The thing is: Crowley doesn't not read.
The angel doesn't know. Crowley's put a lot of effort into cultivating his persona, and if that includes an antipathy toward the written word, well, at least it stops Aziraphale from recommending. Aziraphale's the sort of bibliophile that just can't help himself; he'll bring up a borrowed book a dozen times every meeting with the sort of sad eyes that make you feel faintly guilty for not getting past the first page in the two decades it's been sitting next to your bed, or he'll spend hours in discussion of the themes and motifs of a book you didn't really have any thoughts on, an awkward bit of conversation particularly if you lied about reading it to start with. It's self-defence, is what it is, and Crowley's happy to stick with it.
That doesn't mean he doesn't read.
Crowley keeps up with astronomy, for one. He likes seeing the humans flail about in the deep end trying to make sense of star creation and planetary orbits, and feels oddly proud when they get bits of it right. And he picks up airport novels, ostensibly to support their continued infernal production and wrap them up in nice paper to amuse himself with the way the angel visibly struggles to thank him for the gift, but he's found them blessedly addictive to the point where he buys one every time he has to take a flight. He's tried a few of Aziraphale's favourites, liked some and hated others, and keeps his own signed collection of Shakespeare's plays.
But this long-practiced book-related indifference is probably why Aziraphale didn't bother to lock his secret backroom stash up tight.
Of course, Crowley doubts it was locked away from him, personally. Aziraphale has always been looking over his shoulder as if he's expecting another angel (or the Almighty Herself) to come swooping down and demote him, and Crowley imagines anything Aziraphale hides away is more from their eyes than his. That's what he tells himself, anyway, when he wakes up from his nap on the couch and decides to go poking about. Aziraphale's chatting in the front room with a student and Crowley's been here in the bookshop a thousand times since it opened, and so he's not expecting much - maybe he'll find a salacious dedication in one of Aziraphale's beloved first editions, or finally scrounge up some hidden stash of pornography - but then he sees one of the bookcase drawers is slightly off-centre.
Aziraphale's back room is a mismatch of bookshelves lost and found. This one's got shelves up to Crowley's height, packed fit to bursting, and a pair of drawers at the bottom that are kept shut more out of wood warped with age than the tiny golden keyhole and lock. Crowley's only seen it open once, maybe forty years ago, when he barged in already halfway intoxicated, waving a bottle of wine, and caught Aziraphale slamming it shut with a guilty look on his face. Then they'd gotten terribly drunk together and it had entirely slipped Crowley's mind.
The point being, Crowley has the vague intimation that the drawer is usually Off Limits, and might therefore contain Things Aziraphale Doesn't Want People To See.
This doesn't deter him in the slightest. In fact, it mainly serves to encourage him, Crowley being the Serpent of (Rarely Resisting) Temptation and all, and he saunters over and tugs at the drawer. It resists him for a moment before giving way, and Crowley finds his eyebrows creeping up his forehead.
"Well, well," he murmurs, "look at this."
Despite his dramatics, 'this', at first glance, appears to be exactly what anyone would expect to find in a bookcase drawer, namely: more books. A few Georgette Heyer first editions give way to the far more indecent covers of the Mass Market Paperbacks, so well-thumbed-through their spines are cracked. Crowley slowly eels to the floor as he flicks through a few, full of dashing romantic heroes and damsels in distress, but even that isn't new information; he'd have to be blind to not notice the angel had a thing for being rescued.
More books set aside, Crowley reaches in and finds something legitimately surprising: not a book. At least, not entirely. Loosely bound, evenly printed, Crowley picks one up and belatedly recognises it as a proof copy with annotations in Aziraphale's neat hand. Then he turns back to the cover page.
"What!" he says, louder than he means to. But there it is, right in the byline: by Zira Fell.
Crowley's incoherent astonishment is enough to catch the attention of the angel in the front room. A few dozen seconds of panicked miracling is enough to get everything back to where it started, except for Crowley himself, who collapses in a thoroughly startled, many-limbed pile on the floor.
"Are you awake? I thought I heard - ah," Aziraphale says, on spotting him, sounding amused, "did you fall off the couch again, my dear?"
Crowley makes a vaguely affirmative sound into the carpet and rolls over. Aziraphale's expression is undeniably fond as he raises his eyebrows, and Crowley squints up at him uncertainly.
It seems nigh unfathomable. Aziraphale - sweet, compassionate, greedy Aziraphale - has written a book. Maybe more than one, by the small stack underneath the one Crowley found. Maybe even a Collection. Any human might think it fits him, the literary enthusiast and collector, the bookseller who rarely deigns to part with one of his own, but they don't know what Crowley does. Aziraphale is an angel, and Angels Do Not Write Books.
And for all that Aziraphale lacks all the worse qualities of the Heavenly Host, that doesn't mean he's creative. Sure, he's listened to enough of Crowley's rants on the efficiency of trickle-effect misery that he tends toward a similar elegance when left to his own devices, but Aziraphale doesn't play music or dance, can't lie if his life depends on it, and even his terrible little magic tricks are all ones that have been done before. Humans invent new things, are the ones who create when angels only inspire; Aziraphale's most recent personal success was the introduction of e-books, and they were hardly a new creation when both books and the internet already existed.
Crowley's still stuck on the thought. Aziraphale wrote a book. Is he published? Do humans buy them? How? What? Why?
Aziraphale is staring at him with increasing bemusement.
"Nghk," Crowley says, and clambers to his feet, waving a hand to manifest a pair of sunglasses he slips on. "I'm just. I'll be going. Busy. Stuff."
With his fount of eloquence thus dried up, Crowley wobbles his way to the door until his ankles cooperate, at which point he picks up speed. Aziraphale seems to take it in stride and calls out after him, "Dinner tomorrow?"
"Sure, angel," Crowley says, falling back on millennia of habit, and gracefully, gratefully makes his escape to the outside world.
Theory: Is Zira Fell a Pseudonym for the Angel Israfil? 6 Pieces of Proof!
ReligiousConspiracies · 62 views · 10 months ago
Comments · 2 ▼
Not to nitpick, but point #5 is easily debunked - A. Z. Fell & Co.'s bookshop has been around since the 1800s.
The thing is: Crowley doesn't not read, but that doesn't mean that, faced with a list of thirty-something books spanning sixty years of publishing, he's not going to just google Aziraphale first.
Surprisingly, he finds a bit. Aziraphale keeps a low profile angelically speaking, but his complete lack of creative pseudonyms has a few people wondering if Soho's A. Z. Fell is any relation to the romance novelist Zira Fell, which then leads into brief speculation that Aziraphale's some sort of local cryptid. He loses a few hours to bookshop Yelp reviews and lets a YouTube video on the topic play five times before he realises he's not paying attention past the opening ten seconds, and then closes the tab in disgust.
Zira Fell, unlike Aziraphale, has a Wikipedia page, a Goodreads page, and a website. Crowley clicks on the latter and finds it some sort of 90's-era web design graveyard horror, unable to be seen without the impression it should have shut down with Netscape Navigator before the turn of the century. It's definitely a touch of angelic grace that keeps it displaying perfectly well approximately twenty years after anyone's really thought about it, and there's a new section that offers donate-as-you-like e-book downloads that has Aziraphale's metaphysical fingerprints all over it.
Crowley clicks through the payment screens specifically to pay nothing and then finds himself staring down the same list of thirty-ish books, now all legally his. It is, he realises a little too late, no more helpful than the lists he found elsewhere. He could probably try to read them in publication order, but Crowley likes to be efficient; he might be better off looking up a summary or two.
Also, he'd never admit it to Aziraphale, but there's definitely something about having real, physical bound paper books to leaf through. Crowley sighs and starts looking for a bookshop chain that won't miss a few books, particularly when he gives their corporate directors some more pressing issues to worry about.
How Aziraphale can be causing him so many problems when he doesn't even know what Crowley's up to, Crowley will chalk up to hellish luck and what the angel might call ineffability.
Zira Fell is a prolific historical queer romance novelist from the United Kingdom. Fell's literary career began in 1945 with The Sands of Time. More
Zira Fell's Books
Average Rating: 3.62 · 3,525 ratings · 1,129 reviews
The Affair at Whitehall
★★★★☆ 4.02 · 1,870 ratings · 746 reviews
Want to Read
The thing is: Crowley doesn't not read, but he's not exactly Aziraphale, either. Surrounding himself with thirty-seven published novels by the angel has only served to make that clear. He's not intimidated, exactly, just being circumspect - it's as many books as he might read in a year, and with the way he and Aziraphale have started living in each other's pockets since Armageddon flopped he doubts he'll keep it from him for long.
Which really means he should get cracking. Break one open. Murder a spine or two.
The thing is.
The thing is, Crowley is not a Complete Idiot, no matter how much it might seem like it sometimes. It's one thing to notice the list of Aziraphale's novel titles have a tendency toward snake references and another to see thirty paperback covers with a very obvious theme of dark-haired, snappily dressed femme (or homme) fatales opposite their pink-and-cream counterparts. It's one thing to wonder what on Earth caught Aziraphale's attention to the point of completely ditching normal angelic behaviour and another to have physical evidence that maybe, just maybe, Crowley hasn't been quite as alone in his silent, impossible longing as he thought.
It's one thing to be faced with the reality that Aziraphale has written more than thirty books that are probably all about them. It's another thing entirely to read them.
Not to mention he still has to work out which one he should read first.
A Quick and Dirty Summary of the Collected Works of Zira Fell
Posted by bi-iconographer
four months ago
You know how people say romance novelists can only write two types of characters? Well, Zira Fell's the worst (and possibly ultimate) example, because across three dozen novels she makes only a half-hearted attempt at pretending Anthony isn't Alistair isn't Crowe, not to mention the times where she gives up entirely and re-uses a character wholesale (The Affair at Whitehall, I'm looking at you).
Still, Fell's oeuvre has gained a cult following for a reason. Her works have a heavily Christian bent with the question of belief a solid theme throughout, but she never pushes the common -isms even in works dating back to the '40s. Her main characters are gay, bi, or trans men, women and genderfluid people, but gender and sexuality is always an unremarked-upon background detail to the rich historical setting, the protagonist's romantic longing, and the struggle of reconciling disaster and tragedy with faith.
Want to give them a go? Here are a few of my favourites:
The Affair at Whitehall
You might have heard of this one. WWII! Spy shenanigans! Anthony and Ezra fuck on a desk and it's smoking hot.
The Rod of Asclepius
The one in Ancient Greece. It's less religious than the rest and benefits immensely. Lots of longing, lots of history, lots of gay.
The Manuscript Illumination
The one with the nun and the not-really-evil seductress demon. Fell doesn't write them like this anymore, the more's the pity.
A Novel Affair
Victorian London. Lots of occult nonsense and book references. The romance is more combative and the hatesex is great.
He shouldn't still be able to be surprised by this, but Crowley is. Aziraphale's books are… decent.
Pretty good, actually.
Aziraphale's not bad at turning a phrase. He writes a little like he thinks he should, but it comes across as extraordinarily fond pastiche instead of trying too hard, as though Aziraphale's general love of the literature that inspired him has embedded itself in the pages. Crowley finds himself uncharacteristically absorbed by the Bond-esque adventures of Ezra and Anthony-slash-Antonia, less a historical retelling than a romantisation that lets him remember the fun of the period instead of the knife in his chest at every commendation.
Even Aziraphale's digressions on faith feel like they've been faintly blessed. Crowley's never had the angel's belief in Her and Her Ineffable Plan, for all that it seems to have worked out in the end, but reading about Ezra's innate certainty that love is Hers without doubt, the way he wavers over every tragedy and yet his love for Anthony helps him find beauty in Her world --
It makes him feel itchy. Anxious. And a little terrified, like he's been standing on the edge of a cliff this whole time and hasn't noticed Aziraphale's stepped up right alongside him.
That's the real problem, isn't it? Aziraphale's written down six thousand years of friendship and fondness, split into a few hundred pages at a time. Ezra and Anthony part with hands clasped, with a yearning love only intensified by their brief snatches of happiness as they return to the work that must be done; when Crowley picks up the next book it starts with Shakespeare and an argument and two people wanting what they simply can't have. It's fragments of their essences, glimpses of their pasts, printed and digitalised as if Aziraphale was so overflowing with it all he just couldn't bear to keep it to himself any longer.
Crowley has wanted Aziraphale for nigh on six thousand years. He has no idea what to do with the knowledge that Aziraphale might very well want him back.
Maybe he doesn't have to do anything. But Crowley wouldn't be Crowley if he wasn't up to stacking the deck - and it just so happens he has novels worth of insight into what Aziraphale has sold to thousands of humans as Their Romance Over The Years.
Maybe Crowley's best bet is reading them all.
Crowley ends up bringing flowers, chocolates and wine. He also brings a book.
The thing is: Crowley's done his reading. Crowley's full up. But everything Aziraphale has written is a fantasy, an extension of the past; the Crowley he writes is suave and cool and far too altruistic, the Aziraphale he writes too uncertain and not kind enough. Aziraphale stayed his pen from writing of an angel loving a demon (though the book about the nun came close) and not once does he mention Heaven or Hell as the institutions they are: distantly watching, endlessly bureaucratic, and full of dicks like Gabriel always wanting to cast blame and tell people what to do.
The thing is, they're not real. The thing is, things are different now. Crowley and Aziraphale are on their own side, don't have to answer to anyone, and if Aziraphale were to write a book now, Crowley thinks it'd have a very different tone.
The thing is, Crowley just needs to get them both up to speed, because Aziraphale seems entirely willing to catch up.
"Angel!" Crowley throws the bookshop door open and stalks inside. Aziraphale, in the middle of conversation with a customer, suddenly finds himself with his hands full and the customer nowhere to be found. "You'll never guess what I found."
Torn between protest and confusion as he fumbles the potted plant and the wine bottle precariously balanced on the chocolate box, Aziraphale says, "Oh, you didn't - thank you? Crowley, what - ?"
Crowley waves the book in the air. Aziraphale freezes for a blink, eyes widening, and then pink starts to rush up his cheeks.
"Um," says Aziraphale, which is when Crowley kisses him.
Aziraphale's hands are empty again until he clutches at Crowley's jacket, and Crowley finds his sunglasses have migrated to an already overfull bookshelf, which at least is better than the floor. By the time Aziraphale's gathered himself enough to protest any number of things he's deliciously flushed and slightly unsteady, and Crowley immediately interrupts his objection with a wink. "Want to see if I really can do that thing with my tongue?"
Aziraphale opens his mouth, closes it, and sighs. "You fiend," he says, straightening his rumpled waistcoat, and glances at Crowley through his eyelashes. "I must insist you take me to dinner first."
Crowley takes Aziraphale's hand to brush a kiss along his knuckles, and smirks at the smile Aziraphale's primly pursed mouth can't entirely hide. "Sure," he says magnanimously, and drops it to hold open the door. The Bentley's parked illegally right up next to the curb. "Come on, angel. I'll take you anywhere you want to go."
Crowley still goes too fast. Luckily, it doesn't matter, not anymore.
 More cool in theory than in practice, though he tries. [return to text]
 Only the funny ones, except for Hamlet. Crowley would tell anyone who asked it was because Hamlet was terrible, awful, dismal, fit only for the deepest pits of Hell, and thus it was only fitting for a demon to possess. Crowley would be lying; it had grown on him. [return to text]
 Crowley. Crowley is counting. [return to text]
 Other things that had slipped Crowley's mind: why he'd gotten so drunk in the first place. Other things that hadn't slipped Crowley's mind: the startled delight that suffused Aziraphale at seeing him, that lit him up from the inside out. [return to text]
 A name fondly coined by a drunken Aziraphale. "I can resisst temptation," Crowley muttered, thoroughly pissed, and they'd then spent an embarrassing few hours coming up with temptations he hadn't. [return to text]
 Temptations Crowley Has Not Resisted, an Inexhaustive List: Aziraphale inviting him out to eat. Aziraphale inviting him out to drink. Aziraphale in imminent need of rescue. Aziraphale being sad about something fixable. Aziraphale batting his eyelashes and hinting for something petty he's after but doesn't want on his own miracle record.
Temptations Crowley Has Resisted: Aziraphale. [return to text]
 There was a reason Crowley classified rescue as a Temptation, no matter how pink Aziraphale got as he protested. [return to text]
 It would not particularly surprise Crowley to learn this was an actual rule, nor that it was Gabriel who instated it in a fit of professional jealousy. [return to text]
 The last web browser Aziraphale used it on.[return to text]
 It tastes metaphysically like the tea and cheesecake from the bakery down the street from the bookshop. Crowley vaguely remembers Aziraphale drawing their waitress into a conversation about e-book accessibility, though mostly he remembers how the morning sunlight cast a halo over Aziraphale's pale curls and made it difficult to tear his gaze away. [return to text]
 Really, since eleven years ago when they decided to be godfathers to the wrong kid, but Crowley's exorcised it from his memory out of sheer mortification at the cock-up.[return to text]
 It isn't untrue, though it is a bit of a simplification. It's enough to know that when celestial beings have strong feelings about an object, that object tends to take on some… interesting traits (cf. Crowley's Bentley, Aziraphale's bookshop) which in this case persists because it isn't the physical book Aziraphale is attached to; it's the story itself. [return to text]
 'Nowhere' being outside the bookshop, having forgotten all about their purchase, with the disconcerting feeling that they're running late for an appointment Somewhere Else.[return to text]