She was a lot of things she didn’t want to be, for a very long, long time. A gentleman named Alistair van Buren built her in 1681, and then she stood empty for three years before someone thought of putting in a bakery there on the corner. Soho, you know. Neighborhood on the rise. But she didn’t last long as a bakery. After that she was a cafe, then after that she was abandoned. Then she was a paper shop, and after that another cafe.
She was dozens of things for so many years, but none of it was what she really wanted. No, what she wanted most in the whole entire world — was to be a bookshop.
When she’d been a cafe for the first time, the owner kept a few shelves of books for his customers to read. Students came and discussed philosophy, and she absorbed their words into the wooden frame of her walls. People came and wrote plays and books of poetry. They wrote novels or talked about novels. Someone once came in and painted a map of Paris on one of the walls. The owner just let them.
But after her first taste, she decided. She didn’t want to be a coffee house or a tea shop or a butchery or a bakery — she wanted to be a bookshop.
By 1792 she’d been abandoned again, for several years. Things went up and in around her, but no one wanted her to house their shelves. No one wanted her to hold their books. No one wanted her to be what she wanted — until the Angel showed up.
The Angel was obviously an Angel. She felt that right away. Eternal and ethereal and everlasting. He had been walking past with a friend of his, a man in dark clothes who was Not An Angel. That man was a Demon. She felt this very clearly.
“Why are you stopping?” he asked.
“Hm? Oh, it’s nothing. It’s only...well. Well I just feel something here.”
The Demon rolled his eyes. “Oh, you’re not on about that love stuff again, are you?”
“No, no, it’s not that. It’s...something else. Something like need, but...sweeter. Softer than that.” The Angel came up, and put a hand on one of her doors. “Right,” he said. “I’m going inside.”
Oh, she thought. Hello.
The Angel stepped into the bookshop.
“Please be careful with those, gentlemen. They are first editions.”
Hired movers did we?
“Terrible mistake,” Aziraphale muttered. “Hiring movers.”
Thought you were magic.
“Gabriel was very cross, you know.” He nudged a red velvet chair with his hip. “All the miracles. I told Crowley all this in Paris, of course. Back when we tried the first time. Sorry,” he added, and placed a gentle hand on one of her walls. “Didn’t mean to leave you alone for so long.”
Aziraphale had secured the deed to the shop in the winter of 1792, right before being forced to go to Sicily for some work that kept him occupied until early 1793. When he returned, he announced he was hungry, left, and came back with a very grumpy Crowley in tow.
“Next time keep your hunger under control, angel. For fuck’s sake.” He’d slammed the door on the empty shop. Aziraphale had sighed, then was immediately called to work somewhere in Switzerland. For the next handful of years, the bookshop was really only a house, and stored a small collection of books Aziraphale had been gathering for some years.
It was 1799 when things really turned around. He returned from Edinborough with an entire carriage of things, books that had been liberated from their previous master — “Crowley’s doing,” he said, though she didn’t really believe him. Of course eventually there were not enough shelves, and that’s where the movers had come in. Aziraphale had them custom made, then delivered and installed.
The young men doing the work did not care about the crates of books that had been gathering dust over the last several years, and Aziraphale was distraught.
Should have asked the Demon to do it.
“Should have just had Crowley come and do it.”
Oh Angel, she thought.
Aziraphale sighed and sat in the chair, waiting with his nose in a book until one of the men came upstairs asking for their pay. Aziraphale handed it over and ushered them out.
“Oh they’ve made a mess,” he muttered, once it was just them. “Well.” He snapped his fingers and everything started to rearrange itself to his preferred layout. “Take that up with head office later,” he muttered, and went to make himself a cup of tea.
The shop did not like Gabriel.
For starters, Gabriel had tracked mud in on the new Persian rug Crowley had bought for Aziraphale so he could cover the summoning circle they’d carved into the wooden floor together. He hadn’t even noticed and never said he was sorry, not once!
The other reason was that he wanted Aziraphale to go back to Heaven. The shop was well acquainted with Heaven. She’d briefly housed some flu victims in the 1740’s, and the nuns would come by to pray and make sure their poor, suffering souls could make their way to God.
(She had thoughts on God, too, but that was neither here nor there.)
“Michael?” Aziraphale asked. “You want Michael here on Earth?”
“You’ve done fantastic work,” Gabriel said in a cheerful tone the shop Did Not Like. “It’s time to come home and be rewarded.”
“...Right,” Aziraphale said. “Of course.”
Outside the shop, she felt the Demon. Oh, she adored the Demon. All his little mannerisms, his little ticks and twitches. Crowley and Aziraphale were, despite what either may have said about one another, very good friends. She could feel that quite clearly. And he’d brought a very big, very beautiful box of chocolates that he was waving in front of one of the shop windows.
Aziraphale’s tension was suddenly very palpable.
“—wrap up whatever you need to here and just—” Gabriel pointed up.
“...I understand.” Aziraphale smiled and escorted Gabriel out of the shop. When he closed the door, he looked down and finally saw the tracks of mud. “Oh...damn.”
“Angel!” Crowley burst in, his joy and his excitement pouring off him. The shop warmed instantly against the chill of the oncoming winter, and the candles all dimmed to Crowley’s preference. “Two things. These? For you.” He shoved the box into Aziraphale’s hands and embraced him. “Second thing. Gabriel. Why was he here, what did he want?”
Aziraphale smiled. “These are lovely, Crowley. Thank you.” He set the box on a table. “Gabriel’s just been telling me how much they appreciate my work here.”
“Well that’s great. You deserve a commendation now and then.”
“They’d like to reward me by giving me work...upstairs.”
Crowley’s face fell. The joy diminished. The shop grew cold and it wasn’t even her fault.
“Oh,” he said. “I see.”
“It’s a wonderful reward,” Aziraphale said, turning back to the box of chocolates and opening the lid. “Ha. All my favorites. I’m starting to think you know me better than I know myself.” He put one on his tongue to let it melt. That was his favorite way to eat chocolate. “Anyway, I need to wrap up things here. Not much I’m...I’m afraid.” Aziraphale had turned to speak to Crowley, but Crowley was gone. The door was swinging shut.
The shop watched him head down the street, and she knew that walk. That looking for trouble walk. They both had one, but Crowley’s was far more pronounced. Aziraphale went to the door and looked after him as he disappeared into the crowd.
Go! she thought. Go after him!
He’s not too far, you could catch him! You could—
“Best leave him be,” Aziraphale murmured, and went back inside.
No! No, go get him, go bring him back. Bring our demon back—
Aziraphale took another chocolate and put it in his mouth. “Caramel,” he said.
And she knew — he adored caramel.
“Hm?” Crowley was sprawled on one of the sofas, drinking champagne straight from the bottle. They were celebrating, after all. No need for Aziraphale to return to Heaven, actually. Really, he could keep all the commendations and the pay raise, of course, and if he could maybe keep that flaming sword of his a bit more handy it’d be greatly appreciated by head office.
“Did you have anything to do with Gabriel changing his mind?”
Crowley sat up and took a long swig from the bottle. “No idea what you’re talking about,” he said, and collapsed onto the sofa again and began to snore.
Aziraphale smiled into his own bottle and took a sip. He looked around. “I couldn’t bare to leave you,” he murmured. He put a hand on his desk. “We’ve only just gotten to know one another, haven’t we.”
Don’t you leave me, Angel. Don’t you dare. Not now, not ever again.
“Wonder what it was he said?”
That he loves you, maybe. No, that wouldn’t have worked at all.
“Probably nothing important.”
Everything he says is important. And don’t you forget it, Angel.
The door to the shop slammed shut, and Aziraphale was breathing very heavy. His mind was racing, she could sense it.
What’s wrong? What’s happened? Come here and tell me. Come here and let me make it better.
Aziraphale tossed his hat away, and practically everything else. “Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid—”
It must be about him. Did he tell you? Do you know?
“Holy water. Holy water. What the devil — no. Best not...best not think like that.”
Oh, Demon. Demon what did you do?
“How could he ask me? How could he think that I’d help...help him—” Aziraphale trembled.
Aziraphale never trembled.
I have you. She had never wanted so badly to hold him. Never wished so much before that she was a human, a creature like him with arms and hands and a lap for him to lay his head in. I will always have you.
Aziraphale took a deep breath. “It’s fine,” he said.
She did not see Crowley for six years. Neither did Aziraphale. But she was selfish, in those years, trying to convince him to go looking. Sometimes he’d think it, she could tell. Sometimes he’d even ask, “Where do you think he’s gone?” He wasn’t in his flat. That temptation Aziraphale had not been able to resist.
There was one letter, sent from a ship in 1866. Just a simple, Angel — Found some sea glass. Thought of you. — C. Aziraphale had placed the glass in a little dish on his desk. Sometimes he would take it and rub it between his thumb and forefingers. Other times he would slip it into his coat pocket and toy with it whenever Gabriel came round, which was not often. Just once, actually, to reprimand him for a miracle here or there, assign him some inane task.
Well, it could have been important, but all tasks that took Aziraphale away from London were inane, in the shop’s opinion.
And then, one day — Crowley came home.
At least, the shop thought of it as his home. There was plenty of room, she wanted to say. Easy. Could make up another bed, Aziraphale hadn’t been resting in it much that last six years anyway.
His presence warmed the shop from the center out. Hellfire or whatever, the shop didn’t care. The shop only loved him. Only rejoiced that he had come back.
And come back with gifts, too. First editions galore, boxes of chocolate, three bottles of champagne, and a new scarf.
All to say I’m sorry, without ever having to speak the words out loud.
“Sailing,” Aziraphale said. Or, slurred, rather. “You were sailing?”
“Just for a bit.”
“You left me here to go sailing.”
“To clear my head, angel.” Crowley refilled their glasses. “Anyway, came back didn’t I? Shop looks good—”
“You sell anything?”
Aziraphale made an offended sound. “I would never.”
Crowley laughed. He laughed and laughed and laughed.
Eventually, Aziraphale laughed, too.
Oh, she thought. I’ve missed this.
Things went very well for a long time, after that. The Arrangement was her favorite thing to hear them talk about. They spoke of it reverently, in low and quiet voices. It always felt less that they were worried someone might hear, and more that they feared something would break. Likely them. Their connection could be fragile, at times.
You see, she could feel it.
Crowley was in love with Aziraphale.
He had been. She had felt it from the very beginning. But all the time, it just got harder and harder for him to hide.
And she loved Aziraphale, too. Not the way Crowley did, of course. Crowley looked at Aziraphale like wanted to dig into him, bury his entire self in everything Aziraphale was and never climb back out. No, she loved him because he was her’s, because he’d made her into exactly what she wanted to be. And she didn’t mind sharing, especially not with someone she loved almost as much.
The nineteenth century faded into the twentieth. On New Year’s Eve, they were drunk and sitting on the roof of the bookshop and she swore he was going to do it. She really thought he was going to say it.
“What’s your wish, Crowley? For the twentieth century.”
Only an angel and demon would make resolutions and wishes for an entire hundred years.
And oh, she could feel it. She could feel how he leaned in. How they breathed one another’s air. How he longed for the creature beside him
Yes! Do it! Tell him. Tell him and be with us. Be part of us. Be here with us forever.
“...Just. For things to stay...stay as good as they’ve been, angel. For us. I’m sure humanity will find a way to run itself into the ground a few times over. Maybe a dozen, just for good measure.”
Aziraphale laughed. “Oh, they’re so good at that. You don’t need to do anything, and Heaven keeps my own hands tied.” He shook his head. “We’re useless at our jobs.”
“Well. We have each other,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley’s entire being caved.
He loves you. I know he does. I know he does, he just...he’s slow on the uptake. He’ll get it soon. Please, tell him. Please say it.
“...Happy New Year, angel.” Two glasses clinked in the dark.
Aziraphale smiled. “Happy New Year, my dear.”
“Steady, girl.” Aziraphale put a hand on one of her walls. “Steady.”
I’m afraid. I’m afraid, I’m afraid —
“We’ll make it through the night. Don’t you worry.”
Where is he? Where’s our Demon?
She could hear the sound of Zeppelin overhead, and it shook her. It frightened her.
It frightened him.
Couldn’t they go back? Back to chocolates and champagne bottles and tea before sunrise and New Years on the rooftop? Where was Crowley? Where was Crowley?
“Angel!” The door opened and closed.
“Crowley! Oh, thank God.”
“Here, in here—”
“They’re bombing the bloody city, angel. They’ve got nowhere to go.”
Oh. She felt something...new. Something like…
“C’mere you lot. Aziraphale, get that one, she’s got a gash on her head. Got knocked by some rubble.”
“Is she alright?”
“Just grazed her.”
Another roar of the Zeppelin. One of the children began to cry. Crowley had brought a dozen of them into the shop, and was herding them into the sitting room, urging them to sit. He held a toddler in his arms, her head covered with a blanket. Aziraphale brought out bandages and antiseptic.
And still, you could hear it.
The gramophone began to play In A Monastery Garden. Loud.
Crowley and Aziraphale both looked at it, then one another.
Aziraphale asked, “Did you…”
Crowley shook his head. “No,” he said. “I didn’t.”
Aziraphale nodded. “Right. Of course.”
Later though, when the bombing had stopped, when the music was low, and the children were asleep, he climbed the stairs to his room and put his hand on the banister.
“Good girl,” he whispered.
Yes. Yes, I am.
“...Crowley. What is it?”
Crowley huffed. “It’s a car, angel. Have you not been paying attention? All the rage, these are.”
“No,” he said. “I just...don’t understand why you have one.”
“Because it’s gorgeous. Have you seen it? Look at her. I mean...I mean look at her!” Crowley ran a hand over the roof of the car and swooned. “You don’t listen to him,” he said gently. “You’re a splendid acquisition.”
“I don’t pay for things,” Crowley said. “And I’m not going to start now.”
They bickered as they went back into the shop. Aziraphale thought he should at least go back to wherever he’d gotten the car and buy some sort of accessory. “A fashionable pair of driving gloves, perhaps.”
“I didn’t get her from the store. She was just sitting there. On the street. Absolutely abandoned.”
“Demon!” Crowley countered, but he still opened the door and they still shared a few bottles of wine to pass the night.
The shop, meanwhile, was trying to make sense of this.
What is it?
I’m a Bentley.
I don’t know what that is.
You don’t have books about cars in there?
Not really much of a bookshop then, is it?
Oh, thought the shop. She didn’t like this one at all.
After a while, the Bentley said, Shop?
I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to insult your, ah. Your innards.
Never speak that way about my contents again.
Right. No, you’re right. I’m sorry. Ah, won’t happen again.
The shop did not believe that. Not for a second.
I’m not speaking to you.
Oh, come off it. It was just a bit of a joy ride!
You could have discorporated him.
No idea what that means.
Yes, well, you are new.
What do you want?
I like your new sign.
It’s not new.
No. It’s been there since eighteen hundred.
Oh. Can’t say I noticed it before.
Crowley took the Bentley everywhere. He was terribly fond of it, speaking to it softly when he thought no one could hear, or pleading with Aziraphale to just go for a ride.
“To the country! I’ll go slow, I swear.”
“Absolutely not. You drive like a maniac.”
“Oh, it’s fine. She likes it better that way.”
Aziraphale frowned. “She?”
“Crowley, you can’t tell me that you think the car has preferences.”
“Sure she does.” Crowley sipped his coffee. “Same as your shop.”
Aziraphale sputtered. “My shop? My shop is a Soho institution. She has been standing here since sixteen eighty-one, and she—” Aziraphale stopped. Crowley was grinning like a madman. “I refuse to carry on this line of conversation. My shop and your car are nothing alike. My shop has character. Your car will go out of fashion in ten years, and you know it.”
“Is that a bet?”
“You’ll see,” Crowley said. “She’ll be a classic.”
She’ll wind up on a trash heap, the shop thought bitterly.
I heard that.
Good. I wasn’t trying to keep quiet.
“Oh, dear.” Aziraphale’s hands shook. “This one,” he murmured. “Yes, this one will do.”
Please don’t do this.
“What do you think?” He lifted his copy of Mother Shipton. “Pretend we don’t have it? No one’s leaving with these anyway.” He sighed. “Still.”
Still. You don’t have to go. Stay here with me. He’s angry at you, remember? You made him so mad —
A terrible fight. It had rattled her walls, the shouting. Fights about holy water. More fights about nothing. They always bickered over the same thing. They always had the same regrets.
He’d tell you not to go. He’d tell you to stay home, to stay safe.
“I’m off,” Aziraphale said. He moved swiftly toward the door, then paused, turning back.
No. Don’t you dare.
Don’t you dare say goodbye.
“I’ll be back,” he said.
You fucking better be.
“Easy, angel, easy.”
“Crowley, I’m fine. It’s you I’m worried about.”
“Your feet! You were on consecrated ground.”
“Yes,” Crowley drawled. “I remember.”
Oh! Oh, he’s alright.
Yeah, he’ll be fine. Bit rattled, I think.
Is he? And Crowley—
Fine as ever, you know him.
And you? Are you alright?
Of course I’m alright. Since when did you care about me?
Since you got him back safe. My Angel. You brought him back to me.
Oh, shop. As if I’d do anything else.
You’re very welcome. The car sighed. You know he loves him, right?
Hm? Oh, yes. I’ve felt it for a long time. I felt it the first time they were here together, before I was ever a bookshop.
I think...we’re talking about the wrong he, actually.
Yes. Can’t you feel it? Don’t you feel the change, same as me?
The shop turned her attention back inside, where Aziraphale was crowding Crowley into an overstuffed armchair. “Here, drink this.”
“Angel, knock it off.”
“Just let me see.”
And there, there! She felt it. Oh, she felt it. So clear and so close.
Love. Love, returned.
Aziraphale pulled his chair close to Crowley’s, and put his hands on his bare feet.
“...Angel. It’s fine.”
“Won’t you...won’t you just let me?”
They looked at one another. Really looked.
“...Yes,” Crowley said. “Yes, alright.”
They both know.
Do they know they both know?
Well. I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?
Crowley didn’t go home that night. He slept on the sofa, and Aziraphale slept in the chair next to him. It was a quiet night. No more bombs. Nothing at all.
The shop considered something. You know...I’m very glad you’re alive, too.
Are you now?
Yes. I am.
That might be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.
I know, shop. And I appreciate it.
You’ll...make sure he comes back, won’t you?
Good. Because they need to see one another as often as possible. Now that, you know. Things are mutual.
Oh! Yes, I agree. They really need to stay together.
Yes. Those two.
Mmhm. Angel and demon. Keep ‘em together.
The car sighed. Right.
After that, they worked very hard at making sure the two of them saw one another as often as possible. The shop knocked apples onto the floor — apples always made Aziraphale think of Crowley, and he’d send for him, or arrange a meeting within the hour. She knocked books down, books of love poems to get him in the mood.
What did he read that made him call?
Thomas Hardy. ‘Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove over tedious riddles of years ago. And some words played between us to and fro, on which lost the more by our love.’
Oh, I like that one.
...Have any others?
Any others he read?
No, just...other poems. That you could...read to me.
Oh. Oh! I, um. I could. She thought for a moment. ‘What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.’
That’s very lovely.
It’s Walt Whitman. Do you know any poems?
Ha! Do I look like I read poetry?
No. I suppose not.
But it was very good all the same, shop. Ah, here he comes. Tomorrow, then.
Yes, said the shop. Tomorrow.
In 1955, Crowley and Aziraphale stopped speaking for twelve years.
The catalyst, as it had often been, was holy water.
Always, always, always with the holy water.
“If you’d just explain to me why you want it—”
“That’s none of your concern.”
“Well I won’t just make it if you don’t.”
“So bloody obedient.”
“Yes!” Aziraphale said. “That’s the entire point of me!”
Crowley snarled. “Fine. I’ll get it some other way.”
“Fine! I hope you spill it all over yourself!”
Crowley shoved. Aziraphale shoved back. A shelf tumbled over. The shop rumbled, displeased.
Crowley asked, “Won’t you even listen?”
“Won’t you? To reason, Crowley?” Aziraphale sighed. “I don’t want to fight.”
“Too late for that.” The door opened. “I’ll see you, angel.” He stalked out to the Bentley.
It’s okay. We can fix this.
Don’t see how.
Patiently. Carefully. And with love.
In the winter of 1955, Crowley drove past the bookshop a dozen times, and he never really knew why. Well, he must have known why. He must have felt like he couldn’t stay away. It was, after all, just as much his home as it was Aziraphale’s.
You shouldn’t bring him ‘round so often, just to watch. Angel sees, sometimes.
I don’t always do it for him.
Then why —
I do it for me.
I miss you.
You don’t have to say it back.
I do miss you.
It’ll work out.
Yes. I’m sure it will.
Aziraphale had heard about the heist through a group of friends he’d met in a pub one afternoon. He liked to go there and read on Wednesdays, to get out for a day, observe people as they were. The perpetrator of the heist was so obviously Crowley, it was damn near pathetic. Of course, no one knew Crowley as well as Aziraphale, so perhaps it was less about Crowley’s ineptitude in organized crime and more about how many years they’d known one another.
Either way, he’d come back to the bookstore and was pacing back and forth, debating himself.
“If Heaven finds out I’ve made it for him, they’ll pull me for sure. But if I explain it’s for someone else, they’ll leave me alone. Of course they could check, but then every cathedral in the city has holy water just lying about. It’d be easy to say it’s just mixed in.”
Oh, you clever thing. Just make it. Bless it.
“He’ll kill himself getting it. I’ve no idea where he’ll keep it.” Aziraphale huffed. “No. It’s better for him to have it. Better that I...I do it myself.”
Do it. I need him back. I need them both.
I need her.
The shop felt selfish. She missed the car so much it rattled through her ancient wiring. Shorted a few bulbs here and there when her ache was especially palpable. Aziraphale called her an ancient thing, but how could he know? How could he tell, when his own love he kept buried beneath the muscled layers of his heart, tucked into his essence and completely inaccessible to even himself.
“Right.” He went and got a thermos, filled it with water, and began the blessing.
The day after Crowley called off the heist, he was sitting in his usual chair, pouring Aziraphale a glass of wine, and bemoaning the state of London’s criminal underbelly.
How good are we, huh?
I think they may have done this themselves.
Maybe. I’m willing to take credit, though. You know what sort of things he mumbles about when he’s in here? Lucky I don’t have a tape recorder.
Angel’s no better.
Our boys, huh?
Yeah. Our boys.
“What a summer,” Crowley muttered, as August, 1969, faded away. “I mean fuck, angel.”
“You didn’t have to go and throw an entire music festival.”
“Oh, wasn’t it a fantastic mess?”
“I still have mud in my shoes. No miracle will get it out.”
“Ha!” Crowley tipped backwards and nearly fell. Aziraphale snatched him. “Oh, but the moon landing, angel. Wasn’t that something?”
“Neither of us had anything to do with that.”
“Yes, but what a sight.”
Aziraphale smiled. They leaned against one another on the roof, drunk and happy and in love.
Hey, shop. I’ve got a poem for you.
Do you? I’m impressed.
I’ll take that as a compliment. Listen. ‘If I could make the world as pure and strange as what I see, I'd put you in a mirror I put in front of me.’
Oh, I like that. Who wrote it?
I don’t know him.
Nah, you wouldn’t.
Well, I liked it. Perhaps he should bring it by —
It’s a song, shop. You should start playing Crowley’s music in there.
Oh. Well a song’s not a poem.
But you thought it was.
You tricked me, then!
Ha! How about that? Spend enough time with a demon, you learn to act like one.
You’re no demon.
The car laughed. I’m certainly no angel.
I don't know why nobody told you how to unfold your love. I don't know how someone controlled you, they bought and sold you.
“This isn’t your music,” Crowley said, flipping through a magazine he was holding upside down.
“Hm? Oh, she does that sometimes.”
Crowley looked over the magazine. “Just...plays what she wants?”
“Oh yes. Though she really only does it when you’re here. The...whatever this is.”
“This is the Beatles, Aziraphale. Remember? You met the one. With the sunglasses you said looked like mine.”
“Oh, the shaggy haired one.”
Crowley laughed. “Oh, angel. You are something, aren’t you?”
Very much. Great song. I’ve got one for you, now.
Mmhm. ‘At last, my love has come along. My lonely days are over, and life is like a song.’
That’s very lovely.
I thought so. I’ve been saving it, since 1960. For you.
And? Was it worth it?
“Goodnight, Crowley. Get home safe.”
“Lunch, tomorrow?” Aziraphale asked.
“Of course,” Crowley said, same as he always did, these days.
Linger on, you.
The car crooned: Can anybody find me somebody to love?
Silly. I love you already.
Well. Lucky me then.
Time moved quickly. The eighties rushed by, and Crowley and Aziraphale didn’t see much of one another, but not really on purpose. The times they were together they were happy. The times they were together were so easy. The shop and the car talked about love and about the future. They swapped songs and poetry, while Crowley and Aziraphale easily passed bottles of wine between them.
You weren’t here, the shop said But Crowley once wished for things to stay good. To stay as they were. For a whole century.
Sounds like him. What happened?
A war. You. Another war.
Ha! I changed things that much?
Oh, my love. You still haven’t seen it, have you?
The car was silent.
You changed everything.
The night before Nanny Ashtheroth and Brother Francis left London for the Dowling estate, they got spectacularly drunk.
Along the fringes of this world and another, a bookshop and a Bentley said goodbye.
It’s only a few years.
Six, the Bentley said, and sounded thoroughly put out by this. Six years!
I’ll see you sometimes.
A waste. A waste of a good car.
You’re almost ninety.
You’re one to talk
Don’t be that way. It’s alright to be apart. You won’t even notice.
I will. Every single day.
The shop sighed. ‘And now I tell you openly, you have my heart so don't hurt me. You're what I couldn't find.’
What are you doing listening to that?
Aziraphale was in Ireland for a bit. Dolores is a really lovely woman, he says.
I love you.
And I love you.
A lot of things happened. A lot of things didn’t happen.
The first: Aziraphale and Crowley returned from the Dowlings. Five years later, the Antichrist turned eleven.
Was it awful, when they realized?
It wasn’t good.
Things are going to change. Everything is going to change.
I’d rather they didn’t.
The shop remembered Crowley’s wish again. How it preceded two world wars and a Bentley. It’s alright. They’re clever together. They’ll get us through it.
And if they don’t? If it happens anyway?
Then know that I loved you. And I loved you well.
Aziraphale shouted at Shadwell.
Don’t step there.
Shadwell shouted back.
Angel. Angel, please —
At least let me say goodbye.
And then — she was burning.
She was burning.
She was burning.
Shop, what happened to you? What’s happening to you? Is he okay in there?
He’s safe. He’ll always be safe here, you know that. I love you.
Don’t talk like that.
I go down on my knees.
And I start to pray.
Please don’t do this.
‘Til the tears run down from my eyes.
If a car could wail and stomp and throw themselves at the ground, she would have. They’ll fix you. They’ll put it right!
The Bentley surrendered.
The Bentley let go.
So many things were gone. The Bentley idled on the road as Crowley tried to work out what to do.
“Tadfield,” he muttered. “Tadfield.”
The car really hated other demons. They were unpleasant and awful. She smelled Hastur before he popped in the passenger seat — Aziraphale’s seat — and all she wanted was for him to get out.
She wanted a lot of things, but they weren’t possible anymore.
So when Crowley sped toward the flames, at first she was afraid.
And then —
Linger on, you. Linger on.
Right. The shop had been brave, in the end. She’d looked after Crowley, kept Agnes Nutter’s book and their demon nice and safe. What was a little fire, then, when it came to the end of the world?
“You are my car.”
Yes. Yes I am.
“I’ve had you from new.”
Three days from new. You beautiful thief.
“You are not going to burn!”
I am, she thought. But only because one of us has to. And it can’t be you.
“That’s because your stupid car is on fire!”
Astute observation. Idiot.
The Bentley was not doing well. She had been aflame for much longer than any one car should. But it was worth it, of course. It would be worth it to be on fire a hundred times over.
Her bookshop was gone, and the world was ending. But most of all — Crowley needed her. He needed her to get to the airbase, and she was going to do that, no matter what it took. No matter what happened.
No matter if it was her last act — of love, of kindness, of complete and total stupidity. Didn’t matter. She may have been his car, but he was her demon.
One last song, she thought. For one last ride.
And even though the car was on fire, even though Crowley was eaten through with love and madness and desperation — Freddy spilled through the speakers, and he took his eyes off the road for a moment to look at the radio and smile.
“That’s my girl.”
She heard the explosion more than she felt it.
But more than that — she could feel him.
I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry to leave you. To leave you like this. Here. At the end of all things.
The shop would have appreciated the reference.
“Ninety years and not a scratch, now look at you.”
Yeah. Look at me.
“Crowley. He’s got a gun. He’s pointing it.” Nothing. “Do something!”
“I am having a moment here!”
You and me both, love.
Aziraphale stomped away. The Bentley felt like Crowley was looking right at her. Right into her.
“Rest in peace.”
Huh. Interesting thought I’ve just had regarding that, actually.
“You were a good car.”
Do dead Bentley’s go to Heaven?
What a thought.
What a concept.
In the space between spaces, in the world between worlds, the spirit of a Very Good Car settled in to wait out the rest of eternity. And you know, the thought had occurred to her, if this is where dead Bentley’s go — at least, certain dead Bentley’s, as she was very much alone — then maybe, just maybe, this was where dead bookshops went, too.
And, for a moment, she could feel something, or someone, maybe. Reaching out. There was a song playing. Or...a lot of songs. All at once.
Linger on, linger on, because my life is changing every day.
Oh, I go down on my knees, at last, at last.
And here we are in heaven, because you’re everything to me.
I hear you.
No one answered. Just a song, a mix of words they used to sing to one another, from shop window down to the street below, while their angel and their demon sat inside, sitting close, but never too close. Passing wine between them, making play like their hands didn’t touch.
Linger on, you.
And then —
She burst into life like a thousand firecrackers under a glass jar. Things shattered and bent and broke and then it all came back together.
And the shop — she felt herself pulled in by the stitching and binding on every book. And there! New things! Things that hadn’t been there before!
Angel! Angel, look —
But, no Angel. No Angel at all, just —
“Those are new,” said someone in Aziraphale’s voice who was not Aziraphale. She knew her Angel from her...from her —
Crowley sauntered around the place like he owned it, taking off Aziraphale’s coat and tossing it over a chair before settling in for a nap. What had they done, she wondered. What sort of game were they playing? And if Crowley was...was inside Aziraphale, did that mean Aziraphale was —
But then...but then!
The car wasn’t there. Aziraphale — no. No, Crowley — hadn’t driven it there, so it must have been at his flat. And so Aziraphale must have been there, too. She hoped he didn’t try and drive it. Crowley had given him one lesson, in 1982. It had not gone well.
When Crowley woke from his nap, he stood and wandered about for a bit, poking around the places he normally wouldn’t.
“So,” he said. “Is it true, then? Are you really what he says you are?”
You know, I may love you, but every so often I do want to trip you while you’re going down the stairs.
“Said he could feel something, that first day.” Crowley ran a hand over the back of the sofa. “Suppose I felt something, too. But it wasn’t...it wasn’t what he felt. It was more like...happenstance. Like you’d just been waiting.”
I was. I was always waiting. For him. For you. For the Bentley.
“You’ve been very good to him, haven’t you?”
“I should have been better.”
Oh, she thought. But you have been. You’ve always been. She’d played “You’re My Best Friend” during the fire. Couldn’t help herself. The lyrics came spilling out of the gramophone again.
You're my sunshine and I want you to know that my feelings are true. I really love you.
Crowley grinned. “You’re a special thing, aren’t you?”
I am. Thank you for noticing.
When the Bentley pulled up beside the shop, the streetlights popped.
Aziraphale jumped. “What the—”
Crowley glanced up, looked between the shop and the car. He sighed. “You know, angel. Sometimes I think we’ve been bearing witness to a very great love affair, and we didn’t even notice.”
Aziraphale stopped, right in the doorway of the shop. He grabbed Crowley by that stupid thing he wore around his neck, and kissed him. Right there.
For the whole of the world and Heaven and Hell to see.
Oh, do you feel that?
I feel that.
“You are my love affair.”
Crowley growled and kissed him again. “I’d better be,” he said, and they stumbled inside.
Look at you. Look how beautiful you are. All shiny and new.
I tried to find you. I looked and I listened.
Did you write me a song?
I heard it.
Oh, my dear. My dearest, my darling. Don’t ever leave me. Don’t you ever —
Inside, Crowley crowded into Aziraphale’s lap on the sofa and kissed him, over and over again. He kissed him until their mouths were hot and numb and then he kissed him longer. He kissed him until the salt from his tears was laced in every slide of his tongue. He kissed him until Aziraphale lifted him, carried him up the stairs and dropped him onto his bed.
“I love you,” Crowley said, and dragged Aziraphale down just to kiss him again.
“I love you.”
Can you hear it?
I hear it. Pretty sure it’s about to get, ah —
It’s sort of nice.
Yes, I suppose it is.
Best get used to it.
“Yes, please, oh fuck—”
The shop sighed. The upstairs window slid shut. Soho had heard more scandalous things mid-afternoon, but still. Best to give them their privacy.
Along a river bank, far from prying eyes, the Bentley rocked back and forth.
“Crowley. Crowley, yes.”
“This…” Crowley groaned and rolled his hips. “This is the only time we are doing this in here. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand, just move—”
“So bloody bossy.”
“I’ll show you bossy.”
Crowley huffed. “Love to see that.”
Careful what you wish for, love.
Of course, he couldn’t hear her. She was a car. And he was in love.
The car rocked on. The river flowed. The sun went down and the Bentley took a nice long rest.
“If we move,” Aziraphale said, “then what will happen to my bookshop?”
Crowley shrugged. “It would just...stay here.”
“No,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley looked up from his phone. “I’m sorry?”
“I said no. It’s not staying here.”
Crowley tossed his phone onto the coffee table. “Aziraphale, it’s a building.”
“So? I’m sure wherever we’re going could use a bookshop. It’d be so lovely. Far fewer customers.”
Crowley’s mouth worked, processing this. “I, uh. I mean...yes. That’s...true. Technically.”
“So we’ve decided. Excellent.” Aziraphale bent down and kissed his cheek. “Thank you, dear.”
Crowley stared after him as he went into the kitchen. “...What just happened?”
“And look, you can park the car right alongside it. Right where she wants to be.”
“Can’t believe we did this,” Crowley muttered. “I cannot believe we did this.”
Aziraphale looped their arms together. “We’re a local institution, now.”
“You should have been a demon, you know that? You’re wicked and terrible and I can’t believe I’m going to spend the rest of eternity with you—” Aziraphale shut him up with a kiss, and Crowley melted into it, winding his arms around Aziraphale’s waist and hauling him in.
“Darling. We’re going to cause a scandal.”
“Good. I haven’t done that properly since the Victorian era.” They did move into the cottage, which was settled alongside the bookshop, both looking like they’d been there for years. Crowley really was very good at this sort of thing.
Very. And you?
More than I’ve ever been.
And they settled. Settled into the new earth around them, into the new world that had been pulled straight from the old.
I love you, the shop said.
The car laughed. I learned something for you.
Mmhm. ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight for the ends of being and ideal grace.’
Oh, you’re awful. That’s terribly trite.
I learned that! For you!
And I love it.
The car sighed. Well. I love you freely. And I love you purely.
And? If God should choose?
You’re going to make me keep going? After you insulted me?
Just go on, love.
The car huffed. I shall but love thee better after death.
No more dying, though.
No. No more dying.
Linger on, my dear?
Linger on, shop. Forever.
The shop hummed. The upstairs window flew open. The neighbors were ever so slightly scandalized.
Yes, she thought. Forever.