The man was tall, dark and handsome alright. He was also holding himself together like a captain clinging onto the last floating splinter of his wrecked ship, sinking down, and with it, his pride. There was always a last storm that finally broke everything down. It looked like the man swaying drunkenly before him had entered his.
“Hold that thought, darling”, he smiled at Brian, “One second.”
“He’s found his next friend already, and we’ve hardly entered the bloody bar”, Roger said, nudging Brian with playful skepticism.
“Hush, he looks sad and drunk and the conversation was getting boring.”
“Right, I’ll shut up then, thanks”, muttered Brian, “Hey mate, don’t get too distracted, will you? We have to pack up, still. We said a quick drink-”
“-And out, yes, mother dear.”
Freddie winked at him and slipped away, sidling towards the brooding stranger. He took a seat next to him, studying him curiously.
The man twisted his head sharply towards him, pushing his sunglasses up his nose with an open palm. Sunglasses in a dark bar. He could appreciate the aesthetic.
“Wha- Oh. Bloody He- Freddie Mercury. Hello.”
His voice sounded beyond broken and Freddie smiled kindly at him.
“That’s me. And who would you be?”
“I- hk- I would be Anthony Crowley. Hello.”
He laughed, patting his suit clad shoulder, “Yes, hello, Mr Crowley. Can I buy you a drink?”
“Can I- huh? Oh, I was going to- to ask that, uh-”
“Alright”, he grinned, teeth glinting in the artificial shine of a thousand bloody stars. The electric bill must be painful to look at, “Yes, you can buy me a drink. If you tell me what’s got you all hammered and depressed in my bar.”
It wasn’t his bar. He’d hardly ever been there before. But any place where he was recognized seemed to be immediately handed to him, and that happened to be all of them.
“Er… A drunk confessionary with Freddie fucking Mercury, hm? Y- Er. Yeah, ‘aight, get me a drink first.”
“Alright, I’m inviting you know, then, apparently”, he said, amused, and signaled to the bartender, “So what is it, darling?”
“I see”, his eyes twinkled.
“Ye- Oh, bugger. Bloody love problems, innit?”
“Is it?” Freddie slid the glass into the man’s shaky hands. He welcomed the dewy coolness of his own, swishing molten amber slowly around, ice clinking and glinting.
“I suppose is it- it is. And all that.”
“All that what?”
“All that blue eyed, golden -halo, what’s it- rosy cheeked, bloody cherub”, he spat, drunkenly, “Looking all perfect and shining like- beyond- more bright than the bloody stars I hung in the sky. And all that bollocks”, he took a long hungry gulp from his glass, and Freddie hummed, encouragingly confused.
“An’, an’, sometimes? When I look up at the- y’know, the- the sky? I think, I must’ve hung them up there just for him. All that time ago. For when he looks an’ points an’ bloody cooes. Like, like, ‘Well done on that one, Crowley, dear, look how beautiful’”, he sighed out in a higher pitch, putting on a posh Londoner accent, “Eugh.” He drained his glass and signaled for another.
“Oh darling, that’s poetry.”
“He’s bloody poetry”, he snarled, and Freddie chuckled, charmed. He may be talking about another man, but the way he talked about love made his stomach churn in delight. He hoped, for the Universe’s sake, that the man might be a songwriter.
“Fred!” John jogged up to them through the crowd. He paused to nod his head towards Crowley with a sheepish “Alright, mate?” and tugged at Freddie’s elbow, “Sorry, got a call just now. We gotta go.”
“Aw, so soon? What for?”
“Press heard, is going to go siege the van, basically. We should get there early to put everything in”, he grimaced apologetically, “Sorry.”
Freddie sighed, leaning back and closing his eyes tiredly, “Alright darling, head out, I’m behind you.”
“Right behind you”, he smiled, already taking out a card from his wallet and rummaging for a pen in his jacket pocket.
“Okay, just hurry.”
“I will, dear. My band members are my collective mothers, I tell you”, he added in Crowley’s direction, who had stayed frozen in contemplation since John’s appearance. John himself patted Freddie’s elbow once, nodded awkwardly at Crowley and skidded off into the crowd once more.
Freddie slid the card towards him.
“H- Wha’? Wassis?”
He chuckled, “A phone number, darling.”
“Your phone number?”
“It looks like it.”
“Oh. What- er- what do I do with this, then?”
“Normally, call me, if you like.”
“You shouldn’t, uh, just give this to- to a stranger, y’know? If- if you’re gonna be famous, an’- and all.”
“I don’t need another mother, darling, I already have three. Four if we’re counting the one who birthed me.”
“Y- sure. Er, thanks.”
“No problem. Call if you need a friend to tell your boy problems to and spill some drinks over my couch.”
“Okay. Uh. ‘Kay.”
It was looking like it was going to be a long night, and he was alone. He didn’t have to be, he was Freddie Mercury, of course he didn’t bloody have to be. He didn’t really want to be either. But he felt like he sort of deserved to be overwhelmed with solitude right now. Some nights were just like that. And he wasn’t taking anything, not tonight. Being alone meant being alone in his head too. He sat on his bed and picked up his cat, cradling her, murmuring sweet sad nothings against her whiskers.
And then the phone rang. He sighed, rolling over, the cat mewling softly in indignation at the sudden loss of attention.
“Uh. Hi. Freddie? Uh, Mercury?”
“That’s me. And who is this?”
“Right, right- Anthony Crowley. You gave me this number.”
“Anthony-- Right! The sad lovesick poet from that bar a few weeks ago?”
“How are you, darling?”
“Good. Er. I was calling- I was just wondering, if you still were up for spilling drinks over your couch.”
“That’s- you said-”
“Yes, yes, of course, dear. Come over, we’ll get utterly wonderfully drunk!”
And so started a friendship, of alcohol and amused philosophy, playful flirting, scandalising gossip they both silently doubted the veracity of and deep, strange conversations. Crowley only spoke in complicated biblical metaphors he didn’t really care for when he reached a certain point of drunkness. He was introduced to this character who he was positively smitten with, his angel, by a plethora of odd anecdotes which were certainly lies or at the very least embellishments from Crowley’s poetic tongue, to which he still listened patiently, enraptured. Freddie found a drinking partner he could talk to for hours without feeling undeserving or alone or, Heaven forbid, bored; and, for the first time in over a century, a demon allowed himself to have a friend.
“Crowley, darling, what’s wrong?”
Crowley walked by him silently, dropping onto the couch. Freddie followed, accepting the limply offered bottle and putting it to a side on the coffee table. He sat down close to him and Crowley groaned, dropping his head onto his shoulder. He wrapped an arm around him and gently combed his fiery crimson hair away from his own face, ignoring how his glasses dug into his neck. Crowley had said it was a medical thing, light sensitivity and whatnot, and he wasn’t about to ask him to take them off so he could hug him.
“What is it, love?”
“Ah. Bloody angel”, he smiled, squeezing him into a hug, “What did the bastard do this time?”
“Oi”, he mumbled, against his shirt before pulling away to lean against the sofa, “He’s hardly a bastard.”
“A little bit.”
Crowley smiled reluctantly at that. He had the strangest array of very specific smiles. This was his I’m frustrated and sad but we’re talking about what a little shit the love of my life is and that’s fine smile.
“He is, a bit.”
“So what’d he do?”
“Alright, interesting. Pray tell.”
“He said- He says, ugh, lovely things. The sweetest things, sometimes. But it’s always in future tense. And- and I can wait. But- but it’s like he’s fine with it, with waiting, for so bloody long, and I don’t see that future getting any closer. And I just want to- to do things with him.”
“Oh?” He wiggled his eyebrows.
“No- Just, normal things, every day things.”
“Could be every day.”
“Still not what I meant”, he grumbled, ears flushing slightly.
“What do you mean? Get him chocolates, flowers?”
“I’ve already done that, Freddie. Been doing that for the past six centuries, give or take. Nought.”
“I don’t know. Dance with him”, Freddie awwed, “Take him to dinner. Properly. Write him letters. Read his”, he rolled his eyes fondly; sometimes he really seemed to be from another century, the old man, “J- Talk to him, but without being scared of saying the wrong thing and sending him flying off again. Do what we do now. But just, y’know”, Crowley shuddered in disgust, “Romance.” He sighed, rubbed his eyes under his glasses, “I’m tired. We’re stuck in an everlasting hypothetical.”
Freddie hummed appreciatively at that, “Nice wording- Oh.”
His face split open in a megawatt grin. Crowley grimaced, eyeing him suspiciously.
“Ah, Hell’s sake. What.”
“Write your angel a song, darling.”
“Wh- No! I don’t sing.”
“You do, and a lovely voice you have. But never mind that, I’ll sing it for you.”
“Put that lovely tongue of yours to good use, for once.”
“I already do”, he grinned.
“I don’t doubt it. For something productive, darling. You already speak like a poet, so write like one; and if it’s any good, I’ll give you some music to go with it. A voice, if you’re too much of a coward, which is what you are.”
“I’m not a coward, I just know my talents.”
“Right. So write, loverboy.”
Crowley stared at him apprehensively for a long moment; then sighed, taking out pen and paper from God knows where. Freddie laughed delightedly and unscrewed the bottle.
Many decades after, Crowley was distracted. He’d always been careful to listen for the traitorous tune when he was in company such as he was now, and cautiously miracled whatever tape was playing to jump to the next track. Not today, however. Today he was tired, and thinking about how the world could’ve ended a week ago but didn’t, and distracted.
Distracted by the afternoon sun weaving halos into snowy white hair and spilling like molten gold into sleepy blue eyes in his rearview mirror.
I can dim the lights and sing you songs full of sad things
We can do the tango just for two
“Oh! I haven’t heard this one before, I don’t think!”
I can serenade and gently play on your heart strings, crooned Freddie, a knowing tinkle in his voice just for Crowley. A Crowley who was sitting very very still and very very quiet. He couldn’t change it now. That would be weird. For Aziraphale, it was just another song. The oblivious idiot. It was fine.
Be your Valentino just for you
“My dear, listen to those lyrics. How lovely. Have you heard this one before? Crowley?”
Ooh love ooh loverboy
What're you doin' tonight, hey boy
“ ‘Course I bloody have”, he cleared his throat, “It’s Queen.”
“I know, I recognize your dear friend’s voice; it’s just, I’ve never heard it before. I wonder why.”
“Ngh. Dunno. The Bentley. Does, uh, y’know. Its own thing”, he waved a hand loosely before gripping the steering wheel again, white knuckled.
Set my alarm, turn on my charm
That's because I'm a good old-fashioned lover boy
Freddie had called him that once. Crowley had positively cackled. Old fashioned. Sure, in a way. Good. Not quite. Lover boy. How delightfully patronising. Six thousand year old lover boy. And charm? He certainly had it. He seemed to lose it the second he needed it, though, he thought bitterly, glancing at Aziraphale. The angel’s attention seemed to be zeroed in on the radio, however, humming along gamely as if he knew the tune.
Ooh let me feel your heartbeat (grow faster, faster)
Ooh ooh can you feel my love heat, ooh
Aziraphale’s eyebrows shot up in scandalised amusement and he turned his head towards Crowley, with the universal is this about sex look.
Come on and sit on my hot-seat of love
Crowley coughed, purposefully tearing his eyes away from Aziraphale’s face. He’d told him not to put that part in a thousand times. That was embarrassing. Waking up hungover, tangled up with Freddie Mercury and two cats on the living room floor, empty bottle cocooned between them and scribbled paper balled up in his hand, had been fun in a painfully human type of way. Reading the lyrics back had been torture of the finest kind, and he thanked Freddie for not putting in some of the lines he’d mercilessly laughed at.
And tell me how do you feel right after-all
I'd like for you and I to go romancing
“Oh”, the angel breathed out softly, a hand flying to his chest. Oh? What could, in this context, oh possibly mean!?, “I love that phrase. It’s not used enough, nowadays.”
“Go roma- ye- figures. How original, angel. Individualism, shining through.”
Say the word, your wish is my command
Crowley coughed again. Freddie had liked that; said it was romantic, instead of pathetic, which is what it was.
Ooh love ooh loverboy
What're you doin' tonight, hey boy
Write my letter
Feel much better
Freddie had had this wonderful idea, as he usually did, that Crowley had adamantly refused to admit to liking. Writing letters to Aziraphale whenever he was bursting to say something, resolve painfully tearing at the seams, as some sort of diary confessional thing; obviously, to never be sent or read by anyone again. He supposed saying ‘feel much better’ was some sort of admittance. He couldn’t remember who had written that particular verse, but it was certainly Freddie who’d kept it in, the sneaky bastard. He missed him. He really, really did.
And use my fancy patter on the telephone
He wasn’t fancy. He didn’t patter. Maybe this was from Aziraphale’s point of view (hopeful, hypothetical, story telling). Freddie seemed to find enormous enjoyment in listening in to their sparse phone conversations when he happened to be around to witness them. Make fun of his plastered on cool demeanour, chide him for not inviting him over. It really was embarrassing.
When I'm not with you
I think of you always
He had to look. Even if the angel would never think this was about them, from him, he still needed to see… if. He looked. Aziraphale´s face was distant, lost in thought or peaceful contemplation, looking doe eyed at the whirring tape. His skin was lightly flushed from the sun, the incoming sunset carving dulcet marine shadows into him, all soft marvel and apricot and golden dust.
(I miss those long hot summer nights) I miss you
Crowley swallowed, found that it suddenly wasn’t an easy task. I miss you. Missed you.
When I'm not with you
Think of me always
Did he ever? God, Someone, he hoped so. Prayed so. Think of me. Miss me too, just a little.
Love you, love you
Well, he’d said it. Finally. It wasn’t his voice exactly, and the recipient wasn’t aware that it was for him, but he’d said it now. That was somewhat over with. It really was hard to swallow. It was getting hard to breathe, too. It was getting hard to remember he didn’t have to.
Hey boy where do you get it from?
Hey boy where did you go?
I learned my passion in the good old fashioned school of loverboys
Tsk. Bloody Freddie. He loved the bastard.
Dining at the Ritz, we'll meet at nine precisely
(One two three four five six seven eight nine o' clock)
Always at nine. Precisely. And please don’t be late again, dear boy, I really do get anxious.
“Oh!” Aziraphale laughed excitedly, apparently seeing a parallel in this line and not anywhere else, “The Ritz, at nine! Oh, we simply must go, after this.”
I will pay the bill, you taste the wine
“Ha! Like you and I, dear. Well, you end up drinking more than me, most times, don’t you? I’d say so.”
Was he crying? He might be crying right now. He blinked. He was. I’m fucked.
Driving back in style, in my saloon will do quite nicely
“Driving- huh. Oh my”, he looked thoughtful. Catching on, then, are you, angel? So smart. You’re so smart, you bloody fool.
Just take me back to yours that will be fine (come on and get it)
Well, that line certainly held a new meaning. Now, After. After the Armageddon that Didn't Quite Get There. After Aziraphale had come back to his place. After they’d spent almost every night since at his flat or in the bookshop’s backroom. Till now, the verse had been only a hope, a maybe, an I’d very much like that, one day. Now, the sudden reality hit him like an electrical shock, from his fingertips, to his chest, to his stomach, back up his throat, and coming to a stop in his eyes. A sob pushed its way out of his tightly shut lips and, curse it damn it damn it all, Aziraphale gasped and turned to look at him.
Ooh love, (there he goes again just like a good old-fashioned lover boy)
“Crowley, dear, you’re crying! Whatever’s the matter?”
“Crowley. Dearest. Did I upset you? Is it… is it this song?”
“Mgk. No. Er.”
“Oh, does it remind you of dear Mr Mercury? Is that why you’ve never allowed it to play before now?”
“Um. Nh. S’not that.”
What're you doin' tonight, hey boy
“Is it…” He took a deep breath. He took another, and reached out a hand, placing it over one of Crowley’s. A simple gesture that took any remaining breath out of Crowley’s lungs, all of it bursting out in a silent gasp and a shudder. So soft, so warm, “Forgive me, please, if I am wrong, if I misread certain things. I’m afraid I might have a habit of making things about me. Whenever they’re also somehow about you.”
Everything's all right
“My dear Crowley, is… this song… that your very best friend wrote during your time together… perhaps, about us? I beg you to forgive me if it is not, I’d hate to be appropriating a sensitive private memory and making it about myself.”
“Er.” He couldn’t do this. Too fast too fast too fucking fast-
Just hold on tight
Aziraphale grasped at his hand like a lifeline, pulling until Crowley slowly turned it over, palm to palm, nestled in his lap. The angel wasted no time intertwining their fingers. With his other hand, he carefully leaned over to wipe away at the waterfall smudging his face. What was happening? Was it happening? Now? Over this? Now? He was still bloody driving through the bloody English countryside, and the love of his life was, maybe, confessing to him over a bloody song he wrote forty bloody years ago, drunk, with Freddie fucking Mercury.
“Crowley? Please just tell me, dear -don't allow me to embarrass myself further-, is it?”
That's because I'm a good old-fashioned fashioned lover boy
“What- what if it was. About us. And I wrote it.”
The final notes weaved through the air and into his angel’s curls, to mingle with the setting sun nestled there. He smiled a smile that tasted like the first spoonful of strawberries and cream after the winter.
“Then, my dearest, my darling, my love, I’d very much like to listen to it again.”