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In Mourning Perpetual

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The present day, more or less

It had only been a few months since the world had stubbornly refused to end, and Aziraphale and Crowley were still trying to figure out what exactly that meant for them.

The nice thing about being essentially estranged from their employers—well, there were many nice things about it, actually, but the one that the pair were enjoying at this particular moment was their newfound lack of responsibilities. No blessings that needed to be performed. No temptations that needed to be carried out. No reports to be made.

It was all quite freeing.

This was not their first tipsy night in since then, nor would it be their last. The two of them exchanged stories and cuddles as they slowly worked their way through a vintage Aziraphale had discovered hiding in the closet of his upstairs flat. While they had started out sitting across from each other in the back room, as had been their custom before the apocalypse, eventually they both ended up on the sofa together, not quite on top of each other but steadily moving towards that point.

“Crowley, dear, do you remember Richard?” Aziraphale asked, breaking a lull in their conversation.

Crowley furrowed his brows in confusion. “Gonna have to be more specific there, angel. I’ve met a lot of Richards over the years.”

“You never met him. You told me quite pointedly that he didn’t exist, in fact.”

“I what?” Understanding eluded Crowley for another second or two. “Oh. Surprised you remembered that.”

Aziraphale placed one hand on Crowley’s cheek, then softly kissed him on the other. “I find that memories involving you are rather easy for me to recall.”

Crowley made a strange but fond noise as he leaned into the touch. “Dunno how you can say stuff like that all casual-like.”

“It’s a gift, I suppose. One of us has to be able to communicate properly.” Crowley scoffed but didn’t bother coming up with a retort.

 


 

About 200 years ago, give or take

Back when Aziraphale was still, to an extent, an active agent of the Lord, he had been given an assignment to meet with and “redeem” an earthlier lord whose actions had, according to reports, been rivaling those of Hell’s more effective employees. (Aziraphale had, wisely, chosen not to inquire as to whom those specific agents of Hell were.) He had tried to refuse the mission, or at least delegate it to some other unlucky sob, but all attempts to get out of doing his job had failed, and he thus resigned himself to—temporarily!—abandoning the bookshop to talk salvation with the rebellious noble. With luck, it would all have been a misunderstanding and he could mark it down as a success without having to do any actual work.

When he arrived at Lord Whatshisface’s manor, under the pretense of some business transaction involving horses, Aziraphale found the man he had been assigned to…persuade into goodness…was already hosting a visitor. Specifically, the lord was attempting rather clumsily to court the affections of a tall, slender woman with fire-red hair who was dressed head-to-toe in black, a dark translucent veil covering the top half of her face.

It had been a few decades, and her presentation had changed drastically, but Aziraphale recognized her immediately, and he only barely suppressed his surprise at the sight.

“Oh, sir,” Crowley told the man, “you really are quite amusing. It’s been merely a month since my husband passed—” Aziraphale gasped at hearing this; Crowley startled in Aziraphale’s direction briefly before regaining her composure and returning her attentions to the lord. “Poor, sweet Richard. He was much like you.” She dabbed at her eyes under the veil with a handkerchief. “I thank you for keeping me company, but it seems that our time here must be cut short.” She gestured towards Aziraphale.

The lord reluctantly turned his attentions away from Crowley and towards his new visitor. “Mr Fell, you’re early.”

Aziraphale took out his pocket watch, giving it a quick glance before returning it to its place. “Really, I should be apologizing for my tardiness. Our meeting was supposed to start fifteen minutes ago. But, actually, if you’ll indulge me a further small delay, I have some quick business to attend to with your…companion.”

While Crowley’s eyes weren’t clearly visible through the veil, Aziraphale could still make out her confused expression as she mouthed ‘You do?’

“Ah, of course. Don’t let me keep you.”

“I shall keep it brief.” Aziraphale gestured at Crowley for her to follow him. If he were anyone else, she would have ignored him, but this was Aziraphale, and she was curious to find out what the business he had referred to was.

When they were out of sight, Crowley’s posture loosened, and when they were far enough away that they could speak semi-comfortably without being eavesdropped, she shed her ‘mourning widow’ persona entirely. “Angel, what the heaven is going on here?”

“That’s what I should be asking you! Why didn’t you tell me you had a husband? I would have gotten a gift!”

Crowley sighed and pressed a hand against her temple. “There is no husband, Aziraphale.”

“Well of course not, he’s dead! I can understand that you might not want an angel at your wedding, especially since you married a human, but I still would have appreciated a note—”

Aziraphale. There was no wedding.”

“You eloped?”

“I lied! I’ve been telling people that my husband Richard, who I made up, died last month for five years!”

“Oh. So you didn’t get married.”

“I did not, no.”

“Well, that’s…” Aziraphale was going to say well, that’s good, but he saw no reason for him to be happy that Crowley hadn’t actually gotten married, so he didn’t. “That’s something. So why have you been pretending to be in mourning?”

Crowley gave him a wicked smile. “New widows invite sympathy. People just feel so awful. They’ll forgive you for just about everything and do just about anything you ask of them, because who’s going to disappoint a woman who’s already in the midst of despair? Utterly perfect for temptations.”

“How devious,” Aziraphale replied flatly.

“Thanks, I try. If I’m being completely honest here, though, it’s been getting pretty dull lately. There’s only so many times you can trot out the same story and keep it interesting. And the veil itches my nose sometimes. Utterly maddening.” She stretched out her arms in a way that wasn’t quite human. “Think I’m going to switch things up pretty soon. You’ll have to give me the address of that tailor you go to; my menswear is completely out of style by now.”

“Hm? Do you not still have the suit you wore when I opened the bookshop? It looked—it, ah, fit you well, I think.”

“That was twenty years ago, angel! You may be happy wearing the same clothes until they disintegrate, but I intend to keep up with the times.”

The two of them continued to chat—about clothes, and fashion, and then other things—for quite some time before parting ways.

Aziraphale never got around to that “business meeting.”

Two days later, he received a commendation from Heaven for a job well done. He was confused, but it meant that he could return to the bookshop, so he chose not to question it.

 


 

About 200 years after about 200 years ago

“So why are you bringing up that old story again?” At some point, Crowley actually did end up on top of Aziraphale, lying flat on him with his head on Aziraphale’s chest and his limbs splayed in an implausible arrangement.

“Well—well, I think I have a confession to make.” Aziraphale carded one hand through Crowley’s hair while holding his wine glass in the other.

Crowley hummed softly in response, snuggling his face against the angel’s waistcoat. “Mm?”

“Something always confused me. Nothing you said, dear, don’t fret. But I remember being rather…hm.”

“Rather…?”

“I didn’t like hearing that you’d gotten married without telling me.”

“But I didn’t get married; that’s the point.”

“I know, but for a moment, I thought you had. Or, to put it another way.” Aziraphale realized where he was going with this train of thought, sighed, and took a large gulp of his drink. “I was a bit jealous, I think. A bit upset that it seemed like you’d hidden something like that from me, when I thought we were friends. A bit…” Another drink. “A bit wishing you’d married me instead.”

“Wishing you—oh.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, of course. But. Well.” Aziraphale breathed deeply in and out. His next words came out barely above a whisper, but Crowley heard them as clearly as if he’d been shouting. “There were a lot of things I didn’t realize back then.”

There was a silence. It wasn’t awkward, not exactly, but both of them were considering how to continue this line of conversation very carefully.

Crowley was the first to speak up.

“Do you still…feel that way? Like. Marriage. Me. And you. You and me.”

Aziraphale’s face seemed to glow with happiness. “It holds appeal.”

“Oh…oh, angel. Angel. Aziraphale. That’s.” He swallowed. “That’s something. To think about.” Crowley moved to place his glass on the side table, and finding it just out of reach, simply miracled the glass on top of it instead. “Gotta do it right,” he added softly as he loosely wrapped his arms around Aziraphale’s neck.

After his heart calmed down a bit, Crowley looked up at Aziraphale, an infectious grin on his face. “D’you want to know a secret?”

“A secret? Do tell, dear.”

“I’d wished I’d married you too, back then. You would’ve been a better husband than Richard, certainly.” Crowley gave an over-the-top, melodramatic sigh. “He was never there when I needed him. A right dick, that man.”

“A—oh, Crowley, you fiend!” Aziraphale scolded with no seriousness whatsoever. Crowley laughed loudly, and Aziraphale laughed with him, and the peals of their joy rang through the shop.

“Thanks, I try,” Crowley quipped between giggles.