Now, to Aziraphale, the concept of human gender was, at the very beginning, nothing more than a uniform.
A corporeal form to slip into when need be, that simply suited his needs.
He had begun to grow quite fond of his earthly form and it's small idiosyncrasies: his soft, rounded body and bright cloud-like curls atop his head.
At the beginning when he picked this particular form, the gender of how he appeared was, quite honestly, the last thing on his mind. (if it had even been there at all.) He had needed a body, plain and simple, and chose a form that would appear to the humans down in The Almighty's world as welcoming and charming.
He hadn't thought of himself in terms of He, She or They for quite a handful of years if he looks back on it – and if the humans hadn't developed their visual concepts of gender, he most likely wouldn't have come to his own conclusions either.
But he had – after years of existing in his preferred form, it had been deemed by the humans as one of a Man. And of course he had no need to conform to the assumptions of the people around him. He was a celestial entity, after all.
But something about the newly deemed “Male” presentation of his form made him feel...very comfortable. At home, if you will.
Which was the reason he hardly ever changed his physical appearance – occasionally his hair would grow longer or the curls would become tighter, yes, but he liked this body. He had made it his own. He liked the simplicity of it.
Now, of course, some otherworldly beings who also witnessed the concept of gender arise still chose to disregard the binaries; they instead chose to bend between all of the different choices with fluid grace and freedom.
And Aziraphale watched those individuals with awe, as if he was looking at a masterpiece in motion. Like they were sunsets and sunrises in physical form, the way they carried themselves with such confidence in who they chose to be that day.
Now, Aziraphale knew that he had a tendency to ramble. Had been told so on many occasions, even when speaking to himself. And the reason for this particular existential tangent he had jumped into was the vision —demon-- lounging across the Symposium from him, the sight of whom had caused the angel to freeze in the middle of bringing his bowl of wine to his lips, (nearly spilling the drink over his pristine new robes) and simply...stare at the aforementioned sunset and sunrise before him.
Because there across the tiled, lamp lit room, a marvel in a human form, was Crowley. Sprawled gracefully across a spread of plush pillows with dark red and black fabric draped across their lithe form and over the delicate swell of their breasts, slender neck craned back as they laughed along with the companions gathered around them.
Aziraphale could easily have listened in to their conversation, had he been feeling particularly nosey...but you see, he was rather preoccupied.
His brain was foggy and his senses at a major standstill – for you see, in all of the encounters he had had so far with the demon Crawley—Crowley, they had appeared as rather masculine, he supposed. Crowley had always toed the line, neither looking fully like a man or a woman, but a wonderful combination of them both. (Which Aziraphale still found startlingly striking and, pardon the term, devilishly attractive. But it would take several thousand years for him to be able to admit it to himself.)
And in the grand scheme of things, being that all otherworldly beings existed outside of binary ideas of gender, it shouldn't have affected Aziraphale so much to have seen the demon present themself in a purely feminine way. But it was just that they were...simply glowing, exuding a radiance that a demon should not have been able to. And yet there they were, skin simply shimmering, their hair pulled up and decorated with small beads and jewels, gold necklaces dripping down their sharp collarbones.
Aziraphale couldn't exactly make out their eyes from behind the tinted glass hiding them, but he assumed they were lined with kohl, and their sharp lips were stained a deep pomegranate red that was...well, positively tempting.
Later, Aziraphale would deny that he had been tempted by that sight. And much, much later, he would admit that he had indeed been. But that is not what our story is about this evening.
Tonight is about Aziraphale's first ever crisis as he set his wine bowl down, gently touched the cheek of the truly charming young poet lounging next to him, murmured a soft, “Pardon me a moment, Alcaeus.” stood and absolutely did not hurry over to Crowley's portion of the room.
(He absolutely did.)
As Aziraphale approached the much more raucous group, he heard the melodic tones of a woman reciting poetry, and the small crowd seemed absolutely enraptured by her words.
Especially Crowley, Aziraphale noted with a quirked eyebrow and quite a bit of amusement, as said demon was currently sprawled in the performer's lap, a slender finger trailing along her jaw as they stared in wonder at her.
Aziraphale did have a mission in mind, but he wouldn't be able to forgive himself if he interrupted this performance. Even tho he came to the group late, he could tell this woman was something special; and so he took a seat next to a particularly inebriated man near the back of the gathering, and allowed himself to get lost in her words – tho his eyes and attention kept drifting to Crowley's awestruck expression as this woman wove her words through the minds of her audience, weaving a tapestry before their very eyes.
“ But that reminds me now: Anactoria,
she's not here, and I'd rather see her lovely step, her sparkling glance and her face than gaze on all the troops in Lydia in their chariots and glittering armor. ”
A pleased smile and a soft blush came over the poet's tanned skin as her audience erupted into applause, and Aziraphale was proud to say that he wiped a tear from the corner of his eye and cheered the loudest.
(Another thing Aziraphale would not admit for several thousand years was how his own cheeks flushed and how he himself smiled when he heard Crowley's joyous laughter and applause.)
“Oh, I told you it would absolutely slay, my darling,” Aziraphale caught Crowley telling their poet, before planting a rather loud kiss to the woman's cheek and leaving a red mark from their lips there. “you underestimate yourself constantly, sweet Sappho.” They crooned in a voice that Aziraphale did not yearn to have directed at him. No he did not.
(“Yes you did, angel.”
“...I did.” )
The poet, Sappho, fondly rolled her eyes as she chuckled against Crowley's temple. “You are quite the handful, my darling woman.” Sappho teased, gently brushing a stray hair out of Crowley's face.
“Oh, then my plan is working perfectly!” Crowley exclaimed proudly, earning laughter once again from the crowd. “I do need my reputation to proceed me wherever I go, of course. Whenever my name is spoken, I require fear and, at the same time, desire to be struck into the hearts of men and women alike,” Crowley addressed the crowd, and Aziraphale couldn't help but laugh along with the rest of the admirers. “They will say, 'Oh, that Crowley! She does leave fire in her wake – in your bed and your fields, if you play your cards right'.” She delivered her last line with a wink so exaggerated it was visible from under the tinted glasses perched on her nose, and looked quite happy with herself. As a demon is wont to do, Aziraphale supposed.
And truly...he couldn't help himself when he found himself piping up with a, “You know, I believe I heard a man in Mytilene express that same sentiment recently! Quite reckless tho, going 'round setting fire to bedding and the like. Wouldn't you agree?”
And again, truly, he couldn't help the smile that crossed his face when Crowley's gaze snapped to him, a wide smile spreading across her face.
“Aziraphale!” She laughed brightly and quickly sat up in Sappho's lap, the jewelry around her neck and wrists jingling loudly.
Her glasses slipped a bit with the quickness of her movement, and the pure adoration in those yellow eyes staring back into his made Aziraphale's stomach go very fuzzy.
(Little to his knowledge at the time, he had worn the same expression as he gazed back at her in that moment, and had everyday since. )
“You're late, angel.” Crowley teased with a smirk, as if she had been expecting him. And maybe she had, with whatever demonic wiles she was working with.
“My deepest apologies – how can I make it up to you?”Aziraphale played along, both eyebrows raised at her as Sappho watched them both in grand amusement.
“Oh, I would be delighted.”