I am not accustomed to writing. Nor to reading. You know this well, being the one who reads. This is your language, your realm and I am just a visitor. But if the contents of my mind and of my stupid, treacherous heart can make their way onto the page, and you, my dear friend can maybe someday read them, then something will have been done here. Then I’ll have been able to put it somewhere that lasts, and that is all I’ve endeavored to do”
Aziraphale sat, by the soft, amber light of an antique tiffany lamp, in his favorite armchair, a 200 year old book of love letters open on his lap, a cup of blueberry black tea, steaming at his elbow. He’d found the book deep in the stacks of his shop and for the life of him, he could not remember purchasing it. It was published sometime in the mid to late 19th century, if the typeface and the grain of the paper were any indication. Aziraphale had an expert eye when it came to anything to do with books, paper, binding, publishing. He was a connoisseur of the written word and ate words up in much the same way he devoured pastries and cakes and other human raught delicacies.
The book looked to be self published, and there was no title, no author’s name on the cover. But the author, or whomever had published it, had spared no coin in making sure the job was well done. The binding was secure, the paper of good quality. Only slightly yellowed with age. Someone had cared for this book and kept it safe, away from mold and the damp and the sun. Aziraphale knew it wasn’t he who’d kept it well preserved as he had no memory of acquiring it or of placing it on the shelf where he’d found it earlier that day.
The author’s words were a bit crude. Not nearly as flowery or as articulate as others from that age who put pen to paper. But something about his tone (he was male and the letters appeared to be addressed to another man, which was perhaps why it was untitled), was deeply familiar to Aziraphale in a way he couldn’t quite place. There was no title page, just a hand written note, (“To my love”) in spidery script that also made a vagrant memory tickle at the edges of Aziraphale’s conscious mind… perhaps he knew the author? He had circulated quite a bit among the writer’s crowd of the time, the early 1800s, but all of them had had a finer, more mature style than the man who’d written these humble words. It was confounding, and fascinating.
Upon finding the book, he’d itched to sit down and read it. It was a slim volume. No more than 20 or so pages comprised of five love letters. Aziraphale could polish it off easily within the hour, before five thirty when Crowley was to show up and take him out to dinner at that new Greek restaurant a few streets over. Aziraphale hummed happily as his eyes crept over the words on the page. A book of mysterious love poems, a delightful cup of tea and an evening with his favorite person was a lovely way to spend a chilly autumn Sunday afternoon. He wriggled down further in his chair and turned the page.
“ The forces below or above might tear my heart to pieces for even daring to think the words I am about to put down in ink, but even if they do, I’ll have died knowing that I got to say them to you somehow, that they escaped my secret heart and let themselves be spilled onto these pages. Even if you don’t know that it’s me that is writing them. Even if I throw these words out into the wide, wide world and hope that they wash up one day on your shores, I’ll be satisfied knowing that they made the journey. Happy that they left my heart and made their way somewhere outside my mind and body.
Perhaps I’ll find the courage to slip this page into your jacket pocket, to be found later, but perhaps no. I’m not as brave as I fancy myself to be. I am in fact, quite the coward where you are concerned .”
Aziraphale sighed. How dramatic. How sweet. He took a tentative sip of his tea, found it still a bit too hot to drink comfortably and set it back down.
“ I want to take some time to curse them, those ignorant fools, your brothers who’ve put the fear of me into your heart. Because that fear has kept you from me all these long years ”
Hmmm. Interesting. Maybe warring families were involved? And Heaven only knew, love between two men at the end of the 18th century was certainly far from encouraged, outside of discreet gentlemen’s clubs, back alleys and bath houses. It was easy to imagine these two being kept apart. A Romeo and Juliet story. Aziraphale drifted in his memory for a moment, back to the Globe Theater, to Crowley making a face and complaining about how dull Shakespear’s “gloomy ones” were. The insufferable demon. Azirapahle felt a warm smile creep across his face as it often did when he thought of Crowley. Love letters and love poems also made him think of Crowley for different reasons, but he kept that to himself. Crowley loathed love poems. He always sneered and changed the subject whenever Azriaphale brought up the topic of romance in any context.
“ They’re both fools, above and below, and if my powers of deception are worth the years I’ve spent honing them to perfection, they won’t have a clue as to how I feel. Regrettably, though my love neither will you ”.
Aziraphale let out another sigh and turned the page eagerly
My dearest darling, my angel divine ”
The first few words made something warm and furtive flutter deep inside Aziraphale’s chest. How sweet . Crowley always called him “angel” as a matter of fact, but he’d heard humans calling one another “angel” for centuries now as a term of deep love and affection. For Crowley, It was a simple nickname, a shortcut for the demon, who couldn’t be bothered with uttering all four syllables of Aziraphale’s long and hopelessly biblical name every time he addressed him. Aziraphale had grown accustomed to the disappointment he felt, knowing that this affection was missing from Crowley’s use of the word “angel”, but the words on the page before him caused the memory of that longing to ghost back into his mind and make his heart beat a bit faster.
“My dearest darling, my angel divine. If you only knew all the things I long to do to you”
Oh my the angel thought, How bold!
“The kisses that lay hidden from you, locked inside my mouth. The touches of your skin that I keep contained in these wicked, useless fingertips. There are times that I am far too full of unexpressed touches, of unspent kisses that I feel heavy with them. Like I could sink swiftly to the bottom of the ocean with the weight of all this hidden longing.”
Aziraphale felt his breath come faster as his eyes hungrily slipped over the words on the page.
“You would blush, I know you would my angel if you knew the thoughts I see dancing before my minds eye, deep in the night, in the warmth of my bed. If you could see inside my wicked mind at how often you grace the stage of my dreams with your pale face and soft lips.”
My, but this was shaping up to be a steamy one wasn’t it? Azirapahle picked his tea back up to take another sip and found it lukewarm. He snapped his fingers and it returned itself to just the right heat for sipping. He took a slow gulp and returned his eyes to the page.
“I burn for you my angel. Like a flickering flame. Like a candle that if toppled would devour the world. Oh how I would devour you if you’d only let me.”
Aziraphale closed his eyes momentarily and took a shuddering breath. The simple yet powerful words struck him somewhere deep and tender in his heart. He turned the page to the next letter with fingers that trembled slightly.
Those that keep us apart are heartless, even though they pretend to embody loving perfection, and so they will never understand my passion for you, and I fear that you yourself would shrink from me in horror if you knew. For this reason, I only express myself in dreams. Only press my heated lips to your soft neck. Only dare to touch your cheek, to wrap arms around your soft waist while deep within my dreams.
But know this my dearest, my forbidden love, if I had one small inkling that you shared my affections, I would come for you. I’d rush to you like the wind to the cliff’s edge, like the waves that curl endlessly against the shore. I’d come to you and wash over you and blow through you until you were full of me, covered by me, soaked with me.”
Was it getting warmer in the bookshop? Aziraphale felt his temperature rise and his pulse pound at his throat. This was a heat he could not blame on blueberry tea. He turned the page to the fourth letter.
Today I bought you a ring. I couldn’t help it. I bought you a gold ring and slipped it into my pocket. I reached my hand there to touch it while we dined together and thought of slipping it onto your finger. Not a wedding ring. We both know marriage is pointless for us. What difference would it make? I simply wanted a symbol of how much I loved you to be worn by you. For you to accept a token of my undying love and wear it always. I’m possessive like that my love. It goes along with my vocation. This would have been a ring of devotion. A statement that It didn’t matter that the world wouldn’t recognize our union. That our opposing sides would condemn us for traitorous fools. And for the brief moments in which I went to the shop and laid down my money, it didn’t even matter that you my love would also shrink back from the gift and what it represented.
You were so kind tonight. Like you are every night I spend with you. You laughed at my stories and put your hand that burns so hotly on mine. You smiled that smile that kills me slowly. The one that is both soft as a silk kerchief and sharp as a knife. It lulls me and then when I’m happy and unaware, it cuts me deeply.
After dinner, we strolled down by the water in St. James’ park, and I took the ring from my pocket and let it slip into the water when you couldn’t see. Soon it will be covered by silt and muck. That is where it belongs as it will never find its way onto your sweet hand. It was a foolish notion, and a mistake I won’t repeat.”
Azirphale felt a sudden pity for the poor author of these simple, earnest, heart wrenching letters. He wished fervently that this fellow, long dead by now, would have succeeded in offering his love that ring. The angel knew all too well the sting of unrequited love. He felt it swell every day inside his lonely heart for a cynical, sharp edged demon that kept his eyes hidden behind dark glasses. Surprisingly, he felt tears well up in his eyes on reading the next few lines.
“Dearest angel, from the moment I first saw you in the garden, standing so unguarded and kind, I knew that I’d fall for you, farther even than my fall from grace. That I’d be destined to burn for you all the years of my long life.”
Oh that poor, dear man . Azirapahle sniffled as he took another sip of his tea. Upon the mention of “the garden”, most likely a reference to one of the many botanical gardens and arboretums that had cropped up in London during the turn of that century, or perhaps just a simple house garden, where the author may have first spotted his love, Aziraphale’s thoughts drifted back to that very first day when he’d seen Crowley, up on the wall of the Garden. The Garden that started it all. The demon had slithered up next to him, resolving himself into the lanky figure with high cheekbones and marigold yellow eyes that he now knew so well. But back then, when he’d first laid his eyes on Crowley, he remembered being struck speechless. The flash of his yellow gaze. The drawl of his deep, voice, casual and cynical and full of temptation. His flaming red hair, curling fetchingly about a face that Aziraphale had to struggle to pull his eyes away from. Mustn’t look too long. He’s a demon. Mustn’t stare
Aziraphale had been a stumbling, stuttering mess at the sight of him, and it had taken an angelic force of pure will to keep from gaping openly at the red haired vision with coal black wings that had materialized at his side. He knew only too well what the author spoke of. He’d fallen then too. Had fallen for a surprisingly friendly demon who’d chatted so amiably with him as if over a nice cup of tea, as they both watched Adam and Eve make their unsteady way off across the sands.
He hadn’t really known how far he’d fallen, back so long ago when the earth was new. It was a feeling that hid itself inside him for thousands of years, growing slowly stronger, but still resolutely pushed down over and over whenever Aziraphale saw a flash of Crowley’s black and yellow eyes above his dark shades or caught sight of the demon’s wicked, white smile, sharp teeth poking fetchingly from between soft lips that always seemed to be sneering. Aziraphale was an angel. Crowley was a demon. And since they were sworn enemies, he couldn’t feel this way. Shouldn’t feel this way. It defied logic, and so Aziraphale struggled with its very existence.
Until that night in 1941, when Crowley had handed him the bag of his unburnt books of prophecy after the bombing of the church. Crowley’s soft fingers had brushed briefly against Aziraphale’s as he’d taken the bag of books from the demon. Again Crowley had come to his rescue, had helped to protect what the angel held most dear. Aziraphale could only be so strong. He could only hold out against the insistent whisper of his heart for so long before he broke.
That night, as he watched Crowley’s black back saunter away from him towards where the Bentley was parked across the street from the now ruined church, lit dimly by the fires of burning ruble, he finally let go and told himself the truth. He was in love with Crowley. Deeply, desperately in love . And that he had been for longer than he could remember. He’d only lacked the courage to admit it to himself before that moment.
It was the kind of love that once acknowledged fully, it swiftly became painful and insistent. A nagging pull that tugged at his heart in the silent moments between the words they exchanged. An ache that curled inside his chest and tightened painfully when the demon smiled at him, or laughed at one of his stories with his head thrown back, his long throat exposed to Aziraphale’s furtive gaze. The kind of love he’d been hiding from himself for exactly that reason. Because he hadn’t wanted to face the pain of feeling it all by himself.
He knew Crowley couldn’t return his feelings. How could a demon who delighted in causing mischief, in thwarting good and sewing dissent be capable of the same strong and abiding love that filled Aziraphale’s heart?
And even more pressingly, how could they accomplish something approaching a romantic relationship with Heaven and Hell hovering over them?
Yes, Crowley had displayed several moments of quasi-divinity over the millennia. He’d been quite sad over all those children the Almighty had seen fit to drown in the great flood. He’d easily committed small blessings on Aziraphale’s behalf as part of their Arrangement. He’d come to Aziraphale’s aid several times, had done him kind turns over the centuries. But that could all be put down to friendship. They were friends. Quite good friends, and that was that.
And that was enough. He’d been uniquely blessed in fact, to have Crowley there for company during his long, long assignment on earth. Two lonely field agents, they’d naturally gravitated towards one another for company. No one, Aziraphale least of all, could have predicted that he’d fall head over heels for the opposition.
And now, after the Notpocalypse, the Armageddon’t, the Apocawasn’t (he and Crowley had a little game where they invented not-so-clever ways to refer to the Armageddon that they’d averted), they were finally free for a while. And what did they do with that freedom? Nothing at all. Things simply continued the way they always had. And that was fine. That was all well and good. It was what Aziraphale had always known, and it was easy and it was safe. Go to dinner with Crowley, back to Aziraphale’s place for drinks. Take a walk in the park. Feed the ducks. Visit the art museum, where Crowley would slouch bonelessly on the benches and Aziraphale would gaze lovingly up at the Monets and the Tintorettos. Back to the Ritz. Back home to the bookshop.
Some days, Aziraphale didn’t see Crowley. The demon went off to amuse himself in his own ways. Aziraphale didn’t want to think that maybe those amusements involved carnal pleasures with humans, that Crowley might be wrapped up in arms that weren’t his. But since it wasn’t any of his business, he never asked. On those days, Aziraphale puttered around his shop. Rearranging titles, putting books back into alphabetical order after some annoying customer or another had taken them out and thoughtlessly misplaced them.
That’s how he’d come across the book of letters. It was unaccountably in the middle of the geography section, shoved between two large and ancient atlases, looking small and out of place. He’d immediately pulled it out for closer inspection, expecting it to be an easily identifiable book of poetry that he could quickly return to its rightful place among the Bradstreets or the Chaucers. But it had been strangely blank.
And that’s how he’d ended up here, totally engrossed in the anguished, burning, unrequited words of a dead man to his forbidden love, his tea cold at his elbow, his heart full of loving sympathy for this poor tormented man, with cheeks stained by tears. He turned the page to the final letter.
We’ve fought. We’ve had words. It isn’t the first time you’ve looked at me that way, with anger burning in your eyes, but it might very well be the last. I’ve asked you for something you simply cannot give. I’ve asked you for something that may well destroy me if you give it to me, but if you don’t, I’ll surely perish anyway. And you refused. I knew you would. I knew it was a hopeless venture from the start my love.”
Oh no! Thought Aziraphale, clutching the book a bit more tightly. He went and confessed his love and was rejected. That poor, dear man. He felt fresh tears well up in his eyes.
“ I watched you walk away from me where we’d stood by the lake. Though I hope this was not the last time we’ll meet, yet I feel certain that it will be. I was angry and I said things I wish now that I could erase, that I could take back. I lied and said that I didn’t need you. But I do my dearest. I need you desperately. I need you like the air that I breath. Like the sun that warms my cold flesh. I need you so. I wished I could unearth that discarded ring and press it into your palm, beg you to keep it, even if you hate me, even if you threw it back in my face… at least I would have had the courage to try.
I’ve grown tired my love, my angel. I need a long sleep, perhaps a sleep of a hundred years or more. In sleep, I can see you in my dreams, as I’ve always longed to see you, loving and sweet and safely held inside my embrace. If you change your mind and reach out to me again, I shan’t be here. Instead I will be kissing you in my dreams.
Aziraphale could clearly tell that ‘sleep’ was a euphemism for death. He felt the tears that welled up in his eyes once again course hotly down his cheeks, making the words on the page before him blur. The poor man had died with his love’s rejection echoing in his ears. He’d never had a chance to share the kisses and embraces he’d longed to share.
Oh how very very sad. Aziraphale was surprised to find that he was weeping. He closed the book and placed it reverently on the coffee table next to his cold tea and then, putting his face into his hands, he had himself a good cry. He hadn’t cried in a few decades, but was prone to getting a bit tearful now and then in general, when his heart grew too full of love or sadness at the foibles of humanity, their short, tragic, beautiful lives, or at their breathtaking artwork. He’d cried the night he’d rejected Crowley’s offer to drop him somewhere, back in 1967, when he’d left the demon, sitting alone and lost, clutching a tartan thermos of holy water, in the drivers’ seat of his Bentley. Once several decades ago he’d cried over a particularly transcendent chocolate mousse.
These letters, so achingly lovely, so deeply passionate, so very very sad had gotten to him. They’d hit him in a place he had worked hard to cover over and protect. He could so easily see himself in this poor man’s place. Pining over an unrequited love. 1862… The letters had spanned 50 years, from 1795 to 1862, and so, if the man had written his first letter to his love at the age of about 20, or maybe 30? He’d have been close to 70 or 80 when he’d written the last one. 70 was a ripe old age in a time when a fever could kill you. When an errant chill or a childbirth gone wrong could end a human life quite easily. He must have died shortly after writing the last one and having the book published. Or maybe his love had found the book among his belongings and had had it published then? That was a nice thought.
But even so, how had it found its way into Aziraphale’s bookshop? He knew he’d have remembered purchasing something unique and touching such as this book of letters. It couldn’t have been him who’d acquired it. And customers tended to try and take books out of the shop, not bring them in.
1862… something about that year was very familiar.
Aziraphale heard the bell on his shop door jingle and heard the thump-thump of Crowley’s black boots making their way to his back room, and it jostled him out of his tearful contemplation. Oh my! It must be 5:30 already. He’d lost track of time. He quickly scrubbed the tears from his eyes and his cheeks and rose to take the teacup back to his small kitchenette as Crowley rounded the corner.
“Hello angel”, the demon paused briefly when he caught sight of Aziraphale, red eyed and rumpled looking, teacup clutched in both hands. His eyes narrowed and he took a step towards the angel. “You’ve been crying” he said, voice suddenly intent, mouth in a grim line. “What’s wrong? Did a customer actually succeed in buying a book off you?”
“No my dear. No. Quite the opposite in fact” Aziraphale was suddenly self conscious. He scrubbed again at his tear stained cheeks with his shirt sleeve and moved to the sink to dump the rest of his tea. “I was just reading something very moving and it… well it got to me a bit I’m afraid.”
“You have to stop that angel.” said Crowley offhandedly. “Why you’d want to read anything that makes you feel worse is beyond me. Just like you love those gloomy Shakespeare tragedies. Stop torturing yourself”.
“I didn’t mean to though” Aziraphale, sniffling, returned to his arm chair and picked up the book of love letters, turning over reverently in his hands. “I found this book of old, unrequited love letters among the shelves, and I have no clue how it got there. I started reading it, and well, it was just lovely and it made me a bit weepy”.
Crowley had gone suddenly very still. Aziraphale knew he hated the subject of romantic love and realized he’d made a faux pas. “Oh never mind my dear. I shan’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that the letters were quite moving.”
“Lets go angel” Crowley’s voice was flat and emotionless. “Our table won’t hold itself forever.”
“One moment dear. Let me just find a place to put this where I won’t lose it” He turned as if to head towards the book’s rightful home, among his collection of love letters and love poems a few shelves away from the kitchenette.
Crowley did something very unusual then. He darted forward and grabbed Aziraphale’s arm before the angel could start off among the shelves. They didn’t touch often, and so Aziraphale jumped a little, taken aback at the sudden movement and the feel of Crowley’s soft hand on his bare forearm below his rolled sleeve. Crowley then removed the book from Aziraphale’s hand with a small tug (the angel was clinging to it a bit too tightly) “Let that be angel. Don’t bother yourself with it. We’re already late.” he said as he put the book back down on the table. His tone was suddenly urgent. As if getting out of the bookshop was of utmost importance.
“Crowley! What’s gotten into you? It’s barely half past five and you said our reservations were for six. We have plenty of time”, but he let Crowley lead him towards the front door nevertheless, stopping briefly to grab his coat. He’d find a home for the book when he returned later.
Dinner was a bit awkward and Aziraphale wasn’t sure why. The Greek food was delicious. He ordered Dolmadakia and chicken souvlaki and spanakopita. Crowley as usual had picked at the food here and there, while Aziraphale tucked in heartily and polished most of it off with gusto. The demon was especially quiet, even when Aziraphale tried his best to be engaging and entertaining. Something was bothering Crowley and Aziraphale wished he knew what it was.
Eventually, he decided on liquor as a reliable cureall and ordered a bottle of ouzo to be brought to the table, along with two tall shot glasses. “Come dear boy, let’s have ourselves a drink. It might lighten your mood”
“I’m fine angel” Crowley said, but reached immediately for the shot he was given. He raised his glass to Azirapahle’s for a toast and then he did another very unusual thing.
“Here’s to books of old love letters that make angels cry” he intoned, grinning at Aziraphale from behind his dark glasses.
Aziraphale beamed at him, taken aback slightly by Crowley purposefully bringing up the topic of romance, but he was pleased that the demon’s mood seemed to have improved, so he clinked his shot glass gently to Crowley’s and knocked the shot back, feeling its burning fire course pleasantly down his throat and into his belly.
They took several more shots, and Crowley opened back up, remarking on the high quality of the food and chatting amiably about his day, apparently spent roaming through street markets in search of a few things he’d wanted to purchase, pausing here and there to spur a few customers into fighting over certain items or to allow shoplifters to nick a few irreplaceable trinkets.
Now that the demon had mentioned the book of love letters again, something about it was nagging at the back of Aziraphale’s mind. 1862…. 1862… something about that year was so familiar. He was sure he remembered it for a reason. But the haze of the ouzo, working its way through his blood was making him loose and distracted. Distracted mainly by Crowley’s laughing mouth and finely shaped hands as he regaled Aziraphale with stories of his day. Aziraphale knew he was staring, gazing at the demon like a love sick fool, but he didn’t care. He swiftly knocked back another shot to give himself plausible deniability. If the demon noticed his eyes shining a bit more than usual, well, he was drunk wasn’t he? The love letters had broke open the seal he kept on his heart and he felt it swell with affection for his friend.
He could tell Crowley was also swiftly getting drunk. He seemed to be enjoying himself at last, the strange mood that had descended on him back at the shop had lifted. What had that been about? Aziraphale wondered. The demon had tensed up and had gone quite strange when Aziraphale tried to put the book of love letters back on the shelf.
1862… 1862 ….
Hmmmm….what was it about that date that felt so familiar?
Suddenly, with a shocking burst of clarity, Aziraphale remembered.
1862!… The meeting by the lake at St. James’s Park. Crowley passing him a note with two simple, devastating words written on them in his spidery hand.
Holy water . Of course!
Do ducks have ears? Must do. That’s how they hear other ducks
Crowley, joking like he always did, to deflect from the seriousness of what was happening.
I’m not bringing you a suicide pill Crowley!
Oh dear , he hadn’t thought of that day in a long while. He didn’t like to think of it, being that he regretted the things he’d said. He didn’t want to bring down the mood by thinking about it now. He’d much prefer to simply watch Crowley’s lovely mouth while he talked. To let Crowley’s gruff voice, tinged with velvet at the corners, wash over him while he gazed lovingly at him, over the remains of a delicious meal with spicy Greek liquor making his insides all warm and soft.
I have lots of other people to fraternize with angel. I don’t need you
And suddenly, the words of the last love poem from his mysterious book floated back into his mind
I watched you walk away from me where we’d stood by the lake
Aziraphale’s grin as he gazed at the demon across the table from him froze in place.
I lied and said that I didn’t need you. But I do my dearest. I need you desperately. I need you like the air that I breath.
Hadn’t that been about the time Crowley had taken that long nap? He’d made Aziraphale worry so that he’d done something rash. It had kept the angel on edge as the decades had passed without a word from the demon.
I’ve grown tired my love, my angel. I need a long sleep, perhaps a sleep of a hundred years or more.
No. No it couldn’t be. His mind raced back to other passages of the 200 year old letters he’d read, just a couple of hours ago as Crowley spoke animatedly from somewhere that seemed very far away, but was really just across the table.
Those that keep us apart are heartless, even though they pretend to embody loving perfection
Pretend to embody loving perfection. Gabriel. Sandalphon…
I am not accustomed to writing. Nor to reading. You know this well, being the one who reads.
The one who reads…
Aziraphale felt his heart leap in his chest and begin to thunder like the hooves of a thoroughbred. He felt a thin sheen of sweat break out at his hairline and his mouth dropped open in pure shock. No, no, no, he must be mistaken. It was just a coincidence. A crazy, thrilling, ludicrous coincidence.
My dearest darling, my angel divine
Crowley by now had caught on that something was up. “Angel?” he asked, “what’s wrong? You look like you’re having a stroke”.
Aziraphale jumped slightly at the sound of the demon’s voice, saying that familiar word, angel “Nothing’s wrong!” he squeaked, and suddenly he was extremely sober. He saw himself reach out for the bottle of ouzo and downed half of what remained in it, choking slightly and gasping as the fiery liquid rushed down his throat in one long swallow.
“Whoa whoa whoa angel, leave some for me!” Crowley had reached out a cautionary hand, mouth open in surprise. “Are you sure you’re OK? You don’t look OK. You look like you’ve just seen Picasso’s ghost, buggering a sheep.”
Could someone who casually referenced dead artists having sexual relations with animals actually be the same person to write the words that had made Azirapahle break down crying from lovesick grief? Aziraphale took one more deep swig from the bottle before plunking it back down and staring at Crowley with his mouth hanging open.
“Angel, you’re worrying me.” Crowley let his glasses slip down his nose a bit and fixed Azirapahle with yellow eyes that indeed looked worried. Aziraphale struggled to regain his composure. Breaking down in the middle of a restaurant was not the best way to deal with this situation.
“I think… perhaps that I need some air” he stammered.
“Sure angel. Sure thing. Let’s get out of here.” Crowley fished a pile of bills from his pocket and dropped them to the table as he rose from his seat. Aziraphale also got up unsteadily, and the two of them went out onto the street.
“I think,” said Aziraphale, in a voice he hoped wasn’t trembling too much, “that I’d like to walk down by the water. At the park.”
“Sounds good angel. Whatever you want.” Aziraphale could feel the demon’s eyes even hidden behind dark shades, glancing at him sideways as they walked towards the park, assessing him, checking up on him. He’d always checked up on him hadn’t he? Before the flood. In the Bastille. In the church… hot footing it down the aisle to make sure Aziraphale was safe.
Aziraphale suddenly felt weak. He stumbled as he walked, knees buckling and Crowley was immediately at his side, arm around his waist, gloved hand at his elbow.
“Hey now, someone’s had a bit too much to drink” The demon’s soft voice, tinged with genuine concern echoed in Aziraphale’s ear. His sudden arm around Aziraphale’s waist felt as if it was burning through his coat and the fabric of his shirt, down to the skin. It was almost an embrace. All he’d have to do was to turn his body towards the demon, to wrap his free arm around those narrow shoulders and pull Crowley closer. But he didn’t. He let Crowley loop his arm companionably through his elbow for support. “I’m fine dear” he mumbled. I suppose I did have a bit too much ouzo”.
“Ya think?” Crowley’s eye roll was clear as day in his cynical remark, but the angel could sense an edgy tone underneath the sarcasm. Aziraphale rallied and led them onwards, towards St. James’s Park.
As they walked, Crowley spoke in words Aziraphale only half heard “Angel, maybe its not a good evening for a walk… let sober up and head over to your place so you can rest. You seem out of sorts. We can always get drunk again later” he finished with an awkward chuckle. Aziraphale knew now that Crowley knew something strange was afoot. The demon was nervous, the arm that laced through his was stiff.
“No. I’d very much like to go for a walk by the water Crowley. It will clear my head”
“Alright then, lead on angel”
They arrived at the park a few minutes later, and Aziraphale made a beeline for the lake, which shimmered prettily and coldly under the light of the street lamps that lined its edges. They stopped before the water, at their usual meeting place, next to the row of benches that looked out over the lake. The swans and ducks had gone to bed somewhere in the shadows at this point, and there weren’t many other people around. A cool autumn breeze blew gently in from the lake, ruffling their hair.
Aziraphale looked out over the water. If he concentrated enough, there’s a chance he could find it. He was sure it was still there, somewhere deep under the dark ripples that spread out before them.
“What’s wrong angel? Why are you so quiet? What’s got you so upset?” Crowley was leaning into him, face worried. He’d removed his shades, as it was too dark for anyone to notice his unique, beautiful eyes, and now those eyes searched Aziraphale’s face anxiously.
Aziraphale gathered up his courage and turned to face the demon, unable to bring himself to look into his eyes, he settled his gaze instead on Crowley’s soft, expressive lips. “I brought you down here to find something”
“To find something?” Crowley repeated quizzically. “You aren’t making any sense angel”
“I know I’m not” Aziraphale conceded, wringing his hands and casting his eyes away from Crowley’s mouth to rest on the demon’s shoes. “Nothing is making sense right now”
He turned away from Crowley then and looked back out over the water. “Give me a moment” he said softly, placing a cautionary hand on Crowley’s arm to keep him from speaking.
He then cast his awareness out over the lake. Searching, looking, diving down under the water. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He could feel Crowley next to him, radiating his demon energy, dark and vibrating and unreadable. His senses picked up the warm signatures of the few humans still in the park.. Lovers walking together. A family with a sleepy baby in a carriage, headed for the car park. He sensed the depth of the cold water before them, the small, cool bodies of fish that flitted here and there beneath its surface. He probed deeper, cast the net of his angelic awareness wider and wider, taking in the entire width and depth of the lake.
There…. There , towards the east end of the park. Far down beneath the water, under a pile of silt covered rocks. There it was! He reached out and pulled it up from the lake bed, felt it slowly rise up through the water in his mind’s eye. Felt it break the surface and drift slowly through the air towards them. He opened his eyes and turned his face eastward. Saw a faint glint as it approached, magically freed of 200 years of silt and lake slime. As it drew closer, this small circle of gold, this totem of lost love, he heard Crowley gasp at his side. Felt the demon stumble back a step away from him.
The ring hovered now, in the air between them, revolving gently under the power of Aziapahale’s angelic miracle that kept it aloft.
Aziraphale’s mouth had gone dry, and his heart was pounding in his ears, but he somehow managed to speak. “Take it Crowley”.
He turned and faced the demon. Crowley’s mouth was gaping, his eyes wide. Confusion and shock were mingling on his face as he stared at the ring, dangling in the air before him, and Aziraphale now knew that his hunch had been correct.
“Take it” he repeated softly. “You should never have tossed it away in the first place”
“Angel” breathed Crowley. “Angel….How did you..?” he seemed to struggle with getting the words out, but he opened his hand nevertheless and Aziraphale let the ring fall into it with a soft thump.
“It was the date” Aziraphale finally found the courage to look Crowley directly in the eyes. “1862. I hadn’t thought about that day for so long. I hadn’t wanted to. But the letter… your letter. It reminded me”
He heard Crowley gulp audibly and saw him take a step back. “I never intended for you to find those” the words tripped from Crowley’s mouth as if pushed out by a force of sheer will. “I didn’t want you to find them.” he was shaking his head gently, as if he could deny something he’d already written and had bound into a book, 200 years prior.
“You didn’t?” Aziraphale took a step towards him. “Why not Crowley?” He heard a pleading note enter his voice, but he didn’t care.
“It doesn’t matter angel. None of it matters. Let’s go back to your place.. Lets just get drunk again like usual and tell each other stories and forget about this” He took another step back from Aziraphale.
“What about your toast? Back at the restaurant? Why did you bring it up again if you didn’t want me to know?” Aziraphale stayed where he was, heart in his throat, gazing at a very scared and lost looking demon, shoulders hunched, eyes flitting everywhere but at Aziraphale.
“Because I’m a fool!” Crowley yelled, making Aziraphale jump. “Because I’m a stupid, blasted fool who loves to punish himself angel! That’s why!” and with that, he turned and started walking swiftly away from Aziraphale.
“Crowley wait!” Aziraphale rushed after the demon. He caught up to him and grabbed him by the arm, using considerable force to pull him around to face Aziraphale again. “Stop Crowley. Please. Please stay. Did you put the book there? Did you leave it in the shop? Why would you do that if you didn’t want me to find it?” his eyes were pleading, his hands gripped Crowley’s arm tightly.
Crowley still couldn’t look at him. He cast his gaze out across the water, up into the sky, anywhere but at Azirapahle’s face. He looked like he was searching for an escape route. “Because angel, my heart was playing tricks with my mind! Because my mind convinced me that you’d never find it, but my heart told me I should put it somewhere where you could . I was conflicted OK? Haven’t you ever felt conflicted? Look, this is pointless.. I’m heading home”.
He moved as if to leave again, but Aziraphale wasn’t having it. He grabbed Crowley by the lapels of his jacket and pulled sharply until the demon’s mouth collided with his own in a sudden kiss. He felt their teeth clack together clumsily, heard Crowley’s sharp, surprised intake of breath. He had to be quick or Crowley would pull away again. He swiftly wrapped his arms around the demon’s neck and pulled him closer.
For a few fleeting, delirious seconds, he felt the demon melt into the kiss, felt him kiss back. He heard a soft, desperate sound issue from the demon’s throat, but then, to his extreme disappointment, Crowley pulled away again, grasping Aziraphale’s forearms as he did so. He finally looked at Aziraphale when he pulled back, and his face held bitterness and fear. “Angel no. Stop it. I don’t need your pity”
“Pity?” Aziraphale echoed his word faintly. “Pity? Crowley, what are you talking about?”
Crowley backed away slowly, straightening his jacket, fighting for composure. “I did it OK? I spilled my heart out on a platter and handed it to you. I know you don’t feel the same way. I know you can’t. That’s fine. Lets just leave it as it is. There’s no need for me to embarrass myself further” He looked anguished, confused, and Aizraphale’s heart clenched at the sight of him, so distraught. “I don’t want our sympathy, your pity. Please don’t feel you have to” a slight sneer crept over his face “ do anything about this, just because you’re an angel and you’re supposed to love everything and everyone.”
“Crowley please” Aziraphale reached out a gentle, placating hand, as if Crowley was an antique china teacup that he’d break if he knocked it over. “Please stay Crowley. Please don’t be angry.”
“I’m not angry angel” Crowley spat out, still backing away slowly, hands up as if to protect himself from Aziraphale, who was stumbling after him like a confused child. “I’m ashamed . Ashamed that I showed my hand. Ashamed that I spilled my guts out at your feet like I did. I should have burned that stupid book”
“No!” Aziraphale was frantic now. “No! It was beautiful! I loved it!”
Crowley seemed taken aback by this outburst, and he stopped retreating. Aziraphale took this chance to close the distance between them and take Crowley’s hands, hands he noted were trembling, into his own. “No dearest. It was beautiful .” he repeated desperately. He took a deep breath and plunged forward. “Crowley, your words, they made me weep. Because… well because they reminded me of how it feels to love someone so desperately, and to be so afraid, so certain that they can’t love you back. And that’s how I’ve felt about you all these thousands of years. Except neither of us has to be scared or ashamed anymore, because I do love you, Crowley. I do love you back.”
Crowley blinked. His face suffused with wonder. “You love me?” he asked softly, reverently. He’d stopped retreating, and Aziraphale was extremely grateful for small miracles.
“Yes my dear, of course I do. Of course . I love you so much .” And before Crowley could try to escape again, Aziraphale stepped forward, and this time, the kiss he pressed to Crowley’s lips was gentle and hesitant. He cautiously stepped even closer, bringing his body up against Crowley’s. Crowley didn’t move when a few seconds later, Aziraphale broke the kiss and looked up into Crowley’s lovely eyes. “My dearest” he breathed, spoke his words against Crowley’s soft soft lips “I am utterly and completely and desperately in love with you. Please believe me, for if you don’t, I think I’ll die right here by this lake and there will be so much paperwork to get through.”
Almost before he’d finished speaking, Aziraphale found himself suddenly clasped in a fierce embrace, the demon’s mouth against his own, insistent, luscious, soft, delirious. Crowley’s long fingers were in his hair making his scalp tingle as they curled and clenched. Crowley ate hungrily at his mouth, tongue questing, lips opening and closing, trying to devour him, and oh how he wished to be devoured. He wrapped his arms around the demon’s waist and pulled his body more tightly against him and kissed Crowley back with utter abandon.
They kissed and kissed, breath coming fast, bodies pressed tightly together. Crowley was grasping at Azirahale’s neck, pulling gently at his ears, framing his face with soft, cool fingers. His hands, desperate and insistent, traveled hungrily over Azirpahale’s shoulders, then down his arms, then creeping swiftly back into his hair. He heard Crowley moaning softly and he was aware distantly that similar noises, small needy noises were issuing from his own throat. Aziraphale’s hands roamed happily under Crowley’s coat to stroke the demon’s slender waist, and up over the sharp planes of his shoulder blades. He could stay here, kissing Crowley forever, he was quite sure of it.
But eventually, the kissing slowed, Crowley broke away briefly, breathlessly, his forehead resting against Azirapahle’s, his eyes closed. “Angel” he whispered, breath shuddering. “Angel, I need you. I need you with…less clothing on”
Azirapahle felt something shivery and tingling clench deep inside the pit of his stomach at the sound of Crowley’s words, and with a snap of his fingers they were in his bedroom above the bookshop. He thought Crowley would fall with him onto the bed, but to his surprise, he found himself roughly pushed up against the wall, the demon’s hands busy with unbuttoning Azirapahle’s ancient, velveteen waistcoat while kissing him with a skillful heat that took his breath away.
Aziraphale swiftly shrugged his way out the waistcoat and tossed it to the nearby bed as Crowley leaned close to his ear and whispered.
“That time in the convent.. When you called me nice ”
“Yes darling?” Aziraphale, breath coming faster, struggled to focus on the demon’s words through a haze of intense arousal.
“Angel, I wanted to kiss you so, so badly, I wasn’t angry at all when you called me nice.” he pressed his hips against Aziraphale’s and the angel groaned as the evidence of their desire pressed deliciously together. “It was your eyes when you said it.” Crowley continued into his ear, voice gruff with passion “They drove me mad. I had to touch you, so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I pushed you and I acted the part of the tough demon, but inside, I was fighting the urge to kiss you.” He pulled back to fix Aziraphale with an intense yellow stare. “I needed you to know that, because I’ve always felt like an idiot about it. Ever since that day”.
“I’d have kissed you back” Aziraphale whispered, eyes locked with Crowley’s shining gaze. He vividly remembered that moment as well.. The shocking pleasure of the full length of Crowley’s body slamming into his. “We’d likely have caused quite a scene.” He grinned up at Crowley through his lashes.
A slow, devious smile spread across Crowley’s handsome features, and his eyes roamed down Azirphale’s chest.
“Are you particularly attached to this shirt?” Aziraphale shook his head and with a growl, Crowley ripped it open. Buttons clattered to the floor. And then his questing hands were finally against Aziraphale’s bare skin, and oh god, oh dear god it felt too good . He gasped and Crowley caught his gasp with a fresh flurry of kisses as his hands roamed hungrily over Aziraphale’s skin.
Things progressed quickly from that point. Aziraphale tried to carefully unbutton Crowley’s shirt, only to have the demon laugh gleefully and rip it open like he’d done with the angel’s, letting it fall carelessly to the floor. And then Aziraphale’s hands were sliding reverently, drunkenly over Crowley’s smooth skin.Their pants and underwear were swiftly unbuttoned and roughly pulled down with trembling hands and then Crowley’s hips were rolling against Aziraphale’s, his cock was sliding softly against Aziraphale’s and Crowley’s silky smooth body was pressed up against Aziraphale’s body and Aziraphale thought he might lose consciousness at how good it all felt. He gasped and threw his head back, only to have his neck worshiped with Crowley’s hot, wet kisses. The demon brought a clever hand down between their bodies and grasped them both in a velvet grip that made Aziraphale’s knees buckle as the demon began stroking them in unison with one long fingered hand.
Within minutes Crowley came, crying out against Aziraphale’s open mouth. The sound of his soft, stuttering cries pushed Aziraphale over the edge seconds later, and he groaned out his own climax, forehead resting on Crowley’s, hands gripping tightly at Crowley’s shoulders.
Neither could reliably stay standing at this point, so they finally did fall onto the bed, breathless and elated, in a tangle of naked limbs. They miracled away the mess of their passion and embraced with the intense affection only two creatures who’d longed to touch one another this way for thousands of years could.
Crowley wrapped his body around Aziraphale’s as the angel lay on his back, arms and legs twining about Aziraphale possessively in a way that made the angel remember that he’d spent quite some time as a giant serpent. He tangled his fingers in Aziraphale’s mussy hair and buried his face in the angel’s soft neck. Aziraphale wrapped his arms around Crowley as tightly as he could, eyes closed in pleasure, luxuriating in Crowley’s smell of expensive cologne and fancy hair product and beneath all that, the smell of his sweet sweat, and his spicy, dark scent.
“I luff you so mush” Crowley mumbled into Aziraphale’s neck, his voice muffled and sleepy.
“What was that my dear?” Aziraphale, who’d heard exactly what he’d said, but wanted to hear it again, pretended ignorance.
Crowley extracted his face from the warm, delicious nest he’d found in the delightful smelling place where Aziraphale’s shoulder met the base of his neck and regarded the angel with sober yellow eyes. He smiled his demon’s smile and curled his long fingers in Aziraphale’s white gold hair. “I said I love you my angel. I love you so much”
Aziraphale beamed at him and drew him down into a long kiss. To be fair, it started as an innocent peck, but evolved swiftly into a languorous kiss, and then grew quite passionate. “Again? So soon?” teased Aziraphale, even though he was more than ready.
“Again and again forever my love” Crowley smiled before returning to the business of kissing his angel. Suddenly though, he pulled away, seeming to remember something, and with a snap of his fingers, the gold ring appeared again in his hand. Aziraphale had forgotten it, and he felt his breath catch at the sight of the gleaming circlet, clasped between Crowley’s thumb and forefinger.
“Angel,” Crowley’s eyes were serious now. The hand that didn’t hold the ring reached up to softly stroke the angel’s cheek “This ring represents my undying and unbroken love for you.” Aziraphale heard Crowley’s voice shake as he said the words and he felt his vision blur as his eyes filled with happy tears. “My dearest love” Crowley asked “would you wear my ring?”
The tears built up and tumbled slowly down Aziraphale’s cheeks. My, but it had been quite the day for crying hadn’t it? He took the ring from Crowley and immediately slipped it onto the middle finger of his right hand. It gleamed prettily against his pale skin. He beamed a smile at Crowley who was also grinning like a fool. And with that they returned to kissing. Kissing and many many other delightful things, until the soft light of dawn broke gently through the windows of Aziraphale’s bedroom.