Unbeknownst to Heaven, mostly because Heaven would wish for it to remain un…beknownst…demons have their own equivalent of a moral code, via their own set of rules. Now, that’s not to say there are clear definitions of these rules, nor are there many that apply to one demon from another; rather they all have their own personal set, and often contradict themselves.
But a demon is a demon, and there are rules, and before they can be broken, they must be followed.
Followed, Crowley reminds himself forcefully when he catches sight of Aziraphale approaching, the angel looking pleased as punch to be even considering breaking a key demonic rule of Crowley’s:
No food in the Bentley.
“Absolutely not,” Crowley says, glowering at the ice cream cones Aziraphale holds.
“But,” Aziraphale’s face falls, “they’re going to melt.”
“Let them,” Crowley says, as he stalks around the Bentley and gets in. He starts her up, irritation only half soothed by the rumble of her engine as he looks out the passenger window and sees Aziraphale standing there forlornly.
Crowley growls. “Just eat them before you get in.”
Aziraphale mutters something he can’t hear.
“One of them is for you!” Aziraphale repeats loudly. Crowley looks at the ice creams in his hands: the waffle cone with strawberry ice cream and banana chunks, and the red ice lolly. He heaves a long-suffering sigh, and the passenger door pops open.
Aziraphale brightens and clambers in, eagerly passing Crowley his ice cream and happily starting on his own. Crowley sullenly licks the strawberry ice cream, a pleased shiver running down his spine when he swallows a chunk of frozen banana.
“You get so much as one drop on the seat and you’re out on your ear,” Crowley warns the angel as he deftly turns into oncoming traffic. Aziraphale beams.
“Anything you say, my dear.”
Never watch a Tom Cruse film.
“Oh my—no,” Crowley says, stopping short. Aziraphale turns around, already pouting.
“You said you’d go to a film with me,” he reminds Crowley.
Crowley’s lip curls in disgust and he gestures at the marquee. “Yes, but if I’d known you meant this one I’d’ve slept for the next two months until it was out of cinemas.”
“I’ve already bought the tickets,” Aziraphale says, stubbornly lifting his chin.
“You miracled the money to pay for them, that’s no loss,” Crowley tells him. Aziraphale frowns.
“You said you’d come to a film with me,” Aziraphale repeats.
“And since when do demons keep their word?”
“Since they want access to the best stocked wine cellar in London,” Aziraphale replies smugly, and Crowley grits his teeth. Stupid Chateau Margaux.
“Come along,” Aziraphale says, grabbing Crowley’s hand and tugging him forward a few feet, “I want to beat the line at the concession stand.”
Crowley ends up in the second-to-last row in the cinema beside an angel happily munching his way through buttered popcorn. Aziraphale cheerily offers Crowley the bucket every now and then, but the suggestion that he not actually take Aziraphale up on it is left unsaid but heavily implied, so Crowley sits and watches ‘Top Gun’ with disdain, which fades to consternation, and that mellows to grudging enjoyment, until he is choking back tears while Maverick screams in a thrashing ocean.
“Oh,” he hears from his right, and he turns to see Aziraphale’s eyes shining as much as his buttery fingertips. He looks at Crowley, stricken. “I didn’t know Goose died.”
He’s so sad, almost as if he, too, had been projecting himself and his longest lasting relationship on the camaraderie of the main characters, and to see one of them so abruptly cut down out of nowhere, when he was meant to be safe—
It hits too close to home for Crowley, and he gathers all the infernal energy at his disposal and snaps.
“He’s not dead, angel,” Crowley says, nodding to the screen, where all of the actors, dressed in street clothes and looking about eight months older than in previous scenes, choke their way through a painful hospital scene, where Goose is declared alive.
Aziraphale watches raptly, and actually grabs Crowley’s hand when Tom Cruse and Anthony Edwards awkwardly hug, each actor trying to wrap their brains around the fact that one of them had just been in the middle of an interview with Oprah two minutes ago and the other had been on a lounger in Rio. They say nothing, exchanging knowing glances instead. Hollywood.
When Crowley rolls to a stop out front of the book shop later, Aziraphale turns his dazzling grin on him. “Coming in? I have a rather lovely—”
“Chateau Margaux,” Crowley says with him, and grins at Aziraphale’s evident shocked delight. “You’re so predictable, angel.”
Aziraphale gives him a knowing smile. “Even now you don’t like the gloomy ones,” he says, and steps out of the car, and Crowley scrambles to catch up.
“What do you mean by that? Angel?”
Never approach the enemy.
Aziraphale is standing very still.
He doesn’t acknowledge when Crowley steps up beside him.
“I asked if I could help. I have to ask, you know,” Aziraphale says, voice bitter, “to save lives, to ease suffering. I can’t just do it without permission.” His mouth twists and he blinks angrily. “Mother, may I?” he sneers.
“Not my fault? Of course it isn’t, it’s free will,” Aziraphale snaps. “All the choices they can make, and—” his breath hitches. “So many dead, and I didn’t—I couldn’t—”
Crowley puts a hand on Aziraphale’s shoulder, a brief, grounding touch. “There’s nothing to be done for them now,” he says, so please stop tormenting yourself with guilt, please not again.
Some words are better left unsaid. Crowley leads Aziraphale away from the carnage, pretending their path through is casual, instead of carefully calculated to avoid the most gore. They get resoundingly drunk; rather, Aziraphale does, and Crowley pretends to follow suit.
Listening to Aziraphale’s grief and rage makes it easier for Crowley to remember more fully the conditional nature of the love of Heaven, how fleeting it is, how quickly it can be ripped away.
Spread fear and doubt on every doorstep you darken.
Crowley feels the approaching celestial presence and hurriedly stands.
“Go on!” he hisses, flapping his hands, desperate to get rid of any evidence before the angel sees—
“Oh! Hello, children,” Aziraphale says warmly as he approaches, but his smile is all for Crowley. “What are you all up to?”
“Anthony’s been giving horsey rides!” a young girl tells Aziraphale excitedly. Aziraphale gasps.
“Is he now,” he says, grinning at Crowley. “Does he make the noises, too?”
The girl laughs. “No, the horses do!” she says, and Aziraphale pauses.
She rolls her eyes and takes Aziraphale’s hand, leading him through the gaggle of children to the pile of felt horse heads on sticks.
“Watch,” she orders, and grabs one and straddles it, looking at Crowley expectantly, and it’s not like he can refuse when she’s looking at him like that, he’s a demon, not a monster—
He sighs and snaps his fingers.
The horse comes to life with a toss of its mane and an echoing whinny. The girl holds on to the string reins around its neck and shrieks with laughter as she’s galloped around the park, coming close to falling off on occasion but never actually thumping to the ground.
Aziraphale looks at the children scattered across the park, ride-on horses strewn about, and looks to where Crowley is trying to hide in his jacket, defiantly, of course.
“Just think, now all of these children will go home and beg their parents incessantly for a horse of their own,” Aziraphale says, shaking his head. Crowley is relieved to have been offered an out and takes it.
“Imagine the caterwauling at dinner tonight,” he agrees, and Aziraphale nods.
“It’ll be nearly as bad as when it rained doughnuts last spring,” he says.
Crowley flushes. “Yep,” he agrees.
“Or when the animal shelter suddenly decided to waive the adoption fee on all of their dogs,” Aziraphale adds.
Was it Crowley’s fault that the foster home right across from the shelter was perfectly suited to take in a few dogs? How was he supposed to know his perfectly evil demonic plan would result in abandoned children and dogs finding each other and being given a forever? He’d simply meant to sow discord between neighbours, over whose kid got a dog and whose didn’t. Not his fault there had been enough dogs and miraculously willing parents to go along with it.
Aziraphale smiles at him, and he doesn’t say how endearing he finds Crowley’s affection for children, a fact for which Crowley is endlessly grateful.
“We’d best be off or we’ll miss the curtain,” Aziraphale says, followed by a not-at-all subtle snap of his fingers.
An angel and demon stride out of the park, leaving behind a group of children being thrown about on enthusiastic toy horses, and all of them wonder what the next visit will bring.
Never meet your heroes. Better yet, don’t have any.
Aziraphale is unaccountably excited for someone so out of his element. He steers Crowley through the crowd of the comic con, but he has to keep stopping to apologize to everyone who walks into or gets knocked off their feet by his wings.
“They’ll think it’s a costume,” Aziraphale had said in the parking lot, quite pleased. Then he had gone on to insist Crowley go in in costume, and he’d badly faked an ah-ha! moment and with a snap had Crowley dressed in a full tuxedo.
Aziraphale had looked flustered at the sight of Crowley in a cummerbund, but he did manage to still long enough to take Crowley’s sunglasses off, slowly, watching the demon carefully for any protest. He’d folded the glasses into the pocket of his robe and smiled at Crowley.
“Lovely,” he said, and standing there, looking as he had in Eden, Aziraphale leaves Crowley weak-kneed.
Crowley puts up with downy feathers brushing against him as they wend their way through the crowd and stand at the end of a line. Aziraphale faces Crowley, cheeks flushed.
“Promise not to look and spoil the surprise,” Aziraphale says. Immediately Crowley cranes his neck to see what he isn’t meant to and gets a jab in the ribs.
“Leave it,” Aziraphale orders, and the way he shifts from foot to foot betrays his nerves for whatever this is, so Crowley sighs and obligingly stands flatfooted. Aziraphale is back to smiling. “Thank you. I think you’ll really enjoy this.”
Crowley’s corporation goes through two extreme moods in a split second: mind-numbing excitement when he sees who they’re in line to meet, and heart-wrenching disappointment when he sees who they’re in line to meet.
“It’s James Bond!” Aziraphale says, nudging Crowley with a sharp elbow. “Well, the actor, obviously.”
Crowley’s heart picks itself up from where it lays shattered in his own stomach acid. “That’s— that’s really cool, angel,” he forces out, because Aziraphale is absolutely glowing, as he has been off and on all morning.
“There are white lights under the feathers,” Aziraphale tells a few other attendees who are beginning to stare. He looks back at Crowley. “Is it— are you pleased?”
Crowley can sense the hope fluttering about the angel, the fervent desire to have done the right thing, and his demonic core urges him to crush it, to flatten it to nothing and laugh.
Instead he smiles at Aziraphale. “I can hardly think of a thing to say to him.”
Aziraphale wiggles happily, and Crowley’s heart shrieks a protest as it melts into the acid pits of his stomach again.
“It’s all right if you get a little tongue-tied,” Aziraphale tells him as they approach the table. “I bought us a photo op, so all you have to do is stand there and look— at the camera,” he finishes, cheeks faintly flushed.
Thirty years later, Crowley will still have the picture, of a white-winged angel beaming as he assumes an extremely bastardized Bond pose, whilst Crowley and, ugh, Timothy Dalton stand in matching tuxedos, each a little unsure of the angel, but for vastly different reasons.
Don’t fall for the old fake-out, ‘love’.
The problem is, Heavenly love doesn’t last. It can’t; it’s built on too many wobbling blocks of ‘only ifs’ and ‘you musts’, and even pledged loyalty can only bend so much to accommodate.
“You won’t forever,” Crowley snaps at Aziraphale, “you can’t possibly—”
“I’ve managed it for several millennia as it is,” Aziraphale replies softly.
“Yeah! Well, then, this, this is the tail end of it,” Crowley says, anxiously pacing the bookshop. He turns a pleading look on the angel. “You don’t love me. You can’t.”
“I do, actually, and a rather frightening amount,” Aziraphale says. He take a step closer and Crowley tenses, unsure of why, feeling ridiculous for it. Aziraphale stops.
“You shouldn’t,” Crowley says, “you’re pure and full of love and decency and everything that’s right with the world.”
“Oh,” Aziraphale says, with a little smile, “and you don’t think I see you the same way?”
Crowley splutters. “I’m not pure, I’m, I’m—”
“Loyal to a fault,” Aziraphale says.
Crowley glares, heart hammering in his chest, warily glancing down at the stomach acid far below. “No, I’m—”
“One of the most selfless beings to ever exist,” Aziraphale says, and takes one small step.
Crowley’s fit to burst, this itching under his skin spreading from his brain, or maybe his heart; it floods through him, prickly and warm and making him feel the urge to spontaneously combust or keel over dead, something big and lasting, that might possibly encompass the raging tempest inside.
“I’m a demon,” he snarls desperately, and fumbles to yank his sunglasses off, “from the sulphur pits, made to torture and degrade, to drag souls to Hell for eternal suffering—”
“Neither of us have ever been very good at our jobs,” Aziraphale allows, and Crowley nearly chokes on a sob.
“Stop joking,” he tells Aziraphale. “This is— you don’t know what you’re saying—”
“I do know, and I know I am so very late in saying it,” Aziraphale says, and he’s right in front of Crowley, painfully earnest. “I hope you can forgive me the delay.”
Crowley shakes his head, more a reflex than acknowledgement of anything. “You’ve never done anything wrong,” he tells Aziraphale. The angel sighs.
“I have, for a very long time, if my telling you I love you is met with this resistance,” Aziraphale says. He presses a finger to Crowley’s lips. “And don’t say it’s because you’re a demon; those boundaries have never held for you before.”
Aziraphale is so close, if Crowley were to lean forward a handful of inches he’d be able to kiss the angel’s forehead. He trembles with how much he wants that, and with how hard he has to deny himself that.
“Don’t be afraid,” Aziraphale says, and he’s reached for Crowley’s hands, and his fingers are warm, his palms soft, and Crowley wants to collapse into that warmth and be held forever, sharp thing that he is.
He holds himself back. “Of what?” he tries to scoff, wishing he had his glasses on, wishes he could drag his gaze away from Aziraphale’s, but he’s caught, held in a whirlpool that tugs him down. It’s warm at the bottom, gloriously so, but he can’t bring himself to yield.
“I think I was talking to myself more,” Aziraphale admits with a soft huff. “I…I’ve wanted to tell you for so long, but I was afraid you wouldn’t want to hear it.”
“Angel—” Crowley says with no idea of what’s to follow.
“But you do want to hear it,” Aziraphale whispers. “But you’re scared to let yourself want that.”
Crowley swallows hard, floundering in the deep blue gaze. “I shouldn’t,” he says, “shouldn’t want—” he shakes his head.
“Please,” Aziraphale says, “let yourself want. If, if that’s what you want,” he adds, suddenly hesitant. Crowley squeezes his hands in answer and takes a moment to answer.
“More than Shakespeare could say.”
Aziraphale laughs, and Crowley manages a tiny grin in response. “I don’t think this is one of the gloomy ones,” he offers, eyes twinkling up at Crowley.
Crowley sighs and they step together, bodies flush against one another, Aziraphale’s arms strong around his waist.
“First one to soliloquize loses.”
“And what does the winner get?” Aziraphale asks a bit thickly. Crowley gives in to the urge to bury his nose in Aziraphale’s curls and inhales deeply.
“Mmm,” he says, eyes closed, “chooses the next comic con costumes.”
“Oh but you looked so dashing—"
“Oh, no,” Crowley says, “my costume was fine. Yours was a far cry from Bond girl.”
Aziraphale snorts against his shoulder. “Well then, if it were up to you, who would I be?”
Crowley takes in the scene: the two of them in each other’s arms, years of repressed love threatening to explode all over the first editions, and it’s a beautiful moment, so he smiles, and says,
He’s a demon, after all. There are rules to follow.