Aziraphale was just contemplating closing up a few minutes early when the door chimed.
Pepper was very competently handling the register, but he liked to peek out now and then and see how things were going. He’d been an employee of this bakery for years before taking it over, after all. He was more than ready to help up front as needed.
He popped through the kitchen door, looking around the corner to see Pepper greet an extremely attractive person.
Aziraphale spent enough time at the LGBT+ center to recognize a genderfluid pride pin when he saw it. The extremely attractive person had one on their messenger bag, along with a rainbow flag and a couple others he couldn’t make out. The extremely attractive person also had red hair curling down past their shoulders, and a slim, angular face half-hidden by sunglasses, and a lovely voice, which dried up as they apparently noticed Aziraphale’s entrance.
The angular face went slack for a moment. The reflections on their dark glasses shifted, as though they were looking Aziraphale over.
It wasn’t an uncommon thing, really; he knew well enough how large he was, and knew that the broad hang of his apron only made him look larger. It was a rare day that he didn’t have flour dusted across the front of his round belly, drawing even more attention to it, and today was not that day. He tended to draw second looks. Sometimes there would be rudeness, in which case he would have no qualms with throwing the would-be customer out. Often there would be awkwardness, as though his size were some sort of embarrassing secret.
The extremely attractive person looked him over and then colored, mouth just starting to curve upwards before Pepper said something else. Then they snapped their attention back to her with a garbled little cry.
“Oh — uh, actually, yeah.” Long fingers played nervously at the strap of their bag. “Custom order. Want to place! A custom order.” The extremely attractive person, who really did carry off that all-black look well, cleared their throat. “So do I talk to the, uh. Manager...?”
Aziraphale stepped behind the counter, shooing Pepper gently away. “Why don’t you head out early today, dear lady? I’ll clock you out once I’ve closed up.”
When the door chimed behind her, Aziraphale turned back to the extremely attractive person.
“H-hi,” they said. “I’m, uh. I’m Crowley.”
Their thin cheeks went even redder. Their fingers squeezed the strap of their bag as though trying to throttle it.
Oh, they were lovely. Aziraphale wished the rest of the pins on their bag were visible from here. There was one more pride flag he would love to see represented.
“I’m Aziraphale.” And, ahead of the usual question: “It’s the name of an angel, you see.”
“Course it is, it’s yours, isn’t it?” Crowley seemed to hear their own words only after they were all out, and their eyebrows climbed so high that Aziraphale feared the things would pop off. “Ergh —”
It was terribly bad business to laugh at a customer. Aziraphale did so anyway, trying to hide his giggle behind a hand, and failing utterly. After a moment, Crowley relaxed, smiling too, a little.
“Sorry,” they said, “really didn’t come in here looking to, um. Pick you up.” They muttered the last three words, blush redoubling. “Just wanted some baked goods.”
Aziraphale raised an eyebrow. “Well, that would make sense, as this is in fact a bakery.”
He could tell the teasing had landed correctly by the much more open smile Crowley gave him. “Thank God. Was worried I’d accidentally wandered into a shoe store again.”
They leaned on the counter, elegant hand waving as they regained some composure. “So there’s a big family reunion next month, right? All the cousins I haven’t seen in donkey’s. And I’m supposed to be bringing pastries for thirty, which, my sister doesn’t have to bring anything, but I guess since I had to be ungrateful and move to London while she stayed in Tadfield, I’ve got to pay for my sins.” They paused. “Er. Or something.”
Aziraphale half-wanted to ask to hear more about their family, just to keep them talking. Listening to them, their warm voice and their wry sense of humor, was a delight. “I — I see. What’s the date of the event?”
Aziraphale clapped his hands together softly. “Oh, how wonderful. I am absolutely available. Do you have any thoughts on what you’d like?”
A little grin touched Crowley’s lips as Aziraphale spoke, and it was still there when they answered. “Figured I’d leave that to you. You obviously know which ones taste best.” Then their grin dropped instantly. “I mean — because you’re the one that makes them! God, sorry, I don’t mean it’s because — because you’re —”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale said, gently interrupting. “There’s no need to apologize. I have heard much worse, believe me.”
“From idiots,” Crowley muttered at the counter.
“Oh, we’re in agreement there,” Aziraphale said, and some of the tension in Crowley’s face went away.
It was a quick decision, then, and a bit of a selfish one. But Aziraphale rather considered himself a man who could see the obvious, and if he was about to be turned down, it certainly wouldn’t be due to his appearance.
“I usually like to do a bit of consultation on something like this, but I’m afraid it is nearly time to close. Still, I’d be happy to take your order...” He reached into one of the pockets beneath his apron, pulling out his phone and setting it on the counter, screen up. “Perhaps discuss it over text...”
Crowley started nodding rapidly. “Text, yeah — yes, sounds —”
“But,” Aziraphale went on, flipping the phone over. “Perhaps over dinner? Only if you’re interested.”
Crowley’s sunglasses tilted down towards the phone, and the decal Aziraphale had applied to the back of the case, back when he’d first gotten it. Their slender chest heaved once, as though they were holding their breath.
When they shifted the messenger bag over their shoulder, all of its various pins at last moved into view. One of them matched the sticker on Aziraphale’s phone: four stripes, in black, gray, white, and purple.
“Dinner,” they said faintly. “Yeah. Yeah, okay.”
Now the sunglasses were definitely on Aziraphale again. Crowley watched with a dazed expression as Aziraphale picked the phone back up, unlocked it, and opened up a new contact. Aziraphale offered it across the counter, eyebrow raised.
Crowley’s slim hand brushed over his round one, even though they could easily have avoided the touch if they’d wanted.
When Aziraphale got the phone back, the new contact was named Crowley ❤️. He looked up, perhaps a bit more sharply than he intended, and Crowley looked nearly sick with worry at first. The huge smile Aziraphale could feel on his face — goodness, it nearly hurt, he was smiling so much — seemed to put them at ease.
“Splendid,” Aziraphale said. “I am so very glad to make your acquaintance, Crowley.”
“M-me too. Aziraphale.” Their cheeks reddened again. “Angel.”
Very possibly neither of them paid much attention to the brief tail of their conversation, the goodbye wishes before Crowley’s exit. Certainly Aziraphale did not. He’d weathered plenty of jokes and references around the source of his name before, but never in such a tender tone of voice. It made him want to hear it again.
He kept finding himself smiling as he closed up for the day. It didn’t stop happening as he made his way home, or throughout his peaceful, quiet evening; certainly not when he sent a quick text to Crowley ❤️ and received an immediate response.
The next day was Friday, and unusually busy, enough that the shelves were nearly empty hours before close. Aziraphale had to resist the urge to eject two particularly demanding customers from the premises. Usually a day like this would have been simply exhausting, and he was worn out by the end, yes, absolutely; more than ready to send poor Pepper home and finish the cleanup in silence. Not as drained as he might have been, though. Not this particular Friday.
He was too excited for tomorrow to be dispirited now. Tomorrow was Saturday, and he and Crowley had a date.