Chapter 1: The One Where Crowley's Date Is Just Too Drunk
In the time the earth has existed, there have been a few instances when things have been reset, the most famous and complete, of course, being the Flood. Others have included the rather memorable handling of Atlantis in 3046 BC, the rather violent instance at Vesuvius in 79 AD, and the rather forgettable incident in Kansas City in 1742 AD, which is forgettable for the simple reason that it was never actually carried out. Regardless of the scale of these events, they have all left marks on the pages of human civilization. Just think how many movies have been made about Pompeii or Atlantis (less so Kansas City). As a species, humans don’t forget great tragedies, even through thousands of years.
So you can imagine how difficult this kind of event would be to forget if you actually had to live through it.
The demon Crowley was certainly aware of this as he sat in a run-down public house in London. He’d just been moved up from the south of France, Hell having decided there wasn’t much point in having a demon stationed where there were so few people left. But the Plague hadn’t gotten this far yet, wouldn’t for another year or so, and Crowley’s superiors expected him to make the most of that time winning them souls. Crowley, for his part, expected himself to make the most of that time being drunk; thus the immediate trip to the pub.
But now, sat at a table tucked in the corner with a bottle of very nice whiskey which the owner had been shocked to find out he stocked, Crowley found that he didn’t really feel like drinking. I’m just tired he said to himself. Haven’t slept properly in a few years. He was just deciding to take a nice fifty-year nap, Hell be blessed, when he realized that he didn’t really feel like doing that, either.
More than a little confused, but too tired to bother thinking about it, the demon ended up just sort of sitting there in the corner, toying with an untouched cup and staring out at the bar through his dark glasses.
He watched the other patrons as they drank and laughed and caroused, and it wasn’t until he spotted a young couple in the corner across the room that he suddenly became aware of what he was missing.
Ah, shit, he thought before he could dismiss the realization, and that was it, he’d put words to it, he well and truly knew what was going on, no stopping it now, as much as he really, really wanted to ignore it.
He still could ignore it, he reasoned. No need to act on it. It wasn’t like he was going to die of loneliness.
Some little rebellious bit of him living somewhere near his ribcage decided to jump in and tell him he didn’t have to ignore it. You could always go find the angel, it whispered.
Crowley stamped it down like he was putting out a fire. That’s ridiculous he sneered. It had been a few centuries since he’d last seen Aziraphale anyway, during that bizarre little “black knight” phase he’d had. It wasn’t like he could just call on Aziraphale whenever he wanted to. He didn’t even want to, anyway. “That’s idiotic,” he hissed to himself. He was a demon, for heaven’s sake. He could deal with loneliness, of all things.
But then, as he was turning back towards his own table, determined to finish his drink and go the hell to sleep, he accidentally met the eyes of a man sitting a few tables over. It was clear he had been looking at Crowley for a while, and even when his gaze was met, he didn’t turn away. He was sitting with a group of friends, but they all seemed content egging each other on and harassing the waitress.
Not bad looking, Crowley thought, and then, ah, to heaven with it. Why not? Really, what harm could it do? Well, of course, it could do quite a lot of harm, but that was sort of the point, right? That was quite literally in his job description, doing harm. Crowley didn’t usually go for the more… hands on methods of temptation, but if the guy was interested, why should he turn him down?
Having made up his mind, Crowley smoothly reached up and pulled his dark glasses down a bit—not enough to show his eyes, but enough to make it clear he was looking right back at the man. He was not disappointed in the result. Without breaking eye contact, the man set his drink down on his table, stood up, and walked over to the demon’s table.
They stayed at the pub longer than Crowley might have expected, which to be honest didn’t bother him. He was content to sit and flirt and share his whiskey, and Jack (or was it John? He hadn’t been listening) seemed to be content to sit and flirt and let Crowley buy him drinks. He was a good bit short of a dazzling conversationalist, but Crowley was very beyond caring. He’d get a good report out of this, if nothing else, and he hadn’t had to use a single miracle on it. When the whiskey ran out, he ordered more, and when Jack’s friends started giving them looks he bought them a bottle as well. Crowley had never been happier to buy alcohol he wasn’t going to drink himself.
It was all going swimmingly, until John (or Jack) decided that he would like to buy the next round of drinks and immediately fell flat on his face. That was when Crowley realized he had overshot a bit. The demon sighed, ready to pass the man back to his friends and go on his way alone, but Jack (maybe) had other ideas. Apparently, he was not just a clumsy drunk, but a clingy one as well.
And so the demon Crowley, creature of Hell, serpent of Eden, found himself totally sober, stuck in a dingy pub with an incredibly drunk date and no energy in him to miracle his way out.
No less than six attempts at shoving Jack/John back towards his friends later, Crowley was still sitting at the corner table, blocked in by the drunk man on one side and a brick wall on the other. He was seriously considering how best to miracle through the wall and make his escape when there was a commotion up by the entrance.
“Sir, I think you’d better go home,” the owner was saying to the figure who had just entered. Wow, Crowley thought, Didn’t think it was possible to be too sloshed for this place.
Apparently the newcomer agreed, or maybe he was just too drunk to understand. “I’d l—I’d like some, uh, uh… wine! Wine, I’d like to, to, to, to BUY some WINE, PLease,” he slurred. Crowley chuckled to himself. This would be a wonderful little addition to his report. After a night like this, he’d be able to sleep for a century and nobody’d bother hi—
The drunk stumbled to the side as he tried to get past the owner to the bar, and promptly fell over a table. Blond hair tipped into a cup of ale and a pale tunic rolled in a gravy-covered plate, and instead of getting up the figure just began to giggle hysterically.
The owner was considerably less amused, and moved to haul the man bodily out of his establishment.
Luckily for the drunk, Crowley was also considerably less amused. He finally pushed John (probably) away and was next to the owner just as he was grabbing the back of the blond man’s shirt.
“I’ll handle this,” he said, glasses glinting in the candlelight.
“All due respect, sir—”
“He’s a friend,” Crowley interrupted. “I’ll get him out of your hair.” That was apparently all the owner needed to hear, because he just shrugged and left them to it.
“Damn it, angel,” he muttered as he helped the blond back to his feet.
Aziraphale gasped when he saw who his rescuer was. “Crowley! Is that you, my—” he nearly faceplanted going over the threshold.
“Yup,” the demon said, finally pushing the angel out of the pub and into the night air.
After quite a few missed turns (and more than one bad direction from the drunken angel), they made it to the little flat Aziraphale was staying in. Crowley was a little surprised to find the place spare and almost empty; he’d never been to any of the angel’s previous homes, but had always assumed they’d be warm and cozy, like the angel himself.
“Sorry for the mess,” Aziraphale murmured. “Just moved in….” He had quieted down quite a bit since they’d left the pub. He was still drunk off his ass, but had gone from constant giggling to a more somber mood. (As much as Crowley hadn’t like seeing his friend making a fool of himself, he liked this version less. In the future, he would almost always suggest they sober up before Aziraphale could get to this stage of drunkenness.)
“Me too,” Crowley responded, depositing the angel on the tiny bed near the window.
“Where were you…s—s, st….” the angel started, but then scrunched up his face like he wasn’t sure what the next word was supposed to be.
“South of France,” Crowley answered anyway.
Aziraphale nodded solemnly. “Sicily,” he said by way of his own answer.
Crowley started. “But that’s—” he cut himself off. Sicily was where the Plague had first reached Europe, and the devastation it was raging was horrific even in retellings.
But Aziraphale didn’t need to hear the rest. He just nodded, looking a little horror-struck and terribly sad. (This was the face that Crowley would picture in later years before getting the angel to sober up). “They sent me to help,” Aziraphale said, looking blankly at the floor. “But I’m not sure… if I was supposed to save them or just….”
Crowley didn’t answer. How was he supposed to say that he’d faced the same appalling decision in France, choosing whether it was kinder or crueler to give a victim a chance at survival in a dead world or to make their passing a little easier?
The pair sat in silence for a long moment before one of them shook themselves out of the gloom.
“It’s wonderful to see you, my dear,” Aziraphale said, the picture of cheer again (although Crowley could still see the pain deep in his eyes). “What were the odds we’d end up in the same pub? What were you doing there, anyway?”
Crowley ignored the obvious fact that he had been in the pub to get drunk (originally, at least), and cut through to the reason he’d been there so long and so sober. “I had a date.”
Had the motion picture camera been invented yet, Crowley would have loved to get Aziraphale’s face on film when he heard that. He wasn’t even sure what some of those emotions were, but really, some of those expressions were just hysterically funny. It only got better when the angel tried to speak. “Oh, oh well—I mean—sure, why, why not, I mean…. Oh, no, I didn’t, didn’t interrupt, did I?”
Crowley gave him an easy smile (and for once it actually was easy). “Angel, believe me,” he said, “You’re the one who saved me.”
Right so I'm a dumbass and spent all day yesterday convinced it was Thursday so I forgot it was update day and now this is late. My apologies!
Also I'm still in the market for a beta reader if anybody's interested!
Chapter 2: The One Where Crowley's Date is Just Too Religious
Crowley had no idea why he said yes. Seriously, what? A date? At his age? Why?
Boredom a voice in the back of his head said, and yeah, that wasn’t too far off the mark. Crowley wasn’t a big fan of Italy. Catholics had never been his favorite flavor to tempt anyway, but now the humans had gotten the idea that their mortal lives were just as important as their eternal ones, so really, what was the point? They never needed as much help turning to sin as Hell seemed to think, but now a whole bunch of them didn’t even care. Not that he wasn’t fully planning on taking credit, of course, because really, some of this stuff was going to be absolutely hilarious downstairs. That business with the naked figures in the Sistine Chapel was exactly the kind of nonsense Crowley was becoming known for.
But despite what his reports would say, Crowley hadn’t actually had anything to do with this whole Renaissance thing, and having slept through a good bit of the last half-century, he really just wanted to do something.
And this was how he found himself sitting at a candlelit table with a glass of wine across from a man he’d never met.
He was immediately reminded why he had gotten a commendation for inventing the blind date.
The guy wasn’t bad, really. Bit young, but then again, what human wouldn’t be a bit young for a 5500 year old demon? He was a sculptor, not one of the big names, but he was supposed to be pretty good. Not that Crowley cared much. He was just enjoying the excuse to drink good wine and talk to somebody about something other than tortures and temptations and eternal souls.
But he was enjoying the evening, a whole lot more than he ever would have expected. Naturally, as soon as he put words to that thought, the whole thing went pear shaped.
“I have to ask you something.” Marc (or was it Matthew?) leaned across the table conspiratorially.
“Shoot,” Crowley replied, feeling wonderfully warm and loose from all the wine.
Matthew (Marc?) took a deep breath. “Do you believe in demons?”
Crowley choked on his drink.
Matthew (yeah, it was Matthew) only leaned closer. “I’m serious. Do you?”
Crowley just barely managed to swallow without sending wine up his nose. “Ngk. Er. Wh—why? Do you?” Oh, great job, good covering there, that doesn’t sound suspicious at all.
Matthew looked at him closely for a moment before he nodded to himself and ploughed ahead. “Yes, I do.”
When nothing more was forthcoming, Crowley decided to take a risk and press a little bit. “May I ask why you’re bringing this up?”
“I got a lead on one.”
All the looseness had gone out of Crowley, the wine gone to waste. He’d had encounters like this before. They had never ended pleasantly. “Uh huh,” he said, still waiting for more information. As much as he wanted to just disappear, he didn’t want to use a miracle in front of this guy unless he really had to.
For the first time since bringing up the topic, Matthew looked away. He sighed, then turned back, a more resolute look in his eyes. “I’m really sorry,” he said. Oh, this was going to be so, so very bad. “I’m afraid this date was a cover.”
“For what.” Crowley half spat it out, coiled up and ready to strike.
“I needed a subtle way to get this from an associate.” With a glance around the room he lifted the top of the bag on the floor, revealing the corner of what could only be a book of exorcisms.
Get to the blessed point, Crowley thought.
“I planned to get the book and go finish the trap alone, but….” Here it was. Crowley cracked his fingers under the table, ready to snap and get the hell out of the city. He was not about to be exorcised again, not for the second time this century. Not when the demon hunter was going to tell him straight out what he was going to do.
But Matthew didn’t seem like he wanted to say it. After a rather long moment, Crowley got sick of sitting and waiting. “Well?” he hissed.
“I really like you,” the demon hunter finally blurted out.
In theory, there is something familiar to be found in even the strangest of situations. And supposedly if you can find that familiar thing, the strangeness of the situation can be abated.
The demon Crowley was currently rather desperate to make this theory work.
Walls adorned with an excessive number of crosses? Nothing new there. Faint smell of sage? Par for the course. Devil’s trap chalked on the floor? Yep, seen that before. Although the fact that he was seeing it from the outside probably wasn’t helping his mental turmoil.
Crowley had been correct in thinking Matthew was hunting demons in his spare time. He was correct in thinking he planned to exorcise one tonight. And he had been correct that the book he had collected under cover of their date was an instruction book.
He had not been correct in thinking that Matthew knew he was a demon.
It turned out Matthew was just a little bit smitten, and had decided to bring his date along to witness the exorcism. Crowley, completely blindsided by this revelation, had only been able to nod dumbly and follow.
Which was how the demon Crowley, creature of Hell, serpent of Eden, found himself only slightly tipsy, standing in a dingy basement with a devil’s trap on the floor and his date about to summon—well, him.
Crowley started; apparently Matthew had been trying to get his attention. “Sorry, ah, lost in… thought.”
Matthew looked apologetic. “I know it hasn’t been very exciting so far, but now that the sigils are down it won’t be much longer.”
“Isn’t—isn’t this a bit dangerous?” Crowley asked.
“The demon can’t leave the trap once it’s in it,” Matthew explained. “And these sigils dampen it’s power, so it won’t be able to do anything.”
“Yeah, but… I mean, you know, big, scary hell-beast in your basement, not exactly a walk in the park.” Crowley meandered closer to the circle, inspecting the symbols. He hated to admit it, but they weren’t wrong. Not the most efficient way to go about it, but they would hold. It would be a hell of a trick to get out if he accidentally stepped too close.
Not that it would matter when Matthew got around to the chanting, of course.
“You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to,” the hunter said. “I just… thought it might….”
“Nah, I’ll stick around,” Crowley interrupted. He’d just been struck by an idea that could be worth this whole debacle. The trap Matthew had drawn was a generic one, one that would summon and ensnare whatever demon was closest—at the moment, Crowley. But with a little adjusting….
Crowley stumbled (away from the circle, thank Satan). Matthew moved to help, but the demon waved him off. “I’m fine, I’m fine, it’s nothing,” he excused himself. Really, he’d just given himself a hell of a headache and probably wouldn’t be able to miracle much more than a spoiled cabbage for the next week. Adjusting a demon trap through a demonic miracle was no small challenge.
“Okay,” Matthew said, and Crowley thought he saw an edge of nerves behind the bravado. “It’s all done. I’ll just double check the sigils and then—”
“I can do that,” Crowley said, taking the book.
Matthew looked surprised. “Are—are you sure?”
“Yeah, why not? Probably better anyway, fresh eyes, you know?”
Matthew agreed with a happy look, and Crowley felt just a little bit bad about that. He really shouldn’t be using the poor guy this way. But the thought of watching his little prank go down was more than he could resist.
Crowley leaned towards one of the symbols. Oh, yesssss. The trap was mostly unchanged; it would still ensnare and mute any Being’s powers once they were in it. But now, instead of summoning the nearest demon, the trap was designed with a specific name in mind. One belonging to a particularly nasty, toad-headed Duke of Hell. Crowley grinned. This was the kind of demonic activity he enjoyed.
“Are they all right?” Matthew asked, drawing his attention back.
“Right as rain.” Crowley turned, closing the book with a snap. “Show time?”
“Yeah,” Matthew said, taking a deep breath. He opened the book to a dogeared page. Crowley subtly turned away; even if it wasn’t being directed at him, a summons could get a little rough for a demon this close up. Matthew took another deep breath, and began the chant. “Dominu—”
A loud crack! split the air, followed closely by a strangled yell and a thump as Matthew’s book fell to the floor.
“That was fast,” Crowley commented, turning back around. Hastur must have been closer than he’d expec—
Staring at the devil’s trap, Crowley tripped over his feet and fell. He had just enough sense left to pull backwards and land on his knees instead of his face, just avoiding the edge of the circle. He stared at the figure sprawled on the floor in the middle of the trap, wings askew. The figure sat up, groaning and rubbing the back of his head as he took in the trap sketched out around him. There was another thud from the corner as Matthew fainted to the floor, and it was just enough to snap Crowley out of his shock.
“Angel?” he said, incredulous.
Aziraphale looked up, and his face broke into a smile when he saw the demon. “Crowley, my dear! I didn’t expect to find you… here….” He looked around himself again. “Hmm. Ah, you wouldn’t happen to know anything about this devil’s trap I seem to be stuck in, do you, my dear?”
As it turned out, a demonic miracle on the scope of the one Crowley had used to edit the devil’s trap sent out a lot of hellish energy. To humans in the area, this had manifested in irritation, jealousy, or, for the more devout ones like poor Matthew, a predisposition to fainting. To the one and only angel in the area, it had manifested in an immediate urge to investigate and thwart whatever evil plan was being enacted. Which was how Aziraphale had somehow managed to be standing on the ground floor of the building, directly above the trap in the basement when Matthew started his summoning. And since the angel had been deliberately looking for any sign of a demonic presence, he had followed the summons and promptly materialized in the trap himself.
“So,” Aziraphale said, still sitting on the floor. “I do hope this trap wasn’t actually meant for me?”
“Not quite,” Crowley said faintly.
“Well, that’s good, at least.” The angel reached a hesitant hand toward the edge of the circle, then pulled it back sharply when his fingers hit the wall of the spell. He turned back to the demon. “Any chance you can get me out?”
Crowley shook his head. “I’m miracled out,” he said. “Don’t think I could put out a candle right now.”
The angel kept looking at him with that face, that one that just screamed Pretty please, Crowley? For me?
“Couldn’t you just, you know, rub out the chalk?”
“Not without getting myself stuck in there with you.”
“Hm. Well that won’t do.”
“Wouldn’t be ideal, no.”
Aziraphale’s face brightened. “We could get the human to do it!”
Hell Crowley hated having to dim that smile. “He’s a demon hunter, Aziraphale. He’s not just going to let you go.”
“But I’m not a demon.” How Crowley could stand being around a creature so naïve he would never understand. (For anyone who's curious, it had something the do with a certain flaming sword that had been missing for a few millennia.)
“Angel, you’re in a demon trap, you appeared during a summoning ritual, and you have wings, for hell’s sake.”
“Oh, right, the wings….” Aziraphale tried to fold them away, but the trap was too tightly woven even for that small a miracle. “Hmm. That’s… not ideal.”
“Not really, no.”
The angel looked at the man unconscious in the corner again. Then he looked sharply at Crowley. “Wait a minute. What are you doing summoning a demon? You’re a demon!”
“Y—well, it was, ngk, I mean, you know…” Crowley stammered, searching desperately for a valid excuse. He noticed, unhelpfully, that Aziraphale’s eyebrow was dangerously close to becoming part of his hairline. “It was a date,” he admitted.
And somehow, the eyebrow went higher. “A date?” the angel clarified.
“A date to summon a demon?”
“You know, I really should be more careful going on blind dates?”
Aziraphale just stared at him. “Crowley, what on earth is going on?”
The demon was saved from answering by Matthew, who chose that moment to stir and groan. Aziraphale gave Crowley a slightly panicked look. “Crowley,” he said, unease straining his words. “Do you by any chance happen to know what might happen if an angel were to be exorcised?”
Crowley stared back. He didn’t answer, but it was written all over his face: whatever happened, it likely would not be pleasant.
The panic was creeping further into Aziraphale’s voice. “Crowley….”
“Yeah, I’m on it.” The demon stood up, careful not to touch the demon trap, and crouched down next to his date. “Hey, wake up,” he said, shaking the man’s shoulder. “Matthew.”
Matthew groaned again and sat up a little. “Mmm?” he murmured. “Anthony?”
“Yeah, hey, welcome back, so look, bit of a situation with the demon trap, I’m gonna need you to come over here and smudge the circle for me.”
“…but the circle can’t be broken or it won’t….”
“Nah, you just hit your head, you’re a little confused. You have to break the circle for it to work, okay?”
Matthew put a hand to his head, feeling for a bump. “I don’t… feel like I hit my head?”
Crowley shifted to keep his body blocking his date’s view of Aziraphale. “No, no you definitely did, now just come on and smudge the circle for me, Matthew.”
He looked even more confused. “My name’s… not… Matthew?” he said.
Crowley stared for a moment. “Right! See, see, ah, look at that, it’s worse than I thought, forgot your own name! Now just get over here and smudge the damn trap.” He felt a little bad about how harsh he was getting, but if Matthew—Marc—if Marc came to his senses before they got Aziraphale free everything was going to go well and truly to shit.
It took a little more coaxing and a lot more patience than he had, but eventually Crowley convinced Matthew to move closer to the circle. The man started when he saw Aziraphale sitting in the trap. The angel gave him a gentle smile and a small wave.
“No. Nope, it’s not, don’t know what you’re talking about, just smudge the circle, buddy, okay?”
Crowley snapped. “Oh for somebody’s sake would you just break the damn trap?!?”
Whatever part of Marc’s brain was functioning again seemed to have a sense of self-preservation, because he reached out and rubbed his palm across the chalk on the outermost circle.
“Ohh….” Aziraphale said, his shoulders relaxing as his wings were allowed to spread. He gave Crowley a dazzling smile (Oh, fuck) and stretched out his back. Unfortunately, this drew attention to the wings, and Marc, whose wits were returning faster now, noticed.
“He’s—those are—but it’s—”
Crowley gave Aziraphale a look. “Would you mind?” he asked.
“Oh, right,” the angel said, remembering that he was the only one capable of magic at the moment. He snapped his fingers and Marc froze, but Aziraphale seemed hesitant to do more. “…are you sure you want me too…?” he trailed off, looking expectantly at Crowley.
Crowley, for his part, had no idea what the angel was on about. “Angel, I have no idea what you’re on about,” he said.
Aziraphale looked flustered, which didn’t do anything to help Crowley’s brain function. “It’s just, you know, he’s, you know, your, your date, so… you know.” His voice got quieter and more unsure with every word, leaving Crowley with a vague feeling of guilt in the bottom on his stomach. Which was ridiculous. There was no reason, absolutely no reason for him, a demon, to feel guilty about… about anything! At all! He shouldn’t even be able to feel guilt, what was up with that, that couldn’t be—
“Oh,” Crowley’s train of thought ground to a halt as it screeched onto the same track as Aziraphale’s. “Oh, yeah, no, don’t worry about it. You can just wipe his memory, no problem.”
Aziraphale’s forehead scrunched up. “Are you sure? You don’t want to….”
“Yeah, no,” Crowley said hurriedly, desperate to cut off that line of thought before it got… weirder than it already was. “It’s not gonna go anywhere, anyway. Demon and a demon hunter, not exactly a match made in—ngk, ah, you know what I mean.”
Aziraphale looked thoughtful (and maybe a little relieved? No, Crowley was just projecting). “I suppose not,” he said, more cheerful now, and he snapped his fingers at Matthew (Marc, damn it), erasing his memories of the evening. “Now then,” he said, standing and brushing the chalk dust off his trousers. “I think we’d better get out of here.”
“No complaints here, angel.” Aziraphale placed his hand on Crowley’s shoulder, and next thing he knew they were up on the street again, walking in the cool night air.
They walked quietly for a while, not really going anywhere, not really doing anything. But it wasn’t quite the easy quiet they usually fell into after a dinner or a night of drinking. Crowley could feel a certain… unease in Aziraphale, like he was nervous about something. He was just about to ask him to spill already, angel, when the blond stopped in the middle of the sidewalk.
“Crowley,” the angel said, looking rather pointedly towards his toes. “What… what exactly were you planning to do?”
Crowley stopped beside him. “What do you mean?”
Aziraphale seemed distinctly nervous, though Crowley couldn’t imagine why. “You… you did have a plan, right? With the demon trap?”
“With the…. Oh, that.” Crowley let his face break into a slow grin. “I… may have added a specific name to the spell.”
“Oh?” Aziraphale looked up. “And what name might that be?”
“Well, you know,” Crowley said, starting to saunter down the street again. “Hastur’s been up here for a while, and I thought, maybe, he might appreciate a little break.” He looked over at Aziraphale, who was walking beside him again, and was relieved to find that the tension had left the angel’s face.
“Oh, well in that case,” he said, giving Crowley a slightly sly smile of his own, “I’m sorry I interrupted.”
“Nah,” Crowley brushed him off, though secretly that little smile was mixing up his insides like a blender. “Probably for the best, anyway. He’d have been even more grouchy when he finally got back.”
“Well we wouldn’t want that.”
It was too dark to see it, but Crowley’s grin got just a little bit brighter. “Plus,” the demon said, catching the angel’s eye again. “You got me out of a really awkward morning after.”
Aziraphale’s face went so red Crowley didn’t even need his night vision to see it. “Oh, well, um, I—I’m—”
“I’m kidding, angel,” Crowley laughed. “I’m kidding.”
We're just going to ignore the fact that it's way past Wednesday. Technically it's still Sunday in the airport I'm sitting in, so it could be worse? Basically I'm really sorry this is so late but if I get hung up on it I'll never update at all and that would be objectively worse, so.
Thank you for your comments and kudos! They are all appreciated and cherished, and I love you all so much. Be safe out there!
Chapter 3: The One Where Crowley's Date Is Just Too Snobby
As a rule, Crowley avoided balls, galas, and all similar events like the Plague. That is to say, he only went if Lord Beelzebub said he absolutely had to, and even then only with a degree of grumbling that would put an old man in a room full of Gen-Z kids to shame.
The first Gen-Z kid had yet to be born, of course, as did the first Millennial, and the first Gen-X kid, and the great-grandparents of the first Baby Boomer were barely out of the cradle themselves. But the great-great-grandparents of that child were still alive and kicking—or waltzing, as the case would have it.
Crowley didn’t actually mind waltzing. At least with a waltz, you got to stick with one partner long enough to hold a conversation. And there was something to be said for the amount of mischief one could cause in a room full of rich snobs who would never live it down if they so much as stumbled on the dance floor.
So, when the message came through, Crowley had sighed and grumbled impressively, then sat down at the dressing table to figure out what to wear. Hoop skirts really were the worst, but at least she could usually get away without wearing a real corset. Seriously, the things humans came up with to torture themselves in the name of “decency” or “good taste” were so much more impressive than anything a demon could come up with. Not that Crowley was ever going to let downstairs know that, of cour—
“Oi, snakey!” a voice shouted from Crowley’s hand mirror, which suddenly found itself broken on the floor halfway across the room.
“For hell’s sake, do you have to do that?” Crowley snapped the mirror back into her hand, the shattered glass fitting back into place and jigsawing Lord Beelzebub’s face back together.
Beelzebub lifted their upper lip in an unamused sneer. “Change of plans, Crowley.”
“What? Change of plans, I only just got the plan.”
“Then thizz won’t be a problem, will it?”
“Oh, no, Lord Beelzebub, no, of course not, a problem? How could it be a problem?”
Beelzebub rolled their eyes and shuffled through a sheaf of grimy papers. “We’ve got a specific target for you now. Not just general tempting anymore.”
Crowley suppressed a groan. “Don’t tell me I have to—”
“You have to act as his guest and secure his soul over the course of the evening.” The Prince of Hell was a good actor. Crowley could barely tell how amused they were through the indifference and boredom in their tone.
Crowley, for her part, was not at all indifferent, though she thought she was probably about to be very bored. “Lord Beelzebub, is that strictly necessary, I mean all evening—”
“—will be perfect for you to make abzzzolutly sure he’s ours.”
“You know,” Crowley added in a last ditch effort to avoid this oncoming trainwreck. “I’ve heard Duke Hastur looks killer in a ballgown.”
Beelzebub didn’t even grace that with a word, just lifted their eyes to the ceiling as if asking Upstairs to smite them now. Then the mirror shattered in Crowley’s hand, a little goodbye present of small cuts on her fingers. She snapped away the broken glass and blood, then took a moment to think about just how horrendous this evening was going to be.
Lord in heaven, it was worse than she thought.
Her target was pointless. Just an absolute waste of time, seriously, who the actual hell thought this guy needed demonic intervention? He was annoying on a scale usually reserved for Crowley’s own mischief, and he wasn’t even trying.
“So that’s why the situation in India is just so complicated, you understand?” Samuel (his name was definitely Samuel) was saying. “No, I’m sorry, of course you don’t understand, sweetheart. Just trust Samuel on it. It’s horribly complicated, most men don’t even have to power to comprehend it.”
She thought if the champagne were laced with holy water this might be more pleasant.
“Anyway, all this nonsense about the women’s vote is simply preposterous, don’t you think? Really, it’s as if we were a country full of savages. If they don’t start—”
“Would you like to dance?” Crowley asked, just barely layering enough sweetness into her tone.
“No,” Samuel said. “I don’t much like dancing. Such a waste of time, really, what are all these young men doing with their time, learning dances when they could be studying politics or geography?”
Heaven, please, just a touch of smiting?
Heaven, as always, did not respond.
And so the demon Crowley, creature of Hell, serpent of Eden, found herself with champagne glass in hand, standing in an opulent ballroom with an obnoxious prick of a date who didn’t want to dance, and a damn hoopskirt.
It took hours (read: twenty minutes) for Crowley to make her escape. She made some noise about needing to powder her nose, which launched an entire (prewritten, she was positive this could not be off the cuff) spiel about the vanities of womanhood, including some choice remarks about Eve and original sin that made her almost regret that very first temptation. At least if they were still in Eden, this guy would never have been born.
There also wouldn’t be alcohol, though. And Crowley did like alcohol.
She was on her way out of the ladies dressing room, working out the longest possible route back to her date, when a small fuss started on the other side of the room. At its center was a solidly built man in a cream suit and a mop of blond curls, who seemed to have knocked over one of the ornately laid out trays on the food table. He was apologizing profusely, and Crowley noticed with a smirk as he surreptitiously snapped his fingers behind his back, miracling away a mess of powdered sugar that had landed on some poor woman’s dress. She was just thinking of the best bad pickup line to make him blush darker than a cherry when someone tapped her on the shoulder.
“Finally bested the beast of the powder compact, have we?” Samuel said with a chuckle that really just begged to get him thrown down a well for a few years.
“Yes, actually,” Crowley replied, resigning herself to another eternity (read: a few hours) of listening to this prick.
And then, on the other side of the room, Aziraphale tripped and knocked over another food display, and suddenly, like the Heavens had opened, Crowley had an idea.
“Really,” Samuel was saying, watching the angel fumble and apologize and make things worse. “This is just what comes of bad schooling. No manners, no poise. I bet he’s never picked up a book in his life.” Crowley had to physically restrain herself from snapping Samuel into a particularly nasty Irish bog. “I guess we should be grateful he’s not trying to dance, at least.”
“About that,” Crowley flashed Samuel a big, winning smile. It was charm time. “I happen to know that that young man over there,” she pointed knowingly to a young man she’d never seen before in her life, “is a patently horrible dancer. But his fiancé” this time she pointed to a lady in a purple dress who was definitely not his fiancé, “is quite fond of it. So his best friend,” another young man, and Samuel was listening, that was good, she had him hooked on the fake gossip, “suggested that in order to distract from his personal inability to dance, that he find someone who is worse than him and set him up for failure. And I’m willing to bet,” she turned back to Samuel, and oh, she had not lost any of her skill, he had fallen for it hook line and sinker, “that he’s just found his target.”
For the first time that evening, Samuel was quiet. “That would be… unpleasant to watch.”
“Maybe we could—”
“—get him to dance with someone who can lead? That’s a wonderful idea, Sam, just brilliant!”
“But who to do it? Well, I hate to leave you, Sammy, but I can’t in good conscious leave that poor man to be so embarrassed.” Samuel looked slightly shell shocked, whether from being called Sammy or because he hadn’t realized women could speak in full sentences, Crowley neither knew nor cared. “So,” the demon concluded, “I’ll be seeing you.”
And with that, she walked away, the swish of her hips a bit stronger than was strictly proper, or strictly possible in a hoopskirt.
Thankfully, Aziraphale managed not to knock anything else over in the time it took Crowley to get around the room to him. She tapped him on the shoulder, and watched, amused, as his face lit up when he recognized her.
“Crowley! My dear, I didn’t expect to see you here! I thought you hated this kind of thing.”
“I do, angel, but I’ve got a bit of a situation here and I need you to help.”
It really was cute how fast he could get concerned. “A situation? Are you alright? You’re not in trouble, are you?”
“Nah, nothing like that. Downstairs sent me to tempt an absolute wanker and I needed an escape.”
“There’s an exit door over—”
“No, angel, not that kind of escape, a distraction. I need you to dance with me.”
Aziraphale looked confused, like he’d never heard that word before. “Dance?”
“Yup.” Crowley said, popping the p and looking over her shoulder to see that Samuel was still watching them.
“I—but—but angels don’t dance!”
Crowley stared at him. “Really, Aziraphale? Angels don’t eat, either, is that going to stop us going out for lunch?”
“Well, no, but not dancing is one of the defining characteristics—"
Just then Samuel started making his way over, and Crowley stopped trying to convince Aziraphale. “Right, new song, here we go, time to try something new!”
And just like that, they were on the dance floor, and Crowley was putting Aziraphale’s hand on her shoulder and hissing at him to just step to the beat and follow me. Then the violin swelled, and she put her hand on his waist and started directing him in waving circles around the dancefloor. If anyone in the room had noticed the redhaired woman in the black dress leading the flustered man in the cream suit in the waltz, they, for some reason, didn’t think it odd.
It took a few loops for Aziraphale to get comfortable, but finally he stopped staring holes in his shoes and looked up at Crowley with a cautious smile, the way a little kid looks on Christmas morning when they see the presents under the tree and look up at their parents to ask if it’s all really there. Crowley couldn’t help smiling back at that, a gentle, genuine smile that only Aziraphale seemed able to create.
“This is… rather nice, actually,” Aziraphale said, braving a look around at the room swirling by.
“You’re a natural.”
He looked back at her with nothing but joy. “Am I really? Oh! I can’t imagine why I didn’t try this sooner.”
They danced through the next several songs. Even though they didn’t register the oddity of the lady being the one to lead, the humans around them started to remark on their stamina, as the couple never took a break or slowed down at all. The immortal pair never noticed.
“So, my dear,” Aziraphale asked, as the ball finally wore down and the room began to empty. “Was that enough of a distraction?”
Crowley grinned at him, an errant curl falling onto her forehead. “I think it was, yeah.”
The angel smiled. “I’m glad.”
They went back to the bookshop afterwards, a new little ritual that Crowley liked more than she would ever admit. They got as drunk as possible, just for the fun of it, then, when it wasn’t fun anymore, they sobered up and went their separate ways. The next time they got drunk, Crowley found himself snapping some music into existence and clearing the books off a patch of floor, so that Aziraphale could practice leading. Just in case it happened again.
Once, late at night, when neither of them were as drunk as they thought they were, he thought he heard Aziraphale say something into his shirt where he was leaning his head.
“What was that?” Crowley asked.
“Thank you,” the angel replied, looking up at him with a smile. “I really like dancing. Thank you for teaching me.”
Crowley smiled back. “It’s nothing, angel,” he said, swinging him around for a neat twirl. “After all, you saved me from the demon known as Samuel.”
Aziraphale laughed, and they waltzed together for the rest of the night.
I'm! On! Time! And I'm not going anywhere this weekend so I can catch up and be on time next week, too! Can I get a wahoo?
Anyway, thanks everybody for the comments and kudos, you make it worth writing. I wish you all a wonderful week!
Chapter 4: The One Where Crowley's Date Is Just Too Pushy
OI READ THE NOTES IT'S IMPORTANT TODAY
Yep, you saw that right, there are not one, but two new chapters up today! BUT. That is because the first of them, this one, chapter 4, the one you're on right now, has some elements of non-con. Everyone's fine, it doesn't go very far and it's all pretty vague, but there is a point where a person tries to take advantage of someone who is drunk. I don't want anyone who can't safely/doesn't want to read that to get left out, so I posted the next chapter (which is all sunshine and rainbows, don't worry) as well. So if you're not okay to read this fourth chapter, that's totally cool! Just scroll on down or hit the big old "next chapter" button and get a head start on chapter five. You're not missing anything worth anything.
On a completely different note, y'all are the best, the responses on the last bit absolutely made my day every time. Thank you all.
Have fun and be careful with yourselves!
The music was too loud, drum hits sharp as gunshots and bass vibrating the very air. Exactly how he liked it.
Crowley considered himself forever in debt to whichever human had first thought up electronic amplification, so much so that he hadn’t even taken credit for it Downstairs. Nothing could beat an electric guitar in the right hands, and the pair up on the stage were certainly right. The guy had been riffing for well on a minute now, and it was just getting better. Or maybe that was the alcohol.
Yeah, it could definitely be the alcohol.
“Anybody sitting here?” Crowley looked up at a man with slicked hair and a t-shirt that was—wow, that was just way tighter than it was designed to be. And Crowley should know, considering he had invented form fitting clothing.
The offer was clear in the man’s tone, and vaguely Crowley wondered how far that offer went. A little company wouldn’t be unpleasant. He could use a new drinking buddy—a human one, for when he wanted to go out and have his eardrums ruptured instead of bantering with Aziraphale in the bookshop. He liked that too, of course, loved it, really, but balance is important even for a creature of Hell. And as much as he did enjoy lurking in dark corners and looking mysterious (come on, he’s still a demon, some things are just instinct), it would be kind of nice to have someone to get drunk with when he went out. So he waved at the chair across from him and the man sat down, ordering another beer from a passing waitress.
Something about this tickled the back of Crowley’s mind, telling him this was a Bad Idea and he should be old enough know that. But for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out why, and he decided that he really didn’t care enough to sober up and figure it out. The music was loud, the drinks were strong, and he had all of time to enjoy it. So enjoy it he would.
He couldn’t say when things started to go downhill. Honestly, it was probably the moment Chris (Carl? Shit, not this again) sat down. He was just too damn drunk to realize it, though, or to notice the way Carl (might have been Charlie) was eying him up, until it was very suddenly very clear what the human had in mind.
Which was how the demon Crowley, creature of Hell, serpent of Eden, found himself dangerously drunk, backed up against the wall of a back alley with a hand on his chest and a date who didn’t look like he planned on stopping anytime soon.
“Hey,” he managed, alcohol soaked brain finally starting to spark again, “Oi, hey, Chris, Carl, whatever the fuck your name is—”
Crowley blinked behind his sunglasses. That was… farther off the mark than he’d expec—
“Whoa, whoa, okay, no, nope, no thank you.” Crowley pushed the guy away, only to have him push right back, pining the demon against the brickwork. “Hey, look, just stop, okay, I don’t wanna—”
But Zach wasn’t listening, or if he was he didn’t care, because he just pressed Crowley back against the wall and kissed him.
Crowley may have been a demon, but despite the miracle of, well, miracles, his corporeal form only had so much strength, and Zach was simply bigger and stronger than him. And frankly he was a little scared of where the man’s hands might end up if he let go for even the instant it would take to snap him away.
“Oh! Oh, dear, my apologies!”
The startled voice at the end of the alley made Zach pull away to look up, and Crowley took his chance. With a single snap, the man was gone, vanished to someplace vaguely unpleasant and less vaguely smelly. Crowley would get more creative later, to make sure Zach never tried to pull something like this on another human, but for now, it would do.
His head whipped back to the end of the alley. The streetlights on the main road gave off just enough light to silhouette a man with a solid build and a halo of blond curls. “Angel?” he managed when his mouth caught up to his eyes. “What the heaven are you doing here?”
Aziraphale walked closer, becoming a three-dimensional figure instead of a blank silhouette. “Well I was just walking home, and, er, well, this is a nice shortcut, so, ah.” He looked around, seeming to notice for the first time that his “nice shortcut” was in fact a back alley behind a Soho bar. “You know, um. You know, you didn’t have to vanish your, ah, your date for my sake.”
“What? Oh, oh that, nah,” Crowley pulled his eyes away from Aziraphale’s hair, which he had not been staring at, not in any sense of the word. “Trust me, angel, he got vanished for his own sake.”
“Oh.” Aziraphale relaxed, his shoulders loosening and his smile becoming more genuine. “Well, in that case. Would you like to come back to the bookshop with me? Maybe have a drink or two?”
Crowley rubbed the back of his head, where it had scraped against the bricks. “I think I’ve had enough drinks for tonight, angel.”
“Perhaps some cocoa, then?”
And there he was with that blessed, blessed face, and Crowley wasn’t sure when he’d stopped fighting it, but it was a long time ago now. “Yeah, sure. Why not?”
So the angel and the demon walked through the Soho streets, and although the pavement was crowded and chaotic, no one ever got in their way.
They were very nearly back at Aziraphale’s bookshop when the angel suddenly got quiet.
“Angel?” Crowley asked, noticing the shift immediately. “You alright?”
Aziraphale wasn’t looking at him. “I… I don’t want to push, but… my dear, are you alright?”
“I… well, you said he got vanished for his own sake, and, and I may not have been there long, but I did see….” He trailed off, and Crowley felt like hitting himself. Of course he had noticed. Aziraphale might play the unobservant fool, and he certainly did have his moments, but he was smarter than anyone else Crowley had ever met. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” he said hurriedly. “I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m fine, angel.” Crowley’s voice was softer than he remembered it being.
Aziraphale still looked concerned. “You’re sure?”
“Yeah, of course, ‘m a demon. Just miracled him away. Besides,” he grinned at the angel, and was rewarded with a little smile in return. “You gave me the perfect distraction.”
Aziraphale’s smile deepened. “I’m glad.”
“Me too, angel. Me too.”
Chapter 5: The One Where Crowley's Date Is Just Too Boring
If you skipped chapter four, you're in the right place! If you didn't, you're also in the right place! It's chapter five! The fifth one! That means there's one more to go, which should be up next Wednesday. See ya soon!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The next time Dagon came up to earth, she was going to find herself discorporated. Rather painfully, if Crowley had anything to do with it. Which he would, of course, because he was going to be the one doing the discorporating, because this was all her fault.
“So, uh… I heard it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.” The man sitting across the table took a sip of his wine.
“Is it really?” Crowley responded, unable to conjure up even enough interest to make it truly sarcastic.
Absolutely. Fucking. Discorporated.
There were so many other places he could be right now. So many! He could be cruising around in his Bentley. He could be terrorizing his house plants. He could be getting drunk with Aziraphale. Actually, he was SUPPOSED to be getting drunk with Aziraphale. That was the plan! That was what he was supposed to be doing with his night! He’d been kind of sort of would-never-say-it-out-loud-but-definitely-had-been looking forward to it!
He’d found a new song he wanted to try dancing to.
But then blessed Dagon had to go and get her blessed boxers in a twist because oh, but Crowley, you’d just be soooo much better at this temptation than I would, and we really can’t risk this one going to the opposition.
And why would Crowley be soooo much better at this single-target temptation than Dagon, considering—just keeping it in mind, of course—that Crowley was more of a big picture tempter?
“I’m not really his type,” Dagon had grinned at him through the TV screen. She was sitting on a news anchor set with her crusty boots up on the desk and a nasty gleam in her eye.
“Uh huh….” Crowley had pulled his own (considerably cleaner) boots off his own desk, suddenly very self-aware. “Just, you know, just putting this out there, but… you could, just, be a man for the night. ‘S not that hard. You’ve got the height for it already.”
Dagon swiveled the chair, rotting face leering closer. “Yes, but you’ve got soooo much more experience.”
Crowley was watching his evening spiral out of control as clearly as if he were one of Aziraphale’s favorite prophets. He tried to make a last ditch effort. “Dagon—”
“We really can’t risk this one,” she ignored him gleefully. “Veeeery important to Lord Beelzebub that we get this one right.”
Crowley was going to make sure that Beelzebub was right there with Dagon when the discorporation train came around.
“Right,” he sighed. “Right, I’ll do it.”
Dagon’s grin had been horrifying, as always, and a lot more delighted than Crowley would have liked. “Knew you’d come through for us, Crowley,” she had said, before vanishing from the screen, leaving a patch of grime on the desk which the reinstated news anchor promptly put his hand in. Crowley had turned off the TV while the anchor squealed in disgust, then slumped down in his throne to contemplate just how much he hated Dagon.
Which was what he was still doing now, sitting across a table from his target (who should have been Dagon’s problem) and dreaming of the better company (and better wine) he could be enjoying in the bookshop right now.
“How are you gentlemen doing? Everything good?”
“Oh, yes, it’s all fine.” The guy (Crowley hadn’t even tried to learn his name) turned to him. “Right?”
Crowley put on a smile that was more of a sneer, cheekbones pushing at his sunglasses. “Just peachy.”
The date went on. And on. And oooon. Even when Crowley got bored enough to try initiating conversation, the guy always managed to shut it back down into a slog through intense, painful tedium. Hell be blessed, he really didn’t care if this guy went to the opposition. He was boring enough to fit right in in Heaven.
But he couldn’t just leave. Hell had eyes and ears everywhere; frankly, he wouldn’t be surprised if Dagon herself was lurking around outside the restaurant waiting for him to ditch the assignment. It wasn’t that they didn’t trust him—okay no, they were demons, they didn’t trust anyone. But it wasn’t that they didn’t trust him. Just that any demon worth their salt would take the chance to catch another one doing something punishment-worthy. It was practically a game.
But he couldn’t leave, and he couldn’t make conversation, and he couldn’t stand much more of this wine. He was about as stuck as he could be without a devil’s trap drawn under his chair.
And so the demon Crowley, creature of Hell, serpent of Eden, found himself rather standardly inebriated, sitting in a very average restaurant with a dull meal and a date who could have bored the archangel Sandalphon, for Satan’s sake.
“How about those footballers, huh?”
Crowley nearly screamed.
“Oh, there he is!” a voice broke through the monotony. “Crowley! Darling boy, thank goodness I finally found you.” And suddenly Aziraphale was there, standing next to the table, a little out of breath and a little out of place, and Crowley had never, never once in his long, long life, seen something more wonderful. “My dear?” he said, and Crowley realized he had been staring and hadn’t responded. “Are you alright?”
“Ngk.” He finally got his brain to kick back into gear. “Yeah, yeah fine, angel.”
“Are you sure? You look a bit pale.”
“Yeah, no, angel, all good. All good.”
“Um… excuse me?” the guy across the table said, reminding Crowley that he was, you know, there.
Aziraphale jumped into a flurry of apologetic worry. “Oh, I’m so sorry to steal your date,” he said, and Crowley definitely didn’t choke slightly when the angel said steal. “I’m afraid there’s been a bit of a family emergency.”
“Family emergency?” Crowley repeated, his sunglasses doing a poor job at keeping his bewilderment hidden.
“You two are… related?” the guy said, and even when he was incredulous his tone was boring.
“Distantly.” Aziraphale waved it off, then turned back to Crowley. “Cousin Gabriel was in a bit of an accident this morning, everyone’s at the hospital, Michael’s absolutely frantic, and you should see Uriel—”
“Yep, right, got it,” Crowley interrupted before Aziraphale could run through the whole list of angels. He turned to the guy. “One moment.”
With a single snap, time stopped around them.
Aziraphale huffed. “It was the first name that came to mind.”
“Right.” Crowley stared up at the angel, wholly unsure of what he was doing. But he wasn’t worried. Just… intrigued. “Angel, what are you doing here?”
He started to fidget, twisting the ring on his pinky finger. “Well, I, I just….” Then suddenly, with a deep breath, he stopped fidgeting and looked Crowley right in the eye. “My dear, you just sounded so miserable when you called earlier, so I decided to come and check on you, just to make sure nothing was wrong, and then you looked so very bored sitting here, so I… I decided to rescue you.”
Crowley wasn’t aware of it, but his mouth was hanging open. “To rescue me?”
“Yes.” Aziraphale sounded more sure of himself than he usually did. It was… comforting, somehow, and a little bit exhilarating. “Now, if you’d like to stay, you can, of course, but if you’d like to go and have some decent wine, I have a lovely bottle I’ve been saving.”
And you know what? Hell be blessed. Hell be blessed, and Dagon be blessed, and Lord Beelzebub and god damn Satan himself be blessed, he was not going to sit in this dull restaurant with this dull wine and this dull man a second longer, not when he had a cozy bookshop and some superb alcohol and a fucking angel to spend his time with.
He couldn’t say that aloud, of course. That was just asking for trouble. But he could talk his way out of a lot, so even if there was a demon waiting around for him to abandon his task, so be it. He’d roll with it, make it work in his favor, pull some demonic miracles to get things back on track. It was worth it, for the smile on Aziraphale’s face when he said yes.
“Right!” Crowley snapped the world back into motion again. “Sorry to bail on you, guy, but, family emergency, must dash, you know how it is.” He stood up with just a bit of a flourish and a grin that was now a little more cheer than sneer. He didn’t wait for a response, just turned and sauntered out of the restaurant, knowing Aziraphale was right behind him all the way.
It felt better than it should have to be back in the Bentley, and Crowley contented himself fiddling with the buttons on the radio for a minute before Aziraphale spoke up.
“I hope I didn’t intrude too much, back there,” he said, and he sounded unsure enough to make Crowley look up at him. “I know you can take care of yourself,” the angel continued hurriedly. “You’re a demon, after all. You’ve been getting yourself out of this kind of scrape for centuries.”
“Angel…” Crowley started, but he didn’t know how to respond.
“Anyway. I just hope you know that, well, if you ever really do need help, with something like that, or, well, with something bigger, too, I suppose, I’ll… I’ll be there. To help.” He finally turned to look at Crowley, and Crowley looked back, and for a moment the demon really, truly, in the most sentimental meaning of the phrase, didn’t know what to say.
“Thank you.” He almost heard it before he thought it. But it was true.
“Yes, well,” Aziraphale ducked his head down again. “I may not be much use, what with the miracle limits and heavenly supervision and whatnot, but I can at least pull a good old cheap distraction, like tonight.”
“Don’t shortchange yourself, angel,” Crowley said, turning the key and starting the drive to Soho. “You really did rescue me back there.” The smile Aziraphale gave him was sweet, but a little too self-deprecating for the demon. “Tell you what,” he said, determined to do whatever it took to get that look off his angel’s face. “You show me your lovely bottle of wine,” he rolled his head to the side to look at Aziraphale. “And I’ll show you how to lead a Viennese waltz.” He knew he’d succeeded when the angel’s eyes lit up, and the demon grinned back at him with no trace of a sneer as he drove them back home.
Neither of them knew, of course, that that promise of help was going to be put to the test very shortly. But maybe that’s for the best. The world may have been about to start ending, but at least when it did, there would be an angel who could dance and a demon who could care there to save the day.
I got a little hooked on the dancing thing, didn't I? That... might become a thing.
Oh well, that's a problem for future Micky.
Chapter 6: The One Where Aziraphale's Date Is Just Too Human
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.
It's... done. I've never finished a multi-chapter fic before. This is wild.
Anyway, thanks so much to all of you. This was a challenge for me, and it was so much easier knowing there are such wonderful people reading it!
Come say hi on tumblr over here!