Aziraphale was unlocking his shop, not really paying attention, when he suddenly realized that there was a very small, very dark creature slithering between his ankles. It was not a snake, so his first assumption was, ah, new shape, but — it wasn’t Crowley at all. It was a cat.
But of course the cat reminded him of Crowley. It sauntered right into his shop without a care in the world and climbed onto his desk to start batting things off the top of it.
“No, no. Don’t do that.” Aziraphale rushed over and started picking things back up. This debacle went on for nearly ten minutes before he finally asked, “What kind of demon are you?”
The cat looked at him. She honestly looked right at him.
“Oh. Oh dear.” Aziraphale set his paper weights on the desk and tentatively reached out to scratch behind the cat’s ears. She began to purr, immediately. “Well, you’re very interesting, aren’t you?” The cat pushed her head under his palm. “I must confess I’m not really a cat person. Or…angel, I suppose. Bit unsettling, you are.” The cat pulled back. “Someone I know might want you. Very heavy emphasis on the, uh. The might.”
And so he lifted her in his arms and walked her the several blocks to Crowley’s flat. Aziraphale had no idea if Crowley was even home, if he was even in the country. They hadn’t spoken for several days, if only because life had gotten relatively back to normal, and they were, mostly, back to their old ways.
However, he only had to knock once before the door swung open, and Crowley called out, “In here.”
Aziraphale brought the cat inside, fully intending on introducing the two slowly and suggesting, if things went poorly, they could bring her somewhere she’d be wanted and then perhaps have lunch.
The cat seemed to have other ideas, however, and immediately leapt from his arms and dashed through the flat.
“Oh no. Oh no–”
“What in the fuck–”
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry. She wandered into the shop and she just reminded me of you and you know I don’t like cats, not nearly as much as I like–” Aziraphale followed the cat into the back of the flat, worried for her life, worried she might have already been chucked over the balcony and onto the streets below and he really shouldn’t have been doing so many miracles this close to his more recent run-in with Gabriel, but –
Crowley was on one knee, scratching behind the cat’s ears and...smiling.
“Look at you,” he crooned. “Look how lovely you are. You’re a terrible thing, aren’t you? You’ve been up to absolutely no good, haven’t you?”
Aziraphale held his hands close to his chest, taking it all in. “She ran right into the shop. Started knocking things off my desk.”
Crowley continued petting the cat, who looked positively smug about the whole situation. “Did she?”
“Yes. And she...well. She reminds me of you. That’s why I brought her here.”
Now Crowley looked up. “She reminded you of me?” He looked back at the cat. “Angel. I had no idea you thought so highly of me.”
“...You like her?”
“She’s alright.” Crowley lifted her in his arms. “What is she, just under a year?”
“I think about eleven months, from what I was able to gather.”
The demon nodded. “Right. I’ll keep her, then.”
Aziraphale started. “You...you will?”
“Sure. Why not?” He tucked the cat under his arm. “Was there something you wanted?”
Aziraphale was, admittedly, a bit stunned. He hadn’t thought it would go this well, or happen this quickly. But looking at the two together, he could tell he was quite right to bring her here.
“Don’t get smug,” Crowley muttered. “Let’s have lunch.”
The cat followed Crowley everywhere. She wore a black leather collar with a bell in the middle, her new name etched into it.
“Cretin? Oh, Crowley. That’s awful.”
Crowley had the cat in his lap, feet up on Aziraphale’s desk, running his hand down her back. “She seems to like it.”
And like it she did. The two were quite in sync, and Cretin could often be seen trailing after Crowley down the street, no leash required, eagerly nipping at his heels. She left only when he left, save for the night. Crowley left the balcony door open, so she could come and go as she pleased. It was a good deal for the two of them — Crowley went to bed at midnight, and woke at five AM. The cat left when her demon fell asleep, and was back inside when he awoke. Always she had some kind of gift for him — a mouse or a rat or a pigeon — something that proved she adored him. And Crowley, to prove he felt the same way, told her how much he appreciated what she brought for him.
It was a centuries old partnership that had been distilled down into something very simple: this cat and this demon loved one another, and everyone could see it.
“Can you watch her for me? I’ve got to go to Spain.”
Aziraphale looked up from the book binding he was repairing. Crowley held the cat — and Aziraphale refused to call her by her given name, it was atrocious — and they were both looking at him rather expectantly.
“What on Earth are you doing in Spain?”
Crowley shrugged. “Big match. Lots of bad people about to win a lot of money. Lots of bad people about to lose a lot of money.”
“And the good ones?”
“What they get up to isn’t really my thing, angel. Can you watch her or no? Otherwise she’ll sit at home and eat plants that don’t deserve it.”
“Ah.” Aziraphale took off his glasses. “Well we can’t have that, can we?” He reached for the cat, who didn’t seem to mind being handed over. “How long will you be gone?”
“Few days, give or take.”
“Right. Well she’ll be perfectly safe and happy here.”
Crowley nodded. “Good. Glad of it.” He leaned down and scratched behind the cat’s ears. “Break a few things for me, won’t you?” he asked, and before Aziraphale could protest, he was gone.
The angel sighed. “You’re both awful. You know that, don’t you?”
The cat purred, obviously pleased with herself.
Crowley was gone for several more days than he said, which wasn’t terribly surprising, but Cretin, after two days, became very antsy and started to act out. If Aziraphale hadn’t known better, he’d have assumed the two had some sort of...deeper, more magical connection. Of course, he could have been wrong, he’d been about plenty of things before.
But Cretin didn’t really seem special beyond how special Crowley believed her to be, and it seemed in their short months together, they’d formed quite a unique bond. Cretin was very aware that Crowley should have returned, and she spent the days between when he should have been back and when he finally was knocking things off their shelves, shredding the corner of a very nice antique Persian rug, and tearing down a set of curtains, which had been a gift from Zelda Fitzgerald.
“Get away from there, you little...you little—”
“Crowley.” Aziraphale turned. “Oh thank goodness you’re back.”
Crowley stood from the chair he was lounging in and crossed the room. “Miss me, then?”
“Well of course, but—”
Crowley looked at him, peering over his glasses. “I was talking to the cat, angel.”
Aziraphale sighed. “Right.” He watched Crowley rescue the creature from herself and heft her into his arms. “How was Spain?”
“Hot. Annoying. Got you something.” He snapped his fingers and a brown shoebox appeared on the desk. Aziraphale peered at it suspiciously and Crowley rolled his eyes. “It’s not going to blow up. Open the bloody thing, won’t you?”
“Fine.” Aziraphale went to the box and pulled off the lid.
Inside were a pair of very soft, brown leather ankle boots. Quite similar to some pairs he owned himself, but obviously —
“Custom made. S’why it took me a bit longer to get back.”
Aziraphale looked at him sharply. “You stayed longer. To buy me boots.” Crowley nodded. “You’re impossible, do you know that?”
Crowley shrugged. “Gift, for taking care of her.”
“She’s a monster,” Aziraphale murmured, lifting one of the boots from the box. It was a very lovely shoe, obviously done by a master craftsperson. He said: “How did you know my measurements?”
But when he turned to look toward Crowley, both demon and cat were gone.
“How is she?” Aziraphale asked softy. Crowley kept one hand on Cretin’s side, the other propping up his chin as he leaned full-body over his desk.
“Dying, Aziraphale. Weren’t you fucking listening?”
Aziraphale sighed. “I know. I’m so sorry, my friend.” He put a hand on Crowley’s shoulder. Crowley leaned into the touch. “You could...you could miracle her back to the way you met her. Get another...dear lord, it’s really been fifteen years since I found her, hasn’t it?”
“She’s ready to go,” Crowley said. “Told me she was. S’not fair to make her go through it all again. Said she’s lived a good life.”
Aziraphale smiled. “All these years, and you choose now to speak with her?”
Crowley shrugged. “Didn’t want to invade her privacy.” He sighed. “No, I don’t think I’ll do anything like that. She was happy, and now she’s ready to go.” He paused. “Where do cats go? When they die? Don’t have any in hell.”
Aziraphale reached out and brushed the back of his hand along Cretin’s side, until he reached the place where Crowley seemed to be connected to the cat’s final life line. He turned his hand over to cover Crowley’s own.
“You may not like to hear it,” he said. “But I believe most cats go to heaven.”
Crowley huffed. “Like dogs.”
“Yes,” Aziraphale said. “Like dogs.”
Eventually, they were in the dark together. Aziraphale turned on a light and asked, “How much longer does she have?”
“Not sure. Could be hours. Could be days.”
The angel nodded. “I could...if you wanted, I mean…” Crowley turned to him. “Well. I could send her off for you. Just...just to make it easier on you both.”
He expected his friend to scowl, mutter something about no favors from an angel — which of course would have been a stupid thing to say, really. They’d been doing favors for one another for several hundred years, but nevermind that —
“Yeah,” Crowley said. “I think that’d be alright.”
Aziraphale exhaled deeply, overcome with a relief he didn’t know Crowley’s agreement would give him. “Right,” he said. He went over to the cat, who was using her last moments on earth to purr under Crowley’s touch. He placed a hand on her side and said quietly, “Knock over a few of Gabriel’s things for me, monster. Won’t you?”
And with that, Cretin took her last breath, and Crowley said goodbye.
“We could pop over to Battersea today,” Aziraphale offered. “After lunch.”
“Not in the mood.”
“Oh, come now. You said last month you were thinking about getting another.”
Crowley looked up from his book. He’d all but moved into the bookshop in the last year, and things were...nice, it being the two of them. Aziraphale liked knowing that, as he stayed up late repairing this or that, reorganizing his short story anthology section or calling a shop in Australia, Crowley was fast asleep upstairs, enjoying his own unnecessary indulgences.
It’d been two years since Cretin had passed, and before last month, Crowley had expressed absolutely zero interest in having another cat. And while Aziraphale wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of one living in his bookshop, he had the distinct impression that it would have made Crowley very happy to have one.
“Are you going to ask constantly, every day, for the next six weeks?”
Aziraphale looked at him. “My dear Crowley. It’s like you don’t know me at all.”
Crowley groaned. “Yes, fine. After your lunch, or whatever.” He grabbed his glasses and keys. “Bloody pain in my neck is what you are.”
“Go back to your own flat, then,” Aziraphale said casually, following him out of the shop.
From the driver’s side of the Bentley, Crowley looked at him. “No,” he said, and got into the car.
“We called this one Friday. That’s when she came to us. She’s got a lovely spot shaped a bit like a heart over her eye, see?”
Aziraphale did not think the spot looked like a heart, but more like the state of Texas. That wasn’t for him to decide, of course, and Crowley wasn’t even interested in this cat. In fact, he didn’t seem interested in any of them, and Aziraphale was about to suggest they simply go home, or try somewhere else when he heard Crowley ask, “How long’s this one been here?”
“Ah, that’s Sunny. She’s about six. Been here four months? She’s a, uh. She’s a big girl. And she’s rather old, considering she’s up for adoption.” The woman giving them the tour gave Aziraphale a pained smile. “Most people prefer kittens.”
Aziraphale could not even begin to imagine Crowley taking care of a kitten, but at the same time he wasn’t very sure why this particular cat had suddenly captured his attention. Upon closer inspection, Sunny looked absolutely miserable. The hefty grey tabby was shedding something awful, her litter box was far too small for her, and Aziraphale could tell she was terribly anxious. When Crowley put a hand on the door of her cage, she hissed.
In that moment, she gave of a frightening intense and painful feeling of being utterly alone, and completely unloved.
“I’ll take this one,” Crowley said, which did not surprise Aziraphale at all.
“Really?” She was thrilled. “Oh, we’re going to have to celebrate, we have so much to give you—”
“I’ll just take the cat,” Crowley said. “How much is she?”
The woman explained the adoption fees, and Aziraphale watched them go through the process. He’d only ever seen Crowley pay for something once in their 6000 years of friendship, when they’d taken a short road trip together and he’d been guilted into buying the sausage sandwich from the petrol station. Now Crowley handed over several neat, perfect bills, declined to have his photo taken for the adoption board, and the two of them walk out with a very unhappy cat.
“Will she stay Sunny, then?”
“Hm.” Crowley nodded. He was leaning back on their park bench, Sunny in his lap, head tilted back. They were both sunning themselves, and Aziraphale was astounded that neither of them had ever thought that, for Crowley, a cat was a perfect companion.
“It’s a very nice name.”
“Nicer’n Cretin, eh?”
“Anything is nicer than Cretin. That poor, wretched animal.”
Crowley chuckled. “You loved us.”
Aziraphale sighed. “Well of course I love you,” he said. “I had assumed, at this point, that was quite obvious. And I will love whatever strange creature you happen to bring into our lives, whether it be feline or otherwise. And on top of that—”
Aziraphale suddenly found his hand occupied by Crowley’s.
“You’re talking too much, angel. Just enjoy the day.”
Aziraphale looked at the cat sitting in Crowley’s lap, her eyes half-closed as she seemed to consider the two of them. He glanced at their hands, clasped together on the bench between them, and the way Crowley’s knee would sway every so often and briefly touch Aziraphale’s.
After a few minutes, Crowley said, “You know I love you as well, don’t you?” He turned and smiled lazily, because Aziraphale had never met anyone who smiled quite like Crowley. “I had assumed, at this point, that it was quite obvious.”
Aziraphale scowled. “You’re terrible.”
“Not not so terrible you won’t canoodle with me on a park bench and let my cat sleep on your side of the bed.”
Aziraphale sighed and leaned his head back to sun himself as well. “No,” he said. “I suppose not.”