7th of June 1494, Milan
I was pleasantly surprised when I received your letter. I was slightly worried that your response got lost in the mail, since it has been a while since I’ve heard from you. I do so hope that you are doing well. Or at least as well as you claim to be doing, dear boy.
I want you to know that I greatly appreciated the package you sent me. The books of poetry were such a lovely read! I just had to read them both in one sitting! How did you manage to get all these first editions anyway? On a second thought, I don’t want to know. I am sure there was something demonic involved. Nevertheless, I truly am grateful for the books.
Are you still enjoying Italy? I hope it is as lovely as you have described, since head office is debating whether there are few miracles that need to be performed in Milan. Quite the coincidence that you just moved there from Florence. Maybe we could have lunch if we happen to bump into each other? And maybe we could discuss our future assignments? I have a few blessings I need to perform in Russia next year that I might need some help with. I’ll pay for the food this time, as a thank you for the books.
I hope you write back to me soon.
Crowley’s eyes glided over the slightly worn parchment as he committed every word that Aziraphale had written in his loopy handwriting to memory. His eyes stopped at the ’Yours truly’ written on the bottom half of the parchment, and he let his lips curl into a small, barely noticeable smile.
Aziraphale and Crowley have been sending letters to each other ever since they accepted the fact that they really had become friends – Aziraphale still doesn’t admit they’re friends out loud, but he’ll get there. They had bumped into each other enough times during the thousands of years they had been on Earth that there had grown familiarity between them. Familiarity had grown into The Arrangement and that into a genuine want to be in each other’s company. And that had grown into missing each other when the other was gone – neither of them admits this, but they’ll both get there.
Crowley could feel the angel’s irritation for their lack of correspondence oozing from the letter. It made him feel guilty, but only slightly. After all, he had been busy these past few years: travelling around Italy causing trouble and tempting people. Spreading dissent and discord. The usual.
However, a small part of him, the part he tried to keep tightly under wraps, the part of him that kept whispering all these embarrassing and mushy thoughts about the angel into his brain and made his heart sing in delight every time he got a new letter from him, was happy. Happy, that Aziraphale worried about him and appreciated his gifts. Happy, that he got to read his letters again after five years of radio silence (even though that silence was his own doing). It made his smile widen into something more noticeable.
Suddenly, Crowley remembered where he was. And with whom he was. He quickly folded the letter back into the envelope and hid it into his coat’s pocket.
Across the hastily built table sat a man on an equally hastily built chair, whose face was illuminated with the orange glow of the Milan sunset. A gentle breeze flowed through the balcony they were both occupying and ruffled their hair. The man was filling their wine cups with one of the most horrible wine Crowley had had the displeasure of drinking. The man had a teasing smile on his face and his eyes were sparkling with mirth. Crowley’s own smile dropped instantly into a carefully crafted frown, which he had perfected through the centuries, and he raised an eyebrow.
”Well what?” Crowley asked irritably.
He regretted asking that as soon as the words left his mouth. The man’s. Leonardo’s, smile only widened. He put down the wine bottle next to three empty ones and took a sip of his own wine.
”The letter. Who’s it from? I’ve never seen you smile more than two seconds, other than now, that is. I was worried for a moment that you would pull a muscle on your face.” Leonardo teased behind the rim of his cup. His words were slightly slurred.
Crowley rolled his eyes behind his tinted glasses and groaned. He already wanted out of this conversation.
”No one important.” There was a pause. Crowley swallowed and added: ”I mean, no one you know. Why are you so interested anyway?”
”You don’t seem like a fellow people write letters to.” Leonardo said, not unkindly, and Crowley glared at him. His glare didn’t have the effect he hoped on Leonardo – one of the cons of wearing sunglasses – who just kept on smiling at him expectantly.
Crowley desperately tried to evade Leonardo’s inquisitive eyes while drumming his fingers against the table. He could feel the letters burning into him through the pocket he had hidden them into.
After weighing the pros and cons carefully in his mind he finally gave in and sighed. It’s not like he had anything to lose, and besides, Leonardo had a habit of not remembering much after a night of drinking – and he won’t if Crowley kept the wine bottles coming. Also, the demon himself was just the right amount of tipsy, which might have impaired his judgement just a little bit.
”They’re from… someone important. Someone I – uh – he’s someone I care about. A friend of sorts”
Leonardo’s eyes softened and he gestured Crowley to continue.
“Tell me about him”
So, he did.
He told him about Aziraphale’s kindness and optimism, his fussiness, the awkward laugh he did when he was nervous, how he loved food and enjoyed every bite like it was his last, how stubborn he could be, his obsession with books and good wine. And most important of all, he told him what kind of a bastard he was deep inside, making Crowley worry about him and indulge his whims. How he sometimes purposefully tried to get a rise out of Crowley. How insufferable he could be.
He told Leonardo every single detail that made the angel worth knowing.
Leonardo was silent for a while. He studied Crowley (which unnerved Crowley more than he wanted to admit) and carefully contemplated his next words. After what felt like a small agonizing eternity to Crowley and was half a minute to everyone else, Leonardo asked softly, as not to scare a wounded animal:
”Do you love him?”
Crowley stared at him, dumbfounded. His mouth immediately opened to deny. To say something quite rude and insulting that allowed him to preserve his dignity, on some twisted level. Then it closed. Then it opened again, thinking Crowley had finally found a witty, but scathing response. Then it closed, because no, he really had nothing.
He had realized, of course, that he has feelings for the angel somewhere during the 13th Century – it had taken him over 5000 years to notice that he had fallen helplessly for the angel on the wall of Eden – but it was entirely different thing to say it aloud to someone.
Leonardo gave him a sympathetic look and sighed. He shifted to look at the quieting streets of Milan below them. “I apologize if I overstepped, my friend. I understand if-”
The whispered, brittle admission slipped through Crowley’s lips and escaped into the warm June air. For so long, he had silently kept his love hidden – even from himself – like it was something forbidden and tainted. Like it was something he should not be feeling, be capable of feeling. He was a demon, after all. He hid his love for humanity under a meticulously created guise of indifference and aloofness. He hid his love for all the human inventions and material by constantly changing and never owning much personal items. He hid his love for Aziraphale, for his dearest friend, out of fear. Out of uncertainty.
”What seems to be the problem then?” Leonardo asked gently.
Crowley groaned and massaged his eyes, carefully minding his sunglasses.
”This is going to sound like one of those disgustingly cheesy love stories – and if you laugh at me I will murder you in cold blood, Leo, don’t test me – but…” he grumbled and continued very reluctantly: ”We- we can’t- I can’t love him. At least, not in the way I want to love him. And need to love him.”
Crowley swallowed. He felt his heart pang pitifully in his chest and tears prickling in the corners of his eyes, waiting, begging for the dam that Crowley had so carefully build around his heart to burst and set the thousands of years long ache free. Even just this once.
He willed the tears back ruthlessly. He hadn’t cried in front of anybody, and he was not going to start now.
”And he doesn’t love me, I believe. Not in the way I want him to. Need him to.” he continued, voice nearly a mumble.
How ironic that he wants the only thing he’s not allowed to have. The only thing both Heaven and Hell pointed and told him not to touch. He isn’t allowed to wrap his arms around Aziraphale’s soft form, or lace their fingers together while they’re sitting at a restaurant, or kiss him on his infuriatingly sweet-looking lips. They shouldn’t even be friends, for fucks sake! It’s a small miracle he’s gotten even that.
God really does work in mysterious ways. Or She’s a douche. Crowley’s still contemplating which.
Crowley couldn’t face Leonardo’s gaze full of sympathy. So instead, he quickly chugged his wine down like drinking it as fast as possible would drown all his heartache. The first one did not do that, so he poured himself another one.
Leonardo hummed thoughtfully.
“Everything we believe to be true might not always be, my friend.”
“Even though – even though by some miracle he would- would love me back…” Crowley argued like the thought of Aziraphale loving him back was impossible. “We can’t. It won’t happen. There’s just too much at stake”
“I believed that too with my love. We love each other dearly, but two men can’t just walk in broad daylight like a couple. Not in times like these. There really is nothing I wouldn’t do for him, endure for him. So, we improvise – and when we don’t – we wait. Wouldn’t you do that too for your love?”
Crowley stared at Leonardo for a long moment. Then, he nodded slowly and Leonardo softened.
”I believe the times will change for the better, I really do” Leonardo gave him a reassuring smile. ”Perhaps one day you and him can be together and all the nonsense you think to be in the way won’t matter anymore”
Crowley averted his eyes and turned to look at the horizon, the setting sun almost hidden behind it. Even though Leonardo really had no clue what would happen if Heaven and Hell found out about the Arrangement, or Satan forbid, his affection for the angel, his words and optimism were reassuring. He frowned slightly and murmured: ”I hope you’re right, Leo”
”Of course I’m right. I’m a genius after all. And besides, if nothing works out you could always run off together!” Leonardo laughed. Crowley let himself chuckle and just like that, Leonardo had magicked the depressive atmosphere away. He always had had a knack for that kind of thing.
Crowley appreciated Leonardo’s words. He truly did. Leonardo had been a great support when he needed someone and an even better drinking buddy. He was one of those rare people who made living on Earth so interesting. He also was one of the two people (well, only one person and a one celestial being) Crowley could genuinely call a friend.
That is why Leonardo’s death two decades later devastated him beyond imagining. The only thing that had hurt more than receiving the news of his death was when he fell from Heaven’s grace.
After seeing his casket at the funeral, he decided that no, falling haven’t hurt nearly as much.
All that was left of Crowley’s dear friend was his memories of him, and a sketch of a painting Leonardo had painted in his later years. He had signed it just for him.
It would always remain as Crowley’s favourite.
29th of October 1787, Prague
I’m heading to Prague in September. I have some temptations there to get over with. I figured your side’s going to be there too, so I miracled us tickets to the premiere of one of Mozart’s operas. I heard it’s much more fun to thwart infernal wiles when you’re listening to Mozart. Wait me at Charles Bridge an hour before the opera starts. I’ll find you.
Firstly, Aziraphale did not mean to actually go to Prague. Not because he did not want to see Crowley – or the opera – or anything like that. Heaven had almost sent him to Northern Europe to perform some mundane miracles and pretend like he was doing something important and worthwhile. But seeing the ticket to Don Giovanni enclosed with the letter and the promise of
his friend’s the demon’s company had made him convince Heaven that he was absolutely needed in Prague. For obvious thwarting reasons, of course.
Second, his socks were wet. Aziraphale stood at their designated meeting spot, umbrella held tightly in his hand. He listened to the rain pattering against it as he looked at the dark river flowing under the bridge. It was evening in Prague. The sun had already set and gently pulled the curtain of darkness above the city. Millions of lamplights illuminated the streets in the most enchanting of glows. Everything the light touched seemed softer, while the shadows grew sharper.
He glanced around and still did not see the familiar sight of flaming red hair and sauntering lanky figure. Crowley was late.
Aziraphale huffed in mild annoyance. He felt anxiety slowly starting to build in his chest and settle into his bones, making him jittery. What was he even doing? He was not needed here. Sure, there was Crowley and whatever he was up to, but simple low-grade evil was more his area of expertise and not something that would actually need to be, well, thwarted (like starting wars or tempting saints was, for example). What if Heaven found out he was avoiding his duties for some opera, and wining and dining with a demon? What if they found out about the Arrangement? And what would Hell do to Crowley, if they found out? What if-
Aziraphale was startled out of his thoughts. He quickly turned around and, strangely, felt his heart leaping to his throat. Then, it started beating frantically against his ribcage.
Crowley was sauntering towards him through the rain. She was holding a newspaper over herself, a flimsy shield from the rain. What was causing Aziraphale’s heart’s distress, however, was what the demon had on her.
She was wearing a black dress with white stripes. The black frills around the bust of the dress framed a silvery piece of jewellery – it looked like Crowley had a snake made of silver wrapped around her neck. She had her hair in a low bun under a wide brimmed black hat that had a white ribbon wrapped around it. There was a small bag hanging from one of her lace-gloved hand. And as usual, she had her sunglasses on.
In Aziraphale’s opinion, she looked absolutely stunning.
“Good, you have an umbrella.” was the only warning Aziraphale got before Crowley ducked under the umbrella and snatched it from his hand. She held it above them both. “You don’t have any idea how long I had to walk here in this weather. I had to miracle that paper to not let the rain through!”
Aziraphale quickly pulled himself together and forced his eyes to tear away from Crowley’s painted lips.
“Why did you not bring your own then? And besides, you’re late” he huffed, making his annoyance known.
Crowley only raised an eyebrow at him.
“I don’t have one. You do. Don’t really see a problem here.” she said nonchalantly as she started to slowly walk along the bridge. She conveniently ignored Aziraphale’s irritated remark about her tardiness. After a great deal of willpower and one small internal moral conflict about starting an argument of something irrelevant later, Aziraphale let it go.
He walked beside her, his arm brushing against Crowley’s at times. Her arm was surprisingly warm against his, despite Crowley’s snakelike nature. Aziraphale cleared his throat and tried to chase all these new and confusing thoughts away. Crowley glanced at him out of the corner of her eye.
“Haven’t seen you use red before” she remarked. “Suits you”
“Oh, yes! Y-yes, thank you” Aziraphale stammered. He fixed the collar of his red overcoat and his white cravat. He then fiddled with his cufflinks nervously.
“Haven’t seen you use white before. Suits you” he remarked back.
Crowley let out a small noise that could only be described as surprised. Her hand brushed through the front of her dress, chasing the white lines on the black fabric and smoothing imaginary wrinkles. She muttered her thanks. Aziraphale felt something warm blooming in his chest. He squashed it down immediately.
The wet cobblestone clacked under Crowley’s heels as they made their way along the bridge. The dozens of lamplights, the slight rain and the darkness of the October evening should’ve felt dreary and depressing, but Aziraphale could not help feeling that it was quite the opposite. Wet and chilly, of course, but the way the lights drowned everything in a warm glow made everything look simply brilliant. How it danced on Crowley’s bright red hair, making it look like liquid fire, could only be described as magical (and maybe it was, Crowley was an occult being after all). There were no people passing them by. It made him feel like they were in their own little world where Heaven nor Hell could find them.
He had to stop.
Aziraphale desperately tried to scrape some words together and create a coherent sentence. “How did all the tempting go?” he asked while pretending he did not have any kind of internal conflict going on.
“Hm? What?” Crowley asked, pulled away from her own thoughts.
“You said you had some temptations here?”
“Ah. Yeah.” she quickly answered. “Yeah, I did”
Crowley chattered about the temptations she had done. Something about tempting a future composer or two, breaking a few marriages and getting one particularly horrible restaurant close it’s doors. However, hearing about the demon’s successes brought his attention back to Aziraphale’s recent lack of them. He could feel the anxiety and guilt rearing their ugly heads again and souring his mood quite efficiently. Crowley, having already developed a sixth sense when it came to Aziraphale’s moods, shot him a concerned look.
“Angel?” she asked. “Everything alright?”
“What are we doing here?” Aziraphale suddenly asked, his frustration seeping from his voice.
Crowley looked at him for a while, baffled. “Uh, going to the opera?”
Aziraphale let out a small groan. “No! I mean - why? Why are we doing this? There’s no need for us to meet! Even if we met because of the Arrangement, you’ve already done your demonic work! There’s no need for me to be here!”
“I shouldn’t even be here in the first place – I should be in Sweden or Norway or –“
“-blessing babies and farmers or something like that and actually stop evil-“
Crowley turned to face Aziraphale and grabbed his arm. Aziraphale tried to continue, but Crowley gave him a look, teeth bared, that made him quickly shut his mouth. Crowley searched his eyes, he did not know for what, and growled.
“You’re here to thwart me. You don’t know what kind of demonic shit – real demonic shit – I would be up to if you are not there to stop me. Every time we meet. You. Are. Thwarting. Me. Don’t forget that”
Aziraphale opened his mouth to deny and say something quite unnecessary, but Crowley tightened her grip. “Don't forget that”
They looked at each other for a long moment. Aziraphale was suddenly reminded of Eden. Of them standing on the wall surrounding the paradise. Of Crowley assuring him and telling him what he wanted – needed to hear. Perhaps not this forcefully, but this time the demon did not have to worry about the possibility of getting smote.
And perhaps Crowley was right. He rarely did not know what she was up to when they were apart. He only knew what the demon chose to tell him in her letters, which were usually on the concise side. He was here to keep an eye on her. Nothing more, nothing less.
Aziraphale felt his racing thoughts gradually starting to settle, unlike his heart, which he could hear pounding aggressively against his ribs. (And some other strange emotion was overcoming him, surging through his veins and urging him. To do what exactly, he did not know. That new feeling was as intriguing as it was terrifying. He swiftly locked it to the back of his mind to be analyzed some other day.) He let the last remnants of his frustration and anxiety leave him in a heavy sigh. He then gave Crowley an awkward but assuring smile, while he gently pried her death grip off of him.
“If you say so, my dear” he said softly, averting his eyes.
“I do say so, angel”
They continued walking side by side in the rain. The rest of the journey was spent in companionable silence. Crowley’s arm and shoulder kept brushing against Aziraphale’s, until at one point, they did not separate at all. Neither of them mentioned anything about it.
At some point, they reached the Estates Theater. The opera was magnificent, in Aziraphale’s opinion. He had expected nothing less from a composer like Mozart. Crowley, well, being Crowley, kept complaining about how long it was and how she almost fell asleep in the middle of it. Aziraphale felt merciful, so he did not mention the barely-there-smile he had seen on her face – the kind of smile she did when she didn’t want anyone to know she was enjoying herself. He also did not mention how she had been looking at him from her peripheral vision, gauging his reaction. And how her expression had turned just a bit softer every time she had seen him smile. Instead, he nodded and hummed at Crowley’s every faux annoyed comment.
Maybe it really wasn’t that bad after all, meeting like this. They haven’t been found out – like they haven’t been found out in thousands of years, like they won’t be found out in the next hundreds of more. And he had been keeping an eye on her. She had not been trying anything demonic (besides miracling a piece of prop to hit one of the singer’s leg, causing him almost fall off the stage, but that did hardly count) in his presence. So, for his money, her wiles were successfully thwarted.
They continued their evening in a nearby restaurant, neither of them willing to part just yet. As they were ordering their food, sipping their wines and talking about everything and nothing, he caught Crowley looking at him with a gentle smile on her lips. It disappeared as soon as Aziraphale properly looked into her direction. It was something he hadn’t seen on the demon’s face before, and he then decided, that yes, it really wasn’t that bad at all.
17th of September 1862, London
I am sorry that I lashed out like that. I should have handled the situation better and not let my emotions get the better of me. Even the mention of you and holy water in the same sentence gets me on edge like you have noticed. But you must understand that I am worried about you and scared for you. You are the only thing that has been a constant in my life. A rock in this immortal life of ours, so to speak. An actual friend.
I’m sorry that I can’t give you what you are asking of me.
19th of September 1862, London
I am sorry,
I didn’t mean
I understand if you
I’m tired. I’m scared. I just want to keep us safe.
Neither of them send their letters.
The late winter and early spring of 1941, London
Somewhere in London a demon woke up. He opened his eyes like it was the hardest thing he ever had to do, and blinked. “Too bright” he thought, and slowly rolled on to his back and stared at the ceiling without really seeing anything. His head was pounding and his eyes were stinging. His limbs felt like they were filled with lead. In other words, he felt like shit.
Crowley laid there for a while just staring upwards and trying to make his eyes focus on the small cracks on the ceiling. Then, he sighed and begrudgingly lifted himself off the bed. His long legs wobbled a bit before he managed to right himself. He almost lost his balance when he rounded the corner of the end of his bed.
How long exactly had he slept?
He was making his way to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee – strong enough to wake the dead – when he abruptly stopped in his tracks in his hallway. He blinked, owlishly this time, and thought: “Oh shit”
In front of the front door was a pile of mail. And the pile could not be described as small. It looked like his hallway had gone through a flood made of letters and newspapers. It was a beautiful recreation of Noah’s ark, only this time the ark was a small black table with a dead plant on it.
He swiftly made his way to the pile and sat on the floor, his need for coffee forgotten. He miracled all the letters into neat piles in front of him – in chronological order starting from oldest and ending at the most recent. He also miracled the newspapers into piles, but only grabbed the most recent issue of The Infernal Times – a newspaper he had felt obligated to subscribe to when Hell had started publishing it somewhere in 17th Century. It was from 6th of February, 1941.
He had been asleep almost 80 years.
Crowley eyed warily at the piles of letters, which were glaring back at him. He started going through them meticulously, or as meticulously as a demon suffering from sleep-induced hungover could.
Most of the letters were from Aziraphale and a few of them were from some random people he had become pen pals as a way to pass the time. The angel’s letters went as usual: he remined Crowley that the demon had not written to him in a long while, told him about some new restaurant they must try sometime and told him about all the new books he had acquired in his collection. Only one of the letters truly caught his attention. It had 25th of January 1941 neatly written on the upper left corner of the first page.
I have some exciting news! I have been recruited on a very top secret mission! However, I can’t exactly tell you (yet) what it is about. It is top secret, after all! I feel like I’m in one of those modern spy novels that’s all the rage nowadays. Anyway, I feel like I am going to have an exciting spring!
And then Aziraphale rattled on about the books he had found and the finery of century old French wine. His rant took an entire page and a half. Crowley secretly found it endearing that Aziraphale clearly thought his books and wines were more interesting than his upcoming spy adventure, considering he wrote only six sentences about the latter.
The letter ended as follows:
Crowley, I must confess that I have been worried about you. You haven’t been answering any of my letters for years now. I have been wondering whether you’re okay or not. Or have you just left London and therefore haven’t gotten any of my letters. If this is about what I said in the park all those years ago, know that I am sorry. Please, write back to me when you can. It would be nice to have dinner together again.
Crowley felt awful. The angel had been sending him letters for 80 fucking years, even though he did not get a single one back. And he had even apologized! A rare occurrence in their relationship – they both tended to apologize more with actions than words.
His guilt was quickly accompanied by worry. What fucking top secret mission? When? How? Why?
Crowley knew that he shouldn’t worry about him. He knew Aziraphale was more than capable of taking care of himself, even though he had this peculiar tendency to get himself into trouble. And even though Crowley had a peculiar tendency to get Aziraphale out of that trouble, that did not mean he always had get caught up in the angel’s business. Right?
He absolutely got caught up in his business. About two months later he found himself speeding through the streets of London in the middle of the night – with a car he had bought exactly a day after he had learned that something as wonderful as cars now existed. He didn’t let all the rubble on the street slow him down. He swiftly dodged and turned around them, rushing for his destination.
Crowley had been up to some of his usual mischief – serious and evil demonic work as he liked to say – and getting to know this new decade when he overheard bunch of half-witted nazi spies talking about fooling some gullible and eccentric bookseller, Mr. Fell. They wanted Aziraphale’s books of prophecy – the one’s he had taken so much time and care to collect and restore. So naturally, he followed them around for a month and a half and fished everything he needed to know of them and their plan. He also might have gotten involved with the British Military Intelligence at some point. He isn’t sure, though.
He parked a few paces away from a church Aziraphale was supposed to be. He slammed the door closed behind him and hurried towards the building. Crowley felt the earth under his feet turn more and more holier with each step. Why did the meeting have to be in a church anyway? Couldn’t they hold them in somewhere more pleasant like in an elegant restaurant, or somewhere where he didn’t have to burn the soles of his feet?
He was almost at the door now. Crowley quickly adjusted his tie and hat and smoothed some imaginary wrinkles on his suit. He schooled his expression into something he hoped looked cool and dashing. Then he opened the door, stepped through the threshold, and let it slam closed behind him.
And fuck! Consecrated ground really did burn! He hopped over one foot to the other and released a sting of ow’s in between his gasps. He turned a small corner and then he saw him. His angel.
Those idiots were holding him at gunpoint, so he did what any sensible demon would do, if their angel was threatened with discorporation. He blew up the church and the nazis with it.
As they were standing in the destroyed remains of the church, small patches of fire lit here and there, Crowley could not help but to think how beautiful the angel looked in that moment. The warm glow from the fire made his hair look more gold than the usual light blonde. The winged statue was on fire behind Aziraphale – and if looked from the right angle, it would have looked like Aziraphale’s own wings were engulfed in flames. Crowley felt his heart contract in his chest and his mouth felt dry all of a sudden. He felt the sudden urge to clean his tinted glasses from all the soot and dust, and not look at the angel. At least not directly.
“That was very kind of you” Aziraphale said.
“Shut up” Crowley retorted very intelligently.
Aziraphale looked around, surveying the aftermath of the explosion, and suddenly looked panicked.
“Oh! The books! Oh, I forgot all the books!” he moaned. “Oh, they’ll all be blown –“
And then it was Crowley’s time to shine. He picked the bag up from the rubble (read: forcibly removed it from one of the dead nazi’s hand) and neatly pushed it to the angel’s flailing hands, silencing him efficiently.
“A little demonic miracle of my own” Crowley’s hand slightly brushed Aziraphale’s. Both of their hearts skipped a beat. “Lift home?”
Crowley brushed past Aziraphale. His back was turned towards the angel so you really can’t blame him for not seeing the look Aziraphale had on his face. And oh, what kind of look it was. It was a look of realization. Of longing and naked adoration. Of want.
A look that oh so desperately yearned to close the distance of 6000 years.
Not hearing the angel follow behind him, Crowley turned around and called out to him: “You coming?”
“Ah, y-yes! Hold on!” Aziraphale barely managed to say.
They walked to the Bentley in a silence. Aziraphale was lagging behind Crowley and clutching the bag of books against him, knuckles white. Crowley, on the other hand, was trying to desperately project an aura of suaveness and coolness around himself, like he had not desperately sped through the streets of London and blew up bunch of nazis on a whim just so he could save his angel. Aziraphale kept looking at Crowley’s back with such vulnerability and awe it would have made anyone’s heart ache. Especially the demon’s own, if he just had seen it.
Crowley opened the Bentley’s door for Aziraphale before rounding the car to his own side and hopping in. Aziraphale climbed into the car carefully and set the bag on his lap like it was containing something extremely fragile. Crowley twisted the keys in the ignition and the car hummed to life beneath them.
They drove down the now silent streets of London – only the stars and the headlights of the car lighted their way. Crowley stole a glance of Aziraphale, worried. He was already opening his mouth to ask if the angel was okay, but Aziraphale beat him to it.
“Thank you” he said, quiet but sincere.
“No need for that nonsense. It wasn’t like I was doing it out of the goodness of my heart or anything like that”
Aziraphale only smiled at that. He knew it wasn’t true but decided not to press him. At least not this time.
“If you say so, my dear”
“I do say so, angel” Crowley said back.
They were driving through Mayfair when Aziraphale suddenly made a thoughtful noise, like he just remembered something. He turned his body towards Crowley, cornering him. Crowley felt a hint of trepidation crawl up his spine.
“By the way” he started ominously. “Where were you all this time? You disappeared for almost a century and you didn’t write me back! I was quite worried about you!”
Crowley stole a quick look at the angel. Big mistake on his part. Eyes full of worry, fear of abandonment and indignation sucker punched every single air molecule out of his lungs. He turned away, not bearing the intensity of the angel’s gaze. His heart felt impossibly warm and too big for his rib cage.
Aziraphale had worried about him.
Aziraphale had never stopped worrying about him.
The realization made his next admission even more embarrassing.
“I… took a nap” he mumbled.
“You – you what?”
“I took a nap, okay! I didn’t mean it to last for 80 fucking years, but I was tired and kind of bored with the 19th Century, so, I took a nap” Crowley hissed, embarrassed.
Aziraphale just looked at him. He looked at the shadows playing on the demon’s face, making him somehow look less guarded. He looked at the deep frown on his lips and the small, barely there flush on his cheeks. At the silly hat he had on him, which he probably thought looked cool and stylish. He looked at the ridiculous demon, chest brimming with wonder, and love.
Then, he started giggling. Once he started, it was hard to stop. Crowley’s offended scoff and “Oi! What are you laughing at?” only made the angel’s giggles grow into full-blown laughter, tears almost escaping from his eyes.
(It all felt awfully familiar. As if something like this had happened many years, even thousands of them, ago. Maybe in a certain garden. Maybe even before it. Who really knew?)
Aziraphale only stopped laughing and reined in his mirth when Crowley threatened to stop the car and make Aziraphale walk all the way back to Soho. It was an empty threat and they both knew it. Crowley would never admit it out loud, but seeing Aziraphale laugh like that made him want to kiss that stupid grin from his lips and taste the angel’s joy on his tongue. Instead, he secretly savored the smile that lingered on Aziraphale’s face and locked the memory of it into a safe corner in his mind.
For the rest of the ride both of them were almost bursting at the seams with the same emotion – to the angel it was something new (and later in the early hours of dawn, turned into something terrifying, something that would put them both into danger) and to the demon it was as old as time – and for a moment, they both were content.
23rd of April, 1941
In my time on Earth I’ve learned that you really can’t know everything for certain. Things usually aren’t the way you think they are, or they change to be almost unrecognizable. I mostly agree with this. Still, I find that there are exactly two things I know for certain.
One, you love me, you’re in love with me. Don’t try to deny this. Or you can, but it will not change the fact, dear boy. I know why you came to rescue me at the church and saved the books, I know why you got those tickets to Don Giovanni in Prague, I know why you miracled Hamlet to be a success, and I know why you’re been gifting me books for years now. I know a history of thousands of years, of acts of love hid behind the guise of favours. And I know you know this too. Nothing has really made me happier than realizing this fact. Sushi has come close, but it doesn’t compare. Nothing compares to you.
Second, I love you, I’m in love with you. Don’t try to deny this, either. Or you can, but again, it will not change the fact. However, this is a fact I must keep denying. From Heaven and Hell, from me and you. I don’t want to put you into danger, so I have to push you away. Keep you at arm’s length. I cannot pretend that I could just cut any contact and never see you again, even if it’s for the best. I am a selfish creature, I have found. Nothing has made me more terrified than this fact.
Crowley, I am afraid. Afraid of the future: of the humans', of the world's, and of ours. I only want to keep you safe. I know you won’t understand, but I can’t abandon Heaven. I was made to follow Her Plan and Her Word. I can’t abandon my purpose. But I can’t abandon you, either.
But, maybe someday we can go for a picnic, or dine at the Ritz, without fear of being caught. I am looking forward to those days, my love. And I know you are too.
Aziraphale sighs and puts the neatly written letter into an envelope. He took a random book from his desk and hid the letter between the pages. He then pushed it back to the self, blending with the other ones.
He wasn’t ready, but he hoped, maybe one day he was.
18th of May 1967, London
I’ll slow down for you. I’ll wait for you.
I love you
Crowley growls in frustration. He crumples his short letter and throws it to the trash with the other failed ones. He took a swig of cheap wine, then two, then three, and so on.
The last day of the world and the first one of the rest of their lives, London
The Apocalypse came and went. They fought and they won. Well, sort of. The world was saved (wahoo!), but Aziraphale and Crowley’s future was still uncertain, since Heaven and Hell were after them (boo!). Now, they were sitting on a bench drinking some cheap wine Crowley had miracled. Aziraphale could feel the tension between them. They were both thinking the same thing. What now?
He glanced at the gap between them. The barely a meter of distance felt too much. He tried to will it away. Nothing happened – the gap remained there. Crowley’s leg almost brushed against his and it alone was nearly driving him mad.
“You could stay at my place, if you like” Crowley softly offered, trying to bridge the gap between them, like he had always done.
Aziraphale looked at him. “I don’t think my side would like that” he said, retreating out of habit.
And then, Crowley said: “You don’t have a side anymore. Neither of us do. We’re on our own side”
It was a bitter reminder that Aziraphale was abandoned by Heaven. For trying to save the world and not to cruelly end it. Heaven had tossed him aside the moment they found out, even though he had always done what was asked of him – there wasn’t a blessing he had missed or a miracle he had not performed in Heaven’s name. Still, he was cast aside. All because he couldn’t promise them blind obedience anymore.
However, Crowley’s words also reminded him that he did not have to endure it all alone. He had a side, a place, with Crowley, even if Heaven did not want him in it’s ranks anymore. Well, he always had had a place by Crowley’s side, even if it had taken him six thousand years to realize.
So, that night Aziraphale followed Crowley back to his flat. At the door he took his coat off and hanged it neatly on a coat rack. He tactfully didn’t make any remarks of the flat’s décor, or rather lack of it. He followed Crowley to the kitchen and accepted the cup of tea the demon offered him and sat on a tall barstool. He glanced at the demon, all the unspoken words nearly escaping from his mouth.
“So. Agnes’ last prophecy” he said instead.
Crowley took his tinted glasses off and tossed them on the counter. He groaned and rubbed his eyes.
“I’ve got nothing” he admitted, frustrated.
Aziraphale took a sip of his tea and hummed. Crowley still looked irritated. They fell silent for a while, and Aziraphale waited. The demon leaned against the counter and then sighed.
“I just – I’m just so fucking done with all of this”
Crowley sounded… tired, and somewhat dejected. Aziraphale really couldn’t blame him. The last 6000 years had been rough and the last days of the world had been even rougher. Aziraphale felt weariness settle into his own bones too, making as simple a task as lifting a teacup to his lips feel like he was moving a mountain.
He mustered the remains of his strength, and courage, together and slid his hand across the counter and gently took the demon’s what he hoped was a reassuring gesture. His fingers intertwined between Crowley’s with such ease, like they’ve been doing this since the beginning of time. Aziraphale could not help but think how perfectly Crowley’s fingers fit between his own.
“That makes two of us, my dear” Aziraphale mumbled back and squeezed Crowley’s hand gently.
Crowley had gone very still. If Aziraphale had not seen him move just a few seconds ago, he could’ve easily mistaken him for a very realistic statue, like the one he had in the hallway of the angel and demon ‘wrestling’. The demon was staring at their hands with a burning intensity that would put the sun in shame, eyebrows almost touching his hairline.
Aziraphale mistook his touch as unwelcome, and that made his heart pang miserably. As he was retreating his touch with a hasty apology, Crowley quickly grabbed his hand and pulled it back towards him, which made the angel nearly topple on the counter.
“No! I mean – ! It’s fine, it’s fine.”
They stared at each other in surprise for a moment and Aziraphale could see a slight flush creeping up Crowley’s neck. It made his yellow eyes, now wide open with slight desperation, stand out even more. Aziraphale’s lips curled slowly into a smile he hoped looked reassuring, but probably just looked as nervous as he felt. He brushed his thumb over the demon’s knuckles and Crowley hesitantly mirrored his movements.
Aziraphale eased back into his seat. Crowley was avoiding his eyes, those wonderful yellow eyes looking at everything else but the angel. Aziraphale, however, could not remove his own eyes from the demon in front of him. He had a funny feeling running in his chest. He felt… unrestrained. They were no longer on different side’s, they were on their own side. He was now free to do his own choices and bear the consequences of them. So, he chose to bridge that awful gap Heaven and Hell – and even him – had forced between them.
Azirphale slowly slid his other hand up Crowley’s arm all up to his shoulder. He mapped the dip of his clavicle and the column of his throat with utmost care. He brushed his fingers along Crowley’s jawline, feather-light, and finally settled on his cheek. He felt Crowley shudder under his hand and look at him with wide eyes. He looked so lost and vulnerable it made Aziraphale’s heart almost break.
“Aziraphale?” Crowley’s voice was barely a whisper, a very disbelieving one, like he feared that if he made even the smallest wrong move, Aziraphale would retreat again. Aziraphale caressed his cheek in the most tender of ways, trying to calm Crowley’s fears. Crowley closed his eyes and leaned into the angel’s touch, releasing a shuddering breath.
“I know I’ve been going slow – “ Aziraphale started.
“No, no, no, don’t apologize for that” Crowley interjected.
Aziraphale smiled, fond. “I wasn’t going to, my dear”
Azirphale chuckled and brushed his thumb over Crowley’s cheek. He could easily feel the warmth of his cheek seeping against his palm. And oh, how wonderful that felt. Crowley brought his hand up – the one Aziraphale was not holding – and gently wrapped his fingers around Aziraphale’s wrist.
“As I was saying, I’ve been going slow. It took me six thousand years to realize whose side I’m on. I’ve been holding myself – us – back because I was so afraid that Heaven and Hell would find out about The Arrangement. I was also so afraid to go against The Plan and Heaven I convinced myself that if I pretended that I was thwarting you, we wouldn’t be in danger. We could still see each other, be in each other’s lives, but from a distance. And then I found out you loved me”
Crowley shut his eyes and a faint tremble swept through him, but surprisingly, didn’t pull away. He was now leaning heavily on Azirphale’s hand.
“Suddenly everything was going too fast” Aziraphale continued. “I was sure we were going to get caught so I tried to put even more distance between us. That really didn’t work out, as we have seen. But now, after all that has happened, we don’t have side’s anymore. And we don’t have to hide. I know you’ve been waiting for this for a very long time, Crowley, but I love you”
Crowley made a choked sound at that. He was gripping Aziraphale’s wrist tightly with his trembling hands, but not enough, never enough, to cause bruises. He was breathing deeply, trying to calm himself. He then opened his eyes and looked at Aziraphale with such open adoration that Aziraphale felt his own grip tighten around Crowley’s hand and his heart missing a beat.
“Repeat it for me?” he asked with a hoarse voice.
“I love you, Crowley” Aziraphale repeated, smiling gently.
Crowley’s lips rose to a small smile. “Hmm, I think I still didn’t hear it. Repeat it for me?”
“I love you, Crowley. I have, I do and I will.”
Then, slowly, his smile spread into a grin. He chuckled a bit and ran his hand up and down Aziraphale’s arm. “If you say so, angel”
Aziraphale huffed in amusement, affection surging in his chest. “I do say so, my dear”
Aziraphale pried his hand from Crowley’s grip and lifted it to his other cheek. Their eyes locked. Yellow met grey-ish blue. Then Aziraphale’s eyes drifted downwards to the demon’s lips.
“Show me” Crowley said, breathless. “Please”
And how could Aziraphale deny him? Especially when Crowley was already leaning towards him. Aziraphale moved his hand to the back of Crowley’s neck and pulled him in. And of course, Crowley followed willingly.
The first press of their lips was so soft and brief that it could only be described as a peck. Crowley’s lips were slightly chapped under his, and so much better than Aziraphale had ever imagined in his loneliest nights. Aziraphale’s heart tried to escape from his chest, considering how rabidly it was beating, but it wasn’t enough. So he kissed him, and kissed him, and kissed him, again and again and again, Crowley’s lips mirroring his in perfect unison, until the demon’s knees almost buckled under him and hit the counter he was leaning on.
“We should probably move. This blasted counter is in the way” Aziraphale said, parting reluctantly. Crowley just blinked at him slowly, before he realized that Aziraphale was talking to him.
“Yeah. Yup. Of course.” was the only thing he managed to say.
Aziraphale scanned his surroundings and spotted a (very uncomfortable looking) white sofa. He pulled Crowley behind him, and then on him, as he sat on the scratchy surface. Crowley let out a surprised yelp at that, which Aziraphale soon swallowed with the press of his lips. He slid one hand to rest on Crowley’s waist and the other to cup the back of his neck. Crowley gripped the front of Aziraphale’s vest like his life depended on it.
The slow slide of their lips only made Aziraphale more and more desperate. He wanted more, and more, and more, and could not get enough. Judging by Crowley’s hums and quiet moans and roaming hands, he felt the same. Crowley pressed his tongue against the seam of Aziraphale’s lips and he immediately opened up for him. The first glide of their tongues was electrifying. Then, Crowley did something strange with his tongue, and Aziraphale was moaning quite loudly against his mouth.
Aziraphale felt a spark of electricity roll down his spine and make him flush. He moved to kiss Crowley’s jaw and then moved to kiss the small snake tattoo he had. Crowley made a small noise that made his abdomen feel warm. He moved to press a trail of kisses against his demon’s neck while he slipped a hand under the demon’s shirt, moving it up and down and up again. Crowley moaned, and slid his hand to Aziraphale’s hair and tugged a handful of the soft blonde curls. It made the warmth in his abdomen steadily grow into a need.
Hearing all the noises and moans that fell from Crowley’s lips made his movements even more desperate. He gripped, he pushed, and then pulled. His kisses were accompanied with small bites and followed by tongue. He wanted to map every sharp line and rare softer curve of Crowley’s body. Preferably with his lips and soft licks. He wanted to make him writhe under him with unimagined pleasure. He wanted –
Aziraphale lifted his head from the demon’s clavicle he had been sucking on and saw Crowley trying to hide his second, smaller yawn. He saw the tiredness in Crowley’s eyes and huffed in fond amusement.
“It seems like you are quite tired, dear boy. Considering the day we’ve had I’m not surprised” Aziraphale said. “I think I should let you get some rest”
As he was trying to move Crowley off of him and get up, Crowley pressed him back against the sofa. His hands were on his chest, tangling into his shirt. Aziraphale met Crowley’s desperate gaze.
“No, don’t go. Stay with me?” Crowley plead.
Aziraphale didn’t really sleep. He didn’t need to – perks of being an angel – and he really hadn’t taken to it, unlike a certain demon. But seeing how Crowley’s eyes were boring into his, he supposed he could try to get used to it.
“Do you have a bed somewhere?” Aziraphale asked. Crowley’s shoulder sagged in relief.
They ended up tangled in Crowley’s satin sheets together, the demon’s head tucked comfortably beneath the angel’s chin. Aziraphale rubbed comforting circles against Crowley’s shoulder. Crowley sighed in contentment, eyes closing. Gradually, his breathing slowed and his body became lax in Aziraphale’s arms. Aziraphale brushed a stray hair away from Crowley’s face and then closed his own eyes.
There was, however, one thing that demanded Aziraphale’s attention and didn’t let him sleep. Agnes’ last prophecy. After mulling it over his head for a few hours, he had an idea. He tugged Crowley gently back into the land of the awake and told him of his plan. Blearily, and after great deal of consideration, Crowley agreed to it. They quickly changed their corporations and then their sleeping positions, so Crowley was safely wrapped back in Aziraphale’s arms.
They both slept soundly through the night.
In the early afternoon, when Aziraphale woke, he found a note taped on the nightstand.
I already went ahead to check on the bookshop. Meet me in St. James park in around 2pm. There should be some leftovers in the fridge, in case you get peckish.
I love you.
Aziraphale smiled. He had a feeling that everything was going to be okay.
14th of May 2023, London
Dearest, I have a meeting in this afternoon considering the Virginia Woolf first editions. I’m also planning to run by the store and get some snacks for the movie night, so don’t be alarmed if I come home a bit late.
I love you
Crowley found the small note taped on his bedside table. He was blindly fumbling for his phone after he had woken up, but his hand had found Aziraphale’s message instead. Crowley’s eyes skimmed lazily through the familiar handwriting that had always brought him comfort through the centuries, and he felt a small wave of affection for the angel flow through him.
They might not write letters in the traditional sense anymore, but they’ve always been sticklers to their own traditions. Every time he saw one of Aziraphale’s small notes, it really made Crowley thank his lucky stars – all the one’s he helped to make – that he had gotten this far and with the angel at his side.
He slowly stretched and then got up from the bed. He ran through his to-do list for the day, making a mental note to be at home in the evening. He had a movie night with his husband, after all.