Newton Pulsifer was a sweet guy. Really, he was, he only ever meant the best, but he could be quite dense sometimes. And honestly, who could blame him for missing some things, given he had spent most of Armageddon’t in the airfield control room? Also, you know, it had been the end of the world, which was pretty darn distracting. It wasn’t his fault he hadn’t quite picked up on the way the angel and the demon had been looking at each other. It had been enough of a startle when Anathema had mentioned Aziraphale might perk up a bit if he got himself a date. Even for a witch-finder who had been only a few yards away from the start of the apocalypse, the concept of an angel—a literal angel, mind you—going on a date was a bit… weird.
But Newt was sweet, and wanted to help, and he happened to have an acquaintance whose brother’s friend was single, and about Aziraphale’s age (he thought? Did angels have ages? How was he supposed to know these things?). And so, in a very well meant attempt to lift the angel’s spirits, he had gotten in contact with his acquaintance’s brother’s single friend and set Aziraphale up with a date.
And Aziraphale appreciated it. Or the effort, at least, and the thought behind it, because Newt really was trying to help, and it wasn’t his fault he hadn’t realized Anathema’s comment had been about the angel getting himself a very specific date with a very specific someone.
The whole thing was just a bit of a mess of good intentions and misunderstandings. Which, really, could be the title of Aziraphale’s biography.
“So, Newt said you run a bookshop? What’s that like?” the man sitting next to him asked. Like Newt, he was also very sweet, and was also trying very hard, and Aziraphale very much wished he could enjoy his company.
He just couldn’t, though. Try as he might, adept at small talk as he was, there just wasn’t any way for a 6000 year old angel to really connect with a middle-aged maths teacher from Norwich. Not in that way, at least. Friends, sure. In fact, had they met any other way, Aziraphale would probably have liked him very much, but as it was, he had spent the whole time feeling awkward and desperately hoping that his name wasn’t actually Howard and he hadn’t been calling him Harry incorrectly.
But, as much as Aziraphale didn’t want to be there, he also didn’t want to be rude. Newt had gone to a bit of trouble, and Harry (please be Harry) had come out here, on a school night, no less, for his sake. The least he could do was make polite conversation and call the evening a loss.
And so the Principality Aziraphale, angel of Heaven, guardian of the Eastern gate, found himself nursing a drink, sitting in a neat and tidy bar with an awkward smile and a date who was just plain and simple not his type.
It was a bit of a relief when Harry got up to use the restroom half an hour into their date. Aziraphale stared down at his glass, swirling the amber liquid with little motions of his wrist and wondering how long a usual human date went on nowadays. He’d been on a few in his time, of course, as a way in for a blessing, or to guide someone towards the straight and narrow, but things changed so fast anymore, it was impossible to keep up. Should he pay for both of their drinks, or split the bill? Was he still expected to walk him home after? And what about calling back? How was that handled?
Lord, as much as he loved humans and their wonderful civilizations, sometimes they could be ridiculously complicated.
“You know,” a silky voice came from his left, and Aziraphale felt himself break into an unexpected grin. “When you said you had a date, I didn’t think you meant it literally.”
“What are you doing here?” he said, and part of him wanted to sound insulted, or testy, but he was much too glad for his tone to be anything but sweet.
Crowley shrugged, upper body folded smoothly over the bar. “Didn’t have anything to do tonight. Thought I’d go out and have a few drinks.”
The angel didn’t even try to keep his eyebrow from creeping up his forehead. “And you just happened to end up at the same bar as me?”
“Yup.” The pop of the consonant was casual, but the loose smile Crowley turned to him was gentle and amused. Aziraphale could have looked at that expression for the rest of eternity (which didn’t mean anything, he was an angel, he was supposed to enjoy seeing happiness). “So,” Crowley continued, taking his drink from the bartender with a nod of thanks. “This date of yours. Am I gonna have to give ‘em the shovel talk?”
“Shovel talk, angel. You know, if… never mind.”
“Oh.” Usually silence with Crowley was a comfortable thing. It was still better than the silences (or even much of the conversation) with Harry, for sure, but it was clear Crowley was bothered by something. Pressing wouldn’t get them anywhere, he’d known the demon plenty long enough to be sure of that. So they just sat together, and Aziraphale waited patiently for Crowley to bring up the issue or leave it alone, whichever he needed to do.
“Is it…” Crowley started, sooner than the angel would have expected. The demon was staring into his tumbler like his reflection might guide him through this. Whatever “this” was.
Apparently it was not for Aziraphale to know, though, because just then Harry returned.
“Right, then—oh. Hello.” He looked between the angel and the demon for a moment, clearly surprised to find someone else sitting with his date.
“Oh! Ah, this is Crowley, a, uh, a friend of mine. Crowley, this is Harry.” (Please be Harry please be Harry please be Harry.)
Crowley, thank heaven, was much better at casual interaction than Aziraphale. “Nice to meet you,” he said, standing and shaking Harry’s hand. “Didn’t mean to interrupt, just happened to cross paths, thought I’d say hi.” He was standing up, and holding his drink, and Aziraphale had an irrational urge to grab his hand (no, his arm, that would be more appropriate) and stop him from leaving. But, of course, that would be inappropriate regardless of where he touched Crowley, so he held himself back, reminding himself that it was just one evening, just one night to spend on his own without the demon.
That didn’t make him feel any better.
“Wait, hang on a sec.” Mark was still standing, holding up his phone and looking… mischievous? That couldn’t be right. “I just got a call from my sister. She got stuck at work, needs me to go pick up my nephew.” Aziraphale stared at him in unconcealed confusion. “I’m sorry to bail, wouldn’t if I didn’t have to. But at least I’m not leaving you alone, right?” Harry turned to Crowley, who looked a little dumbstruck behind his sunglasses.
Seeing the demon at a loss for words pushed Aziraphale’s brain to find its own. “I’m… sorry, right, of course, of course you should go get your nephew.” His smile was meant to be just reassuring, but there was too much hope in it to conceal his real feeling on the situation.
Luckily, Harry didn’t seem to notice—or to mind, at least. He paid for his drinks (Aziraphale made sure the money he spent wound up mysteriously back in his wallet), then leaned in to say goodbye. For one terrifying moment, Aziraphale thought he might be going in for a kiss, but instead he just grinned playfully. “You ever need somebody to give your guy a shovel talk, give me a call.” He straightened up and smiled at Crowley, who was only just getting his bearings back. “Oh,” he said over his shoulder, on his way out. “Don’t let Newt Pulsifer set up dates for you. The kid’s a sweetheart, but he’s a bit clueless.” And with a final grin and a casual salute, Aziraphale’s date left the bar.
“Well, I have to say, this isn’t how I expected my evening to go.”
“I’ll second that.” Crowley lifted his wine glass in a toast.
Aziraphale smiled down at his own. He was settled back against the sofa cushions, comfortable and easy, and the fact that there was a demon (a very specific demon, mind you,) sprawled out next to him was doing more for his mood than any fancy meal or absorbing book ever could. The weight of Crowley’s stocking feet on his lap was wonderfully familiar, and still a little strange; neither of them were drunk, despite the wine, and usually they were pretty far sloshed before they did anything so tactile as this. Neither was going to say anything about it, though.
“I’m glad,” Aziraphale murmured, half to himself. He realized it was true, then; maybe the truest thing he’d ever said. “I’m happy we’re here.”
“Ngk.” Crowley turned away, staring out over the bookshop. Aziraphale caught a little hint of red dusting his cheekbones, just under the dark glasses, but the demon’s voice was steady, if quiet. “Me too, angel.”
He jumped a bit when Aziraphale put his hand on his ankle. They didn’t do that; didn’t touch just for the sake of it, not without a reason. The excuse could be as little as passing a note or learning to dance, but it was always there.
Not now, though. They didn’t need one anymore, Aziraphale decided.
“My dear,” he said, letting his thumb rub circles into Crowley’s ankle. It seemed to help the demon relax again. “Did you know that I once learned to dance the gavotte?”
Crowley choked on his wine. “You learned what?”
“The gavotte,” the angel replied thoughtfully.
“It was when you slept through the turn of the century, dear. You’d gotten me rather invested in learning to dance, and then, well.” He didn’t particularly want to bring up the holy water incident. “Well, I found myself without a partner.”
Crowley yanked his sunglasses up off his nose, as though removing them would allow him to understand. “So you learned the gavotte?!?” Aziraphale hummed in response. “Th—wha—ngk.”
“Are you alright, dear boy?”
“Yeah, yeah, fine. Wh—why are you bringing this up now?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Aziraphale replied. “I guess… I guess I thought I might return the favor.”
Without the sunglasses, Crowley’s already expressive face was almost comical. “…return what favor?”
Aziraphale turned to him, a slightly impish smile on his face. “You teaching me to dance.”
Somehow, Crowley managed to keep his feet on Aziraphale’s lap even as the rest of him fell off the couch. “You—pfh—the—ngk—the gavotte!?!” he sputtered from the floor.
“Yes, dear. I’m afraid that’s the only dance I know that you didn’t teach me.”
“That’s…” Crowley stared up at him, golden eyes wide. Aziraphale just sat and waited. He’d already gotten more than he expected from the night. He didn’t need anything else. “Okay.”
The angel’s eyebrows jumped. “Really?”
“Yeah, ngk.” Crowley untangled himself and staggered up to his feet. “Why the heaven not?”
Aziraphale’s face broke into a true, beaming smile. “Well then! I’ll go and get a record!”
It did not go well.
Well, really, that’s a matter of opinion. Crowley did not take to the gavotte well. He was a bit too sharp jointed and gangly to make any of the leaps or gestures smooth. And Aziraphale did not take to teaching well. He was a bit too reliant on muscle memory to remember what came next without doing the whole dance from the beginning. Both of them nearly fell over a few times when he attempted to slow things down enough to be manageable. So the teaching and learning of the gavotte did not go well.
But Lord above, did they have a good time trying.
It was that bubbling high that comes of too much laughter with someone whose smile makes you smile even more. Just like when they did any other kind of dance, their touches got easier and softer as they got used to the feeling. But here the touches were fast, and hilariously complex, sending them both spiraling into cackles and stumbling mockeries. They weren’t drunk at all, but they could have fooled anyone.
Eventually Crowley collapsed against a pillar, shaking with laughter too strong to even make a sound anymore. Aziraphale folded over his knees, trying to catch his breath and failing as he kept falling back into giggles.
“Angel,” Crowley managed to get out, but then was overtaken again.
Aziraphale was is slightly better shape, though he snickered around his words. “This is… this is possibly the very worst idea I’ve ever had!” He was positively thrilled with it.
“No!” Crowley declared. “No, no, it’s great. This is the best fun I’ve had since… since I don’t even know! It’s blessed—blessed wonderful.”
“You haven’t exactly learned it.”
“Pff. I’m getting it, angel—angel! Don’t you laugh at me!” They were both breaking down again. Aziraphale thought his diaphragm might give out, his stomach was so sore from laughing. “I’m getting it! I’m getting it, just—just give me another bit, come on, one more, I’m gonna get it!”
Aziraphale managed to push himself mostly upright. “Maybe we’d better skip to the end.”
“Great! Fine! Come on, let’s do it!”
Aziraphale looked at Crowley, rumpled with laughter and fun, grinning at him like he was the brightest star in the sky. He’d been joking. About skipping to the end, he hadn’t meant—had he? Right? It was just—
No. No, damn it, he had meant it.
Crowley’s shoulders were still shaking with laughter when Aziraphale put his hands on them. His breath was still hitching when he leaned in. And his lips were still curving in a perfect smile when Aziraphale kissed him.
The demon jerked slightly, but Aziraphale stayed right where he was, not pulling him in or moving away, just waiting for Crowley to figure out what he wanted to do about this.
When Crowley laughed against his lips, he let himself laugh, too. That was absolutely fine. The joy outweighed any disappointment. He’d take it. He could live eternity without kisses if only he could always hear that laugh.
Aziraphale pulled back to share the joke, see the shimmer in Crowley’s golden eyes and the glint of the chandelier on his hair. It was everything he wanted and more, that look on the demon’s face, so happy, so goddamned happy, it was exactly what he needed.
And then Crowley was—Crowley was kissing him, kissing him back, laughter still bubbling out between them, his hands settling on either side of his face, tucked around his ears and into his curls, and, and it was—he was—
Crowley pulled back, looking at him, drinking him in like it had been centuries, eons, since he’d seen his angel, and maybe it had been, but god, it didn’t matter now. Didn’t matter at all.
The demon’s hands were trembling on the angel’s face. His voice, though, held no sign of doubt, just awe and reverence shining like a mirror. “Is that—was, er, did—did you mean that like…”
Aziraphale laughed again, bright and free and so, so joyful. “Yes! Yes, you ridiculous demon, yes.”
Somehow (a miracle, probably) Crowley’s expression took on more wonder. His laugh was higher, ringing out a joy and delight he’d never allowed himself before, and Aziraphale threw himself forward, wanting to absorb every wave of that sound, make it a part of himself, make it a part of them. Crowley caught him. Crowley always caught him.
There was too much emotion in that nook of the bookshop for time to work properly. It didn’t matter, really, given that both occupants were eternal, and had all the time in the world to spend with each other. They kicked off the rest of their lives there, laughing and touching and listening and looking. Sometimes they were still, enthralled in the subtle movements of breath and the many shades a smile can take. Other times they couldn’t stop moving, pent up love and affection sending them into spirals around the room, separate or together, always within arm’s reach. Every so often, one would reach out for a kiss, not out of any need, but just to enjoy the novelty of it, the closeness, the I-chose-you-ness. The loveliness.
They wound up on the floor. Aziraphale sprawled out on his back, with Crowley leaning up on his side, carding his fingers through his curls while the angel’s arm wrapped around to trace the curve of his bony shoulder blades. Learning each other in a way they’d never been allowed to.
“What did I ever do to deserve this?” Crowley murmured. Aziraphale relished the feel of his back vibrating with the words. “What did I do to deserve you?”
Aziraphale smiled brighter. His demon, always asking questions. And he finally had an answer. “You saved me.”
Crowley’s face scrunched up. “What? No I didn’t.”
“Tonight. You got me out of that date.”
His red hair waved gently as he shook his head. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Nonsense, my love.” Aziraphale reached up to Crowley’s cheek. He planned to find every freckle, every shade of pink and tan and red that face could turn. Most of all, he planned to find every way to make him laugh. “You’ve been saving me for millennia.”
“So’ve you. Saved me, I mean.”
His thumb swept over Crowley’s cheekbone, brushed back a bit of hair by his ear. Right there. Freckle number one. “Then I guess the question is, really, where would we be without each other?”
There was no answer for that question. It didn’t need one. It didn’t matter.
There would be no more bad dates for either of them.