Crowley had had a hard morning's tempting and really felt he owed it to himself to indulge in a little sloth and perhaps an early lunch. Maybe even to start with dessert first, just to get the gluttony out of the way. He spun the wheel and turned into Piccadilly Circus, scattering tourists and native pedestrians alike, all foolish enough to believe that red lights might apply to his car. He screeched to a halt, parked on a courier's bike and hopped out of the car and into Cinnabon, snaking his way around homesick Americans to appear cheerfully at the counter ahead of everyone.
"I'll have a box of four of the classic buns, please," he said. "And, hmm, give me a random dozen of the little ones too, whatever's the most tooth-rottingly sweet." Aziraphale would wet himself with glee.
Just to increase the general feelings of irritation in the area at his queue-jumping, he paid with a pocketful of loose change he quickly materialized, painstakingly counting it out 10p by 10p. Then he gave all his fellow customers a sunny smile, assured them that he just loved Canada, and strolled outside with his sweet, gooey prizes.
He was a couple of steps from the car when he felt something happen. Occult? Ethereal? Humans playing with forces beyond their bloody mortal ken? He stepped off the kerb into a suddenly traffic-free patch of road to get a better view, and heard the metallic noise quite clearly. He wasted whole seconds checking he wasn't about to be mown down by a bus and when he turned back the statue of Eros had already sunk to one knee, fitted an arrow to its bow and drawn a bead on him.
"What –" Crowley said, and was flung backwards by the force of an arrow through the heart. "Ack," he continued, lying on the tarmac, his elbow on his cakes. What an embarrassing way to go, shot by a Greek god. Shot by an overly romantic statue of a Greek god to boot. Even worse, he wasn't dead yet, and he wasn't concentrating on his surroundings. He might die by having a smart car run over his head. The indignity was too much to bear, so he got up again and sniffed haughtily at the driver who found herself suddenly veering to avoid him. Eros was back in much his original position on top of his fountain, although he wasn't facing the right way and the feathery little shit was smirking.
"What's this about, then?" Crowley shouted, looking down at the arrow in his chest and back up again. "Come down here and face me like a – whatever."
"Get off the road, mate!" someone yelled. "Have your fucking psychotic break somewhere else!"
He turned to give the eavesdropper a piece of his mind and as he did so felt what he would like to have categorised as a sense of foreboding. A warning sign, perhaps. Maybe just a general feeling of impending doom. All of those were perfectly respectable feelings for demons to have, after all. Instead he felt his heart give – a little skip. That couldn't be good. He didn't usually think about his heart; he assumed it did what hearts normally do, whatever that was, but skipping was a new experience, and he wasn't sure he liked it. It did it again. He was feeling quite warm, and even though it wasn't spring he found his fancy lightly turning to thoughts of –
"Shit," he said viciously.
With all his treacherous, skipping heart he knew it would be a very, very bad idea to look anyone in the face, so he stumbled back to the Bentley, eyes firmly on his own feet, and flung himself in. His heart was now racing and he thought he might start singing at any moment. Why did humans write so many songs about love? he wondered feverishly. And why did he seem to know so many of them?
Someone knocked at his side window. He kept his eyes on the steering wheel.
"Are you OK?"
"Yeah," he said. "Yeah. Thanks."
Silence. Go away. Go away.
"Are you sure? Did you hit your head when you fell?"
"I'm OK. It's just – stress. A bit of stress. That's all."
" – OK. Take care."
He felt the person step away as he put the car in gear, and he pulled out into traffic. People took their lives in their hands crossing the roads everywhere he looked and he was bound to make eye contact sooner or later. He took his hands from the wheel and ground the heels of his hands into his eyes under his glasses.
"Just get me back in one piece," he said, and the Bentley shot off with him curled in the driver's seat, head down and eyes covered.
From all the screeching brakes and screaming pedestrians it seemed to be a more exciting journey than usual.
The car stopped with a gentle sound of rubber touching the kerb, and Crowley got out and risked a quick look around. Bloody hell, he wasn't in Mayfair. On the other hand, maybe the angel could help.
"Good car," he said, and stroked the bonnet, before retrieving the squashed cinnamon buns. Then he dashed into Aziraphale's shop and skidded to a stop at the counter.
"Aziraphale? Aziraphale, I've been shot!"
A chorus of What? came from various points.
"Don't tell me you've got customers! Do something!"
"Shh! You're being dramatic!" What he assumed was Aziraphale's hand was on his arm, pulling him out of the centre of the shop and away to what smelled like the back room. It seemed unlikely it was anyone else, unless general London manners had changed significantly between Piccadilly and Soho. "You look all right to me – are your eyes shut? Why are your eyes shut?"
"Get rid of the customers," Crowley hissed. Aziraphale patted his arm and went away.
He heard Aziraphale wittering on about how his friend wasn't feeling well, and he was closing for lunch and the familiar sounds of angel versus customer tussling over a paperback. Finally there was the sound of the door closing and the bolt sliding home.
"Now, what is going on?" Aziraphale said.
"I was buying some buns in Cinnabon – here you go, but they're squashed, I fell on them – "
" – Oooh, thank you!"
" – and the bloody statue of Eros bloody came to life and bloody well shot me! Through the heart! With a sodding arrow! It's still there!"
"I hate to state the obvious, but no, it's not."
Crowley did something he had to later admit was rather foolish. He opened his eyes, looked down at the perfectly visible arrow and back up to ask if all that reading had made the angel short-sighted. His skipping heart didn't skip. It somersaulted. Something inside him rang like a clear-toned bell. He felt oddly hollow, and light, and weirdly happy and horrifically embarrassed and wondered why he had never really appreciated before then just how perfect in every single way Aziraphale was. The arrow fizzed and melted right into him.
"Urk," Crowley said, losing himself in the marvel of Aziraphale's gaze. "Kill me now."
"Don't be so silly. Let's see this so-called arrow wound. Come on."
Crowley found his brain seemed to have stopped working. He wasn't really sure why; after all, they'd both been around for an awfully long time and had endured an awful lot of awful fashions that had revealed varying amounts of skin. He literally had nothing that Aziraphale hadn't seen before, so it was ridiculous that the thought of taking off his shirt right now was making him light-headed. His hands seemed to be ahead of his brain, however, as he found he had flung his jacket on the floor and was down to the last few buttons on the shirt.
"You've got the full use of your arms, it seems," Aziraphale said, patting the sofa beside himself. "Sit. Now, let's see – you may feel a slight pinch –" He laid a hand flat over Crowley's heart and the other on his back opposite it.
Crowley bit his lip as he felt a rivulet of cool energy run straight through him. It didn't hurt, though he thought that might be because he wasn't human. Defibrillators probably weren't meant to be as wonderful, he thought and groaned. He was in so much trouble.
"Sorry! Too much?"
"No, no. Keep it up." Oh God, he thought. Nice choice of words.
"I can't find a wound," Aziraphale said, "but your heart is absolutely racing. And it's getting faster. That's not good for your material body, Crowley. Slow it down."
"I can't," Crowley said. "You do it. Rummage around inside me some more, look for magical wounds." The cool feeling intensified and his heartbeat slowed to a more comfortable level. My heart's in his hands, he thought giddily, and it picked up again, to Aziraphale's evident surprise.
"Aziraphale," he said, feeling as if he stood at the edge of an infinitely high cliff, "I'm in love with you."
"No, you're not."
"Eros. That Aegean psycho shot me with one of his arrows! And you're the first person I saw afterwards."
"Psyche," Aziraphale corrected.
"Never mind. I don't think we really need to worry about the Greek gods showing up in London, do you?"
"Everyone else does, sooner or later. Look, Greek gods, Romans, your people, mine, human wizards - whoever is behind it has cast a love spell on me, all right? And you're the other half of it, sorry."
"We'll sort it out," Aziraphale said. "But it can't be Eros because –"
It was too much. He was sitting right beside Aziraphale, and the angel still had his hands on Crowley's skin which was driving him mad, and some nonsense was coming out of Aziraphale's mouth but the important thing was that if Crowley leaned forwards just a little –
"Good Lord!" Aziraphale said, shoving himself back. "You kissed my nose!"
"Yes, sorry," Crowley said. "You just looked so earnest and adorable. And I thought you might prefer it to just going straight to full-on frenching."
Aziraphale looked at him. He looked at Aziraphale and edged a little closer.
"You're right. It doesn't matter who did it, this needs to be fixed," Aziraphale said, his eyes very round. "Maybe you should put your clothes back on."
"Maybe you should put your hands back on," Crowley said. He grabbed Aziraphale's knee before an escape could be attempted. "I'm asking nicely! I'm not being weird! Shit, I'm being so blessed weird, and I know you're a bit – did you know your eyes are a sort of no-colour colour? It's quite lovely."
"Grey," Aziraphale said. "It's an actual colour, you know – please stop rubbing my thigh, it's very, er, not your usual behavior."
"OK," Crowley said, watching in fascination as his hand absolutely refused to obey him and retreat kneewards, but instead continued its upwards creep. "Any moment now." He beamed as Aziraphale sighed and picked his errant hand up; he mightn't be touching the angel's leg any longer but now they were holding hands, which seemed like something Aziraphale would probably be on board with. It seemed like the perfect time to ask a subtle question.
"How do you feel about a good shag?" he said. He gathered from Aziraphale's expression that this was a not totally unexpected question under the circumstances, but not one that was going to be answered in any way he'd like. "You can be on top," he said, "that's just fine with me. I mean, that'd be just wonderful; you're just wonderful. Or I can, if that's more your thing? You would absolutely have a good time. Promise."
"You're not yourself," Aziraphale said. "You know that. You do know that, don't you?"
He sounded so worried, the poor, dear, beautiful - enemy agent, Crowley forced himself to think. Horrible, drippy, good Heavenly –
"Help me," he gasped. "Aziraphale –"
"Yes, of course," Aziraphale said. "You just try to keep a clear head, my dear." He patted Crowley's cheek.
It was no good. Crowley felt himself melt at the touch and endearment. It didn't matter that he'd been called dear thousands of times, often to underline just how annoyed Aziraphale was with him; he leaned into Aziraphale's hand and stared moonily into his eyes, thinking how wonderful he was and how much he wanted to get him naked.
"Oh, bollocks," Aziraphale muttered. "No!" he added sharply as Crowley slithered forwards and tried to pin him down on the sofa. "Absolutely not," he said in a muffled voice as he was wrestled down amidst the cushions.
"Please," Crowley said. "I'll turn into a girl, a snake, any farmyard animal you like, I'll recite poetry –" He tried the effects of demonstrating a proper forked tongue kiss.
"My dear boy," Aziraphale said, coughing a little when he was given some breathing room again, "Please control yourself. We are not having sex like this."
"No? How do you want it?"
"Oh, for –"
He was stronger than he looked, Crowley thought, as he was pushed off.
"I don't know what I've done that makes you think I'd take advantage of a friend who's been bewitched," Aziraphale said, clearly trying not to sound annoyed, and mostly failing.
Crowley was torn between anguish that he had caused hurt to his beloved and relief that one of them was thinking clearly. Mostly he was bathed in horrific embarrassment that he'd kissed Aziraphale and then groped him rather thoroughly. He wondered if he'd get a chance to do either again.
"I should go," he said in a sad little voice, heaving himself upright.
"Oh, don't be ridiculous. Just stop feeling me up and try to remember you aren't really a trembling lovesick maiden. Or lovesick sex maniac."
"OK," Crowley said. He stared at the floor. He could concentrate better if he wasn't actually looking at the angel. "The effects just seem to be building up and up – maybe I should go. I think I'm going to explode. I could go home, calm myself down and come back."
"Have a nice long cold shower, you mean?"
"Oh dear. Poor you – just try to tell yourself it's all false and I'm not really anything to get worked up over. You'll feel better."
Crowley looked up ruefully to check if Aziraphale still looked perfect. He did. Better than ever, really. His heart was back to racing uncomfortably fast and he was very, very aware of every inch of his body.
"I hope this never happens to you because it really doesn't feel false," he said. "Can you slow my heart down again?"
With Aziraphale standing close to him, a hand over his heart, he had to close his eyes. It was really agony, feeling a warm hand pressing lightly on his chest and cool power coiling gently around his internal organs and trying not to think of other internal bits and pieces and – he opened his eyes again.
"I don't suppose I could persuade you to put a hand down my pants?"
"Your heart rate is increasing," Aziraphale said, as if he hadn't spoken.
"Because that would be incredible."
"Try to keep calm."
"I'd be really calm afterwards."
Crowley's heart rate suddenly went from highly excited racehorse to slightly comatose tortoise. He felt decidedly light-headed and staggered, collapsing against Aziraphale, which made his heart rate – and nether regions – perk up again.
"Oh, for Heaven's sake," Aziraphale said, and dumped him back on the sofa. "Just sit there." He scrubbed a hand through his hair, disarranging it and making himself look more adorable than ever. "I'm going to need to do some research."
"Sexy research?" Crowley said hopefully, springing up again. "Let me be your assistant –"
"Back off," Aziraphale said, who seemed to think Get thee behind me might be taken for a come on. "Remind yourself that you are an ancient and dignified being."
"You're so beautiful," Crowley said, as what was left of his rational mind just threw its hands up and hid. "I know for a fact you're not a shrinking virgin, so how about it? I can appreciate you so much more than some human can." He paused. "Unless you've been cheating on me with another demon?"
"We're not an item, Crowley. There's no cheating, and no, there's no other demon. . . . Don't put your hands there."
"Sorry," Crowley said, shifting his hands north again. "You're just so enticing and beguiling. Can't we go to bed? Or sofa? Or carpet? I don't know why I didn't see it before. We're meant to be – I may start singing something embarrassing very soon unless you kiss me."
"Don't sing," Aziraphale said, beginning to sound amused rather than annoyed. "Will you behave yourself afterwards if I do this favour?"
"Absolutely," Crowley lied.
"Then kiss me, you fool," Aziraphale said.
"It's what they say in the moving pictures."
"Maybe when sound first came in – why am I arguing? – " He wrapped himself around Aziraphale and held him still for the kiss. It was much better when he wasn't wasting energy on trying to keep him from fighting free. Don't get too weird, he told himself, don't scare him off, and then Aziraphale put a hand on the back of his head and slid his tongue into Crowley's mouth. Crowley decided he could be as weird as he wanted and wound his tongue around Aziraphale's, twice. The angel made a peculiar noise that Crowley felt he should make again immediately. After another moment Aziraphale pushed back.
"Um," he said. "Oh."
"Yeah. Come here –"
"Hold on, hold on. This spell or whatever it is seems a bit – contagious."
"Oh, good -"
"No, you idiot. What if it's designed that way? What if it's meant to catch both of us? If someone wants us both indisposed? Take a breath, Crowley. One of us needs to keep a clear head."
Crowley turned his back in utter frustration and drove quickly manifested claws into his own legs where Aziraphale couldn't see. Ow. OK. That helped him think about something other than how lovely Aziraphale's mouth had tasted – his mind immediately filled with no other thought.
"I think I really would have a clearer head if we could just have sex," he said, healing himself. He felt stupid and hopeful and maybe, just maybe Aziraphale would say yes and surely he would, just to be a pal if for nothing else. "You know, get it out of my system."
"Or cement it firmly in your system. And get it into mine."
"That would be the idea – sorry." Aziraphale was looking adorably worried for him, or for his own ethereal non-chastity, and Crowley's heart decided that skipping was the proper response to such a sight. It was so blessedly undignified and delightful, was what it was. He wanted to tear something to shreds while whistling happily. "Perhaps you could just watch?"
"Watch," Aziraphale said in the tones of a recording angel asked to take minutes at an orgy.
"Yes," Crowley said before he could chicken out. "Just watch me. Please? If I'm not touching you you're not likely to catch the curse, are you?"
"Who knows? You really think you'd feel better?"
Yes, Crowley's body informed him. Yesyesyes.
Crowley made the rest of his clothes vanish immediately, sighing at the cool air on his definitely overheated genitals. He thought the proceedings might come to a sudden end the moment he touched himself, so he kept his fingers' touch as light as possible. Despite suggesting voyeurism, he tried to think of a winning formula to get the angel involved. Surely some poet somewhere had a line that perfectly expressed, Put your hand on my prick? Aziraphale retreated to the sofa and politely kept his gaze fixed on his face, not on the movement of Crowley's hand.
"Could you look down a bit? Like below waist level?"
With a little frown as if he were about to go into battle, Aziraphale gave the proceedings his full attention. It was, Crowley found, remarkably encouraging. At one point the angel wet his lips a little, and even if he were only thinking about the abandoned cinnamon buns, it was plenty for Crowley to work with.
"Don't worry," Aziraphale said gently. "We'll get to the bottom of this."
The combination of pleasure, Aziraphale and the idea of getting to bottoms hit Crowley like a battalion of righteous Unfallen. His knees buckled and he found himself on the carpet, braced on knees and one hand, gasping through orgasm. He rolled over onto his back and stared hazily up at the ceiling.
"I'll clean that up in a bit," he wheezed.
"I'd appreciate it, it's eating through the carpet," Aziraphale said in a rather shocked voice. "I don't know how any of your human friends can walk afterwards."
"I hold back with them," Crowley said, still floating. He was fairly sure that Aziraphale was still the absolute best thing in all of Creation, but the awful sense of urgency was gone. He slithered over to rest his head on the angel's knee. "Sorry about that. I do feel a bit better now. We're going to have to avoid each other for decades after this embarrassment, aren't we?"
"Oh, I should say so," Aziraphale said in a determinedly light tone, and put a hand on the back of his neck, pushing the dark, sweat-tangled hair into some sort of order. It felt very nice. "At least a century. Maybe two. Possibly a thousand years. You can send me delicately emotional letters written in scented ink."
"Poor old thing. There will be no avoiding going on; this is just like an unfortunate illness."
Crowley felt the prickle of something supernatural, nothing much, and nothing threatening. He looked up.
"What was that?"
"Just cleaning up for you. Come on, up here and try to rest."
Crowley poured himself up and rested against Aziraphale's side. Fabulous. This thing had turned him into a cuddler. He put his head on Aziraphale's shoulder and just let himself drift, enjoying being supported by a warm, solid angel and thinking that surely that was the scent of the expensive aftershave he'd given Aziraphale for Christmas? A warm, light blanket settled over him and he closed his eyes as an arm went around his shoulder and let him relax further into warm sleepiness. He sighed as Aziraphale stroked his upper arm lightly and pushed his face further into the crook of the angel's neck. The last thing he remembered was his sunglasses being taken off so that he could sleep more comfortably.
When he woke he was curled up under several blankets, his head on a newer and fluffier pillow than Aziraphale had probably owned before a cursed demon fell asleep in his back room. His clothes were neatly folded on the chair opposite, but they smelt of sweat, lust and Piccadilly Circus so he banished them with a wave of his hand and manifested new ones. Suitably armoured in impeccable clothing he checked the time. 2.30AM. A light was on in the main room of the shop so he went angel hunting. Aziraphale was sitting at the counter, now cleared of such fripperies as bookmarks, pocket diaries and cash registers, and spread with notebooks and large, old grimoires and half-drunk mugs of cocoa.
"Hello," Aziraphale said without looking up. "How do you feel?"
Crowley thought about it. He'd never seen a more beautiful angel, which was ridiculous for someone who'd followed Lucifer, but there it was.
"Not as bad as before, but it's still there."
He wandered over and looked down at the notes in Greek and Latin, all in Aziraphale's beautiful writing. That was a purely aesthetic judgment, he told himself. Not the spell. So much stuff about the Greek gods, he thought.
"Maybe. I think I have to keep looking."
Crowley retreated. Aziraphale was perfect, of course, but he also sounded a bit squirrelly. He was a rubbish liar and had never been much good at getting things past anyone, not of course that Crowley minded doing anything, anything at all for his one true love, but if there was one thing that had held true for the last six thousand years it was that that expression meant that Aziraphale was hiding something. Which was only right, of course, because everything he did was right, and perfect and lovely.
Well, Crowley had a few tricks up his newly materialized sleeve which would be, he assured the spell, employed only to aid the most perfect angel in the world in his efforts. Aziraphale had an extensive library and a long-standing research habit. He had a smart phone and the internet. He pulled his phone out.
"Siri, tell me about the Statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus."
He came back into the main room of the shop twenty minutes later in a rage that was only mildly tempered by his extreme joy at seeing Aziraphale again. He pointed his phone at the bewildered angel and glared at him.
"It's not a statue of Eros!"
"I know. I tried to tell you that earlier."
"So why – Actually, do you know - do you know how sweet you look like that? I mean, do you know it's a statue of Eros's bloody brother? He punishes people who scorn love and makes them return it!"
"Ah, yes," Aziraphale said, looking even more squirrelly. "Although when the fountain first went up the statue was called The Angel of Christian Charity, so –"
"Aziraphale," Crowley said, holding up a hand. "Just one question. Did you put a spell on me?"
"No! Well, I mean, probably not."
"I am going to smother you. With kisses. But mostly with that pillow from the sofa. Fix this! Now! What were you thinking?"
"I don't know," Aziraphale said, looking guilty. "The penny didn't even drop until I started thinking about how, er, reciprocal the spell seemed to be. And I remembered feeling peeved about you putting down lots of little things on your most recent reports that should definitely have been on mine, or maybe both of ours, and you can be quite dismissive about such things, you know and I just remember saying, By Jove, I wish he'd appreciate me like I do him!"
Crowley stared at him.
"And there, er, may have been a minor bolt of lightning that seared the word Done into the ground by my feet in Classical Greek, but I really thought that was Upstairs getting back to me on a routine enquiry I made in 547 BCE."
Crowley continued staring at him. After a moment he took off his sunglasses and tried the effect of a really narrow-eyed stare. Aziraphale twisted his fingers together and looked like he'd been caught with his hand in the till; the last time Crowley had seen an angel look that guilty he'd been surrounded by them and plummeting downwards. He blinked slowly. Aziraphale looked like – Aziraphale. He didn't look like the most perfect thing in the universe. Crowley pressed a hand over his heart and felt only a regular, normal beat. There wasn't a hint of sunny joy left.
"You," he said, "Are an idiot. I look forward to reading how you'll explain away praying to pagan gods." He turned on his heel and stalked towards the door.
"Crowley, wait! It's the middle of the night!"
"So? Evil never sleeps, not after having had such a long nap, anyway."
Aziraphale was in front of the door so quickly that Crowley suspected he might have miracled himself there. Crowley thinned his lips and gestured and the door unlocked in a loud, dramatic fashion as the Bentley started up outside.
"Please don't go, I never meant to curse you, and I didn't even really know I had until I really started working things out –" He waved at his notes. "I thought it was probably American postgraduates, as usual."
Crowley glared at him a while longer, just to see if he got an overwhelming urge to forgive him. He didn't, so he felt he was good to at least talk to the bastard and have it be his own decision.
"This Anteros, he makes people respond to love," he said. "So how long have you wanted to get all soppy over me?"
"You know the stories about the Olympians," Aziraphale said with an extra-large helping of squirrellyness. "I'm sure my Platonic, manly affections were misunderstood."
"You forget," Crowley said with dripping sarcasm, "you're not the only one who remembers bloody Plato. You've put me in an excruciating position here, you know. I can always just go and live in Brisbane."
"Oh, Crowley, you wouldn't be so cruel," Aziraphale wailed. "Not that bloody continent." He grabbed Crowley's hand and held on tight. "I didn't know any of it was going to happen or that those Olympian buggers were going to assume that that was what I wanted reciprocated."
Crowley nodded. "So it was there to be reciprocated?"
"Er. Um. Well, yes. I was very surprised that you were so – insistent – while under the influence. I couldn't take advantage of you, that would have been awful!"
"You are so lucky I'm pissed off with you," Crowley said. "It’s over-riding the embarrassment and I'll probably be able to face you in a week or two. I'm going home now, and tomorrow I'm going to make a whole fleet of Routemasters crash into that damn fountain."
"No! It's on the path, think of the pedestrians!"
"They're just tourists, Aziraphale. Plenty more where they came from. Now, out of the way or I'll turn into a snake and swallow you in a way you won't enjoy."
Aziraphale obediently stepped aside, still holding his hand. Crowley tugged himself free and stopped in the doorway, turning back.
"You’re not bad at kissing," he said. "You are still an incredible idiot."
"Friends?" Aziraphale said in agony.
"Such an idiot," Crowley said, with a lot less heat. "Try not to invoke anyone else before I see you again." He slid into the driver's seat and reversed down into Wardour Street. Aziraphale was still standing in his doorway, so he gave the horn a cheerful and loud sounding in farewell to annoy the neighbours and yelled Ciao out the window, so that everyone would be sure it was Mr Fell's awful friend at it again.
Then he drove home, feeling totally like himself and in love, he assured himself, with no one. But possibly inordinately smug that an angel seemed to be a bit soppy over him.