were of a dual nature. Concern masked by aloofness. Joy masked by indifference or irritation. There was a lot going on under the surface of their incredibly long friendship. Very little of it was apparent to either the angel or the demon, who while they were both eternal beings of infinite power, were also quite ridiculously dense when it came to their own feelings about each other.
Aziraphale sighed heavily. “Nothing’s wrong. Nothing that can be changed anyway”.
Crowley rolled his eyes “Don’t be vague angel, its irritating. Tell me what’s on your mind.”
“I was just thinking” said Aziraphale wistfully “about our dear human friends…” he trailed off, his expressive brows, knitted slightly over soft blue eyes as he continued to track the green countryside as it slipped by outside the window.
“Ah” said Crowley, immediately understanding him. “Yes…. Yes. That is a… bummer” he finished lamely.
“Its more than a.. bummer Crowley!” Aziraphale sounded out the word as if it were in a different language. He’d never quite caught up on modern vernacular, and was routinely 30 - 40 years behind the times linguistically speaking. “It’s quite tragic really”
“I know. I know” muttered Crowley, dutifully chastised. “I understand. We’ve made a difficult decision by staying in touch with the Tadfieldians” (his own term for Adam and the gang) “But life isn’t worth living if you only make choices based on how you can avoid pain.”
“I suppose you’re right Crowley” Aziraphale admitted, secretly quite impressed with the demon’s grasp on the situation. Sometimes, Crowley surprised him with his insight and kindness. though he through ruefully, I’ll think long and hard before calling him “nice” again . Out loud he said, “I suppose I have a tendency to do that. I make lots of those types of decisions.” What he didn’t say was that most of them thus far had had to do with his connection to Crowley over the long stretch of their friendship. That however, was a subject he wasn’t prepared to discuss at the moment.. If ever.
Brightening, he patted the pink box, wrapped in white ribbon that sat between them on the Bentley’s front seat. “I certainly hope they enjoy the pastries I brought.”
Crowley chuckled inwardly. Good old Aziraphale. Give him five minutes stitched together and his mind would inevitably turn to pastries. “I’m sure they’ll love them” He replied. “Good thing they’re tied up all pretty with that ribbon or you’d have wolfed them down already”.
“Crowley! That’s not fair!”
Crowley grinned devilishly as he turned the music back up to an ear splitting volume. You’re My Best Friend came blasting dramatically out of the speakers, and he settled back in the driver’s seat with a smile. He was with his best friend. On the way to see some of his very favorite people. It was a good day. He’d have to get used to good days.
They arrived outside the Young’s cottage a little after half past five. Adam, with Pepper, Wensleydale and Brian, greeted them as they burst out the front door in a pile of gangly elbows and knees. “Aziraphale! Crowley! Hullo!” Adam called out and waved enthusiastically at the two as they were climbing out of the Bentley. The Them rambled down the short path from the front door and stopped briefly to say hello to the angel and the demon before running off on some adventure or another. Pepper said something about “playing Armageddon” which made Aziraphale a touch apprehensive.
They walked up to the door, nervously. Their only prior experiences being social in person with the Youngs and the (now newlywed) Pulsifers being the few hours after the Armageddon had been averted. Afterward, (and after a terrified Deirdre had shown up in a cab when she’d seen strange lights in the sky and heard lots of loud booming in the direction her husband had driven off in..) they’d all stood around for quite some time, on the tarmac at the Upper Tadfield Air Base, talking, asking questions, sharing stories of each person’s experiences in the days leading up to that fateful day and generally wrapping their minds around what had just happened. Even Crowely and Aziraphale had been shaken.
There had been laughs, tears, lots and lots of questions. But eventually, as the full story came out, they’d settled into a companionable chat, while the children ran about exploring and the sun slowly set on a world that was miraculously saved from destruction. As they’d parted, there were even some hugs. They’d exchanged contact info and promised to keep in touch. This pleased Aziraphale quite a bit, because he and Adam’s mother, Deirdre had connected over baking and old books. He was already quite fond of her, and he noticed that Crowley and Anathema had settled into a lively chat about something.. .so connections were being made. And he was fond of the children. The Them. They were so bright eyed and rambunctious and he was instantly disarmed by them. Crowley too, though for slightly different reasons. The demon loved how much the Them enjoyed playing games involving torture and murder. * Very admirable gang of kids* he thought with approval.
Now they stood, side by side, uncharacteristically nervous for a pair of nearly omni-powerful beings and rang the doorbell of the Young’s cottage. Deirdre quickly came to the door with a bright smile. “Oh hello!” she beamed and immediately pulled Aziraphale and then Crowley into a warm hug. Aziraphale, beaming with companionable warmth offered her the box of pastries he’d placed in a paper shopping bag. “These are from a lovely little bakery down the street from my bookshop” he explained as the three of them moved from the Young’s small foyer and into the living room. “I hope you like them”.
“I’ll hide them from Arthur and eat them all” she joked as she hurried away to put them in a safe place above the fridge. “Thank you so much” She yelled over her shoulder. Arthur appeared, looking decidedly nervous and offered the angel and the demon somewhat stiff hand shakes with terse nods of his head. He liked the two unearthly beings, but his mind wasn’t quite yet up to speed on the whole biblical “War To End All Wars” situation that had swept his innocent seeming son up into a … well a very… awkward situation. He was processing though. His wife, once she’d learned that Adam was safe, and that they were out of danger, had caught up to the situation quite quickly. This was probably due to the fact that she simply adored Aziraphale. She secretly thought of him as the charming, handsome gay friend she’d never gotten the chance to have in college. Though she’d never mention that to him.
For the angel and the demon’s part, they’d decided not to tell the Youngs that Adam wasn’t their child. They’d raised him, they loved him. That was all that mattered. It had been a difficult decision to make, but when they’d considered the pain and trauma that the truth would cause, they’d decided, as is the case with some humans, that blissful ignorance was best.
“Would you gentleman care for a cup of tea? Or perhaps a glass of wine..?” Arthur asked a bit gruffly, trying to grow accustomed to the role of dinner host to a pair of immortal beings. “Or do angels and demons not drink wine?”
Crowley and Aziraphale shared a look and then both prom ptly burst into gales of laughter. “I think I’d love a glass of wine” gasped Crowley when their chuckles had died down. Arthur Young, looking a bit perplexed, hurried off to grab a bottle and some glasses.
The doorbell rang a few minutes later and Anathema and Newt showed up with yet another bottle of wine, some home made bread and some fresh cut wild flowers from their garden. More hugs and salutations ensued. “Its really quite nice to see you again” Anathema said, grasping Aziraphale warmly by the forearms and kissing him on the cheek. He blushed a little. He very much enjoyed human affection, and humans often felt moved to be affectionate towards him because of his sunny personality, beaming smile and predisposition for helping people. She turned and offered Crowley a more solemn handshake and he offered her a devilish smile and his silent approval of her very dramatic looking black velvet dress. They secretly admired each other’s sense of fashion but were too shy to come out and say it. Crowley and Aziraphale shared warm handshakes with Newt, and Crowley made sure to congratulate him on saving the day by being horrible at computers. Newt rolled his eyes, and grinned sheepishly.
Before dinner, they sat in the Young’s living room, catching up on how everyone was doing since the Armageddon that never happened. Anathema and Newt recounted their small wedding ceremony, Deirdre and Arthur talked about how naturally Adam had sunken back into his daily routine post Apoca-wasn’t. . How his friends had miraculously (and blessedly) trusted him to be the same old Adam he’d been before the world had almost ended. How The Them had stuck together and become even closer.
This seemed to be true of everyone who’d lived through that very upside down, crazy day. Sargent Shadwell had married Madame Tracy (who just went by “Tracy” now), and they were off on their honeymoon on a cruise somewhere in the Baltic sea.
Arthur and Deirdre had started visiting regularly with Newt and Anathema and Adam had continued to devour copies of The Aquarian and to come to Anathema with questions about interesting occult things (probably in order to develop more games for The Them to play). It helped to have other people around who’d also seen the same insane things ludicrous things you had (angel wings and fiery explosions and so forth), who believed you and sympathized with how shook up you were in the aftermath of said things. But more than that, they actually did really enjoy one another’s company. Perhaps the prophecies of Agnes Nutter would have foreseen this as well, these new friendships forming, but no one would ever know for sure after Anathema had burned the “new” batch of prophecies that had shown up at her door after it all went down.
As for Crowley and Aziraphale, they had grown closer too. They’d taken steps during the lead up to the End of Days that had firmly separated them from their warring factions. Burning bridges and breaking barriers until they stood together, at the center of the whole big mess. No longer on opposite sides, but on their own side. They spent a lot of time together now, and familiarity was slowly but surely breaking down some of the careful barriers they’d put up to keep themselves separated. The changes happened infinitesimally, but they were happening nonetheless. Slowly but surely, the mentions of “We shouldn’t”s or “It’s not proper”s or “Really Crowley! If my side only knew”s vanished from Aziraphale’s daily vernacular. Crowley started saying encouraging, positive and openly friendly things to Aziraphale without shame and anxiety over being “caught fraternizing”.
But there was still a wall up. You couldn’t build a wall with another person.. couldn’t lay the metaphorical bricks one by one between you for thousands upon thousands of years and not have some trouble taking it back down again. The bricks of this wall were made up of a million missed touches, a million unspoken words. A million missed opportunities for them to become closer before now. The bricks that separated them were sturdily mortared with fear and apprehension, and stubborn, good old fashioned habit. Habits practiced for thousands of years become more than habits. They become a form of religion. And to Crowley and Aziraphale, to break these habits and reach out to one another in new ways was… well it was sacrilege wasn’t it? And the wall was high. Invisible but impenetrable. Their closeness could only go so far. Never mind that both Crowley and Aziraphale very much wanted to get closer. They just did not have the vocabulary to do so. They had no script that wasn’t couched in the language of adversarial companionship. In jokes and jibes. Crowley was snarky, cynical, insensitive and gruff. Aziraphale was sensitive, anxious, hesitant and tentative. The changes weren’t large enough or profound enough. This was not safe ground in which to plant the seeds of a deeper affection.
And they definitely shared such an affection. They loved one another desperately. And had for millennia. But here they were, on either side of the wall. Unable to reach through it or tear it down to truly see one another's true feelings laid bare.
Unbeknownst to the angel and the demon, their human friends could pick up on something between them, but no one was quite sure what it was. They’d discussed this at length. As it was with most humans, they were obsessed with interpersonal relationships and sex. They (Anathema, Newt, Arthur and Deirdre) were thoroughly charmed by the colorful and seemingly opposite pair. They knew there was a long history between the two, and though they’d referred to one another as good friends (usually with an uncomfortable shrug as if apologizing for some sort of misstep) , the humans could just tell there was something else going on here. Something unspoken and possibly profound. They’d decided to use this dinner party as a way to ferret out some details.
Well, to be fair, it was mostly Deirdre and Anathema who wanted to ferret out details. Arthur and Newt, in the respectful and rational way many middle class, suburban men saw things, thought it was none of their business and preferred to let the women gossip and plot while they listened with no small amount of interest from behind a newspaper or the screen of a laptop.. Occasionally they’d give their two cents on the situation, but mostly they stayed butted out.
“They act like an old married couple” remarked Deirdre (with a sly look in Arthur’s direction) “always fighting, but you can tell they care for each other”
“Oh! I agree” said Anathema nodding swiftly, eyes sparkling with curiosity and the kind of glee only a person who loves bodice ripper romance novels can work themselves up to (which happened to be one of Anathema’s guilty secrets). “Only I’ve never seen them kiss or hold hands or touch at all really. But the looks they give each other when they think the other one won’t notice?!” She sighed dramatically, her hand over her heart and her eyes gone all soft and mushy. Burning the prophecies and marrying Newt had freed her up to be more mushy in general. Most of the intense purposefulness that ruled her every waking moment before the Apoca-wasn’t had released its grasp over her, and she now enjoyed things like snuggling with Newt (he was VERY snuggly), reading books that didn’t foretell the future (but did sometimes feature bodices being ripped) and relaxing into a normal life for the first time in her 20 some-odd years.
The two women needed more information. So they’d decided to invite the pair over for dinner with the dual purpose of catching up with new but dear friends and to snoop a bit as to the true nature of their connection. They’d hatched up some specific questions that they’d work themselves around to asking very casually. It became a fun game they shared, this effort to figure out The Crowley And Aziraphale Problem.
Dinner was served and everyone settled in around the table. Deirdre had made a huge paella filled with shrimp and crab meat, vegetables and spices and a large green salad. She sliced up Anathema’s homemade bread and served it on the side with cold, unsalted butter. Everyone dug in, and for a while there was no noise except the sound of happy chewing and the clink of fork on plate and polite requests to pass the salad dressing. Deirdre and Arthur had wisely given Adam a little extra spending money so that The Them could go get some pizza in town, in order to keep their chaotic energy away from the house so that this could be a “grown ups” dinner. It made her chuckle inside to contemplate the fact that two of those “grown ups” were thousands of years older than anyone else. How strange. How novel. How wonderful!
After everyone had been happily eating for a few minutes and conversations had started to crop up around the table, Anathema cleared her throat politely and said, with the barest hint (to Deirdre’s ears) that her words might just have been rehearsed a few times in the mirror to make them sound completely impulsive and casual “Newt and I are just loving married life”. Next to her, Newt, who wasn’t fully aware of the depths of the women’s subterfuge, took this as simply a kind thing for his new wife to say. He beamed proudly and reached out to warmly stroke her shoulder. She smiled lovingly back at him and soldiered on with Random And Totally Casual Question Number One.
“I find it very reassuring to have Newt to come home to every night. And I’m never lonely anymore like I was before he came along.” She let out a sigh and then casually turned her attention to Aziraphale. “Do angels get married?” She asked, large brown eyes the veritable soul of innocence. Crowley was distracted by a conversation with Arthur over where he’d gotten the WWII sniper rifle in the glass case mounted on his study wall, so he didn’t hear the question.
Aziraphale to his credit, didn’t miss a beat. “They do not.” he said with a dab of his napkin to the corner of his mouth. My this paella is good! He thought absently. “Marriage is a human custom. Angels don’t usually have very close relationships…” he said, a touch sadly. “At least not with each other. I’ve had some very close human friends over the centuries though!” he finished with a warm tone. Moments later though, his gaze turned inexplicably sad and he looked back down at his plate.
Hmmm thought Anathema, Well that taught me virtually nothing. She couldn’t very well ask Aziraphale if angels had romantic relationships with demons now could she? Then the jig would most certainly be up! “I’ve forgotten Aziraphale” she forged ahead a bit awkwardly with Random And Totally Casual Question Number Two. “Do you live alone, or do live with Crowley”?
Aziraphale almost choked on his wine. “Live with Crowley??! He exclaimed as if she’d just asked him if he’d like to stick a thumb tac into his eyeball. Anathema glanced nervously over at the demon and was relieved that he hadn’t apparently heard this outburst.
“Oh my that would be unpleasant”. Aziraphale exclaimed in a stage whisper, apparently catching on that his horror would be insulting to the demon if Crowley managed to catch wind of it. “No my dear, I live alone above the bookshop.. Quite happily I’ll add... Live with Crowely” he repeated with mild repugnance “He’d spill wine on all my books and would likely blast his confounded music day and night.” He shuddered as he reached for another slice of Anathema’s bread and slathered it with butter. “This bread is heavenly my dear he remarked as he took a rapturous bite “And I should know!”
“But” he continued, his eyes growing softer as he thoughtfully chewed another bite of bread and butter “He certainly comes over often enough. Sometimes it feels as if he does live there”
*Interesting* thought Anathema.
Deirde meanwhile, had witnessed this exchange and knew it was her turn next to launch Random Question Number Three. She casually reached across her husband to place a friendly hand on Crowley’s arm to grab his attention “Mr. Crowley” she said companionably. “Speaking of WWII, did Arthur tell you about how his grandfather used to write letters home to his grandmother every day when he was in the service? That’s so romantic I think. Don’t you agree Mr. Crowley?”
Crowley shrugged “I suppose so” he muttered indistinctly.
Deirdre pressed onwards “I think its lovely that gay people can get married now. They can share in all the lovely fancy wedding ceremonies and the recognition and all the benefits that straight people can. Isn’t that wonderful? What are your thoughts on gay marriage?” She was older than Anathema and more comfortable being direct. Arthur shot her a panicked glance that read you have got to be joking
Crowley raised an eyebrow over his dark lenses and stated nonchalantly “I supposed that’s very nice for them”.
Them huh? Thought Deirdre, feeling her smile waver a little . Well.. that’s a bit of a distant opinion to have about gay marriage if you were in fact in love with another man.
If she’d known Crowley better (much better) she might have realized what a pointless question this was to ask the demon. Neither Crowley nor Aziraphale saw sexual orientation or gender as a very important defining characteristic. They enjoyed human beings socially because of who they were as individuals, not because of what arrangement of parts they had between their legs. Crowley had in fact had quite a bit of sex with humans of all types over the past several centuries. He was a demon after all. It had helped with the whole tempting business, and he’d enjoyed it, but it wasn’t anything earth shattering. Nor had it mattered if they were male or female or anything else at the time.
He didn’t say any of this to Deirdre though. Simply shrugged and turned politely back to his conversation with a very relieved Arthur.
If Aziraphale had caught this exchange, and had been able to weigh in, and if he’d been very honest with himself, *and* if he’d known what the term even meant, he’d have likely described himself as a “demisexual” - a person who cannot experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection to someone. But Aziraphale was busy trying to fit a very large and very garlicky shrimp into his mouth while listening to Anathema expound on the tragedy of illegal whale poaching, and so he said nothing.
Deirdre and Anathema convened in the kitchen after they’d volunteered to clear everyone’s plates.
“Any luck?” Anathema asked in hushed tones “Because I’ve hit a brick wall”
“None at all ” replied Deirdre sullenly. “ Good for them’ he said.” She frowned. “You?”
“Nope. ‘ Angels don’t get married ’. With hindsight, that may not have been a very good question to ask, considering that I didn’t mention demons at all. But I didn’t want to be too obvious.”
“Yes” agreed Deirdre, distractedly scraping food scraps into the trash bin. “But then, did you notice when Aziraphale had that grain of rice stuck to his chin and Crowley knocked it off with his finger, and that *smile* they shared. OH MY GOD”
“I KNOW” squealed Anathema, as much as she could squeal anyway in a strangled whisper so that no one in the dining room would hear. The two women joined hands and did a little jumping-up-and-down happy dance. Deirdre was instantly reminded of her days as a teenager, and how much fun she’d had talking about cute boys with her friends, or gossiping over who might or might not be stepping out together. She felt a flush of gratitude that she had a new friend to share these experiences with.
They were interrupted by Arthur, who came into the kitchen with another stack of plates and a handful of used wine glasses. Deirdre helped him put the dishes into the sink and grabbing his arm, asked urgently “Did Crowley say anything about Aziraphale when the two of you were having your little gun chat?”
“No my dearest, he did not” stated Arthur gravely. “Despite what you may think, sometimes chaps just want to talk about warfare with other chaps and don’t have romantic love on their minds every five seconds.” Then, as if to immediately contradict his words, he grabbed her by the waist and delivered a firm kiss on her lips. She smiled broadly and slapped him lightly on the bum as he went back out into the dining room. If anything, the events of recent months and rejuvenated their marital affection. Being close to but averting the complete and utter destruction of everything that ever was had a way of making one grateful for what one had.
After he’d exited the kitchen, Deirdre turned to Anathema, eyes sober. “Its time” she announced “for Phase Two”. Anathema nodded gravely.
Phase Two consisted of getting the angel and the demon alone respectively and gently grilling them on the nature of their relationship. Deirdre had insisted that she be the one to have a chat with Aziraphale. The two could talk for hours about Roman statuary or fondant or the works of William Blake.
This left Anathema to be the one to have a private chat with Crowley. She felt apprehensive about this, being that she wasn’t sure they had much in common, and well, despite being insanely sexy and having excellent taste in fashion, she knew nothing else about him. Except that he’d once been a snake. But that was a rather awkward conversation starter. She did have a secret weapon however, that she planned to use to separate him from the others and to simultaneously get him talking. A tightly rolled joint she had stashed away in a deep pocket of her velvet dress. She and Newt enjoyed a few tokes in the evenings sometimes, and she had a feeling that it wouldn’t be hard to tempt the demon into a “walk” around the garden for a smoke and a chat.
They split up and headed back into the dining room, where everyone was preparing to move to the living room for after dinner drinks. Adam burst in the door and with a quick “Hullo!” in the general direction of the adults, he’d bolted upstairs to his room. He wanted no part of “boring grown up talk”. Once everyone was settled with their wine or their scotch, or in Newt’s case a camomile tea..(he didn’t drink), Deirdre put her part of Phase Two into action. She sidled over to Aziraphale, who was arguing with Crowley over whether or not it was morally acceptable to shop lift (just for the thrill of it) if one could magically replace the item after stealing it,... and cleared her throat politely.
“Aziraphale my dear” she began warmly. I have a new book I’d like your opinion on. Its upstairs in Arthur’s study. Care to take a look?”
The angel beamed widely “Oh! That would be lovely!” and the two set off for the upstairs study. This left Crowley somewhat socially adrift, standing there by the floor lamp in the study, hands in the pockets of his tight black jeans, looking mildly dejected. *Perfect timing* thought Anathema. She excused herself from talking to Newt and stepped uncertainly up to the demon.
“Hi” she said awkwardly
“Hi” he replied with a brief upwards nod of his head
“Soooo” Anathema began with an air of studied casualness.. “Would you care to perhaps join me for a bit of herbal refreshment?” She had fished the joint out of her pocket and flashed it discreetly in Crowley’s direction. His eyebrows crept up towards his hairline and a wicked smile crossed his lips.
“Don’t mind if I do!” he exclaimed happily, and grabbing his glass of red wine, followed her out into the garden. Anathema breathed a sigh of relief. My that was easy!
Upstairs in Arthur’s study, Deirdre and Aziraphale were bent, heads together, inspecting the book of poems Deirdre had recently inherited from a great aunt who’d passed away last June. “Oh my!” tutted Aziraphale happily. “These are quite lovely! And look! Its printed on recycled cotton rags. Whomever printed this must have not made the switch to wood pulp paper!”.
Deirdre, only half listening, was trying to concoct a way to bring up the subject of Crowley. In the end, she decided the direct approach was the best.
“So” she began, interrupting the angel’s book talk with a hand to his arm “What’s the deal with you and Crowley”
The angel turned to regard her with a look of mild shock on his handsome face. “Pardon?” he asked weakly.
“Are you two in love? Just friends? Soul mates? What exactly is going on?” She tempered her onslaught with a warm, conspiratorial smile and a supportive hand on his shoulder.
“Erm… well…. “ The angel stuttered. “It’s… well….. It’s rather… complicated”
“Tell me about it won’t you dear?” Asked Deirdre softly. “I see the way you look at him, but I wasn’t certain what was happening with the two of you.” And suddenly realizing that she may have pushed too far, seeing the stricken look that suddenly graced the angel’s features, she back pedaled slightly. “Or unless you really don’t wish to talk about it. I am *terrible* when I decide to pry into other people’s business”.
Aziraphale let out a long sigh and looked down at his hands, where they still rested on the open poetry book. “No, he said. It’s alright. I actually appreciate having someone to talk to about Crowley who isn’t …. Well…. Crowley.”
“Of course dear” said Deirdre supportively. She led the angel over to the love seat in Arthur’s study and they both sat down, knee to knee, turned slightly towards each other.
“I don’t quite know what to say” began Aziraphale with another heavy sigh.
Sensing that something rather important was about to be expressed, Deirdre impulsively reach out and grasped the angel’s hands in her own and gave them a squeeze. His hands were extremely soft and warm. Aziraphale gratefully squeezed her hands back and looked at her with a somber expression, tinged with worry.
“We’ve known one another… Crowley and I for six thousand years. That’s quite a long time” he added completely unnecessarily. “And we’ve developed a rather deep connection over the millennia”
“That much is clear dear” remarked Deirdre, in what she hoped was a helpful tone. Privately, her mind was reeling a bit at the enormity of years that were being discussed. Oceans of time that bordered on the incomprehensible.
“But see, something that may not have been explained in detail before..” continued Aziraphale ..”Is that all that time, we were on opposite sides. And I don’t mean opposite football teams, I mean *diametrically opposed*. We were never supposed to get along. We were probably never even supposed to have met at all..” His large blue eyes grew sad. Deirdre squeezed his hands anew and gave him what she hoped was an encouraging look.
“Regardless” The angel continued, “we *did* meet. And we *did* become quite good…. friends” His voice hitched a bit on that word and his brows knitted themselves more tightly together. “Thing is though, if anyone found out that we’d been cultivating this…. Friendship, or that we didn’t really feel all that dedicated to opposing one another.. Or that we’d in fact been helping one another and spending rather a lot of time together, Well… it would mean a severe punishment for both of us. Possibly death” He added gravely.
“Oh my!” gasped Deirdre sympathetically. “How awful! But surely things are different now? What with the world going back to normal? Are you still in danger?”
“No, we’re not.” replied Aziraphale, the statement delivered with a confounding tone of sadness.
“Well… “ continued Deirdre, a touch uncertainly. “Isn’t that a *good* thing?”
“You’d think” said Aziraphale dejectedly. “But its just made everything that much more complicated”
“How so?” Asked Deirdre gently. “How can it be worse than before?”
“Well…. Because I have no clue what to do now!” Aziraphale cried, a touch of anguish creeping into his voice. “I don’t know how to continue without being... *sneaky*. Without hiding from him and hiding from heaven and without him hiding from Hell. There’s no rule book for this sort of thing!”
Deirdre sensed true pain in the angel’s statement. She tried to imagine what it must feel like to conduct a clandestine friendship with someone you cared about deeply for six thousand years without ever being able to fully act on your affection and her mind couldn’t begin to grasp how frustrating that might be. How could she grasp it? Human lives were so short by comparison. She steeled up her courage though and asked the question she’d been angling towards all night.
“Are you in love with him?”
Aziraphale dropped his gaze from hers, but he felt him squeeze their hands together again, as if he was seeking strength from the connection. “Desperately” he whispered into his chest.
“Oh Aziraphale!” Deirdre exclaimed with delight before she realized how loud she’d been and dropped her voice down to normal levels. Surprisingly, she felt tears of joy come to her eyes. “That’s wonderful!”
“Yes.” replied the angel in a flat tone. “Wonderful”
“What’s wrong dearest?” Deirdre asked, suddenly concerned. “Doesn’t he love you back?”
“Most likely not” Azirpahale responded glumly. “Don’t misunderstand me, I’m sure he cares for me, but it’s just not possible that he could feel the same way. He’s never acted on it.” (his mind drifted to the not one, but two times that Crowley had invited him to ‘run off together’ to the stars, but his brain instantly rejected those requests as anything other than a good friend trying to save them both from imminent destruction). “He doesn’t go in for that sort of thing. I mean, he is a *demon* after all. And he’s made many derogatory comments about romantic love in general.
Deirdre, who’d known many a “bad boy” like Crowley when she’d been in high school wanted to shake the angel by the shoulders and yell ARE YOU BLIND?? But she quickly stifled the urge and instead she brought a gentle hand up to Aziraphale’s pale, silky soft cheek. He raised his eyes to hers and she was struck by the deep sadness in them.
“Dearest Azirahale” she said kindly “Surely you've seen how he looks at you? Dear lord, I can see his love for you even through those ridiculous dark glasses of his”.
Aziraphale’s mouth fell open. “What?” he asked weakly.
It occurred suddenly to Deirdre that this pair had been floating through time and space for millennia together without a single third person to ever honestly and objectively give them an alternate perspective on their connection. It made sense. In centuries past, emotional intelligence hadn’t been a thing. People didn’t remark on other people’s romantic feelings unless it was to push them into an arranged marriage or punish them for getting the local miller’s daughter pregnant. Most people probably assumed that they were a couple already and hadn't pressed, if they'd noticed at all. Aziraphale had never before had a girlfriend to talk to. Nor had he ever told anyone so blatantly of his feelings for the demon. No one had been there to help him tease apart reality from his tumultuous emotional perspective on Crowley’s feelings. She was flooded with a feeling of deep honor at being possibly the first person to hold this lofty position. And simultaneously she felt a sudden blossoming of pity and love for the angel.
“Oh Aziraphale” she remarked softly…. “You have no clue do you? He’s clearly in love with you. Everyone has noticed.”
“Everyone?” muttered Aziraphale with a strange expression on his handsome face. “Everyone has noticed?” he repeated helplessly. “In love with me?” he asked softly, his eyes filling with wonder at the thought.
“Yes you silly boy!” admonished Deirdre gently. “Of course!” She cast an unbelieving glance up at the ceiling, as if exasperated. “The way he talks to you. The tone in his voice. The careful way he places himself near you all the time. How he’s always looking over at you. He’s kept his eyes on you as much as possible whenever we’ve all been together. Its as plain as the nose on your lovely face!”
As the angel’s aforementioned face bloomed with a shy smile she felt her heart leap joyfully in her chest. She immediately knew what Crowley must feel when he looked at the angel. It was impossible not to love Aziraphale after seeing him smile.
“Whatever am I to do?” he asked, concern tinging the hopeful tone in his voice.
“Why tell him of course!” Deirdre exclaimed, a touch impatiently. “What else?”
“Oh Deirdre darling, I don’t think that would be a wise idea.” He replied ruefully.
“Why ever not?”
“Well…. I ….. I’m not sure really” faltered Aziraphale. “Because….” He was clearly struggling to find the right words. “I’m an angel… He’s a demon. It just isn’t *done*. We’ve spent so many countless years keeping a safe distance, building a wall up between us. I just have no idea how to …. How to climb that wall.”
“That sounds like a bloody useless excuse” said Deirdre frankly.
“Regardless of how it sounds dearest, it is what it is.” The angel stated, dejectedly.
Deirdre, sensing that the conversation had come to an impasse, gently disengaged her hands from Aziraphale’s and gave them a final, reassuring pat. “Thank you for telling me” she said solemnly. “I’m very glad that we’ve gotten to be friends.” Upon seeing the angel’s beaming smile at her words, she impulsively threw her arms around him and wrapped him in warm hug. “You’re a lovely person, Aziraphale” she whispered in his ear as she felt him squeeze her back. “I know you’ll do what’s best for you both”.
The angel pulled back from the hug abruptly, with a look anxiety “You won’t tell Crowley we had this little chat will you?” he asked urgently.
“Of course not!” exclaimed Deirdre with a stern look. “Not a word” ( to Crowley) she added silently. She was absolutely planning on spilling the beans to Anathema the second they were alone together again.
The angel and the woman stood, and hand in hand, warmed by the glow of their newfound closeness, they started the walk back down to the sitting room.
Meanwhile.. Out in the garden….
Crowley and Anathema had found a secluded place, in the Young’s back garden, away from the road and the house, under a drooping willow tree to light up the joint. Anathema took a long drag, and, suppressing a few small coughs, she passed the joint over to Crowley. He’d smoked marijuana before and enjoyed it, but not that often. To be honest, he preferred the buzz that wine and scotch gave him. It was a simpler feeling. Marijuana made everything complex. But tonight felt special and he secretly wanted Anathema to think he was “cool”. He took a hit and held it in, not coughing because his human body wasn’t subject to the design flaws of most humans.
They stood in a mildly awkward silence for a few minutes, passing the joint back and forth, punctuating their tokes with sips of wine. Pretty quickly, both of them were stoned out of their minds.
“Dear Satan!” Exclaimed Crowley thickly as he blew a long stream of smoke from his mouth. “What in the devil’s name are they putting in this stuff? I don’t think I can feel my feet anymore”
This made Anathema burst into a fit of helpless giggles. “Not sure!” she choked out around another hit of smoke. “But I got it from Newt’s friend, Roger, who has really reeeeeeaaaalllly good shit”. She ended the sentence with a hail of fresh coughing, smoke escaping her lips in little puffs.
She tried passing the joint back again to Crowley, who leaned away from it and made shooing motions with his hands. “No THANK YOU” he exclaimed. Another toke and I might forget how to speak.”
Anathema agreed and pinched the lit end of the joint out with spit soaked fingers. She wrapped the roach in a plastic baggie and returned it to her pocket. Taking another gulp of her wine, she glanced sideways at the demon.
“I have to say I really love those shades” she said shyly. “Where did you get them?”
“I order them online in bulk” replied the demon, pleased that she’d noticed. Aziraphale seemed mostly interested in getting him to take the shades *off* rather than noticing how rakish he thought they made him look. “I’ll send you the link. They have quite a selection and they’re not that expensive.” The demon loved shopping online. The immediacy of it mixed with the almost magical feeling of clicking a button on a computer and then having a package show up at your door the next day (regardless of the actual speed of delivery advertised by the company) was addictive.
He decided to return the compliment “I do rather like that dress. It’s really …. pretty and… witchy… and I like the lacy, fiddley bits around your wrists. Women these days have lost the … whatchamacallit.. The …. (his stoned brain flailed about vaguely for the right word) … *knack* of dressing interestingly. Everyone’s wearing these teeny tiny sparkly outfits or just jeans and t-shirts. I always had an eye for women in multiple petticoats or black crinoline….”
Anathema, deeply pleased by his compliment wondered hazily if she was being hit on, but decided a moment later that she probably wasn’t. Crowley’s tone, while earnest, wasn’t lascivious.
“Oh I just love your clothes!” she gushed back. Glad to have a point of connection over which to open up an actual conversation. "And your hair! You look like Mick Jagger, if he’d gone goth!”
“Goth?” asked Crowley uncertainly, preening though, because although he didn’t know what “goth” meant, he did know who Mick Jagger was and was quite pleased at the comparison “You mean… gothic ?” He wobbled a bit on his feet as the wine and the weed met and made friends with his synapses.
“You know… like Goth” continued Anathema. "People who wear lots of black eye liner and black clothes with zippers and straps and have their hair dyed black.” She’d been raised in a somewhat sheltered way and tried her best to explain the fashion style, with limited success. Crowely’s style definitely leaned closer to a rocker thing with a side of Emo,... he was basically a demonic late-career David Bowie... but she was beyond the ability to relay that at the moment.
“Sounds pretty great” slurred Crowley. He made a mental note to buy some black eyeliner as soon as possible.
Anathema, warmed by the amiable back and forth she’d shared with the demon, decided now was as good a time as any to broach the subject she’d gotten him out there to discuss.
“So about Aziraphale..” she began
“What about him?” snapped the demon, managing to sound distractedly stoned and irritable at the same time, and Anathema feared she’d made a mistake. But summoning up her courage, a courage bolstered by several glasses of wine, she continued.
“Are you two… like dating or something?” The question was devoid of grace or nuance, but at the moment, she was way too high to construct a more subtle approach.
Crowley didn’t respond immediately. He stood in silence, seeming to ponder the question. Anathema held her breath and waited patiently… swaying slightly in her high heeled, strappy boots.
“Lots of people have probably assumed that about us over the years” he spoke finally after what seemed like an eternity, but considering that she was blitzed out of her mind, was probably more like about 8 seconds. “And the answer is definitely NOT”, his voice held a note of deep regret. Anathema was poised to ask another question, but Crowley continued. Apparently, marijuana made him chatty.
“His bosses certainly thought something was going on between us. So did mine for that matter. In fact, everyone seems to think something is going on with us. Bloody irritating that”.
“Why’s that?” Anathema prompted helpfully.
“Because….. “ the demon seemed at a lack for words. “Because… well.. Because there isn’t anything … going on.
Anathema threw caution to the wind. “Would you like it if there were?”
Crowley was silent again. Surprisingly, he reached up and removed his dark glasses and began turning them over nervously in his hands. Another long pause ensued in which Anathema felt her heart might explode with anticipation "Yes I would" he said quietly, shooting a bright yellow glance in her direction through the gathering twilight “Very much”.
Anathema let out a breath she’d been unaware she’d been holding. “Oh that’s lovely!” She exclaimed, jumping up and down a couple of times like a school girl and beaming a happy smile at Crowley. Crowley, whom she suddenly noticed didn’t look happy at all.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, daring to put a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Did I say anything I shouldn’t have?”
“No.” he replied soberly… as soberly as someone who’d had several glasses of wine and several tokes of mind blowing weed could at any rate. “It’s not you. It’s just a … sensitive subject”.
“Want to talk about it?” Asked Anathema supportively
“Not really” replied Crowley. But then, completely contradicting his statement, he began to talk about it anyway. “Thing is” he continued.. “He just doesn’t want me back. I’ve practically thrown myself at him several times and he gives me nothing but polite… angelness. Is that even a word?” he wondered out loud. “I asked him to run off with me. TWICE, and he turned me down. Both times!” he slurred, a bit morosely. I’ve saved his life I don’t know how many times. I keep coming around and asking to spend time with him. I’ve asked him out to lunch FIVE THOUSAND times, literally! He just doesn’t respond with anything other than politeness. Well.. I mean he accepts the lunch invitations, but he’d say yes to Satan himself for a free slice of cake… stupid, pudgy angel..” He mumbled crossly but with an affection that was apparent, even to the sloshed Anathema at his side.
Anathema thought she was picking up on a pattern emerging here. She decided to do a little investigative probing. “When you asked him to um… run away with you..” she began. Crowley turned hopeful yellow eyes to her, so she continued “Were you explicit about why you wanted to run away with him?”
“Well of course I was!” barked Crowley, but then he stopped and thought for a moment, swaying gently “Of course.. I… “ he continued uncertainly. “I told him we could escape together because the earth was going to be destroyed…. “ He paused again. More swaying transpired as he thought for a minute.
*It’s dawning on him now* thought Anathema with satisfaction
“I didn’t tell him it was because I wanted to be with him. Only that we should escape together. I suppose that was relatively general. Not really explicitly about my feelings at all then was it?”
“No” Anathema confirmed. “It doesn’t sound specifically explicit at all really”.
“And the invites to lunch”... Crowley was putting the pieces together finally.
“Yep.” Piped Anathema. “Those could have easily been taken for *friendly* lunch dates couldn’t they have?”
Crowley’s eyes opened wide in sudden recognition of what had been going on. Anathema had to suppress a giggle at how ridiculously naive he’d been for a demon. But most people (immortal or otherwise) it seemed, were not the best at seeing what was right in front of their noses. “My god!” he exclaimed. “I’ve been a complete moron!”.
They both found this extremely hilarious for some reason and burst into fits of high pitched laughter. They laughed for so long, bent over, clutching each other’s arms for support to keep from tumbling over, that Anathema was afraid she’d pee herself. When their giggles finally subsided, the pair straightened up slowly, wiping tears from their eyes.
Sighing happily, Anathema gently broached the subject again. “Are you going to be more… well… more specific from now on?” she asked hopefully.
“Oh I don’t know” the demon responded, sounding a little irritable. “It’s all so convoluted. He’s such a prim and proper little cream puff. I have no idea how he’d react if I told him.” His voice took on a theatrical tone “Listen here Aziraphale good man. I’m rather hopelessly in love with you and I’d like to spend the next few hundred years getting to know what’s going on under all those starched layers of yours…. ”. He trailed off uncertainly as mental images exactly what it is he'd like to do to Aziraphale began filtering in from his weed enhanced imagination. He blushed suddenly.
“Come on Anathema prompted. “It’s time we went back in. I need a drink of water” She felt deep satisfaction at finally prying the truth out of Crowley and she couldn’t wait to find Deirdre and tell her everything.
“Wait!” The demon grabbed her by the arm. “You won’t tell Aziraphale about this conversation will you?”.
“No!” Declared Anathema. “Of course not! Prssh the… purrisshh the..... Don’t even think of it!”
Crowley visibly relaxed. “Here” he said cavalierly, reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled out a new pair of shades, with metal side blinders.. Just like the pair he was wearing. “Take these.. On the house. You’re an awfully good therapist” He grinned slyly.
“Oh thank you!” exclaimed Anathema, delighted, she put them on right away, even though it was far too dark out. They looked very fetching on her, thought Crowley warmly. He wondered if this might be what it was like to have a niece or perhaps a little sister, and felt his heart swell warmly in his chest.
The two linked arms and walked, unsteadily and happily back towards the house. Anathema could tell there was a lightness to the demon’s step that hadn’t been there before.
Aziraphale had just been wondering where Crowley and Anathema had gotten off to when the pair stumbled back to the living room, arm in arm, faces flushed, wearing identical pairs of sunglasses. They looked incredibly happy and Aziraphale felt a brief flash of something… not jealousy exactly… envy?.. At how relaxed and companionable they seemed. Crowley was never quite that relaxed around him. But nor was the angel as open with Crowley as he’d been with Deirdre, so there was that… Maybe that was something that needed to change?
“How’s everyone doing?” Asked Crowley in a voice that was a bit too loud and quite slurred as Anathema left his side and toddled over to rejoin her husband on a nearby loveseat.
“We’re doing just fine dear” replied Deirdre warmly. “Aziraphale has been regaling us with tales of how he spent quite a bit of time with William Shakespeare!” Her eyes were shining with delight.
Crowley made his way over to the couch where Aziraphale sat, and unceremoniously draped himself, limbs every which way, on the opposite side of the couch from the angel. As he looked around the room, Crowley realized that he and Anathema had stumbled drunkenly into a into a group of truly enraptured humans. They (Deirdre, Arthur and Newt) were all turned in their seats, oriented towards Aziraphale.. Hanging on his every word no doubt. He *had* spent quite a bit of time with Shakespeare if Crowley recalled, giving him pointers on his plays and help with ways to increase audience participation. At the time, Crowley had been a bit jealous of so much of the angel’s time being spent NOT with himself, but now, he experienced something quite different.
He felt a deep sense of pride and love well up in his chest for Aziraphale. It was so sudden and intense that he momentarily felt his breath catch in his throat, and felt tears threaten to well up in his eyes. This was * his* angel.. Aziraphale who was endlessly fascinating and extremely charming. He saw Aziraphale’s pure, unadulterated specialness.. His beauty and his deep intelligence (even if it *was* tempered by a surprising naivete) through the eyes of three completely spell bound humans who were gazing at him with a mix of affection and awe.
Sometimes Crowley forgot how captivating Aziraphale could be to other people. It was easy to put him in the convenient and familiar box of “best friend” that he’d constructed, to endlessly suppress his urges to touch the angel, to kiss him, to express love for him and to just place him in a corner of Crowley’s mind that was safe and sanitized. His friend. His dinner companion. His irritating annoyance. His confidant. But never his ….Crowley’s thoughts stumbled over the thought….
Never his dearest and most abiding love. Never…. the love of his life.
As Crowley sat in silence, watching Aziraphale continue his colorful story.. seeing Aziraphale’s expressive eyes light up with mirth and watching his well shaped hands dancing through the air as he spoke, bit by bit, the wall that he’d build up inside between him and his true feelings began to crumble.
Aziraphale finished his tale with a flourish and a joke about Twelfth Night that set everyone to laughing heartily and sat there, grinning and flushed, basking in the love and attention he received from his human friends. He glanced casually over at Crowley and was surprised to see that he’d removed his sunglasses and had fixed him with an unreadable yellow look from the opposite end of the couch. Rather than dig deeper, he gave the demon a warm but brief smile and turned back to Deirdre, who was already tugging on his sleeve and asking a multitude of questions about Aziraphale’s life through the centuries. Too many for him to ever be able to answer in one evening.
Still, they stayed well into the night. Until the early hours of the morning, they talked and drank laughed and traded stories. Anathema had curled up on her side and put her head in Newt’s lap as he gently stroked her hair. Deirdre sat on the arm of Arthur’s chair and he casually draped an arm about her waist. Crowley did eventually join in again to the general clamor of conversation. He seemed to have left his feelings of self consciousness over his lovely yellow and black snake eyes behind him, because he kept the shades off for the rest of the night. This was really quite pleasing to Aziraphale, who found Crowley’s eyes strikingly beautiful. They were unlike any other pair of eyes he’d seen, and the demon’s yellow gaze always had a way of thrilling the angel to the core.
At some point, Crowley had gotten up to get another drink, and when he returned, he sat down very close to Azirapale, so that his left leg was pressed against Aziraphale’s right. Maybe it was the wine, or the good company, or Aziraphale’s unusually relaxed mood, but he didn’t shy away or attempt to move as he normally would. He let the contact be what it was and relaxed into it. He could feel the warmth of Crowley’s leg where it met his and the sensation seemed to spread, like a pleasant haze, through the rest of him. He found himself relaxing even further. They were sitting in silence for a spell while they listened to Newt recount a story about Sargeant Shadwell that had everyone chuckling.
“He’d put so many sugars in his tea” said Newt through a fit of giggles, cheeks flushed, eyes sparkling with humor “that it took his spoon a solid 15 seconds to go from standing up straight to resting against the side of the cup!”
Aziraphale turned his head to share a laugh with Crowley and found the demon already looking at him again. Gazing at him, his face much closer this time. The demon’s eyes serious and luminous and dilated. He didn’t turn away when Aziraphale met Crowley's eyes with his own soft, blue-green stare, but instead kept the eye contact steadily. Aziraphale’s amusement melted gently away to a feeling of warmth and deep fondness. And then, as the demon's eyes continued to hold his gaze, that faded away as well, and he became aware of the ocean of feelings he had for the demon, swelling beneath the surface of this moment. Torrents of emotion that he'd spent centuries building a dam against... He felt suddenly as if this tide might sweep him away with it if he were to let the flood gates open. He felt a small, joyful smile play at the corners of his mouth, and saw it mirrored on the demon’s face as well.
“Hello” Aziraphale said softly.. Entranced by Crowley’s lovely yellow eyes. Captured. Unable to look away.
“Hello” replied Crowley, equally softly. Then, without hesitation, the demon captured the angel’s hand that was closest to him and interlaced his fingers with Aziraphale's. Aziraphale felt surprise at Crowley's boldness, but he didn’t move his hand away. The contact was thrilling. The feeling of Crowley’s long, expressive fingers mingling with Aziraphale’s, the instant feeling of intimacy and warmth it engendered was suddenly breathtaking.
He absently realized that conversation in the room had stopped completely and that there were four pairs of eyes watching them. The humans had sensed the feelings passing between them as if they’d been spoken aloud and had fallen silent when they’d slowly, one at a time, some more drunkenly than others, realized that something was happening
Crowley watched as Aziraphale’s gaze faltered and saw his eyes grow self conscious. The angel turned his lovely blue eyes away and looked down at their hands, interlaced together, resting half on his right leg and half on Crowley’s left. The moment that they’d shared a gaze had lasted all of 30 seconds, but he felt his heart wrench a little bit when it ended. As if he'd lost something precious. As if he'd dropped something delicate and watched it smash to the floor. He was suddenly very anxious to reclaim... to scoop up whatever gentle, delicate thing had been broken and rebuild it.. make it whole again.
Aziraphale nervously cleared his throat and announced to the suddenly silent room “Well, I suppose it’s a bit late. I think we must be headed back home”
“Yes” Replied Deirdre dreamily, her voice strangely full of emotion. “Yes, it is quite late, and the two of you have a long drive.” Crowley saw her exchange a look with Anathema that he couldn’t read.
Spell broken, the humans busied themselves with getting up and carrying wine glasses and tumblers and dessert plates (Aziraphale’s pastries had been a big hit) into the kitchen. There was a mix of awkward energy and secret smiles exchanged.
Aziraphale gently disengaged his hand from Crowley’s, who let him do so without resistance. The spell had been broken. It would be back to usual now thought Crowley. He felt a pang of sadness at the idea of the wall between them building back up again. not if I can help it though he thought with determination. Something inside him in that moment became resolutely dead set against *ever* building up that wall again. To consciously take every step he could to keep that from happening.
Before they knew it, they were saying goodbye. Deirde hugged Aziraphale warmly, pressing a container of leftover paella into his hands and giving him a look of such transcendent happiness that even Crowley noticed. She hugged Crowley as well, and placing a motherly hand against his cheek, she smiled kindly into his eyes.
“Take care of this one” she said with a wink. “He’d be lost without you”. Crowley could almost *feel* Aziraphale blushing next to him. He gave Deirdre a lopsided, wry smile back.
“I most certainly will” he replied softly. She beamed at him and stepped back so that Anathema could say her goodbyes.
“Hey” Anathema said shyly as she approached Crowley. “If you ever want to, you know, hang out and talk, just let me know.” She was a touch surprised when Crowley swept her up in a fierce hug. “Thank you.. For everything” he whispered into her ear before letting her go again. “You’re welcome” she responded with a secret smile.
The angel and the demon exchanged warm handshakes with Aurthur and warm hugs with Newt and then they were out the door.
The ride home was a quiet one. Crowley put on a CD of soft music and didn’t turn it up too loud. He even drove at a reasonable speed. They mostly stared out the windows and kept a companionable silence. Something profound had changed between them this night. Their chemistry was different. The very air between them was different. Softer. More pliable, and they could both tell.
They pulled up in front of Aziraphale’s book shop, but instead of saying goodbye, Aziraphale invited Crowley upstairs. “Please stay here tonight?” he asked softly. “It’s very late.. or rather, very early and I know how you love your sleep.” Crowley felt no need to make a jibe or a joke and gladly accepted. With a sleepy nod he followed Aziraphale into the shop, and up the stairs to the angel’s bedroom. There was no talk of him sleeping on the couch. They were both in silent agreement that Crowley would share the bed with Aziraphale. It was probably half past 3 in the morning, and Crowley felt very drained, pleasantly drained. Deliciously tired. It had been a special night, but one that was strangely exhausting, and he was glad to undress to his black silk boxers and sink into Aziraphale’s soft mattress. He felt the bed move as Aziraphale climbed in beside him, and then he sank into a deep and dreamless sleep.
He awoke a few hours later, the sun’s gray morning light just beginning to peek in through Aziraphale’s bedroom window. The first thing he became aware of was the fact that he’d apparently wrapped himself around the angel in the night. Aziraphale lay on his back, face turned away from Crowley, breath steady and even, and Crowley was pressed completely against the angel’s right side, his head mere inches from Aziraphale's pale, lovely, exposed neck. Crowley had his right leg slung across Aziraphale’s hips. His left arm was trapped pleasantly under the angel’s neck and his right arm was slung across the angel’s chest. Aziraphale’s hand, made even more beautiful because it was limp with sleep, was draped warmly over Crowley’s forearm. The angel's right arm was trapped between them. The heat of the angel’s body so close to his own was blissful. He could feel Aziraphale's heart beating faintly through the arm across his chest. He could smell Aziraphale's smell... a reassuring mix of his old fashioned cologne, and beneath that, the heady smell of his pale skin, which, although Crowley had caught whiffs of it before when standing near Aziraphale, he'd never been this close before. This closely, the smell of the angel's smooth skin was intoxicating. He felt drunk again. Aziraphale had changed into a soft pair of linen pants and a thin t-shirt before climbing into bed, so Crowley could feel his softness and warmth radiating through his body wherever they touched. It was .... well it was pure heaven. Crowley let his eyes drift shut again and sighing deeply, snuggled a bit closer to Aziraphale.
This woke the angel, who turned his head lazily until his face was inches away from Crowley’s. Crowley opened his eyes and stared directly into the angel’s blue gaze.. His eyes appearing gray in the morning light. They lay there, gazing at each other for a long moment. Aziraphale’s left hand squeezed Crowley’s forearm. Crowley contracted the muscles of his right leg to pull the angel’s hips closer and more snugly against him. He felt his heart start to pound in his chest.
*The wall was down* he realized suddenly as he continued staring directly into Aziraphale’s beautiful eyes… eyes like deep pools. He saw something there that he’d missed seeing millions of times before. Something tender and profound. With sudden certainty, he realized that it was love. Deep and true. He felt the same emotion suffusing his own body, felt it beam from his gaze, directly into the angel’s beautiful eyes.
Even though he’d seen it and felt it.. He knew he had to say it. Had to exorcise it from inside him if he was to ever fully pull the last of the crumbling bricks aside and demolish the wall for good. He pulled enough of his arm out from under Aziraphale’s warm neck so that he could lever himself up on his shoulder and hover slightly over Aziraphale’s face. The angel tilted his face up to adjust to Crowley’s new position, to keep his gaze locked with Crowley’s. Crowley reached up with his hand from where it had lain on Aziraphale’s chest and placed it gently against Aziraphale’s soft cheek. They’d never touched like this before.
“I” began Aziraphale, his eyes starting to cloud with worry
“Shhhh.” Crowely shook his head gently, silencing the angel before he could break the surface of this delicate moment with his anxiety. “Please let me speak before you say anything.” He smiled with genuine kindness. “I have a lot to say”. Aziraphale nodded mutely, his eyes shining as he gazed up at the demon above him.
Crowley took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He slowly dragged his hand down to rest lovingly against the side of Aziraphale’s neck, his thumb resting gently against Aziraphale’s throat so that he felt the angel’s pulse, racing there. He saw Aziraphale’s gaze falter momentarily, thick lashes fluttering gently with pleasure at the intimate feel of the demon’s touch.
“It’s been far too long Aziraphale” began Crowley, feeling a thrill of fear as he spoke, but soldiering on anyway. “Far too long I’ve kept this wall up between us.” He saw recognition in the angel’s soft eyes and continued bravely. “I’m tired of pretending. I’m tired of keeping myself held back away from you. I’m tired of keeping my feelings for you in a box. Of keeping you in a box. A box marked “my best friend”. Those words are starting to ring hollow.”
Once he’d began speaking, he found he couldn’t stop. The words were flowing out of him like a rushing river. Simultaneously, he reached his fingers sensuously up into Aziraphale’s wild, white blond hair. He kept his gaze steadily locked onto the angel’s as he spoke and saw the way his touch affected Aziraphale, who’s eyes had grown large and luminous and who’s breath had started to come faster as he listened to Crowley speak.
“Don’t get me wrong” he continued “Friendship is wonderful and beautiful. We have real friends now and I love them dearly. Friendship is possibly one of the most profound things this human earth has to offer… but *our* friendship, yours and mine, was a false front from the start and we both know it.” He saw acknowledgement echo in Aziraphale’s gaze… saw him nod almost imperceptibly in agreement and felt his heart leap in his chest.
“I love you” Crowley said boldly. “I love you with all the strength my devilish heart can manage, and with the entirety of my fallen soul.” He saw tears of joy spring to Aziraphale’s eyes, which gave him the courage to continue. “I have loved you from the very first moment I saw you up on that wall above The Garden. You were so helpless and sweet. All I wanted to do, though I didn’t even know it then, not truly, was to wrap you up in my arms and keep you safe. And that love has grown with the passing of every year, every decade, every century, every millennium, until it grew too vast and too large for me to contain it any longer.
“I can’t contain it any longer.” he confessed in a voice thick with emotion “I refuse to. Long ago, I built a wall between us to keep us both safe. It was a wall built of cynicism and play pretend and lies to myself and to you. I’ve done my part now to tear it down. Last night, when we sat together on the couch at the Young’s, and I saw you, full of light and joy as you spoke with our friends, I realized I was done fighting it. My darling. I am yours, and I will love you until the sun burns out and the stars fall from the sky”. He fell silent then, keeping his gaze fixed on Aziraphale’s face, his breath coming faster and his heart pounding in his chest.
Aziraphale took a long, shaky breath, as the tears pooling in his eyes escaped their bounds and took the plunge down his soft cheeks. “Oh my love” he said gently. He didn’t speak further, only reached up and pulled Crowley down into a soft kiss. The first kiss of their entire lives together.
It started quite innocently, lips, chastely pressed against lips as a sign of love and affection, but the kiss quickly deepened and their arms tightened around one another in a fierce embrace. They were both shocked at the surge of passion that swept through them, unlike anything either of them had ever known before. They kissed and kissed, Crowley meanwhile climbed over and lay, with the full weight of his body on top of Aziraphale, marveling at the intense pleasure he received from being pressed against him completely. The angel sighed beneath him and kissed him back even more ardently.
They kissed the morning away. Until some time later, their kisses turned to other things. They let their lips wander to taste each other and to move together in ways that left them both breathless and gasping in pleasure. It went on and on for quite some time. In between kisses and caresses, gasps and sighs of passion, Aziraphale would confess his love.
“I love you my darling”
“I love you my dearest”
“I love you”
“I *love* you”
The day wore on and became night again, and they lay, naked and breathless in each other’s arms, tangled among bed sheets that were now completely ruined. Aziraphale’s hand slowly and languidly playing in the demon’s red brown tresses, Crowley, delightfully exhausted, lay with his head on Aziraphale’s chest, with as much of his body pressed against his angel as he could manage.
“I’ll have to tell Anathema that her little pep talk worked” he remarked lazily
“I’m sorry my darling? What was that?” Asked Aziraphale, voice like warm honey.
“She said I should tell you how I feel… that I wasn’t being explicit enough.. You know, by asking you to run away with me and by inviting you out to lunch all those times.”
He felt the angel’s chest shake with laughter and looked up with surprise into his love’s face.
“Oh Crowley!” Aziraphale could barely contain his laughter. “Deirdre said the same to me. She told me that even though I didn’t know how you felt, that I should speak up and end my torture.”
“Well” remarked Crowely, sounding vaguely impressed “What d'ya know? the humans really do have an edge on us celestial beings don’t they?” He settled his head back down onto Aziraphale’s chest, feeling with deep happiness, the angel’s steady heartbeat, throbbing gently against his ear and his cheek. “I suppose that settles it” he remarked with a tone of smug satisfaction.
“Settles what?” asked Aziraphale with curiosity as he let his fingers trail lazily through his demon’s silky hair.
“I said it first” Crowley smiled devilishly in a way he knew Aziraphale could feel, even though they couldn’t see each other’s faces. He felt the angel’s arms wrap tightly around him and he settled into the embrace with a happy sigh.
“Yes you did” replied Aziraphale, his voice suffused with a playful joy. “I tempted you and it worked perfectly. It just took a while”.