Chirauel was putting the finishing touches on a star, under the watchful eye of their supervisor, Raphael, when they felt a tingle of something at their back. They threw themself sideways without thinking, shoving the archangel out of the way, and they both watched in horror as a comet streaked past them, shattering the carefully-placed components of Chirauel’s creation into two parts.
“...Well,” Chirauel let out a shaky breath as the comet faded from view. The two parts of the star were already beginning to reform into distinct entities, circling one another, debris drawn in from the space around them until they were only the heart of something larger, “I actually think it looks quite nice like that.”
“You sensed the danger,” Raphael told them, lips pressed firmly together, “has that happened before?”
“I don’t know.” They cast their mind back through the short stretch of eternity they’d lived through so far. “Yes, I suppose so. A couple of times.”
“And you don’t sense… surprises? Or… you don’t have a strong sense of when someone is an authority figure?”
“I think you know the answer to that last one,” Chirauel admitted, “but no. Should I?”
“No. No, I suppose not. Oh, Chirauel, I’m sorry.”
That was when Raphael explained to them about soulmates; angels destined to be together, to support one another.
“Every angel has one, you see, and we all contain something deep in our very cores. The essence of us. It’s not always clear, from the outside, what that core is, but… mine, for example, is inspiration. At my core, what drives me is the wish to give others ideas, and to give my own ideas form. Do you see? It’s why I pattern the stars across the night sky as I do, in the hope that one day someone will add lines between the dots and tell stories about the shapes they make.”
Chirauel nodded, but they couldn’t help being a little confused. What did this have to do with soulmates?
“Do you… have a soulmate?” Chirauel asked, and Raphael smiled.
“Yes, I do. And- the reason I’m telling you all this- they can sense when somebody has an idea. That’s how they knew I was their soulmate, because they can sense inspiration. Do you see? And because of them, because of the essence of what they are, I can sense change coming.”
“That’s fascinating,” Chirauel told them, sincerely, “but why do you mention it now?”
“Oh, Chirauel.” That’s when Chirauel realised that the archangel had begun this conversation with an apology. “You can sense danger. Which means that your soulmate-”
“-is dangerous.” They were young, and they’d only just learned of the existence of soulmates, but they were quick enough on the uptake to work that out. “At their core, my soulmate holds danger.”
“Yes. And that- I’m not sure you should seek that out, Chirauel. After all… look at what danger brought to your creation.”
They both watched the stars revolve around one another for a while, and Chirauel wondered if danger was really such a bad thing. After all, the stars were perfect now, and they almost looked as if they’d been meant to be that way. The comet might, in fact, have made them better. Chirauel should have been upset about the destruction of their first star, but they loved it. They loved the star that they’d made to begin with, they loved the comet that had changed it, and they loved what was left. Could it be so bad to imagine that they might love their dangerous soulmate, too?
They parted ways shortly afterwards, Raphael leaving for the further reaches of space to continue his work, Chirauel returning to the centre of Heaven, where angels socialised. A few friends smiled as they passed, and Chirauel smiled back, but their mind was still on what Raphael had told them. A soulmate. And there was a way to find them. Raphael had spent a while on the subject before they’d got to the point - that Chirauel’s soulmate was dangerous - and the general idea seemed to be that, come the conclusion of the Great Plan, soulmates would have invaluable parts to play in keeping one another safe. The Great Plan didn’t make any sense, yet, of course - but that was because it was supposed to be ineffable, apparently. Still, soulmates were going to be important, and they sounded like lovely things to have.
Chirauel was just thinking about how nice it sounded, to have somebody who was there for you - and, he thought selfishly, just for you, not every angel in your choir section - when he sensed it. Danger. It wasn’t a fleeting thing, this time; it hung like a cloud over a group of angels who were standing, conversing. One, an archangel, seemed more talkative than the rest; perhaps he was the source of the sensation. Chirauel made his way to the edge of the group and waited patiently to be acknowledged. They turned more quickly than he’d expected, almost as if Chirauel wasn’t welcome - but this was Heaven, and all were welcome everywhere.
“Greetings. I am Chirauel. May I join you?”
The archangel regarded them thoughtfully for a moment, the rest obviously hanging on their decision.
“Greetings, Chirauel. Welcome. These are my friends; Zebubiel, Gonida, Storia and Guriel. I’m Lucifer.”
That feeling of danger intensified, making Chirauel’s ethereal heart pound as it never had before, and they got the distinct feeling that this moment was going to change their life.
“It’s nice to meet you.”
The demon dragged themself from the pit and groaned. What was their name? Who were they supposed to be, now that they had Fallen? It felt as though their name was right on the tip of their tongue, as if it could be called forth any moment, and once remembered it would tell them what they were supposed to do. It would set them apart amongst the nameless strangers that surrounded them.
“From this day forth, I am Satan, and I will lead us to victory against God herself!” The lesser demons flinched from the name of the Almighty, even as Satan - the one who had once been an archangel - roared his defiance to the sky. “Who is with me?”
“I, Beelzebub,” croaked a demon to the left of the nameless one.
“Ligur.” Each name fell hesitantly from its owner’s tongue, as if the taste wasn’t quite right. Still, it would not do to be without a name, and demons were rising to give voice to guttural sounds all around the lost one. They lurched upwards and hoped their name would come.
“Crawly.” It didn’t taste right; it wasn’t right, they knew that. But it would have to suffice, for now. Crawly felt sick, the Fall from Grace turning their stomach and twisting their soul. They volunteered for the first mission they were offered; it felt right, somehow. It felt dangerous.
On Earth, everything felt different. The Garden of Eden was full of danger; Crawly turned themself into something called a snake and burrowed their way up into the centre of the Garden rather than risk trying to sneak past any of the angels on the gates. Every one of them radiated danger; Crawly wondered, briefly, if any of them could be their soulmate, but then realised that they couldn’t all be, and therefore that the danger Crawly sensed was probably just the fact that they were angels and Crawly was a demon.
He had learned to sense something of essences in Hell; at Beelzebub’s core was power, and at Dagon’s was order. Beelzebub, it transpired, could sense a tidy pile of rocks at a fair distance, and Dagon had an uncanny ability to know who had the greater power out of any two demons stood before them. Crawly didn’t know if they’d found each other, recognised each other as soulmates before the Fall, but they certainly hadn’t taken long to figure it out afterwards.
On Earth, it seemed, Crawly couldn’t sense essences at all. It also became apparent that Earth offered several basic options in terms of gender, and Crawly watched Adam and Eve for several days before deciding to call himself ‘he’ until a better designation presented itself. Then, of course, there was the tempting bit, with the apple. He didn’t mean to get the humans kicked out of their paradise, but he supposed that was what happened when you hung around with the wrong people. Snakes. Demons. Whatever he was, he was the wrong kind of it, he knew that.
He approached the Angel of the Eastern Gate, in the end, because he seemed to radiate the least danger. It was probably the lack of sword that did it - and then, when the angel confessed that he’d given it away, Crawly realised that this angel was interesting. He was different. Crawly allowed the other being - Aziraphale - to shelter him from the rain with his wing, even though the rain didn’t smell like danger the way the angel did, and he began to think about staying on Earth for a while.
Over the years, Crawly continued to follow his innate sense of danger. It led him to the plains of Mesopotamia, where an angel watched over the preparations for a flood that would leave thousands, if not millions, dead. Crawly’s heart hadn’t leapt as he spotted Aziraphale, of course; he hadn’t thought, even for a moment, that perhaps the angel himself was the source of the siren song that said danger is here. He hadn’t thought he might be his soulmate.
And, when he plucked up courage to ask him what was going on - having spent a solid few days interrogating Noah and his family about why they were building a boat in the middle of the blessed desert - the angel proved that he was no more dangerous than the fleeing unicorn by utterly failing to smite him. He didn’t even try. Crawly was a little offended, and not at all disappointed.
This time, when the rain fell, it smelt of danger.
He left, seeking drier climes, herding fifty-four small children in front of him until he had no choice but to turn them into grains of wheat, cupped carefully in his hands, and fly them to China before changing them back. After all, God, he’d been told, had no problem with the Chinese just then.
He moved on as soon as they were safely settled with their new families. He still had a soulmate to find.
Crawly was drawn to Jerusalem by a general sense of danger - there was about to be an uprising, she could tell - and then to Golgotha by genuine personal curiosity. Hell usually left her to her own devices, content to wander around stirring up trouble - which she was very good at - but on occasion she was sent on specific assignments, and the man on the cross had been just such a one. It hadn’t been long ago, actually, and he’d seemed quite intent on behaving himself, so she wasn’t sure how he’d ended up on the execution list. Probably something to do with the riot brewing at the bottom of the hill. Danger seethed around the execution site, but then she supposed tensions always ran high when somebody’s loved one was on their way out. It must be nice to be cared for like that.
And, of course, the angel was there.
“It’s Crowley now,” she told him, trying it out, and the name still wasn’t quite the one she was searching for but it felt better. The angel didn’t seem particularly bothered either way, no doubt focused on other matters. Once again, he failed to smite Crowley, and once again he seemed just a little different to the other angels Crowley had run away from over the centuries. He didn’t seem to agree with all the details of God’s Plans, for one thing.
Crowley watched her former assignment - a nice man, he’d been, if you liked all-encompassing goodness and love, and he’d seemed to feel a sort of kinship with Crowley - breathe his last, admired the drama of it all, and then left feeling hollow and empty. She had even wondered, for a few moments, if this man who stirred up so many dangerous ideas without lifting a finger had been an angel in disguise. If He could be Crowley’s soulmate. But he’d been human, after all, and he had died.
Crowley left alone.
The angel invited him for oysters, not long after the Golgotha incident, and Crowley had had a terrible day, so he accepted. Besides, Aziraphale had made an attempt to be friendly, which was more than any other entity, occult or ethereal, had done since he’d come up to Earth in the first place. He might as well humour it, he reasoned, if only so that if his soulmate came looking - which they wouldn’t, never had before - they might be jealous. They deserved a little jealousy, for keeping him waiting so long. Hastur and Ligur had realised they belonged together before Crowley’s soulmate had turned up, for Hell’s sake - it was embarrassing.
The angel went into raptures over the oysters - Crowley didn’t see the appeal - and Crowley found himself smiling at his enthusiasm. When they parted ways, Crowley continued to think about the angel’s gestures, his mannerisms, the delighted smile he’d worn when Crowley had shoved the last oyster in his direction. Looking at the angel was like looking at his shattered star.
Crowley loved that star.
Crowley decided that he didn’t much care for soulmates the day he heard the news about Guinevere.
“Yes. Obviously, I’d rather you didn’t go around telling the whole kingdom,” Aziraphale told him, in a miraculously quiet corner of a crowded bar, “I shouldn’t really be telling you.”
“But… Lancelot? Really? Isn’t he the goody-two-shoes one?”
“Yes, well, we all thought so. Not the best example, it seems, given that he’s just run away with his sworn brother’s wife. Not to mention his king’s.”
“What’ll Arthur do now?”
Aziraphale pursed his lips. “Hunt them down, I should think. There was mention of hounds.”
Crowley shuddered. On their wedding day - so recently, or at least, it felt recent to an eternal being like Crowley - the royal couple had been the talk of the kingdom. Everyone had said they were made for each other, so very much in love and so perfectly suited to complement one another in ruling the kingdom. Now, they would be talked about for entirely different reasons. Now, Guinevere had broken Arthur’s heart, and Arthur seemed set to return the favour.
“They did seem very devoted to one another. The Queen and Lancelot, I mean. When they left- it was very touching, really.”
“Oh, was it very sweet?” Crowley raised an eyebrow, knowing he was being awful and refusing to let himself care. “Did you give them another flaming sword?”
“No!” But Aziraphale looked at him askance, as if he’d come too close to the truth without meaning to. “I, er, may have collapsed the gate they rode out of. Shocking workmanship, there, Camelot I mean. So, er… they had a bit of a head start.”
“Oh, angel.” He was trying to sound disapproving; it didn’t quite come out like that.
Aziraphale cleared his throat. “Anyway- about this Arrangement you wanted to propose. Balancing each other out. I still don’t think it’s a good idea. But… say, theoretically... how would it work?”
Yes, Crowley was done with soulmates. Crowley didn’t need a soulmate. If he played his cards right, he might have something almost as good. He might have an Arrangement. You knew where you were with arrangements.
In Coventry, the angel suddenly got all awkward and wouldn’t meet his eye. He hadn’t realised the other being had become so prudish about nudity, after all that they’d seen - they’d been in the Garden of Eden, for- well- for their respective sides’ sake - but now the angel was absolutely, definitely refusing to look at him.
Danger, Crowley’s innate sense of trouble told him, and he scoffed at himself. He knew full well what danger this situation posed to him, because he was aware of the rising temptation to offer the angel a show. The people of Coventry hadn’t seen him naked, but this angel could, if he wanted; Crowley would lay himself bare and expose all that was most vulnerable of himself, if only Aziraphale would let him.
“Your turn, next time,” he said instead, and that only made the angel blush more furiously.
“Oh- well, yes, I- only it can’t be anything truly evil, Crowley-”
“Of course not. We don’t want you to Fall.” He meant it, he realised, even though tempting an angel from the Heavens was definitely the sort of thing that would get him a commendation Downstairs. “I’ll be in touch.”
“I look forward to it,” Aziraphale told him, and Crowley felt as though he meant it, too.
Aziraphale’s first attempt to honour the Arrangement did not go to plan.
“Lucky I was here, really,” Crowley told him as he casually stepped over an unconscious body that had fallen off the pile. “If you’re going to set yourself up as a temptation, you can’t afford to just freeze like that.”
“I- I had a plan,” Aziraphale assured him, straightening his doublet. “Dress like a rich man, walk through the poor district’s dark alleys at night-”
“And how far did you get?” He knew the answer; he’d been following the angel to make sure he didn’t come to harm. He wasn’t sure he could come to true harm, but if he was discorporated there’d be awkward questions.
“I wasn’t troubled. So I was just on my way home-”
“And a richer man who wanted you put in your place had his goons jump you.” Crowley poked the nearest body with his foot. “Well, I can spin it into a temptation for my report, but I think in the future you’d better stick to whispering bad ideas into people’s ears.”
“Yes. Yes, I think I’d better.”
“Don’t feel bad.” It was pretty clear that Aziraphale was already starting to beat himself up about his failure - and why shouldn’t he? He was supposed to be a soldier in Her army, and he’d been unable to ward off a bunch of lowly mortals. But Crowley didn’t want him to feel bad. “I know you panicked-”
“I didn’t want to hurt them,” Aziraphale told him, looking absolutely terrified of the very idea, and Crowley bit back a laugh with difficulty. He'd never even hurt Crowley, his sworn enemy - he was hardly likely to pose a threat to humans.
“And you didn’t. Now. I happen to know who sent these scumbags, so I’ve got a quick house call to make. Next one’s on me.”
He sauntered off, leaving the angel looking rather lost, and snapped his fingers. The rich man who’d sent his underlings after an angel found himself in a tavern, dressed as a lowly serving-woman, and immediately started kicking up a fuss about it. Do you know who I am, what is the meaning of this- if he’d kept quiet and left, he’d have kept his reputation intact. Crowley didn’t feel bad for him in the slightest.
Aziraphale, though - Aziraphale, he felt bad for. He would have to work on lowering Hell’s expectations for his own temptations. Sow a few seeds about minor inconveniences sending out ripples. He only hoped that his soulmate - who didn’t seem to have bothered leaving Hell to seek him out - wasn’t down there, able to sense lies or… creative truths. Crowley was pretty sure lies were the core of his being. Well, he’d risk it. Perhaps he could even make the lies true enough to avoid detection.
Aziraphale returned from Edinburgh looking extremely pleased with himself.
“I caused an actual bar fight, Crowley. Admittedly, it was an accident, but - that’s got to be enough to satisfy your side, hasn’t it?”
“Oh, yes, that should be plenty.” And you can’t get into trouble Upstairs for an accidental bar fight, he thought to himself. “You look as though you had fun.”
“Well, y- no! No, of course I didn’t have fun! On your assignment? No. No, I’m just… the blessings went well, since you didn’t ask.”
“Didn’t care,” Crowley lied. “Hamlet is a roaring success, by the way. You might have to sweet-talk Bill into letting you in, though, if you want to see it- it’s been packed out the last three nights.” He wasn’t worried about Aziraphale sweet-talking a man who’d shown more than a friendly interest in him before, of course. Who Aziraphale whispered sweet nothings to was nothing to him.
“Oh, but I couldn’t. It wouldn’t be the same without your sarcastic comments.”
Crowley raised an eyebrow.
“Wouldn’t it?” But Aziraphale seemed sincere, and he found himself continuing, “I could join you, I suppose. Tempt some pickpockets.”
“Then I shall have to stand right beside you and thwart you,” Aziraphale told him primly, and a little smile crept onto his face, and Crowley felt his own lips curve upwards in reply.
“Admit it,” he challenged over crêpes, “you were doing the temptation thing again.”
“Of course I wasn’t! Why would I be tempting anyone without you asking?”
“You wanted to prove it could work.”
“Well,” Aziraphale blustered, “if I had been trying to prove anything - which I wasn’t - it would have been a roaring success, I’d say. They almost killed me.”
It shouldn’t bother him. Crowley knew that. The angel was nothing to him, and he didn’t care if he got himself discorporated as long as he did it on his own time. But the thought of it - of a cruel blade slicing down and discorporating Aziraphale - it made Crowley feel sick to his stomach.
He slid his untouched plate of crêpes across the table and watched Aziraphale eat them, hale and hearty and looking rather pleased with himself, actually. Not for the first time, Crowley wondered what it was he was feeling. If he was still an angel, he’d think it was love. But demons didn’t feel love.
Aziraphale rarely messed up on Crowley’s assignments, but he tempted a little too lightly on Crowley’s behalf in the summer of 1851, and Crowley spent a decade in Hell. At least they hadn’t discovered the Arrangement; they had merely felt that Crowley was slacking, and he could hardly argue with that. That was the whole point of the exercise.
He didn’t blame Aziraphale, though it would have been easy; it had been his job, and he should have at least tried to finish it for himself rather than just concocting an outlandish excuse for why he hadn’t gone overboard with the temptation. He had only himself to blame, then, for the decade of torture and - worse - paperwork. That didn’t make it easier, though, and upon his return to Earth he could finally think clearly enough to acknowledge that if Hell ever did find out about the Arrangement, it would be even worse for him. Aziraphale might Fall, if Heaven found out, and Crowley was certain to suffer a long, horrific, drawn-out punishment that would have him begging for a final death long before he ever received it. He needed protection - something to stop demons in their tracks or send them running, something he could use to make himself an escape route if they came for him.
“Absolutely not,” Aziraphale told him, when he asked, and that was that. They had a blazing row, and Crowley dragged his aching corporation home for a long nap. Sleep was healing, wasn’t it? Time was healing. He’d be just fine without the angel, if he could only get some sleep.
It would all have been easier with a soulmate to watch his back, he thought, as he drifted off.
Crowley had been awake for fewer than three months, and even he knew that Aziraphale - or rather, Mr. A. Z. Fell - was arranging to sell prophecy books to the Nazis. He also knew that they weren’t likely to let him walk away, having done that, and that they were meeting that night in a church.
In a church, of all places.
He hung back outside the church walls for as long as he dared, waiting for Aziraphale’s heavenly soulmate to appear - after all, if all angels had them, then Aziraphale must, and he didn’t have to worry about how dangerous his soulmate might be, and weren’t soulmates supposed to be there to help one another survive? But it seemed the angel hadn’t found his yet, because it was left to Crowley to trip his way up the aisle and hop around on the spot to keep Aziraphale from being discorporated. He’d rerouted the air raid from outside, but the moment he’d stepped onto the burning stone of the church floor he realised he couldn’t keep them from discorporation as his infernal powers dropped away. There was something there, just a little residual power, but nowhere near what he’d need to keep himself alive through a direct hit. They would just have to save each other, then.
Aziraphale could have done it all for himself, of course, except that he’d frozen again, just as he had all those years ago, and was trying to reason with them. He just needed Crowley to be the one to obliterate a church and three humans, so he could do the easy bit and hold off a bomb. That was fine. That worked.
Crowley used the last reserves of his powers to save the books, gave Aziraphale a lift home and a stern lecture about staying out of trouble, and went home to soak his feet.
At least it seemed he wasn’t the only occult-slash-ethereal being whose soulmate was conspicuously not helping them.
Crowley got into his car with a deep feeling of dread. He’d assembled what passed for a decent heist team, at least in Soho, but none of them filled him with confidence, and none of them had a clue what they were being hired to steal. It seemed unlikely that they would suddenly get an attack of the morals over stealing water, but-
Aziraphale was in the passenger seat.
After he’d handed over the flask, Crowley’s longed-for insurance policy, Crowley offered him a lift.
“Anywhere you want to go.” Anything you want, angel. I’ll do anything for you. I always will.
Aziraphale refused, of course. Why would he ever want to go anywhere with a demon?
“You go too fast for me, Crowley.”
It didn’t mean anything. It didn’t mean that if he slowed down, perhaps Aziraphale would catch up with him eventually. It didn’t mean Aziraphale knew Crowley was in love.
They wound up in the bookshop, the night the end of the world kicked off, and Crowley thought they could be forgiven for also ending up just a little bit drunker than was advisable.
“D’you think soulmates are real?”
It seemed to take Aziraphale a moment or two to decipher that - Crowley was slurring a little - but then he frowned.
“Of course they are. How'd you know? What’ve they got to do with you?”
“Used to be an angel, angel.”
“Oh, yeah.” Aziraphale stared into space for a while before speaking again. “So demons have them?”
“Yeah. Same original stock, right?”
“Oh, blast. I’m afraid I’m probably done for in this war, then, my dear boy.”
“Never got round to finding my soulmate. I thought that just put me on even footing with the demons, but if your side all have theirs-”
“We don’t. I mean… they don’t. All.”
“Oh. Well. Maybe I have a chance, then.”
We’ll look out for each other, Crowley wanted to say, but he didn’t, because they couldn’t. They were on different sides. And yet, in a way, it had always been them. Forget soulmates, he wanted to say, we’ll look after each other. We always have, we always will.
“Anyway, you’ve still got eleven years,” he told him instead, and the conversation turned to the end of the world.
Warlock was eight years old when they next discussed the subject, disgustingly sober and sitting one behind the other on the top deck of a Number 19 bus. Crowley was about to get off, actually - he had a lot of cosmetic changes to make before he reappeared at the Dowlings’ - when Aziraphale spoke, so quietly it was as if he didn’t want to be heard at all.
“Have you found your soulmate?”
Crowley, already on his feet, staggered forward two steps and dropped into a seat across the aisle from the angel.
“No,” he admitted, “how about you? Had any luck since last time?”
“No.” Aziraphale’s lips had thinned to a tiny sliver of worry. “No, I haven’t.”
This time, Crowley turned to him. This time, he decided to be brave.
“Forget ‘em,” he advised quietly, “I’ve got your back, anyway.”
Then, before Aziraphale could get all scandalised and tell him that finding their soulmates was part of the ineffable plan, he hit the ‘stop’ button and headed for the stairs.
When he turned to go down, Aziraphale was still staring at him like whatever it was that got caught in headlights.
It became a regular thing, after that; Aziraphale - or, more accurately, he supposed, Brother Francis - would stop as their paths crossed in the garden and ask the dreaded question.
“Any luck finding yours?”
“Haven’t found the time,” Crowley would tell him, as if she hadn’t spent long nights lying awake, wondering what would happen to her if she didn’t find her soulmate, wondering what would happen to her soulmate, wondering what would happen if she did find them. “You?”
“No,” Aziraphale would admit, and Crowley would say it again.
“Ah, well. At least you’ve got me.” Then she’d walk away before Aziraphale could tell her that wasn’t any consolation. She had it down to a fine art.
Only one day, she slipped up, and out of a sort of instinctive need to get one over on the angel, asked him first.
“Any luck finding yours, angel?”
“No,” Aziraphale told her. “Have you had any-?”
“No.” And then she froze, Warlock still running ahead of her, as she realised that the conversation was ending wrong; it was ending without her reassuring Aziraphale, and that was just not satisfactory at all.
“Oh, well,” Aziraphale mumbled, “you’ve got me.”
Crowley was actually relieved to hear the sound of a ten-year-old falling into a small ornamental pond, because it gave her an excuse to break into a run. Aziraphale was at her side, it was true, and they both hauled Warlock out together, but at least neither of them had time to notice the utterly lovesick expression on her face.
Who needed a soulmate, anyway?
“Um, are you sure this is the right place?” Aziraphale asked, as they walked up the drive of Tadfield Manor, which was definitely the place Crowley had dropped the Antichrist off at eleven years earlier. “This- this doesn’t look like a hospital. And… it feels loved.”
“No, it’s definitely the place. And-” What Aziraphale had just said registered, suddenly, somewhere in Crowley’s brain, in a part of it he’d been trying to ignore for some time now, the part that knew about soulmates. “What do you mean, ‘loved’?”
“Well, I mean the opposite of when you say ‘I don’t like this place. It feels spooky.’”
“I don’t ever say that. I like spooky. Big spooky fan, me. Let’s go talk to some nuns.” He took three steps forward, and realised he was doing Aziraphale a disservice. Usually, he liked to do at least a few disservices every day, but not to Aziraphale.
“Look,” he said, as they passed through the gates, “this is probably too late to help you, but that love stuff… sounds like a soulmate thing.”
“Well, I’d hope to love my soulmate-”
“No, I mean. The whole sensing what’s in your soulmate’s core… business.” He sneered as he said it, realising - not for the first time - how unbearably hokey it all sounded. “If you can feel love, I suppose your soulmate must be all love in the middle.”
“Oh, how lovely,” Aziraphale exclaimed, though he seemed oddly subdued. “What a shame I’ll never get to find them.”
“Yeah. Figures you’d get a really good one. Maybe they’ll find you on the battlefield.”
“Not if we can stop the world from ending,” Aziraphale pointed out. “Who needs soulmates for that?”
Crowley was about to argue with him, but then they got shot. It turned out to be paint, admittedly, but it proved just enough of a distraction to ease them away from the thorny subject of soulmates.
Crowley didn’t get time to think about the fact that Aziraphale had a perfect soulmate out there, made of love, until after they’d returned from Tadfield and were waiting, anxiously, for Agnes Nutter’s prophecy to suddenly make sense. Heaven and Hell were going to try to destroy them, of course - they didn’t need a prophecy to tell them that - but Agnes’ words offered a glimmer of hope. Choose your faces wisely.
“If we get out of this, will you look for your soulmate?” Aziraphale asked, suddenly, and Crowley grimaced.
“Whoever it is, they’re probably angry about the war by now, same as everyone else. Besides, they could’ve found me. Hardly been hiding, have I?”
“No. No, you’re right. No point looking for either of our soulmates now.” Aziraphale smiled nervously at him. “Never really needed them, did we? We look out for one another.”
Crowley almost choked on nothing - it was so nearly a declaration of something, something more than he’d actually said, and he didn’t know how to respond. They had always looked out for each other, and even now, he’d do anything to save Aziraphale from the fate that awaited him - even if it meant going to Heaven in his stead and facing down the archangels.
Wait, he thought, everything else forgotten. That could work.
They exchanged bodies and went to the park; it was hardly a surprise that Heaven and Hell picked them up so quickly. What did surprise Crowley, however, was that once he was off-world, he could feel essences again, and that seemed to include Aziraphale’s. They’d agreed, of course, that they’d leave a little of what made them them in their corporations - hard to get it out, really - so that the ruse wouldn’t be discovered. Essences didn’t smell, exactly, but they did leave a comparable sort of lingering echo of themselves, and that ought to be enough to conceal the opposing entities in their bodies.
So it wasn’t really the fact that he could sense Aziraphale that was such a shock - and a painful shock, at that - it was the fact that what he sensed was danger. Aziraphale was a soldier, after all, so Crowley supposed it made a strange sort of sense that he had danger at his core. Certainly, that was a side of him that several would-be-customers in his bookshop had seen.
It was like a final kick in the teeth, though, because Crowley would have given anything to believe that Aziraphale had been his soulmate all along, that he was the reason Crowley could sense danger. But as soon as the thought popped into his head, he dismissed it; Aziraphale sensed love, and Crowley was a demon. Demons couldn’t love, however much Crowley might feel as though he loved Aziraphale, and that was all there was to it. He wondered if Aziraphale’s soulmate was afraid of the fact that they could sense danger, if that was the reason they’d never tracked him down. Well, more fool them.
Then he had to focus on the fire, and on scaring the very essence out of Gabriel.
When they arrived back on Earth and changed places again, Aziraphale allowed Crowley to tempt him to dinner at the Ritz. They toasted the world, and then spent a good few hours - and, in Aziraphale’s case, several desserts - basking in the satisfaction of a world saved and a best friend unmurdered.
When they made it back to the bookshop, though, Aziraphale had questions. Crowley didn’t mind; he was the last person to object to questions, after all.
“That demon, the one with the toad - he really enjoyed the idea of killing you.”
“Hastur? Ah. Yeah, he would. I, er… Ligur, the one I… he was his soulmate, you see.”
“Oh. Well, he has my sympathy, but really - he just seemed to get angrier and angrier as the trial went on.”
“He would,” Crowley explained guiltily, “Ligur’s core was judgement. Hastur could always sense when people were judging others, and the trial…”
“Oh. Quite. I see.”
They sat in silence for a while, Crowley running over and over the events of the last two days to see if there was anything different he could have done - but there hadn’t been, not really, not if he wanted to survive to save the world - and Aziraphale lost in his own thoughts.
“Crowley,” the angel said suddenly, “you do know, don’t you?”
“Er… sorry, angel, you’ve lost me.”
“That I love you. That I would choose you over my soulmate, a thousand times, as many times as it took. I would choose you.”
“Angel, soulmates are part of Her pl-”
“Sod plans. We’re done with them. Can- that is- would you- can I kiss you, Crowley?”
Crowley didn’t know how to answer, so he just leaned in and kissed Aziraphale instead. It was a gentle kiss, a chaste thing, or at least he had meant it to be, until Aziraphale took Crowley’s face in his hands and ran his tongue over Crowley’s lips.
“Oh,” Crowley tried to say, and then Aziraphale’s tongue was in his mouth, and this, this was everything he’d ever wanted. Crowley would choose Aziraphale, too, would cast aside a million soulmates if that was what it would take to keep this, to keep him.
When they broke apart, he could barely breathe, but he managed to get the words out anyway. “I love you, too, as much as any demon can. I’d choose you.”
Aziraphale blushed right to the tips of his ears. “Oh. Oh, that’s- I want you to know that that has nothing to do with what I’m about to ask you.”
“Huh?” That sounded like it was leading up to a trap.
“It doesn’t matter, if- I’m not accusing you- I don’t mind, if- Crowley, did you know that your essence has a core of love?”
“Nah, ‘s lies,” Crowley told him, automatically, “I’m, like, 90% sure it has to be lies.”
“I’ve just been in your body, in Hell, and it might be a strange, battered sort of love, but it’s definitely love. You didn’t know?”
“I… love?” He couldn’t comprehend it; of course he felt love, loved a lot of things in a quiet sort of way, but it wasn’t real, because he was a demon and it couldn’t be. “Are you sure about that?”
“Absolutely. So… in Tadfield, when I said I felt love- you weren’t just pretending not to know what that might mean?”
“No. I still don’t know what it means. Wha-?” When I said I felt love… your essence has a core of love. “But-”
“But what? Have I jumped to conclusions, Crowley? I’m terribly sorry, if I have - but as I said, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t change anything. That’s not why-”
“Your core. It’s danger, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Aziraphale confirmed, “that’s why the archangels never liked me much, I think. Soft, with danger at the heart, it’s not what they wanted in an angel. But you sense something else, I’m sure, and that’s all right-”
“Stop. Stop talking a second, I need to-” It was too much to process so quickly; he had to take a moment, pacing the back room of the shop, before he could finally come back to stand in front of Aziraphale. Even then, he could feel himself trembling.
“Raphael warned me, when I was still-” he made a vague gesture indicating Upstairs, “-he apologised, because a comet came straight at us and I sensed it. I sensed- he said he was so sorry, because it meant my soulmate was dangerous. Told me not to seek them out.” He took a deep breath, almost afraid to say it. “Not to seek… you out?”
“Well, you never have been very good at doing what you're told.” Aziraphale smiled weakly. “I’m afraid it rather looks as though you’re stuck with me.”
“Soulmates… no, they’re supposed to look out for each other. Stand together at the end of the world. How could an angel and a demon-?”
“But we did, Crowley. We did.”
Crowley stared at him for a moment more, hardly daring to believe- and then Aziraphale stepped back into his space, buried his hands in his hair, and kissed him again. Crowley could feel it, now, the danger settled safely at Aziraphale’s core, a danger that would only ever threaten those who tried to harm what was Aziraphale’s to protect - and that, apparently, included Crowley. It always had, he supposed. He wondered if Aziraphale could feel all the love that boiled at the heart of him now, all of it for him.
“She couldn’t have known,” Crowley murmured, when they finally broke apart, “it doesn’t make any sense-”
“Soulmates,” Aziraphale assured him with a mischievous little smile, “are ineffable.”
And if Crowley kissed his soulmate again after that, it was only to shut him up.