Aziraphale had never put much thought into how exactly Hell gave Crowley his assignments before. But looking back, he wished he had.
He knew that sometimes he was called back down to Hell to personally receive some information, but it didn’t happen too often unless there might be a reason for them to suspect he had been slacking off in some way.
Sometimes other demons showed up to give him an assignment, or even called him to meet somewhere. This was the way Aziraphale was most familiar with, as it was the way Heaven usually went about giving him his own missions.
He’d thought the unannounced visits were the worst part of getting a new assignment.
Turns out there was a worse way.
“S’just a car, angel, it’s not going to bite you,” Crowley said. His tone sounded annoyed, but Aziraphale could hear the fondness seeping through with every word.
He’d tried to ignore it, had tried to pretend he didn’t notice the way Crowley sounded when he spoke to him for at least a couple of centuries now, but that was all over. Ever since the night Crowley showed up at the church, hopping around like a fool in front of some idiot Nazis, he hadn’t been able to ignore the way his own heart felt.
Which was making things rather difficult for Aziraphale.
How was he supposed to carry on like everything was normal when he’d come to realize he might be in love with his… well, his enemy didn’t sound right now that he had recently discovered these feelings. But neither did friend, perse.
His partner? They did have a business arrangement with The Arrangement, after all. But then again there were some humans who had started to use that term for their- um, lovers. So even that was a term he was hesitant to use now.
Not that it mattered what he called them. Fact of the matter was, he wasn’t supposed to have a term for them, because there wasn’t supposed to be a them.
“It’s not the car that I’m worried about,” he said, turning his nose up slightly at the demon. “It’s more your driving. Must you drive so fast in the city? You’re going to hit someone!”
Crowley shook his head from side to side, mocking Aziraphale under his breath. “Would you just get in already? I’m not gonna hit anyone.”
Truthfully Aziraphale knew that Crowley probably wouldn’t hit someone. He’d rode inside the demon’s car plenty of times, and while it sometimes made him carsick, he’d never got the impression that Crowley aimed for helpless pedestrians.
But he had to at least pretend to chastise the demon for his driving. Otherwise they wouldn’t be balancing each other out. That was how they had worked so well together for so long. Crowley did something a bit dumb and reckless, and Aziraphale warned him about it and got to have the higher ground later when he was proven right.
(Aziraphale personally ignored the few times Crowley had actually been correct. It didn’t do well for an angel to be wrong and a demon right.)
“Fine,” he said. He took every effort possible to make it sound as if getting in the car was some sort of imposition to him.
Obviously Crowley could see through him.
The only reason they were even in the car in the first place was because Aziraphale had found a rather nice sushi restaurant that he had recommended to Crowley. If he really hadn’t wanted to ride in his car, he could have just met him there.
London streaked by outside, all of the lights sort of blurring together until it was hard to tell one shop from the other. They reminded him of streaky water colors, or maybe even the stars on those time lapse pictures he’d seen in a book Crowley once owned.
(Yes, he knew Crowley owned books, even though the demon often claimed otherwise.)
They were almost there when something strange happened to the radio.
Hey boy, where do you get it from?
Hey boy where did you go?
I learned m- Crowley?
The usual music from his car had morphed somehow, changing until it seemed to have said Crowley’s name?
In an instant Crowley had pulled to the side of the street. The only thing that prevented him from smashing into some parked cars was a small diabolical miracle that spaced them out perfectly for him.
“Er, yes?” he asked. He held a finger up to his lips to signal Aziraphale to stay quiet. “Who is this exactly?”
Dagon, Lord of the Files.
“Oh, right,” he said. “Lovely to hear from you, been a minute hasn’t it? We should really-”
Crowley, the voice cut him off. We have a job for you.
“A job?” he asked. “Oh, excellent. Really, been wondering what Hell might have me do nex-”
Sending the info to you now.
Something bordering on panic seemed to come over Crowley’s face. It was a rare look for the angle to see on him, and it set some alarm bells off in his head. Was a demon talking through his radio?
“No, no, no, you don’t have to do that, really. I’ll come to you, I’ll-”
Black smoke suddenly seemed to pour from the radio. At first Aziraphale thought something in the car had caught fire, until he realized that it was coming from the radio and that it happened to be demonic in nature.
The smoke seemed to float over to Crowley and enter in through his eyes, somehow going around his sunglasses until it disappeared.
Crowley’s body jerked, almost like it was trying to get away from the smoke or at least the sensation of it, before it stilled completely. His head dropped and his chin rested on his chest. Silence filled the car for a brief moment before the radio turned back on, the song resuming right where it had left off as if nothing had ever happened.
In the good old-fashioned
School of loverboys
Aziraphale sat frozen in his seat. Crowley had warned him to be quiet before Dagon had started speaking (obviously they couldn’t have Hell finding out that Crowley had an angel riding shotgun) but he had no clue for how long exactly he was supposed to be quiet for. Could Dagon still hear them? He wasn’t an expert on radios, but he was fairly certain that they weren’t supposed to work that way. And was it only sound? Did Hell have eyes on them?
A very, very deep down part of Aziraphale wanted to run. A demon had just spoken to Crowley through his radio with Aziraphale right next to him! They’d had many close calls before, but nothing exactly like this. What would he say if someone from Hell or Heaven showed up? There would be no excuse, no reason good enough for the two of them sitting in the car next to each other like old chums.
He shook his head. Running would do him no good. If Dagon had been aware that he was here then it was too late anyways. The two of them would likely need to think of something, and quick, if that were the case.
“Crowley?” he hesitantly asked. Gently, he reached a hand out and placed it on the demon’s shoulder.
Crowley didn’t seem to react. His head stayed tilted forward, his glasses slowly sliding down his nose and exposing them to Aziraphale.
He looked as if he were just staring forward into space, but there was nothing there. No recognition, nothing to tell that he was seeing anything in front of him.
It was all wrong. Crowley was usually so animated; to see him slumped like a puppet with its strings cut and his eyes as vacant as an empty house was unnatural
“Dear?” he gripped his shoulder a bit tighter, his pulse quickening. What had happened to him? Dagon had mentioned something about an assignment or something, right? Or had Hell known about Aziraphale and actually gone ahead and taken care of Crowely already? “Crowley?”
Suddenly, Crowley sucked in a deep breath. His body jerked back from Aziraphale, and his hand came up so quickly it smacked his hand away from his shoulder.
They both sat there for a moment, the radio slowly fading into silence. Crowley was tensed, almost like he was ready to bolt out of the car, but that didn’t make sense. The Bentley was one of Crowley’s prized possessions, if not his most prized. It made no sense that he might abandon it, no matter what was going on.
Even if they had to split up, he seriously doubted that Crowley would give up his car that easily.
“Are you alright?” Aziraphale asked, even though he was almost certain he wasn’t.
“What do you think?” Crowley instantly snarked back.
Aziraphale supposed he deserved that.
Neither one of them moved. Outside, people continued to walk by, not a single person interested in anything that was happening inside the car. Aziraphale couldn’t tell which one of them had made that so, but he knew that if it hadn’t been himself, he would have done it in a heartbeat.
His glasses were firmly back in place, now. Aziraphale had spent enough time around Crowley to know quite a bit about how to read him, even with his glasses on, but the demon didn’t make it easy.
“What was that?” he asked eventually. He could tell that Crowley was still tense, turned away from Aziraphale as if that might somehow hide any of this.
“What was what?” Crowley asked. He’d shifted in his seat and reached towards the steering wheel like he was going to start driving again.
Like Aziraphale was really going to just leave it at that.
“That!” Aziraphale said and gestured to the radio. “Smoke came out and then It was like you just switched off.” He tried to lean around, so Crowley would be forced to look at him. “And I believe a demon just spoke through your radio. So what happened?”
“Nothing,” Crowley said harshly. He pulled the Bentley from it’s spot at the side of the road and floored it as fast as he could. Some people jumped at the sound of the car as it hurtled down the street, far quicker than he had been driving earlier.
“That was not nothing, my dear,” Aziraphale insisted. “Something obviously-”
“It was just a message, angel,” Crowley cut him off. “It’s just how they like to give assignments sometimes.”
Aziraphale’s brows scrunched together at that. “Give assignments? How was that giving an assignment?”
Crowley didn’t answer. He took a particularly sharp corner, forcing Aziraphale to brace himself on the dash and the roof.
Aziraphale thought about it for a moment. Crowley was the king of avoiding things when he really wanted to (as evidenced by him sleeping through a whole century), but the two of them knew that Aziraphale could be just as stubborn once he had made a decision.
“Do they usually give assignments that way?” Aziraphale had thought he’d been aware of how Hell gave assignments. He’d thought that it had been pretty similar to the way Heaven gave them out.
Perhaps, he realized, he might have been wrong.
He took so long to respond Aziraphale feared that he might not. Eventually, Crowley sighed and seemed to slow down. “No, not really. Sometimes. Only when they think it might be really important or if they want to get one of their points across very well.”
Aziraphale wasn’t sure if he should inquire further, but he couldn’t let it go. Their Arrangement didn’t always apply to every single assignment they were given, and if this one was especially important, there was all the chance in the world that Crowley might not want to share it with him at all.
“So which was it this time?” he asked, his voice quiet.
So quiet that Crowley could have pretended he hadn’t heard him. Instead, he chose to answer him.
“S’nothing. Just wanted to get their point across. Think that I’ve been slacking lately, so they’ve sent me some specific instructions for once,” he mumbled.
He wanted to argue the slacking point in Crowley’s defense, before he remembered that the two of them were on their way to a sushi restaurant simply because Aziraphale had asked to go. Maybe he wasn’t the best person to make the argument.
“I see,” Aziraphale said. He figured that that would be the end of it, that Crowley wouldn’t say anything more on the subject, but to his surprise it was Crowley who continued.
“It’s not usually like that,” he said. “Really. I tried to show them how radios worked a few decades back. They didn’t really seem to understand that both sides aren’t supposed to talk to each other without, ya know, transceivers and bits. Got the same problem with TV and movies, too. Treat ‘em like mobiles. Which I didn’t even try to explain to them.”
If Aziraphale were honest (and he tried to be, most of the time), the demon suddenly speaking through the radio hadn’t been the most concerning thing about what had just happened. Sure, it had startled him, and he was definitely still wary of Hell listening in somehow, but there was something worse. He could easily imagine the smoke coming from the radio again, and see Crowley’s blank eyes as he sat slumped in his driver’s seat.
“And the smoke?” Some part of him regretted even asking.
Crowley’s shoulders hunched a bit, almost like a very tense shrug. “Like I said. Sometimes they wanna really get their point across. No easier way then straight into here,” he said, tapping his forehead.
A shudder went through him without his permission. The idea of anyone, much less Hell, being able to directly broadcast into his head was enough to make his skin crawl. And it clearly wasn’t a pleasant experience for Crowley, either, if his reaction was anything to go off.
“Crowley-” Aziraphale started.
Crowley slammed on the Bentley’s brakes. The sound of the tires was audible as they came to a rather abrupt stop.
He looked over at the demon, who’s eyes were staring straight ahead now, not even looking at him in the slightest.
“Looks like this is your stop,” he said.
Aziraphale glanced out the window. The sushi shop was to his left, it’s windows warmly lit with a sign stating that they were open. “My stop?”
“Yep,” Crowley said. “Looks like we might need to reschedule. Got some things I need to take care of.”
Both of them glanced towards the radio.
“Right,” Aziraphale said. “I guess I’ll see you around soon?” If he put a little bit more hope in that last sentence than usual he could only hope that Crowley wouldn’t call him out on it.
He didn’t, of course.
“Sure thing, angel,” he said. There was something tainting his voice, something that normally wasn’t there. Was it regret? Annoyance? It was hard to tell at the moment. Everything had just changed so suddenly, and Aziraphale wasn’t able to keep up.
As usual, Aziraphale thought rather unkindly to himself.
He should be happy, he realized. He should be thankful to get away from the demon, especially now that he knew that Hell had a way to constantly reach him. Not only did they have a way to constantly reach him, it was a way that they apparently used. What if they did that when the two of them were just drinking in the bookshop? Or what about when they were making plans as part of the Arrangement?
There would be no way to explain what they were doing to their superiors.
And Hell didn’t send rude notes.
Maybe it was better this way.
“Right,” he repeated. Slowly, he got out of the car. He wouldn’t admit it, but there was still a little bit of hope that Crowley might change his mind. That he might call him back to the Bentley or that he might decide to come inside with him still.
It wasn’t going to happen, but it was always good to have hope.
He watched the Bentley roar out of sight from the sidewalk and wondered how much hope Crowley kept inside him.