Holy water. Holy water! What is Crowley thinking?! Aziraphale's hand, the one holding the note, starts to shake. No, no it can’t be. Crowley’s never said anything that would hint towards... he’s never seemed off...
He can’t. He can’t leave Aziraphale behind. “Absolutely not!” Aziraphale spits, tossing the note into the water. It burns, but all the angel can feel is cold.
Crowley tries to say something, but Aziraphale can barely hear it over the blood rushing in his ears. His retort is laced in anger and worry, and he runs off before he can do any more damage.
Falling in love wasn’t a choice Aziraphale had consciously made, but it haunted his steps all the same. How could he love Crowley if tomorrow there would be no Crowley to love?
The cold, hurt tone of Crowley’s “fraternizing” follows him home and lingers in the dregs of his wineglass.
Crowley watches Aziraphale storm away, repeatedly clenching and unclenching his hands on his cane. The temptation to sleep away the cold, heavy feeling lingering in his chest is strong, but not quite as strong as his frustration.
All Crowley wants is a way to protect himself; why can't Aziraphale see that? The Arrangement is bound to get one of them in trouble someday, and he wants to be ready. Why would the angel deny him even that little bit of security?
That stew of regret and anger simmers inside of Crowley as he stalks back to his flat, eyes flashing. Satan help him, he will make this century so full of demonic wiles that the angel will have to spend all his time working. No time for books or hot cocoa when there's a demon on the loose. Shows him how useful the Arrangement was while it lasted, Crowley thinks with a sort of self-satisfied fury that borders on guilt.
The next day, Aziraphale doesn't hear from Crowley at all. Nor the next week, or month, or year.
He doesn't know what to think. There is only one real use a demon would have for holy water, and that is self destruction. Hearing Crowley ask him for his equivalent of a cyanide pill made thousands of shared years flash through his brain in moments. He can't lose Crowley, he just can't.
The radio silence on the demon's end was troubling, to say the least. Normally Crowley checked in at least every year, now that they were...weren't... not quite friends. The word 'fraternizing' flashes through his mind, unbidden. A last ditch attempt to distance himself from the hurt that Crowley's note promised. Did Crowley go through with it? Did he find holy water himself, and, and...
Aziraphale doesn't want to think about it.
Aziraphale had stopped by Crowley's flat once in the past year, only to find no one home and have a small panic. At least there was no evidence of holy powers or sludge on the floor. Aziraphale is vaguely reassured by the rising levels of demonic influence in London, though. Hopefully Crowley was just angry, and not... gone. Not that Aziraphale was happy about Crowley being angry with him, but it was much better than the alternative.
Aziraphale doesn't meet Crowley for another decade. The Metropolitan Police Strike of 1872 happens in November, and while it wasn't a particularly big case of unrest, Aziraphale goes to investigate anyway in hopes that he'll see a familiar face pulling the strings.
Crowley is sitting in a bar a couple blocks away from New Scotland Yard, in view of the Victoria Embankment. It's dark, dank, and a little smelly, but the man playing the piano in the corner was rather good. Not to mention the relief washing over Aziraphale in waves was enough to block out his surroundings entirely.
The lithe figure stiffens and turns slightly on the barstool. His sprawl vanishes entirely as he straightens on his seat. "Aziraphale."
"I had hoped to see you here," Aziraphale stays, taking a step closer. Crowley scoots back on his chair, keeping a formal distance between them, as if they were strangers. It hurts, but Aziraphale doesn't let it show on his face. "We need to talk."
"What is there to discuss?" Crowley asks dryly.
"It's about your... request." Crowley flinches slightly. Aziraphale takes a deep breath for courage. "Please, Crowley, I can't stand the thought of you using... that. I must decline." Please talk to me again, he thinks.
"You really hate the idea of a demon getting a hand on holy weapons that much?" Crowley's voice is bitter, but Aziraphale can't read his eyes from behind his glasses. God, he wishes he would take them off.
Aziraphale's hands crumple into fists. Saying the words aloud is risky, but it's clear his point isn't getting across. "I hate the idea of you dying, Crowley! Why is that so hard to understand?"
"Dying?" Crowley's head tilts to the side.
"Not discorporating, you have to know what I mean--"
"Why the hell would I use the holy water on myself?" Crowley interrupts.
"...What? But I thought--"
"I needed a WEAPON, angel." For the first time Aziraphale can remember, the endearment sounds like an insult. "In case hell's agents found out too much and came knocking."
"So you... you're okay?" That isn't what he wants to ask, but the right words won't come.
Crowley's posture stiffens even more if possible. "Not that it matters, Aziraphale, but yes. It turns out churches really aren't that well guarded."
Aziraphale's worry momentarily shifts to anger. "You went in a church?! Are you hurt? Burned? That was a terribly reckless decision, Crowley--"
"Stop that," Crowley hisses, his eyes hidden and cold from behind his glasses. "Stop acting like you care. You don't need me, remember?"
But I do, Aziraphale thinks. I need you so, so much. I can't stand the thought of you leaving me behind.
But no response is forthcoming, so Crowley stares for a moment before sweeping out of the bar. Aziraphale stands alone like a demon in St. James's Park not so long ago, too many thoughts plaguing him to follow Crowley out.
Aziraphale sits heavily down on the now-vacant barstool with his head in his hands. "Something strong, please," he tells the bartender, while something heavy settles deep in the pit of his stomach.
The demonic wiles and Aziraphale's workload only increase in the years following. The 1920s are a particularly loud and busy season for Aziraphale. At one point, the activity in London decreases, and he is forced to follow the infernal trail to America.
The Gatsby Manor is in the middle of hosting a very lively party when Aziraphale stops by.
The room is full of people, their bright clothes flashing under the lights. The music is entertaining but far too loud, and the chatter of voices swells and falls along with the band. A drink is gently shoved into Aziraphale's hand as he attempts to orient himself like a ship in a storm. The man he's supposed to bless, Jay Gatsby, is standing in the corner talking eagerly to his companion, who stands in one of the many pockets of shadow that dance and shift around the edge of the room.
As soon as the shadow moves, Aziraphale wishes he had stayed home.
That's Crowley talking to Gatsby, laughing and leaning towards him like an old friend. Gatsby gazes at him with something warm, too hard to identify under the flashes of light and dark as the dancers spin around the room. As Aziraphale slowly pushes his way through the crowd towards them, he begins to hear more of their conversation.
"At least go say hello to her, Jay," Crowley is saying. "She finally comes to one of your parties and you're scared like a teenager!"
"That's exactly the problem. I'm not a teenager anymore, Nick." Gatsby replies. Nick? Aziraphale thinks, but the thought is forgotten as he is forced to duck under a waiter's plate. Gatsby is now nervously glancing at a light haired woman who stands awkwardly by a table full of drinks. "What if she doesn't love me anymore?"
Crowley's posture softens, and if he hadn't been wearing sunglasses, his eyes would have too. "You won't know unless you talk to her."
Gatsby falters for a second, then nods, resolve hardening. He pats Crowley on the shoulder and then makes his way through the crowd towards the woman, who seems relieved to see him, if still a bit apprehensive. Aziraphale would chase after Jay to complete his job if Crowley's shoulders hadn't slumped as soon as Gatsby had left. He looked the picture of a ruffled, tired blackbird among the flashing colors of the partygoers. Aziraphale can't quite squash the feeling that he needs to be near him.
Then Crowley's attention snaps to Aziraphale as he finally makes his way through the crowd, and his shoulders tense right up again.
There's a beat of awkward silence before Aziraphale scrambles for the first thing he can think of. "Nick?" he asks.
Crowley flushes a bit. "Testing out names. Not too sure about this one, though. Maybe something with an 'A' sound."
"Ah," Aziraphale said, nodding. His mind flashes back to Golgotha, and the first time he had heard the hushed sound of the name 'Crowley'. It did fit the demon very well; he hoped the new name wouldn't replace it completely.
Crowley flashes one look back towards Gatsby and the young lady before sighing and lightly touching Aziraphale on the arm. "Let's head out back, yeah?"
Aziraphale nods, trying his hardest not to notice the comforting warmth soaking through his jacket.
They walk out the back doors of the manor, across the great green lawn and through the throngs of partygoers who recline in tents. The tents are full of tables laden with food, but it's a temptation easily shoved down when Aziraphale glances and sees Crowley's hand still wrapped around his sleeve. He fights a flush that threatens to rise on his face, quickly readying an excuse about how cold it is in the late night air. But the question never comes, as all too soon they reach a pier on the water, and Crowley's eyes are fixed on something in the distance as his hand drops from Aziraphale.
A green light blinks on and off across the sound, reflecting on the water and leaving a bright green pinprick of glowing light in Crowley's eyes when his glasses slip down. Perhaps it's because of Crowley's extended absence, but Aziraphale thinks it's one of the most beautiful things he has ever seen.
"So why did you befriend this one?" Aziraphale gestures back at the house, his voice restricted to a whisper as most nighttime conversations often are. "He doesn't seem to be the type you normally associate with." Thieves and tempters, his mind supplies. Shut up, he supplies right back.
"Jay and I aren't so dissimilar," Crowley muses, staring out over the water. "We both want something we can't have."
Holy water and safety, Aziraphale's thoughts assume (after the obligatory self-indulgent thought of 'what if--' and the traitorous thud of his heart), but he dare not speak it aloud. This is the first semi-pleasant conversation the two of them have had in decades.
"It's good to see you making friends," Aziraphale says, then immediately wishes he could take back the words. Fraternizing. "That's not... I didn't mean that in a bad way. I promise."
Crowley tenses for a moment, but then sighs, leaning more heavily on the fence. His face stares up weary from the water. "Yeah, I know you didn't."
They're somehow talking about merely a moment ago and a distance of sixty years at the same time, but that's how this friendship has always gone. Pulling up bits from the past like one would pull out an old recipe they haven't used in a while.
Aziraphale glances to his right, eyes flicking between the Crowley next to him and the Crowley disrupted by gentle waves in the water. Both of them look tired, like the fire that was supposed to keep them running had finally guttered out and left them cold. Crowley's lithe frame borders more on 'too skinny', and every few moments he shivers in the cold night. He's suffering from more than he's let on, and Aziraphale feels an inexplicable guilt about it. He can see that guilt reflected in the demon's bent shoulders beside him.
The words Aziraphale wants to say are still stuck to the roof of his mouth, but Heaven be damned, he's going to at least say something reassuring. Something so that Crowley doesn't just leave again. He takes a deep breath. "I missed you."
“You missed me?” Crowley echoes.
“Well. Yes. It gets rather lonely without you, and... I was fairly worried, you know.”
“About me... dying.”
Crowley is quiet for a long moment, eyeing the green glow across the water. Even if he hadn't been wearing sunglasses, it was still too dark to tell what he was thinking.
“I missed you too,” he says finally. “Even when I was angry with you.”
Aziraphale relaxes slightly, his expression softening. He scoots a step closer to Crowley. Crowley doesn’t back away.
They stand together and watch the stars spin through the Long Island Sound, buffering each other from the chill coming off the water. It isn’t much, but it is enough for now.
The apocalypse comes and goes, leaving Crowley and Aziraphale equal parts relieved and panicked. They’ve convinced Heaven and Hell to leave them alone for now, but surely this is only a momentary rest.
“We have to come up with a plan,” Crowley insists, wine strangely untouched before him. He sits ramrod straight on the bookshop’s couch. Aziraphale is tucked into an armchair nearby, not quite close enough. Never close enough, at least according to the angel's opinion.
“What do you have in mind, my dear boy?” Aziraphale almost forgets to add the last word. His chosen method of dealing with anxiety is by focusing on his drink, but it seems he’s focused a little too hard. “I could set up some wards, perhaps, but it’s not as if I have another flaming sword lying about.”
“You’re not going to like it,” Crowley warns.
Aziraphale sighs. “We’ve been through hell and back this week. I think I can handle it.”
“Holy water,” Crowley’s words trip over themselves in the rush to escape his mouth. “We’d need holy water to hold off Hell. It’s the only holy weapon you can get efficient large quantities of.”
Aziraphale is silent for a long moment as an old fear sweeps through his body. His mind flashes to the puddle of what had once been Ligur; Crowley's stolen holy water from centuries ago had come in handy. Aziraphale takes a breath that only shudders slightly. “Okay,” he says.
Crowley stares at him, still stiff. “Okay?” he repeats.
“If it will make you feel better, and you think it will work, then I’ll see about getting some... some holy water.”
Crowley lets out a breath, sinking into the couch and closing his eyes. He takes a big sip of his wine. “Thank you, Aziraphale.”
The angel nods, but his fingers fidget with the stem of his wineglass. “But can you promise me something, Crowley?”
The demon opens one eye, wary. “Promise what?”
“Promise that you’ll leave the holy water to me. I... It makes me nervous to see you near it.”
Crowleys eyes narrow, “Why? Do you think I can’t handle it myself?”
“No, I just—“
“We’ve been through a lot together, Aziraphale, I would think you know I’m not completely hopeless by now.”
“Yes, I know, but—“
“Why don’t you trust me?”
“Because I love you, you stupid snake!” Aziraphale shouts, frantic to get a word in. His words sink in a fraction too late, and he attempts to swallow nervously but his throat is suddenly very dry.
Crowley stares blankly at him from the sofa, lying like a marionette whose strings have been cut.
“It’s not that I don’t trust you,” Aziraphale whispers, voice shaking as he attempts to explain himself. “I just don’t want to lose you. I don’t think I could stand a world without you in it.”
"Angel," Crowley breathes.
"And I know you might not feel the same way," Aziraphale continues, "but I can't stand by and--and watch you destroy yourself. I really can't, dear."
"Might not feel the same way?" Crowley repeats, his wineglass in danger of falling from his hands. He leans forward in a burst of motion, glasses abandoned somewhere on the table as he stares into Aziraphale's eyes. The sheer emotion in that gaze is enough to make Aziraphale feel like he's downed an extra bottle of wine. "Angel--Aziraphale. I've been in love with you for thousands of years."
"What?" Aziraphale's voice creaks.
"Probably since we met," Crowley admits, face flushing but unwilling to look away. "I knew for sure in Rome."
"Me too," Aziraphale replies, his voice soft and far away. He feels like he's floating. Is this real? Did the stress of the Apocalypse give him hallucinations? "Are you--is this real?"
Crowley puts down his wineglass and shifts to the end of the couch nearest to Aziraphale's armchair, expression soft and concerned. He looks up at Aziraphale with a crooked smile. "I would damn well hope so."
Aziraphale's wine glass doesn't even have time to hit the floor before he's kissing Crowley.
It's clumsy at first (and nearly resulted in headbutting Crowley) but before long they're smiling against each other's lips, delighting in the warmth and reassurance the contact brings.
"Angel," is the only thing Crowley can say when they break apart.
"My dear," Aziraphale replies. "My love."
Crowley flushes as red as his hair, and Aziraphale doesn't stop laughing until Crowley finds a nice way to shut him up.
Local legend says if you go to St. James' Park on a peaceful day, you'll see the two of them walking together. It's been years since they've thought to label anything as a threat, and it shows in their relaxed shoulders and open smiles. Their hands are tangled together, as if they couldn't bear to part for a moment more than necessary.
If you visit the park at night, you might just be lucky enough to see them leaning on each other atop an old bench, gazing up at the sky. They're cataloging the stars as they've done for generations, and will for generations to come. The same way they always have. Together.
Time it took us
To where the water was
That's what the water gave me
And time goes quicker
Between the two of us
Oh, my love, don't forsake me
Take what the water gave me
-"What the Water Gave Me", Florence and the Machine