Aziraphale shuffled further into the corner, cradling his drink close to his chest and scanning the crowd anxiously. He really very much did not want to be here, but Gabriel had been the one to organise the party, and if Aziraphale was caught leaving so soon he'd never hear the end of it.
He winced as the music shifted abruptly into something far too loud and screechy for his tastes. As it turned out, the reality of a Hallowe’en party for the university staff was even worse than the idea of one, and in all honesty, Aziraphale was just counting down the minutes until he could leave.
"Well, this is going down like a lead balloon," a voice said from beside him.
Aziraphale jumped, looking to his left to see someone standing there who most definitely hadn't been there a moment before. They were tall, a fair bit taller than Aziraphale, especially with the heels they were wearing– were those genuine Louboutins? Their hair was a bright, nearly unnatural-looking red, and they were wearing round blackout sunglasses, a skinny jeans, a dark red silk shirt, and cheap plastic devil horns on top of their head.
"I– I'm sorry, what was that?" Aziraphale asked, blinking up at them.
"I said, this is going down like a lead balloon," the newcomer said, glancing down at Aziraphale.
There was a small tattoo on their temple, a small, swirling shape that Aziraphale thought might have been a snake.
"Ah," he said. "Y-yes, it is, rather."
"Whose idea was this whole thing, again?" the newcomer asked.
"Gabriel," Aziraphale said. "I believe he’s the only American on staff. Unfortunately, he's rather unstoppable when he gets an idea in his head, and thus…"
"And thus," the newcomer said, glancing down again. "Did you manage to find anything decent to drink?"
"Not exactly," Aziraphale said. "This is, quite frankly, horrendous, but it's better than punch."
The newcomer laughed, turning slightly to face Aziraphale more fully. Aziraphale looked them over, noting the odd silvery scarf-like object around their neck, the chain necklace poking out from beneath their shirt, and on the lapel of their jacket–
"Is that a pronoun pin?" he asked before he could stop himself.
The newcomer froze. "It… yeah, it is."
Aziraphale reached for his pocket, then paused, frowning, to find it empty. "Oh! Oh, it must be in my other coat. Oh, dear."
"What is?" the other asked.
"My own pin," Aziraphale said. "I, ah. I'm also… also transgender. He/him, for me."
"Really?" the other asked, sounding terribly impressed. "They/them, for the most part, though I'll take anything. I'm Crowley."
"Crowley," Aziraphale said, offering his hand to shake. "I'm Aziraphale."
One eyebrow arched over the rim of those dark sunglasses. "You got the chance to pick your own name, and that's the one you went with?"
"Well, I decided on it when I was fourteen and obsessed with angelology," Aziraphale said, shrugging. "I'm afraid it rather stuck.”
“An angel’s name? Really? That where the costume came from?”
"No, this was just the cheapest thing I could find on one day's notice," Aziraphale said.
Crowley laughed, and Aziraphale beamed.
"How long are you stuck here, then?" Crowley asked.
Aziraphale sighed. "If Gabriel catches me leaving before nine, I'll never hear the end of it."
Crowley winced sympathetically. “Yeah, Beez told all of us that we’re meant to stick around for two hours at least. Honestly, though, I think that’s mostly just so ze doesn’t end up cornered by Sandalphon again.”
“A noble goal, I must admit,” Aziraphale said. “Do you happen to have the time? I’m afraid my watch is also in my other coat, at the moment.”
“Hang on.” Crowley flourished their arm theatrically, bringing a frankly ostentatious watch up to their face. “Eight forty-three. I reckon that’s close enough to nine, yeah?”
Aziraphale hummed softly, uncertain. “I’d really rather not get in trouble…”
“C’mon,” Crowley said, inching a little bit closer, their voice dropping lower. “S’not like anyone will notice, not with the crowd and the music. Nobody’ll care.”
“Are you tempting me?” Aziraphale asked.
Crowley grinned, tapping their little plastic horns. “I’m a demon. That’s my job. Isn’t it? I think it is. I’ll be honest, I’ve got no idea. Tempting angels seems like the sort of thing a demon ought to do.”
Aziraphale laughed. “Yes, I suppose it would be. Though I’m afraid I’m not a very good angel. I’m really far too easy to tempt.”
“You’re a brilliant angel, angel,” Crowley said.
Aziraphale blushed. “Won’t you get in trouble, too? The party only started an hour ago.”
“Nah, I’ll be fine,” Crowley said. “Beez’ll love that someone from the science building managed to steal one of Gabriel’s theologians away.”
“Actually, I teach literature.”
“Really? Sorry, with the angel name, I just assumed…”
“No, it’s all right,” Aziraphale said. “I was technically raised Catholic, but…”
“Ahh. Yeah, I got it,” Crowley said. “Not gonna lie, I’m a bit glad for it. Can’t stand churches, myself.”
“That’s fair,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley grinned. “C’mon, let’s get out of here. D’you wanna go get some coffee?”
“Do you know, my dear, I think I would quite like that,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley beamed at him. “Excellent. C’mon, my car’s out front.”
Aziraphale smiled again, letting Crowley lead him through the crowd, towards the exit. Halfway across the room, Crowley held out their hand, and Aziraphale took it, wrestling uselessly against another blush and terribly grateful for the fact that only half of the lights in the meeting-room had been turned on.
The moment they stepped outside, Aziraphale pulled his useless halo and wings off with his free hand, heaving a sigh of relief when they were gone.
“Uncomfortable?” Crowley asked.
“Terribly so,” Aziraphale said. “It’s my own fault, I’m sure, for buying such cheap things. How are your feet?”
“My feet…? Oh, the heels! I’m good. Plenty of practice with these things, don’t worry.”
“It’s terribly unfair, you’re already so much taller than I am without them,” Aziraphale said.
“Am I really?” Crowley asked, resting their arm on top of Aziraphale’s head and grinning. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Oh, hush, you fiend,” Aziraphale said, laughing and batting their arm away.
In just moments, they were standing beside what looked like a genuine vintage Bentley in near-perfect condition.
“Is this a replica?” he asked.
“Nope,” Crowley said, grinning. “Genuine 1933. Been in the family since new. She spent a good few decades in a garage, though, so I did all the more recent restorations myself.”
“Oh, goodness, that’s terribly impressive,” Aziraphale said. “She’s lovely.”
Crowley preened, tugging open the passenger-side door for Aziraphale. “Got any places in mind?”
“Not really, no,” Aziraphale said. “Do you?”
Crowley’s grin grew wider as they slid into the driver’s seat and started the car. “Got a place in mind. It’s small. Think it’ll be your style. That is, if the tartan isn’t just part of your costume?”
“Of course not,” Aziraphale said. “Tartan is stylish.”
“Oh, God,” Crowley said, laughing. “What have I gotten myself into?”
“Oh, hush,” Aziraphale said, nudging Crowley’s arm with his elbow. “What do you teach, then? Fashion design?”
“Oh, I wish,” Crowley said. “I’d be shit at it, though. No, I teach physics. Astronomy, when I can get away with it.”
“Astronomy? Oh, that’s fascinating. I’ve never been terribly good at physics, it all seems far too complicated for me, but it’s always so interesting to hear someone else talk about it.”
“Well, I’d be happy to talk at you about stars any time,” Crowley said. “You said you teach literature, right? Let me guess… classics? No, queer lit. Both?”
Aziraphale snorted. “Now you’re just poking fun.”
“Maybe,” Crowley said. “I can stop?”
“No, it’s quite all right,” Aziraphale said. “It’s not as though you’re wrong, though I don’t get much opportunity for the latter.”
“I’m sure,” Crowley said. “Always like that, isn’t it? Least I’ve got Beez as assistant dean, ze’s pretty chill. About that sort of stuff, at least.”
“I suppose ze must be,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley hummed indistinctly, glancing around and then pulling into a parking space just a touch too quickly for comfort. Aziraphale squeaked before he could stop himself, grabbing onto the door handle, but Crowley was already out of the car and moving around to the passenger side to open the door for Aziraphale once more.
“My dear, not that I don’t appreciate the ride, but it does feel as though it should have taken us much longer than it did,” Aziraphale said as he clambered out.
“Meh,” Crowley said, shrugging. “M’not gonna hit anyone. It’s fine.”
Aziraphale arched one eyebrow at them.
Crowley snorted. “C’mon, angel. Let me buy you some cake or something to make up for it.”
“Cake?” Aziraphale asked, distracted despite himself. “Is this a bakery, then?”
“My favourite one,” Crowley said. “Think you’ll like it.”
“I’m sure I will, if you recommend it,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley’s ears turned red as they led the way inside.
The cake was indeed scrumptious, and the bakery was sweet and cozy, with the walls lined with plants and bookshelves alternately and all of the darkly-upholstered seats just slightly over-stuffed. Aziraphale could hardly focus on any of that, though– he was far too distracted by the company.
Crowley was just– just absolutely lovely, sweet and funny and clever and kind (and absolutely gorgeous, too, though Aziraphale tried to ignore that part). Aziraphale found himself drawn in, soaking up Crowley’s words and company like a sponge, until soon enough it had been several hours and the worker behind the counter was beginning to glare at them.
“My dear, I’m sorry to say it, but we probably ought to head out and let this poor employee close the shop,” Aziraphale said eventually, laying a hand on top of one of Crowley’s.
Crowley glanced at their watch again. “Oh, shit. Yeah, you’re probably right. Right, then.” They stood up, and together, they and Aziraphale made their way up to the front counter. There was a brief squabble about who would pay, which was solved when Crowley handed their card to the clerk while Aziraphale was distracted, and then they were standing on the pavement outside.
Aziraphale felt... oddly hesitant. He... he didn’t want to leave, just yet. He wanted to spend more time with Crowley.
He opened his mouth to say something to that effect, but before he could, Crowley spoke.
“D’you… this is probably stupid. D’you wanna head back to my place for a bit? M’just… don’t quite want the night to end yet, you know?”
And at that, Aziraphale froze.
Oh, Lord, I should have known better. I should have warned them, I can’t– oh, I don’t want to disappoint them, but I just– oh, no, oh no, oh no–
“Aziraphale?” Crowley asked, jolting Aziraphale just enough that the panic in his head spilled out of his lips, instead.
“I-I’m sorry! I’m sorry, I just– i-it’s nothing to do with you, I promise, you’re lovely, absolutely lovely, and I-I’ve had an absolutely wonderful time, but– but I, ah, I can’t– I, it’s– it’s called asexual, I don’t– I don’t really do th-that sort of thing, but, but please, it isn’t anything to do with you, it’s all me, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude–”
Crowley was staring at him, their brows furrowed and their mouth twisted.
Then their brows shot up. “Oh, shit! Fuck, I’m sorry, I didn’t even think about how that sounded– no, I didn’t– I didn’t mean it like that! Don’t worry, I didn’t mean that at all! I–” They held up their right hand and waved it about, and, for the first time that evening, Aziraphale noticed the black ring on their middle finger. “I’m also ace! I didn’t mean that sort of thing, honest, I totally forgot that it’s usually what people mean when they say stuff like that, I’m sorry.”
“Oh,” Aziraphale breathed, a balloon of hope inflating in his chest so quickly that he thought he might start floating if he wasn’t careful. “Oh, I’m– I’m sorry for assuming–”
“Don’t be,” Crowley said, waving their hand again. “Probably a safe assumption to make with most people, especially for you, you’re gorgeous. But, no, I honestly just meant that I want to talk to you some more. If… if you’d like?”
Aziraphale blushed fiercely, looking down at his hands, clasped together as they were in front of his stomach. “I– I think I’d like that very much.”
“Right,” Crowley said, and when Aziraphale glanced back up at them, they were grinning, a bright, beaming thing that made something warm in Aziraphale’s chest flare brightly. “Off we go.”
Aziraphale beamed back at them. “Off we go.”