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To Be Left Wanting

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Aziraphale anxiously watches the barista pointedly wipe down every table around him and clutches his suitcase closer, heartbeat thundering at the thought of what he’ll do when he’s inevitably kicked out in the next few minutes.

What he’ll do, and where he’ll go.

“You see, my partner suddenly decided he’d had enough of me and threw me out this evening,” he imagines explaining to the barista, “so I really don’t have anywhere to go, so perhaps I could—”

What—sleep on one of the small couches in the corner? Spend the night dusting and washing dishes so he didn’t have to wander about, afraid to spend what money he had that was his own on a hotel room, because there was no telling how long he would be stuck like this, homeless and jobless and useless.

Just like Gabriel had said.

The barista is approaching with a firmly set jaw and the bottle of sanitizer at the ready.

“Sir, I’m afraid we close at ten.” Her eyes flick to the wall clock beside them, the minute hand just shy of the hour.

Aziraphale flounders, utterly unaware of what he can say to try to plead his case to a university student who, in all likelihood, has it worse than him, when suddenly the door opens with a great clanging of bells.

“Christopher! You were supposed to lock—” the barista huffs and turns from Aziraphale to face this new pest, and Aziraphale briefly entertains the notion of slipping under the table and staying there until the employees have left.

“I’m sorry, sir, we’re closed,” she tells the new arrival.

“As of ten pm, yes, but as it’s only 9:58, I will take a large cappucino,” says the man, and Aziraphale looks up with wide eyes, because he recognizes that voice.

Sure enough, just in the entrance of the café stands Anthony J. Crowley, long-lost mutual acquaintance of Tracy.

Aziraphale dithers between hiding his face or dashing for the toilet to hide until Crowley has left, when the worst happens: he sees Aziraphale.

“Hey,” Crowley says, leaning around the barista. He squints at Aziraphale for a moment, then brightens. “Aziraphale! It is you. Alright?”

Aziraphale curses his inaction and looks up, sure he must look a sight, in a rumpled suit clutching a suitcase, and hopes he doesn’t look as wide-eyed as he feels. “How have you been?”

Crowley grins. “You don’t remember my name, do you?”

“Of course, I do,” Aziraphale says, “I’m sorry, I should have— it’s nice to see you again, Anthony J Call Me Crowley.”

Crowley waves it off. “Want something?” he asks, gesturing towards the glowering barista unconcernedly. Aziraphale shakes his head.

Why, of all the first times they may have seen each other again, does it have to be the night Aziraphale’s world was so rudely shaken? Aziraphale doesn’t know where he’s going to go once the irritated barista has cobbled together Crowley’s drink and thrown the two of them out. Should he find a cheap hotel, just for the night, while he gets his bearings? He realizes he doesn’t even know if he has his wallet, his departure from the flat had been so hurried and full of heart ache and humiliation and anger.

Aziraphale holds onto that ember of rage, uses it to force down the misery that’s been threatening to drag him under since he stood blinking on the sidewalk in front of his former building. He stands, awkwardly adjusting his jacket under the bulk of his suitcase, as Crowley pays with a twenty- pound note and leaves the change. It is a slightly mollified barista that shuts the door behind them, and Aziraphale belatedly realizes Crowley is holding two cups, one in Aziraphale’s direction.

“Figured tea was a safe bet. Decaf,” he adds, and wiggles the cup a bit. “Go on.”

“Thank you,” Aziraphale says, and takes the cup. The smell turns his already-nauseous stomach and he holds it a little lower.

“Greece,” Crowley says as they hover in front of the café.

“Pardon me?”

Crowley nods at the suitcase. “You’re going on a trip, right? I was guessing where to.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, and looks down at his suitcase accusingly. “No, although I have always wanted to visit.”

“I remember,” Crowley says, then takes a large swallow of coffee, looking away. “What are you up to, then?”

“I’m,” Aziraphale realizes he has no idea how to answer that, and falters. In the span of one hour his life went from A to Z by way of drunken horse post, and now he’s spent three hours huddled in a café with some clothes and books stuffed in a suitcase, and he hasn’t figured anything out, and any other person his age would have known what to do by now, would have everything sorted but he’s always been a bit slow on the uptake.

“Hey,” Crowley is looking at him with something akin to concern, “are you all right?” His eyes flick to the suitcase and back. “Are you…leaving somewhere?”

“I suppose you might say that, yes,” Aziraphale nods, relieved to have his situation so succinctly summarized.

“Do you need help?”

Aziraphale nearly bursts out laughing, because what a question, does he need help, of course he does, he’s never been able to do anything on his own and now he’s very much out of his league.

“Oh, I don’t think so, I, I just need a moment to think things through—” which was what he was meant to be doing for the three hours he’d spent in the café, but his thoughts had scattered and refused to be corralled, and he’d spent much of that time biting his nails and sipping one large tea.

“If you need somewhere to go, I can help with that,” Crowley says. “Or if you need money, just tell me how much, or if you don’t know—”

“Please,” Aziraphale says, feeling blindsided, standing out here on the street at ten at night, when he should be home, reading in bed. “I-I don’t know. I just—I don’t know.”

Crowley shifts back and nods. “Right. Sorry, didn’t mean to spring all that on you in the street.” He pauses. “Do you have somewhere to sleep tonight?”

He doesn’t, and that scares him more than anything. He’s always had somewhere, being homeless has never even been at the edge of his mind, but that’s what he gets, for being stupid enough to rely on another person for everything.

There is a warm hand on his shoulder, and he looks up at Crowley. “It’s all right,” Crowley tells him. “Whatever it is, you’ll be all right.”

The words are spoken so genuinely, so tenderly, and Aziraphale feels his eyes well up with tears at the offered kindness.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and sniffs horribly loudly, trying to blink away the tears.

“Don’t be,” Crowley says. “Can I— let me give you a ride.”

“Oh, I don’t want to be a bother,” Aziraphale says. “I’ll be— I’ll find something.”

“Please,” Crowley says. “I’ll spend the night worried about you otherwise.”

And isn’t that usual, a night wasted because of Aziraphale. He scoffs inwardly at himself.

“All right,” he says, to ease the frown on Crowley’s brow. “Thank you.”

He follows Crowley to a glossy black car at the curb. “Oh, this is—old,” Aziraphale says.

Crowley snorts. “Classic, angel. It’s classic.” He pulls open the door for Aziraphale, who sits and then watches Crowley cross around the front of the car, heart beating off-kilter.

Crowley gets in and starts the car, and glances over at Aziraphale. “All set? What?” he adds when he sees Aziraphale staring.

“Nothing,” Aziraphale says, even as angel spins around his skull. They pull out into traffic. “Where are we going?” He looks down and gasps. “Oh—I’m sorry, my suitcase—”

“In the back,” Crowley says, at ease in the driver’s seat. Aziraphale twists and sees his suitcase on the bench seat in flashes of streetlight.

“Oh,” he says, and for a precious moment feels settled, at something going right. “Thank you.”

“In answer to your question, we’re going to my place. It’s in Mayfair. I’ve got a guest room you can kip in. If you’re all right with that?”

“Are you sure? That seems like a terrible imposition.” Aziraphale wants to bite back the words even as he speaks, because this is help offered from someone he sort-of knows, but at least knows he can trust, and still he has to worry and question, instead of being decisive.

“I can’t make your decisions for you all the time,” Gabriel had said.

But he did, and he often made the wrong ones, Aziraphale realizes now. Figures it takes him until the end of the relationship to see how flawed Gabriel really is.

“I really wouldn’t offer just to be nice,” Crowley assures him. “Believe me.”

Aziraphale thinks he would, but keeps that to himself. His eyes widen when Crowley parks in the driveway of a grey brick townhome, one in a line of posh townhomes. He forces his jaw to stay firmly shut, lest he gape at the show of wealth. He turns when his door opens, and Crowley stoops to look in at him.

“Got your bag,” he says, and Aziraphale nearly flushes, the sight of his ratty suitcase in the grip of this sleek, tailored man an ugly contrast, and as he gets out of the car and steps next to Crowley, he winces at the further, uglier contrast.

No wonder Gabriel changed his mind, Aziraphale thinks as he follows Crowley up the walk. What have you got to offer anyone?

Aziraphale hesitates to follow Crowley through the door. Crowley turns, brow cocked.

“Coming in?”

Coming in, yes, Aziraphale wants to say, and to go inside and think nothing of accepting a helping hand. But, says a voice, what if he doesn’t really mean it? He doesn’t even know you, not really; he didn’t actually expect you to take him up on his offer.

“Aziraphale?”

“I’m sorry,” Aziraphale says, “I just want to make sure you’re quite certain about this.”

“About you staying the night here?” Crowley asks. “Y-yes? I mean, I offered—”

“Yes, but perhaps you didn’t mean it,” Aziraphale says, and he makes sure there’s no way his tone can be thought of as accusatory, or insulted. “Spur of the moment thing, I’m sure, and really, I’m quite capable of getting myself a hotel room for the night.”

Crowley sets his bag just inside the door. “You don’t have to stay here if you don’t want to,” he says. “But I meant it. Wouldn’t have brought you here if I didn’t.”

“Oh, but it’s such an imposition,” Aziraphale tells him. “A stranger in your space—”

“You’re not a stranger,” Crowley says, and he almost sounds offended. “Look, why don’t you at least come in and just take a minute to get sorted, all right? Instead of hanging about outside.” He turns and walks further into the house, leaving the door open and the suitcase in the doorway.

Aziraphale is only protesting out of habit, but it’s what he knows and is comfortable with. Against every part of himself, he picks up his suitcase and follows Crowley inside, shutting the door behind him. It is quiet and cool inside, with simple white walls and black furniture. The railing on the winding staircase is dark walnut, polished to gleaming. Aziraphale steadies himself on it as he slips his shoes off. Crowley appears at the end of the hall and waves him on, grinning again.

Aziraphale walks into what turns out to be the kitchen, also white, with black appliances. His suitcase is set by his feet, and Crowley swings to the far side of the kitchen, tugging the fridge open.

“Care for a drink? Something to nibble on?”

“No, thank you,” Aziraphale says, even as his stomach twinges hopefully at the thought of some company after being left alone for far more hours than it was used to. But he won’t be more of a burden on Crowley, he won’t overstep or cause the other man to do anything extra while he’s here.

“Right, well, I’m famished,” Crowley says as he emerges from the fridge with a block of cheese. “Grilled cheese, I think.”

He pulls out a frying pan and switches on the burner, cuts two slices from what looks like a lovely French loaf, and butters and spreads freshly shredded cheese over them before mushing them together. Crowley drops a pat of butter to sizzle in the frying pan.

“So,” Crowley says from his spot at the stove, “wanna talk about it, or pretend nothing happened?”

For one exhilarating moment Aziraphale thinks he means the instance of angel slipping out in the car. “P-pardon?”

Crowley glances over at him. “What led to you sitting in a coffee shop looking like the world was about to end.”

Aziraphale flushes and turns his attention to the marble island; he had rather overreacted, hadn’t he? After all, it’s not as if this sort of thing doesn’t happen every day the world over, and to much younger people too, who will have a much harder go of it than him, and they probably don’t waste their first hours moping about.

He jerks back to himself with the clatter of a dish on the island. He looks up and finds Crowley sort-of frowning at him.

Something in Crowley’s expression shifts, and Aziraphale sees him set his shoulders. “If you want to talk—”

“You know, I changed my mind, a sandwich would be lovely,” Aziraphale says altogether too fast. Crowley quirks a brow at the deflection but wordlessly slides his plate across the island. “Oh, I couldn’t, that’s yours—”

“I can make another,” Crowley shrugs. But he doesn’t; he gets Aziraphale a drink and sits across from him, and chatters on easily as if they saw each other every day, instead of just a handful of times over the last year, and he doesn’t care if Aziraphale’s input is limited, just accepts silence as easily as words.

Crowley talks. Aziraphale mostly listens while he eats, and it’s only when he’s three-quarters of the way through the sandwich that he realizes some of that twisting nausea that’s been simmering in his gut all evening, since Gabriel threw him out, has settled. Aziraphale eats, and enjoys it, when an hour ago it had taken effort to not throw up any of the tea he’d had sitting in the coffee shop.

Crowley’s voice is soothing, the flutter of his fingers as he talks hypnotic, and it’s only when those fingers still that Aziraphale shakes himself from his basking, and looks up to see Crowley grinning at him.

“That’s better,” he says, and he sounds satisfied, though with what, Aziraphale is at a loss. Crowley slaps his hands on his thighs and unfolds from his perch, lean and fit in striking black lines.

“Right,” he says, snapping Aziraphale from his reverie, “let me show you where you’ll be sleeping, you can get settled if you like, or…” He picks up Aziraphale’s suitcase, leaving any other option unsaid, and jerks his head towards the door. “Up we go.”

Aziraphale follows Crowley up a narrow set of stairs, and he can’t help but peek at the photos lining the wall, Crowley at various stages in life, though never younger than a teenager, Aziraphale notes with a faint thought of Crowley’s baby pictures. He forces himself to stay on topic, tears his gaze away from the pictures and reminds himself with each step of his circumstances, that he’s not spending the night with a friend for the hell of it; he’s homeless, jobless, and now he’s making his problems someone else’s—

“Here we are.”

Aziraphale blinks around the small bedroom they stand in, a double bed under the window, and an old-fashioned vanity across the room.

“That was my gran’s,” Crowley says, cheeks faintly red. “I don’t— it’s not like I primp in front of it every morning.”

Any other time, Aziraphale might have said methinks the lady doth protest too much, something to poke fun; all he does is smile at Crowley and tell him, “I don’t mind.”

Crowley sets the suitcase on the chair in front of the vanity. “Bedding’s fresh, gets changed every Tuesday whether someone sleeps there or not.”

The comforter is black, the sheets white. The pillows look cool and luxurious, perfectly plumped, ready for any weary head. Aziraphale thinks it’s a pity he won’t be getting the best use out of them tonight; if he manages even an hour of sleep he’ll pat himself on the back for it in the morning.

“D’you need a toothbrush?” Crowley’s voice breaks in through his musings. “I can leave one out for you, I’ve got extra.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, as he suddenly realizes the scope of what’s happened. If he didn’t bring his toothbrush, then he just doesn’t have one. Or a hairbrush, or pajamas, and suddenly he’s desperate to look in his suitcase, to see what he had actually packed in his daze of hurt and humiliation. There had been a woman there, a beautiful woman, looking sculpted from marble, and she had frowned at Aziraphale as he’d left clutching his sparsely packed suitcase.

“I’m not sure,” he admits, and flips the suitcase on its side and pops open the latches, and unwinds the zipper, and it growls its way around the case and then Aziraphale opens it wide, flings the top back, and stares down at a jumble of half-rolled socks and a shoddily folded jumper. He winces at the trousers that will be in desperate need of an ironing before he can wear them, and hopes that Crowley doesn’t notice the few books tucked under everything. They’d been on top when he’d packed, only he’s since opened the suitcase upside down so now they lie hidden under a mishmash of clothes.

“I didn’t really have much time,” he finds himself explaining to Crowley, painfully aware of how poorly he’d filled his suitcase. “I honestly don’t remember even putting this much in here; it’s all a bit of a blur still.”

Crowley is frowning and Aziraphale waits with bated breath, waiting to be found immature, dopey, altogether lacking. But when Crowley opens his mouth, the frown disperses as he asks, “What are the books?”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, and he’s embarrassed to dig them out, but Crowley’s asked and it’s easier to just shove the lot into the other man’s hands. There are only three of them anyway, a pitiful fraction of his collection, but Gabriel had huffed and puffed behind him and made noises about getting everything boxed up and sent on, trying to chivvy him out.

“All of them are from my parents,” Aziraphale offers as Crowley looks through the small stack. “Family favourites and the like. There are more, of course, but…” he trails off, and not for the first time swallows back that pesky lump in his throat, that asks for freedom but he knows will not be confined again. All of those books, just stuck on their shelves in his—Gabriel’s— home, and if he doesn’t find somewhere to live as soon as possible there’s no telling what will happen to them in his absence.

He turns as Crowley looks up. “Look, if you need a hand getting your belongings, I can help. I can lift a box of books better than anyone, or if you just want me to stand and look threatening—”

Aziraphale chuckles, surprising himself, and shakes his head. “It can wait. Thank you, though.”

Crowley nods. “Sure. Well, it’s an open-ended offer. Question, though.” He holds up a book. “This the same Roald Dahl that wrote those chocolate factory books?”

Aziraphale nods, and smiles at the book held in Crowley’s hands. “He was quite a prolific writer of short stories as well. Geared towards an adult audience.”

Crowley looks delighted. “Is this pornography?” he asks, and flips through the book, holding the pages right under his nose.

“Oh my— no,” Aziraphale says, caught between blushing and laughing. “Adult as in, a decided lack of oompa-loompas.”

Crowley makes a face and Aziraphale grins.

“I’ll make one suggestion, if you like. From the book,” he clarifies, and takes the book from Crowley, taking a moment to skim the words written in blue ink in the front cover, a note from his mother, and flips through the pages. “‘Lamb to the Slaughter’,” Aziraphale hands the book back, and watches Crowley’s eyes skim the type.

“It’s not very long,” Aziraphale adds. “And of course you don’t have to read it, I just thought—” he stops himself before he blathers on too long. “Well.”

Crowley looks up from the book. “No, I’ll read it. Assuming it’s about more than dinner?”

Aziraphale chuckles. “You’ll have to wait and see. Oh,” he says, when he realizes why Crowley had likely asked that. “I don’t just read food stories, you don’t— it’s about more than dinner, for sure,” he offers when Crowley looks at him.

“I didn’t think that,” Crowley says. “But even if you did, so what?”

“Important to have a few hobbies,” Aziraphale says, even as he hears Gabriel, all you talk about is food, is there nothing more important to you?

It wasn’t just food Aziraphale talked about; it just seemed so because Gabriel hardly listened. But he knew Crowley had no way of knowing that, had probably looked at Aziraphale and inwardly scoffed when the offer of grilled cheese was politely rebuked, probably thought yeah right, you tub, you just mean one isn’t enough.

Meanwhile, Crowley shrugs and flips the book shut, tucks it under his arm. “You can be really good at one thing,” he says. “You can like one thing a whole lot and just stick with that.”

Aziraphale smiles a little to think of it. Crowley clears his throat and shuffles his feet.

“Um, so I guess I’ll leave you to it? S’late, I mean, you probably want to…get settled.”

Aziraphale wonders if sitting on the bed and staring blankly at the wall counts as ‘getting settled’. “I suppose,” he says.

Crowley nods. “Right, I’ll leave a toothbrush on the counter for you, toilet’s at the end of the hall. Goodnight,” he adds, a bit awkward, and slips out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Aziraphale turns back to his suitcase, and resolves to at least neatly fold the few clothes he did have the sense to bring. He pulls out socks and piles them on the bed, then takes out a t-shirt he hasn’t worn (or frankly even seen) in at least a year and three jumpers, none of which that match the trousers he’s bundled in together.

He looks down at his current outfit, his favoured cream suit paired with a new and rather daring blue waistcoat. It’s his preferred attire for the theatre, and now, hours after the matinee in which he had thoroughly enjoyed himself (who doesn’t love a rousing Broadway musical?), he wonders at his own naivete, perhaps, or innocence.

Though more the fool him, for not seeing this coming. Aziraphale drops to the chair at the vanity, keeping his back to the mirror. It’d only been a matter of time, he knows. And to be honest, he’s never really envisioned forever with Gabriel; its just been the easy, safe option, something to do besides be alone. They’d kept each other busy the last few months, but the affection had waned considerably.

Even with the way Gabriel talked to him, even with what Aziraphale knew about repeated patterns, he’d just hung around, entirely too dependent on this other person, not even able to provide for himself—

Aziraphale angrily rubs his eyes, forcing the threatening tears away, tired of pitying himself, but too tired and feeble to rouse himself. He glares at his reflection in the vanity, and wastes a further few minutes pulling faces at himself until there’s a knock at the door.

“Aziraphale? You up?”

He sits up from his slouch and casts an anxious look to the mirror. He pats his cheeks and bares his teeth in a grim facsimile of a smile. He banishes all traces of misery.

“Yes,” he calls, letting his face settle back into its usual at rest state.

The door opens and Crowley hovers, looking a tad sheepish. “I just realized—I mean, I was thinking about you—you reading, that is, and,” finally he thrusts a book at Aziraphale, passing it off like a hot potato.

Aziraphale looks down at the small bible he now holds, bound in red leather. He runs his fingers over the golden lettering on the front.

“I remembered you read that at night, from that time we stayed at Tracy’s, I dunno if you remember…”

“Her fiftieth birthday for the tenth time,” Aziraphale says. Crowley snorts.

“Yeah, that was it. Anyway, noticed you didn’t have one with you, and thought you might want one…” He trails off, growing awkward in the prolonged silence. “Right. Well, if you want it.”

He turns to leave, and Aziraphale says, “Wait,” without meaning to, leaving him to stare when Crowley obligingly stops.

Aziraphale knows what he wants; he wants company, he wants to talk to someone, to try to make sense of the utter clusterfudge his life has devolved into so abruptly. He wants to sit and talk with Crowley, but he can’t bring himself to ask. He feels guilty, as he’s already taken so much from the man tonight.

“I was just going to pop a movie on,” Crowley says after prolonged silence. “Wanna watch something with me?” He grins at Aziraphale, a loose, easy thing. “I’ll even let you choose.”

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, flooded with relief at the idea of not sitting and staring blankly all night with only his increasingly morose thoughts for company. “If you’re quite sure—”

Crowley rolls his eyes and steps out into the hall, gesturing for Aziraphale to follow. “Course I’m sure.”

They go back downstairs, Crowley leading the way into the living room, filled with black leather sofas and armchairs, and a very big television set.

“Get comfy, anywhere you like,” Crowley says, and jerks a thumb over his shoulder. “I’ll get us something. Have a look at the movies, see if something catches your eye.”

He saunters out, leaving Aziraphale to stare between the remote and the television. The screen is showing a handful of movie titles, on the red streaming service, Aziraphale notes with a flare of recognition. Gabriel often ‘streamed shows’ while Aziraphale read.

He picks up the remote and holds it gingerly, scrolling through the selection slowly. He’s frowning at the selection of historical fiction when he hears the unmistakable hum of a popcorn machine from the kitchen. He feels a twinge of guilt when his mouth and stomach take notice and start enthusiastically thinking about a handful of hot, buttered popcorn. He really shouldn’t be indulging when he’s got nothing to offer in return.

Crowley’s fed him, given him a place to sleep, and now Aziraphale is eagerly contemplating eating more of the man’s food, taking advantage of his hospitality again…

Aziraphale’s mind is made up by the time Crowley comes back, with a brushed steel bowl full to the brim with buttery popcorn. He drops onto the sofa next to Aziraphale, placing the popcorn between them on the cushion, and waves at the television.

“Pick something?”

“I wasn’t sure what you’d like,” Aziraphale says. He’s ashamed of how his mouth waters at the scent and sight of the popcorn, and resolutely keeps his gaze fixed ahead.

Crowley scoffs. “Mostly mindless action. But I said, your choice.” He picks up the remote and starts flicking through the titles, glancing at Aziraphale every so often to gauge his reaction to the movies scrolling.

Aziraphale can’t help the quirk of his lips at the sight of a certain title. Crowley notices, and he flips back quickly. He highlights the film and turns a delighted grin on Aziraphale.

“This?”

“Hmm,” Aziraphale tries to sound nonchalant even as a few favourite scenes come to mind. Crowley selects the movie and settles back against the cushions. He nudges the bowl of popcorn.

“Help yourself,” he says, and takes a handful for himself.

“Oh, I’m fine, thank you,” Aziraphale says. His stomach gurgles in protest and he flushes. Crowley slaps his forehead.

“Drinks,” he declares, and clambers to his feet. “I’ve got a great dry white wine that goes surprisingly well with popcorn. Or ginger ale, water, tea, what have you.” He waits with an easy grin, this business of catering to Aziraphale seeming to leave him unfazed.

“Don’t trouble yourself,” Aziraphale tells him. “I’m fine. Thank you.”

Crowley studies him for a moment, brow furrowed, then abruptly drops back to the sofa.

“It’s no trouble, Aziraphale,” he says, expression earnest. “I’m hosting you, yeah? A good host feeds their guests.”

“I think I’ll be fine not constantly eating for one night,” Aziraphale tells him with a chuckle he doesn’t mean and pats his belly. He feels the hot flush of shame at parroting Gabriel’s words, but he can’t stand the thought of Crowley thinking of him as some out-of-control glutton.

Crowley is frowning again. “If you’re hungry, you should eat,” he says. “And, I don’t mean to push this, but honestly, you being here really is zero inconvenience. It isn’t a hardship for you to sleep in my guest room and drink my wine.”

“I just—” Aziraphale addresses his legs, tries to keep from twisting his fingers together, “I’m not altogether sure when I can repay you for this—”

“Come off it,” Crowley scoffs. “Repay me? This is what friends do for each other.”

Aziraphale is horrified to feel his eyes welling up with tears once again. “I’m sorry,” he manages to say, and almost sound normal, he thinks. “I didn’t mean to insult you.”

“Takes a lot more than someone being overly polite to earn my ire, angel,” Crowley says. “Now, don’t fret, all right? I’m not offering anything I don’t mean. Honest.”

He’s looking at Aziraphale, and it’s unsettling, because it seems like the only time people look at him anymore is when he’s in the way of something. Even Gabriel has mostly addressed his laptop or phone when talking to Aziraphale the last few months.

“I don’t know what I did wrong,” Aziraphale says after a moment. He can feel the jumble of words tied up with the conglomeration of emotions, all at the base of his throat, ready to spur him on whether he wants it or not. “He just came home today and told me—”

“It’s over, Aziraphale.

“I asked him what he meant, as if he could mean anything else than what it is,” Aziraphale says. “But I’ve always been a bit stupid.”

“Hey,” Crowley says sharply, “you are not stupid.”

Aziraphale scoffs.

“You’re not stupid,” Crowley says again, quieter this time.

“Then why did I stay with him for so long? He’s hated me for a year,” Aziraphale says, fighting to rein in his wobbling lip. “I was so dependent on him, for everything— I had a job!” he defends himself to Crowley, who is silent. “I made money, I contributed to the household, but then—”

“There’s just so much to be done around the house, Aziraphale. Wouldn’t it be nicer if that was your job? Just stay home. Take care of the house. Take care of me.”

“He didn’t want me to work,” Aziraphale explains. “I’ve just sort of sat around at home for two years. Kept it spick and span, of course. But—” he trails off, trying to quash the rising tide in him, eager for release after years of being tamped down.

“But what?”

Aziraphale takes a steadying breath and shakes his head. “I don’t want to get started,” he says, a reminder to himself as much as a warning to Crowley, leave this stone unturned.

Crowley looks frustrated. “No, I think you do, I think you’ve wanted to for a long time but there’s never been anyone to listen.”

Aziraphale swallows back his nerves that come from being so easily read.

“Come on,” Crowley cajoles gently, “tell me what a prat he is. Tell me every pissed off thought you’ve had bounce around your skull. Tell me everything you’ve kept inside all this time.”

Aziraphale feels caught, wrong-footed, at the genuine genuineness radiating from the other man. Crowley is sincere about wanting to listen to Aziraphale complain, willing to sit and hear all the uncharitable thoughts that have plagued Aziraphale for years.

He spends a moment contemplating how best to start. “Perhaps, it would be best if you were to get the wine first,” he says, and glances at Crowley, who gets to his feet.

“Just wine?”

The or something stronger is left unsaid, but when Crowley comes back, he has two cut crystal tumblers half filled with a rich amber liquid. Aziraphale accepts his gratefully, and for a moment his nerves are settled as he takes a deep drink.

“Oh, that’s lovely,” he tells Crowley. Crowley grins at him from behind his glass.

“But not so much that every drop needs to be savoured,” he promises.

Aziraphale takes another drink, relishing in the sharp burn that slides down his throat and takes up residence in his stomach, a comforting warmth. “I don’t imagine I’ll be having any more than this,” he says, holding up his tumbler. He’s a little surprised to see the contents already half drained.

“It’s there if you want it,” Crowley says easily, like he wouldn’t blink if Aziraphale chose to drink himself into a stupor.

“I tend to be a maudlin drunk,” Aziraphale deflects, an excuse and reminder, again.

“Maybe you’ve just been drinking with the wrong people,” Crowley grins. Aziraphale raises his glass in a toast, and Crowley leans across the sofa.

“To drinking with the right sort, then,” he says, and they toast. Aziraphale’s fingers are already starting to feel thick as he drains his glass, but as he reasons to himself, he’s just having the one drink.


“Her name is Michael, and she lives in Lisbon,” Aziraphale says, using all of his force of will to not slur his words. “She’s a solis—saucy— she’s a lawyer.”

“Awful!” Crowley scrunches up his nose. “No personality, then.”

“Far be it from me to judge based on appearances,” Aziraphale says, “but she seemed very cold.”

Crowley’s brow scrunches to match his nose. “What, you saw her? He show you a picture or something?”

Aziraphale laughs at the thought of crowding around Gabriel’s small mobile to look at a picture of Michael. “Course not, she was in the flat when I was leaving.”

Crowley had been in the middle of a drink, and he actually spits it up, mostly back into the glass, and stares at Aziraphale, looking like he can’t decide if he’s angrier or more shocked. “She was in your house??”

“Well, I suppose it’s theirs now,” Aziraphale says, frowning into his empty glass. “They’re engaged, you know.”

Crowley sets his tumbler down on the coffee table with a decisive thunk and turns a thunderous expression on Aziraphale. “What in Satan’s ever-loving fuck garden did you just say?”

Aziraphale giggles. “Engaged, dear.” He wrangles his thoughts with the dexterity of a fish. “What’s a fuck garden?”

“I can’t fucking believe him,” Crowley growls, and pours himself a sloppy finger.

“Is it like Eden if Eden was a porn?”

“What are you on about?” Crowley asks, peering over at him. His eyes widen. “Oi, empty glass! D’you want more? And it’s not a porn, cripes, say ‘porno’ at least.”

“I should not have any more to drink,” Aziraphale says solemnly.

Crowley tosses back the rest of his drink. “Me neither,” he agrees.

They both have a little bit more.


“She called him Gabe,” Aziraphale hiccups. “He h-hates being called Gabe.” He takes another drink, careful to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand after lest he appear a slob, and burps into his fist. “And d’you know what she called him?” He’s laughing already and Crowley is grinning, eager to be let in on the joke.

“Tell me,” Crowley demands.

“He called her babe. So, so, then they’re—”

Crowley is already laughing. “Babe and Gabe?” he cries, and they howl together.

“Babin’ and gabin’ all over my labin’,” Aziraphale chants. Crowley cackles.

“What’sa labin?”

“Haven’t the foggiest, jus’ couldn’t think of something to rhyme,” Aziraphale says, and Crowley laughs again, cheeks flushed, and a thought slips through Aziraphale’s mind, just a whisper of two words: he’s beautiful.

Crowley is ignorant of the sudden mental flailing taking place in Aziraphale’s brain and holds out a jar of cashews. “Eat these so you don’t get drunk.”

“I think I already am,” Aziraphale admits.

“I meant…hungover,” Crowley says after a great deal of concentrating.

“I don’t think that will help now,” Aziraphale sighs. He puts a hand to his spinning head and sighs.

“Are you gonna puke?”

Aziraphale opens his eyes to Crowley holding out the open cashew jar.

“You can sick up in this if you need,” he tells Aziraphale solemnly.

Aziraphale laughs, for the nth time that night, and isn’t that a thought, that he can be giddy as he is considering what shit his life has gone to in a flash. It’s the alcohol, he reminds himself, but adds a little, quiet and the company under that thought. He smiles at Crowley.

“I won’t vomit on your nuts,” he promises. Crowley falls to the floor with a thump and cackles by the coffee table.


“You can’t,” Crowley says desperately.

Aziraphale shakes his head. “I can,” he says, and stops shaking his head because he’s getting dizzy. He lays the black queen down on the pile, followed by a two of every suit. “Pick up thirteen!”

Crowley cusses him out, fingers splayed wide to try to hold on the cards in his hands. “Next time, it’s Go Fish.” He winks at Aziraphale with both eyes. “I’m brilliant at cheating at that one.”


Eventually the liquor is switched for water, and rousing card games for blanking out on the sofa, half paying attention to the television.

“D’you know what really bothers me?” Aziraphale asks. Crowley nods.

“P’pl who fold their book pages ‘stead of using a bookmark.”

Aziraphale snorts. “That’s not a bother my dear, it’s practically a crime. No, what bothers me is I didn’t even tell Gabriel off. No, no ‘sod off’ or ‘up yours’, or anything vulgar! I just…” he sighs. “I just walked out. Barely argued with him. Sad, really.”

“Did you argue with him a lot?” Crowley asks.

Aziraphale wrinkles his nose. “Goodness, no. It wasn’t worth it. He’d get so sulky and petty. You know, he once ignored me for thirteen days? And I wasn’t working out of the house anymore, and I thought I was losing my mind. No matter how loud I was, he didn’t even look at me.”

Crowley is frowning. “Was that his thing, then? The silent treatment?”

“Either that or he’d shout very loud,” Aziraphale mutters. He feels a familiar twist in his gut, an uncomfortable memory of the nausea that would assault him when Gabriel went on one of his tirades.

“Not exactly an incentive to argue, is it?” Crowley says. “Hey, that’s not a criticism. I’m just saying, in your shoes, I ‘d’ve been in too much shock to do much more than walk out. Besides, I bet you thought of the perfect thing to say to him after.”

Aziraphale chuckles. “I did, at that.”

“And look, now you’ve had a bit of time to process this, or at least start to, you can be prepared next time you see him. Don’t let him talk down to you, Aziraphale. He isn’t above you. You’d be hard-pressed to find many who are.”

Aziraphale looks at Crowley, whose expression is sincere, warm, comforting and caring. He feels held in place by his gaze, and after a moment Crowley blinks and looks away. Aziraphale relaxes, not realizing how tense he’d grown.

“I’ll keep that in mind for next I deal with him,” Aziraphale says. “Thank you, Crowley.”

Crowley waves off his thanks, a bit pink in the cheeks. They gradually start paying attention to the television again, all the words said and unsaid left comfortably around them.


Aziraphale is woken by his mobile ringing from where he’d left it on the vanity the night before. Habit has him fumbling to snatch it up and answer, taking in Crowley’s guest room blankly for a moment before his brain catches up.

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Mr Aziraphale Whitman?”

Aziraphale frowns at the unfamiliar voice. “Yes. Who’s asking, if I may?”

“Mr Whitman, my name is Michael Gale. We weren’t, a-hem, properly introduced last night.”

For one wild moment, he thinks it’s the barista from the café who had suffered his presence for so long.

“I’m sorry, I got your number from Gabriel, and I wouldn’t have bothered you, but I think there’s something we need to discuss.”

Oh. It clicks suddenly, that this Michael Gale is the same poised, intimidating woman hovering in his home yesterday as he was being thrown out of it. She’d been frowning at him, and he imagines her to be now as well. Her voice certainly is stern enough.

“I don’t believe there is,” Aziraphale says. “In fact, if it’s anything to do with Gabriel, you should know I have no interest except in when I’ll be gathering the rest of my things.”

“Well, the reason I’m calling is because I may be able to take a bit of the sting out of all of this. It’s just better explained in person, as I have some documents, but if you like I can fax them—”

Aziraphale frowns. “What sort of documents?”  


Aziraphale tiptoes out of his bedroom, leaving the door ajar. He carries his suitcase down the stairs, careful not to knock it against the banister, and sets it by the front door. He bends to retrieve his shoes and sits on the bottom step to tug them on and tie them. His head is swimming, replaying bits of his conversation with Michael, leaving him distracted, when Crowley steps out of the kitchen.

“Good morning— where you going?”

Aziraphale flushes and gets to his feet, shoes tied. “Good morning, Crowley. Thank you for last night.”

“You’re welcome. Where are you going?” Crowley asks again. He’s holding a spatula, something sizzling away in the kitchen.

“Well,” Aziraphale says. He’d been hoping to make a clean getaway. He’d left a note, up on the vanity, to convey his thanks. He had wanted to avoid standing in front of Crowley and apologizing for his behaviour last night. “I thought it was best to get on with it.”

“Right,” says Crowley. “Got somewhere to live, then?”

“Er—”

“Off to an interview, maybe?”

“W-well, I—”

Crowley steps forward, expression serious. “Don’t leave because you think you should. If you’ve got somewhere to go or something to do, then go ahead. But don’t think I suddenly want you out of here.”

Aziraphale clears his throat, fingers itching for something to do. “I don’t want to overstay my welcome.”

Crowley eyes him a moment, then grins. “Tell you what: if you’re still bunking in my guest room in five years, we’ll talk about you overstaying your welcome.” Even Aziraphale can hear the air quotes around those words.

Aziraphale is relieved that Crowley is the same in the morning as he is at night; gently teasing, easy to talk to, and above all, sincere.

He thinks about this as he sits in the kitchen, suitcase forgotten in the hallway, and debates heavily with himself over asking Crowley for one more favour. He alternatively talks himself into and out of the question.

Just as Crowley sits across from him, plates of toast and beans and bacon between them, Aziraphale musters up the courage.

“I need your help.” Aziraphale winces, because certainly he hadn’t meant to phrase it quite like that. “I’m sorry, that was rather dramatic—"

“You’ve got it,” Crowley interrupts. “What can I do?”

“Well, before you go agreeing to anything, um, it’s something I said I’d do this morning—”

“Alright.”

“And it’s across town, and it’s raining, and I really can’t be sure how long it may take—”

“Aziraphale, I said alright. It’s fine, whatever it is. Just tell me what you need me to do.”

Aziraphale waits, as is his nature, but Crowley makes no move to take back his offer. Aziraphale isn’t as surprised by this as he might have been even last night. It’s refreshing, having someone say what they mean from the start.

“I need to be at Holyfield & Gale for eleven. It’s a law firm.”


“Want me to come in with you?” Crowley asks quietly as they sit in the waiting room. Aziraphale shakes his head, wiping his sweaty palms on his trousers.

“No, of course not, I’ll be fine, what’s the worst that can happen?” The couch is leather and stiff, as if bought for decoration only, not a crease out of place.

“Okay,” Crowley says.

“After all, it’s just a closed door meeting with the woman who’s engaged to my longtime partner,” Aziraphale continues. “I can’t see why I would need help.”

“I’m not saying that,” Crowley says. “I mean more for support, than anything. I can just sit there and stare, won’t even say anything.”

“I really don’t think—”

“Mr Whitman?”

Aziraphale’s head whips up when his name is called. The receptionist nods at him.

“You can go in, sir.”

“Ah, t-thank you,” he manages. His heart is pounding, and he suddenly blinks down at where he’s clutching Crowley’s hand. He blushes and pulls away, stammering out an apology, but Crowley tightens his grip and gives him a smile before letting go.

“Actually, would you mind terribly coming with me?” Aziraphale hears himself ask. He wants it, wants Crowley beside him through this, and at least some part of him is brave enough to ask for it.

Crowley gets to his feet, tugging Aziraphale with him. “In we go, then, Daniel.”

Aziraphale nods, and crosses the room, feeling more like a mouse sneaking into the lion’s den as he enters the office of Michael Gale. It is as bland as the waiting room, with bookshelves of weighty legal tomes the only sense of personality. There are no pictures or comfortable armchairs, and Michael is standing behind an expansive desk set with a computer and printer, and a stack of files on one corner.

She nods as they enter, eyes flicking over Crowley before turning back to Aziraphale.

“Mr Whitman, first I want to say how mortified I am by this entire situation. I can only fathom the hurt you’ve felt because of my being in Gabriel’s life, and I want to assure you, if I’d had any inkling of your existence, I never would have looked at him twice.”

“It’s all right,” Aziraphale starts to say, but he stops himself, because it isn’t, is it? He knows that, but he’s just so eager to avoid facing the problem. As always.

“I appreciate that,” he says instead. “I admit, it was a rather unpleasant surprise.”

Michael nods. “I imagine. Please, won’t you both sit?” she gestures to the high-backed chairs in front of her desk, and smooths out the front of her skirt before sitting down as they do. “I’ll make this as quick as possible. Stop me if you have any questions.”

Aziraphale exchanges a look with Crowley, but nods. “All right.”

Michael picks up a folder and drops it open in front of them. “This is all the documentation that comes with your flat. Gabriel’s name is off it now, it’s solely yours including all of the furnishings.” She drops a keyring on the paper. “Both copies of the key are here, along with the building key.”

Michael grabs the next folder, flipping it open to the front page. “This is the monthly spousal support you’ll be receiving, for your necessities, day-to-day living, what have you. Your signature is required in a few spots here, I’ll show you later.”

Aziraphale’s jaw drops at the number on the form. “That can’t be right, that’s—hang on, what’s this about spousal support? We weren’t married, we aren’t spouses.”

“You have cohabitated in a continuous manner for more than three years with Mr Gabriel Hopper in a partnership, have you not?”

“Yes, but—”

“In the eyes of the law, you are common-law spouses. Married. As such, as the injured party with lesser assets, you are entitled to spousal support and because your lawyer is royally pissed off with the opposition, I got you the house, too. It’s all being filed by a friend of mine at another law firm, to avoid conflict of interest,” she adds. “I wanted to be the one to tell you, though. This is all my fault.”

Aziraphale is flabbergasted. “We— I don’t—” he looks down at the papers spread out before him, at the keyring on the final pile. “So I can go home?” he finally settles on, because that was the thing that had most flooded him with relief, the thought that he still has a home, that he can go home.

Michael smiles at him. “Whenever you like. Gabriel is gone, and he has to reach out through an intermediary to discuss with you when he’ll collect the rest of his things.”

“I’m a little conflicted,” Aziraphale admits. “I want to thank you, but…”

Michael shrugs. “As far as you’re concerned, I’m the root of all evil. This really is the least I can do. I truly am sorry, Mr Whitman.”

Aziraphale nods. “I do appreciate that.”

Michael taps one of the folders. “My contact information is inside, and you’ve already got my mobile. If Gabriel tries anything, even to call you, let me know, and we’ll see about getting that monthly number a little bit higher.”

They stand as one, and Michael reaches out after visible hesitation to shake his hand. She smiles at Aziraphale again when he reaches out, and at Crowley as well.

“Go home, Mr Whitman,” she says, and Aziraphale straightens, gathering his papers and keys.

“I do believe I shall, Ms Gale.”

He leads the way out of the office with his head held high, striding towards the bank of elevators with purpose, Crowley close behind. As they step into the empty elevator and the doors slide shut behind them, Aziraphale breaks out sobbing.

“Oh, Christ,” he hears Crowley say, and there are frantic hands on his back, patting him clumsily. “Are you alright? Pfft, stupid question, I just—hang on—”

Aziraphale is suddenly enveloped in a leathery warmth. He’s pulled flush against Crowley, and there are fingers in his hair, and on his back, and he forces himself to calm when he feels more than hears the rumble in Crowley’s chest.

“Are you—humming?” Aziraphale asks, pulling his wet face out of Crowley’s shirtfront.

“Oh,” Crowley says, a bit flustered, “well, I dunno, I mean just a, a bit?”

“Was that… ABBA?”

“No,” Crowley growls.

“It was, wasn’t it? Yes, ‘Fernando’, right?” He hums a few bars, the same ones he’d heard in Crowley’s chest.

“I panicked,” Crowley mutters. “I’m rubbish at knowing what to do when someone’s upset.”

“Oh, I was just being silly. I’m afraid they were rather more out of relief than any grief. I just, I can’t believe it. Everything’s happened so fast.”

He realizes they haven’t moved, the elevator sitting patiently for his crisis to pass, and he leans around Crowley to hit the button.

“Do you know what this means, though?” he asks as they drop to the ground floor.

“The ‘We Hate Gabriel’ club has another member?”

Aziraphale chuckles as the elevator bumps to a stop and they walk into the lobby. “Besides that.” He turns to Crowley when they get outside with a smile. “I can return the favour, and have you over to my home. If you’d like, of course.”

“It wasn’t a favour,” Crowley insists. “It’s just what a friend does.”

“A very good friend,” Aziraphale nods. “And now it’s my turn, if you please. I want you to come over.”

Crowley looks at him, and nods. “In that case, lead on, angel.”

They walk side-by-side to the car, and Aziraphale holds that word close to his chest, wondering over it. Maybe he’ll ask Crowley about it, later tonight. If he really wants to.