I kneel into a dream where I
am good & loved. I am
good. I am loved. My hands have made
some good mistakes. They can always
make better ones. -- Least of All | Natalie Wee
After the storm passes, the angel Aziraphale is called back to Heaven.
"Well," he says to Crawly. "Good luck with your…tempting. Not that I'm encouraging anything of the sort."
Before Crawly can respond, the angel is bathed in white light that is so luminescent he is momentarily blinded, and when he can see again, the angel is gone. Moments later, Crawly can feel his feet getting heavier. He wants to resist it. He does resist it, but there's no point. The whole journey would be a lot less painful if he'd transform back into a serpent. Crawly just can't seem to find it in himself to do anything at the moment. As he's dragged through the wall of the gate and the earth and down, down, down again into Hell, all Crawly can think about is the angel.
He'd just…given away his flaming sword. A literal weapon of Heaven, and the angel had given it away without a second thought so the humans might protect themselves. Ridiculous, Crawly thinks as he's being pulled down. Amusing. Stupid. Endearing. He can't think of the word for it. Different, though, that's for sure. He lands feet-first in Hell, right in front of Lord Beelzebub. They're chewing on a bone that they spit out once they see Crawly.
"Crawly," they say. "We were watching. Good work, apple and all that."
"Wasn't so hard," Crawly tells them, cracking his still fresh-formed spine. "It's almost like the Almighty wanted me to tempt them."
Beelzebub continues on like they haven't heard him.
"Seems like the opposition is keen on this whole human thing. Well, Lucifer isn't having it. Wants in."
Crawly frowns, not entirely sure what that means. "Uhh, in how?"
"You're going back," Beelzebub says. "We need a demon in the field. It's been decided."
Crawly can't stop the little jump he feels somewhere in his chest. He hadn't been on Earth for very long, as it were, but he liked what he saw. It was nothing like he's ever known in Hell, and he can't remember Heaven much, but it couldn't be like that. It was green and wide and strange and full of a feeling he didn't understand. He wants to go back. Crawly doesn't let on that he's excited, though. Instead he bows, says, "Yes, Lord Beelzebub." He cannot stop himself from hissing on the 'S.'
It isn't until later, when Crawly is alone, that he considers the very real possibility that the angel, Aziraphale, wasn't it? Might be coming back to Earth as well. That is, unless he's punished severely for giving that flaming sword away. Crawly hasn't been an angel for a long time but he remembers how much Heaven covets their things. They're pretty possessive of them. Crawly wipes a smudge of soot from his cheek. Well, that's not his problem, is it? He doesn't care about what happens to an angel, he's a demon, for Hell's sake. Crawly sits on a piece of a smoldering rock, nonplussed.
Still, though, the angel had acted on good instinct. No way Adam and Eve lasted without a weapon, and a divine one at that. Crawly was sort of lying when he said an angel could do no wrong—obviously Crawly had, or he wouldn't be here in Hell, sitting on a hot rock and getting into more trouble with himself for asking questions. Maybe Crawly is just feeling the influences of having been around an angel for an extended period of time. Aziraphale had kept his wing over Crawly to shield him from the rain the entire length of the storm—a good forty minutes—the two of them standing there in what felt like amicable silence.
Crawly looks around quickly, lest Hastur is trying to sneak up on him again. Hell is surprisingly small for being so populated, but that's probably the point. Crawly is alone right now, though. He's very good at finding hiding places, little cracks where he can curl up and remain undiscovered for a while. He looks up, then down, to his dirt-streaked feet.
"You're probably not taking my calls up there," Crawly says. "I just wanted to, um."
He stops and clears his throat. He hasn't talked to God in, well, he doesn't remember how long. Not since he's Fallen, for sure. This is ridiculous. And bad demon behavior, but not in the good way. Demons do not talk to God. He absolutely cannot, and should not, be doing this.
"Listen, Almighty," Crawly says, absolutely doing this. "That angel you sent to the Garden, the one guarding the Eastern Gate. He's not in trouble, is he? Because, really, his only crime was being too nice. If you've no idea what I'm talking about then let's just forget this little conversation ever happened."
"His name is Aziraphale."
"Yeah, let's just pretend this never happened."
It's not as if She's listening.
As it turns out, Crawly's quite good at being a demon on Earth for the most part. Tempting humans is so easy—bit of adultery here, some betrayal there, stealing of cattle and so on. Crawly watches the population of Earth explode. He sees the clever little way human brains start to work, and the stupidity of them. Their downfall, Crawly thinks, is that they're never going to stop trying to change everything. But he sort of admires that, in a way. He likes talking to them, actually. They have something Crawly has never had the luxury of, which is to question anything.
He hears about some blessings. It's just that every time Crawly makes his way to where they've been, there's no trace of any angel having been there. He isn't looking that hard, anyway. He does his job. When there isn't much for him to do, Crawly's discovered this amazing human thing called "sleep." He takes part in it constantly.
He does not talk to God.
Some fool is building an ark in the desert.
That's what Crawly hears, anyway, in passing. What interests him most, though, is that this fool is building the ark because he says God's commanded him to. Crawly's in Mesopotamia for a temptation (boring: tempting a man into sex with two other women. Crawly isn't sure he sees the point writhing around with flesh and all that yet, but the second woman was his idea and he's proud of it), so he decides to investigate after he sends a memo back to Hell that the temptation was a success. Souls secured.
The ark is easy to find, what with the crowd and the fact that there is an enormous ark in the middle of the blessed desert. Crawly's jaw goes a bit slack at seeing it. Then there are the animals. As far as Crawly can tell, every animal he's ever seen on Earth is being led to the ark. This is definitely supernatural, and not Hell's doing. He would have heard. Crawly scans the growing crowd, something tightening in his stomach.
And then he sees him. Sees the bright curls, and feels relief rush into his chest like a flood of water. Crawly walks faster. So he's all right after all, the angel. Crawly walks straight up behind him, then pivots to his left.
"Hello, Aziraphale," he says.
"Crawly," he says.
And Crawly doesn't know why, but it strikes him down to his toes, that Aziraphale has remembered his name. He doesn't miss a beat, though. He asks about the sword immediately.
"How'd that work out for you?"
"The Almighty has never actually mentioned it again," says Aziraphale.
"Probably a good thing," Crawly says, but also thinks, huh.
He doesn't have time to get more curious than that, once Aziraphale tells him that God is about to drown the human race. Then he corrects to just the locals. The Chinese, he assures Crawly, will be fine. Aziraphale is fluttery and twitchy and his white robes are fast moving clouds in the wind. Crawly has never seen such a nervous angel before. This is all part of the Plan, right? Aziraphale should be elated. When Crawly asks about the kids, Aziraphale gulps audibly, then nods.
"Not the kids," Crawly says. "You can't drown kids."
He's been to Mesopotamia before, lots of times. He knows some of these kids—they taught him how to braid his damned hair. Crawly even knows Noah's family, and he's not sure why the lot of them are surviving over everyone else. This is what Crawly doesn't get. This is why he Fell. He wants to prod Aziraphale further, because surely Aziraphale, standing here, wringing his hands together, has to be questioning this whole thing. Killing kids, for Someone's sake, it's absurd. But Crawly watches the way Aziraphale's eyes dart and decides that, no, he doesn't want to prod further. He remembers Falling. The spot where his wings meet his skin still burns.
The rain comes, and it's freezing. Crawly has realized he's not a fan of rain. Not a fan of being cold, either.
"So now what?" he asks over the thunder.
"You cannot seriously be asking me to share Heaven's plans with you," Aziraphale says.
The crowd has begun to scatter, people seeking shelter from the rain. It's just Aziraphale and Crawly now, quickly getting soaked in their robes. Crawly watches a drop of rain slide from Aziraphale's top lip to his bottom.
"It's not as if I can thwart the weather now, can I?" Crawly says. "Well, of a Heavenly nature, anyway. Just wondering how long to avoid Mesopotamia, is all."
Aziraphale turns away from him quickly, a move that might be more dramatic if he weren't twice as heavy from being absolutely sopping wet. He stomps away, feet sinking into the muddy sand. Somehow, his hair is still bright even under dark clouds. There's another burst of thunder, after which Crawly hears: "Maybe go east for the next year, should dry up here by then."
Crawly smiles. He watches Aziraphale until he can no longer see him, and by that point the rain is already up past his ankles, and Crawly has nearly forgotten that he hates the rain.
"Say, where's that angel headed?" he asks the sky.
The sky just cracks lightning.
"Suit yourself," Crawly says, and gets a move on.
He meets Jesus twice.
First time, Crawly is a serpent again, tempting Jesus on behalf of Hell. He was supposed to get Jesus early, that is he should have been tempting him much earlier than this, but Crawly had to avoid some horses, what can you do. So now he's here in the desert at night, where Jesus is wandering around for some unknown reason. Crawly really hasn't been keeping up with the story. He just knows that Jesus is starving, and dehydrated.
"So you could eat something," Crawly tells him. "Have a drink of water."
Jesus is flat out emaciated, sprawled on a rock. He looks near death, Crawly thinks. Is that the point? Is that what God wants?
"Be gone, Satan," Jesus says.
"Sssssatan?" Crawly rears his head up. "Look, I'm just a—I'm only trying to get you to eat so you don't die, you blithering idiot. Does that sound like something that Satan would do?"
Jesus just looks at him, sidelong. He doesn't move. Crawly slithers away. Hell's sake, he really hates being a snake these days. He curls up behind a rock to try again later, though he's not sure he'll have better luck. A few minutes pass before he hears Jesus snoring softly. Crawly stares up at the blue-black sky of the desert night, the whole thing pinned with stars. It's still warm out, and Crawly loves the feeling of the air on his scales. Jesus exhales softly nearby.
"Is this a test?" Crawly asks.
He waits a moment. Jesus is still asleep.
"I mean, really, what is this? Is this the Divine Plan? Make My Only Son Wander the Desert for Forty Days. Also what is it with you and forty-day periods?" Crawly attempts to sigh, but in his current form, it comes out as a hiss. "Well, he seems like a lovely son. If he doesn't starve to death I'm sure he'll continue to do wonderful things."
Crawly wonders if Aziraphale has met Jesus. He laughs inwardly at the irony of it, a demon having met the Son of God but an angel missing out. He and Aziraphale have run into each other about a dozen more times since the Great Flood. Half of those times have been mere coincidence. The other half, Crawly had been seeking him out. He can't help it. There's something indescribably delightful about Aziraphale clicking his tongue and rolling his eyes every time he sees Crawly. Seems like he does it more for show than anything else. Or that's what Crawly tells himself.
"If he ate what I offered him, would you forgive him?" Crawly asks. "Or would he become like me?"
There's no answer. But of course there isn't. Out of all the miserable creatures in the universe, God isn't going to listen to a demon.
Jesus wakes three hours later. Crawly never convinces him to eat or drink a damned thing.
The second time he meets Jesus, Crawly is in a human body, and he shows him the world. The temptation doesn't work then, either. If anything, it's worse for Crawly. He becomes quite fond of the man. He's kind and loving and Crawly thinks he might know Crawly is a demon, but he doesn't banish him from his company. He doesn't banish anyone from his company, which is how he comes to have quite a lot of whores in his group of followers. At dinner one night, Crawly pulls Jesus aside and pleads with him not to return to Jerusalem.
"They'll kill you," he says. "Don't you understand that? God will let you die. She'll abandon you. Just like She abandoned m—" Crawly swallows. "Stay with the humans, why don't you? They're getting fond of you."
Jesus caresses his cheek, smiles. Then he turns their water into wine and holds it out to Crawly with wide, imploring eyes.
"What do you think, Crawly?" he says.
The wine is the best he's ever tasted, and will ever taste.
"Actually," says Crawly. "I'm thinking of changing my name."
After the crucifixion, Aziraphale and Crowley linger in Jerusalem. The mood is strange. Crowley has to briefly excuse himself once they're inside the city's walls so he can draw a pentagram with his finger into the dirt and let Hell know that Jesus has just been killed. If Aziraphale knows what he's up to, he doesn't say anything. For all Crowley knows, he's gone to send his own memo to Heaven. The message Crowley gets back is: GOOD. VERY GOOD. Crowley doesn't mention that this was Heaven's plan all long. And he still can't make sense of it. He feels heavy and tired with a grief he wasn't expecting. They return to each other's company just outside a tavern, and Aziraphale looks downright depressed.
"Buy you a drink?" Crowley says, before he even realizes he's speaking. "Maybe not wine."
Aziraphale wrinkles his nose, the rejection already on his tongue, then, for whatever he reason, he swallows it.
"One drink," he says. "It has been a day."
"What am I saying," he says. "You're a demon."
Then, "One drink."
"One drink," Crowley says. He just wants to stop Aziraphale from frowning like that, is all.
They go into the tavern and have wine anyway. Two bottles later, Crowley and Aziraphale are discussing the politics of stealing camels (and there are none, Aziraphale argues, because they aren't to be stolen, though Crowley disagrees).
Aziraphale also lets slip that he was at the Last Supper, and Crowley tells him he's been hanging out with the whores nearly the entire time he's been here, hence his female presentation ("The look suits you," Aziraphale says, and Crowley's wine dribbles down his chin). They're in the dim corner of the tavern so as not to be overhead. It just makes things easier, not having to mess with memories and the lot of it. Aziraphale pours him another drink from their third bottle and Crowley notices how he's started to smile again. Crowley leans against the table, chin cradled against his palm.
"Do you think God will forgive the humans for killing Her only son?"
They haven't talked about the crucifixion yet. Perhaps it's not a good moment to bring it up, with Aziraphale just starting to perk up again, but Crowley is pleasantly spinning on the wine, floating, and he's starting to forget that he's not supposed to feel sad.
"Oh, I think so," Aziraphale says. "It's what She's about, really."
"Forgiveness?" Crowley asks. "Really?"
Aziraphale goes pink. Then he straightens.
"…Because. Because, it—Crowley, really. Jesus is still warm."
Crowley answers for him. Sobers. "Demons are unforgivable."
Aziraphale opens his mouth to agree, then pauses, like perhaps he's not sure. And Crowley hates that, he hates it. Because Crowley is unforgivable. He's fallen, and his wings have burned black and when he pulls them out it hurts, and some days he can feel it, some nights he can recall it all. He pretends he doesn't remember much of Heaven but he does. He does.
Crowley holds out his cup for more wine and Aziraphale obliges him. He watches the angel's eyes flit to the table, then up again.
"Why did you take Jesus to see the all the kingdoms of the world?"
Crowley shrugs. "I told you, he's a carpenter. Er, was."
"I mean really," Aziraphale says.
He sounds sober. Crowley doesn't remember him sobering up. When he looks, Aziraphale's eyes are a startling blue, earnest, ready to believe anything, like Crowley is going to tell him the whole truth, anything, everything. Crowley coughs. Then he lies.
"Because I wanted to. What would you have done?"
Aziraphale blinks. "What I was meant to do."
Crowley smiles at him from behind his wine.
"I don't believe you," he says.
"I'm an angel. You have to."
"No I don't," says Crowley, still smiling.
"Well, it's rather time I was going, anyway," Aziraphale says.
He sounds flustered. Closed off. He stands. After a moment's pause he puts some money on the table, arms pulled to his chest like he needs to defend himself from Crowley, like Crowley has threatened him in some way.
"So long, Crowley."
Crowley waves him off. There's still a half bottle of wine left on the table, so he takes it, and wanders the outskirts of the city, dazed.
Three days later, he gets word of a miracle.
Sometimes he lies to himself about how much he remembers, from before.
Crowley remembers building the stars. He remembers birthing nebula underneath his palms. Remembers a dark universe coming to life under his fingers, and his own white wings, and laughing, and feeling light, and feeling loved.
He does not remember his name, his old name, but he knows it was pulled from him, like a dream after waking, before he Fell, fingers grasping uselessly at nothing. Crowley never heard Her. Never saw Her.
He thinks he called out for Her as he tumbled down.
He doesn't expect to see Aziraphale in Rome. Crowley never really expects to see Aziraphale, unless he's looking for him, otherwise he just figures he'll run into him eventually. He certainly doesn't expect Aziraphale to approach him in Rome like they're old friends. But that's exactly what Aziraphale does. Slides right up next to Crowley in his toga as if he has no reason whatsoever to be wary of Crowley.
Come to think of it, Crowley doesn't think Aziraphale has ever once been genuinely wary of him.
It hasn't been that long since they last saw each other, it just feels strange, because Aziraphale has never come up to him before, and Crowley wears glasses now, and Aziraphale has just asked him if he's still a demon. Only Hastur has ever asked a more ludicrously stupid question, when he asked Crowley why he drank alcohol. Why wouldn't he still be a demon? There's nothing else for him to be. He's lost God's love—this is where he is.
He doesn't mean to be snippy, only he's just seen Caligula and he cannot stand him, and he's starting to doubt humanity, the whole lot of them. The thing Crowley's noticed the most about humans is how women really get the short end of it. And the more time he spends around them the more he learns it has a lot to do with what happened in the Garden in the Beginning. Crowley only tempted Eve to bite the apple first because she happened to be right there when he popped out of the earth, and anyway Adam was taking a piss so he wasn't going to slither up to him. Why men have decided to punish women for this Crowley can't wrap his head around.
He's also learned that it's been written that Satan was in the Garden, not him. He's pretty furious about it. To think Satan is getting credit for his work, when the lazy git hasn't even been out of Hell since Earth was created. And not only that, humans wrote that Satan was tempting Jesus the whole time as well. That's two big jobs and no credit. Then again, Crowley didn't do that last job very well, so maybe it is best to let Satan take the blame for that one.
Aziraphale is watching him expectantly. Crowley shifts, not quite used to being watched like that, like he's good for something.
"Really do need to get back to that temptation," he says, because he likes having the upper hand and doesn't feel as though he currently has it.
Aziraphale frowns. "Is it something very untoward? I'd hate to have to pose as a peasant to thwart you again, Crowley, but I will."
"Everything I do is untoward, I'm a demon—"
"A peasant," Aziraphale says.
"All right, don't get your toga in a twist," Crowley says. "Go enjoy that oyster or whatever it is. Type of meat?"
There's silence. It drags on long enough that Crowley turns right and sees Aziraphale staring at him, agape, cup nearly fallen out of his hand. He sets it on the bar with more force than is probably necessary.
"Crowley," he says, as if Crowley has done something incredibly shameful. "Do you mean to tell me…have you really not tried any food during your time on Earth?"
"No?" says Crowley.
"Oh, then you must." Aziraphale is twisting in his seat. "You simply must try an oyster."
It's a request, a plea, an offer. But in Crowley's mind it's a command and he wants to follow it. He wants to do nothing else but say yes. Has this sudden, strange desire to agree to whatever Aziraphale might want. The word 'oyster' blurs into a non-word, meaningless. Crowley forgets a moment why he's in Rome in the first place. At any rate, Hell doesn't check up on him much these days. A quick detour isn't going to make much difference.
"Fine," Crowley says, on a sigh. "Take me to this oyster."
It turns out to be multiple oysters. Which are in shells, and a type of mollusk, Aziraphale tells him. There's a sauce, some garnish, a tiny fork. Aziraphale is explaining all of this to him as after the plate is set down on the table but Crowley has tuned it out in favor of wondering how the Heaven he's supposed to eat the blessed things. He watches Aziraphale pick something up, squeeze it onto the oyster, then pour a bit of sauce on it. Then he loosens it with the tiny fork, picks it up, and drops it down his throat.
"Oh," Aziraphale says. "That is simply divine."
He puts the shell down. He looks like the way Crowley's seen humans look after sex, after prayer, after laughing too hard. Something about his face quickens Crowley's pulse. He looks down at an oyster. Picks it up. He repeats the same process he saw Aziraphale use, then tips the oyster back into his mouth.
"Slurp it," Aziraphale says.
Crowley pulls the oyster back and coughs. "What was that?"
"You know…like you're sucking in air." Aziraphale makes the motion, lips puckered. "And don't forget to chew."
"I know how to chew," Crowley says.
He has no actual desire to eat this. He'd be content to sit here all day and watch Aziraphale eat, could chat with him about something else. He almost wants to ask Aziraphale why he thought maybe Crowley might something other than a demon. The question has been ping-ponging around in his mind for the last hour. What has Crowley said, done, to make Aziraphale think he might be anything else but that? Demons are unforgivable. They are not redeemable. Crowley is as he is. His angel name is lost to him. He has a human one, Anthony J., but it's mostly to fit in. Like the glasses. Try as he might, Crowley can't seem to get his eyes right.
Crowley adjusts his grip on the oyster shell and tries to slurp. Nearly gets it that time, but not quite. He hears Aziraphale click his tongue, then watches in abject horror as Aziraphale leans over the table and holds his hand out.
"May I?" he says.
Crowley makes an aborted noise in the back of his throat that Aziraphale must take to mean yes, because he gently grips the oyster for him. Then he tips it back farther and Crowley's head follows suit.
"There," Aziraphale says. "Now you just…suck it in."
Crowley does. He feels the oyster slide into his mouth and forgets to chew entirely, just swallows it down, barely aware of the flavor. He hasn't let go of the shell, and neither has Aziraphale, and their fingers are touching, and Aziraphale's face is a strange pink and Crowley is hot all over. His body is so immensely warm for a moment he's afraid he's about to be pulled down to Hell.
Aziraphale's eyes clear. He lets go of the oyster shell and sits back down. Clears his throat too many times and does not look at Crowley.
"How was that?" he asks.
It takes a moment for Crowley to understand what he's asking. He feels something remarkably close to what he felt in Heaven, and it punches into his chest so quickly Crowley almost sinks back down through the earth. Elation. He feels elation. That shouldn't be possible. Crowley swallows again, tastes something tangy in the back of his throat.
"Not bad," he says, forcing his mouth to work.
"Quite," says Aziraphale.
Crowley doesn't eat another oyster and Aziraphale doesn't offer to help him. He finishes for them, slurping and chewing and squeezing lemon on them both in his eagerness to consume the food. There is something unhinged about Aziraphale eating. Erotic. Perhaps because he's not meant to be doing it precisely. Crowley is scarcely aware of his own form sitting there, attempting to slouch nonchalantly in the chair as if he hasn't a care in any universe the Almighty or Satan has created.
"I hope," Aziraphale says finally, dabbing his mouth with a napkin, "I hope I didn't upset you in Jerusalem, with the whole, bit about forgiveness. Drudge up any bad memories."
You remember that? Crowley wants to say. How long have you thought about it? How long have you thought about me? Do you think about me?
What he says is, "Me? Please, I'm a demon."
"Yes," Aziraphale says, looking at him like he's not quite sure. "I suppose you are."
Crowley feels it again—elation. That's not the right word but the word he's thinking of, the emotion he's thinking of, is one he's no longer capable of so he won't let it into existence. He won't. He won't.
Aziraphale is staring at him. He's been speaking to him for who knows how long. Crowley clears his throat in the space between them, grins, tries to ease away the look of concern Aziraphale is sporting that shouldn't be there.
"Yessss?" he says, hisses. He hisses. He hasn't hissed since Jerusalem.
Aziraphale opens his mouth to ask him if he's all right, Crowley can tell, so he cuts him off by pulling some coins out of his sleeve and dropping them on the table.
"Thanks for the oyster," he says, and is up and out of the restaurant before Aziraphale can get another word out.
Crowley doesn't really remember if he walks or runs or brings out his wings and flies from the main city. He's just moving, trying not to think of that word. It's getting louder and more abrasive in the back of his head so Crowley moves faster. And strangely, he doesn't notice people or buildings, but he notices the robin's egg blue of the sky, the bloom of spring flowers on the trees, the sound of the River Tiber, the lingering feel of Aziraphale's fingers on his own.
By the time he stops moving he's in Naples, at the top of Mount Vesuvius. Crowley takes himself right to the edge. Everything around him smells like sulfur. Like Hell. And he thought for a moment it would be comforting, but it's not, not at all. If anything, it's worse. The whole blessed thing is worse than when he left Rome, and the feeling, the word, comes punching back into him even stronger than before.
He loves Aziraphale.
A wild, unchecked sound claws its way up Crowley's throat and erupts into the air over Vesuvius. He looks down into the sleeping black of the volcano. It's not possible. He's wrong, knows it as sure as he knows he's right.
"I could always throw myself in," he says, then laughs and sits back.
He's in love with an angel.
Crowley looks up at the cloud-clogged sky. Demons don't love. They don't. They lose that when they Fall. Demons do a great many other things, but not that. Crowley pulls at the neck of his toga, strangely hot, unable to breathe properly.
"Hey," he says to the sky. "Hey! Is this some kind of joke? Hm? I'd defile him, you know. I'd let him defile me. If it's love, Almighty, then take pity and smite me now, just do it." There's nothing, no word. And Crowley has never expected one, except maybe this once, this one time. It's been Aziraphale all along, since the Beginning. Crowley picks up a stone and casts into the volcano. "I suppose you wouldn't take requests from a demon. But, God, don't let him Fall because of me. If you can't forgive me, fine, just don't make it to where I can't forgive myself."
The sky never clears. The earth doesn't move.
Crowley finds a secluded spot in Naples and sleeps until 79 A.D. when he's awoken by a ferocious rumbling form outside. Crowley stumbles blearily from his hiding place and realizes that Vesuvius has erupted spectacularly.
"Oh bugger this," he says.
He flees back to England.
"We're not having this conversation," Aziraphale tells him in the Wessex bog. "Not another word."
I love you, but I'm not sure that's demonically possible, Crowley thinks.
"Right," he says instead.
"But let's say we were to have this conversation," Aziraphale says.
"Satan," Crowley says, and nearly falls out of the boat he's in.
"Oh—oh my goodness, are you all right?"
Crowley clings to the side of the boat. He's been traveling the fjords of Norway for weeks now, and he hates it. Hates the cold and darkness of Norway. Crowley also thinks, since he's on a roll, that things have really gone downhill since the fall of the Western Roman Empire, not that anyone has asked his opinion about it.
The scenery isn't so bad, though. Better now that Aziraphale is here, even though he's just popped up behind him and nearly caused Crowley to discorporate himself via heart attack.
"I'm always all right," Crowley says. "Was just considering a swim. What was it you were saying?"
"In Wessex." Aziraphale looks at his hands. "I've been thinking."
"That perhaps I had a point?" Crowley says, grinning with his whole face.
"That perhaps sometimes we do tend to…cancel each other out. As it were." Aziraphale pulls his gaze to Crowley again. He looks horribly conflicted, like he really has been thinking about this. "But it's too risky. I'd be reprimanded severely—you'd be destroyed, for Heaven's sake—"
"Probably Hell's, too," Crowley says. "Look, I've an abandoned longhouse by the beach, let's talk there."
He snaps his finger and the boat glides along the water faster and faster until they've reached the longhouse Crowley's been staying in. He convinced the families living there that they wanted to build a better, different longhouse much farther away. So they did. He snaps the door open for Aziraphale and starts a fire for them both. Aziraphale looks around suspiciously at the largeness of the house and the leftover furnishing, but wisely doesn't comment.
"Oh," he says, reaching into his coat. "I've brought something for you."
Crowley is putting an iron kettle over the fire for tea. He pauses, swallows. Aziraphale pushes a small, cloth-wrapped package towards him.
"What?" Crowley says.
Aziraphale looks as though Crowley has suddenly, positively exhausted him, and Crowley doesn't know why, but it kind of delights him. Knowing that he can get under an angel's skin like that. He takes the cloth from Aziraphale's perfect hands and unfolds it, sees brown, oval-shaped food underneath. Aziraphale has brought him food. Dates are a fruit, if Crowley is remembering properly.
"I figured you might not have eaten since our lunch in Rome," Aziraphale says. "And I think you'll like this. It's sweet."
Crowley looks up. "You mean you like this," he says, less sure than he means to sound.
Aziraphale watches him expectantly, so Crowley grabs a date and pops it into his mouth, which he's fairly sure he's supposed to do. He's seen people eat them plenty of times in Egypt. Aziraphale doesn't start throwing a fit, so he chews. Crowley has no comparison for what is sweet and not sweet, but he likes the taste of it, he likes Aziraphale watching him, waiting, and Crowley wants very badly to eat only dates for the rest of his existence.
"S'not bad," he says after swallowing.
Aziraphale smiles and Crowley pushes the kettle to a boil.
"So really, we'd be staying out of each other's way. We could do whatever we wanted instead," Crowley says a half-hour later.
They've switched from tea to alcohol. The conversation has gone in the same circle: Aziraphale nearly agrees, then doubles back and decides it's too risky, but stays for another drink and reconsiders. Crowley is drunk.
"And," he adds. "Lend a helping wing when needed. Not a bad gig."
"But it's lying," Aziraphale says, then hiccups. "And we're enemies."
He refills Crowley's mug.
"Right, that's my point." Crowley leans forward, boneless, thinks for a moment he's reverted into serpent form he's so relaxed. "You'd be thwarting me, really. If you're doing my temptation, yeah, but making sure I'm not going over the top, then aren't you just putting a good one in for the Lady upstairs? Yeah? And in the meantime getting me, a wily old demon, to perform a miracle? Seems like a win-win."
"Well." Aziraphale pauses and stares into the middle distance. "Well, yes. If I'm stopping you from doing greater evil, then I suppose it's all right."
"It's brilliant," Crowley says. "I'm brilliant."
"Let's not get carried away, now."
They decide on a trial run. Tunisia next month. In the meantime they continue getting very drunk in the abandoned longhouse, which is warm and orange from the fire. Aziraphale rolls up his sleeves and Crowley watches the milky whites of his forearms and wonders: if he loves Aziraphale, can Aziraphale feel it? Does he sense it?
"You know, I meant to ask you."
Crowley blinks. He hasn't in a very long time. "What?"
"After Rome, I tried finding you," Aziraphale says. "But I couldn't."
Crowley doesn't speak. So much of him is now bound up, teetering backwards on his chair, and if he isn't careful he'll fall.
"For a moment I thought…I thought maybe you'd been called back to Hell," Aziraphale says.
Crowley pushes forward on the chair. "Would you have missed me, angel?"
He doesn't know why he adds the endearment at the end, angel. And it is an endearment. His face is liable to melt off any moment.
"I'm well aware of your movements by now," Aziraphale says, straightening, nonplussed. "Having to get used to another demon's would be…inconvenient."
Crowley makes a noise he thinks sounds like agreement. They've been drinking by the fire for hours now, and Crowley realizes that Aziraphale is just as drunk as he is, shoulders rolled forward, relaxed. Like they're friends. At some point during all this, the wind outside had picked up, and the longhouse is threatening to move on them. Crowley watches Aziraphale watch him.
"Well I think that was very productive," Aziraphale says abruptly.
He shakes himself sober and stands. Crowley does the same. They agree that Aziraphale will do the tempting and the blessing in Tunisia. Crowley will be there on standby just incase anything should go awry and also they'll grab a bite to eat. As soon as Aziraphale is out the door Crowley sags against the wall, somehow still feeling drunk and also tired and other human things he shouldn't be feeling. One month. He'll see Aziraphale again in one month. Crowley looks to the ceiling.
"Oh God," he says without meaning to. "Help me."
Aziraphale pops his head back in the door.
"What was that, Crowley?"
"Nothing!" Crowley says, wondering how in the Heaven Aziraphale heard him over the wind. "I said—nothing. I'll see you in Tunisia."
"Yes," says Aziraphale. "Yes, you will."
Crowley could almost swear he hesitates before leaving again.
He starts to get comfortable with certain things.
Like the Arrangement going so well he and Aziraphale are meeting often multiple times a year, oftentimes eating together. Crowley gets used to eating.
Like seeing Aziraphale smile when he approaches, then flatten his lips as though someone is watching and someone very well could be.
Like Aziraphale starting to call him "my dear," which he does suddenly in 1259 and Crowley is too terrified to even call him on it. He doesn't want Aziraphale to stop, and he doesn't. The endearment continues.
Like sudden meetings when Aziraphale is worried or feeling guilty that turn into all-night drinking fests wherein Crowley spends like hours drunkenly explaining to him how this is all fine, all of it. And he's doing it as much for himself as he is for Aziraphale.
Like wondering what kissing feels like.
Like realizing that sometimes Aziraphale is teasing him, him! As if they're friends. One day in Australia he turns to Crowley and says, "Did you know that oysters are considered an aphrodisiac?" with the most shit-eating smile, and Crowley starts muttering into his beer, says, "Really? Really now. Really. Humans. What will they think of next?"
Like finally understanding, really understanding, what the big deal is with sex. The lust, the desire, the need. Sometimes Crowley will fuck himself in his fist and think of Aziraphale. Sometimes he'll lie on his back in whatever bed he's managed to find himself in for the night, hitch his legs up, and slide two or three slick fingers into himself. Sometimes he switches up the hardware—cock or cunt, it doesn't matter. All of it is good either way. He's shameless about it because demons don't have the ability to feel shame, though Crowley thinks he might feel just the tiniest bit if Aziraphale ever found out, and some small part of him wants him to—
Like thinking maybe the Almighty planned this, or maybe he is damning himself twice and Aziraphale with him.
Crowley understands nothing, which he thinks might be fine, since Aziraphale is there.
When Crowley wakes up, it's from a dream. Odd, that, because demons don't dream. Someone was calling his name, his first name, his angel name, and he sits up to try and remember the sound and syllables. Nothing comes to him.
Then his feet begin to burn. He scrambles for the bed linens, panicked, only half-awake and confused but he's already being dragged down through the floor, the earth. Crowley forgets a moment that he's already Fallen and it's happening again. He reaches for the wings on his back to stop them from burning to black ash and he can't feel them, he can't. Then he wakes up fully and remembers.
He's already a demon.
He and Aziraphale have not spoken in quite some time.
Crowley lands so hard in Hell he transforms into a serpent to absorb the shock.
"Well that was a laugh," he hisses, then rises in human form to see Lord Beelzebub standing there.
He cracks his spine, casual, because it's hard to tell if anything is amiss. Everyone in Hell keeps the same face more or less about them all the time—either a bored frown or a glee of maniacal delight because they're about to do something particularly heinous. Right now, Beelzebub has a bored frown on their face. Crowley smiles and tries to stuff his hands in pockets before realizing he's in his bloody pajamas, and also his hair is much longer than when he went to sleep, and he isn't sure what year it is.
"Lord Beelzebub," he says, bowing. "What an honor to see you in the unholy year of 18—"
"19—" they say.
"It's 1909, Crowley."
"Right," says Crowley. "The unholy year of 1909."
He does the maths quickly in his head. He's been asleep for forty-seven years. What in Heaven has he missed? Where is Aziraphale?
"We've been trying to get ahold of you for two months," Beelzebub says. "Finally caught you snoozing away up there."
Crowley holds his breath even though he doesn't have to.
"Is something wrong?"
"No," they say, drawing out the N. "We're just finally getting around to giving out those commendations. You know. For the early nineteenth century temptations…and some late eighteenth century ones."
Crowley doesn't understand. He's been asleep. He's been asleep and he's still trying to wake up and he really can't stand the damp, burnt smell of Hell anymore, could never stand it to begin with but now it's unbearable. He doesn't give two flying fucks about any commendations. He doesn't care, at all. Since when does he not care? Crowley used to care. Used to take some pride in the job, at least. There was something fulfilling, in a way, about being on Earth and tempting humans, because at least he was doing something. But then there was—
"Why do you that, anyway?" Beelzebub asks. "Sleep?"
Aziraphale. Crowley had almost forgotten they're not really speaking. All that time together, and surely Aziraphale would have figured it out, surely he knew the Arrangement was just a way for Crowley to see him, for them to see each other without having to say it, to explain it. And then in St. James Park he called it fraternizing, and, well, that was Crowley told, wasn't it?
Crowley gets his stupid commendation from Hell and surges back to Earth. London is damp, which isn't surprising, and very different looking, which also isn't surprising, given how long Crowley's been out. Crowley's flat, though, is surprisingly warm. When he checks the fireplace, the logs look as if they've been burned recently. Odd. Did he sleepwalk? Crowley snaps his fingers and lights the fire anew.
The bookshop isn't far. He could go, he thinks. Crowley sits cross-legged in front of the fire and picks at the threadbare fabric on the knee of his pajamas. Before he left Hell, Beelzebub gave him a whole list of things Hell is working on. New jobs, temptations. Crowley was half-listening.
Never forget, we have to stay one step ahead of the Opposition, they'd said. You can't trust an angel.
Crowley presses his cheek into his knuckles and rests it there, stares into the fire. He'd told Aziraphale he didn't need him. Did he know that was a lie? Had to have known. Some demon Crowley would be, crawling back to him, apologizing. And that's what he is, a demon. For a moment there, he'd almost forgotten. So that's it, then. They're not talking. Crowley glances at the ceiling.
"I'm not talking to you either," he says.
He stands up to see how the world has changed.
He sees Aziraphale once before 1941, and it's Paris in 1913, at the premiere of The Rite of Spring ballet. Crowley has been spending quite some time with Stravinsky, and even though the poor bloke has typhoid fever the night of his own premiere, Crowley goes. He feels Aziraphale before he spots him. Like electricity in the air raising the fine hairs on the back of his neck, like the feeling right before he falls asleep. Then sees him across the balcony. Air pumps into Crowley's chest, like a tide swell. Aziraphale in his cream-colored coat, looks like he hasn't changed a bit since 1862.
The lights dim but Crowley doesn't look at the stage. He watches Aziraphale, the wash of his blonde hair an absolute halo. He wants to go to him. Wants to crawl from his seat and keep crawling. Wants to stop time and move across the air to him, kneel in front of him and just end it, end it. The audience is laughing around Crowley, unsure how to react to the music, the choreography. Crowley's nails have grown longer. He feels his teeth sharpen to fangs and his skin scale. His toes curl and threaten to break free of his shoes. He tries to reel the feeling in only he can't. The audience feels it, grows restless in their seats.
Then Aziraphale, who until this point had been watching the stage enraptured, looks up and around.
Crowley flees the theater before he can catch a glimpse of him. His eyes are stinging. He's never understood why demons have the ability to cry.
Years later there starts a rumor that the premiere of The Rite of Spring started a riot, which Crowley does nothing to quash.
That evening Crowley decides he can't take it anymore. He doesn't know why, really. Maybe it's the fact that the whole sodding world is at war and he misses the one being who's made everything tolerable. Maybe it's just that it's a Monday. He looks out his window at the layer of smoke that seems to constantly hover over the city. He's miserable. He's been miserable since 1862.
"I don't want to do this without him anymore," Crowley says, not sure if he's speaking to the Almighty or not. It's been awhile.
It's somewhat of a habit of his, keeping tabs on Aziraphale. He does it less now, but still does it. It's been about ten years since last time. And Crowley just decides that he absolutely needs to find out where he is.
"Oh for fuck's sake," he says when he locates him.
He is definitely speaking to the Almighty this time.
Crowley calls it a rescue, Aziraphale calls it a debacle. He's oddly silent the whole drive back to the bookshop, tapping alternating palms on his thighs. And he keeps looking at Crowley. Doesn't even say anything about the Bentley, which Crowley half-expected. He's fairly certain Aziraphale has been keeping tabs on him. Crowley's definitely been keeping tabs on him.
His feet are fucking burning.
They pull up to the bookshop, Crowley letting the wheels bump half up onto the curb.
"You know," Aziraphale says. "I have quite a few cases of wine—"
"I still like wine," says Crowley, and shuts the Bentley off.
They pick up like there was never a fight. The inside of the bookshop is dimly lit and smells musty and damp in all the best ways. Crowley has missed it. He takes a seat on the sofa and takes off his fedora while Aziraphale pulls out a case of wine from the backroom after depositing the book satchel by Crowley's injured feet. He doesn't want to let on that they hurt, so he just tries to keep all his weight off them. They'll heal soon enough. Probably. Crowley hasn't actually touched anything holy in quite a long time. Doesn't like to make a habit of it for this reason.
He distracts himself by digging into the satchel Aziraphale was so very concerned about and pulls out a book at random. He's flipping mindlessly through it when Aziraphale comes back with two bottles for them both.
"Oh!" he says. "Careful with those."
"You know, I have not lost the ability to hold a book, believe it or not."
Crowley puts the book back anyway. Aziraphale looks at him with pursed lips, apologetic, and pops the corks.
"That isn't what I meant. Those are just…very rare."
He sits at his desk chair and they immediately start discussing how Aziraphale managed to not realize he was being duped by Nazi spies. It involves a lot of Aziraphale drinking directly from his wine bottle and wiggling about in his chair and blushing, which Crowley has missed tremendously. He has no idea how Aziraphale has not managed to get himself discorporated while they weren't speaking.
"But I want to hear about what you've been up to," Aziraphale says. "Other than buying a motorcar. You really have gone native, Crowley."
"You should buy one."
"Absolutely out of the question. The railway was bad enough."
Aziraphale is honest to goodness smiling at him. He hasn't stopped looking at him since they sat down. It's almost enough to make Crowley forget his feet are really, really hurting him. Almost. As it were, it's just making him squirm on the couch.
"Angel," he says. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
Aziraphale freezes with the bottle halfway to his mouth.
"Like—" Like you love me. "—Like—you know something."
"Can't an angel look at a demon who's just rescued his books?"
"If you say one more time that it was kind—"
"It was kind, Crowley."
And he knows it was, but it was selfish, so he tells himself it doesn't count. That it doesn't matter anyway, because he's done a whole lot of other things that cancel it out. And anyway, he's not an angel. It doesn't matter.
"I don't do that sort of thing, I'm a demon."
"Yes," Aziraphale says, softer. "Yes, I know. And yet you did."
Crowley stares into his wine. He's already drained the bottle. He leans over to grab another bottle from the case and accidentally presses his feet to the floor and cannot stop the hiss that worms it way out of his lips, nor the wince. Aziraphale straightens.
"Do your feet hurt?"
Crowley pulls the cork loose with his teeth and spits it out. It hits the window.
"Nothing more wine can't fix."
"Let me see," Aziraphale says.
"Anthony J. Crowley, let me see your feet."
"Never use my full name again," Crowley says, but he's already toeing his shoes and socks off stupidly.
He straightens his legs out so Aziraphale can see the soles of his feet. They feel hot. Crowley imagines they're probably pretty red, and judging by the way Aziraphale's face drops, he's probably right.
"Oh, my dear," Aziraphale says.
Then he pulls Crowley's feet into his lap. Crowley makes an embarrassing noise in his throat as Aziraphale's fingers press against the sensitive flesh of his feet. It doesn't hurt. It feels wonderful. Healing. Of course it would. Everywhere that's burned that Aziraphale touches feels cooler, soothed. Crowley can't even speak. He watches the flush paint its way across Aziraphale's cheeks. The way Aziraphale won't look at him. Crowley's pulse is a heartbeat, so strong he thinks Aziraphale must be able to feel it throbbing in his feet.
Aziraphale cocks his head suddenly, looks up.
"How did you know where I'd be tonight?" he asks.
"…Well I was in the area," Crowley says. "And I decided to check in an old friend."
"Lucky for me you did."
"Mm," Crowley says, instead of groaning, because Aziraphale is just full on massaging his feet now.
Then the word hits him. Lucky. There is no luck, not in their world. Crowley sits up so fast he nearly falls off the sofa. Aziraphale holds his hands steady where Crowley's feet had once been, blinking.
"Are you all—"
"More alcohol," Crowley says.
"But we haven't even finished the—"
Crowley is already out of the room. He stumbles barefoot into the backroom of the bookshop, heaving. He leans against a case of pinot noir and looks to the ceiling, so far up his neck strains.
"Was that divine intervention?" he asks, to the maddening sound of silence.
He shakes the case of wine and runs a hand through his hair. No. No? Why would it be, what reason—there is no reason. Unless it's a reason he doesn't understand. All that nonsense Aziraphale always goes on about the Ineffable Plan. But that would mean that God talked to a demon. Ludicrous. As far as Crowley knows She hasn't talked to anyone in like…forever.
"God—I mean Satan—Someone," Crowley says.
He flourishes an index finger up towards the Heavens, laughs. Absolutely ridiculous. Then he grabs a whole case of wine and brings it back out to Aziraphale and tells him what he's been up to since they last spoke. Crowley leaves out some details.
The most important detail Crowley leaves out is that he accidentally started World War I, a fact he confesses in the summer of 1969, when they're in Belgium for the simple fact that sometimes it's nice to be in Belgium, and also it's very easy to get weed there. Aziraphale smoking weed isn't something that scandalizes Crowley in the least. Aziraphale is a bloody hedonist, whether he admits it or not. He asked him about it exactly once, and Aziraphale's response was: "The Almighty created it just the same as basil, why wouldn't I partake occasionally?" And that was that.
They're in Aziraphale's hotel room on the couch, a cushion apart. Crowley watches him, watches the impossible pink of his tongue dart out to lick the rolling paper of the joint and press it perfectly together. This will be their second—they're already quite stoned. The window is cracked open, but no one at the inn will smell a thing anyway, Crowley has made sure. Aziraphale hands Crowley the joint to start it up and looks depressingly at the lack of food in front of him. He doesn't say he wants food, but Crowley can tell.
"We'll get dinner later," he says.
Aziraphale is pouting. "Don't you get very hungry when you're high?"
Crowley gets the joint going and passes it along. His hair has gotten longer—down to his shoulders now, which he thinks suits him better. He likes changing his hair every ten years or so, his clothes too, shedding everything like a snake, but he's always preferred his hair long. Aziraphale takes a hit.
"I'm quite hungry," he says. "We should have popping corn."
"We've already had chocolate."
"Oh, chocolate-covered popping corn, then."
"You're ridiculous. Give me that."
They smoke in comfortable silence, then for some reason start talking history. Well, first they start talking about dogs, then lemon sauce, then history. Aziraphale mentions visiting the English hospitals post-war. Dreadful stuff, he says. Post-traumatic stress, but they hadn't had the name for it back then. Crowley stares at his hands. The room smells sharp, sour.
"Yeah, that was a bit on me, that was," he says. "I cocked that one up."
"Pardon?" Aziraphale says. He's got the joint between his lips and the paper sticks a moment.
Crowley shrugs, avoiding eye contact.
"I was in the motorcar the Archduke was in," he says. "Had them take a wrong turn, and then, well, everything snowballed from there. I mean I didn't know it was going to start the war. I just had to get Ferdinand killed is all."
"Crowley," Aziraphale says, though he doesn't sound particularly upset. He almost giggles. He holds the joint between them and Crowley snatches it back, both guilty and feeling the need to defend himself, not entirely sure why he just said that.
"S'not my fault," he says. "It was a direct assignment."
Aziraphale turns to him slowly.
"You mean from…"
He points down at the carpet. Crowley nods. Aziraphale might pale a little, or maybe that's just all the smoke.
"Does he speak to you often, then?"
"When he wants. Maybe every…five hundred years or so? I prefer it when he doesn't, to be honest. Bit of a creepy voice."
When the assignment came to get Franz Ferdinand killed, Satan spoke to him through a crow while Crowley was sitting on a ledge in Dublin and he nearly tumbled off it. He really didn't know what the repercussions would be for the death, but he figured it might start a war. Tensions were already high in Europe. Crowley didn't particularly like watching the wife get killed. A direct assignment from Satan, though. He couldn't just say he'd done that. There wasn't really a choice. It was the sort of thing he'd desperately wished he could have talked to Aziraphale about after. As it were, he just got drunk. Didn't sober up for two weeks.
Crowley watches Aziraphale, who looks like he's considering all this. He takes another hit off the joint. His limbs feel like gelatin in a good way. It's never really occurred to Crowley before, how much Satan talks to demons, considering how little the Almighty is reported to talk to, well, anyone.
"Have you…spoken to the Almighty recently?" he asks.
"Well, I pray of course," Aziraphale says.
Crowley rolls his eyes. He's trying really hard not to giggle. He's not a giggler.
"I mean has the Almighty spoken to you?"
"No," Aziraphale says. "Not since the Garden. Really, I'm not sure She's spoken to anyone."
"Hm," Crowley says.
There's a couch cushion between them still. Just that. It's barely any distance and yet so much. Crowley wants to cross it, not for any reason other than to be closer to Aziraphale. Since 1941, he's started to think, started to hope, that Aziraphale, an angel, might care for him in the way he does. That when Aziraphale watches him for too long it's not because he's thinking about something else. But because he's thinking about Crowley. It's dangerous thinking. Crowley scarcely allows it. Aziraphale, who broke his own moral code to bring Crowley holy water because he wouldn't risk seeing him hurt. He wants to cross the distance. You go too fast for me, Crowley. He keeps himself still. He'll wait.
"Do you think She's even listening?" he asks.
"Oh I'm quite sure," Aziraphale says. "Don't hog that, my dear."
He takes the joint from Crowley, careful not to drop it, their fingers brushing.
Oh God, Crowley thinks. I'll wait.
There were three other gates in the Garden. Three other angels. As it so happened, Adam and Eve left through the Eastern Gate, and Crowley wanted to watch them go. He felt struck, pulled by the need to see it. He supposed he could have watched from anywhere, but there was an angel up there, and he thought maybe he'd say hello.
Crowley's curiosity has been getting him into trouble since day zero.
Sometimes Crowley thinks he could live in America. Or France. France for the wine alone, America because he is very partial to their cities and how absolutely ridiculous and absolutely wonderful they are. They're very nice, for the most part. Crowley is into the music scene for sure. But London, as it were, has his heart eternal. Anyway he's due to do something demonic—gotta keep up appearances, after all—so he causes a traffic jam on the Golden Gate Bridge and gets some counterfeit Nirvana tickets circulating around the city. The plus side is Crowley gets to watch Nirvana perform. The show is sold-out but the traffic jam means the venue isn't to capacity and Crowley can saunter up just as close to Kurt Cobain as he well pleases. He likes him rather a lot and hopes he stays off the heroin.
After the concert, Crowley wanders around the Castro in his black denim jacket in a spectacular mood, which he's always in after a good concert. He watches the young queer couples ducking into neighborhood bars and considers a drink, but then, he mostly only drinks with Aziraphale these days. That's another reason he'd never move to America. Aziraphale is absolutely set in England—Crowley is still trying to convince him to install an answering machine. The bastard won't budge. Something about his stubbornness is as infuriating to Crowley as it is endearing, and he smiles, right there in the street before he can catch himself.
But he does catch himself, and he straightens the line of his mouth.
"We're not doing this," he says.
Crowley spins around, probably less elegantly than he should, and sees Aziraphale standing right behind him.
"Having you sneak up behind me again like in Norway," Crowley says. "Hello, angel. What brings you here?"
Aziraphale sighs, and it seems to sink his body to the earth.
"Oh I got roped into this…with the boats in the Pacific…the fishing—" he makes an aborted gesture with his hand, something that either looks like he sunk the boats or helped them stay afloat. "—It doesn't matter. I knew you'd be here so I thought I'd stop by. Say hello."
Crowley notices then that something is. Off. Aziraphale looks less twitchy than usual but by no means relaxed. He looks exhausted, the skin around his eyes nearly punched black with it. Crowley doesn't think it was to do with the ships.
"How about a late-night bite, then?" he says. "Should be a diner nearby."
Aziraphale agrees immediately.
They end up around the block in a corner booth, Aziraphale with a cheeseburger and fries and Crowley with a cup of coffee.
"Oh this food is heinous," Aziraphale says, halfway through the burger already. "Really terribly greasy. You should try one, Crowley."
"I'll take your word for it." Crowley dumps some cream into his coffee just for show. "Honestly, angel, get a milkshake, make it a whole thing."
"I just might."
Aziraphale's gaze fans out to the other patrons in the diner, mostly gay men, something rippling behind his eyes. Crowley picks up the menu, taps the laminate on the counter to bring Aziraphale's attention back to him.
"Have you been to the hospitals here?" Aziraphale asks him, and they're suddenly having a different conversation.
Crowley knows what he's asking. He knows because he's been to many hospitals, many times. Mostly he learns what nurses won't brings AIDS patients their food. He makes their lives miserable and messes with the pharmacies so that the computers go down and people get free AZT. It's not, strictly speaking, proper demonic activity. But making a nurse who treats a patient like that trip down a flight of stairs makes Crowley feel good, or bad, so he justifies it.
There was no memo from Hell about this, this disease. And when Crowley tried to make contact, he just got Hastur on the 10-inch hospital TV gleefully saying, "It's not us, but isn't it just the worst thing you've seen in ages? I'm trying to decide which plague is my favorite and I think—"
Crowley didn't really believe him at first. Who is it, then, Heaven? Or just another natural terror of being human? Humans are as predictable as they are unpredictable, Crowley knows. He loves them as much as he can't stand them.
"Oh I've…popped in, I guess," Crowley says.
"It's bad, Crowley. The whole thing. And I'm not sure it'll get better."
It's unusual for Aziraphale to talk like this. Aziraphale takes things in stride. Even Nazism Aziraphale was confident would be triumphed over, because he was always saying that crap to Crowley about evil sewing the seeds of its own destruction. But right now he looks…gutted. Like he's having a moment, just one moment, and it's too much. And that's all it takes, Crowley knows. One mistake, and it could be all over. He swallows, leans against the table.
"We've seen this before," he says. "Different flavor, sure, but same shell. Remember the Bubonic Plague? And Nazis?"
"This just seems…oh, I don't know." Aziraphale shakes his head. "Maybe you were right."
"What? No," Crowley says. "I'm never right, remember? You tell me that all the time."
"Maybe it's all messed up, maybe there isn't a Plan at all—"
Aziraphale watches him as if struck. Probably because Crowley has never said No to him and meant it, and certainly never said it that forcefully.
"Not another word," Crowley says. "All that's my job, you know. Anyway, I think I heard some…talk. Yeah, some talk in Hell about this back in the '70s."
"You're lying," Aziraphale says.
"I'm not. Not this time, anyway."
"Crowley, you told me that Hell had never mentioned anything of the sort."
"No, I said they never mentioned it to me specifically. They talk a lot, you know. I just don't always pay attention."
He can't quite tell if Aziraphale believes him or not. But better Aziraphale doubt him than doubt God and get himself thrown out of Heaven. Crowley pushes the plate of fries towards Aziraphale.
"Eat up, angel. This will all work out, you'll see."
The lie must make Aziraphale feel at least somewhat all right, because he does finish his meal. When Crowley asks him where he's staying, he admits he hasn't gotten a place for the night yet, though something ought to miraculously open up any minute now.
"I've got a hotel room just a few blocks from here," Crowley tells him. "Bet a room next to mine would be free."
And so it is.
What Crowley wants, what he really wants, is to take Aziraphale into his room. What he wants is to hold Aziraphale to him in his moment of doubt. He wonders if he can hold him tight enough to soak the doubt from him, like a sponge, like a hot sun, and swallow it all down into the pit of himself. It would be safe there. But what he does is bid Aziraphale good night from his door. Nonchalant. Soft.
"Just knock on the wall if you need anything," he says.
"I'm quite all right, my dear, but thank you," Aziraphale says.
Inside his room Crowley stands at their shared wall and thinks of raising his fist to knock. Just to check. Just to be sure. He raises his knuckles, once, and unfolds them, his palm hitting the wall softly. Crowley's eyes flicker to the ceiling.
"If you let him Fall, so help me, I will find a way back up there. I swear it."
He's never threatened God before. Crowley waits a moment to see if he'll be smote, surely he'll be smote, only the moments tick by and there's just laughter on the street below. A police siren whooping. Well, She wasn't listening, anyway. But the threat still stands, Crowley thinks.
Though there's been a worse, darker thought circling him since they spoke at the diner. Crowley can barely stand to say it aloud.
"This isn't my fault, is it?" he says into the darkness, and the darkness says nothing.
In the morning, Aziraphale knocks on Crowley's door and asks to return to the diner. For a milkshake. He's in far better spirits and Crowley doesn't need to question that. He's just happy to see it.
They order vanilla and strawberry milkshakes, respectively, and Crowley gives Aziraphale his cherry. Aziraphale looks good next to pastel colors, Crowley thinks absently, and sips his vanilla shake. It's thick and sweet.
"Allow me to apologize for last night," Aziraphale says.
"No, I don't think I will," says Crowley.
Aziraphale presses his lips together and clicks his tongue.
"Then allow me—"
"I won't allow that, either," Crowley says, not actually sure what Aziraphale is going to say, but he's sure it's something ridiculous.
"Stubborn snake," Aziraphale says, though he's smiling.
"Right, I'm stubborn."
They drink their milkshakes. Every few minutes Aziraphale makes contented sighs or uses his finger to eat the whipped cream and Crowley's mouth goes dry despite the fact that he's drinking something. He still feels a bit off about last night, but if Aziraphale is all right then he's all right. When he needed it, Aziraphale came to Crowley. And he can come to him again and again, doing only that, and Crowley thinks he'll be happy.
Aziraphale's straw makes a hollow sucking sound as he gets to the end of his milkshake. Crowley is barely halfway through. Aziraphale pushes his empty glass aside and straightens in the booth.
"What I was going to say earlier—and don't interrupt me—is thank you." He holds Crowley's gaze, as serious as Crowley has ever seen him. "There was…that is…I don't know who I would have talked to if I couldn't have talked to you last night. I could have gotten myself into a lot more trouble without you."
Oh, Crowley thinks. What he says is, "Shut up. Drink this," and slides the rest of his shake over to Aziraphale, who clicks his tongue and rolls his eyes like he's been doing for the last six thousand years but also does finish Crowley's milkshake.
He watches Aziraphale drink up, the delighted sigh he makes at enjoying a new flavor, and thinks that they must absolutely keep each other. Whatever happens, they have to keep each other. Dare Crowley use the word, but, they might be good for each other.
"But I don't suppose we're getting close to it," Aziraphale says. "You know. The End Times."
He says puts air quotes around "End Times." Half-serious, then.
"Ha," says Crowley. "Give my lot at least another thousand years before they get going on that, the lazy bastards."
2019 THE NIGHT OF THE THWARTED APOCALYPSE
Crowley is a mute, stupid thing on the bus ride home. The past twenty-four hours or so haven't made much sense to him. And there was that stretch of time where Aziraphale was definitely dead. There were too many other moments where Crowley was sure he was about to lose him again. Right now, Crowley is content to just sit next to him.
That's the thing about love, Crowley supposes, sometimes it's nice just to be next to thing you love and fuck all else. Like, for example, the fact that they're both in really, really big trouble with their respective people. But Crowley doesn't want to think about that right now. He doesn't want to think about anything except the warm feeling of Aziraphale next to him and the sound of bus's hydraulics, the bright lights as they're driven into London.
Aziraphale, too, is oddly quiet. Every so often he glances at Crowley and smiles with half his mouth.
There are definitely worse ways of spending what is likely to be the last night of your existence than having your secret love of six thousand years stay over.
Crowley doesn't have a couch, since he doesn't do a lot of lounging around at home. He just has the one bed, which he insists Aziraphale takes. Aziraphale gently shucks his overcoat off and folds it over Crowley's dresser like it belongs there. Then he climbs into Crowley's bed, bowtie still nice and tight, and lies there like a plank of wood. After a moment, he sits up.
"But where will you sleep?"
Crowley answers him by walking up his wall and lying on his ceiling over the bed.
"See? Do it all the time."
Don't ask, Crowley thinks. Don't ask because I will say yes. I will and you know it, you stupid, clever angel.
"The bed is big enough for three. You could—I mean, it is your bed."
Crowley presses helplessly back into his own ceiling, already folding.
"Oh," he says. "Well, yes I could—"
"If you're comfortable—"
"It is quite big—"
"I do like a big—"
"Oh Crowley, just get in the bed!"
Crowley drops down from the ceiling. He's already in his pajamas, so all he has to do is take off his sunglasses and call for the lights, which he does immediately to save them both the awkward eye contact. They're both on their backs, both of them planks of wood now. On the bus ride, Crowley felt so exhausted he was sure he could sleep for an entire week if he wanted. Now Aziraphale is in bed with him and he is both exhausted, incredibly awake, and anxious beyond belief. As if reading his mind, Aziraphale pipes up.
"I probably won't sleep," he says. "But you should."
"You never have been one for sleep."
"No. I don't mind watching you sleep, though."
Even in the dark Crowley can see Aziraphale's face burst red as he rolls to his side to face him. Aziraphale's mouth is struggling to work again properly.
"I mean—that is what I meant to say was—"
"Angel," Crowley says gently. "I know you'd been to my flat while I was sleeping…back then."
It took Crowley about twenty years too long to realize that Hell hadn't lit the fire in his flat back in 1909. He would've smelled it. Hellfire can be a bit nasty on the nose—brimstone isn't pleasant, kind of has a rotten egg smell, really. Crowley had self-consciously asked Aziraphale once what he smelled like, just to be sure he hadn't gone nose-blind to his own scent.
"A pine forest," Aziraphale had answered, immediately, then looked down at his cocoa intently, as if he'd revealed some secret of the world.
"Yes, well," Aziraphale says to him now. "I—I wanted to make sure no one was bothering you. You always said Hell never checked up but we couldn't be sure."
"They did call for me. After I woke up. Had no sodding idea what year it even was. They were right pissed they couldn't get ahold of me, but it was only to congratulate me on all the jobs I'd been doing—well, we'd be doing over the past hundred or so years. Ironic, huh?"
Aziraphale squirms next to him.
"They could've destroyed you. They're demons, Crowley—"
"I'm a demon."
Aziraphale goes silent. He's thinking, Crowley can tell. Like he's about to say something stupid, something like, Not like that, not like them. And Crowley, damn him, still doesn't know if that's true. Or maybe he's thinking about how Heaven isn't so different, or dare they allow the thought—worse. He hears Aziraphale inhale shakily to speak. And then, he doesn't. Instead he reaches an arm out, like a wing, like he expects Crowley to fold himself into it, and it takes Crowley a moment to realize he does expect that. Crowley inches closer, closer still, until Aziraphale folds his arm over his back and Crowley rests his cheek into Aziraphale's shoulder. He inhales.
Aziraphale has always smelled like cold air at the base of a mountain. No amount of aftershave will change it.
"Thank you," Crowley says, not just to Aziraphale.
"Go to sleep, dear," says Aziraphale, and Crowley does.
Places Crowley has been with Aziraphale: everywhere
Places Crowley wants to go with Aziraphale if they survive Heaven and Hell: everywhere
2019 ABOUT FOUR DAYS AFTER THE THWARTED APOCALYPSE
Freedom changes some things, though not many. Crowley still thinks too much for his own good. He wonders why Aziraphale thought he needed to keep his socks on while getting into a bathtub full of holy water ("Because it's decent," Aziraphale said at lunch). He thinks about leaving London. Maybe moving to the countryside. He could pop in any time to see Aziraphale, but, maybe Aziraphale would like to come with him. Crowley is still wondering if the Almighty planned it this way all along. He thinks about those last two things a lot.
He mists his plants, in a good enough mood that even though his snake plant most definitely is wilting on him he's going to give it a pass. Today only, though. And he tells the sorry bastard as much.
"I may not be as nice tomorrow," he says, then winces. "I mean as forgiving—I mean as—just do better!"
Crowley slams the plant mister down and walks back to his front room, sits in his chair and watches a light drizzle descend over Westminster.
"So was it?" he says into the room. "Was this all part of your plan, Almighty? I know you're still not taking anyone's calls, least of all from me, but, guess I'm still the same curious arsehole I was all those thousands of years ago."
Crowley drags his fingers over his antique answering machine. He's got two messages on it, both from Aziraphale not understanding what an answering machine is still. They have dinner plans later.
"We did the right thing, didn't we?" He slouches forward, chin cradled in both hands, eyes imploring the Heavens. "If you're not going to talk to me, at least talk to the angel. He deserves that, you know."
"Crowley? What are you doing?"
Crowley stands up and turns so sharply he upends the chair. It's a certain kind of terror, to see Aziraphale standing there in his entranceway, having listened to him for somebody knows how long. The air rushes from Crowley's chest. He can't seem to find his voice, even to ask Aziraphale what the fuck he's doing here.
"Were you—" Aziraphale steps forward. "Were you talking to the Almighty?"
"No," Crowley says, chokes on it. "Absolutely was not doing that."
"Yes, you were. I heard you."
Aziraphale isn't watching him with that sort of curious edge of feigned obliviousness. He knows. He knows. And probably he's elated but Crowley can't help feeling like he's been caught with his hand where it shouldn't be. He wants to slither away. Old habits. Since it's Aziraphale, what he says is, "I don't do it often," in a desperate, kind of high-pitched voice.
"So you've done this before?" Aziraphale asks.
Oh I'm an idiot, Crowley thinks. He knows his eyes are dilated to full yellow, and he picks the chair up, then grabs the back of it to steady himself. He regrets now that he never bought a couch for this stupid flat.
"Occasionally…look, really, this is your fault. If you hadn't given away your stupid flaming sword back at the Garden I wouldn't have even asked about you—"
"You talked to Her about that?"
"It's not like She's listening, angel!"
Crowley shifts his weight. Left foot, right. Aziraphale's face is unreadable suddenly, strange. It's 4004 B.C. and Aziraphale is there remembering every detail. The drizzle outside has turned into a downpour.
"Tell me about the other times," he says. "Tell me all of them."
Crowley does. Jerusalem, Rome (but he leaves out the why), Norway, just before he rescued Aziraphale from the Nazis, San Francisco. He stutters and rants out details. The longer he goes on the more Aziraphale's eyes widen with some realization Crowley hasn't reached yet. It's blabber, it doesn't matter. Crowley could've been talking to his car for all anyone cared. He can't account for why he directed it all at God. A habit he can't seem to break. He's a shit demon, that's already been established.
"I think that's it," he says, rubbing his hand over his forehead. "Make me tell the whole blasted world, why don't you?"
"Crowley," Aziraphale says. He speaks as if his throat is very small. "Those were all times you'd been with me."
Crowley says nothing. Aziraphale reaches out, hesitant, and touches Crowley's arm.
"What if She has been listening?"
"What? No," Crowley says.
He draws back. Aziraphale is watching him like he's quite serious.
"No," Crowley says again.
He sidesteps Aziraphale, ready to storm out of his own flat. Instead he flees to his bedroom. Snaps his fingers to open the door and snaps them again to slam it shut. Crowley feels strangely dizzy, the whole history of his desire and grief and confusion spinning about in his head like a carnival ride. Aziraphale knocks on the door.
"Go away, angel. Or at least, come back when you're not talking absolute nonsense."
There's a loud huff outside the door.
"Well how do you think I feel? Six thousand years and there's more sign that the Almighty might have been listening to you than me."
"That's right," Crowley says, and he can't stop how thick and hurt his voice becomes. "Me. A demon. So how's that for a cosmic joke?"
He doesn't get an answer. Just hears Aziraphale's footsteps descending the hall, then the very loud noise of his front door shutting. Crowley swallows and wipes at his eyes. Four days into being on their own side and they're already having huge, blowout fights. Spectacular. Crowley collapses back onto his bed and listens to the rain ping against his windows. Aziraphale is wrong. He'd decided to go after Aziraphale in 1941 because he'd decided it. Aziraphale hearing him over the wind in Norway was strange, sure, but angels have excellent hearing. God most definitely did not forgo punishing him for giving away his flaming sword because Crowley asked Her not to. Aziraphale is wrong. Crowley thinks of waking in 79 A.D. when Vesuvius erupted. Was that Her? Part of some Plan? Or another incredible cosmic coincidence that just got Crowley to stop sulking and get moving?
Aziraphale has to be wrong.
When Crowley wakes up it's still raining and Aziraphale is knocking at his bedroom door. The sky is orange-hued, no more than a few hours must have passed, and Crowley's feet are still dangling over the edge of the bed from when he fell asleep. He stands and opens the door to Aziraphale's bright, familiar face.
"Did I give you a key or something?" Crowley asks.
Aziraphale makes a face. "Only twenty years ago."
"Oh. Huh. Drink?"
"Maybe just tea," Aziraphale says, and before Crowley can protest adds: "I know you keep it, dear."
They stand in Crowley's kitchen while the kettle heats, Aziraphale with his hands tucked in front of him, Crowley leaning arms crossed against his countertop and thinking about how nothing makes sense to him anymore.
"Look, about earlier," Aziraphale says. "I'm sorry I left like that."
"Well, as it stands, me too. I'm—you really think She was listening all along? To me?"
Aziraphale shrugs with his whole body, rises up on the tips of his toes briefly, then down. He looks like he's been thinking about this a great deal.
"I think it's impossible to say, really. I doubt She'll ever tell us. Maybe She was."
The Almighty God, listening to a Fallen Angel. Crowley can understand why Aziraphale would be hurt.
"Angel," he says. "I really don't think—"
"It doesn't matter," Aziraphale says, then shakes his head. "What I mean to say is: whether She listened or not, the end result was the same, wasn't it? We're together, now. The two of us."
Aziraphale watches him, soft as he's ever been.
"Don't you think that's just the most miraculous thing?" he says.
Something in Crowley shifts. He doesn't know what it is. It moves like rock, sets an earthquake in him, and he can't stop himself and doesn't want to anymore. The kettle boils over and he barely notices, in fact he doesn't care at all. Aziraphale pours for them both. Crowley watches him, transfixed. He wonders how he's ever managed to look away at all.
"It was always about you," he says.
"Pardon?" Aziraphale says.
"Just about every time I talked to Her, it was always about you."
Aziraphale sets the kettle back on the stove, slowly. If he is aware of what's about to happen, he doesn't stop it.
"The first time," Crowley says. "And the last time—what I mean is, all of this is because, fuck, Aziraphale."
"I love you," Crowley says. "As much as I'm capable, that is."
Aziraphale doesn't move. An entire six thousand years passes again. Then he touches the crook of Crowley's elbow, and his hand is very warm.
"Crowley," he says, as if Crowley has just broken his heart. "You're the most capable being of love that I know."
He takes Crowley's hand and places it over his own. That, too, is warm.
"I feel it when you touch me."
Crowley swallows thickly.
"Do you feel this?" Aziraphale asks. "Do you feel how much I…love you? I'm sorry it wasn't loud enough before."
"It doesn't matter," Crowley says. "I'm—can I kiss you?"
Crowley does. There's a very strange, almost out-of-body experience about it, kissing someone he's wanted to kiss for six thousand years. Crowley is worried he could float away, so he holds Aziraphale's hand in his own and wraps the other around Aziraphale's waist to pull him closer. Aziraphale touches his face and it feels like being touched by light.
They stand there kissing against the countertop for ages. Crowley could do this all night, all day, for eternity. He sees the big deal about making out now. He gets it. And he's really starting to get adventurous with kissing Aziraphale's neck when Aziraphale pulls back and kisses his nose. Crowley will never admit that makes his knees shake.
"Crowley," Aziraphale says. "This is lovely and all. Actually, it's beyond lovely. But I think you ought to invite me to your bed."
"Oh," Crowley says. "Wait, really?"
They're both naked by the time they reached the bedroom in some unsaid, mutual decision. Crowley has always been unabashed in his nakedness, except for right now, because he and Aziraphale have seen each other nude hundreds, thousands of times, but never like this. Never flushed and kiss bitten and aware that they're going to be touched. Crowley hesitates. He doesn't mean to. Aziraphale smiles at him, somehow shy and emboldened at the same time, and takes both of Crowley's hands in his own.
"What do you want, my dear?" he asks.
Crowley kisses him, unable to speak. Presses against him. Aziraphale's hands, eager and curious, trail down Crowley's back to his ass and squeeze it. Crowley gasps, then moans, and Aziraphale swallows it for him. When he pulls back, Aziraphale's face is scarlet, expression devious.
"On the bed," Crowley says. "Angel, you've got to get on the bed this instant."
Some part of him he can't touch or understand is still terrified. Not of Aziraphale. Just of everything. Crowley watches Aziraphale settle back onto the bed and watch him expectantly. He can't even think of what to do, which is laughable, because he's imagined this so many times, so many different ways. Aziraphale holds his arm out, beckons him.
"Come here to me," he says.
Crowley swings his leg over the bed and straddles Aziraphale, letting his body move for him. Aziraphale's hands settle immediately on his hips, thumbs pressed tightly into the skin. Crowley keeps eye contact with Aziraphale while he reaches back to press oiled fingers into himself, but Aziraphale grabs his wrist to stop him.
"Let me, please." He prods at Crowley, gently. "Try not to blaspheme, darling, in case She's listening."
"Angel," Crowley says, flushing.
Aziraphale smiles at him so brilliantly he can't even be angry. He especially can't be angry once Aziraphale starts massaging his fingers in him, two of them pressed so deeply that Crowley feels it all over, shakes with it. He finally lifts up so Aziraphale's fingers slip out, then takes hold of Aziraphale's cock so he can press it into himself, hips working down.
"Oh, like this?" Aziraphale says. "Oh, Crowley, you've no idea—that's—oh."
The breath Crowley lets out is just a moan. He's afraid if he speaks he'll say something terribly embarrassing, some litany of I love you, so he presses his hands flat to Aziraphale's chest and works his hips, goes for a rhythm.
"You look awfully good like this," Aziraphale tells him. "You feel awfully good."
Crowley quiets him by kissing him. It doesn't feel right to hear any iteration of good like this, even though it does, this thing Crowley has wanted as long as he knew he would never have it. Aziraphale pushes his hips up and Crowley pants into his mouth. He's close, already so full up and sensitive, but the thought gets dislodged when Aziraphale gently rolls them so Crowley is on his back. Aziraphale hitches one of his legs up and moves in him, slowly, reverently. Crowley clings to his back, suddenly desperate.
"Oh G—this is—you're making love to me," he says.
"Yes, well, I'm afraid that's all I can do. I'm an angel." Aziraphale snaps his hips and Crowley arches into it. "Crowley, you feel—"
"Positively evil?" Crowley says, squirming, hysterical, and Aziraphale laughs.
Aziraphale watches him so openly that Crowley can't look away, so loud now Crowley almost can't stand it. He knows this feeling, wants to drown in the lake of this feeling, in Aziraphale. Crowley doesn't know why he told himself he didn't have it before. He wraps his legs around Aziraphale's hips and feels it when he spills into him, the way Aziraphale stutters his name, shaking. Then he reaches between them and takes Crowley in his hand, and Crowley well and truly sobs, calls out for him in the way he's always wanted to.
"Angel," he says. "Angel, angel, angel—please—"
"I know," Aziraphale says, kissing his wet lashes, and brings him over the edge.
On a Friday, Crowley drives over to the bookshop, which he knows very well will be closed. He brings a lemon cake with him, because it's always nice to spoil Aziraphale, and he's got no need to make excuses for it now. He walks into the shop with the cake box tucked under his arm and Aziraphale is waiting for him, smiling, and Crowley knows he's smiling back at him. Aziraphale leans forward expectantly for a kiss.
"Oh, is that cake?" he asks when they part.
Aziraphale takes the box and raises his brows. "Did you do something unsightly I should be aware of?"
"No." Crowley pulls at his jacket, affronted. "Do I need a reason to bring my—to bring you cake?"
"Other than the big reason, you mean," Aziraphale says.
They're climbing the stairs to Aziraphale's little flat, so luckily he can't see Crowley's combination scowl and blush. Crowley has said it again, multiple times. I love you. Usually during sex, or in very the early morning when it's still dark, embracing Aziraphale from behind and burying his face in his back. Turns out he still has some tiny hang ups about saying it in other circumstances. Aziraphale doesn't seem to mind in the least.
Aziraphale cuts himself a slice of lemon cake on a plate and they sit at his foldout table by the window, the one Crowley thinks could do with some hanging plants, if he's being honest, which he sometimes is. Aziraphale is two bites in before Crowley breaks down.
"So I'm thinking of leaving London," he says.
Aziraphale slips the fork from his mouth. "I beg your pardon?"
"I mean, not England," Crowley says. "Love England. Nice and green. Gloomy. Just thinking of leaving the city. Too many bad drivers."
"Well there's one in particular I can think of, but…where…well, where would you go?"
"The country, to a little cottage or…something. Thought you might…" and here, Crowley shrugs, fingers slotted together, unable to make eye contact. "…help me choose."
"Oh," Aziraphale says. Then, "Oh."
He's still holding the fork, this ridiculous little dessert fork from the seventeenth century that's managed to stay beautifully polished all these years. Crowley looks at the fork and thinks he's gone too fast again. He's an idiot, but he couldn't help himself. Crowley's been wanting a more open space for years—cities remind him too much of Hell sometimes, all that crowding. He'd been driving last week and ended up in the South Downs and saw the cottage and it was perfect, it really was, nestled by a lake and there was a garden and enough room for all of Aziraphale's books. He wants to show it to Aziraphale. If he likes it, they can buy it. And maybe this is a rash decision, but he never would have done it before, because he never thought Aziraphale might come with him. But now things are different.
Crowley opens his mouth to take it all back when Aziraphale cuts into his slice of lemon cake again.
"Perhaps we could build a little alter in the cottage, you know, so you could talk to the Almighty better."
Crowley gawks at him. "Angel."
Aziraphale takes a delicate bite of cake.
"I could always bless the cottage—"
Aziraphale sets his fork down and reaches across the table, holds Crowley's face in his hands, the most charming shade a pink sweeping across his nose.
"I will live in whatever blasphemous little cottage we find," he says.
Crowley curses his stupid snake eyes for welling up behind his sunglasses.
"Well I might have one in mind we could go take a look at, provided you can stand to go on a long drive with England's Worst Driver."
"I'll make the sacrifice," Aziraphale says, and Crowley kisses him.
He tastes like lemons.
In the evening they walk along the chalky seaside. Crowley walks too close to the cliff edge and Aziraphale's voice calls him back through the wind, his coat billowing, hair a golden mess in the sunset. Everything smells like salt. Crowley thinks of Lot's wife. Aziraphale has been eating an infuriating amount of fish and chips from the local chippie, and bringing Crowley flowers he pretends not to enjoy ("I garden plants, not flowers." "Yes, but these were so beautiful, Crowley." And so on).
They take the long way back to the cottage, because they have the time. Crowley is not sure how much time. History curves at some point, always does, and nothing gold can stay, or so Aziraphale read to him from some book a few nights ago.
Crowley looks up. Aziraphale is watching him on the path, surrounded by green and wildflowers. Crowley loves him.
"What is it, angel?"
"I said do you remember that time in Italy we had fresh bucatini? I've a craving for it."
"And I suppose you think I'm going to waltz home and roll some out for you," Crowley says.
"Well, perhaps," Aziraphale says, guilty as charged. "Or we could plan for Italy. Come along, my dear."
He extends a hand. They have time, Crowley thinks, and they will make time. Crowley glances to the sky, though as it were, he doesn't feel the need to say anything. He takes Aziraphale's hand.