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The Value of Wild Hearts

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There was nothing about the outward appearance of Anthony Crowley that suggested his preference for staying home on a Saturday night with a bottle of wine and some comforting television. With his skinny jeans, tailored jackets, and perfectly imperfect hair, he looked like he’d be far more likely to spend his weekends in crowded clubs, dancing amongst the rest of the young and beautiful.

That’s the thing about appearances, isn’t it? They can be so misleading.

For one thing, he looked younger than his actual age of 43 years. For another, there was nothing he liked better than curling up on his ridiculously soft sofa, happily sated after a decent dinner, a fresh glass of wine to hand, and a new episode of Antiques Roadshow on the telly.

Crowley, as he was known to his few friends, loved seeing people’s treasures. He adored the little old ladies with the trinkets gifted to them by their sea-faring fathers, the astounded young couples with the paintings left to them by doting relatives, and the men still holding onto their favourite toys from childhood. Seeing what people valued, what they kept packed away for years and years “just in case”, made Crowley feel a sense of peace and connection with these strangers.

Fiona Bruce appeared on his television screen, welcoming viewers to the venue for the episode and teasing some of the items that would be featured during the programme. With no one around to judge him, Crowley made no attempt to disguise his eager expression as the montage of clips cycled through. The sight of a thick book with a green, leather cover sharpened Crowley’s attention even further. This was the moment where they would reveal the book specialist for the week and Crowley’s evening could go from good to great.

The camera panned back to reveal a young woman with long, dark hair and serious-looking glasses. She opened the front cover of the book to reveal a title page which featured a child’s drawing. A soft gasp came from outside the frame and Crowley’s insides squirmed in anticipation. The next shot showed a middle-aged man with a soft face and white-blond hair. His delicate hands fluttered towards the book before drawing back and settling on his chest.

“Oh, my goodness,” he said, looking as though he couldn’t believe his eyes.

A second later, the view changed to two men standing beside a roll-top writing desk and Crowley took a large gulp of wine to fortify himself. He was getting carried away with himself already and the title credits hadn’t even run yet.

Forcing himself to uncurl back into a more casual sprawl, Crowley relaxed his shoulders and rolled his neck. This was ridiculous and he knew it. It was ridiculous to be a grown man with a professional job, a mortgage, all the trappings of successful adulthood, and a schoolgirl crush. Yet, here he was, glued to his telly for the possibility of a few minutes of footage featuring his favourite book expert.

It hadn’t started like this. Crowley’s early interest in Antiques Roadshow had been entirely innocent; purely an appreciation for the craftsmanship and care involved in so many antique pieces. He had been dragged in by the gentle drama of it, learning the stories behind each piece, trying to guess what certain items might be worth, and then Aziraphale had appeared.

His weekly wine and relaxation session was quickly turned on its head by the arrival of the new book expert. He couldn’t explain what the attraction was, exactly, he just knew that watching the way Aziraphale carefully handled the precious books, hearing how utterly delighted he was with each specimen he was presented, and learning the little nervous tics of his hands and face had captivated Crowley’s entire imagination. Three years after Aziraphale’s first appearance and Crowley’s crush was showing no sign of waning.

Now that he knew Aziraphale would be featured this week, Crowley found it difficult to tap into his usual inner tranquillity with the other items. A genuine vintage Lalique piece got one expert excited and Crowley preened at having spotted a small chip before the expert, Henry Sandon, pointed it out. He made a guess at the value and wasn’t too far off from Henry’s official estimate. If anything, Crowley suspected that Henry could see other damage that devalued the piece slightly more.

By the time that Susan Rumfitt was in raptures over a snake and apple pendant, Crowley was a glass and a half into his wine and far more relaxed. The spectre of Aziraphale’s imminent appearance had become something to look forward to, rather than the entire focus of Crowley’s mind.

“She’s going to suggest it’s by Faberge,” Crowley said to his empty flat, “she’s going to get that poor lady’s hopes up before admitting that there’s no way to know.”

Moments later, his prediction came to pass and he cackled with glee at his own cleverness. He was so pleased with himself that he missed the introduction to the next piece.

“As you can see from the inside cover, it’s been in my family for years and years.” The speaker was a man with a plummy accent and an imperious expression. He was holding a mid-sized bible bound in a deep red leather and, as he spoke, he flipped open the front cover to reveal a list of names in differing inks and handwriting.

“Oh, that’s lovely,” Aziraphale said softly, stopping Crowley’s heart in his chest. “Names dating all the way back to the 17th century, I see.”

The owner preened as though he was somehow solely responsible for the existence of the book. Crowley hated him on sight.

Aziraphale took the bible, cradling it gently and turning it over in his hands to examine the binding. His attention was entirely focused on the book and Crowley’s was focused on Aziraphale. The way he stroked the spine with a careful fingertip, the deliberate, worshipful movements of his hands, and the delighted little gasps that he couldn’t help making whenever he discovered a new facet of the treasure he held; it all tugged at something deep in Crowley’s gut.

If he didn’t know better (and he didn’t) Crowley would suspect that he was jealous of the old books that Aziraphale handled with such reverence.

“This is quite a remarkable specimen,” Aziraphale said without looking up, “I can see some signs of repair, but the wear and tear on what has clearly been a well-loved family bible is really very minimal. This alone would make this an excellent find, but there’s something more, isn’t there?”

Crowley slid to the edge of his sofa, elbows resting on his knees as Aziraphale drew him into the narrative. He didn’t give two figs about some dusty, old bible, but he cared about Aziraphale’s reactions. Already, he could recognise the sparkle in Aziraphale’s eyes that said he was looking at something truly special.

“Yes, I’m told it’s quite a rare edition,” the owner was saying, sounding far too smug, “there’s an unusual passage in the book of Ezekiel.”

Aziraphale’s grin grew impossibly wider and more dazzling as he flicked to the appropriate verse. Crowley’s hands clenched into tight fists, utterly under the spell of Aziraphale’s delight.

“Ezekiel, chapter 48, verse 5: Bugger all this for a lark. I am sick to my heart of typesetting. Master Bilton is no gentleman, and Master Scaggs no more than a tight-fisted Southwarke… Well, I’m sure you get the picture!” Aziraphale was almost glowing with pleasure, his cheeks pink and flushed. Crowley had a brief moment of imagining a world where he might have been the one to put that look on Aziraphale’s face. “This is quite a remarkable book, Mr Tyler.”

Oh, but Crowley wanted that expression turned on him. He wanted Aziraphale to cast an expert eye over him and declare that he was something special. It was an odd place to have discovered his keen interest in praise, but the link existed now and there was no undoing it.

“Yes, rather rare, I believe,” said the owner, Mr Tyler, more smugly than ever.

Aziraphale didn’t appear to hear him. He was looking through the pages with his usual care, searching towards the beginning of the book.

“Ah! Yes, it’s here!” he said at last, “Genesis chapter 3 usually has 24 verses but this edition has 27. Beginning at verse 25: And the Lord spake unto the angel that guarded the eastern gate, saying Where is the flaming sword which was given unto thee? And the angel said, I had it here only a moment ago, I must have put it down somewhere, forget my head next. And the Lord did not ask him again.” Aziraphale closed the bible and made an obvious, valiant attempt to school his face into something approaching professionalism. “Isn’t that something?”

Crowley practically melted in the face of Aziraphale’s clear delight, his imagination all too eager to place the reaction in many other less-wholesome situations. He heard enough of Aziraphale’s explanation for the additions to know that the irritating Mr Tyler was sitting on a goldmine, should he ever wish to sell.

The roll-top desk from the opening montage was next but Crowley felt so wrung out that he could barely enjoy the ingenious little secret compartments and complex mechanisms of the desk. He gulped down another half-glass of wine and flopped backwards into his sofa cushions.

This was ridiculous. This obsession with Aziraphale was becoming unbearable, not to mention utterly embarrassing. He resolved to quit this bad habit immediately: no more Antiques Roadshow on Saturday nights, no more YouTube compilations of Aziraphale’s delighted gasps, and no more guilty wanks to thoughts of Aziraphale’s hands in white cotton gloves.

But he might as well finish this episode. Seeing as he was already here and it was halfway through. One last hit.

During an unremarkable landscape painting, a lovely art deco tiara, and a collection of tin soldiers, Crowley managed to recover his composure. He found his usual peace as he rooted for the woman who had inherited the soldiers as a little girl and played with them endlessly. She was hoping to buy a house with her wife and thought selling the collection might help with a deposit. Bunny Campione delivered her valuation with the clear suggestion that selling just half of the collection would raise more than enough whilst leaving the remainder as a keepsake for the young woman. It was, Crowley thought, a perfect outcome for her.

He could admit that he would miss this part of the show, the refined sort of drama that had originally drawn him in, but sacrifices would be necessary if Crowley wanted to restore a measure of sanity. There was nothing sane about bodily lusting after an antiques expert every Saturday evening.

As soon as Crowley had that thought, the scene transitioned back to Aziraphale’s table. He had his hands crossed primly on the royal blue tablecloth and his full attention fixed on the dark-haired young woman from the opening. Her green book sat between them, the gilt detailing glinting in the bright lights.

“Would you mind introducing yourself and the item you’ve brought in?” Aziraphale asked, doing a terrible job of hiding his excitement. He actually wiggled in his seat and Crowley felt himself age by a decade.

“My name is Anathema Device and this is a book of prophecy that was written by my ancestor almost 400 years ago.” She had an American accent and a businesslike manner that Crowley knew would have people calling her a bitch. He liked her immediately. “The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter.”

Aziraphale lifted the top edge of the book, angling it so that the camera could pick out the words embossed onto the front.

“Can I assume that this is something you’ve inherited, then?” he asked as he lay the book back down.

“Yes, it was Agnes’ author’s copy and it’s been in the family since her death. She was exploded at the stake, you know.” Anathema said that last part with obvious pride.

“Exploded?” Aziraphale asked and was answered with a nod. “Well, let’s take a look inside, shall we?”

He opened the front cover of the book and immediately covered his mouth with one hand, smothering a hybrid gasp and laugh.

“Ah, yes,” Anathema said, looking guilty, “that was me when I was 8.”

Letting the cover fall open, Aziraphale revealed a coloured drawing of a little girl and a rainbow on the title page.

“Well, I’m sure that only adds to the value,” he said, smiling kindly.

And wasn’t that just the essence of Aziraphale, Crowley thought. Where other experts might have tutted or made a fuss about ‘defacing valuable items’, Aziraphale only ever had a kind word and a smile for the people he met. Crowley didn’t think it was possible to fake sincerity like that. Aziraphale was just a truly good person. That was more rare than any of the treasures that people brought to be valued.

“Fuck,” said Crowley. He wasn’t quitting yet.

Aziraphale examined the book with his usual care, exclaiming with pleasure each time he found a piece of marginalia from a long-dead hand. Crowley was squirming in his seat by the time that Aziraphale was finished, carried away with his damnable imagination.

“Prophecy 2213,” Aziraphale read from the book, “Ye man who knoweth the value of written words, read and heed me well for I do see thee. Love do come for thee with a head aflame and wild heart. See beyond the stranger’s look and find true treasure.” He laughed and closed the book, turning his attention back to its owner. “Almost sounds like that could have been written about me!”

Anathema smiled but didn’t laugh with him.

“If I’ve learnt anything from this book, it’s to never ignore a prophecy, no matter how random it may seem. You found that one for a reason.”

Crowley could see the way that Aziraphale tensed for a split second before relaxing back into his professional smile.

“Well, I suppose I’ll be keeping my eye out for wild-hearted men, then! Now, do you have any idea of what the book might be worth?”

Crowley groaned and rolled onto his stomach, burying his face in the cushions of the sofa. He’d been studiously avoiding confirming his suspicions about Aziraphale’s sexuality, afraid that there was no answer that might please him. Either he was open to relationships with men in which case Crowley could fuel fantasies for the next decade, or he was merely one of those posh fellas with affectations and an understanding wife which would have left Crowley feeling filthy and creepy. It had been safer not to know.

He didn’t look up from his pillowy shame cave until he could hear Fiona Bruce closing the programme. He was reaching for the remote, wondering if it might be worth the effort to change into something tight-fitting and head out to somewhere dark, loud, and sleazy, when an information screen popped up beside the closing credits. They were looking for people to bring items for valuation in the next few weeks, there was a list of dates and venues, and one of them was practically at the end of Crowley’s road.

All thoughts of other plans abandoned, Crowley snatched up his phone and quickly searched for details about the event. He could just turn up, it seemed, with an item in hand, and wait to be seen by an expert. There were several reminders that there could be no guarantee of any particular session being filmed, and a brief list of the kind of behaviour and etiquette expected of anyone attending.

It was very dry reading and yet Crowley could feel his heart thumping violently against his ribs. There was no question about whether he would be attending. In just a week and a half, he could be sat across from Aziraphale, laughing with him, having that soft attention all to himself. Of course, Crowley knew that Aziraphale might not be there, or he might not be the book expert that Crowley would meet. This was nowhere near enough to put Crowley off this course of action. A bigger issue might be that Crowley didn’t actually own an antique book, but he had a solution for that as well.

Either being in Aziraphale’s physical presence would cure Crowley of his overpowering crush, or he’d make such a fool of himself in front of the object of his affections that he would die on the spot. He supposed that, in the absence of actual heart-stopping mortification, he might be able to scratch the insatiable itch of his attraction a little.

It was still early enough to call his mother without getting an earful about propriety and keeping civilised hours, so he poured another glass of wine, dialled her number, and settled in for a lengthy chat. He could tolerate hearing about the dull goings-on of her retirement community for an hour or so if it meant getting his hands on any of her precious collection.

 

Several hours later, Crowley dragged himself off to bed with his ears feeling like he’d been slapped on both sides of the head. He loved his mother but that didn’t change the fact that she could talk for England when given the chance.

His brain felt like sludge and he had accidentally admitted his true motivation for calling after far less interrogation than he could usually withstand. He’d not only confessed his need to borrow a book, but also his whole Antiques Roadshow plan and then, horrifyingly, he heard himself tell his elderly mother about his crush. He’d even laughed, telling her that he needed a really good book to be able to win Aziraphale over. As if that was even a possibility! At least she had agreed to lend him something appropriate.

Now, in the warmth and safety of his bed, Crowley knew the reality of his situation. He wasn’t going to do anything daring like slip his number between the pages of whatever book he got, he probably wasn’t even going to try and touch Aziraphale in case his body decided to rebel and embarrass him. He could picture, all too clearly, a situation where Aziraphale might offer to shake his hand only for Crowley to simultaneously blush, vomit, stutter, and spring an obvious erection.

He was going to do his best to be normal. He’d take a book, try to get to Aziraphale’s table, and soak up a little of his presence while he could.

With a confused sort of optimistic resignation, Crowley fell asleep thinking about gentle fingers stroking down his spine as a soft voice told him how precious he was.

 

At his mother’s insistence, Crowley headed over to her place on the following Saturday afternoon. The offer of a home-cooked meal had won over the potential mortification of her teasing him about his crush. If there was anyone in the world that Crowley could tolerate teasing from, it was his mother.

Even with the sneaking suspicion that she would insist on watching Antiques Roadshow together, Crowley was in good spirits during the brief walk from the tube station to his mother’s retirement flat.

“Hello dumpling,” she greeted him at her door after buzzing him up, “I’m making lasagne.”

Crowley grinned and hugged his mother, scolding himself for not visiting more often. She even remembered to cook his favourite dinner.

 

Four hours later, Crowley told himself that he wouldn’t be back before Christmas if he could help it. He dragged himself out of his mother’s flat with a dish of leftover lasagne under one arm and a solid flight case in the other.

He wasn’t sure about the lasagne/sanity conversion rate but he didn’t think that he could eat fast enough to make up for the toll that his mother had on his state of mind. Of course, he was grateful for the loan of the book, a signed copy of Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, but he hadn’t needed the blow-by-blow account of what his mother went through to get it out of storage, nor the repeated reminders to take care with it. And that was all before she’d even started on telling him that he was too skinny, too pale, dressed too young, and too unapproachable.

He’d listened to her description of the nice young man who came to clean the windows and might be gay because of the rainbow sticker on his van. Crowley accepted the offer of an introduction to the son of Peter-down-the-hall if the whole “Aziraphale thing” didn’t work out. He hadn’t even objected to her repeated references to his hare-brained plan as the “Aziraphale thing” and that really had to count for something, he thought.

Crowley had borne all this in as good a humour as he could manage, and then Antiques Roadshow had started.

As he had suspected, his mother insisted on watching it together. She tried to pretend that she hadn’t planned it that way, but the reminder on her cable service made that hard to believe. Crowley had a glass of wine and a comfy spot on the sofa, so he resigned himself to making the best of his disrupted weekly ritual.

Unfortunately, his mother didn’t stop talking from the moment that Fiona Bruce appeared on screen until the end credits were rolling. She had opinions on everything and, whilst they might align with Crowley’s opinions more often than not, he really didn’t need to hear all of them repeated over the course of an hour.

Aziraphale hadn’t been in the opening teasers, and Crowley tried to tell her that he might not be on this episode at all, but she insisted upon asking if each new expert was the one they were waiting for. Even if there wasn’t a man on screen, she’d still ask.

Faced with the choice of snapping at his mother or grinding his teeth, Crowley made the decision that he could live with and thanked his lucky stars that he had an NHS dentist. His jaw was aching by the time that Aziraphale finally appeared.

“Is that him?” his mother had asked.

“Yes.”

And if she had been bad before, that was nothing compared to the stream of thoughts that flowed out of her mouth upon seeing Aziraphale.

“Oh, he’s very pretty, isn’t he? I’d have thought him as a bit soft for you, don’t you normally prefer the whole ‘bad boy’ look? Goodness, hasn’t he got elegant hands, dumpling? I could watch his hands all day long. You’re certain he’s gay? I wonder if his father is single, then. Don’t give me that look, I’m not dead yet. He seems very kind, look at how sweet he’s being to that lady with the water damaged diaries. He really doesn’t seem your type. If you go looking like you normally do, he’ll run a mile, mark my words.”

“Alright, mum, enough of that,” Crowley had said, snapping more than he’d intended.

It didn’t stop the torrent of verbalised thoughts, but at least she stopped picking fault with Crowley. He excused himself shortly after the programme had finished, accepted the leftover lasagne, and sworn to protect the book with his life.

Now he was back out in the fresh air, wondering if all this was really worth it, and looking to hail a taxi, not trusting himself or the underground enough to transport the book. If he’d been put through that ordeal for nothing, if Aziraphale wasn’t even there on Wednesday, he might have to buy a new pillow specifically for screaming into.

Thankfully, the cabbie that pulled over wasn’t feeling chatty so Crowley got to ride back home with only his own thoughts fighting for his attention. He didn’t let go of the case holding the book for the whole journey.

The wall safe in his office was just large enough to fit the whole case, so Crowley didn’t even need to disturb the book as he locked it away. He did have to take out the plastic dinosaurs he’d been storing in there as a joke, but they could sit on his desk for a few days. Maybe they’d enjoy the change of scenery.

After making space in the fridge for his newly acquired lasagne, Crowley slunk back to his sofa, flicked on his TV, and opened iPlayer. He had been robbed of his usual Saturday night relaxation but there was no reason that he couldn’t try to reclaim it now.

Barely three minutes in, Crowley snatched up the remote and skipped ahead to Aziraphale’s first appearance. The tension left him as soon as Aziraphale smiled at the woman sitting opposite him. When Aziraphale’s lips parted, Crowley melted into his sofa in anticipation of hearing his voice.

He would get this week out of the way, Crowley decided. He would go to the valuation day, try to meet Aziraphale, work out if his attraction existed in the cold light of day, and worry about purging this parasocial obsession once it was all over.

When the episode ended, Crowley opened his laptop and clicked on the only bookmark he had saved. As YouTube loaded, he wriggled his jeans down past his hips, pulled his thickening cock out of his underwear, and tried to ignore the upwelling of shame.

One way or another, this would be the last time that Crowley masturbated to a compilation of Aziraphale gasping, moaning, and sighing. Even as he stroked himself to full hardness, Crowley was telling himself that this would never happen again, that it was alright to have one last hurrah. Then the video started and Crowley no longer had the brain capacity to experience anything but arousal and pleasure.

Some sweet, filthy-minded genius had put together a cut of Antiques Roadshow clips featuring Aziraphale’s hands and the delighted little sounds that he made when faced with something truly rare or special. Crowley was familiar enough with the video that he had worked his technique into an art form. He stroked himself slowly, savouring the building pleasure until 1 minute and 32 seconds when Aziraphale made a soft grunt that had lived, rent-free, in Crowley’s head for several years. After that, he picked up speed and squeezed a touch harder, working himself closer to the edge with each stroke of his palm. He rode this wave until 4 minutes and 17 seconds, marked by a complicated fluttering of Aziraphale’s hands and a whispered “oh my goodness” that made Crowley whine. At that point, it was a race to the finish. His hips bucked into his hand, chasing his release until he doubled over, shivering and coming into his cupped palm. As the last tremors of his orgasm shook him, Aziraphale’s voice came through the speakers of his laptop.

“Oh, there you are, beautiful thing. That’s better, isn’t it.”

If he didn’t look at the screen, Crowley could ignore the reality and cling to that scant praise. It was almost like not being alone. Almost.

Crowley slapped at the laptop with his clean hand, stopping the video and attempting to avoid the shame that followed. It hit him anyway, somewhere between his sofa and the shower where he tried to cleanse himself of something that existed only in his head.

 

Time, as it tends to do, rolled on and brought Wednesday to the present. Crowley had managed to sleep well enough, thankfully too old and world-weary to be kept awake with excitement. His nerves manifested instead in the constant tweaks to his appearance. A voice that sounded far too like his mother’s kept telling him that his jacket was wrong, his jeans too dark, his hair not perfect. There were only so many times he could change and fuss before he started to risk being late and that’s what ultimately drove him out of the flat.

Halfway down the stairs, Crowley stopped, smacked himself in the forehead and turned on his heel. A few minutes later, he emerged again, this time with the flight case in his hand. He really didn’t have his head screwed on right and that didn’t bode well for the rest of the day.

The walk to the venue was less than ten minutes and Crowley spent most of them hugging the case to his chest and shooting vicious looks at anyone who so much as glanced his way. By the time he arrived, the queue of people bringing their items for valuation was already extending out of the building and Crowley cursed himself for leaving so late.

He joined the back of the line and showed his teeth to the older woman in front when she smiled at him. He’d never been good at smiling at strangers and he knew that his bizarre rictus grin startled more than it reassured but there were far bigger things for him to worry about. The reality of his situation was finally sinking in, he was as close to meeting Aziraphale as he’d ever been. If he walked away now, he might never get another chance.

Adjusting his white-knuckle grip on the precious flight case, Crowley forced himself to take regular, even breaths. The woman in front of him looked him over again and seemed to take pity, offering another warm smile.

“Got the family treasure in there, love?” she asked. She was dressed in bright colours and clashing patterns but, somehow, it worked for her.

“Might as well have,” Crowley said without meaning to, “mum’ll murder me if anything happens to it.”

“Serious stuff, then,” she said with a solemn nod. “My name’s Tracy, by the way.” She offered a hand in greeting.

Crowley took it and hoped that his palm wasn’t too clammy from gripping the case.

“Anthony, well, Crowley really. Call me Crowley.” He felt his face go pink as he mangled a simple introduction. His confidence in being able to handle any kind of language around Aziraphale shrank even further.

“Nice to meet you, Crowley,” said Tracy. “Seems like we might be in this queue for a while, doesn’t it?” She gestured at the throng of people before them, and the winding line visible beyond the glass doors.

Crowley made a noise of assent and looked about for something to lean against. The black painted railings lining the street had just a bit too much used gum attached for him to risk it so he affected a half-hearted slouch instead.

“What brings you here, then?” he asked, aiming for friendly interest rather than demanding nosiness.

Tracy immediately brightened and began to explain all about the vintage playing cards she had brought with her. Pulling the pack and a few yellowed postcards from a padded envelope, she clearly took some pleasure from presenting Crowley with a series of nude images.

“That’s my great-grandmother, Ginger,” she knocked Crowley’s elbow knowingly with a nod towards his own red hair, “as she was in 1906. Gorgeous, isn’t she?”

“Uh, yeah,” Crowley said, wondering what the proper response was to seeing nude pictures of a strangers ancestor.

“We’ve had these in the family ever since. I want to get some of the photos blown up but I need to know their value before I risk sending them off anywhere.”

Crowley nodded mutely, amazed by the confidence and character of the woman he’d met by chance.

“That’s not my only reason, though,” Tracy said with a conspiratorial wink, lowering her voice, “I want to see if I can get the Beeb to broadcast my great granny’s tits to the British public! And if I get to meet that nice Mr Aziraphale as well? That’s a nice bonus too.”

Her frankness startled Crowley into a bark of laughter that quickly overtook him.

“I like you,” he said once he could breathe again.

Tracy winked again and offered him a sip from the hip flask she’d produced from somewhere.

After that, the wait didn’t seem quite so arduous. Crowley chatted with Tracy as they slowly moved along the pavement, telling her a little about the book in his case and admitting to favouring a meeting with Aziraphale as well, although he knew there was no guarantee. That’s when he learned something new that considerably shifted his outlook on the day.

“He lives near here, so I’d say our odds are better than most,” Tracy said with a grin.

“He what? How near? How do you know? Oh fuck, he’s actually going to be in there, isn’t he?” Crowley lost any shred of deniability in the space of about 15 seconds.

“Oh, that’s quite the crush you have, isn’t it?” Tracy teased, “Yes, I read an article he wrote a few months ago where he said that his main base of operations was in Soho. Turns out that my neighbour has done the odd bit of work for him.”

Telling himself that he was too cool, too old, and too in control to hyperventilate over the proximity of his (very minor) celebrity crush, Crowley managed to brute force his way through the beginning of a panic attack. Tracy offered over her flask again and stroked Crowley’s back in a way he didn’t need but definitely appreciated.

“We’re at the doors now, love, best pull yourself together,” she said, patting his hand and taking back her flask to disappear it back to whichever dimension it had come from.

“Right, yup,” Crowley nodded and swallowed, nodded again and reached to hold the door for Tracy to enter the building. “Let’s do this.”

Once inside, things began to happen a bit faster. They were still queuing, but official-looking people with clipboards and headsets started to hover about. One very harried-looking woman made her way down the line, asking a few questions of each person and noting things down on her clipboard.

Tracy did an excellent impression of a harmless pensioner with nothing more than “vintage playing cards and family photographs” and was told to move into the left-hand queue.

“Alright,” the woman sighed, barely glancing at Crowley, “what’ve you got?”

“A signed, first edition Oscar Wilde book,” Crowley said, as flat as if he’d just told her the time of the next bus.

Her eyebrows rose and seemed to drag her face up with them, she looked at Crowley again, evaluating him more shrewdly.

“Really?”

“Yes,” Crowley said, smiling softly.

Looking mildly impressed, she scribbled something on her clipboard and flipped through a few pages until she found a sheet of stickers. She peeled off a purple spot and patted it onto Crowley’s lapel.

“Left-hand queue, please.” She moved on without another word.

Crowley followed Tracy’s path and let her fuss over his sticker, pouting over the fact that she hadn’t got one.

“It’s probably just a way to mark the people they think are arseholes,” Crowley said, nudging Tracy gently with his elbow.

“Should I go back and stamp on her foot, then?” Tracy laughed.

“Ehh, that might be over the line a bit.”

They were hurried through another quick set of questions, which apparently earned Tracy a red sticker, and then sent to a waiting area. A man came in and handed out clipboards with forms attached. Crowley got to watch the production that was Tracy tutting and huffing her way through digging out a fussy glasses case and perching dainty spectacles on her nose.

The form was standard release boilerplate for filming as well as confirmation that not everything that got filmed would make it into the episode. Crowley didn’t care about being on television, in fact, he’d barely even considered that part of this enterprise. The point was to try and meet Aziraphale, not to get on the telly.

The forms were collected, and stickers taken from various lapels and collars to be affixed to each form. Crowley shrugged and didn’t think about it again. For about half an hour, nothing further happened, and people started to get restless. Crowley let his eyes close and his head fall back against the wall behind his chair.

“Right!” said a cheerful man in a “crew” t-shirt, clapping his hands for attention, “I’m about to give each of you a time, that’s the time when you need to be back here for your slot with the expert. You can go into the hall to observe other valuations, or get a cup of tea from the cafeteria, but you must be back here in time for your slot. If you have an oversized item, you can use these lockers to store it while you’re in the hall.” He gestured to a wall of simple metal lockers. “Any questions?”

No one spoke up so the man scooped up his tablet computer and started calling out names and times.

“Tracy Potts?” he said, Tracy put her hand up. “11:45, please.”

She nodded and looked at her watch, tapping it with one perfectly painted fingernail.

“Anthony Crowley?”

“Yup,” Crowley said, looking up.

“4:15 for you.”

He sighed but nodded his understanding. That was a lot of time to kill, but at least he could wander around a bit. Get the first-hand experience, as it were.

Once everyone had been given a time, a few people locked their treasures away, and the door was opened to let them out to the hall. Crowley stood to trail out after Tracy, the flight case still firmly in his hand.

“I’m sorry,” said the cheerful man, blocking Crowley’s path, “you can’t take that into the exhibition hall.” He nodded at the case holding the book.

“What? It’s not that big,” Crowley said, confused.

“It counts as oversized, you’re welcome to leave it in a locker though.”

Crowley looked back over at the wall of lockers and then down at the case in his hand. It would probably fit, but he’d promised not to let it out of his sight. Groaning, he rolled his head back in resignation.

“Can I at least take it to the cafeteria? I really can’t leave it here.”

The man held up one finger and pressed the radio at his waist, stepping away to speak into his headset. A few moments later, he stepped back.

“That’s acceptable, I’ll take you there directly now.”

Feeling oddly like a criminal, Crowley followed the man through back corridors and security doors until they arrived in the brightly lit cafeteria space.

“I won’t know how to get back to the room for my slot,” Crowley said, desperately, just before the man left.

“Someone will come get you,” he said with a curt nod.

Resigned to a long, boring wait, Crowley looked at the array of uncomfortable metal chairs and decided to get a cup of coffee just to delay the torture.

 

He was sprawled in uncomfortable chair number eight when Tracy found him. She was a flurry of colours in the otherwise sterile space and Crowley was disproportionately glad to see her.

“So here’s where you disappeared to!” she said, sitting down across from him, “I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“Not allowed in the hall with this,” he said, patting the case. “So far, I’ve seen 13 women with handbags bigger than the case, but what does that matter?” He knew he was pouting, but it was difficult to care.

“Don’t blame you for not trusting those lockers, dearie, I could open one of them in a heartbeat if I wanted.”

Crowley looked at Tracy in a new light, his surprise showing on his face.

“You dark horse! Right, we’re friends now,” he pulled his wallet out of his pocket and fished out a business card, “my number, you have a mobile? Do you text?”

She swatted him lightly, tutting at the implication, and rummaged in her voluminous bag for her phone and spectacles. Tracy added Crowley’s number to her contacts and called him until her number appeared on his screen.

“Saved!” Crowley announced, beaming. “Now, no matter what else happens, the day can’t be a complete waste.”

Over another cup of coffee, Tracy told Crowley about what it was like inside the hall. It sounded hot, crowded, and rather dull. She hadn’t seen anything actually worthwhile yet, and half the experts hadn’t even arrived by the time she’d finally found Crowley. They didn’t speak about Aziraphale and Crowley was grateful, it would be harder knowing that Aziraphale was in the building and Crowley had to stay away.

“I’m going to wander a bit more, but I’ll pop back to check on you when I can, alright?” Tracy patted Crowley’s hand like he was a sickly child needing attention.

He scoffed.

“I’ll be fine.”

She levelled him with a look that told him exactly what she thought about that claim.

 

Tracy came back just before 11. The cafeteria had filled up with people resting their feet and getting a little refreshment. Crowley was fidgeting with a combination of boredom and a full bladder.

“You’re back!” he cried as soon as Tracy approached, “Hold the table please? I gotta-” he nodded towards the loos.

She sat down with a laugh and he scurried off, flight case still in hand.

When he came back, Crowley brought two coffees and offered one to Tracy in thanks. She was getting a touch nervous about her valuation, there were more cameras in the hall now, and she wanted to be perfect and poised. Crowley flattered and flirted until she was back to her bubbly best.

“That’s the smile of the woman who’s going to get tits on the BBC!” he cheered, quiet enough not to draw attention.

“I’ll come see you as soon as I’m done,” Tracy promised just before she headed off for her appointment.

 

After two hours, Crowley began to wonder if Tracy’s cards had been worth significantly more than she had hoped and she was now on her way to the Bahamas with an appropriately tanned boy toy. He’d run out of things to do on his phone, and his neck ached from staring down at it for too long. He plugged the phone into his power bank again and leaned back in the horribly uncomfortable chair, stretching his spine. Distantly, he wondered if he’d lost feeling in his buttocks forever, or if he’d get it back all of a sudden two years from now.

“Oh, Mr C, I’m so sorry to have left you alone for so long.” Tracy appeared from the small crowd and dropped into the seat across the table. She looked exhausted.

“How was it?” he asked, leaning forward.

“Horrible,” she all but snarled, “I went to the room, they said they wanted to film my session and got me all kitted up, and showed me to one of the tables. The experts move between tables to save time, you see.”

Crowley nodded, he’d expected as much.

“Well,” Tracy continued, “I sit at my table, I have my envelope out ready, and I wait. The camera and sound people were there with me, but we couldn’t chat for some reason. I was left waiting for well over an hour even though I had been on time. Finally, the expert turns up and it’s that pompous git with the male pattern baldness and gold tooth!”

Crowley groaned in sympathy, he knew exactly who she meant.

“He doesn’t apologise but does tell me that he’s just had a very lovely roast lamb lunch. While I was sat waiting! The cheek! Well, we finally start filming and I get my cards out, telling him all about Granny Ginger and her time as a model. He looks through all the pictures, just pawing at them, although I made sure that the camera got a good look, and then tells me that their only value is sentimental! Utter rubbish, I know better than that. How can he call himself an expert?”

She seemed to run out of steam then, deflating a bit and looking far older than Crowley had seen her look before.

“What a tosser,” he said, “never rated him.”

Tracy smiled weakly and patted his hand kindly.

“I’m sure yours will go better, dearie, and I might still have achieved getting Granny Ginger’s nudes on national telly.”

“That’s the spirit, Tracy. You hungry?”

She was, so Crowley bought them each a sandwich and another drink, letting them decompress in relative peace. A few of the older visitors gave Crowley filthy looks for hogging a table for so long, but he didn’t care. It’s not like he had another real option.

“How are you feeling?” Tracy asked once she’d eaten and calmed.

Crowley cleared his throat and looked down at his hands, picking at a cuticle before answering.

“Bored, antsy, frustrated,” he said, glancing at Tracy. She gave him a knowing smile and raised her eyebrows. “Fucking terrified, honestly. I don’t get it at all. There’s nothing to be afraid of, but I can’t seem to make myself believe that. It’s like I’m about to go on a blind date but the other guy is either the man of my dreams or an axe murderer and I’ve got no way of knowing.”

Tracy laughed and he knew he was being dramatic, but it was his prerogative and that’s how he was feeling.

“You’ll be fine, it’s just some stuffy know-it-all having a nose at your book. Don’t build it up to be more and then you can’t be disappointed.” Tracy smiled and squeezed Crowley’s arm. “I’ll stay with you until it’s time, nothing else for me to do here.”

Crowley was grateful. The last thing he needed as the clock ran down was more time alone with his thoughts. Tracy proved herself, yet again, to be delightful company, and the time seemed to fly by. The cafeteria crowd began to thin out when 4 pm rolled around and Crowley nipped to the loo while he still had the chance.

At 4:13, he began to fret that he’d been forgotten and would be left in the cafeteria all night. Just as Tracy stood to go looking for his chaperone, the cheerful man from earlier reappeared, looking just as chipper and perky as he had that morning.

“Mr Crowley? Thank you for waiting, let’s go get you set up.” He gestured for Crowley to follow him.

Tracy gave him a quick hug and then shooed him off with a wink that had no business being as cheeky as it was.

“Just a reminder, Mr Crowley, try not to swear or say anything vulgar, trust the expert to know how to handle your item, and relax. You’re going to have fun!” The man rabbited on and Crowley could only nod as they hurried through the same corridors they’d left through so many hours ago.

All that time sat in those torture chairs had left Crowley’s legs feeling numb and ungainly, turning his usual saunter into some sort of newborn foal disaster.

In just a few minutes, Crowley was led into the main hall and directed towards a round table with the ubiquitous blue tablecloth. A camera was sitting on a tripod across from Crowley and another was pointed at the currently unoccupied chair. A third was attached to the harness of a young woman walking around the table. It was more than Crowley had expected, but, for some reason, it calmed him. There were lots of places he could look or things he could focus on if he needed to mentally regroup.

A small crowd gathered around his table, carefully spaced to allow the camera operators room to move. A flash of colour in the corner of his vision made him turn his head, only to find Tracy grinning at him and offering a subtle thumbs up. He was still holding the case by his side, wondering if he should put it on the table or wait to be told what to do.

The next moment, the crowd parted and Aziraphale emerged, taking the seat beside Crowley. All at once, Crowley felt the blood rush to his face, his throat grew dry, and he heard Tracy smother a giggle. She’d known, he was sure.

“Hello,” said Aziraphale, smiling so warmly and offering his hand to Crowley, “I’m Aziraphale.”

Crowley took his hand and opened his mouth to introduce himself, but all that came out was a croak and a mix of consonants. He snapped his mouth shut, swallowed twice, tried not to focus on how long he’d been holding Aziraphale’s hand and tried again.

“I’m Crowley, or Anthony, whichever you like.” He tried to smile as Aziraphale withdrew his hand.

The loss of the touch was quietly devastating. Crowley hadn’t paid enough attention to how soft his hand was, how gentle his touch, the warmth. He’d wanted to catalogue every sensation but he’d missed that chance.

“Which would you like?” Aziraphale leaned closer and briefly laid his hand on Crowley’s sleeve, sounding so sincere that Crowley could barely parse the question.

“Uh, Crowley, please.”

Aziraphale nodded and smiled again, so bright and warm. Crowley wished he could turn into a snake just to bask in the glow of it.

“Well, you’re my last valuation of the day, Crowley, and they always save me something good for my last session. Whenever you’re ready, why don’t you show me what you’ve got?”

He was so soft and perfect up close that Crowley had a flash of shame at imagining double entendres in Aziraphale’s words. Glancing down at where Aziraphale’s hands were primly folded on the table, Crowley gave himself a shake and pulled the flight case up onto the table.

“So, I’ve got this book,” he said, putting the combination into the lock and snapping the latches open.

“Serious business,” Aziraphale joked, making Crowley’s stomach turn to butterflies.

He opened the case and focused on lifting the book out of its snug space. Crowley moved the case back to the floor beside him and placed the book on the table, turning it towards Aziraphale. It was wrapped in acid-free paper and the words were just visible through it.

“Oh my,” Aziraphale said, sounding awed.

He glanced up at Crowley as if asking for permission. Crowley nodded and nudged the book closer to Aziraphale, urging him to unwrap the paper.

“It feels a bit like Christmas!” Aziraphale said as he folded back the thin tissue paper.

He smoothed it down on either side of the book and took a breath so deep that Crowley could see the stretch of his waistcoat over his chest.

“What we have here is a very early print of Oscar Wilde’s book Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Other Stories. First published as a collection in 1891, it contains several of the Irish writer’s popular works.” Aziraphale picked the book up and turned it over in his hands, inspecting the spine and binding. Crowley found himself leaning closer, entirely entranced. “It’s in remarkable condition, the binding is original and sound, the discolouration can’t be helped but it is actually quite mild.” He drew his index finger over the image on the front cover, stroking it gently. Crowley shivered. “First editions, and specifically first impressions, are highly sought after. I recently saw a copy of this book sell for a little over £1,200.”

Crowley nodded and muttered something vaguely affirmative.

“How did you come to have such a book in your possession?” Aziraphale asked, barely lifting the front cover with his thumb, looking entirely at Crowley.

“Um, well, it’s been in the family for a few generations.” He could feel his cheeks burning and hoped that it was far less visible than it felt. “My great-great grandfather bought it when it was released. He, um, he was in some of the same circles as Oscar.”

Aziraphale’s eyebrows shot up at that and he focused back on the book, carefully opening the front cover. He turned the book to show the inside cover to the camera.

“See here, there’s the publisher’s mark. This is indeed a first edition, first impression. Very light foxing, some wear on the boards but, again, light. It’s in wonderful condition for its age.” Aziraphale was positively beaming over the book and Crowley felt drunk on it.

“Turn the page,” Crowley said, barely more than a whisper.

With a slight frown, Aziraphale looked at him for a second before turning back to the book and gently turning the first page.

“Oh! Good heavens! It’s signed!”

Crowley melted in his seat, absorbing Aziraphale’s delight at point-blank range. He held his breath as Aziraphale peered closer, hoping for one last treat. Sure enough, Aziraphale’s grin grew even wider and he wiggled in his seat. If Crowley dropped dead at that moment, he wouldn’t have complained, he had made Aziraphale do a happy wiggle, his life had peaked.

To my dear friend, A, lovingly signed by the author, Oscar Wilde and then he’s drawn a little heart. I’ve never seen anything like this. He signed presentation copies for his friends, but here, his friend, your ancestor, bought a copy as early as he could and took it to Oscar to sign. And Oscar drew a love heart for him. Incredible, truly. What a precious item to have in your family.”

“Yeah, you can see why we keep it so wrapped up,” Crowley said, laughing softly.

Aziraphale looked at him again, the book cradled gently in his hands. Crowley felt like he was being inspected and appraised. He watched Aziraphale’s eyes travel over his face, flick up to his hair, and then down to the signed page of the book.

“Interesting,” he mumbled before perking up again. “So, I suppose you’d like to know how much this beauty is worth?”

“Oh, yes, for the insurance. We’d never sell, of course,” Crowley said, anxiously trying to reassure Aziraphale that the book was in good hands.

“We? Is there a Mrs Crowley?” Aziraphale asked.

“Yeah,” Crowley said and then tried to tell himself that the look on Aziraphale’s face was anything but disappointment, “my mother, though. No wife for me, haha, no husband either.” He cringed at his own ridiculousness.

Aziraphale reached across the table and patted Crowley’s hand gently and, oh, his touch was so soft and warm.

“Well, I would recommend that you have this book insured for at least £50,000. It’s a very unique inscription and that will add value. I can tell that it’s clearly treasured, and that family connection must be worth a great deal.”

“Thank you,” Crowley said, gazing as openly at Aziraphale as he wanted, glutting himself on these last few moments.

Aziraphale beamed back and laid the book on the table for the cameras to focus on.

“We’ll just get a few beauty shots, and then we’re all done here,” said one of the camera operators.

Aziraphale lifted his hand in acknowledgement but didn’t take his eyes off Crowley, pinning him in place with the weight of his attention.

“Thank you, Crowley, truly. It’s a real honour to have seen your book today.”

“Oh well, it’s my pleasure,” Crowley tried to deflect.

He became aware of Tracy moving closer to his side just as Aziraphale made to rise from his seat.

“Wait!” Crowley said, louder than he’d intended. Aziraphale dropped back into his chair, smiling as warmly as ever. “This is my friend, Tracy, she’s a big fan of yours and, well, she had a bit of a disappointing valuation earlier. I know it’s not your area, but would you be willing to have a look at her cards and photographs? Just for a moment? We’re sure they have value.”

Beside him, Tracy gasped and grabbed his shoulder, her nails digging in to the point of pain.

“Oh no, Mr Aziraphale, I couldn’t take up your time, like that,” Tracy said, laughing weakly.

Aziraphale spread his hands on the table and gestured for her to pull up a chair. One of the spectators grabbed one from a nearby table and, perhaps sensing something interesting, the camera operators quickly readjusted their focuses. Crowley carefully packed up his book and made to move away but both Tracy and Aziraphale grabbed at his sleeves before he could stand.

Tracy pulled her envelope out of her bag and emptied it onto the table. The photographs fell face down and she snatched up the playing card pack, tipping the cards into her hand and shuffling like a pro.

“Pick a card?” She offered the fanned pack to Aziraphale.

He smiled indulgently and pulled a card, flipping it over to reveal a nude photograph of Granny Ginger and the ace of hearts.

“Oh! I wasn’t expecting that!” he laughed, taking it in good humour.

“Ace of hearts, that’s new love or a new relationship,” Tracy said knowingly.

“Probably not with the subject of this photograph, though?” Aziraphale asked, holding his hand out for the rest of the cards.

He thumbed through them with care, clearly aware of their age. He laid out a quick spread, just to show off a few of the designs.

“These are delightfully risqué, aren’t they?” he asked with a grin, “May I ask the history?”

Tracy happily launched into her explanation of the exploits of Granny Ginger, early pin-up girl and nude model. She showed the larger photographs and explained about her hope to have a larger print produced. Crowley could only watch Aziraphale as he examined the images, taking Tracy’s playing cards just as seriously as he had the first edition Wilde book. He was just a good man, a truly good man. Crowley was so happy that he’d taken this risk and asked about Tracy’s cards.

“Oh!” Aziraphale said after a moment of silence, “you said someone told you these were effectively worthless?”

Tracy nodded, her lips pressed thin as though she didn’t want to name any names.

“Well, I’m sorry you were given such poor information. Here, there’s the mark of Fergus Fitzgerald, a well-known photographer of the early 1900s. He was widely rumoured to have taken a series of nude photographs but no contemporary evidence appeared to have survived. These cards and photographs represent the re-emergence of his unknown work. This is important, a real discovery. Do you remember which colour sticker you were given earlier?” Aziraphale’s demeanour had become no less comforting, but there was a hint of steel underneath his softness.

“Red,” Tracy said, “why?”

Aziraphale patted her hands and smiled.

“No reason, my dear, just checking something. Now, clearly, these items are of immense sentimental value to you, but they are also worth a lot of money. I would recommend insuring them for a minimum of £20,000, but I’m not an expert in these matters. Allow me to recommend a colleague of mine, I’ll get their details to you before you leave.” Aziraphale waited for Tracy to agree before releasing her hands. “Thank you for bringing these in, I’m so happy to have seen them.”

With that, Aziraphale called over one of the crew members and exchanged a few hurried, quiet words. He turned back to Crowley and Tracy, standing and folding his hands over his stomach. A complicated feeling twisted in Crowley’s gut as he realised that Aziraphale was about to leave.

“Jason here will take care of you while I go fetch those contact details. I won’t keep you any longer than necessary.”

Crowley almost said that Aziraphale could keep him forever if he wanted, but some stray scrap of self-preservation trapped the words in his throat. Aziraphale walked briskly away and, damn, even his arse was perfect.

“That was a bit of a turn-up, wasn’t it?” Tracy said brightly, packing up her cards.

“Yeah, sorry to put you on the spot like that, but, you know.” Crowley gestured vaguely.

“You weren’t ready to let it be over yet, I know.” Crowley thought she was only half teasing.

Jason held them back until the hall was almost empty and then ushered them out to the foyer to wait for the promised contact details.

As the last stragglers filtered out, Crowley caught sight of the “expert” who had undervalued Tracy’s items. He pushed his way through and headed right for where Crowley and Tracy were stood, an unnatural smile plastered over his smarmy face.

“I’m so glad I’ve caught you!” he said, taking Tracy by the elbow and trying to lead her away from Crowley. “I was feeling just rotten about the disappointment from your valuation earlier and I thought, if you like, I could buy the pictures from you. £200, just as a goodwill gesture. What do you say?”

Crowley followed, not letting them get more than two steps away from him, utterly disgusted by what he was hearing. This supposed expert was trying to rip Tracy off, and he didn’t even have the decency to offer her more than 1% of their value. He opened his mouth to interject.

“SANDY!”

The angry yell made Crowley turn to see where it had come from. Aziraphale was storming towards them, his hands in fists at his sides.

“You get away from that woman, Sandy, I know exactly what you’ve done here.”

Before Crowley could think to react, Aziraphale planted himself between the expert, Sandy, and Tracy.

“Back off, Aziraphale, you don’t know anything.” Sandy squared his shoulders, staring Aziraphale down as best he could.

Somewhere behind him, Crowley could hear Jason calling for assistance on his radio. Gently, he took hold of Tracy’s shoulders and drew her back, away from the confrontation.

“You’re a- a- a bad expert!” Aziraphale said with surprising venom. Still, it was the softest insult that Crowley could have imagined and it seemed so perfectly Aziraphale that he had to smile.

Sandy shoved Aziraphale away from him, just one firm push, but Crowley saw red. He rushed forwards only to see Aziraphale swing a perfect right hook into Sandy’s face.

There was a moment of calm, just a split second where the world stood still, and then chaos erupted. Security personnel appeared from every direction, pulling Sandy and Aziraphale apart. People in headsets buzzed around, fretting and generally getting in the way, and at the centre of it, Aziraphale fought like a dog to try and inflict an ounce more damage on Sandy. It was surreal and hilarious and terrifying all at once.

Crowley did the only thing he could think to do and grabbed Tracy’s arm, pulling her even further out of the fray before she could come to harm. She clung to him like a distressed damsel, ruining the illusion by gleefully whispering about how exciting everything was.

Once the initial scuffle had been subdued, a new kind of drama began to unfold. A producer was summoned, Fiona Bruce appeared and demanded to be told everything, and one of the people wearing a headset began to take down Crowley’s contact information in case he was needed as a witness.

After a quick debate between Sandy, Aziraphale, Fiona, and the producer, it was decided that the police would not be called. Only one blow had been dealt and Sandy didn’t appear to want to press charges. The producer approached Crowley and Tracy, introduced herself as Diane, and asked if they would be willing to stick around and give statements for an internal BBC investigation.

Before Crowley could even think about the options, Tracy had accepted on his behalf, squeezing his forearm in a way that felt meaningful.

With surprising efficiency, rooms were arranged to hold one each of the involved parties and Crowley found himself sitting in a nondescript office, with a mug of tolerable coffee, and on a seat far more comfortable than the one he’d spent the day in. One of the crew sat with him, ostensibly to keep him company although he was clearly being babysat. Crowley resisted the impulse to play on his phone, not wanting to give any room for accusations of collaboration. He was painfully aware that Aziraphale’s job was in the balance and, although he knew that he hadn’t done anything wrong, he still felt responsible.

After a wait of interminable length, Diane appeared with an assistant ready to take notes. Crowley told his story from meeting Tracy in the queue that morning all the way up to the fight in the foyer, emphasising how Aziraphale had looked at Tracy’s cards as a spur of the moment decision. As he described Sandy approaching them while they waited for Aziraphale, the way he seemed to have been waiting for Tracy, Diane’s eyebrows crept up and her mouth pursed.

She asked a couple of follow up questions, clarifying which portions had been filmed, who Aziraphale had spoken to, and who, exactly, had first laid hands on whom. The image of Sandy shoving Aziraphale was as clear as day in Crowley’s mind. He had no doubt about who the aggressor had been.

Diane thanked him, asked him to stay a little longer, and swept out of the room with a cold fury all over her face.

With nothing else to do, Crowley opened the flight case to check on the book. It had never been out of his hand, but the diversions and excitement had made him a touch paranoid. The book was just as it had been when he’d tucked it away after the valuation and the sight of it soothed him.

As he was locking the case back up, a burst of static crackled from the radio on the hip of his babysitter. She fiddled with it for a second and then responded into her headset. Crowley couldn’t hear what was being said but he saw her shoulders drop in relief as she signed off.

“Alright, we’re all done. I’ll walk you back to the main entrance, if you’re ready?” she said, standing and stretching.

Crowley leapt to his feet and practically bounded to the door, holding it open for her.

“Lead the way,” he said, far too pleased to be out of his temporary prison.

They arrived at the doors at the same time as Tracy and her own babysitter, a young man who, judging from the strength of his blush, had never encountered a lady quite as flirtatious as Tracy. Crowley felt a sort of amused sympathy for the man, even as he offered his elbow to Tracy and distracted her attention.

“That was exciting, wasn’t it?” Tracy said, grinning far too widely for someone who had so recently been the subject of a fairly calculated con.

“If you say so, you mad old thing,” Crowley said, feeling indulgent.

They took a single step towards the doors.

“Tracy! Crowley! Wait a moment, please!” In a moment all too reminiscent of the last time they’d stood in this foyer, Aziraphale called out to them and hurried over in a half-run, half-trot. He fished a card out of the pocket of his waistcoat and handed it to Tracy. “Here, this fellow is top of his field and just a lovely chap as well. You tell him I sent you when you take your photographs to him.” As he spoke, Aziraphale tapped his index finger against the edge of the card in Tracy’s hands. Crowley was unfairly hypnotised by it.

“Oh, thank you, Mr A,” Tracy said with a smile like spring sunshine, “I do hope you aren’t in any trouble.”

Aziraphale dismissed that with a wave of his hand and then winced.

“Don’t you worry about that, dear lady, no harm done.”

Aziraphale looked up at Crowley’s face so abruptly that Crowley realised he must have made a noise. Heat flooded his face and he concentrated very hard on sinking into the ground. Tracy squeezed his arm again until she got his attention and then made some very suggestive expressions with her eyebrows. Crowley tried to shake his head and dissuade her but she was tenacious, mouthing “go on!” and nodding towards Aziraphale in a way that really erased any hope f subtlety. He swallowed thickly, looked at Aziraphale’s beautiful, open face, closed his eyes and jumped. Figuratively.

“Would you- I mean, is there- What are- No, OK, hang on.” He opened his eyes again and saw twinkles of kindly amusement in Aziraphale’s expression. Taking a centring breath, Crowley tried again. “Could I possibly tempt you to dinner?”

Beside him, Tracy made an inhuman sound of delight which was ignored by both of them. Aziraphale smiled and seemed to glow with it.

“I would be delighted, do you have plans tonight?”

Crowley felt his mouth fall open but no words came out.

“He’s free as a bird tonight,” Tracy answered for him, “aren’t you, dearie?”

Crowley managed to nod and close his mouth without biting his tongue.

“Marvellous, I have just a couple of things to finish up here, but I can meet you outside in about 5 minutes, if that suits?” Aziraphale said, tugging at the bottom of his waistcoat.

Crowley nodded again, no longer capable of speech. His brain was just screaming incoherently at this turn of events and he worried that any attempt at vocalisation would just result in letting all of that out into the world. Apparently satisfied with his answer, Aziraphale smiled again, looking down a little shyly, before turning on his heel and marching off to finish whatever he needed to do.

Tracy led Crowley outside into the early evening sun, speaking to him gently as if he was a skittish animal.

“What,” he said at last, “the actual fuck have I just done?”

Tracy laughed and patted his arm until he pulled it away to drag his hand through his hair.

“I believe you just asked a nice man on a date, and now you’re going to wait here for him.”

“A nice man? Tracy! That’s Aziraphale Fell! I’ve had a crush on him for so long I can’t even remember when it started! You don’t just ask out your celebrity crushes like they’re normal people!” Crowley was near hysteria as he ranted.

Tracy scoffed and examined her nails.

“If I thought like that, I’d never have asked out Tim Curry and would have had a much more boring life for it!”

That information hit him like a bucket of cold water, knocking him right out of the state he was working himself into.

“You and Tim Curry?” Crowley asked, incredulous.

Tracy gave a coquettish little wink and, just like that, Crowley wasn’t worried about taking Aziraphale for dinner. Whatever witchcraft Tracy had at her disposal, he could only be grateful that she’d turned it on him for the day.

“Thanks,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck, “for calming me down, keeping me company, really, everything you’ve done today.”

“Oh pish,” Tracy said, swatting him playfully, “you’ve done at least as much for me today. Besides, we’re friends now, I expect a full report tomorrow!” She glanced at her watch and pulled a face. “I have to make a dash for it, I’m afraid, the sergeant will be wanting his dinner.” Crowley made a questioning face at that. “My cat,” Tracy clarified, “demanding little bugger, but I love him. Good luck, Crowley, have faith!”

She stretched up on her tiptoes to plant a kiss on Crowley’s cheek, wiped the lipstick mark off with her thumb, and waved goodbye as she set off down the street. Crowley got the feeling that his life had just become all the richer for having Tracy in it.

Less than a minute later, Aziraphale appeared at the glass doors, waving at Crowley with a little self-conscious movement, whilst a member of the venue staff unlocked the door to let him out.

“Hello, thank you for waiting,” he said once he was outside and standing next to Crowley.

“Oh, that’s alright,” Crowley said, feeling his brain begin to seize up again. He pictured Tracy bullying Tim Curry into a date and forced himself to relax. “I don’t mind waiting for you.”

Crowley could feel the dopey grin growing on his face and decided not to care. He was happy. Aziraphale had turned out to be even better than his imagination had hoped. He was kind, warm, generous, and a little bit of a bastard. The crush was morphing into something more real.

“So, what are you thinking for dinner?” Aziraphale asked, clearly understanding that someone needed to steer the conversation and that such a task was a bit beyond Crowley right then.

“Ah, right,” Crowley said, looking down at the case in his hand. “I really need to drop this home which is just down the road, but there’s a nice Greek place right there and an Ethiopian place round the corner. If that’s alright?”

“That sounds splendid, lead the way,” said Aziraphale with a slight bow.

Crowley almost laughed, how was this man so perfect? He wasn’t like anyone else Crowley had ever dated but, already, he could see that he’d been missing out. Now, he just had to get through the evening without making a complete fool of himself, or falling into the bad habit of trying to be what he thought Aziraphale wanted. He couldn’t treat this like a one-night fling, not when his heart was crying out for so much more. No, if this failed it would be because they weren’t compatible, not because Crowley forgot how to behave like a human being.

They chatted easily as they walked, covering how long Crowley had lived in the area, how he liked it, what he did for work, Aziraphale’s antique book shop, and, of course, the force of nature that was Tracy.

Bit by bit, Crowley forgot to be nervous and began to truly enjoy Aziraphale’s company. He was as witty and charming as his television appearances made him seem, but with a bitchy streak that delighted Crowley no end. He was telling Crowley about a self-important customer who had brought a water-damaged third edition of Maurice by E. M. Forster, clearly delighting in how the man had reacted at being told that his book had no particular value, when they arrived at the door to Crowley’s building.

“I just need to nip up and put this away,” Crowley said, holding the case up to illustrate, “you’re welcome to come up or wait out here, whatever you like.”

Aziraphale wiggled and Crowley had to keep from grinning like a fool.

“I’d like to come up, if that isn’t an imposition.”

“Of course! Wouldn’t have offered if it were,” Crowley said, far too quickly to be cool, as he buzzed them into the building.

The ride up in the lift was tense in a faintly electric sort of way and, for the first time, Crowley allowed himself to believe that the attraction he felt might be reciprocated, at least a little. He unlocked the door to his flat and held the door for Aziraphale.

“Feel free to have a nose around, I’ll just be a minute.” With that, Crowley slipped into his home office and made for the wall safe.

He was so preoccupied with the idea of Aziraphale in his home that he needed two attempts to open his safe. Once the flight case was safely stowed and the safe locked back up, Crowley allowed himself a deep breath and went to find Aziraphale. He spoke as he walked through the flat, announcing his presence rather than sneaking about.

“Any preference between Greek and Ethiopian? I could look up what else is around if you need more options. I think I’m going to change my shirt before we head out, freshen up a bit, you know.”

He found Aziraphale standing at the threshold of his bedroom, wordlessly looking into the dark grey room. Apprehension clutched at Crowley’s belly at the sight of Aziraphale standing there, so still. He must have realised how different they were, how incompatible. It had been a nice dream while it had lasted.

Crowley approached slowly, making no effort to quiet the fall of his steps. As if in a daze, Aziraphale turned to look at him, his eyes darting between Crowley’s eyes, mouth, and hands. Feeling self-conscious, Crowley crossed his arms over his stomach, hugging himself as he was examined.

“I’m so glad you got a purple sticker today,” Aziraphale said cryptically, stepping forward into Crowley’s space.

In the next instant, Aziraphale’s hands were at the nape of Crowley’s neck, gently encouraging him down until their lips met. Aziraphale pressed closer, bringing their bodies together so Crowley had to drop his arms, his hands finding a new home on Aziraphale’s hips. Apparently encouraged, Aziraphale kissed him a touch more firmly, moving his lips until Crowley remembered to be more than just a passive participant.

He parted his lips, offering Aziraphale the option of deepening the kiss, an option he took immediately. At once, Crowley’s arms were wrapped around Aziraphale’s body, holding him tightly, as Aziraphale licked past Crowley’s lips and teased at his tongue. Despite himself, Crowley moaned into Aziraphale’s mouth at that first touch and the sound turned Aziraphale frantic. He kissed harder, pushing Crowley back up against the wall and tugged at Crowley’s shirt until he could get his hand on warm skin.

Without thinking about it, Crowley pushed his knee between Aziraphale’s thighs and pulled his hips forward, encouraging him to grind down. The hot, hard length of Aziraphale erection rubbed against Crowley’s thigh and several things became clear to him.

He pushed away, putting a few inches of space between them so he could try to arrange his thoughts. Aziraphale resisted for a moment and then became pliant, his hands immediately worrying at each other. Crowley made a sound of mild distress in his throat and caught Aziraphale’s hands.

“I just need to say some stuff, alright? Is that OK?” Crowley searched Aziraphale’s face for understanding.

“Of course, I’m sorry,” Aziraphale said, gently pulling his hands free of Crowley’s grip and tugging at his waistcoat hem, “I don’t know what came over me.”

“Nothing to apologise for, I promise,” said Crowley. His eyes flicked down to Aziraphale soft, perfect hands and, to his delight, Aziraphale joined their fingers together again, connecting them once more. “Look,” Crowley continued, fighting to keep his eyes open during this mortifying moment, “I’ve done this, yeah? The casual sex thing, the one-night stress relief fuck, whatever you want to call it, I’ve probably done more than my fair share of it, if I’m honest with myself. It’s just- I don’t want that with you.” He saw Aziraphale’s face fall a fraction and rushed on, trying to make his point before he put his entire foot in it. “I really like you, I think you’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen, and if we were to do this and then I never heard from you again? That would destroy me. I’m not going to ask you for a lifelong commitment here or anything daft like that, I just- ugh, I’m messing this up -I need to know if you have any intention of calling me after this.” After baring his soul so freely, Crowley dropped his head forward and squeezed his eyes closed, waiting for the hammer to fall.

There was a moment of stillness and then Aziraphale reached into Crowley’s pocket and pulled out his phone. He fiddled with it for a second and then huffed.

“I was going to make a gesture, but I need you to unlock this blasted thing first.”

Crowley entered his passcode and handed the phone back, now watching Aziraphale with interest. He opened Crowley’s contacts and added his phone number, even putting a little heart symbol next to his name, then he called the number until they could both hear the ringing from Aziraphale’s jacket pocket. He hung up and handed Crowley’s phone back before fishing his own out and making a show of adding Crowley’s number.

“Is that Anthony with an H?”

“Yes,” Crowley said in a whisper.

“And have I spelt Crowley correctly?” Aziraphale showed him the screen displaying his name complete with its own love heart.

Crowley nodded, no longer trusting his mouth.

“When I first saw you at my table, I thought you were going to be an arrogant book collector who treats rare books like vintage wines: an investment and nothing more,” Aziraphale said this with a soft smile, stroking Crowley’s hands to reassure him. “I soon realised just how wrong I was, how very badly I had misjudged you. You were just so gorgeous and cool, so unlike everyone else I meet in this job. Then you asked for my help with Tracy’s cards and I could see how deeply you care about your friends. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that you and Tracy had only met this morning! I knew then that I wanted to get to know you better. Everything that happened afterwards only cemented that desire.

“I didn’t intend to jump on you like this, I really don’t know what I was thinking. I was just standing here, looking into your bedroom, and feeling this sort of aching loneliness. Then you were there, and this sounds silly just in my head so please forgive me, but you looked so uncertain and fragile that I just wanted to love you until you weren’t lonely any more.”

Crowley tried to laugh but a thick bubble of emotion caught in his throat. He’d never been so seen before, never had someone gently hold his hands and explain that they could see through his bullshit and still wanted to be let in.

“Oh,” he managed, at last.

“If all you want tonight is dinner and conversation, then I will rein myself in and enjoy every second of your company,” Aziraphale said, looking away. He took a steady breath and looked up at Crowley with earnest eyes. “However, you should know that you can have whatever you want from me. I won’t deny you anything.”

Crowley kissed him again, silencing him before he could raise Crowley’s hopes to dizzying and dangerous heights.

“Fuck dinner,” he said against Aziraphale’s lips, pushing off the wall and steering them into the bedroom. “I can’t say no to you, I’d have let you destroy my whole heart if that’s what you’d wanted.”

Just before they reached the bed, Aziraphale turned Crowley around and encouraged him backwards until he fell onto the duvet. Aziraphale followed him, lying beside Crowley and kissing him like they hadn’t been interrupted by gravity.

For as much as Crowley had fantasised about sex with Aziraphale, he quickly found that his imagination was a poor substitute for the real thing. Actually being the focus of Aziraphale’s careful attention and gorgeous hands felt like more than the human body was meant to endure. As each item of clothing was stripped away, Crowley got to feel the most delicate of touches and the most reverent of kisses across his skin. He was drunk on it, sipping honeyed kisses from Aziraphale’s mouth and luxuriating in every pleased noise that Aziraphale graced him with.

After he wriggled out of his tight jeans, he realised that Aziraphale hadn’t so much as loosened his collar.

“You not joining me?” he asked, mouthing at Aziraphale’s pulse point and pulling at the fussy bowtie.

“Do you mean to tell me that you don’t enjoy this?” Aziraphale asked, gently teasing. “I would catalogue every inch of you, dedicate hours of study to the beauty of your hips alone. Perhaps I should fetch my archivist gloves?”

Crowley wasn’t proud of the sound he made at that image, but Aziraphale laughed kindly, kissing him again and soothing any fears he might have had about being mocked.

Aziraphale stood and stripped efficiently, completed unashamed of his body as he bared it. And with good reason, Crowley thought, Aziraphale was a masterpiece of strength and comfort. He pushed his boxer shorts to the floor and Crowley felt his eyes grow wide.

“Oh, fuck me,” he muttered, taking in the impressive size of Aziraphale’s cock.

“Is that what you’d like, dearest?” Aziraphale asked, climbing back on the bed.

Crowley could only nod and reach for another kiss, his need fizzing just under his skin like a firework. He broke away just long enough to fetch lube and condoms from his bedside table.

“Good boy,” Aziraphale crooned as he saw them. Crowley curled up on himself and shuddered at the endearment, afraid of being too needy, of wanting too much. “Oh, did you like that? Do you like being my good boy?”

Crowley whined and nodded, twisting until his face was pressed into Aziraphale’s chest, his cheeks burning with confused arousal and shame.

“Hush, hush, my sweet boy, you precious thing,” Aziraphale ran his fingers down Crowley’s spine as he spoke, ending at the soft skin at the cleft of his buttocks, “whatever you want, remember? Don’t make yourself uncomfortable for me.”

Crowley laughed into Aziraphale’s skin and stretched out once more, kissing all the parts of Aziraphale that he could reach. When he caught Aziraphale’s lips again, he let his hand wander lower to wrap around the solid weight of Aziraphale’s erection. As they kissed, Crowley made a mental map of where Aziraphale liked to be touched, committing the details of his moans and gasps to memory. He was so thick and hard, not outrageously long, but certainly enough for Crowley to anticipate a challenge.

At some point, Aziraphale stopped running his hands over Crowley’s body and hooked one behind Crowley’s knee, drawing it up to drape the whole leg over Aziraphale’s hip.

“Is that alright?” Aziraphale asked as the telltale pop of the lube bottle lid sounded behind Crowley.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Crowley said, so near to begging as to make no difference.

Tilting his hips for Aziraphale, Crowley brought their cocks together between them so he could keep up a lazy rhythm as Aziraphale stroked one slick finger around Crowley’s entrance.

“Relax for me, there’s a good boy, tell me if it’s too much,” Aziraphale kept up a quiet stream of encouragement and praise as he worked Crowley open.

He was just as patient and thorough as Crowley had dreamed, methodical in a way that spoke of care rather than clinical detachment. By the time that Crowley felt ready to take Aziraphale inside, his cock was slick with pre-come, dribbles leaking out each time Aziraphale thrust his fingers home.

“Please,” Crowley begged, clinging to Aziraphale like a life ring, “please, I need you now.”

Aziraphale kissed him again, his clean hand cupping the back of Crowley’s head as he kissed the breath out of Crowley’s lungs.

“Alright, how do you want to do this?” Aziraphale asked between kisses.

Crowley had been thinking about this for some minutes. As much as he wanted to see Aziraphale fall apart inside him, he knew his body, and he knew that a first attempt at taking Aziraphale would work best if he was on his knees. He began to shift, pushing his arse into the air and burying his face in the pillows.

“Go slowly, please,” he asked, too aroused to care about how he sounded.

“Of course, you gorgeous, precious thing. I’ll be so careful with you.” Aziraphale got up onto his knees and rolled a condom on to his cock where Crowley could see, slicking it with a generous amount of lube.

Crowley tried not to think about the reality of what was happening, the image of Aziraphale behind him, nudging his cock into the tight heat of Crowley’s arse. He focused instead on breathing even, steady breaths and keeping as relaxed as possible. Aziraphale kissed down his back, nipping and licking as he stroked the head of his cock between Crowley’s cheeks. The first push was so slow and measured that Crowley barely felt the breach, just pressure.

“You take me so beautifully, Crowley, like you were made for it.”

Crowley didn’t sob, but a similar noise came from his throat.

“I think I was, made for you, that is,” Crowley said between breaths.

A moment later and Crowley felt Aziraphale push past his internal muscles, his head dropped back into the pillows at the sensation. He felt so full, so stretched. A hysterical part of his brain worried that he’d be ruined for any other men after this, but he’d known that would be the case from the moment that Aziraphale had kissed him.

“Still alright there, sweetheart?” Aziraphale asked.

“Yes, good, good,” Crowley panted, wondering how many endearments Aziraphale had in regular rotation.

“You’re doing so well, just a little further,” Aziraphale paused, hissed between his teeth, and then his pelvis was pressed against Crowley’s buttocks.

“Don’t- don’t move!” Crowley almost cried, one hand flailing behind him to try and keep Aziraphale still.

Soft, gentle fingers caught his hand and brought it back down to the bed, stroking the back of it soothingly. Crowley could feel his whole rib cage heaving with each breath as he forced himself to adjust to the stretch of penetration. Aziraphale was huge and throbbing inside him, impossibly large, Crowley felt giddy and powerful.

“OK, I’m ready,” Crowley said as soon as his breathing had calmed.

“I’m not,” said Aziraphale, sounding wrecked and distant.

His forehead dropped onto Crowley’s back, connecting them with another point of contact. Crowley’s heart sang with nonsensical joy that Aziraphale sounded like that because of him, because of his body.

After a few more seconds, Aziraphale began to move, making small and gentle thrusts that gradually grew in power until they found a pace and intensity that worked for them both. The pressure on his prostate had Crowley seeing stars and desperate to grab at his cock, but he wanted Aziraphale to find his pleasure inside him first. If he could make Aziraphale come and cry out his name, then Crowley thought he might not mind not climaxing at all. When he could manage coherent thoughts at all, that was.

“Oh, fuck, Crowley,” Aziraphale groaned into Crowley’s shoulder blade, “you perfect, priceless thing, my good, good boy, you are incredible.”

Crowley could only hiss a series of affirmative noises as Aziraphale’s pace quickened, fucking into him harder and faster.

“Are you going to come for me, darling?” asked Aziraphale as he took Crowley’s cock in his hand, stroking it in time with his thrusts,

“Please, yes, yes, please!” Crowley cried out, hiccuping in surprise at the sudden increase of stimulation.

Aziraphale wrapped his other arm across Crowley’s chest and pulled him up to sit in his lap, sinking him fully onto Aziraphale’s cock. With one deep, gasping groan, Aziraphale shuddered and Crowley could feel the throbbing of his orgasm, deep inside him. Throughout, Aziraphale’s hand worked Crowley’s cock and pushed him over the edge of his own climax just as Aziraphale seemed to come back down.

“Aziraphale!” Crowley cried, covering the head of his cock with one hand and clinging to Aziraphale’s arm with the other.

As pleasure took him completely, Crowley could feel Aziraphale’s tender kisses along the top of his shoulder and up his neck, grounding him in his body.

“That was-” Crowley tried to find a big enough word.

“Yeah,” Aziraphale agreed.

There was nothing more to be said.

 

Some time later, after more kisses had been shared, feeling regained in all limbs, a gentle clean up, and the bare minimum of clothes put on, Crowley found himself in his kitchen, cooking a very basic pasta dish for the pair of them to share. A thought occurred to him as he made a roux, although he waited until after the milk was all added before asking it.

“What did you mean about the purple sticker?” he asked, glancing at Aziraphale.

“Hmm? Oh, everyone bringing something in has to be assigned to an expert. We use coloured stickers and mine are purple. There were several book experts in attendance today, you might have been assigned to any one of them.” Aziraphale sighed thoughtfully. “Luck of the draw, I suppose.”

Crowley nodded, still stirring his sauce. It was a few minutes before he could spare the attention to continue the conversation.

“I got a purple sticker really early on. Almost as soon as I was through the door, actually. Maybe more than luck?” he suggested, pouring cheese sauce over pasta.

“Perhaps,” Aziraphale said, tapping his chin. “You’ll think this is mad, but some months ago I did a valuation for a young lady with a prophecy book. I read one of the prophecies and she insisted that it was meant for me. I dismissed it at the time, but now I wonder.”

Crowley turned away from the stove to look at Aziraphale.

“That episode aired a week and a half ago. I saw it. That’s the one that had today’s event advertised.” He served up the pasta and gave Aziraphale a bowl, leading him into the living room.

With an ease that he hoped Aziraphale didn’t read into, Crowley brought up BBC iPlayer on his TV and started playing the episode in question, skipping forward to the part with the girl and her book.

“Love do come for thee with a head aflame and wild heart. See beyond the stranger’s look and find true treasure,” said the Aziraphale on the screen.

Crowley hit pause and looked at Aziraphale, waiting for him to react.

“You brought me a heart drawn by Wilde, and I did judge your appearance,” Aziraphale said, sounding a little shocked.

Laughing, Crowley leaned into Aziraphale’s side, kissing his shoulder through the soft white t-shirt.

“One hell of a coincidence, I guess,” he said, keeping his stupid hope caged up.

“Fate, coincidence, predetermination, whatever it was that brought us together, I must agree that you are truly a treasure.” Aziraphale sounded so certain of it that Crowley couldn’t help but believe it himself, just a little.