Normally this was Crowley’s favourite night of the week. Sitting in his favourite chair, laptop open, glass of wine on hand, the cursor blinking invitingly in the Wordpress text field. Ready to write the filthiest, daftest, most convoluted piece of erotic fiction his well-practised imagination could provide, ready to post it on his blog and watch the horde of internet idiots eat it up. He usually got at least one person claiming that they’d been the other party in his escapades. Sometimes more, if it was a particularly good week. The Twitter fights drove hits like nothing else.
The cursor continued to blink. His own garish, eye-catching logo stared back at him accusingly. Diary of a London Sex Fiend: Uncut, Unfiltered, Unforgettable.
They’d been true stories, once. Well. For a given value of true. Crowley had always spiced them up a little. Made the dialogue wittier, played up the humour, given himself an eight-pack – nothing egregious. But then he’d stumbled on two inconvenient truths at approximately the same time:
1. He actually wasn’t that big a fan of one-night stands, and,
2. The blog was a hit. Enough of a hit to supplement his crappy income significantly.
He’d fumbled on with a few more hook-ups – disappointing ones that required a lot of creative editing – before he’d realised he was trying way too hard. His readers had always preferred the more exaggerated stories. Crowley had a fantastic imagination. Why not spend his Friday nights writing made-up accounts of all the sex he’d been having with strangers, ready to post the following day?
It had been a winning combination. For three glorious years, he had regaled the internet with increasingly ridiculous smut, and the people questioning his truthfulness had only increased his popularity.
At least, until recently. Until his numbers had started falling off. He hadn’t known why, until someone left a comment on a particularly debauched story involving a traffic warden, a feather boa, and three pints of chocolate ice cream.
Yeah, I’m done, the anonymous poster had written. Angel is just so much more authentic. I can’t believe I ever bought this bullshit.
The cursor was still blinking, but Crowley found himself tabbing out without making a conscious choice. The website that loaded up in place of his own was so sickeningly pastel that it made My Little Ponies jealous, although the content would probably have made them faint dead away, exquisitely manicured hooves pointed to the heavens.
An Angel in the Sheets was, apparently, stealing his readers in droves. Crowley just didn’t get it. Where was the overlap? Sure, both blogs were about sex, but the Angel was the complete opposite of his brand: a married man in a loving relationship who wrote exclusively about all the affirmative, soul-nourishing lovemaking he got up to with his perfect husband. It was beyond twee. It was sickeningly sweet. It was absolutely a scam, one hundred percent, there was no way this guy was for real.
Crowley had read every single entry. More than once. He had some of them bookmarked. He had some of them memorised.
He forced himself to tab back into the blog posting window. He typed a sentence, deleted it. Typed another one. Deleted that. Drank half his wine in one go. Thought about that time the Angel had tenderly cupped his husband’s cheek in the kitchen and undone his shirt one button at a time…
Fuck it. There was an obvious solution to this. If he couldn’t come up with anything from his imagination, he’d just have to do it for real. Crowley drained the rest of his wine, closed his laptop, surged to his feet, and headed to the bedroom to change. Sure, it had been a while, but he still knew where to find the hottest clubs and the best parties.
And, perhaps more importantly, he could still fit into those very, very tight black jeans.
It really was one of the best parties. Adam and Eve knew what they were doing, from the branding (Forbidden Fruit @Eden LIMITED ENTRY) to the layout (just the right amount of intimacy, just the right lack of privacy) to whatever the hell this lethal twist on an appletini involved (Crowley had had three already).
And he was hanging around at the back, watching all the pretty people hook up with each other, and it didn’t matter how many times he told himself he was just waiting for someone even prettier, the truth was, he was starting to think longingly of his sofa and a couple of episodes of Golden Girls.
At least Crowley wasn’t the only sad old git hovering at the edges – although the other guy looked like he’d somehow wandered in here by mistake. All tweed and beige and – was that an actual honest-to-someone tartan bowtie? Had he got lost on his way to a convention of gay librarians? Or accidentally parked his TARDIS in the Gents?
Crowley had no idea what made him saunter over and lean on the same patch of wall. Solidarity, maybe. Curiosity, mostly. Perhaps a smidgen of interest? He hated to admit it, but he was kind of into the Escapee From Your English Professor’s Wet Dreams look. That, and the way the lights kept catching on white-blond hair, almost like a halo.
“Waiting for someone?”
It wasn’t the most original opener, but it had the benefit of plausible deniability, should the other party be uninterested. The man in the bowtie looked surprised to be spoken to, and then favoured Crowley with a smile that was simultaneously so bright and pleased, and so sad and resigned, that it made something in Crowley’s chest do a double backflip.
“Well, yes and no,” the man said. “I don’t think he’s coming.”
“Stood you up, did he?”
“Ah… no, no, it’s not like that.” The man fiddled with his Enhanced Double-Strength Appletini self-consciously. “I was having a bit of a– a bit of a creative block, you know, and I got it into my head that if I could just get myself out of the house for once, I might– meet someone, but…”
He cast his gaze regretfully out over the sea of writhing bodies. Not all of them were dancing.
“I think, perhaps, I overestimated the ease with which people connect, these days. Or at least, how they connect with me. Silly, really. It’s just, when you’ve read about it enough, you start to think maybe if you just tried, you could be someone… a bit different. Even just for a night.”
Crowley swallowed, unexpectedly struck by a deep sense of empathy.
“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I know what you mean. It’s like, you know it’s basically a fantasy, right? Way too perfect to be real. But sometimes you just think…”
“Oh,” said the man, a heady mixture of surprise and delight suffusing his face. “Oh. You understand, don’t you?”
Crowley sort of shrugged and sort of nodded and definitely took a big gulp of his apple-flavoured hangover-bomb.
“I’m Crowley,” he said. “Can I get you another drink?”
The man looked at his almost-full glass. Then he downed it in one impressive swallow. Crowley tried and failed not to watch the way his throat worked, and the way he licked the last drops from his lips afterwards.
“I’m Aziraphale,” the man replied with a coy smile. “And that would be lovely.”
It had been a long time since Crowley had woken up with a pounding headache, and even longer since he’d woken up with someone snuggled up against his back, one arm thrown comfortably over his middle, breath soft and ticklish on the back of his neck. He had a pressing need for some paracetamol and a piss, but he lay where he was, running his mind back over the night before, feeling a little shudder of heat when he got to the good parts.
Eventually, biology won out, and he reluctantly disentangled himself. Aziraphale curled contentedly into the warm space that he’d left, and Crowley couldn’t keep the dopey smile off his face as he staggered to the bathroom.
By the time Aziraphale wandered into the kitchen – wearing his trousers and shirt from the night before, except the latter had its top buttons undone, and wasn’t that doing something to Crowley that he’d never expected – there was a pot of tea, a selection of sliced fruit, and three rounds of buttered toast on the kitchen table. Crowley had only been saved from the utter humiliation of waffles by the fact that he didn’t have any eggs.
Aziraphale smiled at him like he’d hung the moon, drifted over for a long and lingering kiss, and then set about enjoying breakfast as if they’d been in a five-star hotel. Crowley wasn’t much for eating in the mornings, especially not when thoroughly hungover, but at about the point where Aziraphale offered him a slice of apple and then fed it to him bite by bite, he thought he could make an exception.
Unfortunately, that was when Aziraphale caught sight of his watch, and gasped in horror.
“Oh no– I’m going to be late– my alarm should have–”
He rushed off to the bedroom, and came back with a mobile phone which was both ancient and, from the way he was prodding it despairingly, completely out of battery.
“Where do you need to go?” Crowley asked. “I’ll give you a lift–”
“Darling, I’m fairly certain your blood is still at least 30% vodka,” Aziraphale said, with an affectionate smile that took any sort of sting out of it. Darling, Crowley thought dizzily. “I have an appointment, but it’s all right, I’ll take a taxi – oh, except the blasted number is in there…”
“Here, use this,” Crowley said, stepping into the next room and grabbing his laptop. “I’ve got an Uber account, you can just book on that.”
“You’re far too kind,” Aziraphale murmured, as Crowley typed in his password, and the laptop started up…
… to reveal that cursor still blinking, in all its glory, in the empty text field of his blog.
“Shit,” Crowley yelped, flailing desperately for the close button and missing three times before he hit it. “I– uh– I mean–”
Aziraphale was staring at him with round eyes and an open mouth. Crowley’s heart sank.
“You’re the Fiend?” Aziraphale breathed. And then, his expression crumpling all at once. “Oh. Oh, I see. You’ll– be writing about me–”
“No!” Crowley almost wailed, shoving the laptop aside and grabbing both of Aziraphale’s hands like something out of a goddamn romcom. “No, no, it’s not like that, it’s not, I swear–”
And then his brain caught up with him.
“Wait, you read my blog?”
Aziraphale flushed red, but he didn’t try to remove his hands from Crowley’s desperate grip.
“I… well, it seemed like a good idea to, er, to scope out the competition…”
Competition? Crowley thought vaguely.
“… and then I just… I got hooked… the way you write, the way you talk about sex, it’s so– it’s so fierce and free and joyful and I just–”
“Competition?” Crowley said, because apparently the one braincell spared by the Ultra Mega Nuclear Appletini was on a mission.
Aziraphale bit his lip and lowered his eyes.
“I have a blog of my own,” he admitted. “It started as… well. I suppose just a fantasy. Something I wanted very much, and couldn’t seem to find. I never expected other people to read it, really, but then I started gaining followers, and… I didn’t want to let them down… but sometimes I felt like such a fraud, and I’d read your entries, all the fun you were having, and last night I just thought–”
Crowley swallowed, swallowed again. Then he lifted his hand, and cupped Aziraphale’s cheek.
“Angel?” he whispered.
Aziraphale’s eyes flew to his, wide and stunned. Crowley took a deep breath.
“Mine isn’t real either,” he said.
He let his hand drop to the buttons of Aziraphale’s shirt, lingered there, waiting for permission.
“But I’d like this to be.”
Aziraphale stared into his eyes, and Crowley watched as understanding dawned, and then something that looked terribly, painfully, like the same thing that was burning a sunrise into the centre of his chest.
“I’ll reschedule the appointment,” Aziraphale breathed, and then his hands were in Crowley’s hair.