Actions

Work Header

I know you, Angel (but I didn't know That)

Chapter Text

Now, this fact might seem obvious to you dear reader, but Crowley has met many an angel in his long-reaching lifetime and felt himself quite the authority on being a judge of their character. Not only had most of the angels he'd known been bland and sanctimonious, but a majority of them had actually Fallen after quite the row in Heaven, dragging him down with them. When the pool of angelic acquaintances he had were either literal demons or had banned him from his once-home, it was easy to hold steadfast biases against them.

Crowley knew that contrary to popular belief, while angels made magnificent soldiers in the armies of Good, they were rarely good people. They were simply too... good, to be Good. A distinction Crowley took Very Seriously. They followed every rule and order. They crossed every T and dotted every I. They never questioned what they were or what they knew. Crowley thought that maybe once, a very, very long time ago, this might have been something he believed an angel should be. Back then it rankled in his blackened, freshly Fallen soul, knowing that it wasn't something he could ever resemble. He knew better now, of course, after six thousand years on a planet that lived and breathed under his bare feet and shining scales and burning tires. Being an angel couldn't mean the destruction of this place. Life wasn't meant to be orderly, hammered like hot iron into an unyielding, sharp-edged sword. Nor was it some graceless, burning scrap-heap for demons to run rampant and bloody. The world wasn't some toy to play with and discard the moment the opportunity arose to do so. God was fickle and distant and silent and they couldn't be sure they'd get a new world if they broke this one, even if they asked nicely.

But Crowley had known Aziraphale was Good long before the angel agreed to stop the apocalypse with him. Had known before the celestial had ever expressed any concern over his well-being vis-à-vis illicit holy water acquisition or healing irresponsible bike-owners who happened to be witches. It would have had to have been, well, right at the beginning really. He'd at least suspected as much, watching a flaming blade disappear into an endless, violent wilderness as the first rain in creation trickled off ivory plumage. A surprise to both of them, he's sure. The first drops of this new creation had startled the demon a little, a small, embarrassing jerk towards his unlikely conversation partner. Demons were a distrusting and skittish bunch, facts that Crowley learned quickly and to great effect. He had no way of knowing his little jolt would elicit the most peculiar reaction. A flutter of the bright wing, an almost involuntary invitation, thoughtlessly protective and entirely unintentional. And Crowley, being the impulsive, impish, curious demon he was, accepted the offer wordlessly, wondering if the angel would follow through with his half-baked action, expecting him to pull away as he rightfully should. The angel may have later been mortified, but Crowley was impressed with his resolve to keep the Serpent of Eden sheltered until the First Storm broke and they somewhat awkwardly parted ways. No proper angel would have allowed such a thing, he'd thought that day so long ago. He wondered if Aziraphale was, perhaps, closer to what God had hoped proper angels would be. A little kinder. A little nicer. A little... softer. Not that he -or anyone, really- would ever be able to tell. But reality had a habit to bending to Crowley's indomitable imagination, and it had worked out for him so far.

He didn't think it was really Aziraphale's good actions were the root behind his Goodness. Not exactly, anyway. When one was in the line of work they both were, acts of Good and Evil were done as transactions. The Agreement had thrived on this truth of the world. Righteous things were done by angels, and wicked things were done by demons. This was their part to play in the Great Plan, forever tipping the scales imperceptibly back and forth like the Longest and Most Boring balancing act the universe had ever performed. No, kind deeds did not always make kind people. It was Aziraphale's genuine, knee-jerk reaction to be gentle and generally magnanimous that made him Good. It was tempered only by Heaven's expectations and truly fiendish propaganda department. Crowley watched as the angel tried so hard to present a front he thought Heaven would commend him for, without realizing he was already leagues beyond them. At least, that's the way he saw it. He didn't let being an angel get in the way of being a person, and that was something Crowley liked to believe he saw in him from the start. Whether or not that was actually the case was up for debate, but debaters should be warned that the demon was really Quite Stubborn and had a habit of getting his way, even when things didn't go to plan. They'd saved the world after all, hadn't they? It really shouldn't have worked. And yet... it had. Even after failing literally Step One.

Aziraphale was Good. This was the first thing the demon had truly learned about his angel and Crowley had known it for what seemed like an eternity.

Chapter Text

It wouldn't have come to a surprise to anyone, but Crowley himself really was an accomplished liar. It came with the territory, and had been one of the only reasons he'd survived this long. The Arrangement predicated on his ability to lie to his superiors, the Dukes and Lords of Hell. It came second nature to him, not to mention it was usually very easy, people and demons alike usually wanting to believe the lies he told them. The authorities of Hell couldn't fathom that he would be anything but an obedient demonic pawn for the forces of Evil, and so of course Crowley had started wars and created crisis and damned souls because he'd told them he had. What may have surprised people, however, was the fact that Crowley hadn't lied to Aziraphale in well over five thousand years. Well... never for longer than it took to deliver a joke, anyways. He's not sure he could lie to the angel. No. That in itself was a lie. He's sure he could lie very convincingly to him. It's just that Crowley felt no need to lie to Aziraphale, even if the angel always accused him of lying all the time anyway, sometimes to the serpent's annoyance. What would be the point of lying? He stood to gain nothing that he already didn't have, and it would only confirm to the other man that he was more of a demon than he already was. Seemed like the waste of a perfectly good lie if you asked him. But demons lying wasn't anything special. The lies Crowley told were only half of the Arrangement the immortal duo had.

Aziraphale had been lying to Heaven for thousands of years and Crowley thought that was incredible.

He'd been terrible at it, in the beginning. But much like Hell with Crowley, Heaven hadn't the brain power to fathom one of their loyal soldiers would even consider not telling them the truth. But over the centuries Aziraphale's halting, frankly terrified words became smoother. More natural. Perhaps natural wasn't the right word for it though. Practiced was a more accurate descriptor of Aziraphale's lying prowess. Lying to people never seemed to be his first instinct. A fact Crowley believed to be one of the reasons the angel hadn't Fallen yet.

Lying to himself however...

Well, Aziraphale had been doing that since the beginning.

Most of the lies he told himself were simply regurgitated straight from the golden lips of heaven. But a few of those little lies were unique only to his angel, and as such, uniquely hurt to watch him tell.

Things like what they were doing -this friendship- was inherently bad, simply because their respective societies told them it was. Things like Aziraphale thinking himself an inadequate angel. That heaven would've won this apocalypse and made Heaven on Earth seem like a good idea. The little quips about being holier than Crowley and claiming to see the demon's 'niceness' he could handle. But those worrying pieces of self-depreciation he caused himself on Heaven's behalf strained what little of a heart Crowley had left.

Soft.

Incompetent.

Traitorous.

If he'd asked Crowley's opinion -the only one that should matter... in the demon's opinion- Aziraphale was the only angel with the good Lord's best interests at heart. Helping protect the heart of creation and these wonderful, terrible little creatures that roamed its surface. Aziraphale could be horribly trusting of his surroundings (evidenced during the whole Blitz fiasco) but had always seemed to hold some reservation when it came to believing in what Crowley told him. Whether he was doing it on purpose out of some half-hearted attempt to resemble the angelic being he though he should be, or if there was something deeper to it that caused his recalcitrance, Crowley had yet to suss out. He would eventually figure it out. They had the rest of their lives for that. But for now he would let the angel hold on to his quiet reservations, prodding and poking them only occasionally, and mostly after copious amounts of good wine.

It wasn't until after the apocalypse that Crowley had figured out that Aziraphale had lied to him, and he had a hell of a time figuring out how he'd felt about it. Proud? Annoyed? Betrayed? Resigned? He remembered looking through these notes, written in his angels hand and hidden ina half-burnt book, painting a picture of the apocalypse and the boy who would summon it. And then he'd thought of all those conversations when Aziraphale had told him he hadn't learned anything. That he knew nothing of the boy. That the plan to stop the apocalypse was over. That they were over, whatever he thought that meant. He and the world had been pressed for time at that particular moment though, and he had to put away all these untidy little thoughts and emotions until he could go through them again later. That not only had be been lied to, but Crowley had believed it. He'd never felt so stupid in his life and he'd lost the Anti-Christ for heav- for hell's sake. He'd thought circles around the fact, turning it over and over in his head until he hadn't a hope of staying in there anymore.

"When had you been planning on telling me, exactly, that boy in Tadfield was The Boy? Or was I supposed to wait until after the apocalypse?"

Aziraphale had been puttering about his book shop, shifting through and taking stock of the new books he'd acquired in its phoenix-like rebirth. His movements slowed dramatically before halting completing mid-stretch, half-way reaching for yet another obscure magazine. Crowley watched him retract into himself, fiddling with his perfectly manicured hands in a decidedly guilty way.

"Oh. That."

"Oh. That." Crowley mocked, prowling from one side of the book shop to the other, watching those blue eyes follow his movements before heading to ground. He was silent for long enough the demon lost his patience. He made a soft sound in the back of his throat, one that didn't even reach his own ears. But Aziraphale seemed to hear it well enough, words bubbling forth with an almost frantic embarrassment.

"I was- I thought- that... well, I was doing the right thing. That I could do the right thing." He moved over to the table, fidgeting nervously with a candlestick. "I thought if I could just talk to G- the right person I could, oh, I don't know. Solve it, I suppose."

Crowley's lip lifted. "After all these years plotting against Armageddon-"

"Angels don't plot!"

"-I can't believe you thought you could talk you're way out of the whole bloody thing, and didn't think to talk to me about it first."

"Well I wanted to I just- you were..." The angel was flustered, hands making fruitless motions around him to illustrate a point he didn't seem to have a grasp on yet. "I mean. There was all this talk about running away and I just couldn't... I didn't know that- I was just... lost."

Crowley's annoyance still simmered behind his sunglasses, but the flames of his ire were cooling, little eddies of his own awkwardness tempering them when his moment of panic was brought up again. Crowley had been very intent on escaping his hellish punishment and had little thoughts beyond 'grab all his things and vanish into the void'. He hadn't even considered the fact that Aziraphale might balk at being considered a part of what the demon considered 'his'. Or that he was dealing with his own fears as well. Crowley, as well as the angel, had always assumed he'd had the shorter, more dangerous end to this deal. That Hell would destroy him if they found out and that Aziraphale wouldn't have to worry about the same fate. He conveniently forgot about the fact that Heaven could have easily just cast the angel out. That Aziraphale could have Fallen in punishment for fraternizing with him. He'd never really given it thought because in Crowley's mind, Aziraphale was an angel, and that was what he would always be in his eyes. But in reality, he was risking just as much as the demon was, maybe even more. Aziraphale's soft voice sharpened his focus.

"If it's any consolation, I think I'm really rather done with it. The lies." He offered the demon a small, apologetic smile that Crowley always imagined burned his hellish soul a little with its grace. "I think I prefer talking to you, in any case. Especially more than to Metatron."

It was a soft, warm, and completely arbitrary affirmation. There was no way the angel wouldn't lie again, ever, in the stretching weeks, years, millennia. It simply wasn't feasible, to survive in this dangerous world they now lived in. And yet... Crowley believed him. Forgave him. He always would.

"You talked to The Metatron? Liar."

Aziraphale's eyes widened indignantly, a desperate attempt to implore him. "I did so. And he was really rather rude! I-" He caught himself and Crowley's impish grin, realizing what had happened before crossing his arms with a harrumph that ended with a good-natured smile. "Shall I tell you the story over dinner? I hear there are a couple spaces open at that little restaurant you like so much." He paused before brightening again, fingers resting on his collar. "My treat?"

Crowley rolled his eyes behind the glasses. Crowley didn't have a favourite restaurant. It was more the company he preferred. Still, his answer was coupled with a flash of teeth.

"Tempting~"

Chapter Text

Nobody would ever know it by looking at him.

It was because Aziraphale was always so well-groomed. Behind the times as of late, but usually put together. Plus, fashion was more Crowley's Thing and the demon wasn't going to be out-fashioned by an angel. These things just didn't happen. But he never really seemed too enthused to compete with him, and Crowley was more than happy to accept his uncontested rightful place as top model. But fashion had nothing to do with the fact that Aziraphale couldn't keep a flat clean even if both their lives depended on it.

Crowley scowled, as he was often wont to do. It was a really good Scowl too, the kind that drifted like a wave of disapproval from one half of his face to the other, skin around his nose wrinkling in scorn as his lips lifted away from his teeth in a mighty display of bleh. It was a trophy of a Scowl that was -quite frankly- wasted on the triviality of the situation, but if things were worth doing then by G- Sata- Somebody they were worth doing well. Just like they were doing raising the Anti-Christ. Warlock was only a young lad, but Crowley had a feeling he was going to turn out Just Fine and that this was a Perfect and Fool-Proof Plan.

"I can't fathom how you exist in this jungle of a place. Do you even own a duster?" Not that the angel needed one, a fact that made the dust and little cobwebs all the more offensive to him. He didn't understand what the angel had against cleanliness that he wouldn't just... miracle away the debris. He was so keen on using those embarrassing human illusory tricks and yet, when it came to using his actual magic, he dragged his feet while hemming and hawing the whole while. Not that Crowley had ever had a problem with dust. Dust didn't exist in his flat. It wouldn't dare. He'd always thought that furniture ought to know how to keep itself clean. So it did.

Aziraphale looked affronted by the question, puffing up like the great silly bird he was. Crowley could even seen the feathers of his wings flare up, hidden in their little pocket dimension between worlds as they were. "Of course I own a duster. Don't be daft" A lot of the bluster seemed to fall out of him with the words though, eyes sliding to the side in that familiar way they did when he was trying to lessen his own guilt. "I just... lost it, is all."

Crowley rolled his eyes behind glasses. "Are you sure you didn't give it away, this time?" He was being cheeky and combative, his day having been boring and in need of some entertainment beyond whatever drivel had been on the telly this afternoon.

The angel hmphed with great petulance, straightening out his jacket and giving the demon A Look. "Quite sure."

The demon draped himself artfully over the couch, sighing at the spectacle of restraint and no-fun the angel was being. "I'm sure you're missing it terribly." The sardonic edge to his voice was sharp enough to filet a fish on contact.

One would expect books in a bookstore. It was in the name, really, and even in normal homes and offices Crowley was never surprised to see a book or two. But there were books everywhere here. Many more than the shelves could possibly hope to hold. In fact, he was pretty sure there were books that were acting as shelves, purposefully arranged so that more books could be placed atop them. There was no sort of organizational system, Dewey and all his decimals rolling in their graves somewhere wedged behind some errant piles of parchment in this bookstore somewhere. When humans wandered too close to the front door, air that smelled like tang and mold rose up from the uneven carpet, but it always settled once they stopped trying to make sense of the store hours signs. All the candles were burned down nearly to their ends, white wax dribbling thoughtlessly down holders and window sills. Crowley could see, in this room alone, three different mugs with varying levels of long-cold fluids in them. This had been how Aziraphale had kept all the bookstores he owned. Mostly to deter customers, he knew. What little bit of spine the angel had was usually reserved for deterring customers, and on days where boredom nipped at his heels Crowley would slither over and watch Aziraphale menace those that wandered in with all the ferocity of a particularly feisty sparrow. He also found even the most determined of book-buying humans bolted when they saw a rather lengthy, annoyed snake coiled over the gramophone, but that was neither here nor there.

But some part of him knew that Aziraphale very rarely had whole, complete thoughts without getting distracted by his books or some noise or even some other thoughts. That he just simply... forgot to tidy up the space around him. The one time Aziraphale had visited his place a couple decades back he'd left a mug on the table. A mug. In Crowley's den. It was unheard of. He didn't even own mugs. And yet, Crowley hadn't the heart to throw it away. His place hadn't had an extra mug cupboard when he moved it, but it had one the moment he had need for one, placing the single, clean mug inside and leaving it there... Just in case.

Aziraphale was 'tidying' the shelves now, which composed of him picking up a couple books from one pile and depositing them in other random, non-specific locations. He did this from time to time to make it harder for anyone one to keep track of them. Sometimes to his own detriment. "What's got you all riled up that you're taking it out on my poor bookshop? You love this bookshop!" It sounded like an accusation.

Crowley sneered at that, and this too was done with practiced finesse, all sharp lines with just that hint of demonic intimidation. "Demons don't love anything, Angel," he drawled, caustic and careless. But after a brief, thoughtful pause he amended his own statement with, "Except for maybe a bad job done well. And dancing."

His divine counterpart waved a flippant hand at him, so utterly dismissive he almost worked up the effort to be offended. But the more he thought about it, the more he realized he'd been spending quite a lot of time in the A.Z. Fell and Co. bookshop since the placement of the Anti-Christ. He grown accustomed to the chaotic clutter, and even knew where to step to avoid most of the creaks of the wooden floor and where to duck the spanning width of cobwebs. It must have been his irritation with the cleaning ladies tending to Warlocks room today. They prattled on for nearly 20 minutes with dusters in their hands before wandering off without dusting a single bloody thing! The nerve of it all! A quick glare and snap of his fingers had sorted the dust situation out (and also tightened the bows on the maids backs juuuust tight enough that they couldn't be undone by hand when tried at their end of their shifts and had to be cut loose) but the fact he'd had to act at all had irked him. He'd spent the rest of Warlock's nap haunting the halls of the home and snapping everything that annoyed him back into working order. This included accidentally mending a broken lamp that had been pushed off the table by small, human-child hands earlier that day. Crowley took great pleasure in re-breaking it afterwards. Seeing the state of the bookshop had apparently re-awoken his ire.

But now that he settled down, tuning out Aziraphale's mindless humming and letting his mind slow, he couldn't say he minded the dust here. It swirled through the air in thick motes, streaming golden in the late afternoon sunlight that worked its way stubbornly into the store in spite of the angel's best attempts at customer-repelling curtains. The patterns swam before his face, slow and hypnotic and Crowley almost could have indulged in a nap if the angel hadn't puttered by, disturbing the air around him. Crowley's yellowed, slit-pupil eyes traced his aimless path. Dust never seemed to so much as touch Aziraphale, never mind settle on his person. It moved around him in snake-like, writhing torrents. Like magic, his mind whispered somewhere sentimental. Not real magic of course, and certainly not those ridiculous, terrible tricks. But something... gentler. More natural. He was watching Aziraphale surreptitiously gather the mugs he'd left around, sneakily ferrying them off to the kitchenette. Crowley pretended his eyes were closed behind the glasses and he couldn't see the valiant effort. He'd missed a mug. His lips wanted to smile fondly but there was no way he would allow them to do such a despicably Soft thing when the recipient wasn't even there to witness it. So instead he rolled his eyes in a manner more befitting of a demon and snapped his fingers, a clean mug appearing on a coaster on the reading desk, purposefully arranged and matching the Aesthetic.

"Did you hear that?" Aziraphale's head popped out from behind a shelf, peering distrustfully at the front door that was most certainly locked.

Crowley snorted, head tilting up to face the ceiling, content to count cobwebs until he fell asleep. "It's just me, Angel. Just me."