The biggest change in Crowley’s life since the diverting of Armageddon was his sudden dislike for the silence.
He used to love it: so different from the loud and over-crowded Hell he hated oh-so-much. Silence gave a person time to live in the moment, to go through one’s thoughts and sort things out.
Now though. Now that was the problem, wasn’t it.
Crowley had never screamed at his plants so much as he did in the months following the world’s not-end. He was loud because the quiet left him to think about things. To remember stuff he didn’t really want to bring up.
Aziraphale didn’t seem to mind when Crowley hung around the bookshop more and more. The silence there was different — filled with much more words and buzzing thoughts from the angel that took such good care of the space. In fact, Crowley dared to think that he enjoyed Aziraphale’s silences. That he felt comfortable — safe — just being quiet while his angel read or worked, because at least in the bookshop there were more things to distract him.
“You know, my dear, you could move to the bedroom. It might be more comfortable for you.” Aziraphale’s soft voice floated toward him like a gentle breeze.
Crowley flicked an eye open. He had sprawled himself into one of the small armchairs and had apparently begun to fall asleep — a piled mess of limbs all cramped into the space between the armrests.
“M’fine,” he mumbled into the cushions.
“You should sleep if you’re tired,” Aziraphale hummed. He was at a desk, three books before him along with paper and pen. Translating something, if Crowley had to guess. He had that face on — the one he made while translating things.
The demon quickly unraveled onto the floor and shook himself, stretching across the rug. “What are you doing that’s taking so much time?” he drawled and started toward the desk.
“Translating this Ancient Greek text,” Aziraphale said distractedly. “It’s a kind of prophecy book, I suppose. I wanted to know if it has anything on the Big One.”
Crowley leaned over his shoulder, rubbing at his face where his sunglasses had left a dent in his skin all pressed up against his cheek a moment ago. “You’re still working on that? I told you, angel, no one’s even thought about it yet — they’re all far too busy brooding and cursing us for averting their apocalypse. The Big One isn’t even a real thing yet.”
“But it might be at some point. And I’d like to be more prepared for it.”
It became agonizingly evident that Aziraphale was not going to listen to him today.
“Aziraphale.” Crowley stretched again, this time vertically, and yawned loudly until the angel glanced in his direction. “You’ve been at it for days. Let’s go get some lunch or something.”
“I’m working right now, my dear.”
“You’ve been working.” Aziraphale paid no mind to the whining tone — just continued reading his books. Crowley wrinkled his nose in distaste. Books, he thought. A nuisance for everyone... “I’m going out, angel,” he said and stalked toward the door. “And I’m not bringing you anything.”
“Thank you, dear,” murmured Aziraphale, who clearly wasn’t listening.
So Crowley went out. Not to get lunch — that was only ever really enjoyable when Aziraphale came with him. He slid out of the bookshop and glared around the road. Raining. Not hard. Not like the End of the World raining (no fish, for starters), but it would be unpleasantly humid for the next few hours. Crowley growled in his throat, pushed his glasses right up to his skin, and stalked out onto the road.
The Bentley was shining clean from the downpour — perhaps the only convenient part of the weather. Crowley reached a hand out to run his finger over its hood while he walked around to the driver’s side. His feet splashed in a deceptively deep puddle, water rushing in to take all pleasure away from wearing socks.
Crowley grumbled and yanked open his door handle. He paused. A noise had caught his attention — not a loud noise, but one that definitely didn’t belong out in the rain. It was high-pitched, squeaky, almost imperceptible. Nothing. Crowley ducked to slide into the Bentley, then stopped. There it was again. A sad little sound that came from somewhere nearby.
There were very few people on the street, otherwise he would have just blamed it on a human voice or some weird noise-making gadget that humans loved so damn much. But he heard that noise again, and it certainly wasn’t human.
Crowley turned on his heel, pulling his sunglasses down his nose to better examine the area around him. There was nothing but rain in the alley behind him. Rain and trash. Rain and trash and dirt. Rain and trash and dirt and—
“Oh my...” Crowley peered closer at the creature staring up at him from the shadows. Bedraggled, covered in various waste, and soaked to the bone, Crowley watched as the tiny black kitten opened its pink maw and made that little sound again. Pitiful. Pleading.
But what would a kitten be doing out on the streets at this time of day? It must have belonged to someone certainly. But why was it alone? Well, someone must have left it there. Abandoned it like a fingernail tossed carelessly to the floor. Crowley watched in silence as it moved, shifting forward on tiny and unsteady legs toward him — reaching for him with a jet-black paw as if it didn’t care about getting wet anymore.
It was awfully small for being abandoned. It must have been a terrible pet. Something a human couldn’t stand to have in his or her house. Perhaps God had sent this rain to have it finally killed, such a vile thing it was.
Well, Crowley lived to question God’s choices. There was really nothing else he could do but make sure it was kept alive.
In one fluid motion, Crowley scooped the tiny creature into his palm. It sat, unmoving and no larger than a mason jar with legs, and only let out a little mewling sound as he set it in Aziraphale’s seat. “You stay still,” he ordered, and it must have been a truly horrible monster because it peed all over itself and the seat before he’d even started driving. A mess he could easily curse away, but also evidence that he had done the correct thing for a demon to do.
Crowley also demonically miracle-ed away most of the muck and waste that covered the kitten’s onyx fur, then the infection he could detect in its ears and the rot on its gums and the worms in its stomach. The beast had been through a lot it seemed.
The silence of his flat was interrupted by the mews and cries of the kitten growing steadily louder as Crowley carried it to the bathroom and gave it a warm bath in the sink — he could have just used more curses or “demonic miracles” but it was more about the process of warming it through pleasantly warm water before he snapped his fingers to dry it.
But it was still far from alright. Crowley had to stay with it for a week to make sure it ate, drank, rested, and didn’t drift off into a sleep too deep to return from. It had been almost out of energy when he found it — lucky nuisance. But Aziraphale would probably be reading and translating for many days more before he even noticed Crowley was gone, so it wasn’t as if he was missing much in the meantime.
He kept it in the room with the tv. Wrapped up in blankets and sleeping in a box under the window. Crowley was often the one who had to clean it, as it was still too weak to wash itself. It really wasn’t that much different than his plants, except it didn’t tremble at his very presence yet.
It was Monday, almost exactly a week after he had found it, when Crowley awoke one morning to find it in his bed — eyes open and bright, black fur fluffed up, and tail straight in the air like it was attempting to signal a plane. It mewled when it saw he was awake and stumbled up onto his chest with its stubby legs planted for solidity.
“Get off me,” Crowley said.
The kitten, its eyes a yellow-gold shade surprisingly similar to his own, only began to settle down with its legs tucked beneath it.
“No,” Crowley repeated slowly. “Get off of me. I don’t want your fur in my bed.”
He would have just tossed it to the floor, would have snarled at it with a face far more frightening that his human one, but it would probably just get itself hurt again and what a waste of effort this past week would have been.
“It’s no wonder someone left you.” Crowley pulled a hand from beneath the sheets to gently run down the kitten’s sinfully soft back. “You have terrible manners.”
He started to sit up and winced when it clung to him, needle-sharp claws puncturing his skin. Crowley scooped it up with one hand while he stood. “Let go,” he growled, but the kitten only scrambled farther upward, using his hand as leverage to pull itself onto his shoulder. It wobbled every which way but managed to hang on as he made his way to the kitchen.
He made her — because it was definitely a female now that he could feel her aura better — some raw chicken liver since eating was a must, and began feeding it up to her in gross slimy bits.
Aziraphale’s voice. Crowley started in surprise — he must have been too distracted to hear his familiar knock — and the kitten dug in her claws. “Ow,” Crowley hissed at her, and he hurried into the main room. “Aziraphale,” he greeted. “Finish translating your book?.” He moved to the table first, to where a pair of his sunglasses sat, and picked them up.
“No. But I wanted to see if you were still open to get— Oh my! Crowley, what is that on your shoulder?”
Aziraphale was dressed as he usually was, in a suffocating number of layers in pastel colors. He looked a little drained and stiff — like he had been sitting still too long — and his eyes were a bit unfocused trying to see things further away.
“Cat I found on the road,” Crowley told him. “She doesn’t have a name yet. What were you about to say?”
“Nothing of importance. Crowley.” Aziraphale rushed across the space that separated them until he was close enough for Crowley to smell him without effort. He held out a hand to the kitten, his face a landscape of soft and gushy feelings of joy that he wasn’t bothering to try and conceal — not that he ever did. “That is a kitten, not a cat. Why didn’t you tell me you’d adopted one?” The kitten leaned away from the angel’s fingers as he reached out to let her sniff him.
Crowley narrowed his eyes, though he knew no one could see it. “Because I didn’t. I’m just watching her until she’s well enough to survive on her own.”
The look Aziraphale sent him was very specific and held every ounce of disbelief and amusement that an expression can hold without using any words. “She’s adorable,” he said, and scooped her up with a hand beneath her belly. She hung on for a moment, claws pulling strings from Crowley’s shirt so that little bits stuck out of his shoulder like worms of fabric. His stomach tightened in some weird way when Aziraphale took her, his hands nearly lifted on their own as if to take the creature back.
But Aziraphale was cradling her against his chest and staring down at her as if she was the world. Crowley suddenly remembered the container of raw meat he carried in one hand and hurried to put it down on the table. Anything really to distract him from the way his angel’s face completely melted with soft adoration for the black bundle of fur he had met only moments ago.
“Was there something you needed, angel?” Crowley asked. Aziraphale didn’t often come to his flat without warning. There must have been something on his mind.
“Oh.” Aziraphale rubbed his thumb and forefinger just behind the kitten’s ears, lulling the thing into a comatose state of relaxation. Crowley had never been jealous of cats — slitted eyes, claws, the urge to go completely bonkers at four in the morning; he had all that — and yet. “I just wanted to check on you really. You’ve been gone for awhile, you were spending so much time at the bookshop until you found this little angel, I suppose.”
“She is not an angel,” Crowley insisted. “She is a goblin. A harbinger of evil.”
But the angel’s words were true. Crowley had just spent a week in his own flat and had never once let the silence get to him. He’d been too busy caring for the kitten now bumping her head against Aziraphale’s hand.
“Whatever you need to tell yourself, Crowley,” Aziraphale said insufferably. “What are you going to name her?”
“I told you, she hasn’t got a name.”
“Well, we should pick one. She can’t be nameless forever.” Aziraphale trailed a thumb softly between her eyes and up her forehead. Crowley, too, almost felt the urge to close his eyes and purr. Lucky bastard. “She’s so sweet. Maybe something like Sprinkles?”
Crowley shook his head. “I am not naming her after some waxy-tasting cupcake decorations.”
Aziraphale pursed his lips. “You can have them on ice cream, too,” he muttered.
“What about Destroyer of Worlds,” Crowley offered.
“She’s a kitten, Crowley, not a monster.” A sudden idea seemed to strike him and his face lit up like a string of Christmas lights. “Although, you could name her something like Lucifer. But it’s Lucy-FUR. Like a pun!”
Crowley physically and dramatically recoiled from the words as if he had been slapped in the face. “Please, for the love of God and Satan and everything in between, never say that again.”
Aziraphale huffed and clicked his tongue. “Yet I don’t hear you coming up with anything better.”
The kitten suddenly threw herself from his arms and dashed away into the next room. Crowley snapped his fingers and sent the open container of raw meat gliding after her. “She doesn’t need a name right now. She’s a cat. Cats don’t need names and it isn’t as if she’d respond to it anyway.”
“I suppose we’ll see.” Aziraphale cast a glance around the room. “Do you not own anything for her?”
“She’s been a bit out of commission until this morning. I didn’t really need anything.”
Without another word, Aziraphale did a little swirling motion with his hands and suddenly Crowley’s flat was no longer as bare as he could comfortably make it. A litter box by the door, a cat dish in the corner, one of those cat tree things beside the window. Crowley wasn’t really sure how to react to it — Aziraphale so rarely messed with his things without permission, it didn’t seem like him. But the angel’s expression determined when Crowley turned back to look at him.
“You have to take care of her, Crowley,” he said, as sternly as he could. “That means she needs things. And you are not going to treat her like you do those plants. I can hear them shaking from here!”
Right. His plants. They’d been more nervous lately — since he was likely to lash out after even a moment of complete quiet. Crowley waved away Aziraphale’s comment. “I’ll treat her however I like,” he muttered.
Aziraphale cast another glance around the flat, this time looking much more satisfied. “Well, I was going to ask you to lunch. But if you’re too busy then I suppose—“
“No, let’s go,” Crowley quickly interrupted. “She’ll be fine for a few hours.”
“Are you sure?” Then Aziraphale made his worried face that had Crowley’s heart dropping down into his stomach like a lead balloon. “She’s awfully small.”
And some soft part of the demon wanted to offer lunch at his flat. They could have almost anything brought to them and they had demonic and angelic powers to make up for the rest. The way Aziraphale was looking at the kitten, who had wandered back into the room to explore her new belongings, made Crowley’s chest ache in some weird and not entirely unpleasant way.
But no. Now that Aziraphale was here he knew he couldn’t stand another moment in his flat. The kitten would truly be fine — she was a CAT, for literally anyone’s sake. There was food and water and plenty for her to explore, and it wasn’t hard to tell that she felt perfectly safe. Crowley—
Fuck, did it have to be so damn quiet in this place?
“I need to get out of this apartment,” he insisted. “Let’s go somewhere. Maybe the Ritz? They’re usually fairly busy on Mondays, right?”
He was being too obvious based on that look Aziraphale was giving him. “I... Yes, of course, dear. But do you think we could bring her along to the bookshop? It’s just that if this really is the first day she acting much better—“
“We can do whatever you’d like, angel.” Crowley slung his coat on over his maroon button down and scooped up the kitten with one hand. She wasn’t thrilled with that, squirmed violently for a solid twenty seconds, but eventually settled down when it was clear that Crowley’s constricting fingers weren’t going to release her. Suddenly it was truly striking him how much time he’d spent in his flat — luckily distracted by a kitten who’d seemed more dead than alive most days — but Aziraphale’s presence seemed to have struck something because all Crowley could smell was burning essence and all he could hear were screams and he needed to get out out out. “Come on. No point just standing around here,” he urged, and almost threw himself out the door.
“Crowley!” Aziraphale hurried after him, still infuriatingly slow as he insisted upon making sure Crowley’s flat was safely locked up. “Is something wrong, dear?”
That was the question, wasn’t it? “No. I’m just... starving,” Crowley finished, awkwardly, but apparently convincing enough because Aziraphale’s face went positively brimming with delight.
“Oh, really? I never realized you had become such a fan of food. Well, then perhaps we should get something for our new little friend.” He cast her a quick and worried glance. “She is abnormally small.”
“Yes. Of course. Let’s.”
Crowley only really felt better when they were completely out of the building and he could feel the warm air on his face. He pushed his sunglasses up his nose as some humans passed. A few seemed about to pause, their eyes on the kitten still laying limp and now purring in his hand, but a look from Crowley had them hurrying right along.
“Humans,” he muttered, “and their obsessions with... furry things.” He sent the kitten a look as he said it, though no one else could tell.
Aziraphale looked at the same beast with an atrociously loving expression. “Soft things are very nice,” he said, and it wasn’t clear if it was in defense of humans or just as a thought he needed to share. “Though I can certainly appreciate the touch of other, less sought-after things. Like a prickly porcupine. Or smooth scales, I suppose.”
Whatever that meant. Crowley paid little mind as he moved for the Bentley. Yes, it was much louder outside. No room to think whatsoever. No time to picture smells or hear sounds or see ugly, meltable faces. They got in the car, but before Crowley could even touch the wheel Aziraphale snatched the kitten from his hand.
“You shouldn’t drive with such a distraction,” he explained.
I let you ride in my car, Crowley thought, but said nothing.
“Please drive carefully,” Aziraphale added as they pulled into the road. “They don’t make seatbelts for kittens.” Despite his words, the angel curled his hands and forearms around the black bundle in what came, in Crowley’s mind, as close as one could get to a seatbelt for kittens.
“Why? Because ‘she’s abnormally smol’?” Crowley twisted his voice to make it higher pitched, hissing through his teeth so that the S’s really stood out. Aziraphale only sent him a very soft stern look. Crowley grinned. “I’ll be careful, angel. Don’t worry.”
They decided not to go to the Ritz and instead picked up some sushi take-away before making their way to the bookshop. The kitten liked the bookshop in a way Crowley hadn’t realized anyone else besides himself could like it.
Aziraphale cleared a space and set the table with the joy and care of a man in love with what he was creating. Crowley picked up a bit of fish when his angel wasn’t looking and reached up to let the kitten have a sniff from where she now perched on his shoulder once again. Her little teeth almost pierced his skin when she hurried to gobble it down.
“Bad cat,” Crowley muttered. “No restraint.”
“She just got excited,” said Aziraphale who had clearly seen what Crowley had done. “She clearly has excellent taste in food.”
Crowley sent him a glareful glare. “And would you bite my fingers if I were to feed you something?”
Aziraphale went suddenly and brilliantly red, and turned back to arranging the chop sticks. “There are wine glasses on my desk over there. Will you bring them.”
Crowley grunted — his way of saying, sure, yes, of course, anything for you, my angel — and moved to do as he was asked. The kitten balanced herself on his shoulder, claws dug in, and began to inch closer to his head. Her little wet nose bumped against his ear and he jerked his head to the side. “Stop that.”
Waiting for him by the table, Aziraphale’s face was a soft expression of joy as he looked at the kitten. “She likes you,” he said. “You did a good thing by saving her.”
“Oh, shut it. I didn’t do a good thing — she’s bothering me.” Crowley handed over the glasses and Aziraphale’s warm fingers brushed against his own. Crowley pointedly ignored the hot, electric flash that went up his arm. Aziraphale was silent and didn’t seem to notice. “Like a plague. Maybe that’s her name.”
“Plague?” Aziraphale just sounded amused. “A plague of cuteness, perhaps.” And then he was doing it again — standing so close so that he could pet the kitten’s head, the same hand almost touching Crowley’s neck. His smell was in the demon’s nose and his gentle smile was all he could see. The angel started murmuring nonsense as the kitten pressed her tiny head into his fingers.
Crowley had to jerk away, because if Aziraphale’s hand actually touched his neck or got close enough that his breath whispered along Crowley’s cheek—
“I won’t name her Plague. Not if you keep doing that whole,” Crowley gestured to Aziraphale in general, sidling away to the opposite side of the table, “cutesy ritual thing.”
“It’s called being openly affectionate. You should try it.”
“‘You should try it.’” Crowley mimicked. Aziraphale sent him a mildly annoyed glance.
They sat in silence for a few moments. Aziraphale held his chopsticks with perfect technique and picked over his sushi pieces skillfully, selecting sauces and amounts to create some kind of personal masterpiece. Crowley had spent hundreds of years trying to figure out how Aziraphale calculated it all (and how he had the patience for it) and was still as clueless as if he’d been first watching it happen.
Quickly, Crowley picked through his own food — made a little pile of fish bits on a napkin for the kitten — then used the chopsticks with no large amount of skill to shovel entire norimaki rolls into his mouth and down his throat. He always ate like that, while Aziraphale was still distracted with creating his perfect first bite, so that the angel wouldn’t see.
Aziraphale had caught him once — saw him cram down two large slices of pizza at once. He had seemed alarmed at first. “Crowley, remember to chew! For Heaven’s sake.” And had then just stared in some kind of horrified awe when Crowley barely had to swallow to get them down. Since then, the demon had avoided letting him watch.
The kitten clambered unsteadily down his arm to the table and began munching loudly on the fish he’d left for her. Her tiny jaws made little, flesh-crunching noises that sent an oddly pleasant sensation up Crowley’s horrible side and he felt himself smile in disgust. The little wretch was magnificent.
“She certainly has your table manners.”
Crowley slowly looked up at Aziraphale over the rim of his sunglasses. “She’s a cat, angel. I’m not her father.” Then he realized the sentence had been intended as a jab and muttered. “My table manners are fine. Now.”
Aziraphale just shrugged – which was one of the more insulting things the angel had ever directed at him – and returned to his meal. The one still on his plate, not barbarically shoved down his gullet like children on a waterpark slide.
So point taken.
Crowley watched his angel work in silence. Watched as Aziraphale’s eyes closed for that exquisite first bite, face almost slack with whatever emotion he was experiencing this time. (Food had different effects on him. Crepes, for instance, were like to fill him with some kind of childlike glee, while puddings often resulted in silently sitting there, eyes closed until he remembered Crowley was there. Crowley had seen a particularly well-done tiramisu reduce the angel to tears once.)
Aziraphale finished the process of First Bite with a satisfied groan low in his throat. “That is perfection,” he sighed. “I can hardly think.”
Crowley leaned back in his chair, arm flung up onto the back, and smiled with amusement. “You know, some people just watch pornography.”
The kitten started attempting to punch her nasty little claws into the table, scraping them over the surface. Crowley quickly scooped her into his lap before his angel noticed. “Bothersome bugger,” he muttered under his breath. She purred sassily against his stomach – licked at his thumbs with her rough tongue like he was next on her list.
Crowley just shook his head and looked back up at his angel – was surprised to find Aziraphale already looking back at him, smiling all soft like he did when he saw babies.
“One four-letter word,” Crowley grumbled, “and I’ll flip this table right now.”
“Sweet,” Aziraphale shot back, and his eyes were all lit up with challenge and pleasure at his outsmarting him. Crowley very suddenly had to focus getting the kitten into a more comfortable position.
Even now, he wasn’t used to receiving Aziraphale’s full attention. It didn’t happen very often; usually there was at least something to act as a buffer and distract him a little – a familiar song, a brightly dressed couple, ducks. But sometimes they didn’t seem to work. The last time had been a few months ago, after Armageddidn’t at the Ritz. Crowley had been so full of relief and genuine happiness that he’d considered giving in to some of his more… human emotions. Confessions and leaning in and making moves, as he’d heard some call it.
So nothing had changed between them and everything was as normal as it was before.
And that was fine.
Aziraphale swallowed a few more bites of what could have been sushi, or could have been the ambrosia of the gods, and smiled when he saw the kitten climbing back up Crowley’s coat. “She’s such a delight,” he said. “I can’t imagine why anyone would abandon her.”
Crowley looked at her over his glasses. He’d often wondered the same thing while taking care of her. Besides the health problems from living on her own, there had been no physical things wrong with her that a human might deem undesirable. She was fluffy and she had lots of energy and one might go so far as to admit that she was the most adorable creature to walk the Earth – Crowley wasn’t one of those people, but they existed.
He shrugged. “Maybe she rebelled and they threw her out.”
Aziraphale blinked at the joke – once, twice – then looked down at his plate. “I was thinking of wandering down to Tadfield today,” he said. “Pop in for a visit with Adam and the others and see how they’re doing. We could bring her.”
For a moment a wall of adamant refusal rose up Crowley’s throat at the thought of letting any human near her. But he quickly calmed himself. “I suppose.”
The kitten choked – nothing serious, just a user error in chewing, but Aziraphale actually laughed as Crowley whipped toward her, hands shooting out to gently pat her back and sides. “Oh, don’t you dare give me that look, Crowley. You looked like a mother hen.”
Crowley rolled his eyes with his entire head, just to make sure his angel got the message.
Crowley wasn’t really sure how he was supposed to feel about Tadfield – about Adam and his dog and all his little friends that had almost brought about the end of everything. It wasn’t that he disliked any of them exactly – he was a demon, so he knew a thing or two about behaving in certain ways simply because that’s how you were made. But he likely wouldn’t have gone to visit if not for Aziraphale. Maybe he was still reeling from it all – the end, the not end. For Hell’s sake, Satan himself had been right there for a moment, surely Crowley was entitled to feeling a little uneasy around the Antichrist for a while.
“She’s a wriggly little thing when she wants to be.”
Crowley glanced to his left. Aziraphale sat a bit hunched, struggling to keep the goblin from escaping his grip and launching for Crowley’s lap. It was an amusing sight, his sunglasses tinging the whole image darker colors so the kitten looked more like an imp than a fluffy mammal.
Aziraphale pulled her to him again, pointer and thumb rubbing small circles behind her ears. “Please keep your eyes on the road,” he said, voice unjustly distressed. The Bentley would never let them crash – not if it valued its life.
“If she’s being a problem, angel, you can miracle her a little cage until we get there.” Aziraphale made a face like he’d suggested lighting the bookshop on fire again. “Or not.”
Tadfield was a pretty bit of country, if a bit too quiet for Crowley’s recent tastes. The grass and the sun – which always seemed a bit filtered in the busier parts of town, but bounced brightly from every surface it could in the country – glittered beautifully and made the world around look warm and welcoming. Crowley recognized many of the places and people he passed on the way to Ms. Device’s cottage: the obnoxiously rude man with his obnoxiously noodle-y dog, the church, some old war memorial right outside of town…
Aziraphale looked at it all with a small smile on his face. “Wonderful place,” he said, though not necessarily to Crowley. “Pleasant.”
Wonderful place with a hellchild hiding right beneath their noses. It was unclear where Adam stood when it came to his heritage. He certainly appeared human now, and no one had mentioned any sign of his devil-ish powers since renouncing Lucifer as his father. Still, it was unheard of to just… stop being a child of hell – God knew Crowley would have found it by now.
The cottage of Agnes Nutter’s descendant was emanating an energy that had Crowley’s skin rippling and tingling. Loved, Aziraphale would have called it, though that horseshoe at the door seemed to hold some kind of ancient protection enchantment and surely that factored into it at least somewhat.
A glance out at the front garden had his brows furrowing. “What are they all doing here?”
He had assumed that this would be a trip with multiple stops, yet it seemed that would be unnecessary. The Antichrist and his friends were playing together in front of Anathema Device’s home, marching around in sheets that were either intended to make them look like ghosts or truly roughened astronauts while Ms. Device herself sat in the grass nearby and gazed up at the sky.
“Oh, you know how humans are.” Aziraphale was already shifting to open the car door. “After they bond with each other it’s so difficult to get them apart.”
Crowley said, “Hmf.” Technically, the humans should have forgotten at least most of what happened since Adam rewrote everything. Though it certainly wouldn’t be the first time the natural order of things had gone awry around the boy.
It was of course him who spotted Crowley and Aziraphale’s approach first. A few words had the rest of the children ceasing their game to fall in behind him, including the dog. Removing their sheets like a warrior removes her armor.
Crowley had forgotten about the dog. Perhaps a bit frantically, he sent a look towards his angel who had the kitten safely tucked against his chest. Even being a small dog – she was so much smaller. Still not completely recovered.
He shouldn’t have brought her. He should have left her home where she would be safe. Where any dogs that even sniffed in his flat’s direction would very suddenly find something better to do. Perhaps he should take her back anyway, rather than risk it. That dog used to be a hellhound, whatever it was now, and there was no telling how many of those killer instincts still remained. There was no way to know that it would—
He felt Aziraphale’s hand brush almost unnoticeably across his knuckles and every thought in his head came to a crashing halt. His angel was sending him a meaningful look, and he smiled when he saw Crowley meet his eyes and curled the fingers of his other hand a little tighter around the kitten as if to say, I’ve got her, dear. She will be safe.
It wasn’t relief exactly that flooded Crowley in that moment. He trusted Aziraphale endlessly so of course he knew that he would keep her safe but— There was something about watching him hold her so carefully – so gently, as if she were made of treasure – but with no unclear message that he would protect her. He had always been a guardian, that’s what he did.
So Crowley forced his shoulders to loosen and fell back into his easy, careless walk that sent vibrations shuddering through the earth beneath his feet. In doing so, he pulled his hand away from Aziraphale’s which was… regrettable, but likely for the best since the angel could focus on keeping the kitten from wriggling away.
Anathema was on her feet before they even reached the gate, her scent suddenly reeking with nerves and stress. If he had known their very presence would elicit such a reaction.... “Maybe we shouldn’t have come,” Crowley muttered, but Aziraphale didn’t respond. Instead he held his free hand up in a signal of reassurance.
“It’s a beautiful morning,” he called pleasantly. “Thought we’d stop and say hello.”
The witch wasted no time in hurrying to greet them at the gate, closing it after they had stepped inside. “Has something happened?” she asked in a low, serious voice. Her eyes narrowed further, her tone growing even more dark, when she saw the kitten clambering up onto the angel’s shoulder. “I don’t do pets.”
“She’s not for you.” Crowley hissed it, a bit snappier than necessary, and resisted the urge to say something silly like: She’s mine. Don’t touch her. Which is what he really felt the urge to do, especially when Adam and that damn dog began inching closer.
“Nothing’s happened,” Aziraphale said in his wonderfully soothing voice. “We just wanted to see how you all were doing. Now that things have settled down.” He smiled at Adam. “Hello, Adam.”
“Yes, hello.” Adam had barely gotten the words out before Brian nodded toward the angel’s shoulder and said, “You’ve got a cat on your arm.”
Aziraphale began providing an explanation, retelling the story of how Crowley had found and retrieved her – an event he had not been present for and so almost definitely took some… creative liberties in recounting. But Crowley looked back toward Anathema and was surprised to find her expression still one of suspicion and worry.
“Something wrong, bookgirl?” he said, nice and low in his throat so he wouldn’t interrupt his angel’s story.
Her eyes slid towards him, scanning him up and down. “You’re just here to visit,” she said flatly, though she phrased it much like a question.
Still nervous despite an angel’s reassurance? Though Crowley supposed that from any other angel he likely would have had a similar reaction. “Everything’s fine,” he told her. But her eyes still flicked up and down his frame, taking him in and… almost definitely attempting to read his aura.
Well, two could play at that game. Crowley sniffed and pushed his sunglasses up his nose, eyes narrowing. Hers was almost frightening to look at: flashing with bright slashes of stressed color, rippling around her aggressively, and all spiky around the edges.
Afraid then, and probably experiencing some trauma – flashbacks, the irrational fear that it would happen again – if her aura was so prickly. How human. Crowley was no expert on making people feel better, but he attempted to offer her a soothing smile.
Maybe it was actually horrible, maybe she just wasn’t expecting it, but she looked surprised for a moment. “Okay then,” she said, her voice suddenly much quieter. Why was she looking at him like that? He was trying to make her feel better for whoever’s sake. Under her wide-eyed stare, Crowley shoved his hands into his pockets and grumbled, “What.”
Crowley didn’t get to hear what exactly was so wrong with his aura. At that moment Aziraphale made a “hu!” noise from beside Crowley, and the demon turned just fast enough to see the goblin launch herself from his arms and land solidly onto the grass right in front of Dog’s nose.
Dog took a startled step back, then another and another when he looked at her. Crowley watched, shocked, as the kitten sprang away to chase a bug through the grass and Dog only huddled closer to Adam’s legs.
“That’s,” Crowley searched for words, “interesting.”
Anathema didn’t seem so surprised. “She’s been imprinted with demonic energy,” she said matter-of-factly. “I can see it on her. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s making Dog nervous.”
Imprinted with demonic energy? Crowley looked toward Aziraphale but found the angel already looking right back at him. “Did… you know about that?”
Aziraphale looked a bit embarrassed. “Well, I can feel you on her. It’s very powerful of course, because you’re—Well anyway, I don’t feel demonic energy on her as much as I do…”
The children were wandering over to watch her chase a loud insect of some kind across the garden. “What? What did I do to her? What do you feel?”
His angel sighed a little. “Love, Crowley. I can feel your love on her.”
“Oh.” For a moment, Crowley debated protesting against that particular four-letter word, but guessed that would only make the situation worse. “But she’s not—” What was he even asking? Was she a kind of hellhound now? Hellcat? Was she in danger? Had Crowley done something irreversible to her?
“She’s fine,” Anathema said. “It’s like if you dipped your hand in water and then scratched her behind the ears. Now she’s got water droplets clinging all over her, but she’s not different at all.”
And so everything calmed down for the time being. They all sat together on the grass and watched the children play with the animals. Dog finally began to get comfortable enough with the kitten to let her chase him around.
Aziraphale and Anathema spoke quietly of the Big One, a concept, Crowley restrained himself from once again informing them, which still had yet to even be conceived. Heaven and Hell still had plenty of brooding to do before they got back to planning.
Crowley leaned back into the grass and felt his eyes grow lidded as the warm sunlight sank into his bones. He monitored the kitten through his ears alone, allowing his eyes to drift closed. There was lots of noise in Tadfield. Bugs and birds and wind and people.
Something brushed against his ankle – Aziraphale. Crowley struggled to get past his initial reaction of tensing and sweating and focusing wholly on that spot where Aziraphale’s foot was touching him. Had it been an accident? Surely, it was. Crowley cracked open one eye, but could only really see the sky from the angle he was at – the blue expanse above tinted a more amber-gray with the sunglasses. Their feet touched again. Crowley just focused on breathing and relaxing and not appearing upset in the slightest.
Dog yelped a little when the kitten caught his tail between her teeth, and Crowley couldn’t suppress his jump at the sudden noise. For just a moment, he thought he heard a hiccup of amusement in Aziraphale’s voice. As if the angel had seen – was watching him even as he spoke with Anathema.
Coincidence. Wishful thinking. He probably just felt Crowley jump. He wasn’t laughing about that. Crowley’s mind supplied reason after reason to disprove that particular theory. Aziraphale was just observant. Whatever. It didn’t matter. He sniffed and reached up to push his glasses to the top of his nose, though they hadn’t slid down with him facing upward.
“Please do be careful with her,” Aziraphale called, nicely but with a stern undertone. “She’s still very young.” Crowley resisted the urge to snicker. He’d said almost the same thing when Crowley had informed him of his finding where Jesus had been born. As if Crowley would have done something to the baby, or the incredibly young mother. Always a guardian first.
“May I ask a question?” Anathema’s low voice broke through his thoughts and sent him careening back into the present. A pause as Aziraphale likely nodded. “Why do you care?”
“About the kitten?”
“About any of this – us.” Crowley could hear the air move as she gestured around herself. “I mean, in your lifetime humans must hardly be a blip of life to you. Why would you care about an animal, whose lives are even shorter? What does it matter? It’s not as if they have much impact.”
A decent question, if not a bit silly. Crowley couldn’t think of a time when animals weren’t as impactful as human beings. During Pompeii the dogs had howled warnings for hours before any human knew what was happening. Unfortunately it hadn’t done much good in the end. Aziraphale and Crowley had only been able to save so many of them – dogs and humans alike. He’d felt terrible about it for centuries afterward, well before the humans dug up the many, many reminders that there had still been hundreds who died.
He’d had pets many times before, too. Had cared for a dragon during the sixth century, before that careless bastard Arthur killed them all. And while he didn’t consider Warlock to be a pet, he’d cared for the human boy just as much as he had any other living thing.
The centuries didn’t go by so fast. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t care about living things just because he lived so much longer.
“It’s nice to love living things,” Aziraphale said.
“But they die so soon.”
“Well.” Aziraphale thoughts for a moment before responding. “Death is… different for us. There’s nothing unknown about it like it is for you humans. You get terribly sad when things die because you don’t know what comes after. You don’t know where those living spirits go. Angels and demons do, so it doesn’t seem so frightening. It’s not much of a threat.”
“So you really are immortal? You can’t die.”
“It’s not impossible.” Now Aziraphale hesitated. “Really, we can only kill each other. But… that doesn’t happen very often.”
Very often. Crowley sat up suddenly, hand snapping up to keep his sunglasses from flying off his face. Aziraphale had instantly turned toward him. “We need to go,” Crowley said flatly. “The kitten’s tired.”
In contrast to his words, the kitten was rolling around happily, springing to her feet every few seconds to bat at a bug buzzing overhead. But Aziraphale didn’t argue. Their goodbyes weren’t rushed exactly, but Crowley could see Anathema giving him that look again. Eyeing his aura up and down as if she’d never seen one before.
The kitten didn’t protest much either, almost seemed thrilled to cling to his shoulders again and stick her cold nose into his ear.
Now he knew Aziraphale was watching him. This time he only wanted to ignore it.
Tadfield may have had nearly perfect weather, but the rest of the world seemed about to pour rain at any second. Crowley eyed the ring of clouds around the town with suspicion, but was distracted from his thoughts of a certain Antichrist a moment later when said clouds began dumping everything they had onto his car.
“Oh dear.” Aziraphale’s voice was quieter than normal, fingertips drifting down the kitten’s back in a way Crowley recognized as a defense mechanism. Keep part of his attention on the kitten and he wouldn’t have to put it all on Crowley. He knew something was off. “It’s really coming down, isn’t it?”
Crowley grunted his agreement and carefully shot between a set of vehicles that wouldn’t let him pass any other way. Aziraphale clutched at whatever he could reach while still holding the kitten against his stomach.
It really was coming down. Even Crowley had to slow down for the layer of water covering the already-slow-moving M25. He cursed under his breath. “God wasn’t planning on another damn Flood again, was She?”
Aziraphale seemed to seriously think about it before he realized it had been a joke. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “We’ve seen much worse than this.”
They started hydroplaning for a moment. Crowley calmly said, “Fuck” and guided the wheels to regain control. Beside him, the kitten mewled unhappily and Aziraphale immediately began to coo and whisper softly to her. Hands running up and down her spine, urging her to be calm, to trust that she was safe.
He was the only angel Crowley had ever met that just… alleviated minor discomforts just for the sake of doing it. The car was full of it already as he consoled the kitten into a state of calm. Crowley fought to keep his eyes from drooping.
“Angel,” Crowley grumbled. “Watch how much of those… soothing energies you’re giving her. Not in the mood to fall asleep at the wheel.”
Aziraphale stopped, but looked pleased with himself as he’d had the same effect on the kitten now snoozing in his lap. “She’s precious,” he whispered. Crowley wasn’t sure he was even supposed to hear that, but he nodded in agreement anyway.
“Oh.” Aziraphale’s voice was a mix of horror and uncharacteristic gloom. “Oh dear.”
Oh dear indeed. Crowley was just as surprised as his angel was to see the waves of rainwater sweeping through the street, driving all other cars back to safety. He didn’t care much about that, though – the Bentley had survived fire and blowing up and Armageddon, it could handle some water. It was the amount of water flooding into the bookshop, whose door appeared to have been forced open by the power of it, that had both angel and demon staring in discombobulated shock.
The books. It was as if Crowley could pluck the words from his angel’s head and hear them without them ever having been spoken.
“The books?” he asked carefully.
Aziraphale blinked but didn’t look away. “Miracled to be resistant to natural disasters.” The words came out like a prayer of thanks. “After the fire I… No, the books are fine. It’s just—”
The shop itself would be a mess. Without a word, Crowley pushed up his sleeve and extended his hand toward the building, but was interrupted before he could do anything. Aziraphale quickly shoved his arm back down – lightning where the angel’s hand connected with his wrist.
“Don’t,” he said, and now he was looking at Crowley. Aziraphale had always been rubbish at concealing his emotions, and he was doing no better at the moment. Crowley could see exactly how much it hurt him to see the bookshop destroyed again, could see how much effort it took to stop him from fixing it. “We can’t,” he insisted, not quite making eye-contact. “We’re supposed to be laying low.”
Crowley snorted. “Angel, I used barrels of magic on the kitten. If they were going to track us via frivolous miracles, don’t you think they would have done so already?”
But the angel was already shaking his head. “I’m not going to risk it. We’ll do this the human way. I’m going to call someone and I suppose I’ll just have to find somewhere else to stay until it’s all fixed—”
“Please. Don’t act— You’re staying with me.” Crowley resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “You can use my phone, too.”
A pause. “You’re quite sure?”
Crowley shouldn’t have looked – he really shouldn’t have. But he did, and felt his cheeks immediately light on fire upon seeing Aziraphale’s expression. How did he live like that? So open, with all those feelings on display all the time. His eyes were all wide and searching, one hand stroking down the kitten’s back and the other one still. Sitting. On Crowley’s. Arm. Crowley had to look away, back toward the bookshop, before he could growl, “Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well.” There was certainly a lot of rain and water outside, wasn’t there? Almost enough to drown out how soft Aziraphale’s voice was right now. Almost enough to completely distract Crowley from the hand still resting on his arm. “I just know—I know you like your space, is all. You like to keep your flat clean, and well I’m… fairly cluttery.”
The last two words came out slowly, almost uncertainly. As if Aziraphale had thought Crowley had forgotten about that particular trait and would change his mind once reminded. Crowley ignored the dryness in his throat. “I don’t mind your clutter, angel,” he muttered. Maybe if he was quiet enough, no one would be able to hear how fast his heart was beating. “You can stay as long as you like.”
He felt Aziraphale smile then, right before he said “Well, thank you, dear” in a voice softer than the fur behind the kitten’s ears and squeezed his arm—
It was time to go.
Crowley jerked the car into reverse without saying anything, Aziraphale’s hand flinching back at the sudden movement. When the angel wasn’t looking, he snapped his fingers as quietly as he could and the bookshop door swung shut and locked itself.
His flat. It wouldn’t be so bad with Aziraphale there with him, he told himself. Wouldn’t be so quiet with both the angel and kitten there to make noise.
It didn’t take long to get back to his flat, but it was a process to get the goblin to cooperate. She wasn’t fond of the rain – understandably, Crowley supposed upon thinking back to when he’d found her – and wriggled and squalled until Crowley grabbed and shoved her beneath his shirt.
Her claws pricked his stomach again and again, but she ceased her struggle until they entered the building.
Crowley pushed the door open before stepping through, something he could tell Aziraphale noticed but chose not to mention. The kitten leaped from his shirt and shot off into the kitchen without a backward glance. Crowley winced.
“Did she scratch you?” Aziraphale asked.
The angel watched him for a moment, hanging up his coat slowly as he did so. “Do you want me to—”
“No.” It had nothing to do with the fact that Crowley would die – he would die, not discorporate, DIE – if the angel put his hands on Crowley’s bare stomach. “If you can suffer through waiting for the bookshop to be repaired, then I can suffer through a few cat scratches. Lay low.”
“Right.” Aziraphale didn’t look a little disappointed – that was Crowley’s oh-so-wonderful imagination. “Good point.”
Right. Aziraphale was standing in his flat. Aziraphale had been in his home before, but had never really spent much time in it. They always just stopped by for a few things, or immediately went to get lunch – or to the bookshop.
“I don’t have much food,” Crowley confessed. “Just some things for the kitten.”
Aziraphale nodded. “That’s fine, dear. I’m just going to make that phone call now.”
Crowley watched him move toward the phone, painfully aware of how un-Aziraphale everything in his flat was. No food. Only a few books. Only the essentials and no trinkets – unless one counted his plants, maybe. “I have tea,” he said as the angel lifted the phone to his ear. “Would you like some?”
Aziraphale smiled warmly. “Tea sounds wonderful.”
Tea it would be, then. Crowley hurried into the kitchen and swept through all his cupboards in search of a kettle. Sharp pain in his legs told him the goblin had arrived, clambering up his legs and onto his shoulder. “Hungry?”
She preferred it when he hand-fed it to her, fussing endlessly if he tried to get her to eat out of the bowl. So she sat on his shoulder and slurped down bits of raw meat while he waited for the tea to finish.
“You know,” he said, amused. “I’ve never seen someone so happy to be eating – besides Aziraphale, of course. It’s no wonder you get on.”
The kitten swatted at his hand as he pulled it away, as if he wasn’t going to bring it back with more of what she wanted.
“I’ve known him for around six-thousand years,” Crowley went on. “You’ve known him for almost a day and you’ve already mastered the touching thing. Care to share some secrets?”
Touching Aziraphale. Now there was a Pandora’s Box. Throughout the many years of their knowing each other Crowley had convinced himself that not only would that only lead to endless trouble, but it was unlikely that Aziraphale would want anything to do with it. Crowley, at his core, was cold — scaly and unpleasant. Aziraphale liked things that were soft, warm, generally affectionate… which was not him.
But there were still times when they bumped shoulders or brushed hands (there had been that time when World War II ended, but Crowley would hardly count it when everyone was too ecstatic to care about what they were doing). He wouldn’t say he had relished those times, but something in him always spiked.
Full at last, the kitten threw her head into his own and made a scratchy noise in her throat. Such a shamelessly touchy thing.
“Taking it to the grave, huh? Fair enough.” Crowley moved to put her back on the floor, but she dug in her claws so he left her up there while he collected some mugs. “I just…” He sighed. He shouldn’t talk about it out loud with Aziraphale in the next room. And she was a cat anyway, so it wasn’t as if she would understand him while he talked about – all that.
Crowley silently carried the finished tea into the TV room where Aziraphale was speaking on the phone. He set the mug down on the table when the angel was looking and in turn won a grateful little smile. Crowley began to offer one back, then thought better of it. There were things to do besides stare at Aziraphale.
For starters: one bed.
Sleep to Aziraphale was much like food to Crowley. Though Crowley very much enjoyed the pastime, Aziraphale often spent his nights reading or writing things down – or translating, as of late – instead of snoozing away on a comfortable bed. But, that being said, it did happen on occasion and Crowley was not going to be one of those hosts that confined their guests to the couch. He would take the sofa himself if it came to that, and that meant ensuring that his bedroom was presentable – just in case.
There wasn’t much to present in the first place. A coffee table with a little bed for the goblin, a dark-wood dresser, and the biggest, most expensive, softest bed Crowley had been able to find. It was truly magnificent. Outfitted with red satin sheets, black comforter, and pillows that felt more like clouds. There wasn’t much to fix, but Crowley busied himself anyway. As he reached down to straighten the sheets, the kitten let out a small mew and dove beneath the blankets.
“What are you doing?” Crowley growled, peering beneath, and was greeted with gleaming yellow eyes. “S’not your bed.”
Instead of leaving the bed, the kitten introduced him to a separate and vastly contradictory point and began kneading the mattress with her tiny paws.
Crowley reached for her, but she kept scooting farther back until the demon was more under the covers than out of them. He could barely see her now – black pelt all blended in with the dark colors like a wraith. A few moments of blindly searching for her and he heard a little mew to his right.
“Oh, having fun are we?” Crowley swept his arm towards the sound and felt a bit of fur for just a moment before she backed away again. “Got to come out at some point.”
A muffled snicker caught his attention and Crowley was out from under the blankets in an instant to see Aziraphale standing idly against the doorframe with a hand over his mouth.
“How long,” Crowley narrowed his eyes when he realized he’d lost his glasses in the chase and began to pat around for them, “have you been standing there?”
“Your glasses are there.” Aziraphale pointed somewhere behind him and Crowley spun. It both was a very clear answer and wasn’t. Clear because, whatever the actual answer was, it must have been long enough to make Crowley feel like his face was sitting beneath a reptile lamp. “Though I hardly believe you need them inside.”
Crowley slid them onto his face and brushed non-existent dust from his shirt. “How was your call?” The words sounded strangely formal in his mouth.
Aziraphale sighed. “It will take a while, but they’ll be able to fix it.”
Crowley clapped his hands together. “That’s good,” he said, in an attempt to get that wretched frown off his angel’s face. Aziraphale looked a bit surprised, but Crowley’s plan won out as he started to smile again. Natural look returned.
“Yes, I suppose it is.”
“Let’s have a drink and celebrate.” Crowley swept up the kitten, who had come searching for him when he didn’t continue trying to find her, and sprang from the bed. A snap of his fingers and suddenly a bottle of whiskey appeared in his hand. Aziraphale just looked down at his tea cup while Crowley conjured up some glasses. “To doing things the human way,” he said, presenting one of them to his angel.
Aziraphale narrowed his eyes at the irony of what Crowley had just done but drank what was left of his tea and set the mug down on the coffee table, accepting the glass Crowley offered without hesitation. “The human way,” he said uncertainly.
They drank well into the night, and Crowley opted for passing out before he could bother to sober up. He awoke as he always did, sprawled about like a sleepy sighthound and blissfully disoriented. One of his arms was thrown over his eyes, the other plunged deep into the cool underside of a pillow. His legs were just as bad, with one crooked up to the point where his socked foot was flat to the mattress and the other thrown over an entire pile of pillows. His mouth tasted positively rancid.
He shifted his arm and peered into the room. Wasn’t much of a scene – some bottles, some glasses, a checkerboard with the pieces spilled all over, and there was a mysterious wet spot on the carpet that he suspected a certain untrained kitten of producing. A snap of his fingers had it disappearing before he could remember that they were supposed to be living the human way for a bit.
Speaking of certain beasts… Crowley twisted his head a bit to fully take in the situation. She was curled into a little soot ball against his ribcage, right under the pit of the arm that had been blinding him a moment ago. He watched her little sides rise and fall, rise and fall for a moment before he realized what he was doing.
“Little goblin,” he muttered and aggressively sniffed the smile from his own face.
“Is that her name then?”
Crowley’s neck cracked from the pure speed with which he lifted it up. His leg was not thrown over a pile of pillows, but Aziraphale. The angel even had a book propped against his knee that he hadn’t felt before. If not for the fear of crushing his—the kitten, Crowley would have thrown himself off in an instant and apologized. But as the situation stood, he was frozen.
“You miracled that from somewhere,” he said, voice still all gravelly from sleep and a suddenly dry throat. “I don’t own any Jane Austen.”
Aziraphale blushed a little. “Yes, well. I don’t really see why small things would matter so much. Small miracles happen all the time. It’s the big ones that could attract attention, so…”
That seemed to be the end of his reasoning, Crowley let his head fall back again and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Where’re my glasses?” he grumbled. Aziraphale only chuckled. “What?” He sat up again, neck still complaining about the angle, and did a double take.
He had been so preoccupied with the fact that his leg was thrown over the angel’s legs and that said angel was reading off of him, that he had failed to notice his glasses sitting atop Aziraphale’s head. The angel laughed at his expression, his own hand leaving the book to knock them down onto his own nose.
“No need to make such a face. You said I looked stunning last night.”
“What else did I say?” Crowley hoped he sounded groggy. WhatelsedidIsaywhatelsedidIsaywhatelsedidIsay?
Aziraphale was still grinning as if Crowley wasn’t currently filled with icy-cold terror, and in those sunglasses— “Oh, we talked about albatrosses for a bit. Lovely birds, the albatross. Freaks of nature you know, they really shouldn’t be able to fly.”
“We were both drunk for most of it, dear. I don’t remember.”
“But what you do remember?”
“Worried I know all your darkest secrets?”
Crowley wasn’t really sure how to say I’m worried I told you the truth about how I feel in a drunken act of desperation you will only remember later, and then when you do you’ll be so repulsed by the sight of me that you’ll throw me out of your life for eternity without sounding like he was deeply and ridiculously in love with the angel in front of him, so he stuck with, “Jus’ curious.”
Aziraphale snorted in amusement – well, less of a snort and more of an abnormally loud hm through the nose. “I remember you were playing with the kitten, too. You kept calling her ‘goblin’ and then hugging her to your chest until she clawed at you to let go.”
Maybe no confession then, though Crowley was sure he wouldn’t be allowed to forget those particular cutesy embarrassments anytime soon.
“Is Goblin her name?” Aziraphale seemed to find it funnier than Crowley would have thought. “It would be very off-putting to most. This cute little thing with the name of a quite dreadful creature. A bit ironic.”
“I don’t know.” Crowley attempted to shift slowly from his gradually more uncomfortable position without waking her.
Aziraphale pulled the sunglasses he was still wearing down to the tip of his nose. “They’re so dark, Crowley. I don’t know how you see anything.”
Crowley reached up and plucked them away, sliding them back onto his own face. “Got different eyes.”
“I know, dear.”
Right. Body swapping. That had been an intimate experience. He was unsuccessful in keeping the kitten asleep and she clambered up onto his chest almost as soon as she opened her eyes. “Oh, get off,” Crowley growled and she nibbled on his nose in response.
Aziraphale giggled – actually giggled – and stood suddenly, book snapping shut in his hand. “She must be hungry,” he said cheerfully. “Let’s get something to eat.”
It was still raining outside. Crowley could hear it pattering around outside as he fed the kitten bits of chicken – which she had chosen to gobble down with incredibly loud, wet slurping noises that made even Crowley a bit uncomfortable.
“It’s pouring out there,” Aziraphale said upon entering the kitchen. “The humans are saying it may not clear up for another few days.”
Wonderful. More time to spend in this quiet hellhole. What he wouldn’t give to go back to the days when he actually liked his home.
Pat! Pat! Pat! Pat! went the rain against the window, sloshing loudly down the street like a bucket spilling over onto someone’s head.
Before his mind could wander much, the kitten pushed her head into the side of his skull and nuzzled into his hair. “What are you doing?” Crowley muttered, then added when he saw Aziraphale’s shinning eyes, “Why doesn’t she ever do this to you?”
“Maybe I don’t need it.”
Behind his sunglasses, Crowley’s eyes narrowed. But before he could demand to know what that was supposed to mean, the telephone rang.
“I’ll get it,” Aziraphale said cheerfully and hurried from the kitchen. Crowley shrugged to himself. It was probably for Aziraphale anyway – nobody called Crowley except, well, Aziraphale (or on occasion, South African princes who needed money sent into their account, but found themselves penniless and nervous to ever make a call again when Crowley roared into the phone).
The goblin wanted to see the plant room again, and immediately attempted to leap from Crowley’s shoulder upon entering – luckily, she was wrestled into a moment of almost-calm so he could set her down – so she could bat at the leaves hanging down toward the floor. Letting them know there was a new boss in town. Crowley chuckled to himself at the sight before leaving the room.
Aziraphale was in fact on the phone with more humans and talking about the state of his shop. “I’m not worried about money,” Crowley heard him say. “I just want to ensure it all gets fixed. How soon do you think you can properly inspect it?”
Crowley poured himself a drink at the minibar before he fell back onto the couch, stretching his legs over the arm. Aziraphale talked for what felt like hours, asking the questions again and again and then suddenly moving to scribble something down. Crowley wasn’t sure how or why he did it. Humans were so slow and ridiculous and in his opinion that could hardly be trusted to fix something occupied by an immortal being. He had stopped taking the Bentley to any mechanics decades ago. Humans were clever and they were smart, but most were far from what an ethereal/occult being needed.
It seemed that Aziraphale was finally beginning to finish up his conversation when the power suddenly went out.
Pitch blackness filled his flat within a second, followed by the distant gasps and shouts from downstairs neighbors. Crowley blinked a few times while his eyes shifted into something that could see better in the new environment. The heat off of his angel became visible first, followed by everything else.
Aziraphale clicked his tongue. “Bother,” he said. “I was going to ask about new flooring.” A beat of silence while Crowley watched him just stand there before he said, “Ah. Well, I, uh, I can’t see much of anything now.”
“Not going to ‘Let There Be Light’ it up?”
“I’m not sure it’s very necessary now.” Aziraphale, walking with his hands stretched out in front of him, eventually found the table and hung up the phone. “I just need to find some place to sit down and I’ll be perfectly fine until it comes back on.”
Thunder rumbled outside, wordlessly threatening eternal darkness in London. Would it make much of a difference if he opened the shutters? Or was it just as dark outside?
Crowley took another sip of his drink, then stood and set it down on the table along with his sunglasses – he could see better that way. “Come on, angel. I’ll help.”
Despite his warning, Aziraphale still jumped a bit when he touched his arm. “Oh,” he said. “Hello.”
“The table corner is right next to you,” Crowley cautioned, and lead Aziraphale safely around it before beginning to guide him toward the couch, walking backwards with a hand on his angel’s forearm. “Come, come.”
Aziraphale snorted at that. “Don’t rush me, Crowley. I can’t see.”
“You don’t need to see. Blind people don’t see all the time and they move worlds faster than you are right now.”
It seemed he had misjudged his distance. No sooner had Crowley finished speaking when the back of his knees suddenly hit the couch and he nearly tumbled over. He quickly regained his balance, but in doing so had guided Aziraphale a step too far and they nearly collided face-first into each other.
One of Aziraphale’s hands flew out to catch himself on Crowley’s chest, palm and fingers pushing hard into his skin. “Oh dear,” was all he said.
An understatement to Crowley who could see perfectly well that Aziraphale’s face was right fucking there. He leaned away as much as he could without further losing his balance. “Here,” he said. “Just—”
He spent the next few seconds awkwardly arranging them so that he could turn Aziraphale around to sit without bringing them any closer than they had to get. He could only pray that his angel wasn’t completely uncomfortable the entire time.
“Thank you, Crowley,” he said as he sat down. In the other room, the kitten started meowing pitifully.
“You can see in the dark, ridiculous beast!” Crowley called to her. There was a pause, then she started up again. He rolled his eyes. “I’m going to go get her,” he told Aziraphale. “I’ll try and find some candles too.”
The kitten was lying on the floor of the plant alcove, spread out like a pancake and mewling as loudly as she could with her head thrown back dramatically. She got even louder when Crowley entered the room and heroically rescued her, squirming around until he let her go then thoroughly panicking until he picked her back up again. So it went until he had found a few candles and returned to where Aziraphale was waiting.
The angel spent a total of five seconds shifting his face through different stages of affection when the candles were lit and he could see the kitten curled securely into the crook of Crowley’s arm. “I see she lives.”
“Barely.” Crowley moved to the bar and poured himself a drink. “There were a few dust specks really starting to sneak up on her.”
“Oh, it was a very real situation.” Crowley eyed her over pointedly. “Not dramatic at all.”
He moved back to the couch while Aziraphale finished lighting the candles. The kitten started kneading his leg happily, unaware of the havoc her claws wrought on his pant legs.
Aziraphale leaned back into the couch, turned toward Crowley so he could smile at the kitten. “Drinking already?” he asked.
“Why not?” It was a little too quiet for sobriety to be necessary anyway. “Want one?”
“No, thank you.” Aziraphale’s eyes narrowed in that way they did when he was thinking about something. Eyes distant, but still directed somewhere around Crowley’s throat. The demon shifted uneasily and tried to focus his attention one tickling the kitten’s ear fluff.
“Crowley, are you alright?”
Well, that wasn’t a good tone. That was Aziraphale’s worried tone, and it wasn’t good when he became worried. A worried Aziraphale was an Aziraphale that tried to take care of things on his own and got himself (and usually Crowley, who would never leave him to get into scrapes alone) into varying degrees of trouble.
“I’m fine,” he said with the most fine smile he could muster and took a sip from his drink. “Just bored I suppose.”
“You’ve just seemed a bit off lately.”
“You’re off.” Crowley rested the tip of his middle finger on the kitten’s belly. A fatal error. “I’ll sober up once the lights come back on.”
Aziraphale reached his hand over and removed the kitten from where she attacked Crowley’s hand. Crowley definitely didn’t stop breathing when their hands touched. “Be nice, Fiend,” he said, but immediately started playing with her in the same way, tickling her belly until she went absolutely feral.
“Figured I’d give it a try,” he sighed. “We really ought to give her a name soon.”
Crowley snorted. “She’s ‘the kitten.’ I think that’s good enough.”
“You know, Aziraphale. I don’t care what anyone says, you truly are so kind. Never shooting down someone’s ideas without hearing them out first.” Crowley couldn’t help but smile as his angel started laughing. “S’my favorite thing about you.”
He got a bit drunk after that. Not drunk enough to start saying things he didn’t mean to, but definitely drunk enough to start feeling fuzzy. Aziraphale spent the next hour reading by candlelight, while Crowley hung upside down on the couch and convinced himself that he didn’t know how to whistle.
He finally managed to whistle and a moment later the lights came back on. Crowley gasped slowly. “I’ve done it,” he whispered.
“Did you see?” He couldn’t see Aziraphale, too busy hanging upside down with his poor sunglasses making a slow decent towards the floor, but he reached a hand in the angel’s direction. He grabbed at Aziraphale’s fingers to get his attention. “The lights.”
“Yes, I saw.”
Crowley’s eyes had started to drift closed, but shot open again when his sunglasses clattered loudly to the floor. He was holding Aziraphale’s hand – fingers linked together and everything. He’d just grabbed it without even asking.
In a flash of movement, Crowley wrenched himself free and toppled down onto the floor in pile of thrashing limbs. “Fuck,” he growled, rubbing at his head. “Sorry ‘bout that.” Time to sober up some then.
Aziraphale gave a tight smile in response, his hand clenched into something like a fist in his lap. “It’s fine, Crowley.”
Something tightened in Crowley’s chest. He’s not mad, he told himself firmly. He’s not. He’d done more embarrassing things than grab Aziraphale’s hand – surely that wouldn’t be the last straw.
There was fucking tension in the air and it was making his skin crawl.
Crowley leaned against the doorframe, sipping at yet another drink and watching while Aziraphale simultaneously read and massaged the kitten at the base of the skull until her eyes rolled. After the hand-touch situation, it had probably been silent for nearly an hour — which Crowley normally wouldn’t have cared about except this wasn’t the bookshop. His flat was devouring this quiet, ready to pounce on him at any moment if he didn’t find something to do.
Talk to me, Aziraphale, Crowley begged silently, but the angel didn’t move. It was the day after Armeggedon didn’t happen all over again.
Aziraphale had been so happy, enough that Crowley could feel it coming off him in waves. He had smiled with Crowley and had continuously touched his arm until Crowley was sure — almost completely positive — that the moment had arrived.
“I like to think,” Aziraphale had said at the Ritz, his eyes trailing around the room like everything was the next most beautiful thing he had ever seen simply because it wasn’t destroyed, “none of this would have worked out if you weren’t, at heart, just a little bit a good person.”
No one had called Crowley a good person before, least of all himself. In a way, it made sense that Aziraphale would be first since he was always trying to hint at it anyway. Crowley couldn’t help his own smile. Two could play at that game. “And if you weren’t, deep down, just enough of a bastard to be worth knowing.”
Aziraphale smiled at him, and then he smiled at everything in the room.
He was so happy that it was all still here. Crowley lifted his glass. “Cheers,” he said. “To the world.”
His angel looked at him again, really looked at him for the first time since they’d sat down. He wasn’t even a little distracted by the other people or the decor or anything else he had been appreciating ceaselessly a moment ago.
“To the world.”
He had looked at Crowley as if Crowley was that world.
“Do you need something, dear?” Crowley was snapped from his thoughts when he heard Aziraphale’s question. The angel was looking up at him over his spectacles, more confused than anything else now. No sign of that gaze from the Ritz.
Where had it gone? What had Crowley done so wrong that night?
“No, sorry. Jus’ thinking.” Crowley tilted his head to the side until he could feel the doorframe digging into his scalp.
Aziraphale nodded slowly and went back to his book.
They had gone for a walk afterward. Just strolling the streets of London while humans went along with their days — as if their days hadn’t almost just ceased to exist. Crowley had looked at Aziraphale, and Aziraphale had looked at Crowley. And there had been something. He’d felt it.
But when they’d gone back to the bookshop — when Aziraphale had invited him in to talk — Crowley had thought about the flames, which had lead him to think about what had happened in his own flat. The puddle still waiting to be cleaned up on his floor, unless Adam had taken care of that too. He hadn’t dared to look the day before, hadn’t been in the right headspace for it while they tried to figure out the body swap, so they’d stayed at a hotel — for all Crowley knew, the puddle of demon was still there.
He’d needed to check and so had refused Aziraphale’s invitation and went home. Was that when he’d messed up? His missed opportunity?
It didn’t matter, he told himself. Better to leave things unchanged when it came to Aziraphale and himself, their relationship had worked for… a long time, there was no point in trying to mess it up now.
The kitten suddenly writhed dramatically and sprang from the angel’s lap, running at a full sprint to leap onto the window sill.
“Well that seemed urgent,” Crowley said, watching as she pawed gently at the raindrops slithering down the window.
“Sometimes I think enjoying the little things is urgent.”
Crowley couldn’t argue with that.
It continued to rain for another day and a half, enough water pouring from the sky that Crowley was beginning to wonder if Heaven and Hell had come up with a new plan to destroy the world, but was much relieved when the downpour finally began to let up around noon the next day.
Crowley spent most of his time drunk, which resulted in a dreadful loss of alcohol that he would now have to replace, and not-so-stealthily staring at Aziraphale. The power had gone out a few more times, but the kitten had eventually realized that her eyes did work in the dark — meaning that she had less dramatic reactions every time the lights went off, but instead decided that it was appropriate to zoom around the flat while only Crowley could see her.
Unfortunately, Aziraphale was probably bored. Crowley did his best to entertain but his flat was not and had never been the bookshop and his angel could only read the same book so many times before he got restless. He’d started talking then, and while Crowley was more than happy to listen to whatever his angel had to say, his slightly drunken mind had difficulty keeping up.
“This is wonderful,” his angel was saying at the moment, having very suddenly burst into the kitchen while Crowley was finally partaking in a sip of water. “I’ve just received the news that the humans have started work on the bookshop.”
Crowley smiled. “That is good news.”
“The books were all miraculously saved.” Aziraphale took the now-empty glass from Crowley’s hand and filled it with water again. “And all the workers are feeling full of energy, ready to fix the damage.”
“So why didn’t we just save the shop altogether, angel?” Crowley asked, accepting the glass again with a grateful nod. “Let’s be honest, the laying low thing is a bit of bullshit.”
Aziraphale shrugged, his face twisting into some expression between shy and coy. “Well, I don’t think staying with you was so bad. I even kept my things from cluttering up all your space.”
“I told you, I don’t care about your clutter.” He set down the glass and pushed his glasses up his nose a bit more. “So are you telling me that this was all some elaborate ruse to stay at my flat for a bit.”
Outrage. “Not a ruse!” Aziraphale protested, his voice suddenly high-pitched and indignant. “You stay at the bookshop all the time. I just thought it would be okay if the tables were flipped for a moment.”
“Turned, angel. The tables are turned.”
“Regardless, I thought that the kitten might enjoy it more if we were together as well.”
Crowley arched an eyebrow, slowly so Aziraphale would see, and grinned when he saw the angel begin to grow flustered. “So what you’re saying—”
“I’m just saying she likes us both and we should be there for her!” Crowley could almost feel Aziraphale’s wings flapping around in agitation, even though that was quite impossible.
“No, you’re right. It’s so hard for the children of separated parents. We should think about what’s best for her.” Nevermind that the idea of Aziraphale considering them a couple made Crowley’s heart soar, his angel’s face was getting redder by the second and he eventually marched right out of the kitchen. “Come now, Aziraphale!” Crowley called after him. “We really shouldn’t fight in front of the child.”
He chuckled to himself. Wishful thinking, but funny all the same.
There was silence in the kitchen now, and Crowley hurried to get out of it. The kitten, though she was still small — maybe a runt, which could explain why she had been abandoned — Crowley could see that she was beginning to fill out. She had been tiny and thin when he’d first found her, but now marched around the house on stubby legs — quite fattened up. She possessed more energy than she, or Crowley for that matter, knew what to do with and so spent much of her spare time silently stalking him. He would never admit it aloud, but there were a frightening amount of times he didn’t know she was there before she pounced on his foot (or, in one particularly terrifying incident, his head).
As time had gone on, Crowley had been forgetting to act begrudging and aloof and actually caught himself wiggling his fingers on his knees in a well-crafted trap to lure her to him. Once Aziraphale had walking in on him making little mewing noises back to her while she screamed for chicken — they had not talked about it.
Crowley grumbled in distaste when he looked out the window one night and still found only thick clouds and rain. “It’s got to stop sometime, right?” he asked no one in particular.
“It will,” Aziraphale answered anyway.
He knew they were both thinking about the flood, as unlikely as it was that there would be a repeat in history (God promised not to do it again, after all. She made a rainbow and everything!). “You know what my least favorite part was.” Crowley let the curtains fall closed again, throwing himself over the back of the couch to slide down next to Aziraphale. The angel raised his eyebrows. “No stars.”
Aziraphale nodded. “I didn’t even know I had taken them for granted until I couldn’t see them anymore.” He let his book fall closed, though he kept a hand trapped between the pages. “Haven’t done it since.”
“Beautiful things, stars.” Crowley let his head loll back onto the couch. He wasn’t really sure how drunk he was at this point. “Big ‘n burning ‘n so powerful. But all th’ way out here… Just look like little sparkles.” Aziraphale nodded happily in agreement. “Whas your favorite thing about stars?”
His angel thought for a few moments in absolute silence. “Shooting stars,” he said at last. “I know they’re not actually stars, but they are so beautiful. Humans make up all these ideas about making wishes when they see them. I like that.”
“Mm.” Crowley fell back onto the couch and drummed his fingers along the sofa arm. Wandering around the other side of the room, he watched as the kitten’s pupils suddenly expanded and she began inching closer.
“What about you, dear?”
“Supernova.” Crowley mimed a star exploding with his hands. “Gets all bright and colorful so we can see it from here. Catastrophic explosion. Big kaboom.”
Aziraphale seemed to enjoy his demonstration. “You know,” he said. “The word nova comes from Latin: Novus. Loved the language when it was alive. It means new.”
At some point Crowley had turned his entire body toward the angel, his legs curled in off the floor. “Why?” he asked. Aziraphale loved it when he asked questions about his interests. Latin had never really been his favorite language — a bit too self-absorbed, though he supposed he was a fluent English speaker now and that ship had likely already sailed.
“People used to think that a supernova occurred when a star was newly formed,” Aziraphale told him, looking pleased. “They didn’t find out until later that it was because they were exploding.”
Hell hadn’t been happy when the first supernovas started happening. News that Gabriel was blowing up the different stars they’d helped build swept the entire place within moments and everyone down there was one ill-timed jab away from hurling holy water into the nearest demon’s face. Luckily, they didn’t keep holy water in Hell — that would be a terrible idea.
A sting in his hand as the kitten leaped up onto the couch and began to punish whatever insult his wiggly fingers had directed at her. No more thoughts, he told himself firmly. Especially ones about holy water.
“Big kaboom,” he said, feeling like a true wordsmith.
“Big kaboom,” Aziraphale agreed.
Aziraphale had told him about his plans to go out and see how the bookshop was doing, but it was still disorienting when Crowley woke up and found himself alone in his flat.
The kitten was still there of course, screeching her woes to the world since it had been ten entire minutes since Crowley usually fed her.
Usually Aziraphale was still awake and sitting at the table with some tea and a book. Crowley had come to enjoy seeing it — his angel was usually a bit stiff from sitting all night, but he always had a glow about him that made Crowley ask about what he had been reading and had Aziraphale talking non-stop for the next two hours.
Crowley growled himself out of bed and stretched. He was never going to get to sleep for longer than a few measly hours as long as that demanding beast was in his home.
The kitten continued to scream and yell until the food was actually in her mouth — she still insisted upon being hand-fed while perched atop Crowley’s shoulders — and even then she made gross little slurping noises while she gobbled it down.
“You make a lot of noise for something so small,” Crowley informed her. She didn’t respond.
But he had spoken too soon. Almost immediately after eating, the kitten clambered up onto the windowsill and settled down for a nap — leaving Crowley in complete silence.
He should go find Aziraphale, see for himself how the bookshop was doing — and if the workers there required any demonic intervention. He’d spritz his plants and then he would go. The plants had come to fear the silence just as much as Crowley did, and so were already trembling by the time Crowley entered the room. Some of their trailing leaves were a bit shredded — the work of the kitten, so he didn’t bother getting upset over it — but other than that there were no spots, no holes, no imperfections. It was almost more frustrating (not that he had planned to do any yelling anyway while the goblin was asleep).
A glance out the window in the plant alcove told him it had — fucking finally — stopped raining. Crowley opened it just a crack. Traffic, humans, businesses; they never stopped making constant noise. Lately, it was his favorite thing about them. A moment later he wrinkled his nose. Someone either was or had just been smoking directly below and the smell was horrid.
A horrid smell, akin to smoke but not quite the same, had filled his nose. Crowley had felt the heat from it, even as far as he sat from the door so as to avoid getting splashed. Had heard it burn a demon into nothing.
He yanked the window shut again, shaking himself. He needed to go get some air. The kitten would sleep for hours yet, she wouldn’t even notice he was gone.
He’d known what would happen when he put it in that bucket, it had hurt him through the gloves — not much, but if he’d spilled it…
It had been about survival. There hadn’t been much of a choice involved. It would have been him if not them.
Stepping into the main room, Crowley checked that the kitten was still asleep one last time before approaching the door.
Hastur had screamed and nothing had even happened to him.
Crowley hadn’t screamed. He probably should have screamed, but he’d been so determined to stay calm and survive that he’d remained silent.
He hadn’t been able to dispose of what was left behind by using any demonic miracles, so things had gotten complicated… He’d had to call Aziraphale, after leaving in such a hurry, and his blessed angel hadn’t even asked any questions. Luckily, the holy water had completely destroyed any demonic essence that may have been left and so was just a shining puddle on the floor, though Crowley wasn’t going to hope that Aziraphale thought he had just accidentally spilled some.
Crowley gripped the door handle, then suddenly stumbled back. It hadn’t left a mark on the floor — not a physical one anyway — but it was like he could still feel it there. Fizzing and bubbling.
He needed to leave. He needed to get out. But something pushed against his chest, forcing him back as if it were suddenly impossible for him to step over that threshold. His back hit the table and he slid backward on top of it a few inches, curling in on himself.
Crowley wasn’t a weak demon — he’d fought in the First War with the rest of them and had done his fair share of the damage before Heaven threw them out. He’d fought beside Hastur and Ligur, which was likely why they’d chosen to come after him like they had — being aware of his time spent trapped on the other side with the bloke who would one day become Sloth.
The room was beginning to smell different — little moisture particles bringing him miniscule details such as where the kitten was and the exact location of his neighbors. He was smelling with his tongue. Fuck. The eyelids would go next, then the teeth, then the need for limbs. The sunglasses very suddenly became absolutely unbearable and Crowley chucked them off, still curling and twisting in on himself.
Hastur had screamed. But Ligur had wailed.
Crowley had never seen holy water destroy someone before. They had still been angels in the War, they’d all been fighting with hellfire.
Hellfire destroyed angels so much faster. The only people that had been screaming then were other angels who had been forced to watch.
Something touched him and Crowley whirled, hissing with fangs bared, arching up and up until he was nearly his full height.
He barely saw the white-hot fear in the kitten’s eyes before she bolted with a hiss. Crowley dropped back down to the table. Of course it had been her. Who else would it be? He twisted and threw himself from the table, slithering away in the opposite direction — away from the kitten and away from that fucking door. Into his room and under the bed, curling around and around himself.
I can’t believe you hissed at her. His coils never stopped moving, twisting tighter and tighter as if he could curl himself out of existence. Now she’s afraid of you. He could smell it.
A wise choice on her part, apparently.
The mound of him was beginning to grow too big for hiding under the bed and Crowley had to settle for the corner instead.
He had never been particularly good at being a demon. But clearly he wasn’t good at much else either.
Coward. Liar. Monster.
Too late, Crowley sensed footsteps quietly approaching. Like someone was sneaking up on him. Thousands of demon names flashed through his mind, all of them more than happy to drag him back down to Hell and really destroy him this time. He unwound himself in a second, head lurching up and forward to see what was happening.
Already crouched in front of him, Aziraphale caught his head between two steady hands without even blinking.
Absolute silence. Crowley didn’t think either of them were bothering to breathe. For a moment, Aziraphale’s eyes had been something out of a nightmare Crowley never wanted to see again — almost crackling with a completely alien ferocity. But they were gone within seconds, softening along with his grip on Crowley’s face. His thumbs began to shift gently back and forth across the scales of his jaw.
Soft. Aziraphale’s hands were soft. Crowley blinked, which was a good sign, and a moment later he was less of a tangled mass and more… hunched. Wrapped around himself in the sense that his legs were pulled to his chest by his arms.
Aziraphale didn’t let go of his face, though. “Tell me what’s wrong, Crowley.”
Crowley didn’t say anything — because his tongue was still a little too thin and forked to properly use, but also because he couldn’t even imagine the words he would say. Aziraphale continued tracing his cheekbones with his thumbs.
“As ridiculous as it sounds,” Aziraphale whispered, his lips barely moving — not that Crowley was looking. “I could… feel your fear all the way from the bookshop. I thought that maybe—”
Crowley’s tongue was starting to change now and he couldn’t help but smack it against the roof of his mouth a few times, though he was sure he looked like a dog with peanut butter.
Aziraphale shook his head a little. “You scared me, dear.”
“Sorry.” There was barely any breath behind the word, but he got it out. He’d scared the kitten, too. She had thought he was going to eat her. “The kitten…”
Aziraphale glanced over his shoulder as much as he could without having to remove his hands from Crowley’s face. It suddenly occurred to the demon that he was probably soothing him with some kind of angel-touch, not just holding his face to hold it.
His angel’s eyebrows knit, mouth dipping into a frown. “Crowley,” he said slowly. “I can’t— I don’t know where she is.”
“I can’t feel her inside the building.”
Crowley was already standing, wrenching his face free of Aziraphale’s hands and rushing to the door. He whistled as he hurried from room to room in search of her, but found nothing.
The window… Had he shut it? Crowley bolted for the plant alcove without a backward glance. He thought he remembered shutting it, but suddenly he was unsure. In her panic, it was very likely the kitten would have found it and jumped out without thinking. She fell, Crowley realized in horror as he skidded to a halt inside the room. The plants all froze. His flat was quite a few floors up, if she fell—
But no, the window was closed and locked. Crowley nearly fainted with relief before he was running out again. Where are you?
He found Aziraphale in that main room, his eyes wide with horror and guilt as he stood beside the open door. “I left them open,” he whispered. “I was so worried, I didn’t—”
Out there. Out there with the traffic and the dogs and the people so willing to just pick her up and carry her away. “Stay here in case she gets back,” was all Crowley managed to growl before he was running out the door.
It was atrociously bright outside with the sun reflecting off the cloudy sky. He had forgotten his discarded sunglasses inside, but there was no time to go back for them. Crowley squinted until his eyes adjusted somewhat to the light. Though there was still water sloshing around in the road, cars were already driving around en masse, people hurrying along the pavement. (Because humans were just incapable of taking a fucking breath before it was time to get back to work.)
Crowley began scanning the ground all around him, whistling and calling vague names such as kitten or kitty. He cursed himself for not giving her a name by now. Soon as I bring her back, he promised himself, I’m picking one.
People glanced his direction but didn’t stop. Cars honked angrily when he crossed the road, then nearly went backwards when he snarled right back at them.
He checked down the alley he’d found her in. He checked gutters and garbage cans, anything he thought she might fit inside. He encouraged his tongue to change again so he could better try to catch her scent.
Could she have made it to the bookshop? Surely not, she hadn’t been gone that long and she was still so small…
Crowley rechecked some of the places he had looked, eyes trained on the ground as he walked. He didn’t even notice Aziraphale approaching until the angel grabbed his arm.
“Did she come back?” Crowley asked as soon as he recognized him.
Aziraphale shook his head. “I, er, brought called Anathema to wait while I came to help.”
“I didn’t want to leave you out here by yourself.”
They searched in the opposite direction next. Turning over every metaphorical stone with their ethereal and occult abilities as well as their physical hands. Crowley’s heart hadn’t stopped hammering since trying to leave his flat, and he had begun to wonder if it would actually burst.
It would be truly terrible if he were to discorporate now. Without a physical form Hell would tear him apart.
Aziraphale had fallen behind a few steps, but Crowley was back by his side within moments. A second later and he heard it, yowling. It was ragged and much deeper than the kitten was capable of, but it was something and Crowley headed toward it without a second thought. His quick walk turned into a sprint around the corner when he scanned the area and recognized what he found.
She was cornered, her tiny body fluffed up as much as it could to make herself look larger while two other cats twice her size pushed closer. All three of them were hissing and spitting furiously, ears flat back against their heads, tails lashing back and forth. One of the cats, a ragged-looking thing with patches of its dark gray fur entirely missing, suddenly lunged.
Crowley snapped his fingers, still running, and the two attackers froze. Pinned, the kitten screeched and writhed until she escaped the frozen cat’s grip then whirled to claw viciously at its eyes before she bolted for Crowley and Aziraphale.
He met her halfway and pulled her to him before either of them had properly stopped moving. The kitten squirmed, clawing at him as if she’d try to climb inside his chest. She was soaked and terrified, but unharmed to Crowley’s eternal relief. He was going to faint. His legs were going to just give out beneath him.
“Is she alright?” A snap of Aziraphale’s fingers had her instantly dry. Crowley could only nod. “Thank He— Well, thank whoever. As long as she’s safe.”
Crowley couldn’t have agreed more. He wished he could tell her how sorry he was for scaring her and that she would never have to see him like that again, but alas the only animal he could communicate with was a snake (and at that language, he was mediocre at best).
“Let’s get out of here,” he said instead, and started to turn. “Angel?”
Aziraphale was looking at the scene behind them, his lips pressed together sadly. “She must have blinded the poor thing.”
Poor thing? Crowley glanced back at the two attacking cats, still frozen. He wouldn’t be able to hold it that much longer, already beginning to feel the effects. “Can you blame her? It was self-defense.”
“Yes. I don’t think she’s unjustified. Still, I can’t help but feel bad for the poor thing.”
They were both much older than her, and clearly feral if the scars and the ripped ears and fur didn’t give it away on sight. The one that had jumped on the kitten was a dark gray, while the other one was a pale brown. It was impossible to tell exactly how old they were, the territorial rage in their frozen eyes made them seem ancient compared to the kitten’s enormous, innocent gaze.
“She didn’t have much of a choice,” Aziraphale went on, “but then again, I’m not sure they did either.”
Crowley gripped the kitten a little tighter, though careful not to smother her. That gray cat had attacked first, but had paid the greater price. It would never survive, blinded as it was.
“Can you…” Crowley sighed heavily. He needed to sit down. “Can you heal it? I don’t think I can—”
“Of course, dear.”
Crowley released them from their frozen state as he and Aziraphale rounded the corner to head back to his flat, the two of them hissing and spitting as they scurried away. Aziraphale was smiling a little.
“I think that was the right decision,” he said. “Violence was all they knew. Depending on how long they’ve been on their own, it’s quite possible they’ve never experienced kindness and affection like our girl has.”
One of Crowley’s knees gave out beneath him, but Aziraphale hooked an arm through the crook of his elbow without a pause and they kept walking.
Stopping time was something Crowley usually only did when Aziraphale was in trouble, and it usually made him feel sick afterward.
Aziraphale did not give him the time to feel sick.
Anathema was there when they returned. “Did you find her?” she asked, and bundled her in a dryer-warmed blanket as soon as Crowley would give her up.
“Thank you so much for waiting,” Aziraphale told her warmly. “We were, well, terrified.”
Anathema said something back, but was staring at Crowley again as he scooped up his discarded sunglasses, her eyes narrowed. For fuck’s sake. He needed to sit down, but instead asked Aziraphale to look for some kind of treat for the kitten and rounded on her once his angel was gone.
“What?” he growled. She had the audacity to look surprised. “Don’t give me that, humans are terrible liars. What is it? Why are you staring at me like that?”
Anathema leaned on the table — the table he’d just had a breakdown on an hour ago, so that was wonderful — and looked at him quizzically for awhile longer. Crowley leaned again the wall in what he hoped appeared to be a nonchalant way, but was really a I’m-about-to-fall-over-and-I-need-this way.
“I want to ask if you’re okay,” Anathema said at last. “But I don’t think you’ll answer me.”
“And that’s supposed to mean…?”
Her jaw set. “Everyone is stressed right now,” she said. “We’re all pretty sure the world is going to try and end again, it’s how the brain works. I can see it in their auras.”
Crowley knew where this was going. “So what? You’re surprised a demon can feel a little off-put, too? Not all of us wanted the world to end, that’s why we stopped it—”
“You’re terrified of something,” Anathema interrupted and Crowley’s mouth snapped shut. “Your aura has been spiking and swirling so violently over a fear no one else can see. I was convinced that you knew something the rest of us didn’t, but now I’m not so sure. It’s hard to read — yours doesn’t change color. Neither does his.” She gestured back towards where Aziraphale had disappeared. “Neither did those horsemen.”
The description sounded a lot like her own aura looked, if more intense. Hers did change color, of course, but she was human.
And she was staring at it again. “It’s so abnormal.”
“Well you can relax,” Crowley muttered. “I don’t know anything more than the rest of you.”
She just shook her head. “I’ve seen a lot of auras — every day, really — but I’ve never seen one like yours.”
“I think I’ve got the idea now, thanks.”
“No.” For a second it almost seemed like she would reach out and try to touch it. “That’s not all. Yours… yours reaches for things — for his. When you’re standing together they start swirling around each other. Sometimes auras lean together, but I’ve never seen something like that.”
Now Crowley was speechless. How often had she seen that? Had she known when they’d first hit her bike?
Anathema sighed in a satisfied manner, as if she’d finally gotten something off her chest, and started for the door. “I hope you stop being so scared. I know it can be exhausting,” she said, but paused again before actually stepping out. “I don’t you know if this will make you feel any better — or… what it means, really — but, uh, your auras are both the same color.”
Crowley had seen Aziraphale’s — silver, instead of white. He’d figured it was because Aziraphale wasn’t as much of an angel-prick as the rest of them, but he’d never considered that his might be a color other than demon-black, too…
They showered the kitten with affection until she was tired of it, then gave her a little bowl of warm milk as a treat. Aziraphale did most of this while Crowley sat down. He had been considering for a while whether or not he was willing to risk standing up again to go and get a drink, but was interrupted from his thoughts when his angel pressed a warm tea into his hands.
“No more alcohol,” Aziraphale said decidedly. “I think it’s time we talked.”
Crowley took a long, silent sip from his cup. “About what?”
Aziraphale was not impressed with that. “What happened today, Crowley?” Crowley started to say something witty or boring or blatantly untrue but was cut off as Aziraphale whispered, “Please.”
There was not enough liquid in Crowley’s mug to keep himself busy long enough for his angel to lose interest. “I haven’t been,” he began, “the biggest fan of the quiet lately.”
There was a long pause while Aziraphale waited for Crowley to continue before he finally asked, “Why?”
“Gives me time to think.” Fuck, Crowley needed buckets of alcohol right now. How on earth could Aziraphale expect him to do this completely sober?
His angel seemed to understand that particular sentence, which wasn’t exactly comforting. “What do you think about?”
What do you think about? Crowley suddenly wanted to ask. Instead he said, after a long moment of floundering for words, “I think about all the nasty things I’ve done.”
There was that nod again, like Aziraphale knew exactly what he was talking about. “Armeggedon?”
Crowley nodded too. “Do— ah. What about you?”
The kitten sneezed loudly from the kitchen and Crowley jumped, his head snapping in that direction before swirling back around as Aziraphale placed a palm over his hand.
“She’s fine, dear. Safe,” he promised, and part of Crowley wondered if the last word was directed more towards him than the kitten. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
Crowley sighed and squirmed, made some noises in his throat as if that would distract Aziraphale to make him forget the whole thing. “Fine,” he said, very childishly. He had no idea where to start. How to start. “Back when it was all starting — the end of everything — and I was here…”
“You had a friend over,” Aziraphale filled in darkly.
“Well, yes. Two demons popped in for a visit, to take me back to Hell—” He swallowed. “— Hastur and Ligur.”
Aziraphale stayed helpfully silent, but unfortunately so did Crowley in a much more unhelpful manner. His tongue had suddenly turned to lead in his mouth and refused to move. He couldn’t even pretend to be floundering for words, his mind was playing out the scenario over and over again in his head and there was no room for speech.
Aziraphale’s hand — which he had somehow forgotten was still there — squeezed his own gently. “The holy water?”
“It must have been terrifying to have to use it.”
He nodded again.
“I’m sorry you had to do that all on your own.”
Frustration tightened Crowley’s stomach. He was missing the point. “I destroyed Ligur.”
That made his angel’s eyebrows go up. “Yes. I thought you may have.”
He still wasn’t getting it. Crowley pulled his hand away and tried to stand, nearly fell back down as his legs gave out, then forced himself back up with a growl. Aziraphale stood as well, moving as if to catch him but Crowley ignored him. He walked into the main room and collapsed into the chair at the table. He pointed to the floor. “There was a puddle of holy water there.”
“I set a trap for them when I heard them coming — put a bucket of holy water up on the door so that it would fall on them when they walked in. And then I sat right here,” he gestured to himself and the chair, “and watched while he burned.”
Wrong choice of words — he still didn’t understand. Aziraphale pressed his lips together for a moment. “Yes, I know,” he said, voice giving out a little on the last word. “But you had to. They were coming to do much worse to you.”
Crowley’s nail dug into the arms of the chair. “It’s not like hellfire, Aziraphale,” he growled. “You just go up in smoke when it’s hellfire. I watched him melt. He had time to scream—”
“I know.” Aziraphale interrupted forcefully. “You don’t have to describe it.” Crowley made the decision then and there that he never wanted to know why his angel said that with such knowledge in his eyes. “But it wasn’t up to you, Crowley. They were going to torture you for millions of millenia before they destroyed you. It was self defense.”
“Demons aren’t supposed to be able to destroy each other. We’re not supposed to have access to holy water.”
“Then I guess you’re not much of a demon anymore.”
Crowley pulled himself to his feet again and moved to sit atop the table, lying back so he could just stare at the ceiling. So he didn’t have to look Aziraphale in the eyes. “I’ve never… actually murdered something before. Permanently.”
Rustling while his angel joined him on the table. “That’s a good thing, dear. It’s good that you did it in self defense.”
“I feel like a monster.” His fingers very helpfully found a button on his vest to fiddle with. “More than usual.” Aziraphale just made a noise that could have been a laugh or a scoff — yet the meaning was still brutally clear. Crowley closed his eyes. “Do I even want to know about the things you’ve done?”
“I don’t want to know about the things I’ve done.” Fair enough. “But… let’s just say that I find reading to be an excellent way to drive away the quiet.”
Despite himself, Crowley snickered. “Hiding from your troubles, Aziraphale? I thought you were supposed to be better than me.”
“You are an angel, though. Angels aren’t monsters.”
That snort-scoff noise again. “I think the scars on your wings are evidence enough to prove that that will never be true.”
Crowley had no idea how long they talked. They switched between facing one another to looking back up at the ceiling about a million times (at one point Crowley was hanging upside down on the table and he honest-to-God could not remember when it had started). They talked until Crowley had described every single second — every inch — of what had happened that day in his flat. Aziraphale got sickeningly quiet when he talked about the way Ligur had screamed, the way Hastur had screamed just watching — then didn’t care a second later. Crowley caught himself holding his breath again and again while Aziraphale described some of his own bitter memories. Old memories.
The kitten jumped up into the chair beside the table and fell asleep a few times, running off to get the food Crowley snapped into floating around the room. She jumped up onto the table to receive affection, which Crowley gladly obliged now — especially when it was his turn to talk.
But eventually he stopped, glancing toward the clock. Noon. “We should go check and see how the bookshop looks,” said Aziraphale.
“Weren’t you just there?”
The angel looked thoroughly amused. “Yes, a few days ago.”
Days?! No. They couldn’t have been talking for days. Crowley didn’t have enough words to talk for days, especially without any alcohol in his system. “How?”
Aziraphale slid off the table with a stretch. “It’s easy to loose track of time when one is invested.” He gave Crowley a look that very specifically said Now do you see how I can read for days without noticing? “I have a feeling they miraculously finished early.”
“Why didn’t they call?”
“They did, dear.” Angel as he was, Aziraphale didn’t comment on the surely obvious blush crawling up Crowley’s face. “But before we go, I think we need to remedy something.” He made a little whistling noise, scooping the kitten up as soon as she came skidding into the room. He turned to Crowley with a smile. “Now. If you would please turn into a snake again.”
“No.” Not with the kitten around again. Never. He didn’t know what he’d do if he ever saw her that terrified of him again. It had been literal centuries since he had so thoroughly lost control of his form like that (something with a snake-charmer, if he was remembering correctly. Fucking embarrassing) and if he had any say in it, he would spend his newly regained control never allowing her to see it again.
Aziraphale set her down on the table, running his hands along her back and sides while she purred. “She needs to meet you under better circumstances,” he said. “It will be fine. I’m right here.”
Crowley was beginning to hate it when Aziraphale had to promise that everything would be fine. “I… I can’t scare her like that again.”
“She won’t be scared this time.”
“I lost control of myself.”
His angel arched an eyebrow. “I know, dear. I understand. But weren’t you the one telling me about forgiving oneself for things like that? I seem to recall you being very earnest.”
Right. Aziraphale had shared a particularly harrowing story about the First War. A catastrophic accident that resulted in the loss of hundreds of angels (Fallen and otherwise). Crowley must have been really caught up in all the emotions and shit if he had said all that without being drunk.
He struggled for another few moments to come up with an excuse, but sighed when he couldn’t think of one. Aziraphale gave him another encouraging smile.
Crowley growled, “Alright,” though the word was more of a sigh, and adjusted his position on the table. He slouched for a moment, then watched the fur rise along the kitten’s spine as he lifted his head from his coils. She hissed as he rose above her.
“None of that,” Aziraphale tutted quietly. “You know who that is. Look.” All the while, his hands never stopped petting her — soothing as fast as she was beginning to panic.
Crowley lowered himself back down onto the table and slithered to the side a bit, trying to uncurl himself somewhat.
Aziraphale reached a hand foreward and rested it on his back without warning. The skin on his fingers soft as Crowley, almost involuntarily, shifted beneath his touch. “Look, my sweet,” he urged the kitten. “You know who this is. You know he would never hurt you.”
She watched him for a long time, her back arched, fur standing on end. Crowley could hear a small growl coming from her throat and saw her claws flexing. But she didn’t run. He flicked his tongue, but didn’t smell the terror that had caked the walls earlier. A good sign.
She approached him suddenly, dancing towards him, body turned sideways, to give him a clawless smack on the nose. She jumped back again when he flinched.
“That was very rude,” Aziraphale chastised, but was clearly holding back laughter.
But probably justified. He still would have liked to be able to blink, though. This went on for almost thirty more minutes before she eventually decided that Crowley’s goal was not to eat her. Aziraphale coaxed her forward helpfully.
If Crowley could have snickered, he probably would have when she finally dared to sniff him. The kitten backed up, not in alarm this time, but confusion as she struggled to figure out why she recognized his scent.
“See?” Aziraphale said, and his hand squeezed the demon almost imperceptibly. Crowley just flicked his tongue at the kitten.
Again she approached, sniffing gingerly at his nose and eyes. Crowley made sure to hold nice and still, which he did not have much trouble with. Besides being in his snake form, Aziraphale’s hand was still resting on his back and Crowley could feel his fingers dragging slowly along his scales now, pushing against the muscles whenever his coils shifted.
“You must be so strong,” he said, obviously to himself but Crowley had heard as clear as day. Focus, he hissed at himself and forced his attention back on the kitten.
Crowley flicked his tongue to tickle her nose. She jumped back, then moved forward again, this time ignoring his head completely in favor of clambering up onto his body. Heaven’s Gate, he was almost twice her size (vertically, obviously.). Still sniffing, the kitten began to walk along his spine back toward where most of his body was still coiled together like a badly woven basket of black scales.
She stopped when she saw his tail, her own flicking from side to side. Crowley braced himself but still only barely managed to restrain a hiss from escaping when she pounced, sharp claws pricking. Aziraphale quickly picked her up.
“Be nice,” he laughed. Crowley couldn’t actually glare (yet another reason to mourn the loss of eyelids) but he looked at Aziraphale long enough that he hoped his angel would get the message. Aziraphale pressed his lips together in a not-very-good attempt to stop smiling. “We can try again at the bookshop,” he said. “But I think we should go.”
Crowley sat up and blinked a few times, stretching his returned arms above his head. The kitten meowed at him loudly, almost accusatory. Crowley reached for his glasses. “And you’re sure we were talking for days?”
They took the Bentley, driving in silence for most of the way there. Crowley still couldn’t help but be surprised when he saw that the bookshop was, in fact, finished, the roads drained of rainwater, and clouds much more spread out.
Aziraphale spent half an hour scouring the space, hopping up and down on certain parts of the floor to make sure they still had “a mysterious, book-ish creak to them.” Whatever that meant. Crowley turned into a snake again, this time on the couch, and let the kitten pounce on his tail as much as she liked until she eventually settled on top of him to groom herself. She wasn’t thrilled when the scales changed into his leg, but she didn’t leave either.
“How does it look?” Crowley asked as he slid his glasses back on.
His angel did another slow twirl in place as if to octuple-check. “Well, it certainly all looks the same. Books are all fine. Floor is good. I didn’t stay long last time I was here, but I believe they had some of their best working on it.” He nodded, satisfied, but paused when he saw Crowley grinning at him. “What?”
Crowley threw his shoulders into a shrug. “No, I just… If I recall, you said that you could feel when I started freaking out. That’s why you came running.”
He watched as Aziraphale’s eyes slowly started to narrow. “...Yes,” he said carefully.
Crowley sat up a bit more, though he kept himself in his usual slant by throwing his arm up onto the back of the sofa. The kitten leaped off of his leg and went to investigate one of Aziraphale’s hanging decorations. “Not a very common ability, I don’t think.” He saw the moment Aziraphale picked up on where he was going, his cheeks suddenly blooming bright pink. “In fact, I believe I’ve heard that only Bonded Pairs can do that.”
“Crowley—” Aziraphale began in the most exasperated voice Crowley had ever heard from him.
“I had no idea we had been friends long enough to form such a bond,” Crowley continued dramatically. Aziraphale rolled his eyes and moved toward one of the bookshelves to adjust some volumes. “But there’s no going back now, I suppose. I’d be more than happy to take on the job of building a star-nest if you’ll take the responsibility of teaching her to fly.” He made a wide sweeping motion towards the kitten, who wasn’t listening.
“I am not encouraging this nonsense,” Aziraphale muttered, facing away. “She would never be able to fly. She’s a kitten.”
Crowley snickered. “I’m joking, angel. We have been friends for awhile, I wouldn’t be surprised if we really did form some kind of bond.”
“Right,” said Aziraphale. “Because we’re friends.”
The kitten made an elephant herd amount of noise as she tore up the stairs without warning. Crowley sent her a dubious glance but decided not to call her back.
He watched Aziraphale switch the places of two books. “Thanks,” he said. His angel looked over in surprise. “For listening today — the past few days.”
Aziraphale smiled warmly. “Likewise, my dear. I enjoyed it.”
Something made a noise upstairs, a loud crash that startled them both into a long silence. A moment later the kitten came trotting back down the stairs with a chorus of innocent mews.
Crowley sighed and started to stand. “Whatever she broke, I’ll fix it.”
“No, it’s fine.” Aziraphale had turned around completely now so he was facing Crowley, fiddling with his hands. “Crowley, I have a question.”
His heart was at it again in seconds. That face… it wasn’t a face he had seen before. He sunk back down onto the couch. “What is it?”
“Are we alright?” That hadn’t been what Crowley was expecting to hear. He waited for a few minutes, but Aziraphale didn’t continue.
“Of course we are,” he said.
But Aziraphale didn’t seem to think that was a satisfying answer. “No, I mean really.” He started pacing then, walking slowly between the bookshelf and a nearby table. “It’s just that after everything that happened with Armageddon — and then afterward — It just seems as if—”
Crowley hurried to stop him. “Aziraphale,” he said loudly, and the angel’s mouth snapped closed. “Everything’s fine. Yes, maybe some other parts got a bit mangled up — but not me and you.” Never me and you, he wanted to say, but decided it was probably a bit much. “We’re fine. We’re great. Nothing’s changed.”
Aziraphale blinked — once, twice. “That’s what I’m saying.”
“Because everything’s changed, Crowley, so what are we doing?”
Crowley had no idea what he was talking about. Just a few moments ago he and Aziraphale had been talking for days about the things they had done and how they felt — that certainly didn’t seem like the kind of thing someone would do with a person they were not okay with. But Aziraphale seemed genuinely frustrated about something, so Crowley said, “I’m… not sure I’m following?”
A pause while Aziraphale considered his words, then apparently decided not to use them. “No, nevermind. I’m glad we’re alright.” He returned to the bookshelf, pulling volumes down and rearranging them — though Crowley had no idea if there was any system to his work.
He stood up from the sofa. “Aziraphale, just explain it to me. I want to understand.”
“So do I.”
Crowley crossed to lean against the table, still thoroughly confused. He gestured for Aziraphale to continue, but the angel only stared back at him with too-wide, almost suspicious eyes. Eventually, Crowley couldn’t help but cough out a laugh. “Aziraphale, what’s going on?”
Aziraphale made a noise then — some kind of huff-growl sound that Crowley had no idea he was capable of producing — and fiddled with his many layers of clothing. “I don’t know. Ever since— I’ve just been so confused and frustrated, and I thought—” He pointed an accusatory finger at Crowley. “You kept talking about our side and— and running off, but then — and I just wanted—”
He cut himself off with another frustrated sound, his eyes begging Crowley to understand. Crowley blinked at him for a few moments. He was so nervous — the last time he had been this nervous while talking… well, it may have been the first time they met and had their little ineffable chat. Aziraphale had put his wing over Crowley’s head to keep him dry. Part of him had always wondered why the angel would do that, but he’d never asked.
Aziraphale was watching him closely — so closely. His teeth threatening to turn his bottom lip into pulp. He was still rambling some, mostly repeating himself, and it wasn’t making much sense but—
“I need you to start finishing those sentences,” Crowley interrupted. The way he was talking — struggling for words as if years of thoughts were trying to come out. As if…
“We have been friends for so long, Crowley,” he said, voice doing that high-pitched thing it did when he was talking about something important. Groundbreaking. “That’s not normal. Heaven doesn’t trust each other enough to have friends, and it certainly doesn’t trust Hell, so I always thought—” He shook his head, shoving all the books back onto the shelf without a second glance. “But we’re not Heaven and Hell. We’re Crowley and Aziraphale, and it took me so long to realize that. We are friends.”
Had he ever said that before? Crowley had always known he was bullshitting whenever he claimed they were enemies, or simply protested the use of the word friend when applied to them. Crowley pushed his glasses up his nose and silently hopped up to sit on the table. Don’t interrupt him.
Aziraphale was treating his hands like one of those fidget toys meant to engage the easily distracted (the ones that, ironically, people quickly lost interest in within a few months), his eyes analyzing everything from Crowley’s shoes to a dark spot on the ceiling. “We’re friends.” This time he said it almost sadly. “You’re my best friend — and not just because you’re my only friend. You’ve always been there, even when I didn’t need you. Didn’t want you. Didn’t deserve— But you never went, even when I was rude, and I will never be able to thank you enough for that.” He shook his head. Crowley struggled to breathe. “You’re my best friend and… I just— I love you, Crowley.”
It was like diving into a pool of ice water. Crowley was lightheaded as he gripped the table to keep from slipping off it. His stomach flipped again and again inside him while his heart struggled to keep functioning after seemingly being electrocuted. He really needed to say something, but his throat, it seemed, had finally discovered how to screw itself shut.
He cleared his throat, much louder than was appropriate for the situation, but it did make it possible for him to say, “I feel the same way.”
Aziraphale started to take a step forward, then quickly backtracked, looking torn. “I know, but…”
“But after everything that happened with Adam and the world… I just started to realize— But I wouldn’t want to ruin anything.”
Crowley was gripping the table so hard the blood was beginning to leave his hands. “Sentences, angel,” he said, voice shockingly calm considering that he felt like he was plunging into a volcano. “Full sentences.”
But Aziraphale had noticed his bloodless hands too and moved forward uncertainly. “Don’t hurt yourself,” he said in a barely audible voice despite the close proximity, and carefully took them.
Up close, Crowley could see that he was still flushed and nervous, hands shaking a little as they cradled Crowley’s wrists. He resisted the urge to insist Aziraphale keep talking and instead waited until the color returned to his fingers. Focus on other things, he told himself. Aziraphale was basically standing between his legs and that should have been way more distracting than it was. Was it possible to get high off of emotions? Crowley had never been sure that Aziraphale would ever admit they were friends, but not in a million years would he have even considered that he would hear the angel utter the words I love you and mean them. Not to something as unforgivable as him.
Angels could feel love in the same way Crowley could sense distress and struggle. He had an unproven theory that, after humans had spread all over the world, angels could feed off of those feelings and obviously make them stronger. Aziraphale had never confirmed nor denied this, but he had always said that love was one of the most important emotions one could feel. If you don’t let yourself love things, he had said one night, then what’s the bloody point of existing?
Of course, Crowley was not the demon to ask — though at the time he never would have admitted to something like loving anything (much less an angel) even in his head. He had then gone on to drunkenly describe just how many different kinds of love there were and what made them all so damn special.
Other languages had words for the different kinds of love. English didn’t (though it did have about a hundred different ways to say walk, so fucking priorities Crowley supposed). But Crowley could tell how Aziraphale had meant it — he wasn’t sure it was the kind that humans would understand because none of them could live for six thousand years and always count on seeing the same fucking angel every couple of them.
The angel rested both their hands back down on the table, on either side of Crowley’s legs, and stared thoughtfully through his chest.
“I’m tired of being just friends, Crowley.”
Crowley’s fingers curled around the edge of the table again. His glasses were beginning to slide down his nose but he didn’t dare make a move to right them. The embarrassment and frustration in Aziraphale’s eyes and posture had suddenly been replaced with a determination. Crowley battled with himself on whether or not to say something, a part of him still worried that he was misunderstanding Aziraphale’s words and it would soon be revealed that the angel wanted nothing to do with him.
“You are my friend, and I love you for that. Really.” Aziraphale suddenly looked up from whatever abyss he had found in Crowley’s chest and met his eyes. “But sometimes — a lot of times, really — I just want you. As more than that.”
Don’t say that. Crowley chomped down on his tongue before the knee-jerk words almost escaped. There was no authority spying on them now, who could get them into deeper shit than they already stood in. It was just them. Just them and the silence.
Aziraphale stared at him for awhile longer before he started taking a step back. “Be nice of you to say something right about now.”
Right. Words. One of Crowley’s hands shot out to catch Aziraphale’s sleeve before he could back away any further. The movement nearly sent him toppling forward onto the floor, but Aziraphale was quick to step closer and return his balance.
“How long—” he started, but was already dismissing the question with a wave of the hand. It didn’t matter. “Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?”
Aziraphale’s blushing face turned into one of indignance. Close. They were so close now. “Well, you weren’t exactly sending me particularly strong signals yourself,” he said bitterly. “You left when I invited you in after the Ritz, and whenever I reached out, or touched you, you always flinched away. Not to mention you were drunk almost the entire time we were alone at your flat. I thought you had started to change you mind about…”
Crowley started shaking his head so hard he sensed whiplash was an actual threat. “I did all that because I’m deeply stupid and broken, not because I wasn’t still in love with you.” Interesting choice of words, he’d cringe about that later. Aziraphale made an argumentative expression at the self description but Crowley pushed on. “But wha— What were we going to do after the Ritz?”
Evil bastard that he was, Aziraphale completely ignored the question. It was his turn to be shaking his head repeatedly. “I just didn’t know— and I didn’t want to go too fast… for you.”
“Too… You didn’t want—” Crowley was going to have a stroke. “Too fast for me?”
His screech was thoroughly ruined by the fact that he was smiling, and so Aziraphale’s only response was to grin right back. “You’ve been acting a bit of a deer in the headlights lately,” he protested. “I thought it perhaps wasn’t the time.”
“Six-thousand fucking years, Aziraphale!” You could have jumped me in the street and I would have thought it appropriate for the amount of time, he almost said.
Aziraphale stepped closer again, his hands running up Crowley’s arms. “That’s very fast for some angels.”
“Some angels,” Crowley hissed, right into his angel’s still-shining face. “I have never been some angels. How dare you—”
He shut his mouth when Aziraphale’s hands ran up, over his shoulders, and settled on his face. Cradling around his jaw and ears like he had a few days ago.
“I know you probably have a lot to say right now, dear,” he said, eyes drifting over every part of Crowley’s face and then settling at his mouth. “And I don’t mean to silence you, but…”
Crowley had thought about this. In depth. But there was still some part of him that told him to lean away because there could be demons about, or angels (which may have been the worse option), and if he wasn’t paying attention to detect them— “I don’t know how to do this with you,” he admitted breathlessly.
Aziraphale nodded in agreement and pulled Crowley’s head forward.
Crowley liked kissing. He’d done it plenty of times with other humans who were also wallowing at the time over unrequited affections. It was a skill easily mastered, and there were lots of things one could do with hands, and legs, and tongues, and noises to make it better and show some of that skill. Crowley did absolutely none of them. Neither did Aziraphale.
Crowley’s hands stayed firmly gripping the table, the rest of him stiff and leaning forward a bit awkwardly to reach Aziraphale’s mouth. He wasn’t sure what freak of physics kept him from slipping right off the table and onto floor when his angel pulled him closer. One of his hands dropped from Crowley’s face to run all over his chest.
He smelled so damn nice. Crowley knew this — had been around him long enough to recognize his scent through a crowd of two million angels. But it was so much nicer when he could just lean into it, and be a part of it. Aziraphale’s hand had settled right over his heart, pushing against it until he could definitely feel the imminent explosion about to happen in there. A second later, Aziraphale pulled away. Crowley struggled in vain to form a thought that might have become words to speak. His grip on the table and the angel’s hands on his waist and chest were the only things that kept him from slithering to the floor.
But he didn’t have to. Crowley hadn’t even noticed that his sunglasses were pushing painfully into his skin until Aziraphale pulled them off with a serious expression.
Crowley started to say something in what appeared to be an ancient caveman language before he shut up.
Aziraphale looked at the sunglasses, then back at Crowley’s eyes. Crowley resisted the urge to look down or away but was glad he didn’t when Aziraphale said in a low voice, “I fucking hate these things” and threw the glasses to the side without a second glance. Crowley only had time to bark out a surprised laugh before Aziraphale grabbed him again.
Crowley wrapped his arms around Aziraphale, then his legs — pulling him closer, constricting around him as if the angel would be ripped away. He usually didn’t melt into people like he currently was, but Aziraphale wasn’t people and Crowley wasn’t sure he could physically hold himself up just then.
Aziraphale pulled his head back again, giggling when Crowley followed him as far as his neck would allow, but stayed pressed close. “You snake,” he said, voice dripping with affection, and planted another kiss at the corner of Crowley’s mouth.
Crowley said, “You smell like everything I’ve ever loved” in the form of an archaic grunt. Something nonexistent was clogging up his throat too much to speak. Aziraphale seemed to understand him anyway if the soft kisses he planted on his jaw, then trailed down his neck were anything to go by.
Six thousand years Crowley had resisted thinking this far. Six thousand. There had been something like it, once. They had hugged during the body swap for a really long time, just feeling each other while they figured out how to change. But Crowley hadn’t been able to run his hands everywhere then.
It wasn’t enough.
“You wear too many layers,” Crowley growled.
Aziraphale unfortunately seemed to think that that was a reason to leave his neck alone. He grinned at Crowley, running his hands up to the demon’s face again, then up more to push his hair back with his fingers. He kept looking at Crowley’s eyes with that smile. “Would you like to take this upstairs then?”
As if Crowley would say anything but— “Yes,” he hissed, and finally forced himself to unwrap his limbs and push Aziraphale back so he could hop off the table. As soon as he was sure his knees weren’t going to give out, he dragged Aziraphale forward again by the lapels kissed him again. Six thousand fucking years. “How do you want—?” he started, talking more into the angel’s mouth than not.
Aziraphale was already directing them towards the stairs, tugging Crowley along by his gray necktie as if the demon wouldn’t have followed him into a boiling ocean at that moment. “Traditional. Let’s just go.”
Crowley snickered, but picked up the pace. “I fucking knew you had a thing for wings.”
That kitten was screaming at the door.
It took Crowley a few moments before he dragged his eyes open, but when he did he had to pause again before he realized that his wings had not somehow turned white in the middle of the night, but were in fact Aziraphale’s settled perfectly over his.
The angel was pressed again his back, arms wound around his waist firmly. Crowley could feel his breath tickling against his back and neck. He was warm, comfortable, and wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep.
The kitten let out another one of her long wails and scrabbled at the closed door.
Crowley let out a frustrated growl that started all the way down in his chest and threw a hand out towards the noise. He heard Aziraphale’s amused huff as the door opened and closed, and a moment later the kitten was on the bed with them. Meow, meow, meowing away.
“I’m going to name her The Scream,” Crowley muttered, and gave her a few reassuring pets. She was sniffing at their wings before he had even finished speaking.
Aziraphale made that amused sound again and nuzzled into the back of Crowley’s neck. “It would be funnier if you at least called her Munch. Since she makes all that noise when she eats anyway.”
Crowley was just beginning to let his eyes close again when he felt her start to nibble at his feathers. “Stop,” he mumbled and trapped her beneath a hand. The kitten took personal offence to this and immediately start squirming.
Amidst all her thrashing, her tail kept tickling his wing and Crowley flapped it once, accidentally throwing Aziraphale’s to the side. There were his familiar black feathers. He scooped her up between his hands and brought her close to his face. “What,” he whispered seriously, eyes still not-all-that-open, “do you want?”
Aziraphale pushed himself up onto his elbow to reach over and scratch her behind the ears and took all the warmth with him. “Poor and starving,” he said. “That’s what you are, huh? No one will feed you, will they? Not a soul, you poor baby.”
Crowley folded his wing and shifted so that the wrist lightly smacked the angel in the face. “Don’t encourage her.”
Aziraphale sent him a smile and sat up, wings flapping open to stretch before folding neatly behind him. Crowley had honestly been surprised to find that the angel even owned a bed, much less one as big as it was (plenty of wing-and-leg room). He’d actually asked, but the only response had been about the pleasantries of reading in bed and so that had explained that.“You should name her, dear. I think it’s safe to say she’s not going anywhere.” Crowley nodded, shifting onto his back so he could set the kitten down on his stomach.
“I really don’t know.”
“Haven’t liked any of the ideas so far?”
He didn’t. None of them felt particularly right. Things had started changing when the kitten showed up — or at least the changes became more obvious then. She was important, and she deserved a name that conveyed that.
“Just think it should be something good.” Crowley didn’t want to — he really didn’t want to — but he sat up, sending the kitten sliding down onto the bed.
“I see.” Aziraphale scooped her up in a way very similar to Crowley only a moment ago, bringing her up to his face to give her a good once-over. “Who are you?”
The kitten let out a stunningly long, high-pitched cry that only stopped when Aziraphale planted a kiss on the top of her head.
“I’d better feed her,” Crowley sighed. “Before she explodes.”
“Big kaboom,” Aziraphale said matter-of-factly.
“Shut up.” Crowley stood and waved a hand to replace all his clothes — except the sunglasses, he had no idea where those were. He turned to pick up the kitten, meeting Aziraphale’s eyes in the process.
There was that look from the Ritz. Aziraphale was more than ready to catch his face between his hands when Crowley leaned in for another kiss. The kitten leaped up onto his shoulder and started kneading with her claws. Crowley turned his head to blow a puff of air into her ears.
“Alright, I’m going.” He sent Aziraphale a look that he hoped promised that he would be back and started heading for the door. “Guess I should put these away, shouldn’t I?” It was nice having his wings out again. He’d once been embarrassed by their dark color and hidden scars, but had eventually grown to like them. This was the first time he’d been able to stretch them out properly since speaking with Adam.
“You don’t have to. No one’s coming in today.”
“How strange that you would be so certain of that.”
Even so, the bookshop was crowded and definitely not made for wings any bigger than Crowley’s were when he kept them tightly folded against his back. Aziraphale had a variety of food in the fridge, of course, and it didn’t take long for Crowley to find something suitable for the kitten to loudly munch on.
“She’s getting bigger.” He’d felt Aziraphale coming long before the angel actually reached the little kitchen, and so wasn’t so much alarmed as surprised when he felt a hand graze the spot between his wings.
Crowley tilted his head to the side a bit while he looked at her, a little black void crouched on the kitchen floor. “Angel, what was it that word meant?”
“What word?” Two pairs of wings were too much, so they shuffled out of the kitchen while the kitten ate. They still had to be sure not to knock anything over, but the main room of the shop provided more space. Crowley swung himself around to sit on the back of the sofa, feet on the cushions, while Aziraphale made a point to sit more normally (accounting for wings).
“We were talking about stars,” Crowley said thoughtfully. He’d apparently been drunker than he’d thought at the time. “I said I liked supernovas.”
Aziraphale perked up. “Oh, yes. I was telling you about the word nova meaning new. Because—”
“Everyone thought a star was being born, but it was actually dying,” Crowley remembered. Aziraphale’s eyes lit up. “What if that was her name?”
“Nova.” Aziraphale tried it out and smiled. “I like it. It’s a bit backwards to everything that happened with Armageddon — we all thought everything would die.”
But it hadn’t. And now everything felt new — reborn. Crowley reached out a wing to run over Aziraphale’s. “Nova it is, then. Do you think she’ll answer to it?”
“She’s a cat, dear. They don’t answer to anything — not even God.”
“Especially not God.”
They ended up returning to Crowley’s flat once the kitten — Nova — was done eating, to “retrieve a few things for her” according to Aziraphale. But Crowley suspected it had more to do with watching him react to the place.
His flat was still and quiet as ever when they entered, but Crowley was quickly distracted from it when Aziraphale took his hand. “It will likely be awhile yet,” he said softly. “But someday I hope you can forgive yourself.” He didn’t actually say it out loud, but Crowley could see the words in the angel’s gaze: I already have.
So much for being unforgivable.
They followed Nova into the next room and sat down while she sniffed around. Crowley sat on the floor and rolled a little ball for her to chase, and Aziraphale sat behind him on the sofa so he could preen his feathers. They had been required to put away their wings while they drove over, but Aziraphale had insisted they let them out again when they got inside.
“Shameless,” Crowley had teased, but had immediately stretched them all the way out in the near-empty space.
“How do you feel?” Aziraphale asked. “Being here again?”
Apparently he expected Crowley to answer while his fingers were doing God’s work to Crowley’s marginal coverts.
“Uh.” Crowley rolled the ball again, sending Nova skittering after it, and let his eyes fall closed. “Fine, I guess.”
“I don’t expect you to feel much better about it yet. Open, please.” Crowley flared his wing open a bit more so Aziraphale could get to some of the smaller feathers underneath.
“I… I don’t feel much better about it.” Crowley let his head fall back into Aziraphale’s lap and the angel paused his grooming to lean down and plant a few kisses on various parts of Crowley’s face. “Well, better, but not good. I wouldn’t be here alone.”
“Do you want to leave?”
“Maybe in a minute. Let’s just… sit in the silence for a bit.”
“Alright.” Aziraphale’s face was glowing down at him again, looking right into his snake eyes like they were worth all the riches in the world.
Crowley grinned back up at him. “I still can’t find those sunglasses you threw.”
Aziraphale’s hands ran up his arms and neck to cradle his face again. “Good,” he said, placing a kiss on both Crowley’s eyelids as if this would solve the problem. “They’re awful.”
Nova returned again with the ball and clambered into his lap, curling up with a small purr. Aziraphale planted a kiss on his forehead.