Two months after the world didn’t end
“What in the unholy fuck is going on?” Crowley shouted angrily. He’d been incomprehensibly snatched from Aziraphale’s cozy armchair and deposited gracelessly on a wooden floor.
His eyes acclimatised quickly to the darkness of the room. He stood up slowly, his curled, protective stance easing as no immediate danger threatened. As he straightened - and popped a hip out in casual comfort - his stomach calmed and his muscles relaxed from the violent tug that had pulled him through an unpleasant distance to be here. Had Hell pulled him back in for further questioning?
He noticed that the glass of wine he’d been drinking had come with him. He looked around, taking a sip of the remaining wine. The taste calmed him some, Aziraphale did pick a good vintage. He hoped vaguely that he wasn’t about to die.
He was in a reasonably large room, nothing impressive. There was a couch pushed up against the wall with a rug folded next to it. He looked down and saw the circle of chalk around him. This was not Hell, however this was still deeply inconvenient.
“It speaks English,” came a mutter from behind him. Crowley spun to see who was speaking. Some of the wine sloshed out and hit the ground, reminding him that he had no powers in a circle such as this.
A middle aged man nodded and responded to the young woman who’d spoken. “I heard it, yeah,” he whispered.
“Is that a summoning circle?” Crowley yelled, pointing at what was definitely a summoning circle on the ground. He hadn’t been summoned for a few hundred years, he could forgive himself for not recognising it sooner. He tipped his head back in furious exasperation.“Oh, Jesu- how come every good swear word is religious, huh?” He asked the two humans who continued to stare dumbfounded at him. “Maybe that's why he doesn't swear,” he muttered to himself, ignoring them. He had another drink.
He walked around the circle once, checking the uniformity of the line. It was thick and clean. He reached out to touch the air above the chalk.
The woman spoke up, hurried. “I wouldn't do that if I were-”
“Fuck!” Crowley shouted. The air had sparked with an electricity that behaved like a wall of fire. It hurt, it ran through his body, singeing all of him, lingering in pain. He dropped the wine. “Fiddlesticks!” He experimented, then cocked his head to the side, trying to ignore the pain that still hadn’t faded. “Fuck is better,” he concluded.
He turned back to the pair who’d summoned him. “Alright, what d’you want?” He snapped.
“Well-” the woman hesitated, glancing at the older man. “We really just wanted to see if this would work,” she said apologetically.
Crowley threw his arms open and snarled sarcastically. “Well, mission complete, well done, you fucked up my evening.” He threw his arms back beside him and glared at her through his glasses. “Let me go, then.”
Her eyes were wide, and although she leaned towards her companion, she didn’t break eye contact with him. His demonic powers might not work while he in this trap, but he was still magnetic.
“Let me go,” Crowley repeated.
“Are we sure he's a demon?” She muttered. Good, she liked him.
Crowley took his glasses off, confirming his species by showing them his eyes. She leaned towards him now.
“Let me go,” Crowley hissed, swaying lightly from side to side.
She lurched towards him, but her companion grabbed her arm and tugged her back in place in alarm. “It’ll hurt us,” he snapped.
Crowley rolled his eyes, letting the light hypnosis fade. “Ackh, I'm not going to hurt you!” He spat. “I was in the middle of a really nice night and I just want to get back to it!”
“It's lying,” The man whispered.
Crowley threw his hands up and kicked the glass of wine. It shattered against the force field. “I'm not lying! Just rub a little gap in the sigils and I’m good to go, just let me go,” he entreated.
“Oh,” The woman moaned, looking between Crowley and the man in concern and indecision.
What was the classic demon script, again? He’d skimmed it when Raum had sent everyone a copy, but that had been a few millennia ago. All about deals and trades, wasn't it? “What if we make a deal, huh?” Crowley asked, trying to see if they were interested. “Hmm? Demon deal, blood contract, gotta follow through?”
“I don't think…” The man said uncertainly.
“I can tell,” Crowley interrupted smugly. He addressed the woman. “If you release me I pinky promise not to hurt you ever, good?”
“Don't do it,” The man said desperately.
“Oh, fuck it,” Crowley hissed, turning his back on them.
He fished his phone out of his back pocket and found the book shop’s number. Aziraphale answered abnormally quickly.
“Angel, don't say my name,” Crowley said as soon as the receiver clicked, before Aziraphale could address him.
There was a pause. “How will I be able to confirm who I’m talking to then?” Aziraphale asked slowly.
“Are you kidding? Who else would this be?”
“Fine, are you coming back? Your tea's still warm,” he said with no small amount of exasperation.
“Ibans’mmed,” Crowley mangled in embarrassment.
“Excuse me?” Aziraphale said with a pointed politeness.
“I've been summoned!” Crowley shouted.
“You've been summoned!” Aziraphale repeated.
Crowley nodded a few times. “Yes,” he said when he remembered nods couldn’t be heard.
There was another pause, then a weak, “Oh dear,” came from the phone.
“Don't laugh at me,” Crowley snapped.
“I'm not laughing, do you hear me laughing?” Aziraphale said tightly.
“I can taste you laughing,” Crowley spat.
“I wouldn't laugh at you in a- in a predicament like this,” Aziraphale said through his laughter.
Crowley dropped his arms to his side again, taking the phone away from his ear. “He's a bastard,” he said angrily to the couch at the far end of the room. He brought the phone back to his ear with reluctance. “Well?” He asked.
Aziraphale took a further moment to respond. “Oh, you're only in Plymouth dear, I'll be there in a jiffy,” he finally said, then promptly hung up.
“Answer my question, demon!” The man yelled.
Crowley turned back around to them. They were both much closer to the edge of the circle. “Oh, I was not paying attention to you,” Crowley said smartly “What's your question?”
The man looked like he might explode with irritation. “Who was that on the phone?” He spat.
Crowley calmly wiped his lapel clean of spit. He smiled blandly at the two of them. “You'll find out,” he said in a sing song mockery.
“Maybe we should try the deal thing?” The woman suggested.
“Nah, I'm not interested,” Crowley said, “I'm getting rescued soon.”
A few more seconds passed before a loud whooshing was heard, then the room shivered happily. The door in the corner opened, bringing light and an angel into the room.
Aziraphale politely closed the door behind himself and nodded at the two strangers in greeting. He raised an eyebrow at the shattered wine glass at Crowley’s feet. “You have made quite a performance out of this, haven’t you, dear,” he said to Crowley.
“How is any of this my fault?” Crowley asked, more than a tad put out. “Help me out, would ya?” His heart stuttered a bit as he asked for help, he so rarely did, after all, he preferred to be the one helping. But things had been different, calmer, more vulnerable. What was this on that pile?
“Did they take your glasses?” Aziraphale asked as he walked around the circle, inspecting it.
“Nope, just showin’ off,” Crowley said, turning on the spot to keep facing him.
Aziraphale hummed thoughtfully, glancing from Crowley’s face to the chalk line.
“Why have you kept him?” Aziraphale asked as he reached the two (now highly intimidated) humans.
“Ahh,” the man groaned.
“Tell me,” Aziraphale said seriously. Crowley felt the air twang as Aziraphale forced a fairly obvious persuasion on the pair.
“We didn't think it would work, we didn't plan this far,” the woman said.
“Why not release him?”
“He's a demon,” the man said harshly, like that explained it all. Maybe it did.
Aziraphale hummed in consideration again, then turned quickly and walked straight for Crowley.
“Don't you dare,” the man snarled.
The next few things happened in very quick succession. The man started after Aziraphale, reaching out to him, his intention to get physical clear. Crowley moved instantly, mindlessly, hoping to reach Aziraphale first, to head the man off.
The man laid his hand on Aziraphale’s arm at the same moment as Crowley hit the chalk edge with quite a bit of momentum. Crowley froze, pain ripping through his body, crushing his every thought and feeling under its metaphorical boot. Crowley croaked, desperately pulling in air, it was torment. Aziraphale spun to face the human, but at the sound of Crowley’s pained gasp he stopped and looked back.
The man grabbed Aziraphale’s shoulders, making to pull him away. Aziraphale shone a brilliant white, his skin lighting up with radiance, and the man yelled, backing of like he’d been burned. Crowley took half a step back from the chalk line, catching his breath as the pain began to hint at fading from his body.
“Are you- ?” Aziraphale whispered, looking at Crowley seriously, with pity and a pain of his own in his eyes. Crowley nodded, even though he wasn’t okay.
The young woman reached out for the man and he yelled at her touch, the sound turning quickly into a miserable whimper.
“I would apologise, dear boy, but I'm afraid that was your own doing,” Aziraphale said condescendingly over his shoulder without taking his eyes off Crowley’s bent form.
“Are you okay?” Crowley gasped. The fire had passed now, he didn’t feel like he was alight anymore. He did still feel like he’d stuck his finger in a toaster and things had gone badly, but it wasn’t unbearable.
“Of course,” Aziraphale said quietly. “Are you badly hurt?”
Crowley shook his head. “It’s easing off,” he said. He stood, able to stand straight again.
They stood directly before each other, closer than they likely would have if the chalk wall wasn’t between them, offering them a distance in this closeness. Aziraphale’s eyes flickered all over Crowley’s face, lingering on his eyes, his mouth, his throat. Crowley had no idea what expression was on his face, pain or longing. He hoped it was neutral.
“I’m sorry, I should've dealt with this mys-’ Crowley started to say.
“Don't be ridiculous, Cr- dear,” Aziraphale said, catching himself before he let slip Crowley’s name. “If you’re sure you’re okay I’ll just find myself a rag to wipe this chalk away, unfortunately I didn't think to bring one.”
Crowley nodded and waved him off. Aziraphale left and began poking around the room.
Crowley took a few deep breaths. It had been stupid, foolhardy to run at the edge of the circle. He couldn’t help Aziraphale no matter what he did here, he’d been lucky that Aziraphale had taken care of himself so well, Crowley wouldn’t have forgiven himself if it had gone poorly.
The pain passed, he calmed as the sparks of sharp electricity waned. The pair in the corner seemed taken up by the sunburn covering the man’s skin and didn’t seem like they were going to get involved again. Aziraphale strolled about the room, occasionally looking behind tables and chairs for a cloth, but he kept pausing and glancing back at Crowley, more often than he ought to, more often than he usually would. After a minute Crowley began to suspect that it was interfering with his search he was looking at Crowley so much.
“What’re you looking at?” Crowley eventually asked.
“Nothing,” Aziraphale said quickly, his cheeks turning a quick red.
Crowley scratched the back of his neck self consciously. He didn’t feel skin. His scales were out, that was what Aziraphale had noticed. He groaned and turned away from the angel, popping his jacket collar up to hide his demonic traits.
It occurred to him that if his scales were rising unbidden, his eyes were likely full yellow, as opposed to just his irises. He picked his sunglasses up off the ground and looked at himself in the reflection. Yep. He put them on.
“Ah, this'll do!” Aziraphale exclaimed, pulling a doily off the couch’s arm.
“We're sorry!” The woman cried out as Aziraphale returned to the chalk edge.
“You should be,” Crowley hissed. “I'm gonna curse the bejeezus out of- is that a religious one too?” He said, interrupting himself to ask Aziraphale.
“What?” Aziraphale asked mildly.
“Bejeezus?” Crowley asked.
Aziraphale knelt on the edge of the chalk and began wiping it away. “I’m sure I don't know,” he said.
“Anyway,” Crowley said, tearing his eyes from Aziraphale’s kneeling form. Not something he saw often, and more than a little entrapping. “Ya gonna be cursed,” he said to the woman and her near unconscious companion.
“Come now, they didn't mean any harm,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley turned back to him, happy to latch onto any feeling that wasn’t overwhelming gratitude and desire. “But they- !” He said, outraged, stepping closer to Aziraphale.
They were close again, closer than they would’ve been if the line of chalk weren’t still there. Aziraphale looked up and frowned, his eyebrows coming together to plead. Crowley felt dizzy. Aziraphale on his knees at Crowley’s feet, gazing up, pleading. Well, that’d do something to the strongest of men and Crowley was not strong.
“The- the tea'll be cold by now,” Crowley pointed out weakly, as if something as small as that would invoke Aziraphale’s wrath.
Aziraphale finished wiping the chalk line and looked up at Crowley fondly. The barrier shone for a beat, then fell, taking Crowley’s breath with it. They were so close. Aziraphale stood up, the air from his movement brushing Crowley’s skin. “I'll brew a fresh batch,” he said.
Crowley shook his head. “I'll brew it, this is my fault,” he said breathlessly.
Aziraphale put his hand on Crowley’s upper arm, leading him out of the circle. “It's not, dear,” he said softly. Crowley gazed at him, silent and in love.
A few seconds passed before Aziraphale rubbed his arm fondly with his thumb. Crowley snapped out of his reverie and cleared his throat, stepping away from Aziraphale. He didn’t feel like cursing them anymore, but he really ought to.
Crowley waved his hand vaguely at the pair in the corner. “May all your children be left handed,” he cursed. Not a bad thing in today’s society, but they’d have trouble avoiding smudging an essay.
“Oh,” Aziraphale sighed, rolling his eyes. He leaned around Crowley to face the pair. “I apologise. Um, aloe vera will help ease his burn.”
Crowley threw his wings out. “C'mon,” he snapped at Aziraphale.
Aziraphale smiled at him and did the same, taking off first.