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The little bell jingled above the door to the Device Occult Shoppe as Crowley walked in. Anathema was there, puttering about behind the shop counter with her hands full of black candles. She was tall, and wore her dark hair in a half-bun on top of her head, which made her taller. She peered through her round glasses at Crowley, and then grinned. “You’re just in time!” she exclaimed.
Crowley was immediately suspicious of what, exactly, he might be just in time for, but most of his attention was taken up by the man standing beside the counter, who, if you asked Crowley, he could accurately be described as the most handsome man on Earth. He had soft blond curls and generous curves, bright blue eyes, and a smile that lit up like a thousand of those candles when he saw Crowley. Aziraphale Fell. He was Crowley’s boyfriend, by some measure of luck that Crowley surely didn’t deserve.
Crowley knew he was smiling back just as broadly, until Anathema went on to say, “We’re discussing demons!”
Crowley felt his mood plummet. “Complete nonsense,” he grumbled.
“Yes, I’ve told her that, dear,” Aziraphale said. “But it’s a lost cause. I’m afraid there wouldn’t be much use for this shop if not for people’s belief in the preposterous.”
Anathema gave him an irritated look over a fond smile, which was one of her specialties. “Demons are real,” she snapped. “They stalk around at night preying on humans, tempting them to sin, claiming souls for Satan.”
“People don’t generally need help being evil,” Aziraphale opined gently.
Crowley snorted. “That’s for sure. You can’t blame demons for all the sin in the world.”
“But you can’t absolve them either!” Anathema said, thumping a box of crystals on her counter. “They’re dangerous, whether you believe in them or not.”
Crowley opened his mouth and closed it again. It went a bit against his instincts not to rile Anathema up. He did so enjoy riling people. But in this case, unfortunately, it would be a little counterproductive, because Crowley himself was, as it happened, a demon.
It was usually not a bad thing to let humans be aware of demonic activity. Believers carried a fear that ironically tended to make them even more susceptible to infernal interference. But Crowley was quite loathe to risk letting one particular gorgeous blond human be convinced that demons existed, and this was because Crowley was quite hopelessly in love with him.
Crowley was saved in this case, though, because Anathema was quite capable of riling herself up. “You think you can find all the answers in your science books,” she said to Aziraphale. “But you’re going to be unpleasantly surprised one day to find out that I’m right.”
To Crowley’s relief, Aziraphale gave Anathema his usual eye roll and derisive laugh. They were both in college, Anathema in history and Aziraphale in botany. They were friends because they worked in adjacent stores— the campus bookstore where Aziraphale worked was just to the right of Anathema’s family’s occult shop— and because they could discuss plants together. Aziraphale was fascinated by the use of herbs in magical practices, although he was a confirmed skeptic. Anathema was waging a long-standing campaign to convince Aziraphale of the existence of the supernatural, so far without success.
Crowley had first wandered into Anathema’s store a few months ago. He hadn’t been in need of anything in particular that day, but he’d thought it might be fun to waste an hour inwardly making fun of what humans thought they knew about the occult. As it turned out, he spent about three hours inwardly marveling at the beautiful blond man he met in the shop, who was named after an angel.
Crowley discovered that first afternoon that Aziraphale had not only been named by parents going through a book on obscure ethereal personages, but that he was even called angel by his friends. This was not something that Crowley liked on first hearing it. Angels and demons did not mix, for obvious reasons. Aziraphale was human, but an angelically-minded human would no doubt be uninterested in being friends with a demon, even if he didn’t know what Crowley actually was. Crowley wouldn’t have ranked himself with the most evil of demons, but he was certainly no angel.
But then Crowley had gotten to see a side of Aziraphale he hadn’t expected. A customer had strolled into Anathema’s shop, talking loudly into a phone. In spite of the “no open drink containers” sign on the door, he carried something in a lidless plastic cup filled nearly to the brim, and he let it slosh about as he knocked over the display of little bears carved out of rose quartz. (That honestly annoyed Crowley more than the rest of it, those bears were damned cute.) Anathema bit her tongue with obvious effort and went to tend to the damage. The man, happily oblivious, set his drink down on a shelf while he pawed with improbable interest through a rack of t-shirts that said Hex the Patriarchy.
To Crowley’s complete surprise, Aziraphale silently took two steps to the left, picked up a container of salt from the main counter (it was an occult shop, after all), unscrewed it, dumped half of it into the man’s drink, and was back to the counter again looking innocent within about six seconds.
The man left the shirts and picked up his drink again, moving the straw close to his mouth. Aziraphale immediately began to cough and clear his throat so loudly that the man was startled away from drinking.
“You know, Ana,” Aziraphale called loudly, in a hoarse voice, “I think I’m getting better. Probably won’t be contagious too much longer.”
Anathema didn’t miss a beat. “I don’t care what the doctor told you, angel. If you cough up blood again, I’m not cleaning it off my carpet.”
The man fled. Aziraphale winked at Anathema. Crowley stared at him in awe.
Oh. So he was that kind of angel.
That first day, Crowley had made up some story about also being in college, taking business classes. Crowley looked like he was in his twenties, so it was an easy sell. Plus, at one point he’d spent a human’s lifespan owning a restaurant that funneled money to various nefarious causes, so he did know business. And before too long, Crowley had been inducted into the friend group. It did help that Aziraphale seemed to find Crowley nearly as attractive as Crowley found him: Aziraphale had an adorable tendency to blush when he looked Crowley’s way, and Crowley had fast grown addicted to it.
They passed beyond friendship and into dating on a sunny Friday a couple of weeks later. That day, Crowley witnessed a customer in the campus book store make a scene about the store not having some textbook in stock. She yelled at Aziraphale, who took it impassively as he ordered her a copy while surreptitiously raising the price of the book in the store’s computer system.
Meanwhile Crowley tucked his hand behind his back and conjured a very large, very beautiful spider into his palm. He let Aziraphale see him let the lovely creature loose on the woman’s shoulder. Crowley managed to save the spider from the middle of the screaming chaos that followed, and Aziraphale came along later to help release the arachnid safely into the park.
And then he’d asked Crowley to dinner.
The only problem had been that Anathema had come into the book store just as Crowley was manifesting the spider. She hadn’t seen him do it, but she’d looked around for a moment with suspicion on her face. Anathema had mentioned before that she had a bit of the Sight, and apparently, unlike most humans who claimed that, she was actually right. She’d felt the demonic power Crowley used, even though she couldn’t find its source. Crowley knew that he was going to have to watch himself around her. But there was no way he was going to give up seeing Aziraphale.
Today, back at the occult shop, Anathema was still going on about demons, and Crowley wished she wouldn’t, not with Aziraphale there. Aziraphale being a bastard of an angel was one thing, but Aziraphale choosing to date an actual demon would be quite another. The truth would most likely, as Anathema had warned, come as an unpleasant surprise.
So this relationship wasn’t something that could last long-term, Crowley knew. Of course, if Aziraphale wanted, there were things that could be done— spells backed by demonic power could extend a human’s youth and life nearly indefinitely, assuming that the human was willing. Crowley had quite a few fantasies about Aziraphale being willing in various ways, some of which might someday, hopefully, come true, but that one— that was unlikely.
And so, the subterfuge. A demon trying to prove that he did not exist. As Anathema started in on demonic possession (which honestly could be quite pleasant for a lonely, open-minded human, Crowley had found), Crowley made the best move he could under the circumstances and sidelined the conversation. “Next you’ll be saying ghosts are real,” he invited shamelessly.
Anathema’s eyes widened behind her glasses. “Of course ghosts are real!”
Aziraphale sighed. Crowley grinned. But then he lost his grin as Aziraphale said the one thing Crowley had been hoping he would not.
At least, Crowley told himself that night, he’d managed to move the conversation from demons to ghosts before proof was demanded. Or perhaps Anathema just thought that ghosts were easier to find given her tools, the first of which was, of course, a ouija board.
They were in the back room of the occult shop, and while Anathema set up the board and lit candles, Crowley distracted Aziraphale by kissing him quite thoroughly. Anathema made various annoyed comments about the public display of affection and the lack of help setting things up, but Crowley was having far too much fun giving in to his inner twenty-something human and letting himself act on his desires even in semi-privacy.
Aziraphale was also quite obviously enjoying himself, tucking his face under Crowley’s chin to softly kiss his neck, blond curls tickling at Crowley’s jaw. “You’re so warm,” he said. “How are you always so warm?”
A part of Crowley really did wish he could tell Aziraphale that it was because his body ran on hellfire instead of blood.
When the board was ready, Crowley reluctantly released Aziraphale to a seat at the table. Anathema listed the rules: they were each to put a finger on the little triangular planchette. Anathema would invite spirits to join them and ask them to spell out messages on the ouija board by moving the planchette around the letters and numbers printed there.
Crowley was impressed by a couple of things. First, that Anathema did seem to know how to do this safely. The incantation she recited summoned only ghosts and not anything inherently evil. And second, that her invitation worked.
Crowley didn’t notice that immediately. The three of them each had a finger on the planchette, and Crowley was debating whether to use his powers or his finger to move the thing around, and deciding on what he was going to have the board say: an x-rated message was a good option, as was the classic Ouija boards don’t work, but of course, there was always just random letters that might or might not mean something, which had the potential to drive Anathema crazy.
What Crowley did not expect was to meet strong resistance to his moving the planchette, and he looked up to find a very displeased dead person standing behind Anathema. It was an older man, half-see through and kind of gray, but with a modern suit of clothes and stylish haircut. A recent departee, then. The ghost folded his arms across his chest and glared at Crowley.
Anathema gave a shiver. “Did it suddenly get colder in here?” she asked. “That’s a good sign!” She looked around the room, including behind her, but apparently couldn’t see anything amiss.
Crowley stood up. “Let me get you my jacket. I left it in the shop. I’ll be right back.” He gave an annoyed nod to the ghost, who followed him out.
The dead man turned out to be one of those idiots who had gone to the trouble of putting precious things in a safe-deposit box but then had used precious little intellect in neglecting to tell his family that the box existed. Crowley had to promise to fish the key to the box out of a suit coat hanging in the man’s closet and pass it onto a grandson before the ghost would agree to concede control of the planchette to him.
When Crowley got back with his jacket, Anathema declined it, stating that it had gotten warmer in the room again. The temperature thing made her suspicious. Also, the planchette spelling out gibberish made her suspicious. “This is my grandmother’s board!” she exclaimed. “I’ve never failed to make contact with it before.”
Crowley expected Aziraphale to be smug but solicitous given Anathema’s distress, but instead, he kept quiet, as if he might be just a little suspicious himself. Crowley went back to distracting him with kisses as soon as possible.
The next experiment Anathema wanted to try was EVP: Electronic Voice Phenomenon. This entailed taking a tape recorder into a supposedly haunted location, asking questions, and listening to the tape later to hear answers rise up out of the white noise on the recording.
Crowley was a little torn about this one. EVP was tricky: it was hard for ghosts to make enough noise to get picked up on a tape, and some of what humans thought they heard was clearly not there. But it could work, and if it did, Anathema would have proof of the supernatural for Aziraphale.
Crowley finally decided that it was probably best to leave the thing alone, as long as no ghosts showed up in the haunted location, which turned out to be a building on campus that was definitely locked up at night, and to which Anathema casually broke in. Of course, neither Aziraphale nor Crowley was the kind of person to object to that sort of thing.
The reason that this building was haunted was not well understood. It was rumored that someone had died in the basement or perhaps on the top floor. It might have been a lovesick student, a lovesick professor, a construction worker who built the structure and may or may not have been lovesick, or possibly some random unfortunate who had croaked on this very spot before the campus was even here. And who might have been lovesick. (Crowley could have done without all that discussion of love gone wrong, as he would no doubt be facing that very feeling himself before long.)
In any case, there weren’t any ghosts. If the building was haunted, then its denizens were shy. Anathema, Aziraphale, and Crowley traveled down to the basement and up to the top floor. They took turns holding the recorder, diligently searching out every dark corner in the place. Anathema asked the spirits to speak, posing questions about names, ages, manner of death, and messages the spirits would like to pass on. And as no one was there to answer, Crowley didn’t bother to interfere with the recording. If they managed to hear something when they played it back, Aziraphale would likely decide (correctly) that it was simply pareidolia, or the tendency for people to hear and see patterns in ambiguous stimuli, because human brains very much liked to hear and see patterns.
They got back to the occult shop around two a.m. and Anathema eagerly fed the tape into some machine that hooked up with her computer. For a few minutes, there was nothing discernible on the playback, although Anathema made faces as if she were possibly recognizing something.
And then they all heard it: what seemed to be a faint voice. Anathema’s eyes grew wide. Aziraphale continued to look skeptical, but perhaps a little spooked.
The next bit was clearer. On the tape, Anathema asked, Is there anyone who would like to speak with us?
And there was an answer. Yes.
Crowley felt a chill, (which he would never openly admit to feeling, seeing as he was an actual demon from Hell), and even Aziraphale paled a bit.
The recording went on:
Did you live here?
Did you die here?
With each answer, the three of them in the shop crowded just a little closer together, including the actual demon from Hell.
What is your name?
There was a slight pause. And then:
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen— Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men—
With accompanying music.
Anathema’s mouth fell open and she whirled on Aziraphale, who was dissolving in helpless laughter. “I’m so sorry,” he said, clearly not in the least bit sorry. “I couldn’t resist. It’s from my phone when I was holding the recorder.”
Anathema smacked him on the shoulder. Crowley kissed him, so Anathema smacked Crowley too.
At three a.m. they were still lounging in the back room of the occult shop, because Aziraphale had attempted to make up for his prank by producing a bottle of whiskey from his backpack.
“You know,” said Anathema, switching lanes to another conversational topic without signaling first, which was something she tended to do while drinking, “there’s a bathroom here in the shop.”
“I’ve used it,” Aziraphale informed her, unnecessarily.
“Yeah, but it’s got a mirror, is what I’m saying. And there’s plenty of decks of cards here.”
Crowley sat up immediately. “It’s late,” he said. “Probably should break it up.”
The other two looked at him curiously, as Crowley was never the first to suggest a party end. “Angel?” Crowley asked. “Aren’t you tired?”
Aziraphale frowned. “Not particularly.” He turned to Anathema. “So what do you do with cards in the bathroom?”
“It’s a game called Lady Spades,” Anathema explained. “You take the Queen of Spades card and face it to the mirror. And then you draw some stairs on the mirror with lipstick, light a candle, and—”
“And that’s it!” Crowley exclaimed. “Doesn’t work, absolutely nothing happens, not worth trying. It’s a kids’ game, you know. For sleepovers. Done it loads of times. Big let down.” Crowley called up a little power, ready to incinerate every Queen of Spades card in the shop, but it wasn’t necessary, as Aziraphale and Anathema just shrugged and changed topics again.
Crowley breathed a sigh of relief. He was not keen on letting Lady Spades meet his two human friends. She was a malevolent entity who didn’t play fair. Plus he owed her fifty bucks.
One rainy afternoon about a week later, Anathema and Crowley were sitting around in the campus bookstore as Aziraphale shelved books and answered the phone. (Crowley might or might not have worked a little magic so that Aziraphale’s boss didn’t object to them hanging out while Aziraphale was at work.)
After the EVP prank, Anathema was even more determined to get Aziraphale to take her seriously. “The thing is,” she said, looking up from taking notes about Pepin the Short, “whatever I’m sensing, it’s strongest around you, angel. And getting stronger. It seems very attached to you somehow.”
Aziraphale sighed, as if this were just one more unlikely bit of nonsense.
“I’m serious,” Anathema said. “You’re sure you don’t have a recently deceased friend or relative who might be trying to make contact?”
“If you like,” Aziraphale offered, “I could murder a family member. I’m sure I’ve got one or two who deserve it. Then we can see if they try to get revenge from beyond the grave.”
Anathema huffed at him but Crowley and Aziraphale exchanged a grin.
As the afternoon wore on, Anathema continued to do school work and Crowley played on his phone. He’d debated pretending to do homework, and decided that it would be far easier to claim that he never did any work and got good grades anyhow. He could have magicked away Anathema and Aziraphale’s questions, but Crowley was reluctant to work any demonic spells on his friends. He was already cloaking his eyes. Crowley had yellow eyes with vertical pupils— snake eyes— but he made them appear a normal brown, and that made him feel uneasy enough.
It wasn’t that Crowley minded doing magic on humans in general. It was just that Crowley was a demon who spent a lot of time on Earth, and so he liked having human friends. And he liked his friends being in their right minds, not puppets that Crowley created for himself to play with.
And although it was a lost cause, of course, somewhere inside himself Crowley kept a faint hope that Aziraphale might someday know what Crowley was and accept him, snake eyes and all, with no magic intervention needed.
Outside, the rain got heavier and passersby started to duck into the book store just for shelter. Most of them stayed near the doors, but there was one idiot who strode in shaking a drenched umbrella. Drops of water flew everywhere, hitting countless books and a display of art supplies that Aziraphale had spent quite a lot of time on. It took a mere thought for Crowley to send the man sprawling. The man fell backwards and landed on his rear in a puddle of water that was dripping from the coats of the polite customers. Crowley broke his umbrella for good measure.
Aziraphale watched the proceedings with a growing smile. Crowley was so busy enjoying that smile that he missed what the man was yelling at first. Crowley clued back in when Anathema gasped.
The man claimed someone had shoved him. Of course, there’d been no one near him. Most of the people in the store probably assumed he’d tripped over his own feet. But not Anathema. She was looking from the rude man to Aziraphale and back again. “I felt it, just now,” she said. “Someone did something to him. That same thing that hangs around you, Aziraphale, I’m sure of it.”
Aziraphale shrugged. “If a helpful ghost shoved him, I’m not complaining.”
Anathema shook her head, looking very serious. “Ghosts can’t shove people. They’re incorporeal. Takes all the power they have just to move a ouija board planchette.” She took in a wavering breath. “That’s why we can’t make contact with it. You don’t have a ghost, angel. You have a demon.”
The best way to detect the presence of a demon was, according to Anathema, a bit of pyromancy, also known as playing with fire. Again, she wasn’t wrong. So Crowley was sitting in the back room of the occult shop in great discomfort, trying to come up with some sort of plan as he watched Anathema light black candles.
Aziraphale was as unruffled as ever. “So what do demons do, then?” he asked. “Claim souls for Satan? You said they possess people?”
Anathema nodded. “Exactly.” She lit the final candle. “And then, of course, there’s the sex.”
Crowley broke out in a coughing fit so loud that it startled all three of them. Aziraphale looked at him with concern. “Are you all right?”
Crowley managed to nod, straining to breathe quietly.
“So what’s demon sex about, then?” Aziraphale asked, and Crowley burst out coughing even worse. Aziraphale had to bring him a glass of water and rub his back.
Crowley was no stranger to demon sex, of course, being a demon and having had sex, but he hadn’t yet made love with Aziraphale. They both wanted to, so it was definitely on the agenda for the future, but Crowley had been making them take things rather slowly.
It wasn’t that Aziraphale would be able to tell that Crowley was a demon if they had sex. Most of Crowley’s sex partners never realized he wasn’t human. But Crowley would know, and Aziraphale was not just some sex partner. Crowley wanted Aziraphale to know, too. He wanted Aziraphale to say yes to all of Crowley, not just his human disguise.
It was unlikely to happen, though. Humans didn’t tend to like demons, much less care for them.
Anathema, of course, went on explaining her view of demon sex to Aziraphale. The discussion ranged from incubi and succubi to half-demon babies, and whether or not Satan could make his own semen.
(The reality: demon sex was way more fun without the sleep paralysis unless the human was into that, demon/human babies weren’t a thing that could actually happen, and dear GOD Crowley was never going to get that last thought out of his head.)
Crowley spent the whole discussion blushing red as Satan’s— well, anyway, and hoping Aziraphale would come up with some relatively normal explanation for it, like that Crowley might suddenly be dying of some horrible disease.
By the time they got to the pyromancy part of the evening, Crowley was already very much on edge, and he still hadn’t decided what to do about Anathema’s stupid candle flames. If Anathema did her spell right, the flames would turn from orange to blue to black in the presence of a demon. Crowley had a few options: he could leave, possibly citing his new horrible disease as a reason or maybe saying that he finally planned to do some homework; he could make the candles blow out before they changed color; or he could let the spell go on as planned but be loudly skeptical of the supposed results. After all, it wasn’t like Crowley is a demon was going to be written on the wall in blood. It was just a bit of candle nonsense.
Crowley rather hopelessly chose the last option, as it seemed to be the least likely to cause suspicion. Sitting on the floor with Aziraphale beside him, they watched the candles— all five of them— flare blue, and then one by one, grow even darker, hardly brighter than their own smoke. The last one to turn was the one in front of Crowley.
Anathema’s eyes widened, and she grinned in triumph. Crowley scoffed (loudly, as planned) and grumbled something about air flow in the shop.
Aziraphale was quiet a second and then he scrambled to his feet in a jerky motion. “That isn’t—” he said. “That’s not— Anathema, what did you do to the candles?”
Anathema was looking up at him with concern. “What? Nothing. It was the spell.”
Aziraphale shook his head quickly. “No, you must have—” He looked at Anathema, obviously realizing that she was not playing a prank. Aziraphale turned pale. Crowley stood up but stopped himself before he reached out to Aziraphale. After all, the candles were detecting Crowley. And Aziraphale looked scared.
Anathema quickly blew out the candles and muttered a few words to end the spell.
Aziraphale was breathing very rapidly. “I think maybe—” He swallowed. “I’m going to go home. I’m sorry. I—” He turned anxious eyes to Anathema. “It won’t follow me, will it? Does it?”
Anathema looked extremely remorseful. “Angel, I’m so sorry. I didn’t think— Look, it hasn’t hurt you, right? So there’s no reason to think that it will.”
“But it’s attached to me. A demon is—” Aziraphale closed his eyes. “Sorry. Sorry. I’m going home.” With that, he practically ran out of the shop.
Crowley did follow him.
The next couple of days were difficult. Crowley spent the first night on the couch in Aziraphale’s apartment, only to wake up and find that Aziraphale had fired up his laptop and spent half the night looking up demon horror stories on the internet. He was full of details about demonic infestation, like smells bad enough to cause nausea, aggressive pets, knocking noises and growling, objects flying about the room, cold spots, and flies. Crowley wanted to reassure him that all of those things were done on purpose by demons and didn’t have to be a part of a healthy demon-human relationship.
Obviously, Crowley kept quiet.
Anathema came by later with some of Aziraphale’s favorite cherry turnovers from a local bakery. Aziraphale just picked at one of them, a disquieting sign.
Anathema didn’t look much better. She listened quietly to Aziraphale’s questions about demons, usually trying to steer him onto the lighter side of things (you know, there’s no history of demons being mean to dogs no matter how much they bark at them!). But Aziraphale still looked worried.
The next night, Crowley went out to fetch dinner and came back to Aziraphale’s apartment carrying a pizza and a vase of flowers (Crowley was a disgrace to demons everywhere and he didn’t care), but he stopped short at the door. Aziraphale had obviously been looking up things on the internet again.
There had been an attempt to ward Aziraphale’s apartment against demons. Crowley let his eyes shift back into their normal serpentine state so that he could see it properly. Stretched shoulder-high across the door was a hazy golden strand of spell that felt very repellent to Crowley. But there was just the one strand. It should have been a whole net of criss-crossed lines if the spell had been done properly.
Crowley debated for a second, and then sadly accepted that this was probably the best outcome to the situation. Crowley could easily duck under this strand of spell and enter Aziraphale’s apartment. Aziraphale hadn’t yet gotten to the point where he (or Anathema) might wonder if Crowley was the demon attached to Aziraphale. But this would be proof. Aziraphale didn’t know that the ward wasn’t cast properly, so Crowley getting past the spell would proclaim him decidedly undemonic.
It wasn’t like Crowley was ever going to be able to tell Aziraphale the truth anyway, not with this being the reaction that Aziraphale had to demons. Crowley knew it had always been foolish to think that there might be more with Aziraphale, that this could last, that Aziraphale could love him for what he was, or even in spite of it. That someday Aziraphale might allow Crowley to use his demonic powers on him, to preserve his youth, lengthen his life, and make him Crowley’s companion in the eternity to come.
When Crowley re-shifted his eyes back to human and stepped carefully into the apartment, it felt like the beginning of the end.
Crowley decided to try distracting Aziraphale again, and so an hour or two later, Aziraphale was straddling Crowley’s lap on the couch and kissing him very much like he wanted to do more than just kiss. Crowley’s t-shirt was missing, and he was working on ridding Aziraphale of his, when Aziraphale murmured something against his neck.
“Oh, darling, I’m so glad you’re here. I feel so much safer when you’re here with me.”
Crowley froze. For a moment, they sat there, Aziraphale looking at Crowley curiously, and then Crowley broke. He shifted Aziraphale off his lap and grabbed for his abandoned t-shirt. “Sorry,” he said. “Sorry, I have to— listen, angel— you’re safe, okay? I promise. Just— just trust me, you are. You don’t need me. You don’t need me.”
Crowley slipped under the ward across the door and didn’t listen to Aziraphale calling after him.
Aziraphale lived near campus, and Crowley was next to the occult shop when Aziraphale caught up with him.
“Please,” Aziraphale begged. “Please, Crowley, listen—” He grasped Crowley’s hands and the touch sent shivers through Crowley. Aziraphale tugged on him, and pulled him bodily into the shop. It was late in the evening, but there was a light on, meaning Anathema was probably there. Aziraphale’s eyes were full of tears and Crowley felt powerless to resist him.
“Crowley, I’m so sorry,” Aziraphale breathed. “Please, just let me—”
That sentence ended in a squeak, because when Crowley and Aziraphale stepped into Anathema’s shop they were greeted by the sight of Anathema with her hands up, and three men in masks, who were holding guns. The cash register was open and empty, and half the shelves had been knocked over.
The men in masks looked surprised to have more people come in, and after a moment of dithering, herded the three of them into the back room. One stood guard in the doorway, watching the other two still tearing through the shop.
Crowley wanted to put an arm around Aziraphale, to reassure him, but oddly enough, Aziraphale didn’t seem to need it. “What are they looking for?” he asked Anathema quietly.
Anathema shook her head. “Not sure. I don’t know whether to hope I have it in the store or not.”
“Well,” Aziraphale said with a sigh, “if there was ever a time for some demonic activity, it would be now.”
Anathema gave a nervous laugh. “Yeah, I guess it would be.”
“No,” Aziraphale said, looking up into Crowley’s eyes, with a few tears still glittering on his cheeks. “I mean it would be now.”
Crowley’s mouth fell open. “You bastard!” he hissed. “You knew!”
Anathema looked bewildered. “Knew what?” And then it dawned on her. “Oh! Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me!”
“I’m so sorry,” Aziraphale said to Crowley, very sincerely. “I never meant to hurt you. I— I did try to ensure that the wards on the apartment wouldn’t harm you.”
Crowley stared at him in amazement. “You didn’t accidentally get them wrong.”
“I don’t accidentally do anything, dear,” Aziraphale said. “Why do you think I didn’t ask Anathema to draw the wards? But sometimes I make mistakes. I let it go too far, and that was cruel to you. I’m so very sorry.”
Crowley just laughed. “And I thought I couldn’t be more in love with you.”
Aziraphale made a delighted noise, and Crowley hauled him into his arms and kissed him. Eventually he remembered to mumble out, “You’re forgiven.” Aziraphale looked very pleased to hear it.
Anathema smacked Crowley on the arm. “Look, get the guys with the guns and then get a room, all right?”
Crowley looked at her with a bit of anxiety. “You aren’t going to try to talk him out of this?”
Anathema looked exasperated. “He just trolled us both, he can handle himself.”
Aziraphale gave a little laugh and Crowley tightened his arms around him. “How long have you known?” Crowley asked.
Aziraphale smiled. “Oh, I suspected early on that there was something more to you, especially with the way you pranked customers. I've actually always been a believer in the paranormal. I put on the mantle of skeptic solely to annoy Anathema, I'm afraid. Anyhow, I assumed you were the source of it, but I was having too much fun to say anything. It wasn’t until you lost it when we talked about demon sex that I knew what you were.”
“Huh,” said Crowley. He cleared his throat, trying to avoid coughing again. “So is that something that you might be interested—”
Anathema broke in. “There is no possible version of this conversation that includes me. Are we clear?”
Aziraphale gave her a smirk and a nod.
Crowley glanced toward the front of the shop, unsure of exactly what he should do. On the one hand, although Aziraphale knew he was a demon and seemed to be all right with it, he hadn’t seen Crowley do anything truly demonic yet. Crowley didn’t want to scare him, not when they’d just come so far.
But on the other hand, Aziraphale was a bastard who’d had no qualms about playing a demon like a fiddle.
Crowley made up his mind. Aziraphale deserved the full show.
The first thing to go was Crowley’s eyes. He let the glamour slide off of them with relief, and blinked a few times before looking up at Aziraphale and Anathema. They both gasped.
“Oh, they’re beautiful,” Aziraphale whispered.
Crowley kissed him again, until Anathema stomped her foot. “Hello? Shop being robbed!”
Crowley made Aziraphale stand a little bit away, and then he let his true demonic form come forth. His legs were the first things to go, melding together and covering themselves with black scales, forming a tail that coiled beneath Crowley, lifting him up. He remained mostly human-looking from the waist up, but scales ran up his sides and along his arms and shoulders. His hair grew longer, scarlet waves tumbling down his back. Fingers turned to claws and teeth to fangs.
This time Aziraphale was the one to blush bright red. He pointed a shaky finger at Crowley. “Dear, I— I think you should, um— take— take off the t-shirt. Kind of ruins the look.”
Crowley smiled smugly. “Of course, angel,” he said smoothly, snapping his fingers to vanish the shirt to wherever his pants always went at times like this.
Aziraphale made a bit of a strangled noise as Crowley stood in front of him naked, in more ways than one.
“You really don’t mind?” Crowley asked him.
Aziraphale raised his eyebrows, his eyes running the length of Crowley’s body. “Mind that my boyfriend is as hot as hell, literally? Not really, no.”
Anathema groaned. “What did I just say?”
Aziraphale cleared his throat. “Listen, dear, go gather some souls for Satan or whatever, and then you and I can have a nice long, eh, chat about all this.”
Crowley grinned and started to move away, but Aziraphale suddenly grasped one of his hands, folding his fingers carefully between the claws. “Crowley,” he said in a very loud whisper, leaning in close. “Don’t let Anathema hear, but— I love you too.”
Anathema growled in frustration. “Angel, you are worse than the actual demon.”
Aziraphale looked pleased. “Oh, my dear. We always knew that.”