Actions

Work Header

Pretend For Me

Chapter Text

image

Cover by sharkira

 

Aziraphale was not surprised to see Michael and Gabriel again, but that it was so soon. It was two years after Adam stopped Armageddon, and he thought Heaven would need much more time to get over the embarrassment of their failure to go through with the Great Plan before they returned to earth.

Aziraphale had been listening to a record of Fiddler on the Roof as he reorganized his bookshelves when he sensed a presence. The shop was closed and there was a power in the air, so he knew it wasn’t human. Another second passed and he knew it was angels. Sensing his own kind was easy. His first reaction was annoyance. Really now, he was having a nice afternoon and was in no mood for any disturbances. 6,000 years of duty meant he was entitled to more than a couple years of holiday, no?

“How did you do it?” the feminine voice came sharply.

Aziraphale recognized the voice right away. He looked at the bookshelf, sighed deeply, braced himself, and turned around. 

Michael and Gabriel were dressed impeccably as always, but now they didn’t even bother with professional politeness. They were angry.

“I don’t recall inviting you in here,” Aziraphale said, partly to irritate them, and partly because he was getting nervous despite everything. A lifetime of fearing them had been greatly diminished, but not eradicated in two years. If they were talking about what he thought they were talking about, then the conversation could get dangerous, too.

Michael’s smile was more of a grimace. “Look who’s learned to talk back.”

Aziraphale folded his hands behind his back so he didn’t fiddle with them. 

“Let’s cut to the chase,” Gabriel said. “How did you survive the hellfire?”

An anxious tingle slithered around his chest. “It’s taken you two years to ask that?” He was stalling. As much as he anticipated this conversation occurring one day, he hadn’t prepared very well. 

The corner of Gabriel’s mouth twitched. “Tell us. We want the information. It can prove useful to us.”

“Useful?”

“Against Hell,” Michael said impatiently. “If we could figure out how to survive hellfire, then the war will be ours.”

“You’re still going to pursue a war? If God wanted Armageddon to happen, it would have.”

“Don’t lecture us, Principality,” Michael smiled icily. “Give us the information and we’ll go away quietly.”

Aziraphale’s mind raced for a lie to tell. “But what about Crowley? Don’t you think Hell would ask him how he survived holy water, and they would utilize that? You would be back to square one.”

“Demons don’t help each other,” Gabriel said, “so we don’t expect Crowley to give them that information.”

If Crowley really were immune to holy water, he certainly wouldn’t tell Hell about it, so that was reasonable. He was just as uninterested in his former side as Aziraphale was lately. Over the past two years, neither received any contact or assignments, and they lived their lives as closely to the way humans did. Well, besides regularly eating, sleeping, and using the loo. Aziraphale loved eating, but digestion was quite a tedious and sometimes unpleasant process, so he often miracled the food out of him after some time. Their lives were nice and comfortable, and Aziraphale sincerely hoped it wasn’t all about to come to an end. He had to play his cards right.

“And you thought I would want to help you?” Aziraphale asked with a lift of an eyebrow.

Gabriel gave him a look. “Duh. You’re still an angel at the end of the day.” He was annoyed by the fact. “Still somehow not Fallen. You’re in God’s favor, so you must want to help Her cause.”

“Her cause and your cause are not the same,” Aziraphale said confidently. “I believe we established this two years ago.” It took him so long to realize this, that Heaven didn’t know what God truly planned any more than Hell did, nor was their will inherently good and just. Now that he was sure of this, however, he would not go back. He loved Her, and that was what mattered. He just wanted to read books, eat fine cuisine, perform a few miracles here and there to brighten people’s day, and spend time with Crowley. Was that too much to ask? He didn’t think so.

Gabriel’s glare deepened. “Come on, Aziraphale. Be reasonable. The war will happen one day. If we win, we won’t torture you for eternity like Hell would. It’s in your best interest to help us.”

Aziraphale had no confidence Heaven wouldn’t torment him after his attempted murder. They lost his trust permanently. “Sorry,” he smiled, “but no.”

Gabriel groaned with a roll of his eyes. “Come on!”

“I’d like to get back to my books, if you wouldn’t mind.”

Michael eyed him carefully. “Unless...it was a lie?” 

His face fell. “What?”

Reacting to his expression, Michael’s eyes widened. “Oh...wouldn’t it be so funny if you weren’t actually immune to hellfire?” they asked slowly, as if coming to the realization as each word left their lips. 

Aziraphale’s heart beat faster. No, he couldn’t falter. He couldn’t let them see the terror creeping down his spine. That would be bad. Very bad. If they knew the truth, they would kill him for real, and worse, they might realize Crowley was lying, too. “I assure you hellfire can do no harm to me,” he lied. “How else would I still be here?”

“But that’s why we’re here,” they said. “We’ve thought about it endlessly and can’t figure it out. No angel ever survived before you. At this point, it’s more believable that you tricked us somehow.”

“Yes,” Gabriel said, standing up straighter. “Perhaps Michael’s right,” he said slowly, brow furrowing. “Maybe you really would be stupid enough to lie to archangels. You are a traitor.”

Waltzing in an out of Hell had required a poker face, and Aziraphale was using it to the best of his ability now. Oh Lord, no. He had to think! What was a good lie? “My—my time on earth has affected me in such a way that sets me apart from all other angels,” he said. “I’ve been down here longer than anyone, except Crowley. That’s how he survived, too,” he threw in for good measure, because now he was really getting fearful for Crowley’s safety, too. If they discovered Aziraphale lied, then they would naturally conclude Crowley was vulnerable to holy water and would let Hell know right away. If he put him in danger because of a blunder in this conversation, he would never forgive himself. He loved Crowley more than he could possibly say, even if it remained a well-guarded secret. Now that they were free, he kept meaning to get around to hinting that perhaps they could be something more than friends, but he—what was the expression?—chickened out each time. He wasn’t afraid of being punished anymore (at least not until this very moment), but the possibility that Crowley would reject him rendered him paralyzed. Too many doubts, too much asking what if I read 1967 wrong? or what if I read 1941 wrong? This freedom to spend time with Crowley was still new and fragile. If he ruined it because of his ridiculous feelings, that would be his greatest regret.

“But being on earth shouldn’t change your essence,” Michael said, puzzled. “That loophole would have been discovered by now. The Almighty never told us living on earth could make us indestructible.”

Of course, they were right. “Erm.” Think! What else differentiated him from all other angels? His collar felt tight, but he resisted pulling on it. He wished he could have Crowley’s sunglasses to cover his eyes because he had no idea if his face looked as uneasy as he felt. Wait, that was it. “Crowley,” he said with a smile. “My relationship with Crowley.”

Gabriel and Michael looked at each other.

“...Yeah?” Gabriel prompted.

Ah. Right. He needed more than that. Bugger. “Well, you see, we have a special bond and have so for millennia.” He gulped. “We have shared experiences which…” Think! “...which have combined parts of our souls. Over a long period of time. That’s how we did it. His, er, his demonic part in me protected me from hellfire.”

They still looked confused, but slightly less so.

“Is that possible?” Michael asked Gabriel.

“You wouldn’t know,” Aziraphale said, “because no angel and demon have been so close or spent as much time together as we have.” This was good; no one in Heaven or Hell could disprove his fake explanation since they were unique. He was immensely satisfied with himself.

A pause.

“That’s...true,” Gabriel said begrudgingly. “But I still don’t get how being in the same room at various points over a long period of time would mix your essences. We’ve interacted with demons, too.”

Darn it. “Um.”

“When you say ‘close,’” Michael narrowed their eyes, “how close is that?”

“Ah,” Gabriel grinned, “that’s it—physical contact! That would make more sense.”

“It would?” he asked foolishly. “Um, I mean, of course!”

But then Gabriel’s stupid triumph over sopposedly figuring it out diminished as disgust contorted his features. “Ew, you’ve touched that demon?”

“You sound as if he’s gum on the bottom of your shoe,” Aziraphale said, feeling defensive.

“Well, yeah!” Gabriel snorted. “He’s a creature of Hell. You would sully your celestial temple with that vile thing?”

“He’s not vile in the least,” Aziraphale lifted his chin, shooting daggers at him.

Michael was suspicious. “You defend him quite readily.”

“Of course I do. Our bond is 6,000 years strong, so I care for his honor very much.” He pictured Crowley sniggering at the thought of an angel defending his honor.

“Just how much do you touch him?” Michael asked slowly and with mounting horror.

Their tone was not lost on Aziraphale. Oh, goodness. Did they think there was intimacy involved? Oh dear, oh dear. Heat crawled up his collar. “We…”

“Good Lord,” they gasped. “He’s blushing!”

He blushed harder. “I…” 

Gabriel winced, sucking in a breath through his teeth. “No, really? You,” he squinted, “made an Effort?”

Yes, he had, but never used it on Crowley. He couldn’t even work up the nerve to hold his hand! But an idea struck him. If he played along and pretended he and Crowley shared sexual relations, then they might buy that as the explanation for their switcheroo. The idea would surely be enough to rattle them and send them away, yes? The lie would be worth saving him and Crowley, and word about their relationship would most likely reach Hell, too. They could truly be left alone. Surely Crowley would understand the need for this lie in such a dire situation. He couldn’t be blamed for saving their lives. He never imagined being in this situation, but God’s plan was crazy as it was unpredictable.

“Crowley and I regularly engage in sexual intercourse,” Aziraphale blurted out, face burning as if there were actually hellfire in the room.

Gabriel’s jaw dropped and Michael put a hand over their mouth. 

Aziraphale had never seen them so completely astonished and repulsed. He was squeezing his hands behind his back. He was sweating onto his dress shirt, which almost never happened. He would have to get it dry cleaned. He was used to feeling embarrassed around them, but this was something else entirely.

Gabriel’s lip curled unpleasantly. “You can’t be serious.”

“I am.”

“Angels and demons can’t do that!” he protested. “You’d, I don’t know, explode!”

“Have you ever tried it?” Aziraphale asked primly, trying not to die of mortification.

They both made a gagging sound.

“Heavens, no!” Michael put their hand on their chest. “Oh, God, how are you not Fallen?”

“That’s up to the Almighty,” Aziraphale said. “Perhaps it has something to do with our spiritual bond as well.”

“Spiritual?”

He was letting his feelings emerge. “It’s love, you see.”

That appeared to offend the two of them more than the sex. They looked at him like he just pissed on a bible and threw it in a dumpster. 

“You have to be lying,” Gabriel said sternly. “Demons are incapable of love.”

It hurt, because it was something Aziraphale sometimes thought, but at the moment, it was a sign his lie was falling apart. “I assure you this particular demon is quite capable,” he gave them a bright, nervous grin. “We’re in love. Completely giddy with it, in fact.” The lie was making him ache now. “He told me he loved me as soon as we averted the apocalypse. We had sex that night and survived your tests the next day. We’re in a romantic relationship.” How he wished that had been the case! Since that night, he imagined what it would have been like if they went back to Crowley’s flat and actually shared a bed instead of sitting up all night restlessly. He imagined Crowley smiling, genuine and happy and not his usual snarky smirk, gazing at him with uncovered eyes and saying, “angel, I love you” over dinner. What would Crowley be like, giddy and in love? He would probably be beautiful.

Silence.

He was sweating profusely.

“Prove it,” Michael said.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Prove it,” they crossed their arms. “You’re really with a demon and not lying to our faces? Prove it.”

“W-what, do you want us to, goodness, have sex in front—?“

“No!” they cut him off. “Lord in Heaven, no. We’ll watch you two from afar. Your relationship. See what you do and how you act outside of the bedroom. If you’re lying and not really with Crowley but, yuck, kiss him, surely he’ll attack you. He’s a demon.”

“Good idea,” Gabriel nodded. “We need proof. I’m starting to doubt it’s possible. If you’re lying, I’m sure we could get our new associate to bring back the fire,” he smirked. “Or maybe Crowley would do it for us. I mean, come on, he can’t actually want you. I’m starting to look forward to watching him attack you.”

Aziraphale knew Crowley would never hurt him, but the idea that he was going to be rejected in front of two archangels filled him with dread.“A-And if you see I’m telling you the truth?”

“Then we can’t kill you,” Gabriel shrugged. “Keep up, moron.”

Aziraphale hated them. “Right. When do you want me to prove our relationship to you?”

“That’ll be for us to decide.” Gabriel lifted his hand. “We’ll be watching.” He snapped his fingers. They were gone.

Aziraphale allowed his legs to shake and he sunk to the ground against a bookcase, putting his burning face into his hands. What had he done? He couldn’t believe he just did that! He told two archangels he was buggering a demon! He lost his mind! His heart was aching and pounding too hard and fast. The lie worked for now, but he wasn’t in a relationship with Crowley. They never even hugged. Sure, they spent more time together and Crowley smiled more, but that was it. Aziraphale was too overwhelmed by how much he loved him to take a risk. Two years were nothing compared to millennia of being afraid to feel anything but hatred for him. It took him until 1941 to even admit to himself that he was in love with Crowley, and until 2019 to realize that was okay. Making a move required another decade, at least. He had been hoping Crowley would be the brave one, as he tended to be, and make a move, but it hadn’t happened. This was where Aziraphale began to fear it was all one-sided after all.

But now they had to pretend. Their lives were at stake. Aziraphale lifted his head, staring up at the ceiling. He was such a fool. He backed himself into a corner. Worst case scenario: Crowley would loathe the thought of being with him and Aziraphale would experience crushing heartbreak in the moments before the archangels murdered him with hellfire. Best case scenario...No. Don’t get your hopes up.


He felt like his heart was going to give out when he knocked on Crowley’s door. This was not going to be a fun conversation. What if Crowley refused? What if he made it painfully clear how he could and would never, under any circumstance, even ponder loving someone like Aziraphale? What if he was just as disgusted by the thought of them making love as the archangels were? What if their relationship would never recover from this, after 6,000 years of hardship? Oh, dear oh dear oh dear. If only he hadn’t opened his big, stupid mouth, but he truly had no idea how else to get them to leave. Perhaps he could have thought of something else if his mind did not frequently wander to daydreams of Crowley loving him. Goodness, he was a mess since 1941. He wasn’t made to love a singular being as much as this. To this day, it was something he could hardly handle. He had to bottle everything up, because denying his emotions an outlet was much easier than considering nuzzling kisses into Crowley’s neck.

He was getting carried away. Again. This always happened. He had to stop, because he was not in the privacy of his home and could not pleasure himself.

Crowley opened the door. His hair was sticking up in one direction, a baggy T-shirt hanging off one shoulder, and his long legs were bare. He was wearing boxers and his sunglasses were crooked on his face, like he had stumbled out of bed and threw them on before opening the door. Oh. That was what happened, wasn’t it? That would explain his rumpled appearance. He was the most disheveled Aziraphale had ever seen him. He was sinfully endearing. Aziraphale had to quell the impulse to smooth down his unruly hair.

“Angel?” he asked with obvious confusion. He straightened his glasses on his face. “Um.” He miracled sweatpants on. “What’re you doing here?”

Aziraphale sighed. “I must come in for a dreadfully important conversation. I was visited by Gabriel and Michael.”

His posture immediately turned rigid. “Come in.”

They sat down on the couch in Crowley’s sparse sitting room. 

“Want anything to drink?”

“No thank you,” Aziraphale said. He didn’t want to let any of his true feelings loose with a tipsy slip of the tongue. It never happened before, but he was on edge. He actually had to change his shirt and apply more cologne before he left because he was sweating so much. He hadn’t been so hot since he lived in the Middle East. He cleared his throat. “They came to the bookshop. They wanted to know how I survived hellfire so they could utilize the method in the eventual war against Hell.”

“What did you tell them?” he asked, his full attention on Aziraphale.

His tongue felt too big for his mouth. He swallowed. “W-well, I didn’t know what to say at first. I was taken off guard, you see. I had been listening to music and reorganizing my books when they came. I thought it would have taken longe—”

“Aziraphale,” Crowley cut in, “what happened next?”

Hearing his name, and not just an epithet, from Crowley’s lips always made butterflies flutter in his stomach. “Yes, um. I said we’re different from every other angel and demon because we’ve been on earth so long. You came up in the conversation.”

“Yeah?” Crowley sat forward, his bent elbows on his knees. 

“They were suspicious.” He usually wished he could see Crowley’s eyes, but was thankful for the glasses this time. Aziraphale knew he wouldn’t be able to handle his intense, golden, unblinking gaze at this moment. “They didn't believe simply being on earth was enough to change our essences. I said our b-bond has exchanged parts of our souls.”

Crowley snickered. “So, a little of me is in a little of you and vice versa because we’re such good friends? And they bought that?”

Aziraphale winced. “Not exactly.” Oh Lord. “Michael, you see, got the wrong idea and...thought we’re closer than we really are.”

“How so?” he cocked an eyebrow above the glasses.

Aziraphale wanted to discorporate. “ Quite close. I—they were starting to figure out it was a lie,” he preemptively explained nervously, “so I had to resort to desperate measures. They would kill me and you, if they knew it was nothing but a stunt. You know that.”

“Well, you’re here, so you must’ve fooled them. Spit it out.”

Aziraphale looked at the sleek coffee table in front of the sofa. His cheeks were hot again. Terribly inconvenient, these biological reactions. 

“Uh, you okay?” Crowley asked.

Great, his blush was noticeable. “I said our souls mixed because you and I are in a romantic and sexual relationship.”

Crowley choked on air and started coughing.

Shame poured into his veins, his blush draining from his face. It felt like a brick dropped into his stomach.

“Auh-fuh-mmmf, you said what? ” Crowley squawked.

Aziraphale shook his head. “Don’t make me repeat it,” he whispered. He glanced at him from out of the corner of his eye. 

Crowley looked like a cartoon character with his jaw on the floor. Scarlet glowed on the tips of his ears. His lower lip wobbled. “Whuh...nugh...what made you think of that?” he asked, dumbfounded.

I’m desperately in love with you. “It...it was something they couldn’t prove to be false. Gaining immunity to hellfire in that way, I mean.” That should be a good cover story. It was the truth, just not the entire truth. “That’s all. No other reason.” He always did chatter too much when anxious.

Crowley visibly tensed. “...Oh.”

Aziraphale was unnerved by his tone. He fixed his bow tie, although it wasn’t anywhere near crooked. “I’m terribly sorry, but I couldn’t think of anything else to save us.”

Crowley turned his face away, looking at the turned off television across the room. “It’s okay,” he mumbled. “You had to do what you had to do.”

Aziraphale couldn’t read him. Crowley wasn’t angry or disgusted, which was good, but he wasn’t casual and joking, either. “The story isn’t finished.”

“It’s not?”

“No. They want me to prove I’m not lying.”

A small, barely audibly intake of breath. “How would you do that?” Crowley looked at him. His sunglasses slid down a little, his eyebrows and the very tops of his golden eyes visible.

Aziraphale wished he could command his pulse to stop hammering in his neck this instant. He reluctantly met the dark lenses. “By pretending as if we’re in a relationship so they could watch from afar and see for themselves. They believe—” you’re incapable of love “—you would harm me if I made an unwanted advance toward you. So, they assume that if I’m lying, your reaction would tip them off.”

Crowley nodded slowly. His hands were gripping the edge of the leather couch cushion tight enough to leave crescent-shaped fingernail marks in the material. 

Aziraphale was disappointed by how visibly uncomfortable this idea made Crowley. He shouldn’t have expected any different, but that did not soften the blow. The love of an angel was strong, and yet it was unrequited. How pitiful. Aziraphale had to keep pretending this was all a ridiculous plan. If he didn’t reveal how he desired this all to be true, then there may be hope for them yet. “I’m sorry, again,” he said to the floor. “But if they are to believe we’re indestructible, they must be convinced we’re an—an item.”

Crowley was still as stone beside him. His ears were cherry-red. “So...if we pretend we’re in a relationship, we’ll be safe.”

“I believe so.”

“And that would, that would involve, what?” he spoke hesitantly, softly. “Holding your hand, telling you that you mean a lot to me, kissing you for them to see?”

Two great hands were constricting Aziraphale’s lungs. He fought back an undignified wheeze. “Yes, I think so.”

“I can do that,” he croaked.

Aziraphale lifted his eyebrows. That was unexpectedly easy.

“Don’t make it a big deal,” he snapped. “Just. You know. The dumb mushy stuff won’t be bad if it means we’ll live.”

Aziraphale hadn’t even the time to form hope before it was snuffed out like a candle. “Quite right,” he mumbled. He hated himself for being sad over Crowley’s disdain for “mushy” stuff, because not only should that have been given, but Aziraphale was older than time. It was immature and ridiculous of him to want to be kissed and held and be the object of affection. He really wanted to go home and curl up in his rarely-used bed and stay there until the pain went away. “You agree to pretend for the time being, then?”

He reclined on the sofa. “I don’t fancy dying after all we’ve been through,” he shrugged. “Are they watching us now?”

“No, I don’t think so. They don’t want to catch us, ah, in the moment.”

Crowley pressed his lips together and nodded. His ears were still red. Aziraphale couldn’t recall him blushing in 6,000 years, not even from inebriation. He pushed his glasses up higher. “They must’ve been shocked, eh? An angel with a demon, sullying himself with the Damned?”

Aziraphale didn’t think Crowley could “sully” him. Saying so would be revealing, so he kept that bit to himself. “Extremely, before they got suspicious.”

“Would’ve liked to see the looks on their faces.” His smirk was uncharacteristically hollow.

Aziraphale grinned with the same lack of vigor. “Yes, I suppose it was rather humorous upon reflection. They can’t even understand eating, let alone relationships.”

“Especially not with a demon.”

“No.”

Crowley stretched an arm over the back of the couch. “My lot understands it even less. I mean. Angels are still supposed to love, in theory, but I don’t think those bastard archangels can love anything other than themselves.”

“I suppose not,” Aziraphale considered it. “I hadn’t thought of it before.” Talking explicitly about love troubled him.

“But demons,” he went on, “we’re not even supposed to. It’s not in our DNA. Or, supernatural equivalent of DNA. What’s ‘DNA’ stand for again?” he asked.

His heart sank more with each word uttered by Crowley. Love wasn’t in his DNA. But, he certainly cared for Aziraphale, right? He knew he did. “I don’t know,” he mumbled, throat tight. 

“The point is, you must’ve rocked their world. I’m impressed. You always were a quick-thinking bastard, despite getting locked up for bloody crepes.”

He laughed despite himself. “Yes, well, I have my moments.”

“That you do.” His smirk faded. “So, uh, how are we supposed to go about this?”

“I don’t know. We’ll have to show affection in public places.”

“Like at dinner?”

“Could be.”

“Are we to assume they’re just gonna watch us like creeps and have to be on our toes every time we leave this flat, or the bookshop?”

“Yes.”

Crowley’s face was unreadable behind the glasses. “Welp. Guess we gotta go on a date then? Get them off our trail as soon as possible.”

“I guess we do.” Aziraphale couldn’t help but feel disheartened at how Crowley wanted to get this done and over with. 

“I’ll pick you up for dinner tomorrow at 5? I’ll make it look real proper. I’ll even bring flowers.”

Aziraphale ordered his skin to stop turning pink. “Sounds like a plan.” He would have to walk a fine line in between showing enough fondness for Crowley to be convincing, but not enough to be revealing. That was certainly going to be difficult. 

Chapter Text

Aziraphale couldn’t focus all day. It was absurd, really, because he and Crowley went to dinner countless times since they first drank together in Rome, and nothing was actually different now. Their date was an act, done solely for Gabriel and Michael to see. He had no reason to be nervous about this evening. It would be like every other dinner they had, but they would probably hold hands at the table. Maybe. Aziraphale wondered if holding hands at dinner would be enough to prove their relationship. On the one hand, he was hoping it would be so he could go back to bottling up his emotions in peace, and on the other, he wanted an excuse to act like he was Crowley’s partner for as long as possible. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but then again, he couldn’t enjoy this situation with this all being one-sided. Seeing how flustered Crowley was yesterday put a considerable damper on his mood. Aziraphale went home yesterday and got drunk by himself, but it didn’t really help. When he sobered up, he regretted wasting good wine on his silly feelings. He wanted to stop thinking for awhile, though, and actually went upstairs to his dusty old bed to try sleeping. It didn’t work. He had read many stories which involved distress giving humans insomnia, and it turned out that angels were not immune to such dilemmas. He conceded that perhaps trying to sleep in his trousers and waistcoat contributed to his body’s resistance to sleep, but was too frustrated to bother miracling up pajamas and trying again.

There was another problem that worried him. He knew Crowley would never hurt him, and while he agreed to this charade, what if he got tired of it? What if he was completely unconvincing and unable to hide how much his heart wasn’t in it? Demons were supposed to be good liars, but no demon ever lied about being in love with an angel before. If he couldn’t be convincing, it would be the end of them. Gabriel and Michael may have not been the sharpest tacks in the box when it came to certain things, but they would surely keep a keen eye out for any sign Crowley didn’t actually want him. If their plan failed because Crowley couldn’t bring himself to act like they were an item in earnest, that would be worse than if Michael and Gabriel had just found out the truth in his bookshop yesterday.

Five o’clock was approaching and Aziraphale dismissed the thought of sprucing up his outfit in any way. It wasn’t a real date, and he and Crowley were used to generally abhorring each other’s fashion choices by now. Aziraphale liked the way Crowley’s clothes looked on him , but would never try them out himself. Still, he put on a little extra cologne. He did have standards, after all. Aziraphale was sitting down, failing to concentrate on a book, when Crowley rang his telephone.

“Come outside,” he said.

Aziraphale got up and sent a quick prayer to the Almighty: Lord, I know you’re terribly busy, but please do not make this awfully unpleasant. Our lives depend on it. If you weren’t looking out for us, we would have perished by now, yes?  He walked out of his bookshop to see Crowley leaning against his parked car, a smirk on his face and, oh good Lord, a bouquet of flowers in his right hand. 

“You really brought those?” Aziraphale asked in disbelief.

“Uh, yeah?” he held out the bouquet. “What kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn’t bring you flowers for our date ?” he asked pointedly. 

If they were dealing with anyone else, Aziraphale would think Crowley was being too obvious, but Gabriel and Michael had an elementary understanding of human courtship at best, so an on-the-nose approach was probably appropriate. Aziraphale dismissed the flutter in his chest he felt over Crowley calling himself his boyfriend and took the bouquet, which contained sunflowers, dahlias, and morning glories. They were all vibrant and beautiful, but sort of an odd combination. Crowley knew about plants more than he did, and he was going to ask if his choice of flower meant anything, but decided he was overthinking it. “Thank you, dear.” He sniffed their sweet scent. “How lovely.”

“You’re lucky they’re already dead, or else I’d tell you to stop coddling them,” Crowley said, putting his hands in his pockets and cocking his hip to the side casually.

Aziraphale lowered the bouquet from his face. He thought Crowley’s treatment of his plants was unneeded. “Hold on, did you grow these?” He didn’t remember flowers like these at Crowley’s flat.

The casual stance turned stiff. “Wha? No, I just—I mean, yes. Yeah, totally grew them for you. ’Cause that’s what partners do.” 

Aziraphale nodded. “Right.” He didn’t actually know if he was lying. He shook his head and snapped his fingers, miracling the bouquet into his shop. “There, they’re safe and sound in my shop. Shall we?”

Crowley drove them to a nice little Italian restaurant they had discovered shortly after the failed apocalypse. For a short while, it resembled how their outings normally went. They chatted about this and that and they sipped wine while they waited for their orders.

“I’m surprised you’re eating tonight,” Aziraphale commented.

“You’ve seen me eat before.”

“Yes, but not often.”

“I like it here, and I do like eating. Ever nap after a big meal? That’s a great feeling.”

“I can’t say I have,” he said, thinking of his unsuccessful attempt to sleep last night. Maybe food would have helped.

Crowley smirked at him from over the rim of his glass. “Can I tempt you to a bout of gluttony and sloth?”

Aziraphale snorted. “Oh, please. We both know I don’t need a proper temptation to dine on good food.”

“What about the sloth bit?”

“Sleeping isn’t for me.”

They talked easily like that until their food came, and as Aziraphale picked up a fork, he felt something touch his other hand. He almost jumped.

Crowley was holding his hand across the table. His fingers were surprisingly warm and soft, and his lense-covered eyes were focused on his plate.

Aziraphale told himself not to react because 1) he was supposed to have been in a relationship with Crowley for two years, so expressing surprise would be suspicious, 2) it was just bloody hand-holding, and 3) he couldn’t let Crowley know how it felt like warmth was blooming from his fingers into Aziraphale’s hand and streaming through his veins. 

“Good thinking, dear,” he mumbled, and shoved a forkful of calamari into his mouth.

Crowley just grunted. His thumb delicately stroked the side of his hand. Since when was Crowley delicate? He was a better actor than Aziraphale thought he would be. This was good, though. They were holding hands in public. Gabriel and Michael would see this and believe Aziraphale. 

He waited, but they didn’t come.

They were quiet during the meal, the mood having changed after they started holding hands.  Crowley was prone to bouts of brooding silence, but it was different this time. Charged. Uncomfortable. Noticeable. Soon, Aziraphale was munching his last bite of food. Even if the situation wasn’t exactly tranquil, the food was still delicious. He let his eyes flutter closed for a moment and he gave a little moan of delight. “That was excellent.” He opened his eyes.

Crowley was staring at him, the faintest hint of pink on his face and the smallest upturn to his lips. 

Aziraphale had to look away, feeling oddly self-conscious. It wasn’t a feeling he normally experienced around him. Where were those bloody archangels? Perhaps they needed to be more obvious. Mustering up some courage, aided by the wine he consumed, he entwined their fingers together and put a smile on his face. “Well, dearest, thank you for the meal.” That pet name was new and his lips tingled as they formed the word. 

Crowley’s fingers twitched and for a moment, his eyebrows raised before his expression went impassive. “Hm? Yeah, yeah, of course.” He cleared his throat. “It was nice.”

Aziraphale suddenly felt intense empathy for every human on an uncomfortable first date, because it was, quite frankly, torture.

Until Crowley leaned forward, elbows on the table, and raised their joined hands to his mouth. “Want something sweet, angel?” he asked, and then pressed a kiss to the top of his hand.

Aziraphale’s lips parted and he stared dumbly. He forced his shock to stay off his face. He’s only playing the part, you tart. Still, it was difficult to process how...vanilla Crowley was being. “No, thank you.”

“You sure?”

“Quite.” His hand felt like it was on fire, and the spot where Crowley’s lips had been burned particularly intensely. No one had ever kissed his hand before, or brought him flowers, now that he thought about it. The fact that it wasn’t real made loneliness creep into his heart. He was, more or less, an introvert, and was fine spending year after year relatively alone, but getting a smidgeon of affection made him crave it. He had some sexual experiences with humans, just some fun here and there, but he didn’t share bonds with them. They had been friendly acquaintances, not even friends. He wouldn’t call what they gave him “affection.” If he were honest with himself, the main reason why he stopped indulging in that particular earthly pleasure was because he felt weirdly hollow after each encounter once the afterglow wore off. Once he realized it was because he would have much rather spent nights in the arms of Crowley, he stopped doing it completely. God, he needed to pull himself together and stop thinking about his dormant sex life.

They held hands as they walked out of the restaurant and to the car. Once inside, Crowley immediately let go of him and was a flutter of nervous hands and stutters. “Er, sorry about that,” he said. “The um. The thing. With. My mouth. And your hand. I just thought it’d be realistic.”

Aziraphale folded his hands on his lap and looked ahead. “That’s all right. It was good. Convincing, that is. It’s what we must do. You’re good at this.”

Crowley waved a hand. “Lying’s part of my job description.”

“You don’t have a job anymore.”

“You know what I mean.” He started the car. “D’you think that was enough for the archangel pricks?”

“I don’t know,” he looked out the window. “I don’t see them anywhere. They only said they would be watching.”

His brows were knitted together and his jaw clenched. “D’you...d’you think we’ll have to do this again?”

“If they don’t inform me soon that they believe me, then yes. At the moment, I have no idea if they even saw us just now.”

“Neither do I. I couldn’t sense anything.” 

“Me neither. If they’re in the same room, I can sense them, but they said they would be watching from afar, so I don’t know.”

Crowley put his hands on the steering wheel. “Maybe they’ll visit you tonight?”

“Perhaps. I’ll call you if they do?”

“Definitely call me if they do.” 

There was still an air of awkwardness around them, so Azirphale said, “Why don’t we put on a little music?” 

“All right.” Crowley pushed the button for the radio.

 

Somebody hold me too close

Somebody hurt me too deep

Somebody sit in my chair and ruin my sleep

And make me aware of being alive

Being alive

 

Aziraphale gasped. “Sondheim? You have Sondheim in your car?”

Crowley hissed. “No!” He pressed the button, but the music didn’t turn off.

 

Somebody need me too much

Somebody know me too well

 

“Shut it,” he scolded the car. “Who said you were allowed to play this?”

Aziraphale smiled and hummed along. This song was one of his favorites.

Crowley’s glare could be seen through his sunglasses. “Oh, it must be you.”

“Me?”

“The car. Sometimes it plays stuff matching my mood. This isn’t my mood. Sondheim isn’t for me. It must be your mood,” he accused.

 

Make me confused

Mock me with praise

Let me be used

Vary my days

 

Aziraphale pressed his lips together. Oh, dear. Those lyrics did line up with the occasion. Was he seriously about to be outed by a car? He mentally told the car to shut up, but nothing happened. Apparently, he made the Bentley blast love songs after having his hand kissed. What a terribly inconvenient thing to discover. He turned away from Crowley’s questioning gaze as the lyrics kept coming. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see he was becoming less annoyed at the music choice and more confused. 

“I’m often thinking of Sondheim,” he said hurriedly. “I was lis-listening to my record of Company before you picked me up,” he lied. “Perhaps that’s why your car has picked it up. It’s fresh on my mind.”

Crowley was staring at him. “Hm. Maybe,” he said quietly. He looked away and started to drive.

 

Somebody crowd me with love

Somebody force me to care

Somebody let me come through

I'll always be there

As frightened as you

To help us survive

Being alive

 

Aziraphale tugged at his collar. He was going to try to joke about how dramatic the song was, but thought better of it. Drawing even more attention to the song would have probably made things worse. The song ended, and then “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music played.

Crowley groaned. “No more listening to Sondheim before you hang out with me.”

“This is news to me, too, you know,” Aziraphale said, but he was relieved because this song was less obvious than the last. Besides, he knew Crowley didn’t actually hate Sondheim deep down, but they did both find Andrew Lloyd Webber unbearably pretentious (save for Jesus Christ Superstar , which they thought was a riot).

With Crowley’s break-neck speed, they were at the bookshop before the song ended. Crowley tried shutting off the radio once more, and it worked. “There,” he said.

Aziraphale was happy to be home. The only time he felt more nervous in Crowley’s car was with the holy water business in 1967. “Well, I’ll keep you updated on the situation,” he said and grabbed the handle of the door.

“Wait,” Crowley said.

“Yes?”

He flicked a piece of dust off the dashboard. “If we have to do this again, do I…? Damn it, this is a weird question.”

“Go on.”

It was hard to tell, but it appeared that Crowley wasn’t looking directly at him. The dust of pink was back on his face. “Do I have your permission to touch you?” he asked.

Aziraphale’s throat constricted and his lungs stopped functioning. He exhaled slowly after a beat.

Crowley started to backtrack and talk with his hands. “Uh, it’s fine if you say no, I’m just saying that we need to, you know, do stuff like that. For them. And, uh, I don’t wanna do something that’d push you too far. You’re the one who came up with the plan, but still. It’s something we never do so it’s weird. But, yeah, um, I think it’d be good if we did stuff like today. If we have to go on another date, that is.”

He took it back: this was more nerve-wracking than 1967. “O-of course,” he stammered. “As you said, I came up with the plan, so why would there be a problem? There’s no problem. All to fool them. Anything to, er, help out the cause. It’s only for a short while.”

Crowley’s hands stopped fidgeting. “Yeah. Only for a short while,” he repeated, monotone. He turned away and put his hands back on the steering wheel, clearly signalling it was time to leave. “You can do it, too,” he said faintly.

Aziraphale felt like he had to check his hearing. “I’m sorry?”

He scowled. “ Touch . You can do that, too. For the plan. You’ve got my permission.” The pink on his face darkened to red.

Aziraphale had to leave quickly. “Jolly good. Yes. Well. I’ll talk to you soon. Bye.” He left the car and fled to the solace of his shop. When he shut the door behind him, he slumped against it and turned his face up to the ceiling. He groaned loudly. He was older than the earth and yet he wanted to be swallowed into its core after a cringeworthy fake first date. Angels weren’t made for this. Neither were demons, but Crowley was the one who put effort in and made it look at least somewhat realistic. Aziraphale had only gave him a pet name that was a slight variation of what he called him from time to time to begin with. He looked over to his desk and saw the bouquet Crowley gave him. With a snap of his fingers, they were in a vase with water. He walked over and touched the petals of the dahlias. A surge of love entered his fingertips.

“Oh,” he gasped softly. “Crowley must have grown you,” he decided. Aziraphale knew he truly cared for his plants, despite the yelling. He must have just missed where these flowers were the last time he was in the plant room in Crowley’s flat. He smiled. It was nice of him to have given Aziraphale plants he put so much effort into, even if it were only for show. Aziraphale sat down in the chair in front of the desk. He remembered their conversation about the flowers and furrowed his brow. Crowley denied that he grew them at first, and changed his tune when he realized that it would make him look like a good partner. But he did grow the flowers. Why did he deny it at first? Aziraphale touched another well-loved petal. He didn’t get it.


The night passed. The next day passed. And the next. Nothing from the archangels. Aziraphale sighed heavily and went over to his rotary phone. They must not have seen their date. That only meant one thing.

“This is Anthony J. Crowley. You know what to do. Do it with style.”

“Crowley, I know you’re there,” he said impatiently, not in the most pleasant of moods. “There’s been nothing.”

Crowley picked up. “Nothing?” he asked.

“Nothing.” The conflicting emotions of anticipatory hope and dread pulled him in two directions. “Perhaps it was too subtle.”

“Yeah.” He sounded strained. “Uh huh. Well, uh, look, it’s a nice day, so why don’t we walk through the park? That could give us another opportunity to, you know.”

Aziraphale looked outside. It was a sunny afternoon. “All right,” he said. “I’ll meet you at our usual bench?”

“Sure.”

His stomach churned anxiously on his walk over there. If he had food in his stomach, he was pretty sure he would have heartburn. Digestion was never a great feeling, certainly not as good as actually eating the food. He was thinking about food to calm his nerves now, but it wasn’t really working. 

When he arrived, Crowley was standing in front of the bench instead of sitting down. He smiled, his hands in his pockets. “Hey.”

“Hello. Erm, hello, darling,” he said, remembering why they were here in the first place. He said it a little too loudly, though, and a passerby raised an eyebrow as they walked away. Bugger.

Crowley held out his arm in invitation. “Romantic walk through the park time?”

Aziraphale linked their arms together. They never walked like this, even when it was in fashion for friends to do so a few centuries ago. Once again, he noticed how warm Crowley was. Weren’t snakes supposed to be cold-blooded? They started to walk, and Crowley told him about yesterday when he moved some construction signs around to make it look like a main road was closed to aggravate drivers.

Aziraphale would have said that this was a step down from his days working for Hell, but he knew by now that this was more or less what Crowley always did.

“Aren’t you responsible for the M25?” Aziraphale asked.

“Yep,” Crowley said proudly. “Lucifer thought it was genius.”

“How nice,” Aziraphale said dryly.

“Gotta admit, it was a pain in the arse when it was surrounded by a ring of fire during the apocalypse.”

“How did you get your car through the fire, anyway? I never asked.”

“Easy: I wouldn’t let it burn.”

“Hm.” He pulled his arm and brought him a little closer. It was a nice day, not too hot or cold, and Aziraphale was enjoying himself. It was going better than their dinner. “You always had a determined streak.”

Crowley opened his mouth to say something, but a man walking by them spat a word that Aziraphale would never repeat.

“Now, really!” he bristled. “Slurs are abhorrent and unnecessary.” 

Crowley hissed low in his chest and bared his fangs. “What did you say?”

“Crowley,” Aziraphale squeezed his arm. He didn’t really care if this intolerant, homophobic moron were scared off by Crowley, but turning into a snake in broad daylight was not a good decision. He didn’t feel like having to rescue him from an exorcism.

“You’re the ones shoving this down everyone’s throats,” the man said in disgust. “There are children in this park, you freaks.”

“I believe you’re more offensive to children than we are,” Aziraphale said.

Crowley lowered his glasses and his lips curled into a nasty smirk. “Why don’t you say it again?” he asked the man in a deep, hissing, echoing voice, purely demonic. “Didn’t quite catch it the first time.”

The man’s jaw dropped and he staggered backwards, turning white as a ghost.

Aziraphale felt glee at his fear. Maybe that was unangelic, but so was prejudice.

Crowley’s fangs grew longer. “There’s a special place in Hell for you,” he assured.

The man was petrified, rooted to the spot.

He pulled Aziraphale closer and pushed his glasses up. “C’mon, angel,” he muttered and they began walking again. 

Aziraphale shot the man a smug smirk. “Sorry, but my husband is very protective,” he said over his shoulder.

Crowley almost skidded to a halt, but he kept walking, his eyebrows up his forehead and fangs retracting. “So we’re married in this scenario?”

Now it was Aziraphale’s turn to almost trip over his own two feet. Did he really just say that?! “W-well,” he flushed brilliantly, “why not? Maybe not officially, but, but after 6,000 years?”

Crowley wasn’t looking at him, but his Adam’s apple bobbed in his long throat. “Yeah, why not?” he asked, almost inaudibly and difficult to hear outside.

Aziraphale once again wished he could be sucked up into the earth’s core. He was getting too wrapped up in this fantasy. He couldn’t help it, after seeing Crowley get protective like that. It made a funny little flutter flap around his chest. He couldn’t picture them actually getting married, even if they really were in a relationship, but they would be more like husbands than boyfriends anyway.

Crowley laughed a little, startling  Aziraphale after walking in silence for a couple minutes. “Who were the guests at our wedding, again, husband? The mad girl with the bicycle and her boyfriend? The anti-Christ and his child friends and dog?”

Aziraphale had to laugh at the idea. “No, no, dear, it was a private thing just between us.”

“Ah, yeah, that’s right. That makes more sense,” he said with a wry smile.

Well, at least Crowley could have a sense of humor about his blunder.

But the humor dissipated when, as they walked aimlessly, they came upon the old bandstand. They both stopped. Aziraphale’s gut clenched in guilt. They hadn’t been here since that day. He had been so terribly afraid of everything, of what he had believed about Heaven his entire existence being challenged, of the end of everything, of how badly he did want to go off with Crowley. Under pressure, he acted abysmally poorly. He didn’t forget how he unfairly snapped at Crowley. He never apologized. They really didn’t talk about the details of anything that happened that day, including when Aziraphale found him in a sorry state in a bar.

Aziraphale looked down at the wooden floor of the bandstand in front of them. “I never apologized for the things I said.”

Crowley’s arm, which had been comfortably slung through his, had tensed. “We were both stressed. Bad day.”

“Still,” Aziraphale raised his head to look at him. “I shouldn’t have said those things. They were untrue.”

Crowley pressed his lips together, and he worked them into a half-smirk. “I know you really like me, Aziraphale. You’re my husband.”

Aziraphale giggled, not expecting that response. “I’m being serious, Crowley.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s all right. I’m a demon. We don’t get offended.”

Aziraphale eyed him carefully. “Yes, you do.” The look of disappointment that flashed over his face when Aziraphale refused the offer for a ride in 1967 was before his mind’s eye. “I’ve felt terribly about the things I’ve done over the years,” he said honestly. This was his chance to say these things, in the safety of their pretense. “It was never because of you . I never wanted to reject you.” 

Crowley looked down at him, and from how close they were, his eyes could be seen through the lenses. There was a touch of fear in them.

“Are you all right?” he asked. His voice dropped to a whisper. “You have to act like I say nice things to you all the time, remember?”

Crowley blinked, and nodded imperceptibly. He turned his face away, down at the ground. “Thank you,” he said in a small voice.

Aziraphale’s chest hurt. Goodness, it really did bother him, didn’t it? He never thanked anyone for anything. Under all the swagger and jokes, he was hurt. It wasn’t a surprise, but not happy news. Aziraphale was worried, but he wanted to show he was sorry. Taking a breath, he put his head on Crowley’s shoulder.

Crowley tensed even further under him.

“Sorry,” Aziraphale said, wincing at how his touch was unwelcomed. He was glad no one was around. “Pretend,” he whispered.

Crowley kept his face turned away. Cautiously, he leaned his cheek against the top of Aziraphale’s head. “I’d still take you to the stars,” he murmured.

Aziraphale’s heart thumped hard. That...that wasn’t far off from something Crowley would normally say.

“We can run away together! Alpha Centauri!”

Aziraphale ached for him, for the touch of his lips. He bit his own lip in irritation, trying to calm down. But he felt Crowley sigh against him, his breath a warm rush of air on the top of his head and sending a shiver down his spine. They were never this close before. It was dizzying, and Aziraphale’s resolve was disappearing like candy floss dissolving in the sea. Husbands kiss each other. It would be normal. It would be expected. It would shock Gabriel and Michael. He lifted his head, close enough so his lips brushed his ear.

“May I kiss you, husband?” he asked, voice bordering on shaking.

Crowley’s gulp was audible. He nodded.

Aziraphale took him by the hand so they stood under the bandstand to have some semblance of privacy since they were still technically in public.

Crowley was staring at him, glasses down the bridge of his nose and showing his anxious golden eyes.

Aziraphale’s stomach was churning again, but he fought past it, squeezed his eyes shut, and kissed Crowley on the mouth. A startled moan buzzed against his closed lips, and the grip on his hand tightened painfully. Aside from his hand, he was still as a statue. Aziraphale shared his fair share of kisses, and none of his partners were unresponsive like this. He pulled away, eyes downcast and on Crowley’s chest, because there was no way he could meet his partially exposed eyes. It was too much, wasn’t it? He had gotten Crowley’s permission, but he should have known better. They could have tried to convince Gabriel and Michael another way. Wait. 

Aziraphale looked around, but there was still no sign of them. For Heaven’s sake, what would it take? He didn’t know if he could do this again. His cheeks stung with embarrassment. He hoped he hadn’t been too revealing. He let go of Crowley’s hand. “Where are they?” he said under his breath.

Crowley pushed his glasses up to cover his eyes fully. “If they’re not here, I’m gonna go now,” he muttered.

Aziraphale hoped his disappointment didn’t show. “But—”

“If that didn’t get their attention, then they’re not here,” Crowley said, a hardness to his voice.

Aziraphale wished he didn’t sound so agitated after one, close-lipped kiss. Was it really that bad? “Okay.” He didn’t put up a fight. He wanted to retain a shred of dignity.

Crowley turned around and walked off, his usual saunter somewhat unsteady.

Aziraphale was left standing alone under the bandstand. Some things never changed.

Chapter Text

The problem was that they couldn’t avoid each other for decades after an unpleasant encounter like they had in the past; they had archangels to prove wrong. Aziraphale was feeling rather ashamed after Crowley shut down and walked away after one, chaste kiss. He never thought of himself as that unappealing before. He knew he wasn’t exactly model material, but he liked the way his vessel looked, and didn’t think it would even matter to Crowley. A somehow worse thought was that Crowley wasn’t repulsed by him physically, but couldn’t deal with kissing him because of his personality. But they were friends, so that didn’t make sense. Perhaps Crowley never engaged in kissing and found it extremely uncomfortable? Aziraphale had no clue what his sex life was like. It was something they never even alluded to in conversation, and the thought of him with someone made Aziraphale feel very unangelic jealousy. He was a demon, though. Didn’t demons tempt humans with sex? He could have been wrong, but Aziraphale had a feeling that wasn’t Crowley’s area of expertise. If he never shared many kisses over 6,000 years, then that could explain his behavior. Or perhaps he was projecting and in denial. Aziraphale took off his reading glasses and rubbed his eyes. He wasn’t even reading the book in his lap. He was too bloody busy thinking about Crowley’s sex life.

Well. Not that it would be the first time he thought of Crowley in that way. It was a thought that would periodically pop up since the middle of the 20th century. He couldn’t allow himself to admit he was in love with a demon before 1941, and letting himself feel sexual desire for the Fallen was, good Lord, was it not blasphemy? Yet, his wings remained pearly white and the warmth of God’s light was settled nicely in his essence. He didn’t understand Her, but then again, no one was meant to. He didn’t get it, but if imagining what Crowley would be like in bed didn’t Damn him, then he failed to see a reason to stop. They had been on earth so long that it was difficult to imagine Crowley abstaining this whole time, but he bragged about his wiles frequently—wouldn’t he brag of his sexual escapades? Maybe he really didn’t do it. Humans would certainly ask questions about his eyes, and even more if Crowley insisted on having sex with his sunglasses on. Aziraphale chuckled to himself at the thought. That line of thought went to what Crowkey’s intense, golden eyes would be like, blown wide with pleasure, and Aziraphale felt stirring down below. With a sigh, he locked the door to his shop with a snap of his fingers. 

Aziraphale put his book on a nearby table and unzipped his trousers, pulling himself out. He spent a few minutes imagining Crowley’s smug smirk being replaced with his mouth dropped open with kiss-swollen lips, his eyes staring directly into his as he writhed and moaned beneath him. He imagined whispering sweet-nothings into his ear and kissing his neck, telling him how much he loved him, and oh, what it would be like if Crowley said he loved him, too. Aziraphale came with a quiet gasp into his hand after stroking and squeezing himself. It was a relatively weak orgasm, but he hadn’t felt like undressing and touching himself more.

Aziraphale got himself decent again and miracled away the mess. He tilted his head back on the chair and sighed. He was pathetic. He just masturbated to someone who hated one kiss with him. Curse his weakness for pleasure. He felt worse now, though, and regretted doing it. He needed to stop thinking about making love to Crowley this instant.


It was approaching evening and there was still nothing from Heaven. They must not have seen. They would have to do that again. Where were the archangels? Why weren’t they watching?

Aziraphale sighed when he got Crowley’s answering machine. “Crowley. Nothing yet. I think it’s time for another outing.”

Silence. He didn’t pick up.

Aziraphale hoped he wasn’t avoiding him. “Um. It would benefit us both if we went out soon. Perhaps tonight? Or tomorrow?”

Silence.

“Well...please get back to me soon.” He hung up, his heart heavy.


The next afternoon, the door burst open. “Come on,” Crowley said gruffly instead of a greeting.

Aziraphale jumped out of his chair, book falling to the floor. “Goodness! You could try knocking.”

Crowley shut the door behind him, the tension from the other day visible in the wrinkle between his brows. “Whatever. Let’s get this over with.”

Lovely. He was forcing himself to be here. Aziraphale quelled a wave of disappointment. He picked the book up from the floor and dusted it off, placing it on the cushion of the chair.

Crowley sniffed loudly, scrunching up his nose. “Huh?”

“What?”

“I smell…” He sniffed. “It’s lust ,” he said, puzzled. “Why’s your shop smell like lust?”

Well, dear, yesterday I enjoyed a nice wank whilst imaging you clinging to me. Aziraphale really wished he had kept his desires at bay now. “Y-you can smell lust?” he stammered.

“Of course I can,” he said, the tension between his brow replaced with befuddlement. “I’m a demon.”

“Right. Well. I had to reorganize the erotica earlier,” he lied.

Crowley was still. “You have erotica?”

“Erotice literature .” He realized he was twiddling his thumbs and stopped, his hands falling to his sides. He cleared his throat. “They’re classics. I couldn’t simply pass up first editions because of their content.” He really did have erotic literature in his shop., but he knew the scent wasn’t from the books. “Perhaps rearranging them, ah, kicked up the scent? I’m not sure how these things work. As an angel.”

It took Crowley a moment to speak. “Yeah. Maybe. Maybe. Um.”

Aziraphale changed the subject. “Why are you here? You could have called.” Great, now that sounded like he was unhappy to see him.

“Why do you think? We’ve still got to…” He frowned. “You put them in a vase?”

Aziraphale turned to the flowers. Somehow, this embarrassed him more than the lust bit. “Was I just supposed to throw them away?”

“You’re spoiling them,” he scolded him. “And they’re cut off, so they won’t stay vibrant for much longer anyway.”

Aziraphale fixed him a look. “So you did grow them. Why deny it at first?”

Crowley shrugged one shoulder. “Don’t know what you’re talking about. Anyway, let’s go.”

He was going to argue about the flowers, but dropped it. “Where are we going?”

“Picnic. For our date. Remember?”

Aziraphale was surprised that it only took one phone call. With the way things left off, he thought it would take Crowley several days to agree to another outing. “Yes, yes, of course. Erm. Why a picnic, again?”

“Because couples do that sort of thing together,” he said in slight irritation. “And we are a legitimate couple,” he said to the air.

“Right.” He wasn’t opposed to a picnic at all—they had gone on a couple since the failed end of the world—but for this to be a date, it would have to be different from their previous ones. Before, they sat in the park and ate and drank and spent time people-watching. They could do that again, but another kiss would probably be necessary. Crowley’s reaction to the kiss the other day was negative, but he was the one barging in and suggesting the date idea; he had to know what it would entail. Perhaps he had spent his time since yesterday mustering up the strength to bear being kissed again. Still, Aziraphale couldn’t help but ask,“But, are you all right?”

“Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”

Was Aziraphale overthinking it? No...no, he didn’t think he was. He didn’t imagine Crowley abruptly ending their “date” the other day. “I don’t know,” he said, and went to get his coat as a way to look away from him. “You seemed a little bothered the other day.”

“I wasn’t bothered. Don’t get bothered often, me. I’m calm. I’m cool.”

Aziraphale politely didn’t contradict him. He put his coat on. “If you’re certain,” he eyed him skeptically.

“Of course I’m certain,” Crowley asserted, a slight tremble to his voice. He cleared his throat. He was flustered. “Anyway, let’s go.”

“Do you even have food?” Aziraphale asked as they walked toward the door.

“Why would we go on a picnic without food?” he asked. From the pavement, he pointed to the backseat of his car. “There’s the basket. See?”

Aziraphale saw the basket. “What’s inside?”

“You’ll see. C’mon,” Crowley got in the car. 

Aziraphale got in. Could you make it any clearer you don’t want to be here? No, he couldn’t make things worse and be confrontational. That would get them nowhere.


Things got a little better once they actually settled on a bench and got the food out. They were going to sit on a blanket on the grass, but Aziraphale didn’t want to risk grass staining his trousers, and Crowley didn’t protest. It was nearing sunset so the sky was a creamy, warm orange, and there weren’t a lot of people in the park. Crowley had brought champagne and a bunch of sweets Aziraphale loved.

“You didn’t bring anything for yourself to eat,” he said through a mouthful of danish.

“I ate a couple days ago,” he said, sitting back casually, legs stretched out. “I don’t crave it as much as you.”

“You never really did.”

“Nope. Just as you don’t crave sleep.”

“Yes. We could have done something you like, too.”

“Just because I’m not eating doesn’t mean I don’t like this.”

He wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth. “All right.”

The silence they fell into was rather comfortable, since there was more than enough white noise around them to fill the gaps in between conversation. Aziraphale sipped his champagne and watched humans walk by several yards away, lost in their own worlds, oblivious to the fact that an angel and demon were nearby. He was reminded of a time, ages and ages ago in Egypt, when he and Crowley shared a drink and watched the people, and a similar thought had struck him then. Aziraphale felt nostalgic, and looked over at Crowley, his only true companion, even when they spent lifetimes apart.

There was a small breeze ruffling the swoop of Crowley’s hair ever so slightly, and the setting sunlight made the strands look more auburn than ginger. He was wearing the glasses, of course, but somehow Aziraphale could tell his eyes were closed and that he was enjoying himself. He had taken off his jacket and was wearing a black T-shirt, his arms visible.

Aziraphale caught himself staring at his arms and the way the material of the T-shirt stretched over his biceps, despite his thin frame. He looked back at the people. The world changed around them so much, but they remained relatively the same, for better or worse, despite the frequency of Crowley’s hair and fashion phases. He remembered when he was drinking with Crowley in Egypt, still relatively wary of him, or at least convincing himself that he should have been wary of him. He still had long curls which tumbled past his shoulders back then, and he didn’t cover his eyes as much.

Crowley had lifted his glass to the pyramid being built in the distance. “Look at them now,” he had said. “The things they come up with. What’ll they think of next?”

They saw humanity do so many great and terrible things. No one else could relate to Aziraphale in that way, not even the other angels who couldn’t imagine actually wanting to spend time on earth and with people. Crowley was always the only one who understood. It was no surprise they wound up on the same side.

In the present, Aziraphale carefully laid his hand atop of Crowley’s.

Crowley was startled and whipped his head around.

“Sorry,” he murmured, carefully placing his glass on the bench next to him. “Didn’t mean to surprise you.”

Crowley looked away and took a swig from his glass before saying, “I wasn't surprised.”

“You don’t have to be contrary all the time, dear.”

He hissed.

He was unfazed. “Do you remember when we watched the pyramids go up?” he asked softly.

That got his attention. “Yeah, I do. It was a long time ago.”

“Very long. But we were both there. Your hair was long, too.”

“Yours was as it’s always been.”

“Yours was nice long,” he said, thinking about the memory too much to stop himself.

“Oh. Yeah, it was. Not in fashion right now, though.”

“Maybe not. You didn’t cover your eyes as much, either.”

“No.” A pause. “Any point to this, angel?” he asked, but not unkindly.

“No,” Aziraphale turned his gaze to the setting sun in the distance. “I suppose not. I’m just reminiscing. We’ve been together for a long time, if you think about it.”

“I guess so,” Crowley said. “But there were centuries when we didn’t see each other.”

“No,” he said, and his palm felt hot where it lay on Crowley’s skin. “But.” He should say this. It might be convincing to the archangels, but it was also true and could be argued that he meant it in a friendly matter later. He felt that Crowley should know this. “It was never as fun without you.”

Crowley’s hand twitched under his “No,” he said, a sudden roughness to his voice. “It wasn’t.”

Aziraphale squeezed his hand. He couldn’t help it. Nostalgia was an emotion he didn’t feel often, but sometimes he realized just how old they were and how much time they spent on this planet. What if another demon had been sent up to Eden? He had to ask Crowley what he thought.

“If another demon came instead of me?” he asked in surprise. “Huh...never thought about it, to be honest.”

“Neither have I, until now.”

“We can just as easily wonder what would’ve happened if another angel had guarded the Eastern Gate,” he pointed out.

“Well,” he said thoughtfully, “they probably would have smitten you.”

“Probably,” he agreed, and sat up a little straighter. He kept his hand in the same position.

This was good, yes? Holding hands seemed to be safe territory with Crowley. It was better than nothing. “Any other demon probably would have discorporated me time and time again on earth,” Aziraphale said. He knew their early agreement not to kill each other would not have been shared by any other angel and demon. His being sent from Heaven and Crowley being sent from Hell was completely random, and yet it worked out. Out of all the millions of angels, God sent him to Eden. He was never exactly sure why, and was always grateful for it, but felt it even more now when he considered the alternative of never meeting him. 

“I almost never met you,” Aziraphale said in dawning realization, a hard thump kicking his heart. Even aside from the fact that another demon would have caused him nothing but trouble, it would have been so lonely without Crowley here. He could have spent the rest of his life not knowing the one he'd come to love, if they hadn’t been sent to Eden, or if one of the other guardians of the Gate were told to stay on earth instead. Crowley could have done anything, but he slithered up to Aziraphale, a stranger, an angel, and struck up a conversation. Dozens of other things could have happened to make things play out differently. Was their meeting truly random, or did God know this would happen? He truly hadn’t a clue.

"I suppose not," Crowley mused. He tilted his head to the side, putting his glass down. “You all right?”

Aziraphale blinked the moisture away from his eyes. He wasn’t sure why he felt so emotional. He looked down at his hands. “Yes, fine. I’m only pondering how different it would have been, if…” A chilling thought gripped him. If he hadn’t been sent to live on earth and care for humanity, and if he hadn’t had Crowley there with him, then Aziraphale not only would have been in Heaven right now, but still believing everything they said. He would have been their faithful servant. But the urge to protect humanity and Crowley’s insistence on making him question what Heaven told him since day one set him free. That almost never happened.

“Angel?” he prompted.

Aziraphale fiddled with the ring on his pinky. “If I had remained their loyal servant in Heaven,” he finished his thought, his voice as weak as the autumn leaves falling from the tree behind them. 

“You don’t have to think about that,” Crowley said quietly. “Trust me, you’ll go mad asking yourself what-if questions. We’re here now. This is our reality.”

Aziraphale nodded slowly. He was being silly, wasn’t he? The weight in his gut was unreasonable because he was right. They were here right here, right now. Things could have happened countless other ways, but it happened this way, and that was what mattered. “And what a nice reality it is,” he said thickly. He tried not to jump when he felt an arm around his shoulders. “You don’t have to do that,” he said, not looking at him.

“I know,” Crowley said. “But I’d be a shit husband if I didn’t.” 

Aziraphale was hoping Crowley would have forgotten his blunder from the other day, or at least dropped it, but no, they were still fake married. All right, then. He would play along. It would distract him from imagining how miserable he would have been not knowing Crowley. “Yes. Quite right. Husband.” He did sort of like the way the word felt on his tongue, though. He couldn’t deny that.

“I don’t think humans call each other ‘husband’ this much,” he said.

“We’re not human.” The arm around his shoulder was the closest he ever got to being hugged by Crowley, more of an embrace than when they had walked arm-in-arm, and he had to stop himself from melting and relaxing fully. Hand holding and pseudo hugs were okay with Crowley, then. Maybe kissing just made him uneasy.

“True. And humans do it for tax reasons, too, and we don’t pay taxes.”

“I do,” he said. He wasn’t surprised that a demon didn’t. 

“That’s ’cause you’re all goody two shoes.”

“Thank you.”

He groaned, tilting his head back. “It wasn’t a compliment.”

“It is to an angel.” It was nice, this teasing. It felt normal. “And anyway, humans usually take each other’s surnames, too. We don’t have those.”

“Nope. Just a fake one for you and a fake first name for me.”

But then Aziraphale remembered something humans did: rings. Since marriage and religion were culturally linked throughout history, archangels knew a good deal about how marriages tended to work. Would the archangels question their not wearing rings? He didn’t know, but any holes in their story would be heavily scrutinized. “Crowley,” he whispered, turning his face. “We don’t have rings! They might notice.”

From this short distance, a little of Crowley’s eyes could be seen as the setting sun caught the lenses of his glasses. “Shit,” he swore in annoyance under his breath. “We can miracle a couple up?”

“No,” he shook his head, still whispering. “Above or Below would notice.”

“You’re right.” 

He thought about it, twiddling nervously with his thumbs now. Hold the phone. He looked down at his hand. The golden ring on his little finger shone up at him. He would have to make do. He took the ring off his finger. “Give me your hand.”

Crowley raised his eyebrows, eyes widening behind the glasses. He unwound his arm from his shoulders and held out his left hand.

 

Aziraphale cupped his hand and slid the ring onto his long, slender ring finger. It fit. “There we are,” he murmured, noting that Crowley’s palm felt slightly sweaty and entirely soft.

Crowley took back his hand and looked down, his glasses sliding down his nose by a fraction. He spread his fingers. He was quiet.

Aziraphale stared at his partially exposed eyes, which were large and nervous. “Crowley?” 

He lifted his chin, glasses moving back up. He took a breath. “You’re really gonna make me wear something with angel wings?”

“Pretend they’re demon wings. It isn’t as if angel wings are gold, anyway.”

Crowley looked down at the ring again, flexing his hand. 

“Erm, I know it’s not your taste.”

“Ah, wuh, gfhf, it’s fine,” he stammered. “How long have you had this, anyway?”

Aziraphale was perplexed. Crowley only spoke nonsense syllables like that when intoxicated or nervous, and he hadn’t that much champagne to drink. Odd. “Oh, ages. Can’t recall the exact date.”

Crowley turned away, but not before slowly putting his arm back around him. “I’ll take care of it. I know you’d throw a fit if anything happened to it,” he mumbled.

Oh Lord, he’s choosing to touch me a second time. Aziraphale put his arm on the basket between them, close but not touching him. “You’re supposed to keep it, husband,” he said, because the thought of Crowley wearing his ring made his heart simultaneously sing and clench.

Crowley exhaled slowly. “Right.” They sat in silence as orange drained from the sky and was replaced with purple and dark blue. Fewer and fewer people walked by. Eventually, he took his arm away and put his jacket back on. “It’s getting kinda late.”

Aziraphale was disheartened that the quiet peace they shared was over. “It is, rather.” He cleaned up and put everything back in the basket with a wave of his hand. 

Crowley sighed, scratching the back of his neck. “Maybe...maybe we should kiss.”

Aziraphale deserved a medal for preventing his face from reacting. “We should?”

It was dark, but the lights in the park revealed a spattering of rouge on his face. “Yeah? For, the thing.”

He was suggesting it this time? What had changed his mind? He just wants to live, you old fool. Aziraphale straightened his bow tie, turning his torso toward him. “Yes, all right.” Without further warning, Crowley’s hand was on his cheek and he was being kissed. Aziraphale’s eyes widened momentarily before fluttering shut. He could feel the cool metal of the ring against his skin. Their lips were closed, but Aziraphale could smell the champagne on his breath. He was all sharp angles and frowns and grimaces most of the time, but his lips were awfully soft, and Aziraphale couldn’t get over them. Crowley pulled back, his lips slightly puckering at the end, causing a tiny, spine-tingling smack . His face was inscrutable. Blast those bloody glasses.

The kiss was short, but the fact that it was initiated by Crowley, and he had his face held, left Aziraphale breathless. He stared, wide-eyed and wanting more.

Crowley looked around. “Still no angels?” he asked, voice strained, almost exasperated.

For goodness’ sake, was kissing him really so unpleasant? He stood up, feeling a little hurt. “Let’s go home,” he muttered, and began to walk away.

There was silence, but then rustling and footsteps following him. “Hey,” Crowley appeared beside him, his mouth in a thin, worried line. “You all right?”

Aziraphale folded his hands behind his back and strode ahead. “Well, it’s like you said the other day. They’re not here, so let’s go.” He was being immature, but angels weren’t made for heartache. It was hard. 

“I was thinking,” Crowley said, walking faster to keep up with him, basket in his hand. “Maybe they think it’s weird we don’t live together,” he said quickly, like he was trying to say it before Aziraphale vanished.

Aziraphale stopped. “What?”

Crowley bit his lip, hip cocked to the side, trying and failing for nonchalance. His voice lowered. “During the day, couples go about their business, but at night, usually they live together. Long-term ones do, at least. L-look, it’s only until, you know. And you can go back to your shop during the day. We don’t even have to talk to each other at night. I usually sleep nowadays anyway. I’m just saying. You said you don’t think they’ll look in the flat ‘cause they don’t want to, uh, catch anything, eh, they wouldn’t want to see, right? So you can just do whatever until morning. Anything to make it look more real.”

Aziraphale took all this in, and how Crowley just offered his place and assumed he would accept. His assumption was correct. But the idea of spending the night with Crowley (or multiple nights) made him clasp his hands tighter behind his back. He had stayed at the flat the night before their planned execution, but they talked and planned the whole time. There was no room for intimacy. Now, however…

“It seems like a reasonable course of action,” he said stiffly.

Crowley nodded, biting his lip again. “Uh huh. Yeah. ’S what I thought. Let’s go.”

The silence they shared now on the way home was anxious. Or maybe that was just Aziraphale. He didn’t know, but Crowley didn’t say anything or turn on any music. It was a little uncomfortable.

When they got to the flat, Aziraphale took off his coat and settled stiffly on the sofa. He didn’t think he would ever care for the minimalist design of the flat. Did I seriously agree to spend the night here? he asked himself. He didn’t even know what he would do during the night. There weren’t any books, as far as he knew.

As if reading his mind, Crowley tossed him a remote control. “I know you don’t watch much television, but it’ll keep you from being bored tonight. You can bring books over tomorrow night. I know you don’t like miracling them from place to place because you don’t wanna damage them, or whatever.”

He knew him well. Aziraphale stared at the remote warily. “Isn’t television one of yours?”

“Game shows,” he smiled proudly.

“I’ll be sure to avoid those.”

“Hey!”

Aziraphale flashed him an innocent smile.

“Bastard. I’m going to bed.”

“Do you really sleep so frequently?”

“Now that I don’t have to work? Yeah. It’s a nice habit. I still think you should try it.”

“No thank you.”

“Suit yourself.”

Crowley disappeared into the flat, and Aziraphale spent the next two hours watching one terrible show after the other. Good Lord, did humans seriously enjoy programs about unexpected teenage pregnancies and extreme weight loss? He stumbled upon a cooking show, and that was enjoyable, but once it was over, an infomercial for hair loss came on and he got bored. He decided to stand up and stretch his legs. He took off his coat and laid it on the sofa, stretching his arms over his head, and surprised himself with a yawn. Television was mind-numbing enough make him tired. No matter, it would soon pass. He assumed Crowley was sleeping and walked through the flat quietly. He went into the plant room and looked around thoroughly, admiring their leaves and whispering little encouragements. Towards the back, he saw large, vibrant flowers, the kind that had been in the bouquet. 

“I knew it!” he said under his breath. “Why did Crowley deny growing you?” he asked the morning glories, petting their petals. “How well he’s grown you all.”

After leaving the plant room, he wandered down the hallway, and his eyebrows knitted together. There was a statue, not the ridiculous wrestling statue he had seen his first time here, but one he must have walked right by. It felt familiar. He walked closer, keeping his footsteps light, mindful of the bedroom door nearby. He stood before the statue, and the memory of smoke filled his nostrils, the sound of chaos in the distance, rubble beneath his feet, and a bag clutched in his hand. It was a statue from the church in 1941. How did Crowley take it without his knowledge? Better yet, why had he taken it? It was 2021 now, which meant he held onto this for 80 years. Had he simply liked it? But why would a demon have something from a church in his home? It occurred to Aziraphale that this flat was not Crowley’s only residence since 1941, meaning that he must have taken it with him multiple times over the years. It must have meant a lot to him, especially considering how little personal items and momentos he kept around the flat.

But Aziraphale couldn’t figure out why. He, however, had to place a hand over his heart while looking at it, because he remembered that night and the feeling of a rug being roughly yanked out from under his feet when he realized he was deeply, desperately, irreversibly in love with Crowley. Out of all his nights on earth, that was among the ones he remembered most clearly and deemed being of utmost importance. He remembered desiring, with clarity and little guilt for a terrifying moment, to remove Crowley’s glasses and lock their lips together, thanking him for the books without words. He remembered desiring to pull Crowley into his arms and apologize for not speaking to him since 1862, and tell him that no, he wasn’t really angry, but absolutely beyond frightened at the thought of losing him forever. He had to walk away and settle back on the sofa, because his heart was beginning to hurt from looking at the statue. He sank heavily into the cushions next to his coat and rubbed his eyes, sighing deeply into his hands. 80 years of knowing he adored that wily serpent with all of his heart. It was contradictory to who he was and why he was created by the Almighty, but sometimes, loving was truly exhausting.

Aziraphale sat on the sofa and stared blankly at the screen, not registering what was on it, and thought of Crowley in his bedroom.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale was relieved when the morning news came on the television. He didn’t really keep up with current events so much, and had only done so throughout history when told to intervene in a certain situation by Heaven, or if the event would alter the lives of generations to come, but he was generally too old and had been around too long to keep up with everything. Watching news he had a vague understanding of felt like a blessing, though, compared to the rubbish that was on before. He would definitely bring over some books tonight because he couldn’t sit through another episode of that Jeremey Kyle fellow. He idly wondered if Crowley had anything to do with him getting his own show. He sighed. Crowley . He spent the past four hours thinking of him and only felt more exhausted than before the night started. If only he hadn’t seen that bloody statue from the church. He couldn’t get it out of his mind, or the memory of the tidal wave of love that hit him that night. Aziraphale must have started loving him long before, but he honestly couldn’t remember when. 1941, though, was a definitive moment. In a way, he wished he never had that revelation, because loving Crowley and being oblivious to it was better than this. It didn’t hurt as much back then.

Speak of the devil, he emerged from his room completely dressed, glasses included, contrasting when he answered the door several days ago with messy hair and a loose T-shirt. 

Aziraphale was mildly disappointed, because that was a side of Crowley he almost never got to see and he hoped it would make a reappearance this morning. He was still wearing the gold ring, though, so that was nice. “Good morning,” he greeted him.

Crowley grunted and walked in front of the television. “Why’re the plants so happy?” he asked suspiciously. “I can feel the joy from here.”

“I gave them some encouraging words,” Aziraphale said, just to see him groan in irritation.

“Noooo,” he whined. “You’re here one night and they’ve been spoilt.”

Aziraphale turned off the blasted television. “I got bored without my books and the rubbish on that thing,” he pointed at the black screen. He wished Crowley didn’t sleep regularly. He would have rather spent the night talking to him, but he wouldn’t selfishly deprive him of sleep, even if they didn’t need it.

He smirked. “Did you finally catch up and see what people have been watching for the past several decades?”

“Are you sure you only had a hand in game shows?” he asked as he stood up.

“Positive.”

Aziraphale put his coat on. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to my books after that awful night. I have no idea why humans would make exploitative programs about poor, frightened teenage mothers-to-be.”

Crowley was holding back a laugh. “Poor thing,” he teased. “Go read something before you pout harder.”

Aziraphale glared at him. He straightened his bow tie, lifting his chin. “Yes, well, I’m off. Are you heading out?”

“Yeah, got some errands to run,” he said as he walked to the front door.

“Do I even want to know?”

“Probably not,” he opened the door.

Aziraphale rolled his eyes and stepped out. “Of course not.”

“I’ll see you tonight?”

“Yes.” They hadn’t planned anything to do that day to keep up the facade, but maybe Aziraphale could do something now, something simple but not friendly. He thought about it for a second, and then quickly wrapped his arms around Crowley’s shoulders. His form was rigid in his arms and his hands tensed by his sides. It was the first time they hugged. Kissing may have technically been more intimate, but this made Aziraphale’s heart beat hard, and he realized their chests were pressed together. It was warm. For the first time in his life, at least consciously, Aziraphale really wanted to be hugged.

Crowley didn’t move.

Aziraphale wanted to go home. “Have a good day, dearest,” he said, and forced his tone to be light and affectionate. He let go of him and stepped back.

Crowley’s eyes were perfectly hidden, expression unreadable. He nodded silently.

Aziraphale turned and left the building without looking back. It was colder than yesterday and the wind bit at his cheeks. He barely felt it, though, as he walked with his hands in front of his stomach and eyes on the ground. 


It was a relief when closed the door to his shop and breathed in the comforting, delightful smell of his books. Home. He needed to relax. He put on a record of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 and sat down in a cushy armchair with The Tale of Genji. This was much better. He was alone. He didn’t have to mask his expression. He could let his face contort with frustration and the bitter sting of rejection. He could get lost in a book, have fiction let him escape the loneliness that always lurked behind him. It was what he had been doing for thousands of years.

Before he knew it, it was dark.

Aziraphale looked up with a blink, realizing the record had stopped hours ago. He sighed. It was nighttime now, so he would have to return to Crowley’s flat. His mind would get tangled up in confusion and longing and heartache again, if he let it. He packed a few books into a bag, determined not to turn on the television again or spend hours coddling his pathetically soft heart outside the comfort of his shop. Honestly, he was better than this. The events of the past few days merely put him on edge and eroded his resolve. It was much harder to ignore the flame that would ignite in his soul while he thought of Crowley when they shared physical contact. He sighed again when he put on his coat. He still thought of the bloody statue.

Aziraphale knocked on the door, but there was no answer. He knew it was quite late, so he let himself in with a wave of his hand and looked around. The flat was quiet and dark. How long had he been reading? He removed his coat and laid it on the stiff sofa like he had the night before, and set the bag of books on a cushion. He snapped his fingers and lit the room enough so he could see, and walked through the flat.

“Crowley?” he called softly.

He didn’t hear anything. Perhaps he was sleeping already? Aziraphale decided to pay another visit to the plant room, and he stroked the petals of the flowers Crowley denied growing.

“He’s all talk,” he whispered to them. “He cares about all of you. Don’t be frightened, lovelies. He won’t harm something as beautiful as you.” When he left the room, he was drawn to the statue yet again. He stood in front of it for a couple minutes, lost in thought. It was as if he could still smell the dust and ash from the explosion, if he closed his eyes and tried hard enough. All these years later, Aziraphale could feel the same warmth bloom in his chest when he remembered Crowley rushing in and hurting himself to save him, and preserving the books as if it were nothing. He had done other kind things for him in the past, but the fact that he put himself in pain to save Aziraphale, without having to be asked, after decades of icy silence, made Aziraphale’s human heart swell.

“What’re you doing?” Crowley asked.

Aziraphale gasped and spun around. “Don’t scare me like that.”

Even in the sparse lighting, it was evident that Crowley was perturbed. He was wearing black pajamas and his eyes were bare, an intense yellow in the low light. “Why are you over here? I thought you’d be reading.”

“I was looking at the statue.”

“Yeah, I can see that. Why?” His tone was clipped.

Aziraphale wasn’t sure why he was bothered. “Well, I recognize it.”

Crowley’s mouth was in a taut line. “You do?” he asked quietly.

“Of course I do. London, 1941. The Nazis.”

His face grew more troubled. “Yeah.”

“It was from a church. Why do you have it?”

He shrugged so hard it looked painful for his neck. “Duno. Just liked it.”

Aziraphale knew it was a lie. “You, a demon, ‘just liked’ something from a church?” he asked with complete skepticism.

Crowley swallowed.

Aziraphale watched the movement in his throat. Why are you nervous? “Why did you take it?”

“Just liked it,” he repeated. “No other reason.”

Aziraphale showed his skepticism. “Forgive me for finding that difficult to believe.”

“It’s art. I like art.”

“Religious art?”

“It’s nothing,” he hissed. “I dunno what you’re implying, but it’s nothing.”

“I’m not implying anything,” he said, because he would have to have some idea of why Crowley kept it to make any implications. “I’m only asking. I wouldn’t be curious if I didn’t know it’s from a church.”

A fierce spark lit up his eyes. “Drop it,” he said sternly. “You’re being ridiculous. It’s just a bloody statue.”

Aziraphale didn’t like his tone. “You don’t have to be rude about it,” he shot back. 

“I’m a demon, I’m—”

Aziraphale rolled his eyes hard. “Yes, yes, you’re not nice and evil and all that. I’m aware. You’re also acting like a human child instead of a demon older than time all because I asked about the decor.” Maybe spending hours obsessing over the statue last night left him in a more rotten mood than he realized. It was that he was so baffled lately, so off-kilter, that he wasn’t in the mood for this.

Crowley’s glare would have made any human cower. “You’re being nosy.”

Aziraphale met that glare with his own. “For goodness’ sake, Crowley, you’re overreacting. You have so few mementos in this flat that the statue stands out. I recognized it and asked you a question. That’s all.”

After a few seconds, some of the fire in his eyes seemed to go out. He looked at the statue. “That’s really the only reason why you asked?”

“Yes!” Aziraphale said in exasperation. “Why else would I?”

Crowley blinked. “Erm, no reason.” He rubbed his eyes. “Yeah, I guess I’m just on edge because I’m tired. Didn’t sleep well last night.”

Aziraphale knew this was the closest to an apology he was going to get. He was still ticked off by the exchange, and frazzled from everything, but he decided to drop it. There was no use in fighting when they had to share the same roof. “You know you can actually go without sleeping for eternity, yes?”

“I got in the habit,” he groaned. “Trust me, if you get these bodies in the habit of sleep, they’ll crave it.”

“That’s part of why I abstain from it.” Aziraphale took in the sight of him in the black pajama pants and shirt. His hair wasn’t ruffled, and there wasn’t a trace of drowsiness to his eyes. Belatedly, he realized that Crowley was wearing his ring. It was established that they were most likely going unwatched within the walls of the flat itself. There was no need to wear it inside, much less to bed. Don’t overthink it. He tore his eyes away from the gold and met his gaze. “Didn’t your feet burn?” That wasn’t what he meant to ask; he meant to ask if the television last night had kept him awake, but he couldn’t leave 1941.

Crowley narrowed his eyes. “This again?”

“It’s not about the statue. You were hopping around that night.”

“Of course they were burning,” he muttered. “Consecrated ground. Even through the shoes, the floor burned.”

Aziraphale gazed at the golden wings around his finger. “But you came in anyway.” There was a small, slightly painful twisting sensation in his chest.

Crowley’s stare turned sharper. “Yeah. It was 80 years ago. If you try to thank me for something from that long ago, I’ll kick you out.”

“80 years isn’t long to us,” Aziraphale said, more to himself, thinking more about how little time he spent knowing he was in love with Crowley, comparatively.

“I guess not.” He sounded impatient. “Look, I think I’m tired now so I’m going back to bed. I thought you’d come earlier than 2 in the morning, by the way.”

Oh dear, was that the time? “I got lost in a book.”

A flicker of a smile. “Of course you did.” His mouth went back into a straight line. “Before I hit the hay, what do you want to do tomorrow? I mean, another day went by and you’ve still heard nothing, right?”

“Right.” He didn’t know what to do. Weren’t they watching? The possibility of an angel being immune to hellfire was of importance to them. He knew the archangels, too, especially Gabriel; they wouldn’t just peek in, see him kissing Crowley, and move on with a nonchalant shrug. He saw how scandalized they were at the thought of them together. Gabriel, at least, would make a scene and tell Aziraphale off for sullying his celestial temple, or whatever. But where were they? “I’ll try to think of something tonight, and if I don’t come up with something, we can think about it tomorrow morning. I’m assuming you have no plans tomorrow?”

“Nope. All right, well, I’ll see you in the morning. Or, well, a few hours from now.”

“Okay. Goodnight.”

Once Aziraphale was alone and seated on the sofa, he tilted his head back and sighed at the ceiling. All that fuss over a bloody statue. He didn’t think Crowley was being truthful, but knew asking about it again would get his head bitten off. He almost seemed afraid by Aziraphale’s interest in it. Was that night of significance to him, too? It had to have been for him to have kept the statue. Was it because it was the first time they had spoken since their fight in 1862? That wasn’t the first time they went through decades apart, but the fight had been particularly nasty. Aziraphale had a book in his hands, but he had yet to open it. He had a headache, which was unusual for him. When he miracled it away, it returned after spending another minute thinking about the current situation. He miracled it away. He thought of Crowley’s tone of voice in the park in 1862.

“‘Fraternizing’?!”

He had been hurt. “I don’t need you!”  

A lie. Another lie. Upon reflection, Crowley actually didn’t lie often, especially not for a demon, but when he did, it seemed to relate to how much he cared about their friendship.

Aziraphale’s head hurt again. Bugger. He decided to close his eyes to try to silence his thoughts and ease his head. 6,000 years of never closing his eyes for more than a blink, or for kisses, was exhausting. He just needed to clear his mind. Just for a minute.


Aziraphale’s thoughts were slow and he felt...he wasn’t sure, actually. His eyes were heavy and his mind was wandering, landing on various nonsensical thoughts but not lingering for more than a moment. His body felt warm, his limbs solid and heavy, and his mouth felt a little dry. His head didn’t hurt anymore, but it felt...not drunk, no, but not alert, either. He was drifting. His lack of control over his thoughts was disconcerting. The corner of his mouth twitched.

But then a familiar voice gently murmured, “Just getting you comfortable, angel. ’S all right.”

Aziraphale was fading, but he still turned his head toward the source of the noise with a small whine, fighting the weight that was attempting to drag him back into oblivion.

A small sigh. “It’s never easy with you is it?” Soft warmth was tucked around him, up to his chin. 

Aziraphale frowned, his mind beginning to surface. He wanted to say something, but he was only able to produce another soft whine.

“Shhh,” came the quiet breath, like leaves rustled by wind on the pavement. The faintest, barely-there brush of two fingers against his cheek. “You’ll sleep peacefully and soundly.”

That voice. He furrowed his brow, about to open his eyes, but fingers snapped and he was out.


Aziraphale felt his mind slowly regain its senses. It was a gradual thing, starting with his sense of touch. The sofa’s leather cushions were cool, but his front was warm. He was still upright, and his neck hurt from being tilted slightly backwards. He frowned and sent the pain away with a quick miracle. With the pain gone, he was comfortable again. He didn’t feel like opening his eyes. He could easily go back to...sleep! His eyes shot open and he sat up. It was much brighter than the last time his eyes were open. Did he seriously fall asleep? Was this weird sensation grogginess? Was that why there was a heaviness to his limbs? He looked down and knew why he felt warm. There was a cream-colored fleece blanket. He didn’t remember seeing this in the flat. He blinked and saw the book that had been in his hands next to him on the sofa. He didn’t remember putting that down. He glanced behind him and realized a pillow was there. He definitely knew that hadn’t been there and—and his shoes were off, on the floor next to his feet. He felt disoriented, distressingly so. What time was it? How long was he asleep? Why did he fall asleep? Why—?

“Oh, Satan, Aziraphale, calm down,” Crowley drawled.

Aziraphale looked up and saw Crowley come into the room. He felt oddly self-conscious and swallowed. “What happened?”

Crowley was dressed now, but his sunglasses were still off. He rolled his eyes, but there was a hint of amusement playing at his lips. “You fell asleep, angel. That’s all. You’re fine. It’s eleven in the morning.”

“Eleven? The morning is nearly over! Oh, I don’t know how—this never happened to me before. I didn’t intend to—”

“Shush, will ya?” he walked to the couch with his hands in his pockets. “You’re acting like someone smacked you in the head and knocked you unconscious. Your body was probably tired after, hmmm, what was it again, 6,000 years?”

“Technically two years since I was discorporated,” he muttered.

“Whatever. You slept and the world didn’t end. Stop fussing.”

Aziraphale flexed his toes, seeing them move inside his socks. “You took off my shoes.”

The snarky, lazy uplift to his lips vanished. “Well, yeah.”

“And put my book down.”

“Yeah?”

“And gave me a pillow.”

He reached into his pocket and put his sunglasses on.

“And this blanket. It isn’t your color. Did you miracle it up?” Crowley had cared for him in sleep, made sure he was comfortable when he was unconscious and vulnerable. That made an alarming mix of embarrassment and fondness brew inside him. The image of Crowley seeing him asleep caused blood to rush to his ears. Apparently, his emotions were closer to the surface when he just woke up. That was a new reason to avoid sleep in the future.

He sniffed, looking away. “The only other blankets I have are on my bed, what was I supposed to do?”

Aziraphale folded the blanket and placed it on the sofa next to his book. “Thank you,” he said, trying to wrap his head around Crowley seeing him asleep and deciding to look after him.

“Shut up.”

Aziraphale looked down at himself and frowned. “Look how wrinkled my clothes are now.”

“Most people don’t sleep in trousers and a waistcoat. Or a bow tie.”

He miracled the wrinkles out of his clothes, although he preferred to have them ironed. He stood up. “I’m afraid I didn’t think of anything last night. For us to do today, I mean.”

“I did,” he said, apparently finding his barren, grey wall interesting to look at.  “Something kinda like the picnic we had, but different.”

“Different how?”

“Maybe just sitting together on a bench wasn’t enough.”

Oh Lord. “We did share a kiss.”

“Yeah, but only for a sec,” Crowley said to the wall. “Maybe we gotta do something for a longer period of time.”

“Such as?” 

“Maybe uh, you know how humans lay together sometimes? Like a, like a kind of embrace but they keep doing it and just. Sit?”

Aziraphale pictured what he was describing. “You mean we should have a cuddle?”

“Don’t call it that!” he snapped, teeth bared. “That’s insulting.”

“Well,” he huffed, “what else should I call it?”

He grunted. “Anyway, instead of just sitting, we can do that ‘cause that can’t be interpreted as friendly.”

He was going to get to snuggle Crowley? He had wanted to hold him for so long, and the thought made him as giddy as the possibility of kissing. “Do it outside, you mean? At the park again?”

“Nah, sick of the park. Beach?”

“The beach?” his eyes widened. “Why, I haven’t been by the sea in ages.”

“Neither have I. It’s not hot out, but I don’t think you’d want to strip down to a swimsuit anyway, eh?”

Aziraphale found the idea ludicrous. “Oh, no. I don’t think I’ve ever owned one.”

A ghost of a smile. “Didn’t think so. We can pick a spot away from people and lie on a towel together. It won’t be that awful, right? And we can hope they see us. You’re sure they haven’t already?” He said it because it was the truth, but also because a part of him hoped they truly hadn’t been spotted yet so this could continue.

“Do you honestly believe Gabriel would see me kiss a demon, shrug, and go on his merry way?”

“Point taken,” he said with a grimace.

And that was how Aziraphale currently found himself lying down on a towel in the sand. It was a mild day out, the breeze from the sea giving a slight chill to the air, but he was dressed fully, only his coat and shoes shed aside. It was sunny and Crowley had brought them to a spot near rocks away from people, just as he said. They had been quiet on the ride here, and when Aziraphale forgot himself and turned on the radio, “By the Sea” from Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd played.

“At least it’s accurate,” was the only comment Crowley gave, but when the song ended, he shut off the music entirely. Perhaps that had something to do with the lines, “But a seaside wedding could be devised/ Me rumpled bedding legitimized/ Me eyelids’ll flutter/ I’ll turn into butter/ The moment I mutter ‘I do-hoo!’”

Crowley took off his shoes, too, and there were scales on his feet. Aziraphale never noticed before, since shoes had been a rather early human invention. They were black with hints of red, just like his full serpentine form. He cleared his throat. “Sorry. I know they’re not human,” he said as he sat down. “It’s another thing I can’t control.”

“No need to apologize,” he said, and he truly was fascinated by them more than anything else. The sun was on his face, but the rays comfortable and not oppressively warm. He inhaled deeply, letting the salt-tinged air fill his lungs. He exhaled slowly, wiggling a little against the soft towel. “You picked a wonderful day, dear.”

“Mm.” There was a click when he swallowed, the sun high in the sky and highlighting the tips of his upturned hair ginger. “Yeah. So. I’m just gonna. Do it. It’ll be weird, but.”

Aziraphale’s mouth was dry. “Do what you must.”

Crowley nodded curtly. Aziraphale was going to ask how he intended to do this and what position they should be in, but Crowley braced one hand on the towel and lowered himself down next to him on his side. His body was pressed against Aziraphale’s right side and he laid a hand over his chest and put his head down on his shoulder.

Aziraphale’s human heart hammered beneath his palm, suddenly feeling warm in a way the sun could never cause. Crowley’s body was solid and warm against his, despite snakes being cold-blooded. His head in particularly was almost heavy on Aziraphale’s shoulder, and his hair brushed and tickled the side of his neck and the underside of his jaw. Entirely unaccustomed to this, Aziraphale haltingly and slowly moved his arm and wrapped it around Crowley, trying to conceal that he was losing his composure very quickly. He stared up at the blue sky and silently asked Why, God? He pressed his lips together tightly when a slim leg hooked over his thicker one. They were touching so much, and Aziraphale wished he could make his heart stop beating so hard, but killing this body was a bad idea.

“This is weird,” Crowley said, voice strained. “Eurgh, I mean, we do this all the time. But. It’s weird today.”

Aziraphale didn’t trust himself to speak without squeaking. His hand was touching Crowley’s hip and he had to resist squeezing Crowley’s body closer. This was lovely. It was, painful. He never held anyone like this. When he had sex with humans, he never lingered, never did anything but politely part ways after. This was new, and he wanted to turn on his side, bury his nose into his hair, and hold him tighter, touching from chest to feet. He didn’t. He stayed on his back.

A small, irritated huff from Crowley. “Your heart’s going fast. Calm down.”

Darn, so he could feel it. “Sorry, it’s only...before you, I never did this.”

“Really? Me neither.”

“I didn’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“Demons don’t cuddle often.”

“This isn’t cuddling!” he insisted.

“Snuggling?”

“I’ll drown you in the sea.” His threat rang hollow when it was mumbled into Aziraphale’s shoulder.

“Do you like this?” he asked, and regretted it immediately. He’s pretending, you dolt.

But Crowley said, “It’s all right. You’re warm, and...soft.”

A pleased pink fell upon his cheeks. “Oh. Thank you.” A pause. “Gabriel thinks I’m too soft. He told me, on the day of Armageddon, to lose the gut,” he poked his stomach with his free hand.

Crowley grumbled and shifted, his lips now close to his neck, “Well it’s a bloody well good thing you’re married to me and I’ve always liked you as you are.”

Aziraphale didn’t know what to say, but he was starting to think that Crowley was taking their fake marriage a little...seriously. No, he’s only a good actor...right? The distant sound of waves filled the silence. Aziraphale’s heart slowed down after a couple minutes, and he found that lying with Crowley was quite cozy. Something about having another body so close relaxed his own. Having Crowley so close relaxed his mind, too. He spent so long worried about Crowley’s well-being and then telling himself he shouldn’t have cared, but fretting anyway. He was always afraid Hell would destroy him, and a replacement would be sent up. But he was here, in Aziraphale’s loose embrace. Aziraphale wished they could always do this so he’d never leave his sight.

Crowley himself was quiet, his breathing even and light, his chest moving up and down against Aziraphale’s side. He was uncharacteristically still for someone who gestured and swaggered around so much. His glasses were on, but his visible features were eased. His fingers curled into the fabric of the waistcoat.

Aziraphale realized he was carefully running his hand up and down Crowley’s side to his hip and retracted his hand abruptly.

“Ngh,” Crowley lifted his head. “Why’d you stop?” His voice was gravely.

Aziraphale cautiously did it again, and his heart fluttered when Crowley put his head down with a small sigh. Aziraphale was stunned, his eyes on the sky. He seemed to be genuinely enjoying this. A demon being petted by an angel. 

“What would Hell think if they saw us now?” Aziraphale asked. “We know what Heaven would think.”

He let out a snort, but it sounded more bitter instead of sarcastic. He tucked his head down, and his face was almost invisible to Aziraphale from this angle. “If the other creatures of Hell knew I was in love with an angel?” he asked with a spat on “love.”

Aziraphale’s stomach flipped. “Y-you mean if they thought you were, you felt that way?”

“Yeah?” he asked, tensing in Aziraphale’s arm. “That’s what I said. Anyway. They don’t think—they can’t kill me, so that’s out. But they’d laugh their arses off.” He sat up, pulling his knees up and fixing his glasses.

Aziraphale immediately missed his warmth and sat up, too, hand hovering as he decided whether or not to reach out to him.

“I told you before. Demons aren’t supposed to love,” he said, looking ahead to the sea. His voice was sullen, a droop to his shoulders. “I’d never be able to show my face in Hell again, not that I really want to, but.” His jaw clenched. “If anyone knew how much I...that we’re doing this...it’s humiliating. But they’ll find out soon, I guess, and it’s for our safety, so. Whatever. It is what it is.”

Aziraphale’s gut twisted and it felt like a hand was flicking his heart. Was that why he disliked all the, as he put it before, “mushy” stuff, because of what Hell would think, because he wasn’t meant to feel anything remotely nice and good? Could it be that...Crowley was capable of romantic love, but shut himself down for his entire existence as a demon because he feared punishment? Did he refuse to allow himself to consider feeling anything that was forbidden for demons? Aziraphale was allowed to love as an angel, but of course, loving a demon was taboo, so he had an idea of how he felt. But Crowley’s frown lines were deep, and Aziraphale wanted to make him feel better.

He placed his hand on his shoulder. “Well, what if you told them you were seducing me?”

Crowley’s head turned so fast it was comical. “If I what ?”

“Let me explain!” he flushed. “Wouldn’t that be admirable, if you were to seduce an angel and make one sully themselves with the Damned? That’s how it would be seen, at least.”

A smirk slowly turned up his lips. “Huh. Yeah, hah. I guess I could play it off like that.” He put his hand on top of his. “What matters is that they know we’re part of each other, and we’ve done all that good mixing essences stuff.”

“Yes.” He wanted to hold him again. “Crowley, would you lie back down? We haven’t been here very long, and it’s such a nice day…” He raised his eyebrows. “For the thing, you know.”

“Yeah,” he said. “For the thing.”

They assumed their previous position, and Crowley’s hand was back over his heart, warm and protective. Aziraphale let the sky see the perplexed thought process play across his face. Have you ever loved anyone? he wanted to ask. Have you ever wanted this before? Have you ever imagined someone holding you?

The minutes passed easily, and Aziraphale got lost in a fantasy of what it would be like if he and Crowley lived in a nice little cottage by the sea. “By the sea, married nice and proper,” from Sweeney Todd played in his mind. Then he vaguely remembered another song by that band Crowley liked.

“Crowley?” he asked.

“Hmm?”

“Didn’t that Freddie Pluto fellow sing a song about the sea?”

“Oh hell , Aziraphale, it’s Freddie Mercury!” he admonished, scandalized and glaring at him from over the rim of his glasses, his pointy chin on Aziraphale’s shoulder. “And yes, ‘Seaside Rendezvous,’” he hissed each sibilant. “Another soft song of theirs,” he grumbled.

“But you still listen to it?”

He put his head back down. “They’re still a good band,” he mumbled.

“I see,” Aziraphale said. He felt like he discovered a new part of Crowley today, one he quite liked. But he knew any further talk of Crowley’s soft side would end in anger and denials, so he stayed quiet and held him closer. I’d give you the love you were told to loathe, if you’d let me.

Some time later, Crowley’s hand moved from his chest to slip into the hand by his side. Aziraphale held his hand, eyes closed and enjoying the sun. This was nice. This was safe. 

Then lips brushed his jaw.

Aziraphale startled and Crowley recoiled. Aziraphale grasped his hand again, not wanting him to go. “Sorry, you just startled me,” he explained.

Crowley stared at him, eyebrows and the top of his eyes visible. He looked unsure.

Aziraphale’s heart pounded and he was glad Crowley’s hand had moved. This was his chance to feel those deliciously soft lips again, and his hedonistic side overrode all else. “Do it again, please.”

Crowley’s hand twitched in his, and he leaned over to place a small kiss on his jaw. It was barely more than a peck. But then he brought their mouths together, careful and slow.

Aziraphale stayed very skill, afraid of scaring him away, but he couldn’t help but feel sad for Crowley in a way he never had before. No one ever kissed Crowley because they loved him before, and what a tragedy that was. If Crowley were perfectly okay with this, then that would be one thing, but Aziraphale was getting the distinct feeling that this had not been a choice on his part. To, perhaps, secretly desire love but never be on the receiving end of it—oh, Aziraphale knew that pain so well. My poor dear. Aching to love him, he kissed back, letting himself part his lips and feel the gentle glide of Crowley’s mouth against his. He closed his mouth over Crowley’s bottom lip, not at all hard enough to be a nip or suck, but a caress.

Crowley pulled back and he looked down. His eyebrows shot up to his hairline. “Uh. Why are you glowing?”

Aziraphale looked down and, to his dismay, a little ball of light was shining from his chest. He sat up abruptly, sending Crowley on his back in the sand. 

“Ouch.”

“Sorry!” he stood, hands uselessly fluttering around his chest. “I don’t know what this could be,” he lied. He let out too much love and scrambled to pull it back inside. Stupid, stupid, stupid! This was why he couldn’t let himself get carried away!

Crowley rose to his feet, brushing sand from his trousers. He was studying Aziraphale. “Never saw an angel glow before.”

“Neither have I, unless we’re in our true forms.” He willed the light back inside him, and he didn’t want to be here anymore. If they cuddled again, he was sure to glow. “Let’s return home, shall we?”

Crowley put his hands on his hips. “Already?”

“Yes,” he said, tone leaving no room for protest. At this rate, if they kept this up with a display of affection a day, they were bound to be caught sometime, so there was no point in him torturing himself further for the day and struggling to keep the lid on the bubbling pot of love inside his chest.

Crowley nodded.

The car ride home was heavy with silence, save for these sentences:

“We can’t get kissing right,” Crowley muttered.

“Apparently not.”

“It’s hard to fake, yeah? Don’t know how incubi do it.”

“Neither do I.” And that answered the question of whether or not Crowley seduced anyone for work. He felt a little relieved, and was too grumpy to care that jealousy was not an angelic trait.

They spent the rest of the evening apart in the flat, not in great moods. Aziraphale read and Crowley shut himself in his room. After a few hours and two finished books, Aziraphale was lonely. He spent countless nights perfectly content to be alone with his books, but tonight was different. He now knew what it was like to hold Crowley and his human body was itching to be touched once more. His feet took him to Crowley’s bedroom, and he quietly pushed the door open.

In the dark, two yellow eyes stared at him.

“Sorry,” Aziraphale said immediately. “I don’t know why I’m here, really.”

Crowley snapped his fingers and a lamp came on. The room was as barren as the rest of the flat, except for the large double bed and bedside table with some device on it Aziraphale didn’t recognize (he would later be told it was an “iPod hooked up to a dock with speakers”, whatever that meant). Crowley was in the bed, clad in another pair of black pajamas. He looked tired, lines pulling down his mouth and circles under his eyes. With a heavy sigh, he pulled down the maroon duvet and black sheet. “Come on, then.”

Aziraphale laughed nervously. “Oh, no, I have no intention of sleeping again—”

“So?” he quirked an eyebrow. “You can sit. Bring a book. Just stop standing there like a weirdo.”

This had nothing to do with the plan and Aziraphale knew it. The implication made an old, familiar spark of fear paralyze him. He’s just being polite, the old voice said, but it was becoming less convincing. 

“It’s either you sit out there alone and read, you sit out there and try television again, or you come here and read. There are your choices.”

He bit his lip. The bed did look awfully soft. It wouldn’t technically be that different from when they sat on the same piece of furniture before, and they were certainly physically closer earlier today. “Are you tempting me, serpent?”

His lips were neutral but his eyes were smiling. How often did his eyes smile behind the glasses? “Your choice.”

“All right.” When he returned with a book, he gasped when his clothes were replaced with a matching pair of blue plaid pajama shirt and bottoms. “Crowley!”

“You’re not getting into my bed in a bloody waistcoat,” he said. “Your clothes are out on the sofa, don’t worry.”

Aziraphale looked down at his attire. “Well, it’s not terrible.”

“Oh, thank you,” he rolled his eyes. “Now shut up and read your book,” he grumbled and burrowed down into the blankets.

Aziraphale sat on the other side of the bed close to the edge, on top of the blankets. He held his copy of The Sound and the Fury gingerly in his hands, feeling awkward. It had actually been quite some time he had been in an actual bed.

“You brought that to read in bed?” Crowley asked.

“You know what this is? I thought you didn’t read,” Aziraphale said, putting on his reading glasses.

“I don’t, but I can . And why are you wearing glasses? Your eyesight is perfect, and if it’s not you can make it so.”

He looked down at the cover of the book and cleared his throat. “They make me look proper.”

Crowley cackled, throwing his head back on the pillow. “Seriously?”

“Aren’t you supposed to be sleeping?”

Crowley was smirking. “How long have you been wearing glasses without needing to?”

Aziraphale opened the book. “Go to sleep. You better not snore.”

“We don’t need to breathe either, you know. Why would I do that?”

Aziraphale didn’t answer, turning to the first page. He didn’t get very far, however, because it turned out Crowley did snore, and was quite breathtakingly endearing in this position—one arm thrown over his head on the pillow, the backs of his fingers against the headboard, and hand on his chest, holding a fistful of blankets, his eyes moving behind the lids in a dream and his mouth open. What would humanity think if they knew the Serpent of Eden looked like this? Aziraphale knew without asking that Crowley never let himself be seen in this state by anyone else. He put the book down on the bedside table, allowing fondness to make his face break out into a terribly love-struck smile. The lamp was still on and cast a warm, yellow glow on Crowley’s relaxed face, and his hair was out of its usual style and a little like a messy mop on the pillow. Aziraphale glanced down at the golden ring on top of his slowly rising and falling chest.

Something big was shifting beneath their feet, changing the foundation of their relationship. Aziraphale remembered how wary he was of him when they met on the wall of Eden, and now they were sharing a bed, with the demon in the vulnerable position. He scooted down and put his head on the pillow, turning onto his side. He could have reached out and stroked Crowley’s cheek, but kept his hands folded in front of his glowing chest. Darn. Stop it, he told the ball of love in his chest. Apparently, witnessing Crowley snooze overwhelmed him with love, too. You learn something new every day, he thought dryly. His chest wouldn’t stop glowing. He worried his lip between his teeth, looking over Crowley’s form for any trace of alertness. Maybe if he just said it once, it would quell his essence’s insistent dancing around his heart. He never said it, ever, not even to himself.

Licking his lips and curling his toes, he whispered, “I love you.” The words were heavy on his tongue and his lips resisted forming them, but he said it.

His only response was a snore.

Aziraphale didn’t know if he was relieved or disappointed.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale would think later that perhaps it was a bit odd for him to have watched Crowley in slumber all night, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get back to his book. That was a first. It was only that it was so nice to see Crowley at such peace that it filled his own being with tranquility. While Aziraphale had grown accustomed to his usual scowl and occasional snarl, Crowley’s features were a delightful sight to behold when they smoothed out, perhaps only rivaled by what happened to his face when he genuinely smiled. Aziraphale wished he could make him smile and laugh every day. He did have such a lovely face. Sometimes, when they were alone and Crowley forgot himself, he would give a smile that could nearly be described as tender. But then he would mutter something broody and look away. None of these trains of thought did anything to stop the glowing in his chest. 

During the night, Crowley had rolled over towards him, but since Aziraphale was on top of the covers, they still didn’t directly touch. He remembered how Crowley took the time to make him comfortable the previous night during his unexpected slumber, and thought it was only right if he did the same. Crowley was already wrapped up in blankets, sleeping like a log, but Aziraphale could give him more peace.

Voice no more than a whisper, Aziraphale said, “Right now, you will dream of whatever it is you like best.” It was hard trying to snap his fingers without making too much noise, but it worked well enough.

Crowley then smiled in his sleep, and with a quiet hum he nuzzled his face into his pillow.

The glow only warmed his chest more, and Aziraphale swatted at his pajama shirt, but it didn’t go away. He couldn’t help it. Crowley was...cute. He never thought of him that way before, nor did he know Crowley to be so cuddly, but thought back to how he enjoyed being petted yesterday at the beach, and thought that maybe it was simply that no one had tried to cuddle him before. Not that cuddling a demon was a good idea, and he never would have tried it if not for their little act of subterfuge. Lying next to him, Aziraphale went over Crowley’s bitter words on how the other beings in Hell would laugh and mock if they thought he loved someone, and felt sorry for him again. He shouldn’t have thought this, and yet, he wondered if, during his thousands of years on earth, Crowley ever stopped and felt lonely, and lonely enough to desire physical affection. Did he ever slip into this bed and wish someone were with him? Did he ever crave the touch of another? He deserved it, if so. Crowley deserved to be held and touched, and he deserved the freedom to love . Aziraphale was now certain that no matter what was in demon DNA, as he put it at the start of this, Crowley was perfectly capable of loving. But being capable of it and desiring it were not necessarily the same. Desiring love was a human thing, but were they not more similar to humanity?

Stop it, Aziraphale scolded himself. He was just projecting his own heartache. Aziraphale was generally content to be left to his own devices, but numerous times over the years, increasing in frequency as millennia passed, he would look around and it would really hit him that no one was there. He had a few romps with men, but never spent more than a minute in someone’s arms. He stopped having sex once he knew he wanted Crowley, and no one else, to embrace him. He would shut off the constricting feeling in his heart and not think about this again for years, but touching Crowley now, in a way, made him lonelier than ever, because it wasn’t real. It wasn’t. Do you ever want someone to hug you? Are you ever lonely? We could keep each other company, for as long as you like. Oh, what a fool he was. A lovesick fool. 

The glow from his chest was gone.

Aziraphale stayed there, lost in thought, until Crowley’s hand came up to scratch idly at his jaw, and then stayed outside the cocoon of blankets. It flopped down on top of Aziraphale’s forearm. Aziraphale tried to move out from under his hand, but then Crowley frowned and gripped him. Aziraphale tried moving again. Crowley’s snoring stopped, and suddenly, two yellow eyes were gazing at him. 

Aziraphale felt like a deer caught in the headlights. 

But Crowley’s eyes were foggy and unfocused, and they slipped closed easily. “Angel,” he mumbled, lips hardly moving.

Aziraphale’s heartbeat could be felt throughout his whole body.

His hand slackened, and Crowley started snoring again.

Aziraphale breathed a sigh of relief, but his chest felt warm, just short of glowing, when he realized that Crowley was tired enough to be going on instinct, and yet his first thought when he saw him was to go back to sleep. It was like earning the trust of an animal. Like a snake. A wily, but sweet snake. How was this the same demon who shoved him against a wall two years ago for calling him nice?

Aziraphale laid there with Crowley’s hand on his arm, not wanting to wake him, until the sun came up and he started to stir for real. Crowley sniffed and he smacked his lips lazily. Aziraphale feared that he wouldn’t be so relaxed at their proximity this time, or at the revelation that he had been watched all night. Before he could even think of feigning sleep, those yellow eyes were gazing at him.

Crowley’s face was achingly soft for a moment, eyes hazy and lines gone from his face. But a second later, confusion and alertness furrowed his brow, and he pulled his hand away slowly. He closed his eyes. “Aziraphale,” he said, voice deep and raspy from sleep.

Aziraphale was sheepish. “Yes?”

He opened his eyes, and this time, there was a hardness to them. 

Snakes don’t like being caught off guard, Aziraphale thought.

“Did you lie here and watch me sleep all night like a great big weirdo?”

Aziraphale sat up, missing the warmth of his hand on his arm. “I finished the book,” he lied, “and during the night, you unknowingly put your hand on my arm. I didn’t want to wake you by moving, so I stayed put.”

Crowley sat up, rubbing his eyes. “Did I?” he mumbled. “Sorry.”

“No need to apologize. It was an unconscious action.”

“You couldn’t go to sleep, too?” he looked at him wearily. “You had to just stare?”

Darn. Aziraphale made him defensive and self-conscious. “I tried but I couldn’t. I still don’t have the hang of it.”

“You seemed fine the other night,” he said, annoyed.

Aziraphale was patient. “I’m not in the habit like you, so my body still doesn’t crave it.” He stood up. “I’ll, er, just read on the sofa again for tonight?”

“Yeah,” Crowley grumbled, and got out of bed and left the room without looking back.

Aziraphale let himself sigh sadly. One night in Crowley’s bed and he mucked it up. Crowley seemed embarrassed by being watched, and Aziraphale couldn’t blame him. He, himself, felt embarrassed yesterday morning upon discovering Crowley tucked him up with a blanket, and he knew vulnerability was even more dangerous for a demon to show; he must have frightened the poor dear. Lovely, you stupid thing. You upset him. It was his blasted fondness that had prevented him from moving or looking away. He just didn’t know what to do with all this love. When it wasn’t threatening to break out of his chest in a brilliant burst, it clawed and gnawed at his insides.

He wished they could just stop this and he could go home to his bookshop to nurse his heartache for a decade or two. That was what he always did in the past.

Aziraphale found his clothes folded on the sofa, as Crowley said they would be, and changed into them with a wave of his hand. As he folded the pajamas, he heard Crowley’s phone ring in the other room. He intended to sit down and actually read his book this time to clear his head, but Crowley came in.

“Angel.”

“Yes?”

“It’s Adam,” he said, holding the phone away from his face. He had changed into his day clothes, and the glasses were back on.

Aziraphale stood up immediately. “Oh no. Is something wrong?” The evening of the failed apocalypse, before the grounded anti-Christ was taken home by his earthly father, Crowley had given him his phone number, just in case anything happened in the future and he needed help. They hadn’t heard from him since that day, and Aziraphale wasn’t pleased to hear from him now.

But Crowley said, “Not really. Hold on, I’ll put him on speaker.”

Aziraphale didn’t know what that meant, but Crowley pressed the screen on his phone and then he was able to hear Adam’s voice. Huh.

“Hello, Adam?” Aziraphale asked, walking to Crowley and looking down at the phone.

“Yeah, hi,” he said, voice slightly deeper than it was when he was eleven. “Don’t worry, nothing’s really wrong, I’m just confused. Gabriel came to see me. I told him to piss off.”

Crowley snorted.

Aziraphale didn’t disapprove. “Yes? What did he want?”

“I thought he would bug me about the end of the world again, but he asked me about the two of you,” Adam said.

Aziraphale and Crowley shared a look.

“What about us?” Crowley asked.

“It was kinda weird. Gabriel asked if I talked to you guys a lot. I told the truth and said no, I’m just a normal kid now, but he still asked if I knew about your relationship. He wanted to know if you’re dating. Like I said, I told him the truth and said I didn’t know and that I haven’t talked to either of you since my eleventh birthday.”

“Gabriel asked you about that?” Crowley asked, sounding as puzzled as Aziraphale felt. “Has he not seen us?” he asked Aziraphale.

“Perhaps not?”

“Anyway, why did he come to you about us?” he asked Adam.

“That’s what I said,” Adam replied. “He said he didn’t know who else to ask. You don’t exactly have a lot of friends, do you?” he asked, in the brutally blunt was only a teen could.

“That’s true,” Crowley conceded. “Not many human connections. We cut ourselves off from our kind, too.”

“It sounds like you’re rebels,” Adam said.

Aziraphale smiled. “I suppose we are. Did he say anything else, Adam?”

“Not really. He seemed mad that I couldn’t tell him anything one way or the other. Why did he want to know that, anyway? Are you really dating?”

“Uhhhh,” Crowley said.

“Yes,” Aziraphale cut in, eyes down on the phone screen and not looking at the raise of Crowley’s eyebrows over his glasses. “Yes, we are, rather.” He cleared his throat. He had no idea who could be listening in on their conversation, and he doubted Adam would judge them for being together, so what was a little white lie to the anti-Christ? “Heaven isn’t very happy about it. They never liked any unorthodox behavior. That’s all.”

“So you really are rebels!” Adam said excitedly. “How do an angel and a demon date? Wouldn’t Crowley catch on fire if you kissed?”

“W-why would I do that?” he spluttered.

“Isn’t angel spit like holy water or something?”

Aziraphale laughed harder than he had in years.

“No!” Crowley squawked into the phone. “Kissing him is—! We are not having this conversation, Adam.”

“But an archangel tried to have this conversation with me,” he said casually. “So you don’t explode when you hug?”

No .”

“Do angels date other angels, or do demons date other demons?”

“No, no,” Aziraphale said, wiping a tear from his eye, holding back another giggle. “Supernatural beings going on dates is unheard of.”

“So double rebels. Wow. How long have you been dating?”

Aziraphale decided to stick to exactly what he told Michael and Gabriel. “Since the night of the apocalypse, actually, so two years.”

“How long have you known each other?”

“6,000 years,” Crowley grumbled.

“It took you that long?” he asked incredulously.

Aziraphale shuffled his feet and Crowley opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out.

Adam continued. “Are you in trouble now because you’re dating? Is it like Romeo and Juliet ? Did you know Shakespeare?”

Well, Adam’s inquisitive nature certainly hadn’t diminished in two years. “We did know Shakespeare, and no, we’re not in trouble because we don’t work for Heaven and Hell anymore,” Aziraphale said.

“Neat. But if you’re not in trouble, why was Gabriel asking about you?”

“Archangels can’t grasp the concept of an angel and a demon being together, I imagine.” 

“You kinda can’t blame them. Aren’t demons supposed to be all dark and broody lack emotion?”

“I am dark and broody,” Crowley muttered. “Have you seen my clothes? I was the original goth.”

Aziraphale rolled his eyes. “Oh, please, as if the Goths took inspiration from you.”

“But demons aren’t supposed to love, right?” Adam went on. ”So I can see why he’s a bit confused. Do you love Azi—?”

“Adam,” Crowley gripped the phone tighter, cutting him off curtly, “is that all Gabriel said?” 

“Yeah, he just wanted to know if you’re really together. He left after he realized I didn’t know anything, but I figured I should let you know since it was about you.”

“Thanks for that. Let us know if anything else ever happens, okay?”

“Sure. Have fun being Romeo and Juliet.”

“Good bye, Adam,” Crowley said firmly and hung up.

Aziraphale knew the question Adam was about to ask, and he didn’t know whether or not he wished he had been able to finish his sentence. He licked his lips nervously. “Well. That was something.” Should he bring up the aborted question?

Crowley put his phone in his pocket. “Why’d you lie? We’re not actually dating.”

No, perhaps not. “Yes, but who knows if the angels were listening nearby? I wasn’t about to compromise the plan. Adam doesn’t need to know the truth, after all.”

“I guess not,” he grumbled. “But what’s up with Gabriel asking Adam about us, anyway? That’s what I don’t get. Have they really not seen us this entire time? Why go to him and not just pop up while we’re out?”

“I really don’t know,” Aziraphale said honestly. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Crowley shook his head. “It’s weird.” 

A beat of silence.

“Can’t believe he thought your spit’s like holy water,” he muttered.

“Humans have many strange ideas about angels, but that was the first time I heard anyone say that. It would be terribly inconvenient if that were true, yes?”

That got a small smirk from Crowley. “Yeah. It definitely would’ve let the angels know you lied, if I wasn’t immune to your holy water spit and died the first time you kissed me.”

“That’s a rather morbid image.”

“Kinda funny, too.”

“A little funny.”

Crowley put his hands in his pockets. “We wouldn’t actually know if your spit hurts me, though.”

“We wouldn’t?” Aziraphale asked, brows furrowed.

“I mean.” His face was flushing. “It’s been a bit, closed-lipped. I don’t think I’ve ever touched your tongue.”

Aziraphale wished he had something to do with his hands as anxious energy sparked through him. “Ah. Yes, it has been.” Crowley surely wasn’t suggesting what he thought he was suggesting, was he?

“Yeah. I’m just saying. It’d suck if I died while trying to prove to the angels that I’m immune to holy water. They’d know you’d die by hellfire, too.”

Aziraphale tried to deepen their kiss by a fraction yesterday, and it caused his chest to glow. It was glowing just a few hours ago from watching Crowley sleep. If they, oh Lord, if they kissed with tongue, then he wouldn’t be able to contain his love. “But, um, we’ve shared a bottle of wine before. That was indir-rect swapping of spit, as they say. You’re being rather silly.”

Crowley waved his hand. “Ah, yeah, you’re right. Yeah, we’re good. Um. I’m gonna go out.”

“Now?” he asked, raising his eyebrows at the non sequitur.

“Yeah. You can get back to your shop for the day. Just come back tonight.”

“Well, all right.” 

Aziraphale entered his shop with a long sigh. As much as he loved Crowley, it was nice to have a few hours to calm his pounding heart and frayed nerves. In his shop, he didn’t have to worry about hiding his feelings and could actually get some reading done without being distracted by a certain, surprisingly cute, snoozing demon. It was weird, to know someone for 6,000 years and only discover they had a cute side now.

Aziraphale fixed his reading glasses. He was supposed to focus on other things today. 


When he returned to the flat, it was quiet and dark. He wondered if Crowley was asleep again, but it was only 9. He peeked into the bedroom, but found the large bed empty. Strange.

“Crowley?” he called out.

No answer.

Well, no matter. He would just turn on the light and read one of the new books he put in his bag. So he did. He got to the final page and closed the cover with a smile. Lovely.

As if on cue, the door open and Crowley came slinking through.

“Hello,” Aziraphale greeted politely.

Crowley grunted.

So he was still tense from this morning. Honestly, Aziraphale wasn’t in the mood. “Where were you all day?”

“Wiling,” he said vaguely, taking off his suit jacket. “Needed to do some bad.”

“And what bad did you do?”

He smirked. “YouTube is down and won’t be back up until tomorrow night. The humans are already whining at their phones and bored out of their minds.”

“YouTube?” he asked.

His smirk dropped. “Ugh, never mind.”

It only occurred to Aziraphale just then that they did nothing for the angels today. The call from Adam was puzzling, but didn’t really confirm or deny that Gabriel was convinced.

“Well, you’re finished wiling and I’m finished reading. Perhaps we could do something for the Plan tonight?”

“If you want. Good timing, too.” Crowley fished into his pocket, and then, without warning, tossed a little black box over to him. “I just got back from getting this.”

Aziraphale clumsily caught it, befuddled, and opened it. He didn’t know what his face looked like after that, but it certainly felt like a sauna.

“Usually both people wear rings if they’re married,” Crowley mumbled, a blush at his cheekbones and hands stuffed into his pockets, hip cocked to the side in forced nonchalance. “It, uh, would be weird if only I wore one…”

The ring in question was exquisitely detailed. It was set in white gold with snake heads on either side of a white fire opal in the center, framed by black opal, and trimmed on the very edge of the center disk was gold, like a halo. “Who made this?” he asked, knowing it couldn’t have just been sitting in a shop.

“Someone owed me a favor. It was nothing.”

Aziraphale couldn’t believe its detail and beauty. He slipped it on in disbelief. “Oh, dear boy, it’s lovely.”

“It was nothing,” he said again with another shrug, face turning redder.

Aziraphale gulped. “Good thinking,” he said faintly. His heart was pounding and his neck was hot. He needed air. “W-why don’t we go and stargaze? You always liked the stars.” He never knew why.

Sure enough, a genuine grin replaced the fierce blush. “Yeah. Come with me.”

They went to the roof of the building, and Crowley produced two lawn chairs and made the power go out around the city.

“Crowley!” he scolded.

“What?” he sat back in the chair. “You can barely see them in the city with the light pollution. It’d still be better if we were out in the countryside, but it’ll do. I’ll put it back once we’re done.”

Aziraphale sat down with a disapproving look. “Fine.” The cool night air cleared his head some, and he took Crowley’s hand. 

Crowley gave him a little squeeze, but didn’t look at him. His glasses were resting atop his head, and his eyes were soft as they gazed at the night sky.

Aziraphale remembered the first time he witnessed this. It was in Egypt, and light pollution didn’t exist yet. They didn’t see each other often back then. Aziraphale was still extremely wary of him—never afraid, but judgmental and distrustful. It was the second time they ever drank together, and when they clumsily stepped outside, the sky was dotted with glittering stars.

Crowley had looked up then, long curls rustled by the breeze, and all sarcasm left his face. His eyes were uncovered back then, widening and then turning fond. “Beautiful sky,” he had murmured softly.

It was the first time Aziraphale ever heard him use that word, or smile out of pure enjoyment that had nothing to do with trickery. It was the first real time he acknowledged that maybe it was possible for demons not to be so bad after all. But the thought was blasphemous and terrifying, and he quickly took his leave. They didn’t see each other for centuries after that.

Aziraphale looked down at the new ring. It was awfully detailed for a prop for a temporary plan. If he could go back to that night in Egypt and tell his past self that this was where he’d be after an averted apocalypse, he would have been afraid. As much as he tried to resist, somehow, he always knew Crowley would be his one constant on this planet. 

Crowley squeezed his hand again. “What are you thinking about, angel?” he asked, sounding at ease.

“Us,” he answered.

“Yeah?”

“Yes.”

“Mmm. Me too.”

“Oh?”

“I’m thinking about how I didn’t actually know how I was going to get us to Alpha Centauri.”

“Oh.” He bit it lip. He didn’t like remembering Crowley’s plea to run away with him, the second one in a single day. He looked at the sky. “You know why I declined, right?”

“You didn’t want to believe Heaven would want the war. I know.”

Aziraphale held in a long sigh. “What a fool I was,” he said under his breath.

“You’re so clever! How could someone so clever be so stupid?”

“You were right to call me stupid.”

“Hey,” Crowley held his hand tighter. “It was a rough day. I didn’t mean that. Well, actually, I think we’re both pretty stupid, come to think of it.”

That made him laugh. “I suppose you’re right. Like I said the other day, my rejection wasn’t truly about you. Alpha Centauri would have been lovely, I’m sure.”

Crowley swallowed. “Yeah.” After a couple minutes of comfortable silence, he asked, “You know what else I’m thinking about?”

“What?”

“That the archangels would’ve known about us much sooner if they’d seen me with the flowers and chocolates when your shop opened, remember?”

“Oh, Lord, do I?” he groaned. “You had given me such a fright because I was certain Gabriel would turn around and see you there.”

“I wasn’t bothered,” he said. “Besides, if I hadn’t listened in, you would’ve been recalled to Heaven.”

He looked at him with confusion. “What did you have to do with my staying?”

“Oh, did I never tell you? I just followed Gabriel and made sure he overheard a fake conversation I had with an imp from Hell. I said you always thwarted my plans and I was happy to hear you were being recalled to Heaven. The dumb sod bought it.”

That explained why Gabriel suddenly changed his mind and decided he needed to stay on earth. “No, you never told me. You didn’t want me to leave,” he realized.

Crowley stammered a little. “Wuh, well Michael was gonna be your replacement, and they’re a...I mean, yes, of course I wanted you to stay,” he nodded. He pulled their joined hands up and kissed Aziraphale’s knuckle. “Of course I did,” he said, quieter.

The weight of some of the implications was hitting him. Crowley went out of his way to ensure his supposed adversary stayed with him, and this was over 200 years ago. Crowley cared about him that much even then? “I suppose you did,” Aziraphale said, answering his own question.

Crowley lowered their hands and looked back at the stars.

Aziraphale was glad the air was so cool. “I don’t know how Gabriel didn’t find out back then,” he reflected upon his own feelings. “I told him you were wily, and cunning, and brilliant. He did remark that it sounded like I liked you.”

There was something oddly strained about Crowley’s smile. “Did you know it, back then?”

“Know what?”

“That you did like me?”

“I don’t even like you!”

“You doooo!”

Aziraphale felt cold. “I told you I didn’t mean what I’d said at the band—“

“I know,” Crowley cut in, not unkindly. “I’m just asking if you let yourself think we were friends back then.”

“By that point? Yes.” For once, Aziraphale wished Crowley’s glasses were on, because his expression only made him feel guilty. “For the record, deep down, I always liked you.”

Crowley’s face went through about six expressions before he put his glasses on. “Urgh. There’s only so much sap a demon can take.”

Aziraphale studied him. If you weren’t taught to reject love, would you accept mine? “You’re married to an angel; you should have known what you’d gotten yourself into, dear boy.”

Crowley’s chest moved up and down in a quiet sigh. “Satan help me, but I did, angel.”

They stayed outside until the stars faded as the sky turned bright, placing kisses on each other’s hands every so often. Aziraphale managed not to glow—kissing on the lips seemed to be his weakness—and the quiet air around them was peaceful. Crowley restored the city’s power once the morning came.

They returned to the inside of the building and walked in front of the flat, holding hands, and Crowley surprised him by snaking his arms around his waist. 

Aziraphale put his hands on his chest instinctively, and his breath was taken away when Crowley cupped his cheeks with both of his hands. His palms were cool against his blooming flush. He let out a grunt when Crowley pressed their lips together softly. It remained chaste, and Aziraphale was still as stone, trying to hold back the glow.

Crowley lightly sucked his bottom lip.

Aziraphale didn’t think it was possible for his muscles to tense further, but they did. Keep it in, keep it in.

Crowley swept his thumbs across his cheeks.

Aziraphale held back a whimper. He had done so much more than this, but his face being held was making him melt. Keep it together! He couldn’t move or return the kiss, his self-control dwindling. If he let his mind put a word to it, he would describe Crowley’s hands as tender on his face. He wanted this for so long, but it wasn’t real. It wasn’t. Was it? No, of course it wasn’t. No. It...it couldn’t be. Don’t be a fool. Don’t get your hopes up. Was it hope, or simply reading the room? No, no, what was he thinking? 

Crowley pulled back, but not before placing a small peck on his lips. His eyes were hidden. “Still feel nothing?” he whispered.

He felt so many things. Oh. Right, right, the archangels. He focused, but could detect no one watching. He shook his head mutely.

Crowley let go of him. “All right. I need to go cause trouble. I can’t be seen spending too much time around you, but I’ll be back.”

Aziraphale nodded.

“You okay?”

Another nod.

“If you say so.”

Once he was alone, Aziraphale let go the breath he was holding and a brilliant glow shone from his chest. Oh, dear. He snapped his fingers and appeared in his bookshop, and let the light fill the room.

“He’s going to be the death of me,” Aziraphale wheezed to the books, who offered no reply. He wished he could feel Crowley’s hands on him again, and imagined if they had slid lower, to other parts of his body. He pictured Crowley’s hands on his bare waist, gripping, and then smoothing down his thighs, with one hand stopping to cup his—

Aziraphale could usually turn off arousal with a single thought, but he wasn’t usually kissed by Crowley.  “I’m losing my mind,” he said under his breath, and then pressed his lips together when he felt another twitch down there. Damn it all. He was stressed and jolly well deserved to masturbate (Crowley would probably howl if he knew he mentally used “jolly” and “masturbate” in the same sentence). There was an old bed in the room above his shop, rarely used, and he went to it. Soon he was naked and lying on his back, stroking himself quickly and running his hand over his chest and playing with his nipples. He couldn’t remember when he discovered the act of self-pleasure, but it was difficult for his hedonistic side to resist doing it again. It was better this way, bare and touching himself with both hands, as opposed to the quick wank he had the other day.

He imagined that it was Crowley’s hands on him instead, and he was kissing his neck. Aziraphale was leaking, chest heaving, and when his hips started to jerk up into his hands, the fantasy changed, and the tight heat of his fist was instead the inside of Crowley’s body. He imagined that quick-witted mouth being dropped open in pleasure, incapable of producing anything but moans. Aziraphale would give it to him however he liked, either pounding him into the mattress or going as gently as could be. He’d do anything to make him feel good, to have Crowley lose himself to what these bodies could do, but he would make sure he felt loved, too. Aziraphale wanted to make love to him so badly.

He came with a shout muffled by biting his lower lip, back arched off the mattress. He opened his eyes, panting. He stared at the ceiling, his breathing getting back to normal. He sat up and waved away the mess, and then got dressed. The glow from his chest was gone. He laid down on the bed again, dressed in his trousers and waistcoat, and rolled over onto his side. His hands were in front of him, atop the dusty old duvet, and his new ring shone at him, twinkling in the morning light that was coming into the room from the window above the bed. He still felt unsatisfied. Aziraphale knew that Crowley could have gotten a bland, inexpensive ring for this situation, but even if some mysterious jeweler owed him a favor, it did not explain why he went out of his way like this.

Aziraphale wandered downstairs, head feeling cloudy. He walked over to the flowers in the vase, the petals soft and vibrant. If he had told himself a few years ago, or even a few months ago, that Crowley would give him flowers and a ring, he wouldn’t have believed it. He would have thought it had to be part of some kind of trick, and he would have been right, he supposed. But if he told himself how much of a gentle kisser Crowley turned out to be, well, then Aziraphale would have dismissed his future self as being a victim of wishful thinking. He traced his bottom lip with his finger tip. There was a part of him, however, if he looked deep inside himself on this sunny morning, that always knew Crowley wanted to spend more time with him. Aziraphale had been the one who ran away, frightened and aligned with Heaven. The look on Crowley’s face, the way his frown lines deepened and he sat back like a deflated balloon in the Bentley when Aziraphale rejected his offer for a ride in 1967, stayed with him. Crowley liked him. Was it really that surprising that he was okay with pretending to do nice things for his friend? If Crowley were to open himself to anyone and allow himself to be kind, wouldn’t it make sense for him to do that with Aziraphale? It wasn’t as if he had long-lasting human friends.

The thought made Aziraphale’s heart skip a beat. He shook his head, turning away from the plants. It was a nice thought, but that was all functioning under the assumption that Crowley would ever like all of his habits and traits to fall in love with him, and, well, that wasn’t a given. One could like a friend very much but not be inclined in the slightest to fall for them. Besides, Aziraphale knew his own worst habits. Crowley liked him enough as a friend, but to find him endearing and grow fond of his quirks and ways? 

It was unlikely.

Aziraphale gazed at the ring.

Right?

Chapter Text

Aziraphale was reading when there was a rapid knocking on the door to the bookshop. He rolled his eyes. It was late. He was planning on finishing this chapter and then heading back to Crowley’s flat. He wasn’t in the mood for customers during the day, but especially not at night.

“We’re definitely closed,” he called. Honestly, his sign on the door described his hours perfectly well. He didn’t know why there was so much confusion.

More knocking.

An irritated huff. “Closed!” he shouted.

The door swung open.

Aziraphale stood up from his desk. He knew he had locked the door and was about to wonder if some idiotic human thought they could rob him, but then he saw Crowley’s figure coming into the shop.

“Oh,” he took off his reading glasses. “Sorry, I didn’t know it was you.”

But Crowley just grunted, and Aziraphale realized he was clutching his side. He staggered into the shop, and once he stepped into the light, it became clear that one of the lenses on his glasses was shattered. A purple bruise was blooming at his jaw, a cut was on his cheekbone, and he looked like he was barely keeping himself upright. There was blood on his knuckles, but it looked dried.

Aziraphale’s heart was in his throat. He was by his side in an instant, shutting the door with a thought and grasping his elbow, the air sucked out of the room. “What happened?” he asked urgently.

“Demons,” he growled. “Ugh, Satan, my head’s killin’ me.”

It was such an abrupt change from the quiet, peaceful mood the bookshop had a minute ago. Aziraphale was reeling. He just saw Crowley this morning, and he was safe and sound. He kissed him this morning. Just last night, they were holding hands and watching the stars. What had he gotten himself into? But Crowley needed his help, so Aziraphale had to pull himself together. Pushing his feelings aside (he was rather skilled at that), he led a limping, swaying Crowley to the old, lumpy sofa in the back of the shop. He leaned heavily against Aziraphale, hissing in pain. He winced when a stifled, pained groan came from Crowley when he dropped down onto the cushions.

“What hurts the most?” Aziraphale asked, and rubbed his palms together. The last person he healed was poor Anathema after she got knocked off her bicycle, but she was human. He never tried healing a demon before. Would it even work? He had to try.

“Head,” Crowley replied through clenched teeth, taking off his broken glasses and grimacing at them. “They hit me,” he got out with some effort, and his eyes screwed shut. “I can’t focus ‘nuff to heal. I feel sick.”

“Concussion, I think,” Aziraphale said, and gently cupped the back of Crowley’s head. He pulled it away long enough to see dried, dark red blood on his palm, and then put his hand back. Questions would wait a moment. “Don’t worry, we’ll fix you right up,” he reassured. “It’ll be all right.”

Crowley must have been in a lot of pain, indeed, because he didn’t snap at the coddling. He was quiet.

Aziraphale let warm angelic power seep through his fingers, casting a golden glow behind Crowley’s head. It mimicked a halo. In 6,000 years, Aziraphale never saw Crowley hurt, besides getting shot with a paintball. He must have sustained injuries at some point on earth, but he was never around to see it. He didn’t like this, not one bit. 

Crowley sagged into his touch and he exhaled deeply. “It’s working,” he mumbled.

Aziraphale licked his lips, relief coursing through him. The mock halo flicked his heart with a little pang, and he wondered what Crowley looked like as an angel. Demonic Crowley was the only one Aziraphale knew, and he loved him dearly. He only wondered from time to time what he was like in Heaven and if they would have been friends. It was a thought that unnerved him, somehow, so he dismissed it. “Would you tilt your head downwards, please?”

Crowley obeyed.

Aziraphale carefully ran a hand through his short red hair, but found no sign of injury. “You can look up.”

Crowley did, the yellows of his eyes taking over entirely. His gaze was more alert now.

Aziraphale cupped Crowley’s jaw, over the bruise, and his power turned the skin back to its normal hue. He watched Crowley’s eyelashes flutter, but told himself reading anything into it was remarkably inappropriate for the situation. His friend was hurt, for God’s sake. Aziraphale was still anxious, but was happy his power was working and the discomfort was leaving Crowley’s face. He brushed his index finger over the cut on his cheekbone, and the skin came back together and sealed.

“You were holding your side,” he said.

Crowley nodded. “My ribs.” There was a slight hesitation, but then he lifted his now-dirty black shirt, and there were dark bruises on his pale skin over his right rib cage. “I think they kicked me once I was on the ground. It got fuzzy by that point, though.”

Aziraphale placed his fingers on the bruises, feeling a shudder under his fingertips. He decidedly did not meet Crowley’s gaze, and more warmth poured from his hand. He wondered if a kiss would heal his wounds, but pressing his lips to Crowley’s ribs would be dreadfully selfish right now. Crowley’s skin broke out in goosebumps, and was soon back to unblemished white. “Anything else?”

Crowley pulled his shirt down. “No.”

“What about the blood on your knuckles?”

Crowley looked down. “Oh, that’s not mine.”

Aziraphale raised his eyebrows.

“What, you didn’t think I put up a fight?” he asked defensively.

“I don’t know what happened at all,”Aziraphale said while flexing his hands, feeling traces of his power tingling through his fingertips. 

Crowley waved away the blood on his knuckles. “I can’t believe that worked, honestly.”

“Neither do I, but I’m glad it did. What happened?”

Crowley crossed his arms over his chest. “Word must have gotten around to Downstairs about us. I was just minding my own business and then I turned the corner, and Hastur and some demon I didn’t recognize—must be Ligur’s replacement—were there.”

Aziraphale wasn’t surprised that Hell heard about this, but he didn’t consider any demon but Crowley to be a good sign of, well, anything. “Where was this?”

“By an alleyway.”

“What were you doing there?”

“I was up to no good,” he scrunched up his nose. “You know, lurking around and upsetting humans, proper demon stuff.”

Aziraphale pursed his lips. “You glued another coin to the pavement to watch people try to retrieve it, didn’t you?”

Anyway ,” he said sharply, “you’re interrupting.”

“I apologize. Do continue.”

“Right. I wasn’t expecting them, you know? Before I could really react, they pulled me into the alley and said they heard I’m getting soft ,” he spat, shoulders hunching forward. “Two years and I’m off my game. I didn’t sense them. My guard was let down,” he said, sounding disgusted.

“What else did they say?” Aziraphale asked, a tidal wave of guilt waiting to flood his chest, blood turning to ice.

“They heard I’m dating an angel. I guess Heaven told them? I don’t know, but Heaven and Hell worked together when they tried to kill us, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Michael or someone told Hastur about us. First, I asked what they were gonna do about it, since I’m immune to holy water and all that. That’s when Hastur pulled out the crowbar and said they can still hurt my body, and then not give me a new corporation. That’d separate us.” His tone was bitter.

Aziraphale hadn’t thought of that possibility. What if either of their bodies did die? They would never be given new ones by their ex-bosses. They really would be separated. They—

Crowley kept talking. “I’m not an idiot, I knew he was right, so I changed tactics to try to avoid a fight. I tried to play it off and said I’m just trying to seduce you and make you Fall, like you said to do.”

“They didn’t believe you?”

Crowley grimaced. He wasn’t looking at him. “They did. They thought it was admirable. No one ever set out to make an angel Fall before, and they thought the sex bit was especially devious. I told them I was waiting to earn your trust for millennia so I could do this. They were really impressed,” he said, sounding entirely unhappy about it. “Still got punched and kicked and hit with a bloody crowbar, though. Hastur said it was to remind me to not even think about liking any of it, with you. He said I may not work for Hell anymore, but I’m still a demon, immunity to holy water or not. Rotten bastard. The other demon got me in the jaw and I punched him in the nose, but that was when Hastur got me with the crowbar. It hurt, too, and I couldn’t even move off the ground and out of the alley for who-knows how long. He said they wouldn’t do it again as long as they didn’t hear I actually like being with you.” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “Bloody pricks. I should’ve shifted into a snake to get away from them, but it’s been a couple years since I’ve had to worry about Hell beating the tar out of me. I guess I did get soft,” he said unhappily, glaring at the floor.

The tidal wave of guilt crashed. “Crowley,” Aziraphale gasped, “this is my fault.”

“Huh?” he looked up.

“This is all because of my lie to the angels.” All those years being afraid of getting close to Crowley because of what Hell would do to him—he was right. He knew they would hound him, and it was one of the primary reasons he kept his distance and scolded himself whenever he thought of getting involved with him. But he thought it would be different now after the apocalypse, after they quit. Clearly not. The only reason Crowley wasn’t hurt worse was because everyone believed he was immune to holy water. If they had gotten together before their stunt after the apocalypse, Hell would have tried to kill Crowley. 

This was Aziraphale’s fault. His love was dangerous. He knew this for thousands of years, but he made a mess of things. He let his selfish desires get in the way of keeping Crowley safe from Hell. He was such a terrible, awful excuse for a friend. He had to end this. What if Crowley got discorporated because of this? What if they never saw each other again? What if Crowley got trapped in Hell?

“We can think of something else,” Aziraphale said frantically. “We can think of another lie—”

“Woah, woah,” Crowley held up his hands. “What are you talking about? We can’t drop this now! They’ll never believe a second lie and kill us for real. Don’t compromise the plan because of this stupid incident.”

Aziraphale put his head in his hands. “I trapped us even more, then.” Oh dear, oh dear. His heart was beating fast enough to make him short of breath. Even if he had his dream scenario and his love was requited, that would endanger him. He only had this fantasy, this ruse they were carrying out, and even that turned out to be a bad idea. Maybe the Almighty didn’t want them to be together, and that was why everything got in their way.

“Hey, demons being arseholes isn’t your fault, and I’ve dealt with worse. If it weren’t for your lie, they would have tried holy water on me instead for loving an angel.”

Mumbling into his palms, Aziraphale was dejected. “But if it weren’t for my lie, they wouldn’t think you love an angel in the first place.”

Palpable silence.

“Oh, what was I thinking? And now we can’t even break up.”

“Break up?” His voice was scratchy. 

“Why didn’t you call me?” he lowered his hands. “I could have helped you.”

Crowley had the audacity to snort. “You, fighting off demons?”

Aziraphale put his hands on his hips. “Why is that idea funny?”

“I can’t picture it. You’ve never fought anyone.”

“I could if I had to,” he said, puffing out his chest like an offended peacock. 

Crowley snickered.

Aziraphale was not in the mood for this. “I was given a flaming sword for a reason.”

“Yeah, and you gave it away.”

“Because I wanted to. I fought in the war in Heaven.” He shook his head. “The point is that I could have rescued you.”

“I don’t need rescuing,” he said, growing irritated. 

“Clearly, you do. How long were you in that alley?”

Crowley made a face and stood up. “You’re not my guardian angel,” he mocked.

Aziraphale felt his face heating, but from anger. He was too stressed right now, and he felt human, getting worked up over petty bickering. “Well I didn’t need you when you rescued me those times, but I was appreciative nonetheless and didn’t make a fuss about it.”

“You so needed me!” Crowley shot back, and with a snap of his fingers, new sunglasses were on his face. “You were about to have your head chopped off over crepes, like the colossal idiot you are.”

“I could have used a miracle if I really wanted to.”

“Then why didn’t you? Oh, that’s right, you were reprimanded by Gabriel for using up too many of them.”

The rational part of Aziraphale’s mind knew this fight was petty and stupid and he should have ended it, but he still felt sick from the feeling of Crowley’s blood on his palm. He couldn’t control himself. “You’re the one who didn’t watch your head today.”

“I was distracted!” he hissed, eyebrows glowering down behind his glasses.

“By what?”

“By—” he waved his hand in between them.

“What do I have to do with anything?”

“Ugh!” Crowley groaned. “You’re insufferable.”

“I’m not the one being immature here. All I did was say you should have called me. I’m your friend. I could have helped.”

Crowley put his hands in his pockets. “I guess, I just don’t like the idea of you being around them.”

“Why not?” 

He sighed. “Have you ever been beaten up?”

Aziraphale thought about it. “Sandalphon punched me in the gut and Uriel shoved me against a wall. Does that count?”

“Shit, they did?” his jaw dropped.

“Oh, did I never tell you? It was the day of the apocalypse. So much happened that day.”

“No, you didn’t tell me. But still, you just got punched once? Demons do worse. Tonight? Case in point. I’d just rather keep you away from them.”

Aziraphale was touched, his anger draining. “I was never in a fight until 2019 for a reason, Crowley,” he said softly. “I may be, well,” he looked down at his outfit, “old-fashioned and a little ridiculous, I’ll admit. However, I can defend myself quite well.” He sighed. “With all of that said, I’m sorry this situation got you in trouble.”

“Don’t be.”

Aziraphale’s mind went back to what Crowley told him about his conversation with the demons. “Tonight, you told them it’s not a real relationship, but deceit. How do they still believe our souls have mixed?”

The faintest hint of red emerged on his ears. “Oh, er, I told them fucking is what counts, and the fact that you believe it’s real is a bonus for my evil plot to make you Fall. I told them to go fuck an angel if they don’t believe me. None of our kind have ever done that before, so they shut up after that.”

Aziraphale wanted out, for Crowley’s sake, but knew he was right. Sticking to the lie was the only option. “I didn’t think they would come for you after Armageddon,” he said, more to himself. “What happens when Hell realizes I’m not going to Fall from your supposed seduction?”

“Then if they come, I’ll say I failed and the Almighty must be more fucked up than we all thought if She’s okay with an angel fucking a demon.”

Aziraphale blushed. “May you be forgiven,” he said reflexively.

He rolled his eyes. “Not this again.”

“I’m only worried that the truth will be revealed, somehow.”

The pinch between his eyebrows loosened slightly. “I know you are. But we made it this far, yeah? Maybe the Almighty’s on our side, after all. Or maybe She doesn’t care enough to stop us. If She does, eh, it’s still been a good run. I’d rather do what I want than live in fear of Hell. Surviving the apocalypse taught me that.”

Aziraphale thought that Crowley had more faith in God than he let on, but he knew better than to say that out loud. He was still shaken by this whole thing. The fact remained that Crowley wouldn’t have been hurt tonight if Hell thought he was single. If they pretended to break up in the future, then Aziraphale could save him. They weren’t going to go on dates forever, regardless.

“It won’t be an issue soon enough, anyway. After we break up, Hell will leave you alone.”

Crowley’s face fell. “Why would we break up?”

He felt taken aback by the question. “Why wouldn’t we?” he asked with an incredulous laugh. “We can’t keep up this ruse until the end of time.” He didn’t like the idea, of course not, but breaking up would always be the end result, yes? It wasn’t like they could actually stay together forever, as wonderful as that would be.

“But.” Crowley swallowed. “But what about them? And our soul-mixing thing?”

“We’re making this up as we go along. We can say that once a demon and angel’s essences mix, there’s no going back. There’s no way they’d know whether or not that’s true.” He felt better as he was saying this. Yes, it would hurt, but it would save Crowley pain. They would stop pretending to date once they knew Heaven was convinced, and create a breakup story to tell if anyone got suspicious as to why they weren’t seen being intimate in the future. It would simply be an add-on to their original plan.

Crowley’s shoulders slumped. “But if we break up as soon as we know Heaven believes us, wouldn’t that look suspicious?”

“Good point,” he hummed thoughtfully. That would give him a chance to pretend just a little bit more with Crowley. He was happier about that than he should have been. “Then we can do this for a little while longer, and then break up.”

He looked down at the floorboards. “Oh. Okay.”

Aziraphale wasn’t comforted by his tone. Perhaps he didn’t think that was enough to get Hell off his tail? He thought about it. “For good measure, after our breakup, I can stay out of your hair for awhile. Put some distance between us so our breakup will be believable, too.”

Crowley looked angry again in an instant. “What? No!”

“Why not?”

“You don’t need to stay away from me. You’re being ridiculous.”

“But think of your safety, Crowley.”

“Already have. Don’t care.”

“Really, now,” he said, exasperated. “I’m trying to help. What kind of friend would I be if I let you be in danger?”

Crowley’s glare was clear through his glasses, and he stepped closer and pointed a finger at his chest. “No, cut that martyr bollocks out. I know Hell better than you do, Aziraphale, and I chose to be friends with you for all these years, knowing the risk, because I want to. Don’t insult me by thinking me naïve.” 

He lowered Crowley’s pointed finger away from his chest. “I wasn’t trying to imply that. I only wonder if it’s truly wise to keep seeing each other, when such a risk remains?”

“I don’t care.” His voice dropped low. “If you leave and don’t talk to me for centuries again, like in the old days, you’re an even bigger bastard than I thought.”

Aziraphale blinked mutely.

Crowley shook his head and walked a couple steps away, running a hand through his hair. “I thought we were past that,” he mumbled.

Aziraphale got the impression he was missing something. 

Crowley spoke again. “We’re already going to break up, so don’t leave me. It’d be overkill. It’ll be fine. Hell will get the idea and you won’t have to worry your angelic little head about me.” There was unmistakable acidity in his tone.

“Don’t leave me.” Good Lord, that statement...Aziraphale didn’t want to upset him any further. Maybe he was overreacting. Crowley was right; he did know the threat of Hell better than Aziraphale, and he was equipped to make his own decisions. “All right,” he said. He was fretting too much. Blast his nerves.

Crowley huffed out a breath “Right. That’s settled, then.”

“Yes.” Aziraphale cleared his throat.

“Look, it’s late and I’m already here. Let’s just stay in your shop for the night. I don’t suppose you’ve got a bed, do you?”

“I do. It’s not as luxurious as yours, due to its age.”

“How long have you had it?”

“Let’s see. I purchased this building in 1800, and the bed and a few other pieces of furniture came with it, so that makes 221 years.”

Crowley gave him a look. “A bed over 200 years-old. You’re hopeless.”

“Says the demon who has a nap time.”

“I can stay awake for as long as I like! This is a choice.”

“Of course. That’s why you were out like a light before I got to page 3 the other night.”

Crowley made a face and walked away to ascend the stairs.

Aziraphale replayed their conversation over and over in his mind during the night. He was still unnerved by the attack Crowley endured tonight. He put his hands in a steeple and closed his eyes. Lord, please keep the demons away from Crowley. Won’t you give him a break?

He didn’t receive an answer. He never did.


It wasn’t long after, though, when Crowley came back downstairs.

Aziraphale looked at him from over the rim of his reading glasses. “Hello. Awake already?”

“Um, yeah. You got anything to drink?” he asked quickly.

“Yes,” Aziraphale lowered his book into his lap. “Is something wrong?”

“Wrong? No, no, nothing’s wrong.” Crowley was still fully dressed and buzzing with nervous energy. It appeared that he hadn't slept at all. His sunglasses were on, but they did not conceal his unease.

Aziraphale glanced at the grandfather clock to his right. “Why, you only went to bed twenty minutes ago. You couldn’t have slept.”

“Um, no,” Crowley called, reaching into Aziraphale’s wine cabinet. “Not really. I don’t want to anymore. I want to drink.”

Aziraphale studied him, but other than the obvious nervous energy, he couldn’t tell what was going on. 

“You want some?” Crowley asked, uncorking a bottle.

“No, thank you. Not in the mood.”

For some reason, Crowley flushed. “Ungh. Okay.”

Aziraphale stared after his swaggering figure as he walked to another corner of the shop, away from him. He sat down in an armchair and drank straight from the bottle, taking large, loud gulps.

Something was definitely wrong. Crowley liked getting drunk, but usually much more gradually. But Aziraphale had prodded him enough tonight, so his eyes returned to the pages of his book. Crowley was perfectly capable of telling him what was wrong. They were both adults. More or less. There was no such thing as child angels or demons.

As usual, he got lost in the book, and about eighty-two pages later, he heard a sound. “Did you say something?”

Crowley was slumped in the chair, an arm hanging off the side, the bottle dangling from his loose grasp. His glasses were down his nose. “Yeah,” he said.

“Is that empty already?” Aziraphale looked at the bottle.

“Yeah.”

“Crowley!” he scolded.

“I’m not human. I won’t die from it. Got a question.”

He sighed wearily. Something was certainly going on. “Yes?”

He sat up a little, but turned on his side and curled up in a slump in the chair, cradling the bottle to his chest. The shop was only lit by lamps at this point at night. Warm yellow light shone in the slits of his eyes, turning them gold, and his hair appeared more auburn than ginger. “Remember how we were talkin’ ‘bout demons? I don’t mean tonight, I mean before? The, the thing about demons n’ love.”

Aziraphale mentally asked the Almighty Why? Why must You do this to me? He gripped the book tightly in his hands. “Yes?”

“What about angels?”

“I’m afraid I don’t follow.”

He scrunched up his nose in annoyance. “I mean how demons aren’t allowed to love. What ‘bout angels? If you loved someone, I dunno who but someone, would the other angels have been angry?”

Aziraphale seriously wondered what could have happened upstairs to make Crowley drink a significant amount of wine and ask about love. “I suppose...the situation is similar. No one ever talked about it when I was in Heaven. Romance wasn’t explicitly forbidden, but seen as something unprofessional and human.” He was treading dangerous waters. “Perhaps an angel would not sustain physical harm, but certainly would be reprimanded for such a thing.”

Crowley nodded. “Uh huh. Uh huh. Right.” He bit his lip. “So,” he hissed, “what about you?”

“Me?” He noted the hiss in Crowley’s voice and knew he must have been really drunk or really stressed. Or both.

“If you could love,” he said, a near-hysterical lift to the tone of his voice, “would you?” 

Aziraphale swore he felt his skin grow red from his neck to his hairline in the blink of an eye. What the hell prompted this?! “Angels are-are designed to love, so, erm, it wouldn’t be a-a difficult leap.” Yes, he would give a clinical answer. That was safe. That would save him from death by mortification. “I suppose we could be inc-clined to romance if the mood struck, since we’re beings of love. Yes, yes, I suppose I would. If someone, er, caught my eye, as they say” Oh no, he was rambling. Better wrap it up. “I can love Her creatures perfectly well, unlike demons.”

Crowley’s gaze snapped to him, and for a split second, he looked like he had been hit. He pushed his glasses up his nose. “Right.” He turned away, back facing Aziraphale, hugging the bottle.

Aziraphale felt like he was going mad. What was happening?

“Unlike me,” he said quietly, so quietly Aziraphale almost didn’t hear.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale said, vexed. “What’s gotten into you?”

“D’you read books in bed?” Crowley asked from over his shoulder.

That was a non sequitur. “Why? And why are you in this strange mood?”

Why’s your bed reek of lust?” he hissed.

Aziraphale wanted to discorporate. Every inch of him burned up. What an idiot he was! He masturbated in bed just this morning! He had completely forgotten! He had to lie. “S-sometimes,” Aziraphale said after a cough. “Sometimes I read there. Nothing more. Sometimes I need a change of scenery and read upstairs. That’s all. There would be no other reason for that a-aroma. Is that what’s gotten you worked up?”

“I’m not worked up,” Crowley denied. “I just felt like drinking!” he said too loudly.

Aziraphale stood up. He couldn’t have this conversation. “I need something. An errand. I’ll be back.”

“Wha?” Crowley’s glasses had slid down his nose again, and he was squinting. “It’s...I dunno what time but it’s late. You were just reading.”

“I need air.”

“But why?” Crowley stood and staggered. “Whuz wrong?” he slurred.

“Nothing!” Aziraphale put on his coat. “I’ll be back. Stay here.” He was out of the shop before he could hear a reply. He put his head in his hands and groaned into his palms once he was on the pavement. It truly was late, so no one was around. Crowley was no idiot. Surely, he would put the pieces together once he was sober and know he pleasured himself. Aziraphale wasn’t ashamed of his sexuality, but this was Crowley , the object of his desires. It was different. He felt mortified at the idea of Crowley knowing he took part in that earthly pleasure, especially after the direct question about whether or not he could love! Crowley must have been wondering if he would love someone after he smelled the lust. Oh, no, was he about to be found out? All over a bed?

Aziraphale was walking, but the cold air did nothing to ease the heat on his skin. He had seen some crazy days in his time (the apocalypse being at the top of the list), but tonight was a whirlwind since Crowley walked through the door. He knew he loved him dearly, but it still wasn’t easy to handle his emotions after thousands of years of repression. 

His feet had brought him to St. James’ Park, as usual. He sat down on a bench, trying to fill his mind with the quiet of the night instead of the endless, incessant chatter of his conflicted thoughts. Times like this, he wished he had human friends. When humans had relationship problems, they sought the comfort of their friends, but besides Crowley, Aziraphale didn’t really have anyone. He made acquaintances over the years, but he always knew humans would die, so he kept a friendly but clear distance. 

His chest was heavy. He ran a thumb over his ring. He hoped he got to keep it after this was over.


Aziraphale wasn’t going to stay away from his shop forever, so he returned in the afternoon after having time to himself.

Crowley was in the same chair he was that night, but he appeared considerably more composed than earlier, and much more sober. His ankle was over his knee and he was reading a newspaper. “Morning,” he muttered.

Aziraphale didn’t want to talk about last night. He kept his gaze averted. “Good morning.” He took off his coat and hung it up. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?” That sounded nasty. “To cause mischief, I mean.”

“No. Not today,” he said into the paper. “You’re welcome, by the way. A couple customers tried to come in earlier and I scared them off.”

“Thank you.”

Crowley closed the paper and stood up. He stretched his arm over his head, and Aziraphale politely did not stare at the trail of auburn hair trailing below his navel when his shirt rode up his abdomen. “All right, let’s go.”

“Go? I didn’t know we were going anywhere.” He just returned after a cold night outside, and he could really go for a nice cup of cocoa right now. 

“We’re going dancing for the thing. I heard that’s romantic.” He didn’t sound happy, and his features were unreadable, the glasses completely concealing his eyes and eyebrows.

“Dancing? Why, I only ever learned one dance, and that went out of style decades ago.” He wasn’t opposed to this idea, however. The Gavotte was fun.

“Demons are pretty rubbish at dancing, frankly, but it’s ballroom dancing. Can’t be too hard, right? Let’s just get it over with.”

The mood was definitely strained from last night, but Aziraphale lacked the strength to bring it up. He put his coat on again with a tired sigh. “All right.” An activity would be better than spending the day in the shop in uncomfortable silence.


It was much harder than they anticipated.

“Watch your feet!”

“I’m trying!”

“You’re failing!”

“It’s hard when your true form doesn’t have feet,” Crowley hissed under his breath. “What’s your excuse?”

“Angels aren’t designed for this,” he argued, voice equally low as to not grab the attention of nearby couples. “The Gavotte took me some time to learn.”

“How are we doing, gentlemen?” their cheerful dance instructor asked.

“We’re fine,” Aziraphale said just as Crowley said, “Terribly.”

Aziraphale rolled his eyes. “Don’t mind this grumpy old serpent.”

“I’m no older than you,” he pouted.

“It takes time,” the woman said encouragingly.

Aziraphale gave Crowley a look before he could say something rude, and she walked away.

“Behave,” he scolded him. “This was your idea, after all.”

“It’s supposed to be romantic,” Crowley grumbled.

It really wasn’t. “Why does dancing come so easily to humans?” he wondered. His hand was clasped in Crowley’s and they were utterly failing to do the tango. It had too many spins, too much coordination. Most of the other couples weren’t great, but much better than they were, although that wasn’t saying much. They were also the only gay couple, so that made them stick out more. They tried to spin again, but somehow their ankles got tangled and their heads knocked together with a clunk .

“Oof,” Crowley let go of him and rubbed his head.

“Okay, everyone!” the instructor clapped her hands. “Great work! That’s it for the lesson today, but we’ll end with a little fun with a preview of our lesson for next week.” She fiddled with a mobile phone, and then music came from the speakers hooked up in the room. The sounds of strings slid into the room. “Slow dancing! Before we begin any formal instruction, I just want you to have fun and enjoy yourselves with your sweetheart.”

Crowley gagged.

Aziraphale jabbed him with his elbow.

“Go on!”

The other couples went into each other’s arms with warm smiles and awkward but happy giggles, whereas Aziraphale and Crowley were just plain awkward.

Crowley, due to his slight height advantage, took the lead. Aziraphale liked the feeling of his hand on his waist, and he grasped his hand and shoulder, raising an amused eyebrow at him in what he hoped was a friendly matter.

“Do we just, sway around?” Crowley asked, a slight rumble to his voice.

“I believe so.” Given his cold-blooded nature, it always surprised him how warm Crowley’s palm was. The earlier fumbling and stepping on each other’s toes were a distraction from the tension created last night, but now they were left to their own devices with sweet violin music filling their ears. They started to sway around, probably not dancing very well at all, but it was easier to just let his body move in rhythm with the string instruments than to do twists and turns.

Crowley tightened his hand on his waist and he brought him closer. “Let’s make it look good,” he murmured. “C’mon.”

Aziraphale was apprehensive, fearful that he would reveal himself. But the sooner they got confirmation from Heaven that their ruse was believed, the sooner he could go back to hiding his love and enact the future fake breakup to aid Crowley’s safety. As always, if he went too far, he could always say it was to make things look real, so with a determined nod, Aziraphale rested his head on Crowley’s thin chest. He felt the subtle intake of breath, but Crowley didn’t say anything. Aziraphale could feel the quick beat of his heart beneath his cheek. He saw a couple other couples doing this from his peripheral vision, which he saw as a good sign that they looked like a proper couple. He tried not to tense when he felt something atop his head, perhaps Crowley’s cheek? He wasn’t sure, but it was warm in his arms. 

He mentally noted that Crowley’s heartbeat seemed a bit fast, and he whispered, “Relax.”

“I am relaxed,” the irritated denial was hissed into his hair.

This felt more like a swaying, extended hug than dancing, and Aziraphale couldn’t help but close his eyes and lean into him more. This was where he wanted to be. Angels weren’t supposed to indulge in pleasure of any kind, but he broke that rule long ago. The pleasure of being touched with non-sexual intimacy was still foreign, however, and he knew that was even truer for Crowley. He wanted to inhale the scent of his cologne and stay here, in his arms, until their legs couldn’t keep them upright. It was a childish thought, wasn’t it, to want a big long hug? But this was another thing humans got right, because the feeling was simple but better than divine. He wondered if nuzzling his face into his chest would be taking things too far, and decided that would be too catlike. But he took a risk and pressed a small, chaste kiss to the side of his neck. He didn’t glow, thankfully.

The sound that came from Crowley’s throat was strained and tiny.

The song came to an end, but there was a shift in the air, so Aziraphale lifted his head.

All of the humans in the room were still, but had been dancing a moment ago. It was like time stopped around them, but the speakers began to play another song.

“Crowley?”

Crowley’s eyes were hidden, but a trace of anxiety could be seen on his face. “I just hit the pause button on them. They were getting annoying, and the song ended so we would’ve had to stop, but.”

“But you don’t want to?” Aziraphale asked, and willed his palm not to sweat in Crowley’s grasp.

“Yeah. I mean, no, I don’t wanna stop. This is good. For the thing. Just, get back where you were. That was a good idea. To, you know, make things clear.”

The insistence that this was only for their plan was not as disheartening as it had once been, perhaps because of the nerves in his voice. Aziraphale was happy to spend more time with him, so he said, “Yes, all right.” He leaned his head down on his chest, and he heard his heart beating faster now. He felt Crowley bury his face into his hair and inhale. Aziraphale shivered and they were back to their swaying hug. It was blissful in Crowley’s arms, and he knew why his heart always ached for this, why he knew sex with any human couldn’t compare to this. It was better than being under a warm blanket after a long, rainy day.

Aziraphale’s heart wasn’t beating fast, but heavily. To think that all this time, Crowley actually gave great hugs. To think that he was never allowed to give someone a hug and share this side of him. To think Hell would still hurt him for this…

Crowley’s hand on his waist brought him closer, their bodies flush against one another. “Shush,” he breathed into his hair, “whatever bollocks you’re thinking, stop it.” His tone was probably meant to be annoyed, but almost sounded dreamy. “I feel you tensing.”

Aziraphale had his left hand clasped on his shoulder, and he rubbed his thumb across the fabric of his suit jacket for a moment. “It’s nothing,” he said, voice sounding far away to his own ears.

“Then stop being irritating.”

“Whatever you say.”

They stayed like that for another couple minutes, embracing, Crowley’s heart pounding and Aziraphale feeling warm everywhere. He almost felt drunk. It would have been so easy to tilt his head up and press kisses to his throat, but Aziraphale didn’t trust himself to keep it together. This proximity alone was dizzying. Sometimes, dear Lord, he really, really loved him.

The song came to an end, but this time, another one didn’t play.

Aziraphale opened his eyes and reluctantly lifted his head.

Crowley kissed him swiftly.

The relaxed, hazy mood was gone as Aziraphale grew still. This wasn’t good. He was already in a loving mood, and he wasn’t sure if he could fight off the glow that was bubbling in his chest right now. He didn’t kiss back.

Reacting to his lack of response, Crowley pulled away, and the slightest indication of a distressed, furrowed brow was visible above his sunglasses. He let go of Aziraphale and took a step backwards, shoving his hands into his pockets.

“Are you okay?” he croaked. He swallowed. “Don’t you want to, I don’t know, continue dancing?” With his mouth gone, Aziraphale could get the glow back under control. What was it about kissing?

Crowley shook his head, and he didn’t seem to be looking at him. “I keep thinking,” he started in a gravelly voice, “that something will happen when we kiss. It never does. It’s frustrating.”

Aziraphale straightened his bow tie. He must have meant the archangels. “I’ll admit that I’m not sure why nothing happens, either,” he said. “I’m as befuddled as you.”

Crowley sighed, and it sounded defeated. “I guess I should turn these humans back to normal.”

“Please do.”

Crowley snapped his fingers, and all of the humans regained their senses, but were dazed and wondering what happened to the music.

Crowley grabbed his hand. “Let’s go,” he muttered.

Aziraphale followed him out the door, feeling a little hollow now without his warmth. “Dancing was lovely,” he said when they got to the car. “Thank you for taking me.”

Crowley shrugged. “Husbands have to make their husbands happy,” was all he said, and he got into the car.

Reflecting upon his behavior, Aziraphale said, “You’re a good husband.” It was a realization that wasn’t shocking, but it should have been. He placed a hand over his chest. He had a funny feeling, like he was on the brink of a discovery that he had already known, but pushed away for a long, long time.

“Hello? You getting in?” Crowley asked.

Aziraphale snapped out of it and got in the car.

“Finally,” Crowley grumbled moodily. He jabbed the knob on the radio. An acoustic guitar played, and a female voice came from the speakers.

 

I don’t know how to love him.

 

Crowley let out an agonized groan. “No! You’re not allowed to play Jesus Christ Superstar,” he yelled at the car. “You treacherous— troublesome car.”

 

What to do, how to move him.

I’ve been changed.

Yes, really changed.



Aziraphale wondered why the Bentley apparently hated him personally. “At least we both know the song this time?” he said unhelpfully.

“Don’t care,” Crowley repeatedly smacked the off button to no avail. “I never owned this soundtrack. I don’t know why it’s doing this.”

 

I don’t know how to take this.

I don’t see why he moves me.

 

“Just ignore it,” Aziraphale said, looking out the window and forcing the blush out of his cheeks. “The faster we get home, the faster we get out of this car.” He almost felt resigned to the Bentley torturing him. He supposed it was picking up on the strong feeling of love pulsing in his chest after the kiss. It only made sense. At least Crowley wasn’t asking him about it.

“That’s true. I’ll try to get back to the flat as fast as possible.”

Aziraphale braced himself. “Drive away.”

And so they drove in absolute silence as the song continued. Despite Crowley’s break-neck speed, some choice lyrics still played before they got to Mayfair.

 

Yet, if he said he loved me,

I’d be lost.

I’d be frightened.

 

Aziraphale bit his lip.

 

I couldn’t cope.

Just couldn’t cope.

I’d turn my head, 

I’d back away.

I wouldn’t want to know.

 

Guilt nagged at Aziraphale. This was rather accurate to his feelings throughout most of history, wasn’t it? If Crowley ever loved him in return and told him about it in the past, really at any point before the apocalypse, he probably would have run away.

“Why won’t it stop?” Crowley asked under his breath, sounding stressed.

 

He scares me so.

I want him so.

I love him—

 

The car skidded to a spot in front of the building and turned off the car. “Enough of that rubbish,” he said, ears red as cherries, before outright fleeing the car. 

Aziraphale frowned. Wasn’t he the one who should be ashamed? Why would Crowley feel embarrassed about the song? Was it that he knew it was because of his feelings, and wanted to get away from him? No...no, something told him that wasn’t right. But, why did he react that way?

Aziraphale lingered in the car, and looked down at the ring.

Unless...

Chapter Text

Aziraphale got out of the car slowly, smoothing down his coat. He was perturbed, and yet felt a sense of calm at the same time. He looked at the door to the building, but Crowley had already gone inside. It was still daytime, the sun high and bright in the sky. What would they do for the rest of the day? It was far too early for Crowley to turn in for the night, and Aziraphale practically fled from him last night. A repeat performance was not ideal. Crowley did not appear to be up for conversation, however. Ever cautious, ever pragmatic, Aziraphale would not rush to conclusions, despite the thought pushing and nagging at his mind. Taking a deep breath, he walked to the building and went up the lift to Crowley’s flat. 

The hallway outside of the flat was empty, save for Crowley himself, whose hands were shaking and fumbling with the key.

“Why don’t you miracle the lock open?” Aziraphale found himself asking, an innocuous question despite the weight in the mood around them.

Crowley flinched and dropped the key. He growled and picked it back up. “Not all of us use frivolous miracles constantly,” he spat out with a hiss. His ears were still red. He was jumpy and agitated.

Aziraphale looked at him carefully. He hadn’t been this bothered in quite some time, save for last night. Did the song truly bother him so? Was it because he figured out that it was how Aziraphale felt? Or… “Crowley, have I done something to upset you?” 

He snapped his head up and stopped fiddling with the key and lock. “What? N-nuh. No. I just. I need to water the plants. Alone.”

Aziraphale furrowed his brow, confused more than hurt. “Is it truly a private affair?”

“I’m afraid so,” he said seriously with no room for compromise. “They need a stern talking-to after you softened them up and spoilt them.” He turned and was able to open the door. “They need to be reminded of who their master is. I can’t have your presence interfering or you telling me I should be kinder to them. I won’t stand for it. I’ve spent years conditioning them.”

Aziraphale felt like saying, “You know, you could simply say you would like to be alone rather than use the plants as an excuse.” But Crowley was on edge enough as it was and he never dealt with being called out well. “I’ll return to my shop, shall I?” Aziraphale didn’t know the precise reason why he needed to be alone, but he wouldn’t go against his wishes.

Crowley nodded, his glasses concealing his eyes and brows completely, but he couldn’t hide the deep frown etched into his skin. “Yeah. Good idea. Come back tonight, and all. Because we definitely live together.”

“Of course,” Aziraphale said. “I’ll return around 8?”

“Fine.”

Aziraphale did not, in reality, want to leave, but he didn’t think it was wise to force his company upon him. He walked back to the bookshop, letting thoughts swim through his mind. He wasn’t certain of the exact cause of Crowley’s mood but knew it had to do with him. Was it the music in the car, their dancing, or did uncomfortable feelings from last night remain? If it was the last matter, then did Aziraphale reveal himself too much during their dancing, and Crowley started to piece things together regarding the scent of lust in his bed? Somehow, Aziraphale doubted that. The dancing had been all right in the end, so it couldn’t be that. Crowley was a little nervous during the dancing, if the quick beating of his heart was anything to go by, but he was the one who prolonged it by pausing the humans. If the song from Jesus Christ Superstar disturbed him, then that would indicate he disliked the depth of Aziraphale’s feelings. That was the only explanation, unless... unless…

Aziraphale had only been in his bookshop for a couple of minutes when there was a sharp knock on his door. Normally, he would have said the shop was closed, but his head hurt, and a momentary distraction away from this situation might enable him to see more clearly. He approached the door, but inhaled and coughed. He sensed a demonic presence, but it didn’t feel or smell like Crowley. He always wore the newest cologne, but this presence reeked something awful. He had a hunch he knew who it was.

The tiniest flame ignited in Aziraphale’s veins and he opened the door. “What is it that you want?” he asked, no pretense of politeness to be found.

Hastur was smoking a cigarette and blew a puff of smoke in his face.

Aziraphale didn’t even blink. The tiny flame burned brighter inside of him. Only yesterday, Hastur threatened and badly hurt his beloved. On top of that, Aziraphale didn’t forget that Hastur smacked him in the head with a crowbar when he wore Crowley’s body and wanted a front row seat to his holy water bath. Forgiveness was a virtue, but he was taught demons did not deserve forgiveness. He slowly learned to reject Heaven’s teachings, but would not make an exception this time. He forgave the archangels for trying to hurt him, simply because hating them was not worth the effort, although that did not mean he held an iota of respect for them anymore. However, Hastur, and the other demon who hurt Crowley but was absent at the moment, brought forth parts of Aziraphale he tried to suppress. He wanted to be soft, but he wanted to be good, too . Well, what kind of friend would he be if he did not loathe Crowley’s enemies? Was hatred for the truly wicked not, in fact, good? These were the questions Crowley inspired him to ask, but he was rather sure he knew the answer.

“Angel,” Hastur said, the word a statement of fact and not the endearment used by Crowley, completely wrong in his voice and formed by his lips. “Crowley’s not in there, is he?”

“Why do you want to know?” he asked sharply.

“I want to talk to you alone.”

“Do you see him? We are alone. However, I have no desire to speak with you.” He moved to close the door.

Hastur snapped his fingers and the door flew open all the way.

Aziraphale glared at him. “I shan’t invite you in.” His filth would probably stain the carpet. No demon but Crowley ever walked into his shop and he intended to keep it that way. His short time down in Hell showed him how damp, musty, and dirty the place was, and he knew why Crowley always smelled of cologne and kept his flat bare and sterile.

“What a disappointment,” he said sarcastically. “I’ll get to the point. Crowley says you two are in a relationship,” he said gruffly, tone oozing with contempt.

Aziraphale folded his hands behind his back. “We are. Very much so.”

“You’re sure of that? Not that you shouldn’t be,” he said. “I’m only saying. He’s a demon. We don’t like anyone. We don’t trust anyone. Your lot hate ours as much as we hate you. Why would you be with that bastard?”

Aziraphale was smarter than Hastur took him for, clearly. He knew Hastur was here because there was a part of him that didn’t believe it, but his backtracking meant he didn’t want to spoil Crowley’s plan of corruption if it did turn out to be true. He wanted to know if they were truly an item without alerting Aziraphale to Crowley’s alleged plot of seduction to make him Fall. One minute into the conversation and Hastur gave up the ghost unwittingly. Those in charge were always so painfully idiotic. That was something humans and celestials had in common.

“We are very much in love,” Aziraphale said primly. Here, without Crowley to listen in, he could speak freely. It would aid their cause, after all. If he, too, spoke of how much he loved Crowley, then Hastur could be convinced that he truly was deceiving and seducing Aziraphale. “We have been husbands for two years. Our wedding was a small, private affair between us and we spent our honeymoon in…” He thought about it for a second. “Rome.”

“What’s a honeymoon?”

Oh, Aziraphale was beginning to enjoy this. “Why, it’s a celebration between the new spouses.” He was never ashamed of his sexuality, but didn’t go around sharing his sex life, either, especially not among celestials. Yet, a very decidedly unangelic of him made his lips curl into a smirk and he said, “It involves several days of love-making.”

Hastur spluttered and choked out a wheezing, hacking cough.

Aziraphale watched him, immensely satisfied. Demons were no prudes, but he knew well that angels and demons were disgusted by one another. It was ridiculous, but Aziraphale was happy to use it to his advantage here. He wished Crowley could see Hastur’s face right now.

He would probably have more of a reaction if...Lord, was he really going to do this? If he did, it would build up Crowley’s lie and make him safer. Deciding to play it up for the sake of Crowley’s lie about the seduction, Aziraphale braced himself and said, “He’s quite the charming devil in the bedroom, I tell you.” He couldn’t believe those words just left his mouth. It’s for Crowley. Do it for him.

“Stop!” he shook his head. “The last thing I want to think of is that flash bastard arse-naked.”

“What a pity, for he’s a sight to be seen.” It was getting to be a little much, but it was worth having Hastur believe Crowley was truthful so he wouldn’t hurt him. Any embarrassment Aziraphale felt was nothing compared to the pain Crowley must have felt yesterday. 

“Have you gone mad?” Hastur asked. “Has he fucked your brains out?”

“I pity you,” Aziraphale said, not rising to the bait, “for you don’t know what it’s like to have a lover.” He mentally kicked himself and stopped blood from rushing to his cheeks.

“I can’t believe it,” Hastur said after a long moment of looking dumbfounded. “You’re really not lying?”

“Would an angel ever lie for the sake of a demon?”

“In your case? Ha,” he gave a short, bitter laugh. “I wouldn’t put it past you. You were his accomplice two years ago.”

“That was business. Matters of the heart are not.”

Hastur made a vaguely grossed-out sound and took another drag from his cigarette. “Angels and demons...it’s wrong. How could you want to be with a demon? We’re barely the same species anymore. At least we’re meant to do wrong.”

“I love him,” Aziraphale lifted his chin. He could say this now, because if Crowley found out, he would immediately say it was for their plan. He had absolutely nothing to lose, and the not so good part of him wanted to make Hastur squirm. “I have adored Crowley for as long as I can remember,” he said casually, smiling internally at the slowly look of disgust on Hastur’s face. “He is a brilliant, wily devil. Why would I not love him? In addition, love is good in the Almighty’s eyes, so I see no issue.”

Hastur’s dirty face crumpled in revulsion. “You’re sick.”

“You’re wasting my time.”

“I thought he might’ve been lying. An angel with a demon,” he said again. “I was half expecting to show up and see you just as shocked as I was. It would’ve been funny. We could’ve gone to beat him up together.”

Aziraphale’s fingernails dug into the skin of his palms. “He told me about your little stunt yesterday,” he said, voice turning to ice. “Did you think he wouldn’t, or are you merely inept?”

“He’s a traitor in more ways than one,” he spat. “It’s bad enough he interfered with Armageddon, but being in a relationship? Turning into some weak, soft prat? That’s going too far. It’s unheard of. He deserved it, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll watch your tongue.”

The flame inside of Aziraphale ran through all of his veins. He was getting so bloody tired of discovering just how much Crowley was forced to hold himself back over the millennia. He took a small step forward, unflinching through the stench coming from Hastur, to glare into his black, angry eyes. “You listen to me very carefully,” Aziraphale bit out. “Crowley does not work for Hell anymore. He is under no obligation to do a single thing you want. He chose humanity; he chose me.” If only that were true (or was it? No time to think about it now). “I care about him more than all of the Almighty’s creations, and I refuse to allow you to lay another hand on him. If you harm him again, I will not hesitate to drag you out of Hell myself.”

Hastur laughed, an ugly and awkward thing. “You? What are you going to do, wankwings?” 

Fury threatened to rise up, and there was a slight divine echo to his voice when he said, “The Lord bestowed a flaming sword upon me at the Garden of Eden for a reason, Hastur. I will stop at nothing to defend Crowley.”

“The wanker’s too weak to defend himself, then,” he snarled.

“No,” he said lowly. “If you were to hurt him again, I would want to smite you, at best,” he said, more voices echoing behind his with each passing word, blood boiling hot in his veins. “I would rush past him to get to you first.”

“You think you can take me?” Hastur sneered.

“I know I can,” he said, and his skin itched—he was becoming enraged and his many eyes were trying to burst forth—

“Excuse me?”

They both turned around to see an elderly woman standing below the steps. “Is the shop open?”

Aziraphale contemplated shewing her away, but no, he was getting too angry. He returned his voice back to its human form and put on a smile. “Yes of course, my dear lady. This man is just leaving.”

Hastur shot daggers through him. “This isn’t over.”

“I do believe it is,” he smiled painfully widely. “Good day, Hastur. It was most unpleasant to see you.”

He huffed and walked away, dropping his lit cigarette on the ground.

Behind his back, Aziraphale discreetly snapped his fingers and put it out and miracled it away from the pavement.

The woman stared after Hastur. “I...could come back another time, sir.”

Aziraphale sighed deeply, pulling himself together. “No, no, it’s all right. He’s merely an old, unfriendly acquaintance from my university days,” he lied. “Come in, my dear lady. I apologize for the inconvenience.”

The customer’s presence did manage to ease his temper (he even managed to avoid selling a book by miracling a bad odor into the shop and lying that one of the soil pipes was leaking, causing her to cover her nose and leave), but now his mind was caught between thinking of Hastur’s visit and Crowley’s behavior. Neither thought left him at ease. He was completely serious when he said he would want to smite Hastur if another incident occurred. He hadn’t done any physical fighting at all since the days of the Great War in Heaven, but the sense of loyalty and duty to the Lord behind his actions then could not compare to the wrath he would inflict upon Hastur upon harming Crowley. He almost let some of his true form break free this afternoon, and he hadn’t let himself feel that angry in a long, long time. Aziraphale wanted to be calm and gentle, but if it came to protecting Crowley, he would abandon it all. He had failed him enough throughout the years. The memory of the bandstand two years ago flashed before his eyes, and he shook his head. No, he apologized. They were past that now. He wouldn’t ever leave Crowley again. It occurred to him that this was what Crowley meant yesterday when he grew angry when Aziraphale suggested staying away from each other after their future, fake break up. 

“I thought we were past that,” Crowley had said.

They were. They absolutely were. Aziraphale didn’t want to upset him anymore, nor leave him vulnerable to the clutches of Hell. They were on their own side, which meant he had to tell Crowley about what happened today. No more hiding vital information from each other. If Hastur now fully believed their ruse, it did not necessarily mean Heaven did, as well, so they had to maintain this until they finally got the okay from them. However, all things considered, Hastur buying it was a good thing. Aziraphale wasn’t afraid of him, although he supposed he should have been, since he wasn’t actually immune to hellfire. He and Crowley could always do another body swap if Hastur tried anything, and he wondered if that would convince Heaven and Hell more than anything else.

Aziraphale stopped in the street, now close to Crowley’s flat.

Hm. They could have avoided all of this, couldn’t they?

He shook his head and continued walking. No matter. As Crowley said yesterday, they were already in too deep and stopping now would be beyond suspicious.

Aziraphale returned to the flat at 8 in the evening as he said he would. They needed to talk.

Crowley was standing outside of the door to his flat, leaning on the wall, and his eyebrows climbed up his forehead. “Angel,” he sounded surprised, as if he didn’t expect him to come back.

The word sounded so much better spoken by Crowley than Hastur. Once again, they were alone in the hallway, only now the lights were on since it had become night, bathing the hall in orange. Crowley’s hair was sticking up a little more than usual, like he had been running his hands through it, and it was a shining auburn under the lights. He wasn’t blushing anymore, but pale. His fingers tapped rapidly against the wall behind him, nervously.

“Hello.” Aziraphale felt a heavy weariness in his bones. It had not been a good day at all. He was largely left alone with his thoughts and only fretted and fretted about Hastur until he gave himself a terrible headache. Overthinking was one of his worst habits. “Crowley, I must speak with you. Hastur came to my shop shortly after I left here.”

He visibly tensed. “What? Why? What did he say?” he demanded.

“He asked about our relationship,” he said. Outside wasn’t a good conversation for this. They didn’t know who might be listening, from Heaven or Hell.

“He didn’t believe me,” Crowley said quietly, and he almost sounded afraid. He shook his head. “Did he hurt you?” he asked frantically. He was clearly not in better spirits than earlier in the day.

Aziraphale’s mind was back to the car, to the way Crowley flushed brightly and fled and trembled while he tried to open the door. “No, of course not. The worst thing he did was drop a cigarette onto my pavement, but I took care of it. Perhaps we shoul—”

“He’s an idiot,” he declared loudly. “Of course we’re together!”

Aziraphale sighed. “Yes, we are,” he said. Hastur indicated that he would return, so Aziraphale would not be surprised if he was listening nearby. “That’s what I told him immediately. I don’t know why he questioned it. He thought you were lying and that I would be offended by what you said. Can you believe it? He thought I would join him in harming you,” he told him unhappily. “I set the record straight quite clearly, I assure you.”

“All of this,” Crowley waved his hand between them, “and yet they don’t believe us.”

“I think he doe—”

“What more do they want?” he asked, voice rising, not listening.”I’ve tried everything.”

Aziraphale held back a flinch. That could be misinterpreted—or, rather, interpreted correctly. Crowley was not in the right state to play it cool and discreet during this conversation. He must get into the flat. “I don’t know why they don’t believe us,” Aziraphale said carefully. “I informed Hastur of our wedding and honeymoon.”

Crowley mouthed “honeymoon” in confusion.

“In Rome,” Aziraphale cleared his throat. “I informed him it was a most joyous occasion. I suppose someone like him cannot grasp our—our love.”

“Rome, yeah,” he nodded. “Yeah, yeah. It was sunny. Lots of sun. And sightseeing. Trip down memory lane, for us. Complete with oysters.”

“Oysters,” Aziraphale smiled, remembering that time they dined all those years ago. “Yes. However, a customer came. Hastur said our conversation wasn’t over, but he left all the same. If we hear a knock on your door,” he said, trying to get them inside, “then we should expect who it is.”

He groaned. “I don’t want that bloody bastard here.”

“I know, but—”

“How has this not been enough?” He sounded like a man at the end of his rope. If his voice weren’t so clear, Aziraphale would have thought he’d been drinking. “What more is there?”

“Crowley, you need to calm down. We should—”

Crowley grabbed Aziraphale by the coat lapels and pushed him against the wall, the exact same position they were in at Tadfield Manor two years ago. He wasn’t angry this time, but immensely frustrated. His voice turned so quiet that, even with their faces this close, the tips of their noses nearly touching, he was difficult to hear. “I’m bloody tired of this.” His breath ghosted over Aziraphale’s lips. “Make. It. Convincing,” he whispered sternly, his hands trembling around the fabric of Aziraphale’s coat, sunglasses sliding down his nose slightly. 

Aziraphale, above all else, was concerned by how disheveled and distraught Crowley was. He wasn’t right ever since last night. The dancing calmed him temporarily, to a degree, but the music in the car started him up all over again. His anxiety could be seen a mile away. Aziraphale couldn’t let him be like this. He wanted to know what was truly wrong so he could help, and so he would stop saying things that may give them away. Aziraphale didn’t want to do this outside, especially with Crowley skittish as a fawn and not choosing his words carefully. He wanted to take him inside and calm him down, away from prying eyes and ears. Aziraphale knew that when he did choose to drink, it was usually alcohol, but he thought Crowley needed to sit down on his sofa with a nice, warm cup of tea right about now.

Crowley, however, kissed him hard. It was far rougher and more insistent than anything they’d done previously.

Aziraphale let out a surprised grunt and froze. He shook his head away, breaking the kiss, because he didn’t want to kiss Crowley like this, when he was upset and bothered and struggling to stay put together. Aziraphale didn’t even feel like he was going to glow because he was becoming so worried about him. Kissing now felt wrong.

Crowley’s glasses had slid down farther. He looked like he had been slapped.

Aziraphale’s eyes widened, heart being stabbed and squeezed at the open, heart wrenching expression. “Crowley? You’re...you look unwell. We shouldn’t do this right now. Let’s get inside so you can calm down.”

His eyebrows furrowed deeply and his lips trembled. “No. I know what I’m doing,” he said before he kissed him again, breathing hard through his nose.

Aziraphale shook his head again, because they needed to talk. Crowley needed to calm down. 

But Crowley let out a small, throaty, anguished moan of frustration. He pulled back, his piercing eyes almost wholly visible now, his sunglasses low on his nose due to his jerky movements. His round eyes held breathtaking desperation. His grip on the coat tightened, and his chest began to heave. “I can’t do this anymore,” Crowley said in a fraught whisper. “Kiss me, Aziraphale,” he begged, his voice raw and quivering. He looked worse than when Aziraphale appeared to him, discorporated, at the pub. He was wrecked, unsteady on his feet. “Pretend,” he hissed, and then pressed uncoordinated, frantic kisses to the side of his jawline and neck. Crowley leaned the top of his head against the wall, shoulders hunched, face turned down and hidden in the crook of Aziraphale’s neck. “Pretend you love me,” Crowley whispered into his skin, broken, shoulders shaking, and leaning all of his weight into Aziraphale.

And that was the moment when every trace of doubt and uncertainty was wiped from Aziraphale’s mind. The fog was lifted like when the sun rose over the horizon after a long, brutal storm.

Oh my God. 

This entire time, every single word, every single gesture and touch—this was all real for Crowley. 

“If anyone knew how much I…”

“If the other creatures of Hell knew I was in love with an angel?”

“Well it’s a bloody well good thing you’re married to me and I’ve always liked you as you are.”

The flowers, the intricately designed ring, the song in the car, taking care of him whilst Aziraphale slept, immediately agreeing to be in a faux relationship to begin with, the way he seemed to genuinely enjoy wearing Aziraphale’s ring…but it was more than that. It did not start with this. 6,000 years of their friendship played at hyperspeed in Aziraphale’s mind.

The soft, gentle smile and tone of his voice as he said, “just enough of a bastard to be worth knowing.”

“You can stay at my place, if you’d like.”

Why he didn’t go to Alpha Centauri... “I lost my best friend.”

“We can go off together.”

The books in 1941…

“I don’t need you!” in 1862. The flowers and chocolates for the grand opening of the bookshop in 1800, the rescue in 1793, making Hamlet the most famous play in English literature just for him, countless favors and miracles and going against Hell just for him, just because he asked…

Crowley made it abundantly clear that loving anyone was always explicitly forbidden in Hell, lest he be mocked and tortured. When Hastur thought for a second that Crowley truly loved an angel, he beat him. Crowley said he knew Hell better than Aziraphale did, but he chose to be friends because he wanted to be. It was always his choice, despite having the risks drilled into his head since Lord-knows how long. Every emotion that resembled anything joyous and good would be beaten out of him if he slipped up, but Crowley fully understood this and felt it anyway. He asked for holy water, the single thing that would destroy him completely, as insurance because he knew his friendship and feelings for Aziraphale endangered his life. He was more willing to own the only thing that could destroy him than to stay away.

The painful truth was that despite it all, Crowley had fallen in love with him anyway.

Aziraphale’s chest constricted tightly because he now knew how very, very thick headed he was, and that Crowley—compassionate, brave Crowley—was shaking like a leaf right now because of him and his ignorance. He must have spent so long bottling everything up inside, not simply because he feared Hell, but Aziraphale’s rejection. Did he not have good reason to feel this way? Aziraphale had rejected him; there was inside the Bentley in 1967, and then twice on the day of the apocalypse. Not only that, but Aziraphale clammed up and didn’t reciprocate every time they kissed because he feared the glow. Crowley must have thought that Aziraphale didn’t kiss him back because he didn’t feel the same way. Oh—oh, no. The dancing...Crowley kissed him but his mood changed and he wanted to leave after that. The song in that car was because of Crowley’s emotions, not his own. After not being kissed back, that song played on the radio, and Crowley must have felt embarrassed and exposed in front of Aziraphale. That was why he fled. That was why he wanted to be alone and was acting strangely. And on that day when they kissed for the first time, he must have tensed up for the exact same reasons he did, but Aziraphale’s insecurity got in the way and he jumped to conclusions without even knowing.

Oh, dear Lord, how cold I was to him, and yet he loves me.

Aziraphale now knew that Crowley’s heart was big, loving, and worn on his sleeve the entire time. It belonged to him; it always had. In the emptiness of the hallway, Aziraphale conceded that, God help him, there were times when he knew after all. He didn’t misread things in 1967, after all. Crowley had wanted him then, but Aziraphale was so cowardly. If he only saw past the thick lens of his fear during their charade, he would have figured all this out far sooner. Blast it all, it was his fault again. A being who was warned against loving turned out to be the most romantic person Aziraphale ever met. It didn’t seem fair at all.

Aziraphale lifted his hand and looked at the ring. It represented the two of them. Crowley wanted him to wear something with snakes, giving a part of himself to Aziraphale. It was right there, the whole time.

The sad part was, Crowley hadn’t even been slick about it.

Aziraphale was silent in thought for too long.

Crowley lifted his head, lips parted, and his grip loosened. He let go of the coat and stepped back, misery plain as day on his face. His shaking hand pushed up his glasses. “Okay,” he said roughly. He swallowed audibly. “Okay, I get it. Not your fault. Just. I’ll adjust. Just give me time. Hu-husband, just give me time. We’ll, um, we’ll get through it. We always do. But. See you later.”

Aziraphale blinked hard and came to life. “Wait, no! Crowley!” he reached out.

Crowley quickly snapped his fingers. He was gone.

“No!” Aziraphale cried, hand falling to his side. He stared at the empty space. Crowley left because he, the Serpent of Eden, was heartbroken, and by an angel who was supposed to be loving and gentle. On the wall of Eden, he was incredibly wary of Crowley. He saw his serpentine eyes, the tattoo on his face, and his black wings and was reminded, He’s not like you. Don’t trust him. If only he could go back in time and tell himself then that he would have more power over this demon’s heart than he could ever imagine. His past self wouldn’t have believed him. A demon in love? And with an angel? Impossible. He did not know when Crowley, precisely, developed feelings for him, but he knew that if he had confessed at any point before Armageddon, Aziraphale would have rejected him. He would have been so terribly frightened, and a part of him would not have believed Crowley. He slithered up the wall and made small talk and cracked jokes because he was genuinely being friendly, and yet Aziraphale didn’t trust him for centuries. He did things, both big and small, to make Aziraphale happy, and yet he remained blind until Crowley finally broke down in front of him. Aziraphale knew emotional weakness was frowned upon in Heaven and that it was even worse in Hell, as Crowley had said. For Crowley to have fallen apart in front of Aziraphale like that meant he was tortured, at the hands of an angel. The worst angel She ever created.

Aziraphale’s vision blurred. “Why can’t I stop making a mess of things?” he asked no one. He roughly rubbed his eyes. No. He couldn’t stand around and feel sorry for himself. Crowley needed him. He needed to know the truth. Aziraphale had to get to work. He closed his eyes and focused. He didn’t normally use his powers this way, but Crowley had plenty of times. It was how he knew where to rescue Aziraphale throughout history. The tendrils of his power reached through London, but he felt nothing. He want farther, stretching through England, and Crowley’s presence pinged in his essence. Aziraphale opened his eyes with a gasp.

He found the location. Aziraphale was bloody well fed up with wasting time and hurting Crowley. He would normally give him space, but this was his doing and it was his job to fix it. He closed his eyes again and focused in on the location, and snapped his fingers. The air cooled around him and he opened his eyes. He was relieved when he took in his surroundings. He made it here in one piece. Sometimes, miracling oneself to an exact location was harder than it looked, but he did it. Crowley’s presence felt much stronger here.

It was nighttime now in the middle of the woods. Aziraphale knew they were just outside of Tadfield, but far enough away from the houses among the trees to be undetected. It was odd to think the former anti-Christ was relatively close by, and he wondered if he could detect their presence. Aziraphale honestly wasn’t interested in him right now, though. He looked around, past the trees, and found Crowley quickly.

The Bentley was parked on the side of the empty dirt road. If he recalled correctly, this was around where they encountered the young lady with the bicycle. Crowley was sitting on the hood of the car, his sunglasses in his hand. His head was bowed and his shoulders were shaking.

Aziraphale’s heart tore in half. He approached slowly, and as he did, the sound of Crowley’s ragged breaths filled the quiet air. Aziraphale stopped, the sounds shooting into his chest and stinging. This was what he’d done. What an atrocious excuse for an angel he was, being so callous while his demon was such a sweet man. He would deny it, of course, and he wasn’t this way with everyone, but that was the point. He was an absolute dear to Aziraphale this entire time.

Aziraphale continued walking, his footsteps causing some dead leaves on the ground to crunch. Crowley must have thought he wouldn’t be followed because there was no way he would let anyone see him in this state. He couldn’t go in his flat with Aziraphale right there, so he chose the woods outside of a sleepy village at night where he thought no one would bother him. But Aziraphale had to do this. He had to be the brave one for once. 

Crowley’s head snapped up, but he didn’t turn his face. His breathing turned quieter and his spine turned as rigid as a rod. He knew Aziraphale was there, but didn’t say anything.

Aziraphale stood next to the hood of the car. “How is your car here?” he asked quietly.

Crowley’s yellow eyes were glowing and sad in the night, slightly watery, but he didn’t bother to put on his sunglasses. In the moonlight, he looked pale and utterly exhausted. The lines were deep around his eyes and mouth. He lowered his gaze. “I miracled it here,” he mumbled.

“Why? That must have taken a lot of energy.”

“I just wanted it here. I like it.” His voice was small and resigned.

Aziraphale knew humans often had objects that made them feel better, like a comfort blanket. The car must have been the equivalent of a blanket for Crowley. “I wasn’t sure we’d ever be near Tadfield again,” he said.

He wasn’t in the mood for small talk. “I said I needed time,” Crowley said pointedly, but there was no bite in his voice, only defeat. “Take a hint. You’re clever.”

Aziraphale licked his lips, feeling as if sharp claws were sinking into his heart. Further upsetting or scaring him off was the least of his desires. Aziraphale wanted to ease into the conversation. “Crowley, is there something you would like to tell me?” he asked softly, putting the ball in his court. “I would like to hear it from you. Please.”

Crowley’s lower lip trembled before he bit it, and his eyes shut tightly. He sighed harshly, shoulders moving up and down. His glasses dangled in his grasp and he looked up at the night sky. There was less light pollution here than in London, and some stars were visible. He was the picture of melancholy.

“Did I ever tell you about what I did when I was an angel?” Crowley asked in a hushed voice.

Aziraphale did not anticipate that to come out of his mouth. “No,” he said honestly. This was not where he thought Crowley would go with this, but he spoke so little of his past as an angel that Aziraphale would be remiss if he stopped him now. This was a private topic for Crowley and it would be dreadfully rude and insensitive to interrupt him now. He was awfully curious, too, truth be told.

“I made things. I made the stars,” he waved his hand weakly up at the air. “A lot of them, anyway.”

Aziraphale looked at the glittering sky, an ache emerging in his chest. All this time he spent on earth under these stars, not knowing it was his Crowley who helped put them there. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped in awe. “I’ve always thought they were beautiful,” he said truthfully. The sky was much clearer here than in London. Sparkling stars dotted the dark, cloudless night sky.

“Yeah. They are,” Crowley said wistfully. “I’ve got to show you a nebula I helped build one day. I almost chose that one instead of Alpha Centauri.” At the mention of that incident, perhaps Aziraphale’s biggest rejection of all, he swallowed audibly. He went on. “I didn’t like being in Heaven with all its tedium and rules, but I miss creating.” He looked down at his hands. “I can remember what it felt like to have hot, fresh stars in my palms.” He curled his fingers. “That’s what I miss. Not being an angel, but making things people can look at and enjoy.” His hands fell to his lap. “Stars die, and I’m not up there to make new ones. One day, all of mine will be gone, and that’ll be that.”

Aziraphale didn’t think it was possible for him to love Crowley more, but he did. His throat suddenly felt tight, because he had absolutely no idea Crowley carried this pain with him. What a torturous thing that must be, to have your fading creations hang over your head every single night for thousands of years. No wonder he rarely talked about his past. “I’m sorry,” Aziraphale whispered.

Crowley looked at him glumly. “There’s a reason why I’m telling you this. If the Almighty came to me right this instant and gave me a choice between being able to create stars again, or spend the rest of my life on earth with you, it wouldn’t even be a question,” he shook his head. “I wouldn’t hesitate for a second,” he said solemnly.

Aziraphale’s vision was blurring again with tears, and he was breathing heavily through the hard thumps of his heart.

“Hell, if She asked me if I wanted to be immortal and among my creations or human with a limited lifespan with you, I still wouldn’t hesitate,” he said, looking him directly in the eye. His voice had taken on breathtaking tenderness and vulnerability.

Aziraphale wanted to say he felt the same, but his throat was too tight for anything coherent to be produced. He sucked in a breath, trying to get himself under control.

“Aziraphale,” Crowley said his name reverently, exposed eyes brimming with sorrow, but also palpable fondness and devotion. “I love you more than every star I crafted and hung in the sky.” 

Aziraphale let out a small sob, completely overcome with emotion. “Crowley—”

“Oh my God, enough already!”

Crowley’s eyes widened and Aziraphale spun around quickly, the breeze drying the tears that threatened to spill onto his cheeks.

Gabriel and Michael were standing in front of them.

Chapter Text

The look on Gabriel’s face was of thorough disgust and irritation. Michael was not much better, but they appeared to be more outright disturbed than annoyed. The two of them looked out of place in expensive, pristine suits in the middle of the night on the side of an empty dirt road.

Aziraphale couldn’t help but blurt out, “Now you show up? We were having a moment!” Out of all the bloody times they had outings together! But he should have known the archangels would be insufferable. He knew they couldn't resist making a show out of things, especially Gabriel.

“You’ve been having several moments,” Michael narrowed their eyes. “We told you we would be watching.”

Crowley got off the car and stood next to Aziraphale. “Leave him alone,” he growled.

Michael rolled their eyes. “Calm down, loverboy.”

Aziraphale put his hand on Crowley’s shoulder. “If you’ve only come here to insult my husband, then you should leave immediately.” He felt the slightest tensing of muscle under his hand.

“Ugh, you’re so defensive,” Gabriel said. “We get it, okay? You’re in a relationship.”

Aziraphale merely raised an eyebrow by a fraction, but inside he was jumping for joy. They did it. It worked! Their relationship was believed, so their body swap lie was safe. Could they now truly be free, without any future threats? Could they finally be left bloody well alone? “Oh? How kind of you to catch up,” he said dryly. “As Michael said, we’ve had many ‘moments’ going about our daily lives. Why didn’t you believe me earlier?” 

Gabriel squinted. “You two are...weird. We’ve been watching, but, we don’t know a lot about romantic relationships because we’re not rule-breaking degenerates, but you seemed awkward sometimes.”

“Like you were putting it on,” Michael said coolly. “We were shocked to see Crowley willing to,” they wrinkled their nose, “kiss you and hold your hand.” They shuddered briefly, like saying those words was like biting into a rotten fruit. “But sometimes, you both looked like you weren’t enjoying it. It was a bit puzzling, but then I thought, well, you two teamed up to thwart the Divine Plan, so why would you not devise a plan to fool us? You always have been friends, if our files are anything to go by. You slipped right under our noses for 6,000 years. A demon could be convinced to team up with an angel to stick it to Heaven.” They looked at Crowley. “Yes?”

Crowley shuffled on his feet. “Yeah, I would, but we’re married for real. Look,” he held up his hand. “We’ve got rings and everything. See?”

Aziraphale tried to keep calm and composed, but finding out that they truly did almost get caught was an extremely disconcerting thought. Their unease did not go unnoticed. Wouldn’t it have been the cruelest of twists, if their ruse had been discovered from their uncomfortable demeanors precisely because they loved each other so much? Despite what he and Crowley liked to believe, the archangels were not, in fact, wholly idiotic and incompetent. Every careful measure they had taken was necessary. As much as Aziraphale regretted keeping Crowley at arm’s length throughout the millennia, he never had another option. He was always right; they would have been killed.

“You told us that you two,” Gabriel started, and then stopped to grimace. He waved his hand with a revolted look on his face, like he was waving away a bothersome insect. “...Do it. But then you kissed like you hated it. What’s with that?” he shrugged.

The kissing was always the least convincing thing they did. If only they knew it was because they truly did love each other as husbands would. “We don’t like public displays of affection,” Aziraphale said, and urged himself not to fiddle with his hands nervously. He figured it was a believable enough lie. My, he certainly was lying a lot lately. “Sometimes...Sometimes we will be overcome by love and can’t contain ourselves, but it is a little out of our comfort zone.”

Michael and Gabriel recoiled at his mention of love.

Aziraphale looked at Crowley who, the poor dear, looked rather overwhelmed and lost at the moment. They desperately needed to talk, but they must be alone for that conversation. Aziraphale put his arm around Crowley’s shoulders. “I can assure you that in private, things are much different.”

Everyone erupted in a combination of splutters, coughs, and groans.

Aziraphale really hoped his face wasn’t flushed, or that the flush wasn’t visible in the moonlight. He felt incredibly awkward. It was easier to do this with Hastur, because Aziraphale didn’t spend most of his life afraid of him, and Crowley hadn’t been there. 

“Y-yeah!” Crowley recovered. “He’s a...uh…” He wrapped an arm around Aziraphale’s waist and placed a hand atop his soft stomach. “Quite the l-lover. Lots of energy when we’re alone.”

Gabriel groaned loudly and Michael said, “Please spare us the details.”

Aziraphale did feel like he was flushing now. “That’s enough, dear,” he gave him a look.

Crowley shrank away and put his hands in his pockets. “Sorry. Look, PDA is gross. Even we think that. But you’re the ones who decided to stalk us like weirdos, so you deserve it.”

“It’s going to take eons for that image to leave my head,” Gabriel bemoaned. “I thought you’d explode or something if you actually did it.”

“Soul-mixing, remember?” Crowley asked with a cocky raise of his eyebrow. “No exploding.”

“What a shame,” Michael said.

Aziraphale cleared his throat and folded his hands behind his back. “Right. Erm, what exactly convinced you we’re telling the truth, if our kissing did not?”

Gabriel sighed, as if what was about to come physically pained him. “We were conflicted. We didn’t think a demon would agree to all of that nonsense with an angel, but like Michael said, you two plotted against us before. We needed to be sure, so we continued watching. We kept going back and forth with whether or not you were lying to us. I thought that maybe you would be stupid enough to love a demon, Aziraphale, but that it was impossible for him to feel it back. Love isn’t supposed to be in a demon’s capabilities.”

“How wrong you are,” Aziraphale said, and he saw Crowley look down at the ground out of the corner of his eye.

“Apparently so,” Gabriel said unhappily. “I don’t know how he can feel something meant for us and the humans , but neither of you make any sense.”

“We’re ineffable,” Aziraphale smiled.

Gabriel made a pained sound. 

“What convinced you, then, that I…?” Crowley cleared his throat. “Well, you just heard me. I won’t repeat it.”

Aziraphale felt for him and the humiliation he must have felt, standing in front of him and the archangels, his love known by all of them and unrequited in his mind. Crowley was always so strong.

“Michael checked the files,” Gabriel looked at them expectantly.

“They’re our pictures of earth from Heaven, taken at different angles and distances starting when human civilization began to spread out,” they said. “I was going through them for filing purposes, but I noticed something odd throughout the centuries.” Michael looked to Gabriel. “You promised you’d be the one to show him.”

Aziraphale and Crowley looked at each other. “What are you talking about?” Aziraphale asked.

Gabriel looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there. “Aziraphale, come with me.”

“No!” Crowley said for him.

“Calm down,” Gabriel said tiredly. “I need to show him something.”

“Why can’t you show me the pictures?” Aziraphale asked. He trusted the archangels as far as he could throw them.

“It’s better if you see and feel it. We’re going to stay within earth’s atmosphere, I promise,” he said in an annoyingly placating tone. “We just need to fly up for a minute. Michael can stay here with Crowley.”

“No,” Crowley said. “We—we’re immune to your tricks, but he doesn’t have to go anywhere with you. I’m coming with him.”

“You can’t,” Michael said. “It’s your aura; you need to stay on earth to see it.”

“My aura?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “I didn’t know I had an aura,” he said to himself.

This was a pickle, wasn’t it? They were supposed to be immune to any attacks on their lives. In theory, the archangels weren’t supposed to be able to hurt Crowley. They couldn’t act like they were in any real danger. If they resisted too much, that would undo all of the effort they put forth in their plan. “Crowley,” Aziraphale said, “I’ll be back.”

Crowley whipped around “What?”

“I’ll be fine, my dear,” he gave him a reassuring smile. It dropped and he turned to Michael. “But you are coming with us. I don’t trust you alone with him.”

Michael sighed in irritation. “Fine, just to get you to stop whining.”

“Make it quick,” Aziraphale said. 

Gabriel and Michael released their wings and flew high into the air. 

Aziraphale flashed a quick smile to Crowley. “I’ll be back in a moment. I promise.” He released his wings.

Crowley did not look confident, but he nodded. “Holler if you need me, and I’ll be by your side in a second.”

“I know.”

Aziraphale followed Gabriel and Michael at high speed until they were higher than the airplanes in the sky. The wind in his hair and through his feathers was an invigorating, refreshing bliss. It had been such a long time since he’d flown anywhere, and he was out of breath by the time he reached the archangels. His large, white wings flapped to keep him hovering. Stretching them out was wonderful. He should do this more often. The last time he released his wings was when Crowley stopped time. It was weird seeing other angels’ wings, though. He couldn’t remember the last time he saw an archangel’s wings, which had tints of gold at the tips and were slightly larger than his. Angels weren’t supposed to be vain and groom their wings often, but of course, their wings were as pristine as the suits they wore.

“What do you need to show me?” he asked impatiently.

Gabriel pointed down. “Around the United Kingdom. Look.”

Aziraphale looked down.

A large, glowing, fuschia aura surrounded the land. It shone brilliantly in the night, brighter than the spots of light from electricity that illuminated the continents.

Aziraphale blinked rapidly. “What in the world is this? Do humans know about this?”

“No, dummy, only we can see auras,” Gabriel sighed heavily, like he was talking to the stupidest angel in existence. “Go on. Reach out your energy and feel it.”

Aziraphale was skeptical, but intensely curious. He extended his power, and the aura was so strong that it met him halfway. Instantly, a warm, intense, all-encompassing surge of love shot through Aziraphale’s essence, causing him to gasp and stagger backwards. He had to flap his wings faster to stay in the air. It was far stronger than Adam’s flashes of love in Tadfield. “It’s love,” he gasped. “It’s the most intense love I’ve ever felt in my life!” It, oh, dare he say it? It fit so perfectly inside of his essence that it rivaled the Almighty’s love in his soul. This felt far more personal, far more—unconditional.

“It’s Crowley’s,” Michael muttered miserably. “We wanted to know what this was, and we were able to trace it back to him. Throughout history, the aura moved around the world, and he was the only variable.”

Aziraphale stared down in wonder at the aura, which filled his being with pure, unadulterated joy. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I never knew. I haven’t been in the air in a terribly long time. He never said…”

“I don’t care,” Gabriel whined. “It’s gross! That’s how we knew you weren’t lying.” He shuddered. “Blegh, I’m still trying to shake off the feeling. Demon love. Now I know why humans like showering so much. I think I need one.”

Aziraphale was barely listening. “How long has this…? When did this first appear on the files?”

“It became large enough to be observable from this height around 1,020,” Michael said. “But it was probably smaller before that.”

1,020 was when they agreed to the Arrangement. Oh, dear Lord. Oh, Crowley. Aziraphale gazed down in awe. The circle was large enough so that Aziraphale was always in the eye of the storm. That must have been why he never felt Crowley’s love.

Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Freaking gross.” He began to fly back down to earth, muttering to himself about why God allowed this and, more importantly, this wasn’t part of his job description.

Michael looked at Aziraphale. “You would have been a wonderful asset to Heaven,” they said. “You’re the only angel in existence to have made a demon devoted to an agent of the Lord.”

“I didn’t make him do anything,” he said, staring wide-eyed at the gorgeous aura. “He did it all on his own.” He swallowed thickly.

Michael shook their head. “What a waste.” They flew down.

Aziraphale remained in the air, never feeling so loved in his life. And yet, this was merely the celestial way he felt Crowley’s love; he had been feeling the human way for a long time, and that was ever so slightly sweeter than the gorgeous aura before his eyes. Nevertheless, Aziraphale miracled an old polaroid camera into his hands and snapped a picture, wondering if this would work. Because he imagined it would, it did. The picture slid out of the slot on the camera. Aziraphale took it and shook it, and then an image of the aura surrounding the United Kingdom appeared. Alone in the sky, he wiped a tear away, and nestled the picture safely into his pocket. He miracled the camera away and returned to the ground. He wanted to stare longer, but he needed to go back. Crowley needed him.

Aziraphale’s high spirits were destroyed when he saw Hastur and another demon standing across from Crowley. Hastur must have been listening in.

“So you lied to me,” Hastur accused. “You’re not trying to make that angel Fall at all.”

“No,” Michael smiled coldly. “He loves him. We have proof.”

Crowley was standing in the middle of the circle created by Hastur, the other demon (he must have been the one Crowley didn’t recognize), and the archangels. “Uhmm. So?!” he threw up his arms in exasperation. “Of course I lied to you, Hastur! Demons lie. Good job for falling for it, sucker.”

Aziraphale strode over to Crowley and held his hand tightly. “Get out of here,” he told Hastur.

His chuckle was deep and unpleasant to the ears. “No. I told you yesterday, Crowley, that I can still hurt that body of yours.”

“There’s a thought,” Michael said with growing excitement. 

“You don’t want me down in Hell,” Crowley said. “Discorporating me would just put me down there. I’d bother you every minute until you’d give me a new body. You hate me as much as I hate you.”

“Yeah,” Hastur admitted easily, “but keeping you in a cycle of discorporation would take you away from your little lover, wouldn’t it?” he asked with gruff delight.

“Huh,” Gabriel said. “Never thought of that.”

The other demon suddenly had a baseball bat in his hands, and he smiled at the archangels. “Look, I know you’re scum and all, but it’d be fun if we teamed up for one night and beat ‘em up, yeah?”

Michael hummed thoughtfully. “Normally, we don’t like to get our hands dirty, but these two are rather exceptional. We may be able to make an example out of you yet, Aziraphale.”

Obeying orders (to a certain degree) for 6,000 years had an endpoint. Living in fear for millennia would break anyone eventually. Really, Aziraphale could not be blamed for snapping. Anyone in his position, especially with the love of their life looking as trapped and hopeless as Crowley did, would do the same thing. What did 6,000 years of obedience get him? His own kind tried to murder him. He didn’t owe anyone anything. He wasn’t scared of Michael, or for his own safety, but he was worried about Crowley. He spent so much of his existence cautious and stuttering around his superiors only to find out they were more than happy to kill him in cold blood. He understood, on an intellectual level, why they wanted revenge after he helped stop Armageddon, but to hurt him simply for loving another? For Hell to hurt Crowley for his beautiful, good love? That was different. This was personal. He and Crowley deserved a bloody, fucking break.

Angels were beings of love. Angels were warriors. These two traits did not have to contradict.

Aziraphale let go of Crowley and felt fury constrict his heart and engulf it in flames. He was so furious that he felt like his glare could literally shoot daggers. 6,025 years of being petrified. Not anymore. “Hastur, I warned you.” His hands twitched, his patches of skin morphing into eyelids, and suddenly in the palm of his right hand, there was his flaming sword.

“Woah!” Crowley’s eyebrows leapt to the top of his forehead. “Where the Heaven did that come from?”

Hastur’s black eyes widened and he stepped back. “Oi, watch it!”

The demon with the baseball bat stepped back, too.

Aziraphale’s skin itched all over, and then his many piercing blue eyes burst open rapidly, zeroing in on Hastur and the demon. He glowered at them in rage. Crowley finally admitted to the all-encompassing, beautiful love he felt, and he was to be punished? No. Not anymore. Aziraphale had not yet put away his wings, and they swooped upwards in an offensive stance. 

“Aziraphale,” Gabriel said from behind him, a little unsettled. “Take it easy, would you?”

An archangel was defending the Duke of Hell. Aziraphale should have never been so loyal to Heaven when they were so willing to work with the “enemy” as long as it supported their cause. He ignored them. 

“‘Take it easy’?” Crowley repeated incredulously. “You are threatening us, you know.”

“Yes,” Aziraphale said, voice dividing and splitting into multiple echoes. “I’m bloody well sick of the forces of Above and Below sticking their noses where they don’t belong.” The heat of the flaming sword could be felt on the side of his face, and then a blue light was cast upon Hastur. He was glowing now, but it was far different from the glow when he kissed Crowley. This was divine fury. His voice remained quiet, but had the eerie echo of a dozen whispers. “Must I reiterate my earlier threats?” he asked Hastur. 

Hastur was clearly afraid, but demons were stubborn when it came to admitting defeat to angels. “You won’t actually use that sword.”

“Try me,” he narrowed all of his eyes. The thought of Hastur continuously killing Crowley’s body and separating them thoroughly infuriated him, and he felt warm blood trickle out of his eyes. Long ago, he believed he was being a servant of the Lord by battling the rebelling angels. Was he right to participate in the war? He didn’t know, but he knew his righteous fury now was warranted. His senses were heightened even more now, and he was vaguely aware of two other faces sprouting from him.

“Aziraphale!” Michael chided. “You’ve gone too far! You’ll start a war, and it’s not time another one yet.”

The other demon’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened. But then he shook his head with a scowl. “I don’t care.” He raised the bat and glared wildly at Crowley. “A nice smack to the head should discorporate you!”

In the back of his mind, Aziraphale was glad that demons could be so dreadfully stupid sometimes. His sword was impaled through the demon’s torso quicker than a flash of lightning. The demon’s face grew as pale as a sheet and the life was drained from his features, his eyes turning dull. Aziraphale removed his sword from the body, unmoved by the black blood coating the blade, and by Hastur’s screech.

“The Lord bestowed a flaming sword upon me for a reason,” he repeated what he told Hastur earlier, blinking all of his eyes and making fresh waves of blood spill over the lids. If he had more awareness, he would have seen Crowley gaping at him in utter bewilderment.

The discorporated body vanished with a pop.

“What the fuck?!” Gabriel exclaimed.

“That’s it!” Michael reached out a hand; whether it was to grab Aziraphale by the shoulder or take the sword away, no one knew, because then Crowley stepped in.

“It goes both ways,” Crowley hissed lowly, and his black wings burst out behind him, along with a long, scaly tail. Black claws shot from his fingers and his fangs grew long enough to almost reach his chin. “You’re not allowed to threaten him anymore either,” he warned them, his eyes completely yellow, the black slits narrow as ever. Black and red scales were blooming over the tops of his hands and his cheeks. Deep orange flames ignited in between his scales, an opposite to Aziraphale’s eerie blue glow.

Aziraphale would have been captivated by his form if he wasn’t consumed with loathing. There was a reason why he tried so very hard to suppress this side of him. This was the side that wept blood and sliced through treacherous angels as they rebelled against Heaven. He was ashamed of his actions then, but there was nothing shameful about defending Crowley. His grip on the sword tightened, but a small part of him felt very proud and pleased with Crowley right now.

“We’re fucking archangels,” Gabriel snarled. “We can take you.”

Bright, angry, orange hellfire ignited in Crowley’s palms, causing the archangels to stagger backwards. “Try me,” he dared them. “Where’d you think Aziraphale learned that little trick?” he taunted.

“What trick?” Michael demanded.

Crowley roared a great burst of hellfire at them, the sound hissing and guttural. 

Gabriel and Michael gasped and stumbled backwards, their faces full of fear.

Aziraphale blinked all of his eyes at Hastur, more blood running down his body and onto the ground. “This is your last warning,” his echoing voice said sternly. “We will not bother you if you leave us alone, as we said you should two years ago. Our souls are one. We are immune to your ways.”

“And if you discorporate us,” Crowley hissed, “we’ll make your lives miserable in Heaven and Hell until we get new bodies. We could get some other angels and demons to rebel, don’t you think?”

Hastur, Gabriel, and Michael shared a concerned look.

“That’s at best,” Crowley hissed. “At worst? You see what we can do.” The fire still burned furiously in his palms. “If you harm my angel, I’ll start a war between all the forces of Heaven and Hell and you won’t stop me. I’ll kick your arses.”

“The same applies to me,” Aziraphale cut in, raising the sword threateningly. “Just let. Us. Be. That’s all we want.”

The archangels and Hastur looked at each other for a long moment.

Crowley’s breaths from his nose started to steam into the air, another ball of hellfire brewing in his mouth.

Michael cleared their throat and stood up straight. “Fine,” they muttered. “But if you ever decide to attack Heaven first, we would retaliate.”

“The same goes for if you attack Hell first,” Hastur said, although he sounded far less confident than he did two minutes ago. “You’d still be outnumbered.”

“But you’d be outmatched,” Crowley smirked, baring his fangs.

“Now leave us alone!” Aziraphale’s voices bellowed into the cold night air.

Hastur sank into the ground and the archangels disappeared with a crack of thunder and lightning.

They were gone, but Aziraphale was still on his guard, staring at the spot Hastur had stood. It was so hard to contain himself when he got like this. He was still so utterly furious with Heaven and Hell. How dare they torment them! How dare they stalk and harass them and—!

“Angel,” Crowley said softly. “They’re gone. You can put that thing away now.”

Aziraphale was breathing heavily, all of his eyes blinking, his faces taking in too many sensations at once. It was dizzying. “If they come back—“ his voices echoed.

Crowley walked and stood in front of him. He looked back to normal. “Aziraphale, calm down,” he said, voice gravelly. “They left. It’s just us. It’s just me.”

Aziraphale closed all of his eyes and breathed deeply, trying to get ahold of himself. It was over. The plan worked. They were alone. When he opened his eyes, he felt much more like himself. He had once face again and only two eyes. He looked down at the blood that ruined his clothes. “Oh,” he said, because he didn’t know what else to say. He wasn’t sure how to feel, either. A part of him was inclined to feel deeply ashamed of how he lost control, but it worked, didn’t it? It was worth it.

Crowley looked at his clothes, and then waved his hand. The blood disappeared.

“Thank you.” He cleared his throat.

Crowley shook his head. He put his hands in his pockets and looked down at the ground. He had a small, disbelieving smile on his lips. “Guess I should be glad you never decided to smite me, huh?”

Aziraphale did flush with shame now. “I would never.”

“I know,” he said. “It was just a joke. I’m just saying. I never saw you like that before.”

“You never gave me a reason to lose my temper to such a degree.”

He blew out a breath, and shook his head with a small laugh. “That was...fucking amazing.”

“It was?” he asked.

“We both saw Satan rise up out of the ground, and I still think you take the cake for the scariest shit I’ve ever seen in my life. Have you always had more than one face? Or cried blood?”

“Technically, yes,” he muttered.

“Wow. I’m impressed. Really.”

Aziraphale sighed. “I don’t like being that way, Crowley. I’d like to be...soft.”

He smiled, but it looked a little sad. “You are, don’t worry. If anyone deserved that treatment, it was those wankers.”

“Yes, I agree.” 

“You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Sometimes, Crowley really did know just what to say. “Thank you.” What an incredible whirlwind of a night. Aziraphale felt overwhelmed, but he knew they had a serious conversation in store. “But I would do it again if it meant protecting you.”

Crowley looked away. “Yeah. I know I don’t thank people, ever, but thanks for smiting that demon.”

“Of course. Thank you for standing up to Gabriel and Michael for me.”

“It wasn’t a problem. I’d do it again.” He winced. “But you probably knew that already.” He swallowed. “So. Um. They’re out of our hair now. That’s good. We should, um. Go home. Or you can go to your shop and. I dunno.” He walked past him and to the Bentley.

They were alone. They were believed. Crowley loved him. Aziraphale had a wrong to right. 

He walked to the car and grasped Crowley’s wrist before he could get inside. Crowley turned to him, and if he looked exhausted earlier, he looked completely resigned and dead on his feet now. “Don’t,” he pleaded softly. “Just don’t.”

But Aziraphale rather liked not doing what he was told now. He gazed into the vulnerable, golden eyes of this demon, this sweetheart, and placed both hands gently on his chest, leaning Crowley against the Bentley. He leaned forward even as Crowley’s eyes widened, andpressed their lips together softly. He heard Crowley’s quiet gasp, and he let the warm, gentle glow shine from his chest. He smoothed one hand down Crowley’s chest to settle at his hip, and the other went up to cup the back of his neck. He deepened the kiss, parting his lips and pressing up against him, their stomachs and chests touching. There was no anxiety to this kiss—only relief and the deep, eternal love he felt for Crowley. He was glowing brighter, but he let it happen. Crowley began kissing back, his hands resting on Aziraphale’s waist. But then he pulled away.

Crowley’s face was raw with emotion, but finally, there was hope, too. He blinked a couple of times. “Oh,” he said in a small, hoarse voice. “So that’s why you glow.”

Aziraphale cupped his cheek, feeling his blush, his heart swelling and liquid warmth running through his veins. “I am so in love with you,” he finally, finally confessed. He felt light as a feather now. He exhaled shakily.

Crowley’s bottom lip quivered and he averted his gaze, but didn’t move his face away from Aziraphale’s soft palm. “Ah.” His voice was strained. He swallowed. “That’s,” his voice cracked.

Aziraphale then pulled him into an embrace, Crowley’s head on his shoulder, and his arms around his thin back. He glowed like a nightlight. His heart was beating hard with every ounce of love he held back for years, and he held him tightly. “I’m so sorry I didn’t know,” Aziraphale apologized sincerely. “You’ve always been showing me, all this time. You’ve always loved me so much.”

Crowley nodded and clung to him tighter, his fingers bunched into the fabric of his coat. “It’s coolio. Damn it, forget I said that. Um. It’s fine. Whatever.”

Aziraphale held back a giggle. He had more apologies to make, anyway. “I’m so sorry you’ve been hurting,” he whispered, running a hand up and down his back. “I wish we could have done this sooner, but we couldn’t have. I’m happy you’re safe, but not that this is the side effect. I’m still sorry I hurt you.”

Crowley shook his head mutely.

“No, I am. It was terrible of me to ever doubt what you feel.” He kissed his hair. “You were so brave, loving me despite what Hell would do to you.”

Crowley shook his head again, but he spoke this time. “I’m not,” he mumbled. “I’m not.”

“You are.” He grimaced thinking about his behavior in the past. All of those times he insisted they weren’t friends and lied, Crowley was in love with him. Lord, forgive me. “Thank you, for never giving up on me,” he said thickly, his throat feeling tight. “For always coming back.”

 He lifted his head, an aching tenderness in his eyes. “Don’t thank me for something so ridiculous. Above all, you’re my best friend. I’m supposed to be there for you.”

Aziraphale glowed brighter in the car. “Oh, love.”

Crowley looked down at his chest. “This,” he poked his chest, “when did this become a thing?”

Aziraphale looked down. “When we started kissing. It was very difficult to hide this, I must tell you.”

“Why didn’t you ever glow with humans?”

“I never loved humans, Crowley.”

Crowley’s face went through about four expressions. “Wait. When did you, um, you know, start feeling this way?”

“Truthfully? I can’t say, but I became aware of it in 1941.”

Crowley stiffened in his arms.

“Crowley?” Aziraphale cupped his cheek again.

Crowley stared at him. “1941.”

“Yes.” He bit his lip. “I’m sorry, I know it’s not as long as you--”

“So this whole time. With this ruse. You’ve loved me.”

Aziraphale lowered his hand. “Yes?”

“Uh huh. Okay. So. Lemme get this straight. I’ve been losing my mind trying to get you to fall in love with me and you’ve felt this way the whole time?”

“You’ve what?” Aziraphale squawked, taking a step back.

Crowley buried his face into his hands, and his shoulders started shaking with laughter.

“Crowley!” Aziraphale gasped. “No, wait. Are you serious?”

Crowley lifted his face and laughed loudly, the corner of his eyes crinkling. “I thought—!” he wheezed. “I thought this was a great opportunity t-to get you to fall for me,” he got out in between laughs.

“You’re kidding me!” Aziraphale put a hand on his chest with a gasp. Crowley’s laughter was contagious, and then they were laughing beside the Bentley in the night. It was so nice to see Crowley laugh this hard. His words registered. “Were you truly trying to woo me, dear?”

Through his smile, he made a face. “Don’t use that word.”

“You’re avoiding the question.”

“I did. I got a bloody elaborate wedding ring made for you.”

Aziraphale wiggled his ring finger. “That you did,” he said happily. “Goodness, I’ve been quite dense.”

“I guess I was, too,” Crowley said.

Aziraphale’s cheeks hurt from smiling so much. “But we’re finally on the same page. We can be together, like the humans do. Who’s to say we’re not properly married already? We don’t need some silly certificate to make it official.”

Crowley looked like he was trying to frown.

Aziraphale tsk’d and put a hand on his shoulder, smoothing down his collar. “You know you don’t have to pretend to be a miserable bugger around me, yes?”

“Who says I’m pretending?” he said with a very put-on pout. “Besides, it’s part of my charm.”

Maybe he’d said it as a joke, because when Aziraphale sincerely told him it was part of his charm, Crowley’s pout went soft around the edges. Aziraphale couldn’t resist kissing that softness, because he was allowed to do it now. No one was going to stop him. This was real. Aziraphale had kissed humans before, but he hadn’t loved any of them. This was different, not in a grand, awe-inspiring way, but in a way that made him feel like a piece of him that was missing finally came home.

“Wait,” Crowley broke the kiss. “Why’d the angels want you to follow them? What did they show you?”

Aziraphale beamed and pulled the photo from his coat pocket. “Here!”

Crowley took the picture with a raised eyebrow, curious and confused. “Michael said it was about my ‘aura.’ Is this really it?” he asked, sounding a little disgusted.

“It’s love!” he explained happily. “I felt it in my very essence.”

Scarlet rose to Crowley’s cheekbones and he handed the photo back. “Shut up,” he said, and turned around and got into the car.

“Don’t run from me,” Aziraphale said, too giddy to roll his eyes. He got into the passenger side. “It’s so gorgeous, my darling,” he told him sincerely.

Crowley looked like he wanted to jump off a cliff. “Can we never mention it again?” he asked, voice strained.

“No!”

He whined.

“It’s what saved us, Crowley,” he said, smile fading. “They suspected us after all, but then they traced this magnificent aura back to you, and they knew your love for me is real.”

Crowley shut his eyes tightly. “So love saved the day. I’m gonna hurl.”

Aziraphale patted his pocket where the picture was safely inside. “You can’t act so put off by love anymore, sweetheart.”

Crowley groaned and turned the key, starting the car. Even in the sparse lighting from the moon in the car, the blush was clear from his neck to his ears. “Let’s just go the fuck home.”

The Bentley’s radio started up, and there was piano and Freddie Mercury’s confident voice:

 

Get down, make love.

Get down, make love!

 

Crowley turned off the car. He didn’t even look embarrassed anymore, only resigned. He laid his forehead against the steering wheel. “This fucking car,” he whispered miserably.

Aziraphale bit his lip hard to hold back a bubble of hysterical laughter, because Crowley was having a rough night. Besides, he wasn’t unopposed to that suggestion, and if the car played that song because Crowley was in a certain mood...that was a nice thought, indeed.

Aziraphale laid a hand on his shoulder. “I think this car wanted us to get together from the start, upon reflection.”

Crowley grumbled incoherently.

Aziraphale smoothed his hand down his arm. “We could take its advice, you know,” he suggested lowly.

Crowley turned his head slowly, his eyes glowing in the night. His expression was inscrutable. “You want to fuck because a car said so,” he said, deadpanned.

Aziraphale felt a little embarrassed and took his hand away. “Well, not only because—” But then he realized he was being teased. “Oh, you bugger.”

Crowley smiled and leaned over to kiss him soundly.