Parked on the side of a crowded SoHo street on a dark night in 1967, the demon Crowley made the agonizing decision to disappear - utterly and permanently - from the life of the angel Aziraphale.
“You go too fast for me, Crowley…”
The words had stung, yeah - but it wasn’t the words but the eyes that made Crowley drive away that night with every intention of never interacting with Aziraphale again.
Crowley knew a little bit about a lot of things, but there were two things in which he considered himself to be expert. The first was of course, temptation - his responsibility and, officially on the record, reason for existence.
The second was Aziraphale.
And while Aziraphale’s words had warned him away, the angel’s eyes had told Crowley something completely different. There was a depth of longing there, a sorrowful ache that told Crowley if he’d pushed just a little more - perhaps offered dinner at that new little restaurant that had made him think of Aziraphale the moment he saw their new sign in the window - perhaps just reached out and caught the angel’s sleeve as he was about to get out of the Bentley and asked him not to go …
Aziraphale would have stayed.
He wanted to, Crowley knew it. Temptation expert and all - it was impossible to miss the temptation he himself had created in the angel’s eyes, the slowly building desperation of desire, mingled with the fear and shame of knowing that he should not be desiring.
It struck Crowley’s heart through with terror.
He thought of Aziraphale, all soft colors and softer eyes and a loving warmth that drew Crowley in, enticed by the faintest taste of the Heaven he’d lost - he thought of the first time he’d seen Aziraphale’s pure white wings, and moments after that, the purity of love and generosity in the angel’s heart. In all of Heaven and Hell and Earth, Aziraphale was the one truly good person Crowley knew to be in existence.
And then he thought of flames, and agony, and the acrid scent of burning flesh and feathers when he’d plummeted from the heavens, the painful impact followed by unspeakable agony as molten sulphur dragged him under… and the way it felt when even that unspeakable agony was utterly obliterated by the breathtaking devastation of realizing all that he’d lost.
He knew in that moment, the certainty like a bullet to the heart - he had to stay away from Aziraphale.
He’d give himself to me if I asked. Crowley knew it to be true. And in so doing he’d damn his own soul… he’d Fall.
No matter what it meant he had to do - or stop doing - Crowley could not let that happen.
So for the next couple of decades, Crowley threw himself into whatever distractions he could find. Every now and then, something fun would show up in the cinema. Technology became increasingly advanced, and full of new and intriguing possibilities for temptation. Music became exceedingly awesome - and then went to utter shit.
There was always alcohol - exceedingly ridiculous quantities of alcohol.
And there was work.
Hell would historically look back on these few years in Crowley’s existence as the time when he “actually tried”. He performed more temptations in a single week than he’d done in a month before, and he did try, really, to make them a bit more destructive than had been his tendency for the last few millennia. Some humans actually even got hurt as a result of his antics - and in two cases, he actually managed to restrain himself from going back and secretly doing what he could to un-hurt them.
Of course, in one of those cases, the human was a child abuser - in the other, a corrupt politician.
He did his job, if not to perfection, better than he’d done it for most of his career - and he tried to ignore the soft voice in the back of his head that sounded too much like Aziraphale even after all this time, and never said anything more than, “Oh, Crowley ,” in a tone that wasn’t quite angry with him, but rather just … hurt and disappointed .
Hell, on the other hand, became increasingly angry with how frequently someone seemed to be thwarting his wiles at every turn. It was harder than ever to forget about Aziraphale, when every other conversation or so Crowley was blaming him for the failure of his latest job.
“He’s a clever one, that angel, always seems to be a step ahead of me…”
“I don’t know how he knew what I was planning, I’ll try to keep it secret next time…”
The thought that perhaps word might get back to the proper authorities and at least Aziraphale might get some Heavenly credit or a promotion out of all of it was a slight comfort.
And then one cold night in the winter of 1986, with Hell breathing down his neck and a temptation that had gone a little better than he’d hoped for - all his good intentions went straight to Heaven, and the demon Crowley found himself knocking on Aziraphale’s door.
Bumping into it repeatedly and with no particular rhythm might have been a more accurate way of putting it. Aziraphale wasn’t quite sure that anyone was properly knocking at his door at all, but thought it best that he check anyway.
And there was Crowley, leaning against the door and stumbling inside when Aziraphale opened it.
“Crowley! What are you - what’s wrong?” He frowned, his heart sinking at the strong scent of alcohol pouring off the demon, which would not have been all that troubling if not in combination with the tracks of dried tears that streaked his face. “What’s happened?”
He nudged Crowley away from the door, turning to lock it behind them, before leading him to the sofa and helping him to sit down.
“‘S nothing,” Crowley insisted, shaking his head too slowly and too emphatically as Aziraphale sat down beside him. “Nothing, ‘m just a little drunk…”
“ Crowley .” Aziraphale reached out one hand to steady Crowley’s shoulder, the other reaching up to carefully take his glasses from his face and set them aside, against his incoherent protests. “Please, my dear, just talk to me… look at me, Crowley...”
When Crowley reluctantly complied, the anguish and guilt was clear all over his face - and so strong that Aziraphale could feel it, rolling off of him in waves. All angels and demons were naturally empathic to a certain extent, but Aziraphale more so than most angels. He was usually far more attuned to positive emotions than he was to negative ones - which only spoke to the intensity of the devastation that Crowley was currently experiencing, that Aziraphale could feel it so strongly.
But then, Aziraphale supposed it was not all that surprising. He’d always been far more attuned to Crowley than he was to anyone else, as well.
“Oh, Crowley,” he said softly, watching him with worried eyes, biting his lip a little to keep from spilling out the gentle accusation that echoed only in his mind.
What have you done?
Crowley’s reaction was such that Aziraphale immediately wondered with dismay if he’d accidentally spoken aloud. The demon’s face crumpled. His usual shield taken from him, he hid his eyes behind his hand as his tears began to flow again.
“‘M sorry,” he whispered, “I’m so sorry…”
Aziraphale knew quite a lot about a lot of things, but there were two things in which he considered himself to be expert. The first was human emotion, as it was something that he was frequently surrounded by, and often held the responsibility to influence it in various ways for the better.
The second was Crowley.
And while he knew that demonic emotion wasn’t quite the same as human emotion, generally speaking - in all their long history of knowing each other, Aziraphale had found Crowley to be the exception that proved the rule. He’d always been a bit … soft , for a demon, his emotions close enough to the surface to be easily read despite the mask he wore for the world.
And that was the troubling thing at the moment, wasn’t it? How the mask seemed to have fallen away entirely.
With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Aziraphale was increasingly certain that whatever it was Crowley was feeling such guilt for, it was far worse than the usual temptations and minor annoyances for which he was often responsible.
His sinking feeling was completely correct.
In disjointed, slurred, barely coherent sentences, Crowley told Aziraphale that he’d been sent to tempt a young father of two - not even tempt, really, his superiors had shrugged it off. More like just sowing a bit of discord in the young man’s family. All Crowley had to do was just sidle up to the man at the party, hand him another drink and whisper in his ear, just a bit of suspicion, while the young man watched his wife laughing with a male friend across the room.
There was no way that Crowley could have known that the man already had a tendency toward violent anger, especially when he’d been drinking - no way he could possibly have known that that night, when the couple arrived home, the drunk, angry young man would take the pistol from the safe under his bed and slaughter his entire family.
“They’re just kids …” Crowley was distraught, despondent. “I didn’t know he’d… they didn’t do anything wrong… she didn’t do anything wrong, it was lies , it was me, I did this …”
“ Crowley .” Aziraphale made his tone sharp enough to cut through Crowley’s rapid downward spiral, reaching out to grip his shoulders and shake him just slightly, just enough to regain his attention. “Where are they? Where do they live?”
Crowley met his eyes again, confusion giving way to understanding, and then to hope, as he hurriedly blurted out the address - local, and not far.
“Wait here,” Aziraphale instructed, holding Crowley’s gaze with a somewhat severe, expectant look until Crowley nodded. Satisfied that he would find the demon where he’d left him when he returned, Aziraphale vanished from the room, reappearing an instant later across town, in the home Crowley had indicated.
The cacophony of anguish and dread that permeated the place was overwhelming, even before Aziraphale saw the bodies of the slain family - four bodies, not the three Crowley had indicated, because apparently once the father had realized what he’d done to his family, he’d turned his weapon on himself and taken his own life.
Aziraphale wasted no time, going first to the youngest child, a girl of about three. and touching her head, closing his eyes as the healing warmth of his grace flowed into her, bringing her back to life. A second touch placed the child in her own bed down the hall, sleeping peacefully with no memory of what had transpired that evening. Aziraphale repeated the procedure with the older child, and then the mother.
He stopped, standing over the body of the father, staring down at him, his natural tendency toward compassion for humanity warring with the cold disgust he felt. The pain in this house was deep, and old, and went far further than the events of a single night. Aziraphale knew that this was a man who had terrorized and abused his family, long before he ever lost control enough to take their lives.
Aziraphale touched the man, but did not restore his life - only moved his body to an alley just outside a bar he’d been known to frequent, so that his family would not awaken to find him there. He wasn’t killing the man, he reasoned. The man had already done that himself. He was simply being… selective with his use of miracles.
He returned to find Crowley dozing sitting up on the sofa, the copious amounts of alcohol he’d consumed working in tandem with his emotional exhaustion. Aziraphale sat down close beside Crowley and reached out to take his hand, offering him a reassuring smile when the demon startled to wakefulness.
“Angel…” Crowley’s voice was hoarse, anxious. “Did you… they’re…”
“Alive,” Aziraphale assured him with a nod. “As if it never happened.”
Crowley’s shoulders fell with relief, and he let out a shaky sigh. “Thwarted by you again,” he remarked with a weak, brittle smile. “There’ll be consequences, of course, for my failure… but at least I’ll be able to live with myself for the next few centuries.”
Aziraphale frowned, slightly confused at the “again”, as he hadn’t had any contact whatsoever with Crowley for nearly twenty years. He let it pass, though, and instead replied mildly, “I wouldn’t call it a failure, exactly.”
The mother and children lived - but Hell would still see some results from Crowley’s interactions with his target. Could Crowley be blamed if there was only one casualty from his temptation, as opposed to four?
Crowley looked confused, shaking his head a little as he studied Aziraphale’s face, and Aziraphale was struck by how open he looked, how vulnerable, without his sunglasses, his face tear-streaked, eyes wide and worried.
“I’ve handled it, Crowley,” he insisted firmly. “You needn’t worry. The family is safe - and the father will never harm them again.”
Understanding dawned in Crowley’s eyes, and he nodded slowly, lowering his head, sighing with relief. “Thank you,” he breathed out. “Thanks, angel…”
Without thinking about what he was doing - a little alarmed when he realized he’d done it - Aziraphale reached out a hand to gently cup Crowley’s cheek, his heart stuttering a bit when Crowley’s eyes drifted shut and he leaned into the touch - momentarily stopping altogether when Crowley opened his eyes again and looked up at Aziraphale, unspeakable depths of emotion in his gaze.
“I’ve missed you,” Aziraphale found himself confessing, unaware he was going to speak the words until he’d spoken them.
Fresh tears welled in Crowley’s eyes, and Aziraphale could feel his yearning, a desperate ache to express something for which he hadn’t the words - even before Crowley unexpectedly moved forward, closing the distance between them, one trembling hand rising to still Aziraphale’s face as he pressed his mouth to Aziraphale’s in a kiss that was somehow hungry and hesitant at the same time.
Stunned, Aziraphale did not respond, though his heart was racing and something long buried was stirring deep within him, a hunger to match Crowley’s, though he’d tried to suppress it for centuries.
Crowley drew back after a moment, lowering his head, shaking it sadly, his words a barely audible, sibilant whisper. “Sorry… sorry, angel, I don’t know what…”
Aziraphale silenced him with a kiss of his own, one hand threaded through the hair at the back of Crowley’s neck, drawing him in and kissing him deeply. After a startled moment, Crowley responded, his hands sliding around Aziraphale’s waist and drinking in the contact as if he’d been dying of thirst.
He has , Aziraphale realized with a pang of regret. For how long? Decades? Centuries?
But Crowley was drunk, and overwrought, and exhausted, so Aziraphale broke the kiss after a few moments, hushing Crowley’s stammered uncertainties with gentle fingertips against his soft, trembling lips.
“We’ll talk tomorrow,” he promised, pulling Crowley’s head down against his shoulder. “Rest now, dear. Tomorrow .”
When morning came, Crowley tried to disappear from Aziraphale’s life once more - but Aziraphale was having none of it. He caught him at the door, slipping his sunglasses onto his face and preparing to walk out - and stopped both with a single hand tangling in Crowley’s sleeve and bringing him up short, turning him around. Pulling Crowley back into his arms, Aziraphale promised him that it was not a mistake, not a moment of weakness that he’d regret. He wanted Crowley, had wanted him as long as he could remember - and he wasn’t going to let him slip away so easily this time.
“You’ll fall,” Crowley whispered, eyes closed, forehead tilted down against Aziraphale’s, his words choked with fear and shame. “Being with me… like that… you’ll fall , angel…”
“Perhaps I would,” Aziraphale conceded softly, his arms around Crowley holding him fast, refusing his retreat. “If what I felt for you was simply… fleshly desire. And I do,” he admitted with a self-conscious little chuckle. “I do feel that for you, Crowley, but… it’s more.” He placed a gentle hand at Crowley’s chin, tilting his head up until the demon reluctantly met his eyes. “Surely you know that it’s more?”
Crowley swallowed slowly, hesitation in his eyes before he confessed, quiet, aching, “It is for me.”
Aziraphale had once wondered if it was possible for demons to love. At every turn, Crowley had challenged his prejudices, and made him question all he’d thought he’d known about the fallen ones. Crowley loved , with a depth of intensity to rival the love of any human. Surrounded by his colleagues who expected him to do his worst, Crowley tried at every turn to do as little damage as possible. His tender, passionate heart laid out on display for Aziraphale the previous evening, there had been no way for Aziraphale to deny it any further.
Crowley had a conscience. Crowley had a heart, so full of love and tenderness - and for at least the past few decades, Aziraphale had been repeatedly breaking it open and leaving it to bleed.
Aziraphale had not been ready in 1967. In the winter of 1986… he was.
“I love you,” he said, looking Crowley directly in the eye, meeting Crowley’s doubtful gaze by repeating insistently, “ I love you .”
He could feel Crowley’s body shaking against him, watched as the dam broke in his eyes and Crowley kissed him again, intense and desperate, not pulling away until they both were breathless.
“Aziraphale,” Crowley gasped out against his lips. “Love you, love you, angel, love you …”
It was the beginning of a new chapter for the two of them. They spent more time together than they ever had allowed themselves to before, as they came to know each other in ways neither of them had ever imagined would be possible. They tried to be careful, aware that neither of their respective sides would be happy to learn of their relationship - but it was hard to hold back after waiting for so many years. They shared each other’s homes, shared intimate moments, shared memorable dates in locations both familiar and cherished, and new and exciting.
Aziraphale was happier than he’d ever been in his existence, and certain that it was going to last, quite literally, forever.
Until a warm summer day in the year 2000… when Crowley vanished from his life once more.