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Hereditary Enemies

Chapter Text

It was the third time this month Crowley had landed himself in jail. Which was more of an inconvenience than anything else. On one hand, it did serve to make the day more exciting. He got to check in with his acquaintances stationed over at the city prison - both the inmates and the guards watching over them - and it gave him an excuse to visit his favorite little deli across town. To celebrate with a slice of his favorite home-made oreo cheesecake after he made his grand escape.

And he would escape. That was never the issue. Crowley always made it out, one way or another. Sometimes, he felt bad for the guys on duty and would hang around for a few days, just to make them think they’d figured out a way to finally keep him in. Other times, he was far too impatient to get back to his work and would be gone before all the paperwork had even been processed.

On the other hand, the transfer procedures took forever and it wasn’t like they supplied the inmates-to-be with pencil or pad of paper to write down any diabolical schemes they might have while Mrs. What’s Her Face was processing form P-183B. Crowley couldn’t begin to count how many brilliant ideas were wasted while he was stuck waiting for bureaucratic nonsense to sort itself out. He always seemed to have them at the worst times.

Unfortunately for him, Crowley was very familiar with the prison’s entry procedures, having been admitted many times over his thirty-six year long life. First there was the official statement at the police office. Some bogus charge about ‘disturbing the peace’ or ‘endangering public safety’ or something to that effect. It wasn’t his fault people got in the way whenever he wanted to test out his new gadgets or take his beloved Bentley out for a spin. This time, he’d even waited until two in the morning to take her tearing around the city streets and the cops had still pulled him over the second they’d spotted him racing up 5th Avenue.

Granted, he’d also just escaped from this very prison a week and a half earlier. That probably had something to do with the rapid arrest, but in Crowley’s defense, he hadn’t been doing anything worth jail time then either. He wasn’t like all those other criminals - robbing banks or breaking into people’s homes. He’d never caused any property damage or endangered someone’s life. Not really . Yet he was lumped in with all the rest of them. An inconvenience, but one he still had to live with week after week, as the city’s prison system had yet to find a way to keep him in for more than seventy two hours.

After being formerly charged, there was the bus ride over to the prison. Those were usually dull and uneventful, although the music selection was usually decent. At least, until they pulled off the highway and lost signal. Every once in a while, someone would recognize him and ask for an autograph, which Crowley begrudgingly supplied. It wasn’t every day someone got the chance to meet a supervillain, now was it? 

“Right,” A gruff looking employee huffed as Crowley was pushed forward, a bit rougher than was probably necessary. The man obviously hadn’t slept well the night before, made evident by the dark circles under his eyes and the clear patch of stubble he had missed while shaving,  just below his ear. “Here’s your uniform.” He passed it over with another huff, his attempt to stifle the yawn creeping up on him. “Been here enough times you should know where the bathroom is. Change into it, and then Rodgers will escort you to your cell.”

Crowley glanced down at the bright orange jumper resting across his outstretched hands, wrinkling his nose in disgust. “Seriously, Derek?” he asked the man at the front desk, who simply shrugged at him in apology. Another rough push had Crowley stumbling toward the changing room, as he shouted his displeasure over his shoulder. “How many times do I have to ask you guys nicely to change these uniforms?”

Another push. Crowley ignored it. He wasn’t going to fall, no matter how hard they tried. One thing about having superpowers meant his reflexes were a bit higher than the average human’s. “Can’t you work with me on at least getting some color options?” The guard remained silent, although Crowley could see the hint of a smirk on his face. He pushed back his own grin, determined to keep this bit going as long as possible.

“This orange is atrocious!” He stopped walking momentarily, shaking out the garment, as if to prove his point. “Would you look at how horribly it clashes with my hair? You all are making me look like a fool, I’ll have you know. This. This right here is cruel and unusual punishment.”

The guard beside him, Rodgers, rolled his eyes. “Just shut your yap and get it on. We don’t have all day.”

Crowley shrugged. “You’re probably right,” shooting the man a wink before stepping into the nearest stall and closing the curtain behind him, grinning to himself all the while. Unnerving them was always one of his favorite parts of the whole ordeal. He loved to make them think he arrived with a plan in motion. It kept the guards on their toes. Challenged them a bit. Made them think outside the box. He liked to think he was doing the justice system a service. He was helping these guards to improve their skills so they could be better at  keeping people like him where they belonged.

People like him, of course. Not people who were him. Naturally, he’d be out of here soon enough. In fact, he could have been out of here already, had he wanted to. But, if anything, Crowley was a creature of habit, and there were just a few things he wanted to do before finding his way back home.

“Heyyy, look who’s back! It’s El Serpiente,” a voice called from one of the cells as Crowley was lead down the hallway several minutes later. A tall Hispanic man peered out from the nearest cell on his left. “Did you bring us any souvenirs?”

Crowley laughed, raising his shackled hands in front of him, as if to make a point. “Come now, Arturo, you know better than anyone if I had, they would have been confiscated by now.”

“Could have just ‘poofed’ ‘em in here,” another man grumbled from the opposite side of the hall. Crowley turned to see him seated on his bed, leaning forward with his elbows atop his knees. “Isn’t that how your voodoo magic works, Serpent?”

“One,” the man began holding up a finger as Rodgers tugged impatiently at his arm. “It’s The Serpent, not Serpent.” He paused for a brief moment to look the man in the eyes as he passed. “You know this, Malcom. I know you know this because you just heard Arturo say it and I didn’t correct him.” Another finger, “Two, it’s not voodoo - that’s not my specialty, and three , even if it was, that is not how it works. You all should know that by now.”

“I don’t know,” a third voice,this one belonging to long-time inmate Harvey Brooks, teased from just around the corner. “I think we might need to see you bust outta here a few dozen more times to really get the hang of it.”

Laughter chorused all around and Crowley found himself smiling. Maybe the trip here today wasn’t such a bother after all. Sure, for him, a lot could happen in the almost two weeks he was out in the real world, but for these guys? Nothing happened here, apart from the occasional arrival of a handful of new inmates. As far as he knew, watching him escape time after time was the highlight of the week for them.

Maybe he should make it a point to stop by more often.

“Move it along, The Serpent,” Rodgers gruffed, tugging on Crowley’s left arm as they reached the end of the hallway. “You can gab with all your criminal friends during your own time.”

“Uh,” Crowley announced, glancing over his shoulder as they continued to walk past cell after cell containing someone the man knew. “My cell is back that way.” He tried to lift a hand to point behind him, but Rodger’s grip was tight against him, fingers digging into the neon orange fabric covering his lower forearm. 

“Not this time, it’s not,” the man responded, a confident grin spreading across his face. Crowley felt a surge of excitement pass through him, originating from his stomach and spreading outward to his fingers and toes. A new cell meant new challenges! The guards were stepping up their game and he was ready for it.

“What?” the man began to protest, a half-hearted attempt to hide his building glee. Oh! There were so many things he could try. Were they going to stick him in a cell with reinforced doors? Solitary confinement? Some kind of multi-layer structure with guards posted at every door? The anticipation was killing him. “You can’t move my cell. I carved my name on that last one so you guys would always have something to remember me by.”

Rodgers scoffed, subtly rolling his eyes as they passed two other guards doing their rounds. One of them, a younger bloke who had started here not too long ago, looked surprised to see Crowley again so soon. He blinked his wide, blue eyes, shaking his head as if to ward off some kind of hallucination he was sure he was having, before grinning from ear to ear and waving at the supervillain as he approached.

It would have been a difficult identification to miss, even from that distance. With flaming red hair reaching all the way down to his shoulders and striking golden eyes, Crowley was hard to miss.

All for show, of course, but they didn’t need to know that. The tighter a lock he kept on his secret identity, the better. 

“For goodness sake, Milton,” Rodgers barked, shooting a disapproving glance at the young man. “Try to look at least a little bit annoyed.”

“Yes - yes sir!” the boy responded, moving to salute as they walked by. Crowley caught his gaze and winked, grinning from ear to ear as he passed by.

“Swing on by my cell later, and I’ll get you an autograph,” he offered, watching as the young guard’s eye twitched ever so slightly. A nervous tick, he assumed, as a result of the direct interaction immediately after the boy had just been chastised for looking too eager to meet the supervillain. “You can pass it on to your girlfriend.” A pause. “Or boyfriend. Don’t want to make any assumptions, now do I?”

“Yes - I mean no - of course no - “

The conversation was interrupted mid syllable as Rodgers swung Crowley around, pushing him into the nearby concrete wall with enough force to break an ordinary man’s nose. Luckily for him, he was no ordinary man. That didn’t change the fact that it still stung.

He was going to remember this.

“You are not to go near him, Milton, and that is an order ,” Rodgers barked, then took a step closer to Crowley, pressing his knee into the back of Crowley’s left leg. “And you, ” he spat with more vehemence than the interaction required. “You are going into your cell and you are never coming out again.”

Oh, yes. Crowley was definitely going to remember this.

The cell itself was surprisingly very nice. Either there was some rule about wall color in solitary confinement, or the previous occupant had been quite the artist. There was an entire mural painted on every surface of the dome shaped room, except for the two inch thick steel door Crowley had passed through, complete with shrubbery, a rainbow, and several furry critters one might find in a forest.

The technique was juvenile at best, but he had to give it to them. It certainly was more entertaining than looking at a pale, concrete wall all day. He padded to the center of the room, where there was a single chair bolted to the floor and not much else. Crowley assumed that a cot of some sort would be brought in later, probably alongside his dinner and a dozen guards to ensure he stayed put.

Crowley planned to be long gone by then. 

“Now,” Rodgers began, a glint of amusement in his deep brown eyes. The side of his lip curled upward in what Crowley assumed to be his version of a smile, but came off looking like he was constipated instead. “I want you to sit here, by yourself, and think about what you have done. M’kay?”

Putting on his serious face, Crowley sunk down into the chair. It was padded, but not very well. Lumpy in all the wrong places and in need of a wash down. Or a spritz of air freshener. “Any idea when my time-out will be over, dad?”

Murder flashed in the other man’s eyes. His mustache twitched in an attempt to hold it back, gears behind his eyes turning as he fought to come up with something clever to say.

“If things go my way,” Rodgers eventually growled, taking a step back so he was standing in the middle of the doorway, ready to seal it tightly behind him as soon as he removed himself from the room. “Several centuries. At least.”

With one final ‘hiss’ the door closed, sealing itself shut and Crowley along with it. He watched as Rodgers took one last, satisfied look, and then spun around to stalk back down in the direction he came from. Slowly, the man inside the reinforced cell leaned forward, elbows finding their way to his knees as he rested his pointy chin against the very top of his folded hands.

“Oh,” he breathed, amber eyes still staring through the small glass panel they’d left for him, to remind him of the world that lay just beyond his new prison. “I don’t think things will be going your way at all. Not if I have anything to say about it.”


Thirty minutes later, the front doors to the prison parted and Crowley strutted out into the open, not a single guard in sight. Normally he would have hung around a bit longer. It would have made the escape so much sweeter if he had a few days to waste on Rodgers’ ego, but the supervillain had experienced enough of this joint for now. He was in a foul mood and just wanted to go home and sulk for a while. Maybe catch some reruns of The Golden Girls if he was lucky. 

He glanced down at his wrist, only to realize that his watch was no longer there. Of course. Crowley shook his head in amusement. He was always forced to give up his personal possessions before his admittance to prison. That’s why he never wore anything worth much whenever he went out as The Serpent. The costumes were cheap throw-aways, the eye-ware a dime a dozen. If he knew the city’s police department, and Crowley was confident enough to say that he did, there was probably a whole room down in evidence that contained every last one of his confiscated items.

One of these days, he may go back to get them. But that day was not today.

“Come on, Minion,” the man muttered as he reached the end of the pavement and looked up and down each direction of the road. “What is taking them so long?”

A sudden, loud beep sounded right in front of him and the man nearly leapt out of his skin. Not five feet before him, where there was once nothing but dried out grass, something started to appear. It began as a simple crack in reality, perfectly horizontal and about two feet in length. The seconds ticked by and it grew wider until Crowley could see it wasn’t a split in reality at all, but the inside of his Bentley, currently being driven by one very self-assured potted philodendron.

“I should shred you for this,” Crowley grumbled as he reached forward, feeling for the door handle that he knew to be there. Flinging the door open revealed the smooth, leather interior that he loved so much, the scent of it bringing with it a calming sensation to the man’s entire body. “Just toss you right into the disposal. Find myself a new minion who isn’t trying to scare me half to death.”

He side-eyed the plant, watching as their roots crept out from the holes at the base of the clay pot and snaked down to hover above the pedal. Minion’s leaves shook in laughter and Crowley had to hold himself back from shoving them onto the car floor in sheer irritation. For one, it would get dirt all over his most prized possession. It also wouldn’t do to disrupt the driver. He’d learned the hard way that was no way to go about doing things.

“Oh, come now sir,” the plant responded light-heartedly, the sound emanating from a tiny voice box Crowley had attached to the stem, right where it first began to poke itself out from underneath all that dirt. “You told me yourself you wanted to see the improvements on our cloaking device. I figured this would be the best way to test it out.”

Crowley grumbled at this, although he had to hand it to Minion. The device had worked incredibly well. It wasn’t a perfect ‘invisibility’ mechanism, per-se. In certain lighting and at certain angles, the general shape of the car could still be seen. But it would hopefully help out with the next high speed car chase he got into with the police. Especially if said altercation happened at nighttime.

“How do you do it, sir?” Minion asked as they pulled out onto the highway and sped back in the direction of the city. They would likely keep themselves masked for now, in case word got out about his escape and they sent a helicopter or two after him. “I’d say, this is a new record!”

“Please, Minion,” Crowley responded with a wink toward his underling. As silly as it sounded, the genuine praise at his abilities from this sentient plant was doing a lot to boost his morale. “If I told you my secret, you’d go blabbing it to the whole world.”

“I hardly see how that’s possible,” the plant protested in the most petulant tone Crowley had ever heard from them. He chuckled to himself, eyes drifting back to the skyscrapers in the distance. From here, he could just barely make out the top of Host Tower, the not-so-secret HQ for any superhero willing to sign their life away to carrying out “the greater good” every second of their lives. “It’s not like any of them would listen to a plant.”

A laugh burst forth from Crowley’s chest, quickly silenced when he looked down at the time and saw he still had several hours to kill that day. What in the world was he going to do for several more hours? Sit at home and watch television? His mood had lifted quite significantly since the jailbreak and now the thought of sitting on his couch seemed utterly infuriating. He was growing restless just thinking about it.

“We could make a detour, down to the park,” Minion suggested, reaching up to signal the merge, even though no one around could see the blinking light. Always with the rules, this one. “I saw a great big flock of ducks hanging around there earlier that could use a bit of terrorizing.”

Crowley groaned, sinking down into his seat in the most dramatic of fashions.

“What’s the point, Minion?” he asked with a whine. “Today is his day off.”

The him Crowley was referring to was, of course, none other than Principality. The angel-like hero who had been assigned to him from the get-go. Super strong, with broad white wings and the ability to manipulate radiant energy, he was a force to be reckoned with. And for some inexplicable reason, seemed to be the only one who would put up with Crowley’s constant shenanigans. Going so far as to draw out their fights with witty banter and dramatic showmanship, just to pass the time.  

It was almost like he, too, had become bored with this life, as crazy as that sounded, and maybe even enjoyed the hours spent in combat with Crowley.

Ridiculous, he knew, but he couldn’t help but wish he’d found a way to entertain himself in the prison one more day, just so he could see Principality’s face during his triumphant return.

“I suppose,” the philodendron ventured, an air of anticipation in their voice, “if you made enough of a ruckus, The Host would have no choice but to send Principality down to apprehend you. It might mean another trip to prison, if you’re caught, but I have a feeling - “

Crowley sat upright, immediately fixing his eyes downtown where he knew the park to be. “Say no more, Minion. I’m implementing a direct course change. Don’t stop for anything - not even my slice of oreo cheesecake,” he barked, anticipating the next question. Excitement welled up in him as he imagined the glorious afternoon that was yet to be had. There wasn't much that could beat a showdown with his arch rival, especially so soon after another victory at the maximum security prison.

“I’ve got a date...with destiny.”

Chapter Text

Tuesdays were supposed to be his days off. 

It was unreasonable to plan for anyone to work every day of the week, even if that person was considered superhuman. Normal humans, for the most part, got two days off. It was designed to help individuals maintain their work-life balance. Give them time to spend with families and friends, or cultivating new skills, or enjoying old hobbies. 

Superheroes, as far as he knew, had always been looked upon as something greater. They were stronger than the average human. Faster. They had abilities normal humans could only dream about. But they were still human , underneath the uncomfortable spandex and flowing capes. And all humans needed a break, every once in a while.

So when Aziraphale’s Tuesday morning was interrupted by the familiar chime of his watch, the man ignored it. He’d taken the fancy device off the previous night and hadn’t bothered to move it from the edge of his mantle. If there was a crisis in the city and The Host really needed him, they had their ways.

Instead of donning his super suit and rushing headfirst into battle, Aziraphale wandered over to the nearest bookshelf. The afternoon sun shone through his bookshop’s front window, casting rays of light across the old, hardwood floors. There wasn’t a soul about, which was odd for a beautiful day like today, not that Aziraphale was complaining. He rather liked days in his shop when not that many people came around. Not only were strangers leaving his prized possessions alone, but the quiet also gave Aziraphale time to enjoy himself.

The watch chimed again, causing the man to tense. He paused, fingers hovering on the spine of an original copy of “The Picture of Dorian Grey” as he glanced over his shoulder. From across the room, Aziraphale could see the touch screen lighting up with a familiar purple insignia. One that made his stomach drop.

Archangel . Of course he would be the one calling. Deep down, Aziraphale wondered if the man had a life outside of superhero work. No matter the day, if Aziraphale got called into Headquarters, Archangel was there to greet him. Always in costume. Always looking down on him with those disapproving, violet eyes.

If Aziraphale didn’t know any better, he would have thought the leader of The Host didn’t want Aziraphale on his team.

For a moment, the blonde haired man debated picking up. If Archangel was calling, there was a chance Aziraphale was actually needed somewhere. It wasn’t a very big chance, and it wasn’t like the other hero was his boss or anything. Yes, Aziraphale was paid to be a working member of The Host, and yes, Archangel was often the one to dole out tasks, but he wasn’t the one signing everyone’s paychecks at the end of the day.

That was Metatron’s job.

Eventually, the trilling alarm fell away and silence overtook the bookshop again. Aziraphale hesitated, listening for the tone to rise again, but this time, it remained off. The familiar sounds of cars driving past echoed just outside the window, but that calm, rhythmic hum was calming to him. A lack of honking horns and screaming civilians meant there were no supervillains at work - at least, not in the immediate area. It meant people were safe, for the time being, which meant Aziraphale could relax.

The second he gathered his book and retired back to the faded old armchair, his watch rang for the third time. After five seconds of the most ear-shattering noise Aziraphale had ever heard, an even more unsettling noise sounded through the built in speaker.

Principality, if you don’t pick up right this second I swear to all that is holy or otherwise - 

Aziraphale was on his feet in an instant, carefully setting the book down on his side table before rushing over to the fireplace as quick as his legs could carry him. With a fumbling grip, he turned the infernal device, looking for a way to turn that blasted noise off so he could speak.

“Hello?” he asked, heart pounding in his chest as his fingers danced across the edge, pushing button after button whose purpose he had no clue, jumping at every last noise and flashing light until, finally, the noise stopped. “Hello?”

Principality, do you read me?

Aziraphale’s heart leapt in his throat. Archangel did not sound pleased in the slightest. “Yes, yes. Archangel, I’m here.”

Good heavens, what took you so long? The other superhero asked, giving Aziraphale no time to explain. In the time it took you to answer me, someone like Hellfire could have destroyed half a city block.

“So sorry,” Aziraphale mumbled, imagining the fury that must be flashing through those violet eyes. “Couldn’t get this newfangled device to work. You know how I am with technology. I much preferred the days when we had simple walkie-talkies. One button was much easier to keep track of, wouldn’t you say?”

It was an attempt at a joke. One that Archangel did not seem too amused by. A single, harsh sigh sounded from the other end of the line and Aziraphale quickly jumped to something that would at least make him seem useful in his coworker’s eyes.

“What seems to be the problem?”

Your villain has gotten himself out of jail, again !

Aziraphale’s eyes widened. The Serpent had escaped already? Blue eyes flashed down to the watch upon his wrist, rather than the fancy electronic one still dangling from the edges of his fingertips. “That has to be a new record for him.”

The voice on the other line was not nearly as impressed. Try to sound a bit more outraged, would you? We have an image to uphold, and right now, your villain escaping prison in less than a day, just to reappear downtown terrorizing ducks is the opposite of what superheros should stand for. That villain alone is making our pristine organization look like a joke and that is on you Principality. Get him in line or I will fly down there and take care of things myself.

A shudder coursed through Aziraphale’s body. The last thing he wanted was for Archangel to show up on his day off. Especially at a confrontation between him and The Serpent. Despite his crazy antics sometimes, the villain was, in Aziraphale’s humble opinion, practically harmless. He never hurt anyone, the property damage was minimal and the worst of it usually ended up being downed phone lines or creating extra traffic by blocking roadways for an hour or two. A minor inconvenience at best, and hardly someone worth their own superhero tasked with thwarting them every step of the way.

Deep down, Aziraphale wondered if Archangel saw through his facade and was rewarding his lack of enthusiasm for hero work with the menial task of being this villain's babysitter. Something that was ultimately meaningless, in the grand scheme of things.

“Give me five minutes to get ready, and I’ll go deal with him,” Aziraphale sighed, already dreading the tight spandex of his costume. In his personal life, the man preferred clothes that were much more breathable. Button up shirts and loose fitting pants. Sometimes, a patterned bow tie, should he be feeling adventurous. Not some flashy, skin hugging outfit that revealed every last bit of himself and said absolutely nothing about who he truly was.

Make it three, was Archangel’s response before a harsh click sounded and the line went dead. 

Breathing out a sigh of relief, Aziraphale placed the now silent watch back on the mantle. He would put that device on last, right after he changed out of his comfortable tan suit and into that loathsome white and gold thing that Archangel and the other superheroes called a “suit”.


Broad, white wings stroked powerfully up and down, keeping Aziraphale aloft as he soared over the buildings downtown. From his vantage point, the hero could see several civilians glancing up at him as a shadow fell over them. Some pointed in excitement, others stopped what they were doing to wave or shout his name. Aziraphale tried his best to ignore them. He had a job to do, after all. Another superhero like Archangel or Prism might stop and greet their adoring fans, but Aziraphale had never cared for that side of being a hero. He wanted to keep people safe, but that was just him doing the “right thing”. Something that Aziraphale felt didn’t deserve praise or adoration.

Absentmindedly, Aziraphale’s hand rose to the side of his face, just to the right of his eyes. The wind billowed around him, sending his tangle of blonde curls flapping wildly around. Somehow, through all of that, his mask stayed firmly in place. He supposed it was to keep his secret identity safe. All heroes and villains had one. It was who they were before they’d stepped into the public eye. It was the life they returned to when they took off the cape and the mask. The life they never fully got to lead.

Downtown. Archangel had said something about The Serpent being downtown. It was not all that unusual for him to wreak some sort of havoc there. The more people that were around, the more of an audience there would be for their show, and Aziraphale’s villain did like to make a spectacle of himself. He seemed to enjoy showing off his fancy toys and gadgets more than the actual fight.

A small smile appeared on the hero’s face as he remembered, with a hint of fondness, an exchange they’d had just a few months ago. At the crux of spring where Serpent had made himself a freeze ray, claiming he would ‘inflict a never ending winter’ on all the citizens who allied this city their home. Their face-off  had been nothing more than an amplified snowball fight that had ended when The Serpent had transformed three major intersections into an arctic tundra and then escaped into the sewers when Aziraphale had been distracted by some children playing in the fluffy white aftermath.

Maximum inconvenience to all the drivers, without a doubt. But no one had been hurt, and the snow had cleared up in just a few hours, slipping down conveniently located drains into the very sewer system the villain had used to escape. If Aziraphale didn’t know any better, he would have claimed his nemesis picked that location exactly to cause maximum distraction with minimum lasting effects. 

“There you are,” Aziraphale mumbled to himself as his eyes drifted over several more dull grey buildings to a bright and bustling park. The trees were still full with leaves just beginning to turn colors at the very tips. A crowd had gathered at the edge of the greenery, all turned cautiously toward the dark blue pond at the center.

It was the crowd that ultimately gave The Serpent away. Had any other supervillain made a point to come down here today, the people of this city would have run screaming in the other direction. Whether it be from tornadoes of fire or swarms of mosquitoes or something else entirely, the other supervillains would have caused chaos, causing these bystanders to fear for their lives.

Not The Serpent. Why would he focus any of his inventions on the general public, when a paddling of ducks would do the trick?

“Is this really necessary?” Aziraphale asked as he touched down on the edge of the pond, wings still out behind him, but only just. They were only one of his hereditary abilities, the least significant of them, in his opinion. Yes, the wings allowed him to fly, but they were also a vulnerability. Whereas Archangel had wings manifested from pure energy - intangible and invulnerable, Aziraphale’s wings were much closer to that of a simple dove. Beautiful, yes. Even awe-inspiring to some. But easily damaged, should anyone decide to take aim at him.

“You dragged me all the way out here, on my day off, so I could what? Watch you pelt a bunch of ducks with a loaf of bread?”

The Serpent looked up, a wide grin spreading across his face at the sound of Aziraphale’s voice. He was dressed in his usual attire. Black and red suit, knee-high boots and those stupid steampunk-esque goggles that made him look so ridiculous. His hair was loose, hanging down to his shoulders in bright red waves almost the same shade as the serpentine markings on his costume, reflecting the dimming sunlight like he was aflame.

“Angel!” he greeted, like they were old friends, drawing surprised murmurs from those nearby who had never seen them interact before. Aziraphale rolled his eyes at the nickname. It was something the man had called him during their very first interaction all those years ago, when he hadn’t known what to call Aziraphale. The Serpent had taken one look at those wings and that was it. No matter how many times Aziraphale corrected him, there was no changing things. The name had stuck.

“I’m surprised to see you here,” he announced, loudly, so everyone in the vicinity could hear. Aziraphale huffed a deep sigh, his blue eyes wandering across the dark waters, taking in the figure currently standing in the middle of them, balancing himself atop some metallic structure no larger than a skateboard that likely shot rays of ice or transformed into a hover board, if he knew his enemy well. Which he did. Because they’d been here dozens of times before. “I thought today was your day off.”

Reflexively, Aziraphale’s fist clenched at his side. “It is,” he growled, eyeing the contraption in the other man’s hand. It looked like a plain sort of gun. More of a child’s play toy than anything else. The whole thing appeared to be made of aluminum piping, not dissimilar to those marshmallow guns he used to play with as a child. Except for the giant funnel at the top end, of course, that The Serpent was now stuffing a giant loaf of bread in to reload.

“What is the point of this?” he argued, walking along the shore, keeping an even distance as his nemesis took aim and fired. The machine started whirring, spooking several of the ducks nearby enough to send them rushing into the air, only to return to the surface of the pond moments later, like dogs salivating at the chime of a bell.

“It’s fun!” The Serpent laughed, watching as bits of bread came rocketing out the other end, pelting several ducks in the head while it missed others by several inches. It was incredible how they managed to all stick around, choosing to endure the brunt of the harassment for the free scraps of food left floating on the surface below them. “Spooked a few of them at first, but it’s been an hour now and they’ve pretty much all come back.”

Aziraphale snorted. How utterly ridiculous. “You seem quite pleased for someone who is utterly failing at their ridiculous, self-imposed task.”

At this, the other man stopped firing, looking up with surprise etched all over his face. Aziraphale couldn’t see his eyes behind the dark lenses, but the character defining grin had vanished, to be replaced with an intense frown. “What do you mean?” The Serpent asked, his head cocked just so. “The bread crumbs are hitting the ducks, just like I planned. Did you not see the shot I just made?”

Frustration welled up inside Aziraphale. He’d left the comfort of his home, donned this ridiculous outfit, just to fly all the way over here to stop some bored, middle-aged adult from playing with his toys.

“As fun as this is, Serpent,” Aziraphale sighed, lowering his wings so they were almost completely hidden from the other man’s view. He was still standing there, contraption perched on his shoulder, balancing so easily on the floating device. In a rare feeling for him, the hero wished he could march across that water and punch the smug look right off the other man’s face. Usually, when push came to shove, Aziraphale preferred to solve things without harming others.

That being said, this was his bloody day off and nemesis or not, The Serpent should respect that. He had a life outside of being a superhero. The others could do what they wanted, but Aziraphale was not on duty every second of every day. He had standards.

“I have better things to be doing then stand around babysitting you.” It was harsh. He knew it sounded harsh the moment the words left his lips, but Aziraphale simply didn’t care anymore. He wanted to go home and read his book and drink his hot cocoa before what was sure to be a fun filled day of meetings at Host Tower in the morning.

“So as long as you can manage to get your feet back on dry land,” he continued, wings snapping out as if to leave “without drowning yourself or any ducks in the process, I’ll be going now.”

“Fine.”

The word bit back sharp and cruel and it made Aziraphale’s insides twist with a guilt he knew he should not feel. The Serpent was the enemy. He was a villain. Aziraphale shouldn’t feel pity for him, let alone guilty for saying something that might be considered mean.

“Maybe I should have just stayed in prison,” the man sulked, tossing his bread gun over his shoulder and away from any of the ducks still eating the remnants of his earlier assault. 

Aziraphale’s eyes narrowed beneath his mask. “That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?”

He turned to go, but stopped suddenly when he heard a soft whirring sound approaching at a rapid pace. The superhero spun on his feet, shoulders tensing as he readied himself for battle. A battle that, expectedly, never came.

The Serpent glared at him from behind his goggles as he maneuvered the hover board to the shore nearby, kicking it several feet as his boots made contact with the grass before him.

“They’re bogus charges, you know,” the other man grumbled, face cast towards the ground, hands finding their way into pockets that had no right to exist. How The Serpent managed to get functional pockets into a costume that was that tight against his body was beyond Aziraphale. And completely besides the point.

“You were caught going 90 miles an hour,” the hero informed his opposite, as if the villain didn’t already know this. What was this, anyway? Some half-hearted attempt to distract him? Were there other villains around that he should be seeking out? “In the most congested part of downtown. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.”

“At two in the morning!” The Serpent protested, arms splaying out beside him in exasperation. “With no one else around.”

Aziraphale stared at the man, watching as a small beam of light broke through the canopy above, tracing its way across his well defined torso as he shifted several steps to the side. “Obviously there was someone there,” the hero pointed out, entirely fed up with all of this. “Or you wouldn’t have been caught.”

The villain fell silent for a moment, branches of the trees above reflecting off the black glass of his gold rimmed goggles. Aziraphale still couldn’t see his eyes, but they had been dancing this dance long enough for him to pick up on certain tells. The quirk of an eyebrow, the quiver of a jaw.

This man wasn’t angry or irritated that Aziraphale wouldn’t take the bait today. He was...disappointed. 

Somehow, someway, Aziraphale had let him down.

“Right.” The words forced themselves through gritted teeth. “Well, just so you know, Bealz and some of the others are planning to rob that bank on the corner of Third and Industry on Friday. The diversion is set to start around lunchtime.” He paused, tilting his chin forward just enough so the glare blinked out of sight and the briefest, dulled image of his striking serpentine eyes could be seen.

“In case you and your hero buddies wanted to do anything to save the day .”

Aziraphale froze as the words slowly sunk in. He watched as The Serpent began to walk away, both the gun and the hover board completely forgotten.

Why would you tell me that?” The words erupted from his mouth before Aziraphale could rein them in. “You know that I have to take this report to HQ. That is an entire day of paperwork and research and field work you’ve just given me, just on the off-chance that you’re telling the truth.” He couldn’t believe this. The Serpent was doing this to spite him, Aziraphale was sure of it. But even if he was certain the man was lying, protocol was protocol, and Archangel would make him follow it. “Why can’t you let me have a break, for once?”

“A break?” the man shot back. They were drawing attention, more so than when they started. At the edge of his hearing, Aziraphale detected the confused murmurings of civilians who had grown used to full on fistfights when heroes and villains interacted, not petty shouting matches you might stumble across with close friends. “You can have a break anytime you like, Angel. All you have to do is take one.”

Aziraphale scoffed. No wonder he’d found himself among the villains in their community. Just because he didn’t hurt anyone outright didn’t mean The Serpent was a “good” person. “And disobey the rules? I think not.”

If he had powers like Hellfire or Beelzebub, Aziraphale might have been in for a significant fight. The way his nemesis’ body language changed so abruptly was a clear sign how upset he was, but there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t conjure a raging fire from thin air or summon a legion of arthropods to heed his beck and call. As far as Aziraphale and the rest of Headquarters was aware, The Serpent was a minor villain who had only climbed to the top of the rankings due to sheer determination and persistence. His only superpower was the ability to make gadgets of inconvenience and break himself out of prison.

“You want a break?” the thinner man practically screamed at him as he faced off toe to toe against Aziraphale. They were close now - close enough that Aziraphale could see the individual freckles that dotted his cheeks. “I’ll give you a bloody break.”

Was that a threat? This man hardly seemed like he was in a position to be making any that might matter. For one, Aziraphale could always fly away if things got too intense. If he had to, he could resort to his other power, but blasts of radiant energy had a tendency to do more damage than good, based on prior experience.

“Wait!” Aziraphale called after him as the man spun around and headed towards the nearest street, scattering the crowd as he went. “Where are you going?”

The Serpent lifted a hand, waving Aziraphale off like a vexing fly buzzing around his ear. “The bloody hell away from you! That’s where.”

Open-mouthed and slack-jawed, Aziraphale watched with wide blue eyes as the villain crossed the street in front of them and stalked out of sight.

Chapter Text

“Fate is a funny thing,” Crowley murmured, his chin resting gently on his arms that were resting on top of his desk in the basement of his house. It was a duplex on the west side of the city, right where the edge of downtown turned into a flourishing suburbia. A quaint little place that offered the perfect front for a villain and his secret lair, buried deep underground. 

“I got superpowers just like the rest of them,” the villain mused, his amber eyes remaining fixed on a small, bird-like toy perched a few inches in front of his nose. Yellow arms clutched the edge of a clear, plastic glass, the body of the creature tilting back and forth in a rhythmic motion. Dip down, drink, lift back up. Repeat. Over and over and over again. Hypnotic. Lulling Crowley into deeper, more melancholy thoughts than he was used to.

“What makes the difference, between a Hero and a Villain?” he asked quietly. The fluorescent light above his head flickered for a moment, plunging this corner of the room into a millisecond of darkness. He’d installed them himself when he’d bought the place several years back. There were no windows down here, and as this was his lair, the villain spent many hours tinkering away on one new device or another. He often forgot to take breaks and hardly saw the light of day. The lights helped his overall mood and concentration, increasing his productivity more than anything else he had tried thus far.

“According to the scientists,” the man continued, eyes drifting back and forth with the motion of the bird, “we’re all built the same way. Genetically speaking, you know. All have that same deformity that makes us freaks of nature once we hit puberty.”

He snorted, air rushing out of his nostrils with a dramatic flare. At the other end of the rather large, concrete room, he could hear the soft sounds of Minion’s radio, playing some tune he didn’t recognize. “More so than the rest of our peers,” Crowley amended as the bird fell back down, its beak dipping gently into the empty cup.

“I tried to be a hero once,” the man admitted softly, eyes leaving their target for a brief moment to ensure Minion wasn’t close enough to hear. “Didn’t quite pan out.”

“I suppose even fate has its favorites.”

The bird said nothing, slowly lifting its head to stare off at the nearest wall, several feet away. It looked ridiculous, with its little black top hat and bow tie. Who even wore bow ties these days? Where did it think it was going, some fancy dinner party? The opera?

“You and I,” he sighed, rotating his head so his cheek smooshed upward, contacts shifting slightly out of place. He’d removed the rest of his costume upon returning home, but kept the serpentine contacts in. A force of habit, more than anything else. “We are the same, aren’t we? Always searching for something. Always thirsty , but never satisfied.”

The bird responded by lowering itself once again face first into the bowl, the liquid that had pooled in the spherical head now rising back toward the base.

“I understand you, little, well-dressed bird.” Reaching out, he tapped the very edge of the bird’s beak in solidarity. “Purposeless. Emptiness. It’s a vacuum, isn’t it?” Another sigh. “What is your vacuum like, little bird?”

Before Crowley had time to think up what clever response the bird might offer him, he heard the unmistakable whirring sound of Minion coming around the corner. The music swelled in intensity that by the time the potted plant and his modified Segway came into view, the villain could no longer think straight.

“I’M GOING OFF THE RAILS ON A CRAZY TRAIN, sir!” the voice box sang, almost in sync with the background track emanating from the boom box resting right above the device’s wheels. Minion, themself, was hovering nearly three feet above it, on a small platform Crowley had attached to the handle to allow easy access to the controls. Just because Minion could extend their roots to reach almost anything in sight, didn’t mean they should have to all the time.

“Not now, Minion,” Crowley huffed, sitting back up with his back resting against the black and red gaming chair that served as his main workshop seat. “Can’t you see I’m in a heated, existential discussion with this dead-eyed, plastic desk toy?”

He shifted around, pushing away from the desk and the toy that could provide him no answers, using his feet to spin himself in circles until he finally came to a rest facing the wall that was behind him. Up against it, he saw his rather large computer station, fit with several monitors glowing a soft blue. It had been a few weeks since he’d used it other than as a surveillance device around his lair. 

“Is...is something wrong, sir?” Minion asked, a certain hesitancy to his voice. As if they were afraid that by asking the question, they might upset Crowley more.

The villain sighed, feeling a bit guilty for ruining Minion’s fun. “I’m just so tired, Minion,” he admitted, slumping down in his chair even further as his bare feet marched across the cold, concrete floor, turning him back around to face the concerned plant. The Segway was parked a few feet in front of his desk, Minion’s leaves drooping slightly more than they usually did. “The constant jailbreaks and shenanigans and now Principality won’t even face off with me. What’s the point of it anymore?”

He paused, bringing his hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose, elbow once more resting on the cherry surface. 

“What would you do, instead?”

The question caught Crowley off guard, bringing him into a full and upright position as a frown made its way onto his face as he contemplated his answer. What would he do, if he wasn’t a supervillain? Most normal civilians had a job they went to on a daily basis. When he’d been younger, before all this business with supernatural powers had come along, what had he wanted to be? It had been so long ago - nearly twenty years by now - he’d almost forgotten.

“I always wanted to work in a garden,” he murmured, a soft smile creeping onto his face.

“A garden?” Minion asked, clearly not expecting the response to be so...ordinary.

Crowley nodded his head. It made sense, of course. Back when he was barely old enough to be considered an adult - when he’d been rejected by The Host and shoved to the side, what had been the first thing he’d done? He’d tried to cultivate an army from the vegetation in his home. It had backfired, of course, withering almost everything in sight, except a single, small philodendron who had somehow become a sentient being through the whole process.

And thus, their glorious partnership had been born.

“My mom used to take me to the botanical gardens all the time,” he answered, mind already beginning to drift off in a memory. “I loved how every time I came back, there was always something different. They had rearranged the flowers to make a new design by the welcome building or around the holidays put up a whole new light display. And no matter what the season, the Conservatory always had something in bloom.”

“Do you…” Minion ventured, a hint of disappointment evident in the voice emanating from their voice box. Out of all Crowley’s inventions, he might be the most proud of that little device right there. It had taken months of research and experimentation before he’d come up with something that could translate Minion’s subtle movements into words at all. The first success had been a huge victory for the both of them, but Crowley hadn’t stopped there. He didn’t want a minion that sounded like some generic robot. He wanted one that sounded real. Because Minion was real. 

“Do you want to go work there now?”

Crowley considered the idea for a moment, picturing what his life would look like were he to give up the supervillain shtick completely. After a few seconds, he shook his head with renewed vigor and Minion’s leaves perked up in relief.

“Can’t imagine me working for anyone but myself these days,” he commented, rising to his feet as he headed for the opposite side of the room. In addition to the computer, desk set, and random parts and projects strewn about, Crowley’s lair was filled to the brim with lush vegetation. None but Minion were able to move or communicate. He didn’t need a legion of underlings, not with his sorry levels of ambition. That didn’t mean Crowley didn’t like to look at them all throughout the day, or that tending to them didn’t help focus his mind whenever he had a problem to solve.

Before he could say anything else, the phone attached to his belt began to buzz. Not the sort of buzzing like you would expect from any mobile device set to vibrate, but the literal sound of ten thousand wasps headed straight for you. It was a sound that would strike terror into any normal person’s heart, but for Crowley, the sound only brought a sense of annoyance and a hint of dread.

He reached down for the device on his waist and came up empty. Glancing down, the villain remembered that he was no longer in his costume. He’d replaced that with his usual tight black jeans and v-neck shirt as soon as he’d walked in the door. Long gone were the boots and the goggles and even the rather fancy wig he adhered to his scalp whenever he went out. Short coppery locks replaced the flaming red ones, and were he to remove the serpentine contacts, anyone who happened across him would be met with a normal looking citizen.

The one and only Anthony Crowley.

Where had he put that stupid belt anyway? Most of the time, it was used as an aesthetic piece over something with utility. Although, if needed, it could house some of his smaller devices. His super-string launcher or tiny flash grenades the size of marbles. Even without the gadgets in tow, that belt was where he kept the mobile device used especially for villain duty. The one that was currently about to make his ears fall off in agony.

Crowley scrambled for the device, all previous thoughts of vegetation forgotten. He dug the device out of the pocket, ripping the snap in the process. Gritting his teeth in agitation, the man tapped on the small green phone icon, nearly jumping out of his skin when a shrill voice forced itself through, echoing across the entire basement.

What the hell are you playing at?

Beelzebub. Leader of a gang of villains Crowley had somehow found himself a part of. It wasn’t that Beelzebub was actually his boss. Sure, some of the other villains followed them around, heeding their beck and call. Villains like Hellfire or Chameleon who needed a bit of direction to keep from setting the entire world on fire. Crowley preferred to work alone whenever he could. He had no interest in kidnappings or robbery or property damage of any kind. There wasn’t really anything he wanted that would prompt him to do those things, so when Beelzebub and the others got going on some scheme, Crowley found the first opportunity to quietly bow out.

“You’re going to have to be a bit more specific there, Bealz,” the villain teased, collapsing back into his chair, the force of the motion spinning him around in several rapid circles. “I tend to play a lot these days, if you hadn’t noticed.”

Oh, I noticed, the voice on the other line snapped. Crowley could just imagine the shorter supervillain glaring at them through the other line, their classic garnet goggles reflecting whatever light was nearby. You and your boyfriend were all over the evening news tonight.

Crowley’s grin faltered. “He’s not my boyfriend,” the villain grumbled, mind flashing back to earlier that evening in the park with that stupid superhero and his stupid costume and his stupid, dumb face.  “I can’t believe you’d even suggest I’d stoop that low.”

Dating a superhero? It was out of the question. Not only were they all superficial, self-righteous assholes, but he imagined they hardly had the time for meaningful relationships in their lives. Now that he thought of it, Crowley could not think of a single one of them taking a break for more than a day. And even then, as evident with Principality earlier today, they were often called in to “save the day” even when they weren’t working.

A bunch of uptight, work-a-holic, self-centered, egotistical, power hungry individuals who were only in the game for their own gain. Even Principality, who was normally decent enough to entertain the idea of fun every once in a while had shown his true colors today.

Losers, all of them. Crowley was glad he’d been rejected from The Host. He was glad he didn’t have to spend day in and day out dealing with a bunch of heros. Never, in his right mind, would he ever entertain the idea of growing romantically attached to one of them if given the chance.

Besides, which one of them, in their right mind, would ever think of him, a villain,  like that?

What were you thinking, telling him about our plan like that? Out in the open?

Crowley scoffed. Was that really what had their knickers all in a twist? “You are the one who said you wanted me to throw them off the scent and create a distraction!”

Not by telling them we’re going to rob the bank we are planning on robbing when we are planning on robbing it!

The villain blinked, flabbergasted by the outrage. Wasn’t this what they’d agreed to? Crowley remembered specifically asking if Beelzebub and the others cared what tactic he used and to his knowledge, they had not. “The bank isn’t even your primary target!” he protested. “Besides, when I asked you how you wanted this done, you said, and I quote ‘whatever fucking way gets the job done’.”

He paused, hearing the frustrated breathing on the other line. Sighing, Crowley leaned forward, placing his hand on his forehead, phone tucked up against his ear. “Look. I told them the time and location, but if you saw me on the news, you know that Principality didn’t believe me. That means they will have heroes in that bank twenty-four seven for the next two weeks at least. More heroes on patrol means less at Host Tower. Is that not what you wanted?”

Silence greeted him and Crowley smirked. He could practically hear the cogs turning in Beelzebub’s head as they tried to figure out a way to put a negative spin on the situation, placing any future blame on Crowley.

Your plan better work, Serpent, they finally announced in a tone Crowley very much didn’t like. He wasn’t a part of this thing they were planning. In fact, Crowley wanted nothing to do with it, but he owed Beelzebub a favor and as one of the only supervillains who could get close to a hero without immediately being blasted into outer space, he’d volunteered to run point on the task.

Because you are going to be the one breaking into Host Tower.

Apparently, that had been a mistake.

“Excuse me?” Crowley asked, eyes flying wide. “I never agreed to that. I did you a favor, and this is how you thank me? By sending me into the lion’s den?”

A laugh of amusement echoed in his ear. Why so worried? You managed to find your way out of prison easily enough. This should be easy for you.

It was a jab. Crowley recognized it instantly. Although they were mostly calling for a separate reason, Beelzebub never wasted a chance to try and tease Crowley’s secret out of him. Always looking for a way to discover the true nature of his power. They couldn’t just leave it at “superior intellect’. Couldn’t let him just be a tinker - a villain who liked to build machines. There was an air of mystery to The Serpent. Something that couldn’t quite be explained away by flashy technology. Most people chose not to dwell on it too long.

Beelzebub was not one of those people.

“Sorry, Bealz,” Crowley responded, using that nickname he knew they hated. It was only fair. Crowley’s secret was just that. A secret. Only one other person knew the true nature of his power, and with any luck, he was going to keep it that way. “Friday doesn’t work for me. I’m going on vacation. But I wish you all the best and I hope you have a great time with your little heist!”

Vacation? You can’t go on vacation! You self-centered, son of a - “

The line went dead with the tap of his thumb. Without missing a beat, Crowley switched the phone off so he wouldn’t be disturbed. The nerve of that villain, shoving the most dangerous task off on him just because he’d managed to break out of jail. Lots of villains could break out of prison. That’s half of what made them the bad guys. If they were easy to contain, they wouldn’t make very good villains, would they?

“What now, sir?” Minion asked in a tone that very clearly said they had overheard most, if not all, of that conversation. Crowley didn’t care anymore. He was tired. He needed a break from it all. Some time away from all this villany and ‘do-badding’. Some space to clear his head. Figure out what he really wanted. 

“Apparently, I’m on vacation,” Crowley announced, a certain sense of relief beginning to overtake him. Vacation. He could do that, couldn’t he? Crowley wasn’t like those stuffy-headed superheroes. Always following protocol. He could take time off if he wanted to. In fact, the general public would be happy if he did.

Not that he cared.

“And what are you going to do with that vacation, sir?” 

Crowley took a moment to look around the room, eyes taking in the general mess of things. It was chaos, but an organized one, despite how to an outsider it may look like some kind of jungle slowly beginning to overtake modern world technology.

Gently, he took a few steps forward, walking over to the nearest vine. Long fingers stretched out to brush up against one of the leaves, looking it over for any spots or signs of wilt. What did he want to do? If Crowley could do anything, go anywhere, what would he choose?

The idea came to him so suddenly he nearly gasped out loud. The gentle whirring of Minion’s Segway sounded from behind him as the plant rolled up next to him, his leaves tilted gently upward as if he was patiently waiting to hear what the supervillain might say.

It was perfect. Exactly the kind of distraction he needed without pulling him away from the city. Despite not having any family around, Crowley was a homebody. He liked his house. He liked the familiarity of his city. Going anywhere else would only make him more stressed and uncomfortable than he already was. What he needed was something relaxing. Something to distract himself during the day but would still allow him to return each night.

Something he loved. Something that made him happy. Something that he could do day in and day out, as long as he saw fit.

“I’m going to open a plant shop.”

Chapter Text

“What are you still doing up here?”

Aziraphale looked up in surprise to find Archangel standing in the doorway of the library. He was dressed in his usual attire - skin tight purple and grey suit with the bright white insignia planted on his well-defined chest. It was a unique symbol depicting six broad wings stretched from the base of his neck all the way down to his naval. A call back to the religious depiction of his namesake. Behind him, a glorious cape billowed back and forth, blowing elegantly in the non-existent wind. An effect of his powers, no doubt.

“P-pardon?” Aziraphale asked, looking up from the collection of maps and blueprints he’d somehow managed to sprawl halfway across the table. The man blinked several times, wondering just what Archangel could be referring to. Their meeting to discuss tomorrow’s plan wasn’t until later that afternoon. “We aren’t meeting with the rest of The Host for another half hour at least.”

The other superhero scoffed, rolling his violet eyes, a vibrant contrast to the dark grey mask secured firmly to the top half of his face. Cloak still billowing behind him, he turned to leave, obviously having far more important things to be doing than talking to Aziraphale.

“There’s a kid in the lobby here for an interview,” he informed as his calf-high boots began to click down the hall, already stealing him from Aziraphale’s sight. “I need you to take care of it.”

Blue eyes widened and Aziraphale found himself bolting out of his chair and stumbling toward the doorway. “An interview?” he called, heart hammering away in his chest. Surely, Archangel couldn’t be serious. He made it to the hall just as the superhero was about to turn the corner. “Are you sure you don’t want to be there for it? I’ve only just been made aware - “

“Can’t talk now, Principality,” the other hero interrupted. “Some of us are actually trying to prevent a bank heist tomorrow, or did you forget?”

He paused, seemingly noticing how Aziraphale’s face fell at that moment. Were he a few paces closer, Aziraphale imagined the other man would have patted his shoulder in that false-comforting way he always did. “I’m sure someone like you can handle this on your own. Feel free to join us in the conference room whenever you finish.”

With that, he was gone, leaving a very confused Aziraphale in his wake. Why would Archangel have scheduled an interview for this afternoon when he knew The Host would be meeting to go over tomorrow’s plan? It was only logical to conclude that one of them would have to miss the meeting. Or if not all of it, at least a portion. Did he want Aziraphale to miss out, or had this potential new recruit shown up out of the blue with no opportunity for him to prepare?

There was only one way to find out. As quickly as he could, Aziraphale tidied up the papers he’d left in a jumble and made his way to the elevators down the hall. Why an organization of barely two dozen superheros needed a skyscraper with fifty stories to serve as its headquarters, he would never know. Taking the stairs was out of the picture, as he was currently thirty-seven floors up. He could always find an open window and fly his way down to the ground floor. It was what Archangel would have done, even though his flight ability was much more restricted. Perhaps that is why Aziraphale chose to take the elevators instead. He was already a superhero. The last thing he needed was more public attention by whipping out his wings for no reason.

“Right,” Aziraphale muttered to himself as the elevator doors closed in front of him. “It’s just an interview. You can do this.” He had no idea what he was doing. When was the last time they’d had one? It had been over a year ago, hadn’t it? The city’s population was large, that much was true, but heroes and villains were still few and far between. Last he’d checked, there had been fewer than fifty altogether. It wasn’t like there was a new teenager showing up at their doorstep every other day, asking to be a part of the team. 

Who was this new, potential hero, anyway? Archangel had given him absolutely nothing to go on. Should he be expecting to meet with a boy? Or a girl? How old were they? Should he take them up to one of the gymnasiums to test them, or would that interaction be best served outside? 

Aziraphale barely remembered his own interview. Seventeen years was plenty of time to forget all the details. Even a few days after the event, the whole experience had felt like a blur. Aziraphale remembered being nervous. How could he not be, when bringing himself forward to face judgement from some of the most powerful people in the city? It had only been Archangel, Prism, and Myosotis back then, when The Host had just been stood up, but even that had been enough to cause a significant lack of sleep before his big day.

An interview with The Host was a chance to prove oneself to the heroes of this city. It was a chance to try and become part of the organization, a part of the team. Despite its many bureaucratic faults, The Host was as strong a support system one could find, in this crazy world of superhuman strength and skills. Their constant presence and extensive knowledge had been what had drawn Aziraphale to them all those years ago, when he’d been barely seventeen and struggling to control these newfound abilities. It was what continued to draw in the new generation of superheroes. A sense of family and stability. A sense of purpose.

The elevator doors opened and Aziraphale stepped out, reaching a hand up momentarily to ensure his mask was still in place. It wasn’t that he was fearful of someone discovering who he was. In his civilian life, Aziraphale tended to keep to himself. He had acquaintances - neighbors he would say good morning to, people in his weekly book club at the library. The chances that any of them would recognize him here were slim at best. Still, it was a habit he had picked up in his early years as an official superhero. He wasn’t about to quit now.

Three steps into the lobby atrium and Aziraphale found himself quickly coming to a stop. There were a few people milling about. A secretary, Caroline, sitting behind the front desk. An older gentleman in a suit and tie reading the morning’s newspaper. Neither one of these were unusual or out of place. What was unusual was the child sitting by the glass entryway. He was sitting in one of the forest green armchairs, feet resting on the edge so his knees practically obscured his face. A stack of magazines sat perched precariously on top of them, teetering back and forth with every slight movement as he shifted around to put the next one in its place.

Was this the ‘kid’ Archangel had been referring to? Surely it had to be someone else. This boy looked to be no older than ten or eleven. He was far too young to be exhibiting superpowers. There had to be some kind of mistake. Something he’d missed.

Quietly, so as not to startle the boy, Azirpahale cleared his throat and took a step forward. Hazel eyes darted up to meet his gaze, then widened in awe as the child recognized who he was. Magazines tumbled to the floor, sliding several feet in all directions as the boy leapt to his feet, a wide grin already spreading across his face like a wildfire.

“You’re Principality!” the child gushed, frozen in place like some voice in his head was cautioning him against coming too close. “I have your action figure in my room! I’ve read all your comics too! You’re, like, my second favorite superhero!”

Before Aziraphale had a chance to respond, the child was spinning around, dropping to his knees as he reached an arm underneath the seat, fishing for his bag. “I’ve got a second edition of The Host Issue 17 where you make your first appearance. Would you mind signing it for me? And my action figure? Archangel signed his last year at the superhero convention downtown, but I don’t remember seeing you there.”

He extracted himself from underneath the furniture, bright red backpack in one hand, comic in the other. Aziraphale sighed, glancing around the room for some sign that this wasn’t the individual he was supposed to be meeting. Although, it would make sense. If Archangel had gotten a report on him and seen their prospective hero was a boy who still needed babysitting, it was no wonder he was so eager to pawn the child off on Aziraphale.

“Look, dear boy,” the superhero began, blue eyes drifting back down to the comic in the boy’s outstretched hand. At least it looked like it had been read. He couldn’t begin to count how many ‘fans’ he’d interacted with over the past fifteen years that hadn’t even opened the things they wanted him to sign. Apparently, the collectible figurines and comics and all other assortment of merchandise was worth more in its original packaging. Aziraphale had never fully understood that concept. What was the point of buying a comic if you weren’t going to read it? Or a t-shirt if you weren’t going to wear it?

“I would love to take the time to sign things for you, but I’m afraid I’m on a tight schedule.” He glanced up at the clock behind him. Just twenty - three minutes until the meeting was supposed to start. He’d be hard pressed to make it on time, but perhaps, if he could keep things moving, he wouldn’t miss the entire thing. “Caroline, I was told there was someone here for an interview?”

“Yes, sir,” the young woman replied, reaching up to tuck a strand of her curly black hair behind her ear. There was the sound of shuffling paper as Caroline withdrew a thin black folder from a stack of documents on her desk, handing it to Aziraphale, who immediately took it. “She went to the restroom not too long ago. I’d expect her back any minute.”

Aziraphale nodded in understanding, a sense of relief flooding through him. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the boy. He was certainly enthusiastic enough, but hero work was not meant for children. Knowing that their potential new recruit was of an appropriate age made him feel much better about the whole situation.

Sure enough, a girl of about sixteen or seventeen was making her way over to them. She was on the shorter side, with dirty blonde hair fastened into two braids that reached down past her shoulder blades. The girl was dressed in comfortable clothes - a loose fitting tank and black leggings reaching down to her calves. An outfit that he would expect to be worn to the gym or a yoga or pilates class. Wearing it to an interview at The Host suggested that this small-framed girl might be a heavy-hitter like himself or Archangel.

“Adam!” the girl scolded as she drew closer. “What did I tell you to do? You were supposed to sit here and not cause trouble.” She spread her arms out wide, gesturing to the sea of magazines at his feet. “Just look at this mess!”

The younger boy scowled. “I was bored . And you were in that bathroom for an eternity . I wasn’t bothering anyone. I didn’t even say anything until Principality showed up.”

“Just clean it up.” Sighing, the teenage girl turned to Aziraphale. “I am so sorry, Mr. Principality, sir. I’m aware I should have come on my own, but my mom got called in for an emergency shift and left me in charge of Adam. I couldn’t very well leave him at home, you see, and - “

Aziraphale held up a hand, cutting her off mid sentence. “That’s quite alright.” He smiled and saw the relief flooding the girl’s deep brown eyes. “Your willingness to look out for your little brother is admirable. A true hero quality, in my book.”

He shot the girl a wink and she beamed at him. “Shall we get this interview started?” A shuffle sounded behind her as Adam placed all the magazines back in a slightly misshapen pile on the glass table beside his chair and grabbed his backpack, slinging it over his shoulder, eyes wide with excitement. 

Aziraphale waved the two onward, leading them down the hall to the elevators. They passed no one else on their way, as was to be expected. The other heroes were likely on their way to the conference room on the 23rd floor, and any staff members that worked in the building knew to keep out of his way. A superhero’s interview was a sensitive matter - only performed by other heroes to protect the individual’s identity and capabilities until they were deemed worthy to enter The Host’s ranks.

“It’s really wonderful to meet you, sir,” the girl began, not quite looking him in the eyes as they rode the elevator up, each floor passing by them in a blink. “You’ve done so much for this city - I only hope I have a career here as illustrious as yours.”

A soft smile appeared on Aziraphale’s face as he studied their reflections in the metallic door. He was greeted with compliments and praise nearly everywhere he went, but it was different with her. He could sense that this girl was being genuine - a nice change from the daily applause and cheers from a crowd that was more interested in seeing him topple a building in the name of justice than save a life.

“No need to be so formal, my dear,” Aziraphale tried to reassure her, remembering how nervous he’d been in this very position a decade and a half ago. Back then, the building hadn’t been quite so tall - the heroes not quite so decorated. Back then, they had seemed almost human, not these demi-gods that patrolled the city night and day. He couldn’t imagine how intimidating it would be to march into this tower reaching up toward the heavens, claiming that there was a place meant for you. 

Maybe it was a good thing that he had been given the interview instead of Archangel. Aziraphale liked to think he had a calming presence. That he was trustworthy and could put people at ease. “You are among friends here.”  

The elevator continued to travel upward until it slowed at the final floor. The bright blue 26 morphed into a 27 and a soft ding was heard, followed by the near-silent sound of doors opening to reveal a brightly lit hallway. Nearly all of the hallways were brightly lit in their building. It allowed them to keep an eye on their city, searching for any signs of trouble that might arise that they needed to go out and take care of.

“I probably should have asked,” Aziraphale announced as they stepped out onto the reflective tile floor. “Will this be an outside sort of presentation? Or will the gymnasium suffice?” 

She stared at him with blank eyes for a moment, smile slowly morphing into a worried frown. Realizing that he should be a bit more specific, Azirapahle breathed in deep and took a step back - metaphorically, that is.

“My apologies, dear,” he explained, moving forward again as if the gymnasium was their final destination. A quick glance down at his watch revealed the meeting with the other superheroes was about to start. Ah well. He could always catch up with one of them later this evening. “I’ve been doing a terrible job explaining what to expect here. Your interview will consist of three parts.” He paused, looking behind him to make sure Adam was still with them. The boy was following along eagerly, red backpack slung over his shoulder, comic book still in hand. “A short introduction where you tell me a little bit about yourself - your name, first name only please. Our secret identities are our greatest defense sometimes. Some of your hobbies, perhaps. An interesting fact or two.”

“Right,” the girl nodded, brow furrowed in concentration, committing the information to memory. “And the second part?” 

The trio turned a corner, walking parallel to the wide, reinforced glass windows that looked out over the park downtown. The very place Aziraphale had run into The Serpent two days prior. Neither he nor the rest of The Host had heard from him since. He’d simply...disappeared. Without a trace. Archangel was convinced it was all part of the ruse. Some clever plan a group of villains had come up with to fake them out so they could get away with whatever dastardly deed they had planned. The Serpent was their red herring, A distraction to keep their focus away from what really mattered. 

“Next will be the practical bit - an examination of your powers, as it were.” He paused, waiting to see if she had any questions. When she did not immediately ask them, Aziraphale continued. “Depending on their nature and...intensity, shall we say, some applicants prefer to be evaluated outdoors. Less chance of causing any unintended property damage.”

The girl nodded and Aziraphale noticed that they were rapidly approaching the double set of glass doors leading to the gymnasium. There were three in this building alone - each with its own purpose. This one was the highest off the ground and had a bulletproof glass ceiling that could retract to open up to the outdoors if need be. Most of the time, it remained closed unless several heroes came together for a friendly match. Archangel seemed to be under the impression that to expose themselves and the rest of Host Tower to the outside world would be asking for trouble, and for the most part, the other members of The Host agreed with him.

“How large is the gymnasium?” the girl asked and Aziraphale found himself smiling. He shifted the folder in his hands underneath one arm and tugged at the shimmering golden glove covering his fingertips. Once his hand had been freed from the garment, he pressed his palm up against a reflective black panel by the side of the door. One quick scan and they were in.

“Is this big enough for you?”

The gymnasium was massive - the biggest one in the building, containing a full-scale soccer field, basketball and two volleyball courts, as well as plenty of space for jogging, or flying, for those of them that could. Aziraphale watched, silently replacing his glove, as both children entered the room, eyes wide and trained toward the ceiling and the bright blue clouds drifting by overhead.

“This should do just fine.”

Aziraphale smiled, spirits lifted by her enthusiasm. Yes, the girl was still a bit nervous, but he could tell that the closer they got to her actually demonstrating her powers, the more in her element she felt. He had a good feeling about this one. “Right, Adam, my dear boy, I’m going to need you and your backpack and comic book to take a seat in the stands over there.” He pointed to the bleachers to the side of the door. “We don’t want any mishaps.”

The boy nodded and scurried off, taking the steps two at a time until he’d reached the very top bench - as far away from the gymnasium floor as he could manage. Aziraphale laughed to himself, wondering, briefly, if the rumors about their genetic mutations were true and if, in a few years, Adam would be back for his own chance to join The Host.

“Alright, my dear,” the superhero began, opening the black folder for the first time to look at her file. It was a standard application, listing general facts about her - gender, approximate age, defining physical features. With deft fingers, he slipped the ballpoint pen from its fastening and prepared himself to write. “Take a deep breath, and let’s start with your name.”

“Hi,” she started, lifting a hand to give a small wave. “My name is Sarah Y - Sarah.” She caught herself at the last second, blushing at the near slip-up. It wasn’t that it was against the rules to reveal her full name, but it was highly frowned upon. The more people that knew a hero’s secret identity, the more chances that information could fall into the wrong hands. People they cared about could get hurt. They’d seen it happen before and as an organization, The Host was determined to do everything in their power to keep it from happening again. 

“I’m sixteen, turning seventeen at the end of the year, and uh - “ she paused for a moment, reaching up a hand to play with the braid on her left. “Something interesting...Oh! I’ve been collecting rocks since I was about seven or eight years old. Geodes mostly, but I’ve got various samples of quartz and some amethyst and amber too.”

Oh, how wonderful! Another collector. Yes, their mediums may be different, but the principle was the same. It would be nice to have someone on the team that had a chance of understanding his passion for books and his desire to have somewhat of a life outside of this tower. 

“Excellent!” he exclaimed, subconsciously aware that he probably shouldn’t be quite so encouraging. This was a test, after all. One that she could fail. If the choice were up to him, he’d hire her on in an instant, even if her powers ended up being lower tier. Unfortunately, the choice wasn’t up to him, or Archangel or any of the other senior members of The Host. They could offer their input, but the final ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would only ever come from one man.

Metatron.

“Now,” Aziraphale continued, looking up from the line where he’d just filled in her name. “On to phase two. The stage is yours, my dear. Whenever you are ready.”

She stared at him for a moment, not shifting an inch from her position. Aziraphale kept his eyes trained on her small form, waiting for something to happen. He cleared his throat, and her face flushed a soft pink.

“Sorry,” she murmured, crossing one arm over her chest to grab at her shoulder. “You see, I - uh - my powers are these sort of force fields? Practically invisible barriers that repel anything that interacts with them. It’s pretty useful, but only if something actually gets thrown at me. Useless otherwise.”

Aziraphale nodded in understanding, surprised and more than a bit intrigued at her admission. They didn’t have very many defensive players in The Host. Prism could be, if given enough time to set things up, but her powers weren’t all that useful in do or die situations. If Sarah’s powers could help bridge that gap, she would be an incredible asset to the team. 

He looked around, blue eyes searching for something to toss her way. Aziraphale didn’t want to do anything that might cause her harm - they’d yet to find a healer to add their team, and though there was a hospital on the second floor, Archangel would likely have his head if it needed to be used.

“I could toss this pen?” he asked, ensuring it was alright with her before proceeding. Sarah gave him a brief nod, spreading her legs in a solid stance, reminiscent of some martial arts he’d seen. She’d obviously been preparing for this more than just a couple of weeks. Aziraphale wouldn't have been surprised to see this girl take on a career in some other heroic field, should this path somehow not pan out in her favor.

With one swift move, Aziraphale flung the pen in her direction, watching as the dark object spun end over end through the air. When it was approximately two feet in front of her face, a bright, icy blue light flashed, illuminating for a second this domed shape around her form that wobbled for a moment with the impact, before snapping back into place with equal force.

Aziraphale didn’t know what he had been expecting, but it surely wasn’t to have the pen come rocketing back at him, faster than he’d thrown it. Superhuman reflexes only went so far. He tried to dodge out of the way, but the bright flash of light had stunned him for the briefest of moments, making it physically impossible for him to get out of the way fast enough.

The pen clipped him in the cheek as it soared past, slicing through the skin and leaving behind it a sharp sting of pain. Reflexively, Aziraphale brought his gloved hand up to his face, pressing gently on the stinging wound. As he brought it away, he noticed a thin streak of red running across the fingertips.

“Oh my gosh!” Sarah cried rushing over to his side. He could hear the invisible barriers crackling as they vanished into thin air, leaving just the briefest of icy blue sparks in their wake along with the faintest scent of mint. “I am so sorry. I didn’t realize it would shoot back that quickly. When Adam and I were practicing, the stuff he tossed usually just fell to the floor.”

Holding up a hand in an attempt to ease her worry, Aziraphale smiled. “Not to worry, my dear. I imagine I tossed it quite a bit harder than Adam did in the past. This is entirely my fault.”

“Here,” she said, taking one step closer to him so they were less than two feet apart. “Let me help.” Hand outstretched, she brushed her fingertips across his skin. In an instant, the pain was gone and Aziraphale knew were he to run his fingers across the wound again, they would come up dry.

“You’re a healer,” he breathed, eyes wide. This was incredible. She would fit in so well with their group, were Metatron to give her the chance. 

A blush dusted her cheeks as Sarah stepped back. “Just minor scrapes and bruises. It’s not like I can cure cancer or anything.”

The way she said it, almost made it seem like she knew that fact from experience. 

“Well then,” Aziraphale smiled, taking a step back to jot a few quick notes down on her evaluation form. He wanted to ensure that Metatron had every bit of information he needed to make a well-informed decision. “You ready for phase three?”

She nodded her head, brown eyes trained on his face. “What is phase three?”

Aziraphale gestured for her to take a seat on the bleachers, trying to hold back a grin as Adam waved wildly at his sister. “All I need you to do is answer a few questions.”

“Questions.” He could see the nerves entering back into her eyes. “Right.”

“Sarah,” Aziraphale soothed, very much wishing he could promise her right then and there that she could be a member of their team, if that was what she wanted. But it wasn’t up to him. “This isn’t a test you need to pass, alright? This is just a way for us to see how you might fit in here. Just be honest and answer from the heart.”

She nodded and Aziraphale turned his attention to the papers in his lap. There were three main questions they always asked each individual searching for their place here. It was an attempt to better understand their character. To weed out the ‘good’ from the ‘evil’, as Archangel always pointed out.

“Question one,” Aziraphale began, lifting a hand to readjust his glasses, only to realize he wasn’t wearing them. He cleared his throat and lifted his eyes momentarily to Sarah’s face. “Should you be admitted, what do you imagine the best part of being a hero would be?”

Sarah took a moment to answer this question, likely worried that there was a wrong answer she had to avoid. That was what Aziraphale loved about this part of the interview - there were no wrong answers. If someone like Archangel, who cared more for glory than the knowledge that he was ultimately doing good, could find a place here, than it didn’t much matter what was said, so long as the answer was genuine.

“The chance to help people in ways I couldn’t alone,” Sarah responded eventually, all evidence of her nerves disappeared. She was in her element now, comfortable enough to speak to him like a friend. Feeling as though she belonged here. “My powers are fantastical, like everyone else’s, but they have their limitations. I could do much more good as part of a team, watching other heroes backs while they watched mine than I ever could on my own.”

A wise answer for someone so young, but it fit her. Aziraphale nodded his head and recorded the response, eager to see what else she might reveal about herself in these final moments they had together.

“What would you want to do with your life, had you never come into your powers?”

To his surprise, she had an answer prepared for this one. “I’ve thought about being a Pediatrician for a few years now,” Sarah explained. “I think, even if I do become part of The Host, I still plan on pursuing a profession in the medical field. I live kids,” she added as an afterthought, a soft smile spreading across her face that caused Aziraphale’s heart to swell with pride. They’d stumbled upon a soul made of gold with this one. He was sure of it. “And, I don’t know, I just know how scary doctor’s offices can be. And I’d like to do my part to make things a bit easier on them.”

Aziraphale’s pen scribbled across the page, jotting down her responses and adding notes of his own, outlining her drive to succeed and kindhearted nature. Anything he could think of that would show Metatron, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this girl was an asset they couldn’t afford to turn away. 

“Last one,” he announced finally, glancing up to see Adam still sitting at the top of the stands, staying out of the way like he’d been instructed to. The young boy waved again, shooting his sister a double thumbs up the second she looked in his direction.

“What is your greatest weakness?”

Silence fell around them and the smile on Sarah’s face slowly faded. Her hands clenched together atop her knees, slowly turning white with the pressure. Aziraphale waited, not daring to say a word. It was a question that had thrown him too. He’d always been taught that a hero should keep his or her weakness close to their chest. Just like their true name, leaked knowledge of any weakness could be catastrophic.

But there were some weaknesses that could be considered as strengths. And some people you simply had to trust, for an organization like this to work.

“My weakness is my family,” she answered in barely more than a whisper, turning her gaze toward him in the utmost sign of trust. In that moment, she was allowing him a glimpse into her very soul. For a girl so young, she was wise beyond her years. “Adam, and my parents. They’re all I have.”

With that, the interview was complete. Aziraphale finished up his notes, closing the black folder with a soft woosh . With a smile, he went to stand, waving Adam down from the nosebleed section to join his sister in making their way back down to the outside world.

“You did well today,” the hero praised as he saw them to the elevator doors. A single button press from him and the device would send them directly to the lobby where Charlotte would see them out. “I would be surprised if you didn’t hear from one of us by the end of the week.”

Then, without missing a beat, he squatted down to the floor, pulled out the trusty pen still tucked away in the folder, and reached out for the comic still dangling from Adam’s hands. The boy beamed, and Aziraphale signed his name in bold, striking letters across the top, right above a cartoon depiction of a much younger Principality battling an evil robot from space.

The elevator dinged behind them and Aziraphale stood up once more, shooting them both a smile as they turned around to enter. He couldn’t offer Sarah a guarantee of acceptance. That wasn’t in his abilities, but he could offer her some hope, and keep his fingers crossed it wouldn’t be a false one.

“Get that superhero name of yours ready,” he advised, heart soaring as her face broke out in a grin. Gently, Aziraphale tapped the black folder with a knowing smile. “I have a feeling you might need it.”

Sarah nodded her head in enthusiastic acceptance, and then she was gone, the metal doors of the elevators slowly closing to block her from his sight. 

Aziraphale stood there for a little while, eyes dancing over the pages, reading over his notes and making sure he hadn’t forgotten anything. For half a second, he thought about making a beeline for the conference room to hand the documents over to Archangel, but then that second passed and he realized how ridiculous it sounded. If Archangel had cared enough to be here, he wouldn’t have missed the interview. Aziraphale could handle this on his own.

Which was exactly what he did. Determination set in his blue eyes, Azirapahle marched up the three flights of stairs separating him from Metatron’s main office, sliding the folder through the flap on the door before he could chicken out. Their leader was a busy man who did not care to be bothered. He wouldn’t have scheduled this interview for today if it wasn’t important, Aziraphale argued with himself, and so he forced the document through, scurrying back down the stairs to the twenty-seventh floor where the others would be waiting for him.

Only to find the conference room completely empty, save for one, purple clad individual.

“Ah!” Archangel remarked upon noticing him in the doorway. “You just missed us. I trust the interview was taken care of properly.”

Aziraphale nodded his head, not trusting himself to speak. He was in shock. They’d finished the meeting without him? He’d only been, what? Twenty minutes late? Thirty, at the most. There was no way they could have gone over every detail needed for tomorrow’s mission in that time.

“Good, good,” Archangel replied, rifling through a bag until he pulled out a small, flat disc. “Sorry you had to miss the meeting. Myosotis made a copy of the notes. Make sure you review them before the brief tomorrow morning. We’re meeting back here at 6 am to review one last time before moving out.”

Archangel handed it over without another word, vanishing from the room before Aziraphale could form a coherent thought. Of all the nerve. How dare they finish the briefing without him. Without Aziraphale’s intel, they wouldn’t even have known about the planned bank heist! And yet they tried to formulate a plan without him. Sure, Archangel had passed along the notes, but that just meant more work for Aziraphale when he got home. 

He seethed all the way home. Past the laundromat and the shoe store and half a dozen places to stop to eat food. Even the familiar smell of freshly baked cookies or the comfortable airiness of his civilian clothing wasn’t enough to ease Aziraphale’s mind. Did they not trust him? Were they worried he might let something slip were he to meet up with The Serpent again before tomorrow afternoon?

How absurd! He’d been nothing but loyal to The Host for seventeen years, and here they were trying to ice him out. Well , Aziraphale huffed as he rounded the corner, finally finding his feet padding along the street that would lead him home, at least he’d been able to complete Sarah’s interview without any interference from the other heroes. With any luck, Metatron would invite her to join The Host and he’d have someone to mentor. Someone to spend his time with besides those self-centered, self-righteous, little - 

The thought vanished from his mind as an overwhelming sweet aroma drifted by. Aziraphale felt his feet slowing to a halt in front of a small shop nestled between a nail salon and ice cream parlor that he was certain hadn’t been there a week ago. 

“What a lovely little flower shop,” he murmured to himself, taking another deep breath as he studied the arrangements in the front window. Bright yellow sunflowers, tiny purple wildflowers, potted ferns and little bonsai trees, all lined up and on display. Preening and flaunting their petals and leaves for the entire city to see.

Now that he stopped to think about it, the bookshop could use something to spruce it up a bit. Just a small shrub or maybe a wreath to stick on the door. It would be a shame not to at least go in and take a look around. If this shop was new, and Aziraphale was almost certain it was, it would be inhospitable to walk on by without introducing himself. Why, he and the owners were practically neighbors, by the very definition of the word.

And so, with a deep breath to both cleanse himself of his frustrations and fill his senses with that sweet aroma that had captivated his attention, Aziraphale stepped inside, bell chiming above him as the door slowly swung shut.

Chapter Text

At 3:42 pm, the bell above his shop door chimed for the first time. Crowley’s heart fluttered with excitement. He turned around from where he’d carefully been repotting a stargazer lily about to bloom, wiping his dirt covered hands on the deep, forest green apron strung around his neck, only to find Anathema’s familiar face beaming at him from the opposite side of the counter.

“Finding yourself strapped for cash these days?” She inquired, looking around the lush shop. There were plants hanging off nearly every bit of empty space. Rows upon rows of shelves lined the walls, vines hanging over the railing lining the second floor balcony. Colorful flowers dotted every inch of greenery, bringing forth a rainbow of color to the room. In his construction of the shop, Crowley had ripped down the old blinds, opening up the front windows as much as possible to let in the natural afternoon rays. Skylights hung a dozen and a half feet over their heads, making the whole place feel like a garden. “Had to sell yourself a garden to make ends meet?”

“Hardly,” Crowley scoffed, greeting his long-time friend and neighbor with a friendly scowl. “Finally got that new mobile game up and running. Sold it to some big tech firm for quite a bit. I won’t need to worry about money for a while.”

“Impressive,” Anathema praised, reaching out for a black, metal stool nearby, plopping herself down on it before Crowley could even invite her to ‘make herself at home’. He wouldn’t have expected anything less of his closest friend. “I can’t believe you’re only telling me this now, Crowley. That’s a huge accomplishment.”

He shrugged, feeling heat rising to his pale cheeks. It wasn’t as if he’d be set for life or anything. Sure, the sum of money he’d been offered might be enough to live a modest lifestyle with the proper investments, but Crowley’s life was anything but modest. Maybe, were he to quit villainy all-together, but even then he felt that he would miss all the tinkering and experimentation. There was nothing quite like the rush he got when a new gadget worked for the first time, or something unexpected happened in his test runs. Gardening was a nice, quiet way to get away from the stress for a while, but the job that Crowley really loved to do cost a pretty penny. Quality electronics weren’t cheap.

“Figured you’d make a big deal about it,” he mumbled, pivoting around to grab the stargazer he’d been working on when she’d walked through the door. If it was only Anathema here, he might as well keep on working.“Try and use your witchy ways to convince me to treat you to dinner.”

She grinned and he knew he had her pegged. They’d been best friends for nearly ten years now - ever since he’d bought the duplex beside her and moved in next door. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d hd her over for dinner or passed out on her couch after a night of too much drinking. Though they lead very separate lives, she was the type of person he enjoyed having around. Witty. As intelligent as him, though admittedly in different ways, and as steadfast as could be. 

“I’ll let it be my treat this time,” she assured him, leaning forward to prop her elbows up on the wooden counter as her deep, brown eyes watched him work. “Your place or mine?”

Crowley frowned in concentration, slowly sinking his fingers down into the dirt, feeling them scrape up against the edge of the pot, wriggling a bit to loosen the plant enough that he’d be able to take it back out again. “I suppose we can do mine. Give me a chance to clean up for once. I haven’t had company over since Halloween.”

Without prompting, Anathema reached over and placed her hand on the rim of the smaller pot, allowing Crowley to pry the plant free with minimal effort. Gingerly, he rotated his upper body just so, lining up the tangle of roots and dirt with the plant’s new home, placing it in securely before reaching down to a shelf down by his knees where he kept some extra potting soil.

“Has it really been that long?” Anathema asked, a frown making its way onto her rose colored lips. “I suppose I did go visit my mother for Christmas, didn’t I?”

Crowley nodded absently, choosing to focus most of his attention on packing down the soil than dwelling on discussions of family. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Anathema’s family. On the contrary, they were a rather fun group to hang around, but seeing as he didn’t have one of his own, the topic always made him a bit uneasy whenever it came up.

“You’re always welcome to join us, you know,” the woman murmured, sliding the now empty pot toward her so she could examine it. “Mum asks about you every year.”

“Ah,” the red-haired man responded, a teasing grin spreading out across his cheeks. “Go with you and miss the fun traditions we have here?”

Both knew exactly what tradition he was referring to, but neither one said a word out loud. There was a time and a place for such discussions, but the middle of a flower shop in one of the busiest parts of the city was not it.

A bell chimed behind her and both Anathema and Crowley looked up. From this vantage point, he couldn’t see much of the gentleman who had just walked in other than he was, in fact a gentleman. Most of his face was obscured by the extended branches of a cypress tree sitting near the doorway, but Crowley could see the outline of a neatly pressed tan pant leg, and the very edge of an elbow hiding underneath what appeared to be a fine, if a bit old fashioned, suit jacket.

Reaching down to wipe his hands on his apron once more, Crowley shifted to the side to get a better look. This would be his first customer, after all, and the man wanted to be accommodating, but not annoying. He hated those sales people that spent the whole time breathing down customers necks, always ready to pounce. Crowley was determined to do better than that. He would be nothing less than an absolute gentleman - offering his assistance and then respectfully minding his own business until the customer asked for help.

He had a plan, a good one at that, right until the man came into view. 

Crowley’s heart thudded in his chest. Good lord was he handsome, and in such an unexpected way. Through the loose fitted suit, Crowley could see that he was strong. Not in a bodybuilder sort of way, or like those other well-built men that magazines and television found attractive. But he was solid and...gentle looking at the same time. Something about the way he carried himself - so proper. Like a prince straight out of a fairytale, or a Lord in his manor. 

And then he turned the corner and stepped beneath the skylight, eyes still dancing over the greenery around him and Crowley’s breath stopped. This man wasn’t just handsome. He was bloody gorgeous . The way his blonde curls turned to gold in the light - he was absolutely radiant. Like a vision straight from a dream.

“....listening to a word I’m saying, are you?”

Crowley blinked, turning his face away from the stranger back toward the woman still leaning forward with her elbows perched on the counter. She gave him a teasing quirk of her eyebrow and he struggled to hold back another blush. Clearing his throat, Crowley pointedly turned his entire attention toward her, still fiddling with the apron at his waist, trying to clean his hands as much as possible, in case that customer should ask to shake his hand.

“Dinner, your place tonight,” Anathema announced as she stood to leave, slinging a brightly quilted bag over her shoulder. “I’ll bring the main course. You take care of wine and dessert. Pick up something at the bakery on your way home.”

That minx. She had obviously seen exactly what had transpired and was leaving him to fend for himself. How dare she! Crowley had absolutely no idea what he was doing or how to talk to someone as….whatever as this man so obviously was. What was he going to do? He was going to choke on his own words, that’s what. Make such a fool of himself that this man and anyone else he might come across would never step foot in this shop again.

“Any requests?” he managed to choke out, very aware that his hands were now coated in some strange mixture of fertilized dirt and sweat. What in the blazes was wrong with him? Where had that cool, suave persona gone? He could spend day after day shooting out clever quips and strutting around like he was the greatest supervillain on earth, but the second he was faced with a potential conversation with an attractive man, he turned into a doey eyes schoolgirl.

Anathema pivoted, flashing him a knowing grin as she walked backward across the length of the room, avoiding every potted plant like a professional. “You get anything without chocolate in it and I’ll have to murder you in your sleep.”

This brought out a laugh from him, for which he would be eternally grateful. No matter how this interaction went - whether he ended up with the fellow’s number or dirt thrown in his face or landed somewhere in between - he would always have the support of his very best friend. Apart from Minion, that was.

Then his eyes travelled back to the man’s face for a split second and that laughter died. He wasn’t turned in the direction of any of the plants that he’d passed by only moments ago, or toward Crowley, the obvious owner of the shop.

He was looking, very intently, at Anathema.

Ah well. Crowley tried to swallow his disappointment. It was probably better this way, with his being a wanted criminal, and all. Besides, Anathema was a lovely girl. She was beautiful, if a bit quirky at times, with long brown hair and deep brown eyes. Tanned skin that some girls tried their whole lives to achieve. And she was wicked smart. Graduated University at twenty years old with two degrees - chemistry and history. She was a catch, if there ever was one, and it was only by sheer force of her own will that she hadn’t been coupled off yet.

The bell chimed a third time that day and Crowley forced a welcoming smile on his face as he turned toward the captivated customer.

“Welcome to Eden’s Essentials. Feel free to take as long as you like and come find me if you have any questions.”

“Oh,” the stranger responded warmly, the sound of Crowley’s voice seemingly breaking him out of whatever trance he’d found himself in. “That would be quite wonderful, dear boy.” Gods, why did he have to sound so warm? And kind? And safe? “To be frank, I didn’t know I needed anything before passing by your shop, and now upon seeing the marvelous things you’ve done with the space, I insist on finding something to brighten up my dusty old bookshop.”

Crowley’s ears perked up at this newfound information, completely glossing over the compliment that was obviously just a platitude of kindness. “You own a bookshop? Any one I might have been to?”

“That all depends,” the man replied, coming to stand at the other end of the counter, several feet away, his soft blue eyes fixed on Crowley’s face, “on how much you enjoy the art of reading.”

This comment brought a grin to Crowley’s lips. He was clever too. The whole package, it would seem. Kind, polite, attractive, and smart. If only he were interested in men . “Sure, sure. I love to read. Do it everyday, in fact. Instructions on my microwavable breakfast sandwich, the rectangular green signs that remind me which street I’m on, and those funny little comics they put in the newspaper.” He grinned, hoping his joke would land. “Those are, by far, my favorite.”

It did and the man’s face broke out in a wide smile, displaying dimples on his cheeks and a soft crinkle around his eyes that made Crowley’s heart race. “I daresay you have me beat when it comes to modern literature. I barely ever make it past the nineteen twenties.”

Crowley laughed, wishing he knew what to say next. He wanted to know more about this man. See him smile again. He wanted to say something so clever, so...interesting, that this man stayed around for several more hours until it was time to close up shop. It made no sense, and the red-haired man was certain that if he took the time to step back, he’d realize how utterly ridiculous he was being. But, for now, he let himself get lost in the moment - lost in a feeling he hadn’t had in a very long time.

“I own the bookshop just a few blocks in that direction.” He turned around, pointing to the street to Crowley’s left. “A. Z. Fell and Co. Antiquarian and Unusual Books. Quite the title, I’m aware,” he chuckled at the obvious look of shock that had crawled its way onto Crowley’s face. “Part of the inheritance, I’m afraid. I like to think it helps deter some of the more...modern customers. An old fashioned name for an old-fashioned shop and shop owner.”

“Nothing wrong with old-fashioned,” Crowley mumbled, causing the slightest hint of pink to appear on the man’s round cheeks. Or was that a trick of the light? Clearing his throat, Crowley tried to steer the conversation into a safer route. “Did you have anything particular in mind?”

The golden haired man gazed at him for a moment, his blue eyes sparkling underneath the naturally lit room. For a moment, he said nothing, and Crowley wondered if he’d heard the question at all. Just when he opened his mouth to repeat it, the man blinked and plowed on ahead.

“Unfortunately, I’m not all that well versed in horticulture,” he admitted as Crowley quickly shut his mouth before the man could notice him gaping. “Do you have anything that does well with minimal light? I keep the curtains drawn to help protect the books, you see.” He looked around, eyes dancing across the shop like a child being set loose in a candy shop. “I’d hate to have one of your lovely creations die on me within the first day.”

Crowley did his best to hide his blush by walking to the other end of the wooden counter and lifting the side so he could step out into the store’s open area. “You’d have to be mighty determined to kill one of these bad boys in a day.” He paused, walking between two of the shelves, his eyes scanning over each plant, looking for just the right one. “I’m talking ‘taking a blowtorch to it’ levels of determination.”

This brought forth another laugh from the man walking behind him, causing Crowley’s stomach to flip-flop. He gritted his teeth, willing himself to just be cool for a little while longer. Where were those blasted plants, anyway? He’d spent a whole day planning out each individual shelf to best balance the plants needs, their size, and aesthetic appeal. So why, for the life of him, could he not remember where they were when he needed to.

“Here we go,” Crowley announced, finally coming to a halt by three vastly different looking plants. The bromeliad was a colorful houseplant native to the tropical regions of South America. Its central leaves were a bright crimson, a stark contrast to the emerald fronds surrounding it. If he was looking to add a bit of color to his bookshop, this was the way to do it.

Next to the bromeliad was a dracaena, one of Crowley’s favorite plants, if only for the name itself. This particular specimen stood nearly waist high, its long pointed leaves spreading out in every direction somewhat chaotically. There was not as much color variation on this one, but the leaves were bright and would surely lend themselves to sprucing up whatever room he decided to put them in.

Last, but certainly not least, was the maidenhair fern. Much softer in both size and appearance, this was a good choice if he decided to go with something a little less bold in design. The leaves were petite and numerous, bringing a sort of elegance to them that Crowley thought rather matched this gentleman’s persona.

“Oh goodness,” the man breathed, taking a half step closer to examine the foliage. There was still a respectable distance left between the pair, and yet it felt all too close and personal at the same time. Not that Crowley was complaining. He was too busy trying to remember how to form coherent thoughts to complain about this man drawing half a foot closer to him. “These two are especially marvelous. I find myself in a difficult spot with which to choose.”

The hidden meaning in that statement said more to Crowley than the words ever could. The fact that this man did not offer him a blanket compliment on all the options Crowley showed him meant that his praise was genuine. He really did enjoy these two particular specimens - the bromeliad and fern. He thought they were marvelous, which should have been wonderful praise to hear indeed, yet Crowley only felt a twinge of disappointment.

There was a chance that up until this moment, his heart might have been holding out for some sign. Some clue that he’d perhaps read the room incorrectly earlier. If, by chance, the gentleman had offered some blanket statement of praise, Crowley might have convinced himself that it was an attempt at flirting. 

“However am I going to choose?”

Pull yourself together, Crowley admonished as he turned to face this stranger, whose name, he realized, he still did not know. At the very least, he had to find a way to remedy that, without coming across as some starstruck puppy. “Why don’t you take them both,” he suggested, already reaching a hand down to grab the smaller of the two pots to hand to the man. “Set them up in your bookshop and if you can’t find a place that suits them, feel free to bring them back. No charge.”

Blue eyes grew almost comically wide at Crowley’s suggestion. “You are far too kind, sir.” He paused, a quizzical look appearing on his face as he glanced up at Crowley’s. 

“Have I said something to offend you?”

Crowley grimaced, handing over the fern as he stooped down to pick up the bromeliad. “Hardly. I’ve just never been fond of formalities when it comes to names.” He nodded his head to indicate they should return to the counter. “‘Sir’ seems almost disingenuous to me. I’d much prefer you just call me by my name.”

They retreated out from the aisle, Crowley catching the briefest hint of a smile from the gentleman’s face. “I’d be delighted to,” he announced, placing the fern gently on the wooden surface, “should I count myself lucky enough to know it.”

The compliment sent a rush of energy through Crowley’s entire body that he tried very hard to ignore. In the short time he’d known the man, Crowley had picked up on  a few things, the most obvious being that he was kind to a fault. This constant praise was nothing more than just that. He was sure of it.

“Anthony J. Crowley,” he responded after ensuring that his plant was also placed securely on the counter in front of him. Then, a small grin on his face, he gave a sweeping bow, one arm folded across his chest, the other extended out to the right. “At your service.”

The other man laughed, a sound that Crowley found he wanted to hear again and again. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Crowley. Or do you prefer Anthony?”

Crowley rose to meet his gaze. “Just Crowley is fine. All my friends call me that.”

The man nodded, extending his hand for Crowley to take. With one more wipe for good measure, the extended it, relieved to see it wasn’t entirely caked in sweat and dirt.

“Aziraphale,” the man offered up as their skin touched. A tingle of energy shot up Crowley’s arm, from his fingertips all the way to his shoulders, that seemed to linger even after he’d let go. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Crowley.”

He nodded. “The pleasure is all mine.”

Were he a bit more confident in the situation, Crowley might try and make a move. Say something clever that would ultimately award him Aziraphale’s phone number, or if he was lucky, the promise of a date later on that weekend. But then he remembered the way Aziraphale had looked at Anathema and the very unavoidable fact that society had labeled him a villain. He may be on vacation now, but Beelzebub and the others wouldn’t let that vacation last forever. He’d be reeled back in sooner rather than later and Aziraphale seemed like such a good, honest man. He didn’t deserve to be mixed up in a thing like that.

It was best to carry on being polite for the remainder of their exchange and then bid Aziraphale goodbye. No use in starting anything now he couldn’t ultimately follow through on. 

“Would you like a cart to wheel these two back home with you?” Crowley asked as he punched in a few numbers into the cash register perched by the wall. “I’d offer to come with you to help carry them, since you only live just down the street, but Anathema’s already gone for the day, so I’d be leaving the shop empty handed.”

A flicker of something flashed through Aziraphale’s eyes, but it was gone before Crowley could get a good look. “Ah, yes. Lovely girl. Lovely name too. I’ve never heard anything quite like it.”

Crowley chuckled, thinking back to the story behind that particular name. “Her mum thought so too. ‘S why she picked it. Didn’t find out ‘til Anathema was seven what it meant. When Anathema gave an entire, researched presentation on it. Rather funny story. She tells it better than I do, of course. You’ll have to wait and hear it from her, sometime.”

Abruptly, he cut himself off. Was he trying to set Aziraphale up with Anathema? Honestly. Crowley should simply learn to keep his mouth shut.

After Aziraphale paid, Crowley brought the cart out and loaded the plants onto the small wire shelves, assuring Aziraphale that there were several more where that came from and he could return it whenever was most convenient. Aziraphale smiled that brilliant smile and gave a short wave before wheeling the cart back out the front door and onto the street, turning left to head in the direction of his bookshop.

Crowley watched him leave with a sinking heart. He didn’t understand why he felt so overwhelmingly disappointed, all of a sudden. Had he expected the exchange to go differently? Aziraphale had been nothing but polite. They’d had a few laughs and Crowley knew he would see the man again. So what was this nagging feeling in his gut that he’d just made some kind of mistake?

As a general rule, Crowley didn’t date. That’s not to say there wasn’t the occasional fling, but he didn’t get close to people and he surely didn’t wine and dine and plan outings . Not in nearly five years. It had gone disastrously the last time he’d had a boyfriend and Crowley was certain it would end the same way this time around, so why did his stupid, bleeding heart have the sudden desire to rush out those doors and flag Aziraphale down before he slipped away?

This was ridiculous. He would see Aziraphale again, probably later that evening or tomorrow when he returned the cart. It was no big deal. He would take that time to work on his plants and clear his head so that the next time Aziraphale walked through that door - the next time he saw that gorgeous smile - he would be just fine. Perhaps, with time, they could even grow to be friends.

He liked the thought of that, of bringing Aziraphale into their little group. Crowley was sure Anathema wouldn’t mind. She’d have someone to talk literature and history with and Crowley wouldn’t have to pretend to understand what she was talking about half the time.

Oh, who was he kidding? Anathema? Sure, but why would someone like Aziraphale want to spend time with Crowley? He probably had loads of friends to spend the evenings or weekends with. There wasn’t anything here - Crowley was reading into it too much. Aziraphale had been a friendly, polite customer to a new business in his neck of the woods. Nothing more.

Except.

Except Anathema had seen something between them. He knew that much to be fact. She had seen something - enough to make her leave the two of them. Alone. On purpose. 

And that, if nothing else, meant something.

“Oh blast it!” Crowley exclaimed, dropping whatever object had found its way into his hand as he vaulted over the countertop and crossed the room. With a shaky hand, he wrenched the door open and stepped out into the street, eyes peeled for a metal cart and a head of golden blonde hair.


Today was certainly a day filled with surprises. Aziraphale had already witnessed a most remarkable girl applying to be a superhero and been astounded when he’d walked down the street and passed by the quaintest little plant shop that he was certain hadn’t been there in previous weeks.

Nothing could have prepared him for the shock he would feel, however, upon entering the shop to find Anathema Device chatting up the shopkeeper. He was so surprised to see her here in a normal setting, that he couldn’t help but stare as she made her exit, offering him a polite wave as she walked through the door, not a glimmer of recognition in her eyes. 

His relationship with Anathema Device was an unusual one at best. Thinking back, Aziraphale wasn’t exactly sure how it had started. Anathema didn’t know him as he was right now - she’d only ever interacted with Principality. By no fault of her own, Anathema had somehow become The Serpent’s favorite target whenever he attempted to pull off a kidnapping or hostage situation. 

There was a very good chance the first time it had happened several years ago, she had been a purely random selection and Aziraphale had swooped in to save her. They’d got along quite well to the point that he almost considered them friends. As much as two people could be when one of them hid his identity behind a mask. Somehow, The Serpent had picked up on that friendship, and he had made it a priority to go after Anathema whenever the opportunity presented itself to him.

Of course, dressed as just Aziraphale, she hardly paid any attention to him. And why would she when she had such a kind, charismatic boyfriend?

He had never seen a more beautiful man in his entire life. He was tall and thin, with cropped auburn hair and bright hazel eyes that seemed to sparkle whenever the sunlight hit them just right. Dressed in tight black pants and a v-neck grey shirt, he was more than simply attractive and then he’d opened his mouth and made Aziraphale laugh, completely forgetting the foul mood he’d been in as he’d left Host Tower.

 It was all the hero could think about as he wheeled his two potted plants down the street, careful to keep the cart out of anyone’s way. The sidewalks were a bit crowded, but the cart Crowley had given him was small and easy to maneuver. It hardly took up anymore space than he did, and Aziraphale found himself casually strolling past the other shops, mind still replaying the interaction in his head.

Aziraphale was not the dating type. He’d never been the dating type. How could he be when he’d become a superhero in the public eye at seventeen? How could he hope to have a real relationship with someone when he’d always be living a lie? He couldn’t reveal his secret identity. If it were to get out, the very person he cared about the most would be in danger. And if the relationship didn’t last - if it ended poorly - his whole life could be turned upside down. 

That being said, there had been something familiar about Crowley, as they’d bantered back and forth. He’d been so easy to talk to, effortlessly pulling Aziraphale out of his shell as they’d conversed. So much so that he had to remind himself time and time again that this man obviously had a girlfriend. A girlfriend that happened to be a very good friend of his.

Or did he? Surely Anathema would have mentioned a boyfriend, or Aziraphale would have seen Crowley in at least one of his rescue attempts over the years. Was it possible the two were simply close friends? That they weren’t seeing each other in a romantic sense?

His heart raced at the thought, then quickly sunk again when he remembered just how cool and assured Crowley had been. He was the type of man who would have asked Aziraphale out on the spot were he even remotely interested. The fact that he hadn’t meant the hero should just forget about it. 

Except.

Blue eyes drifted down toward the metal handle in his hands. Except Crowley had given him an excuse to swing by the shop again soon. An excuse for the two of them to talk again. Could it be that was his way of offering up a subtle invitation? One that Aziraphale might pick up on?

Did it matter? What was he going to do, ask the man out on a date? Aziraphale didn’t date. It was a matter of principle. The concept had never once bothered him before, and yet, here he was. Walking down the street a mere block from his bookshop, stomach sinking into his feet. Like he’d just lost something very precious to him. 

Suddenly, Aziraphale came to a halt, his blood rushing through his body. What the hell was wrong with him? Wasn’t he just thinking about how much his work as a superhero stole from his personal life? Surely, he couldn’t be expected to sacrifice his personal life forever. He was closer to thirty-five than thirty. At this rate, he would reach his forties and still be alone. 

He didn’t want that, Aziraphale realized with a start. Despite the work environment, he truly did love the work of a hero. Helping those who could not help themselves. Providing them a sense of safety and security, so they could live their lives the best way they could.

Didn’t he deserve that same opportunity? Didn’t he deserve to find someone special - someone to share his life with? Sure, there was the issue of his hero identity, which could be problematic. But with the right person, shouldn’t that not matter? If they really loved him, wouldn’t they understand? He had no way of knowing unless he finally bit the bullet and gave this ‘dating’ thing a try.

And what better way to start than by jumping off the proverbial cliff, so to say?

Aziraphale spun around, narrowly avoiding running over the toes of the man passing him on his left. He didn’t have a plan, but something told him that the right words would come when he saw Crowley again. And if they didn’t? Well, no harm, no foul. At least he would have tried.

He was swimming upstream now and quickly darted to one side of the crowd, keeping his eyes peeled for the gold trimmed sign that would signify he had arrived back at his destination. The odds that Crowley was busy with another customer were slim - no one had been there when Aziraphale had left, and even if there was now, he could wait. It wasn't like he had anything waiting for him at home. 

It turns out Aziraphale was so focused on pinpointing the shop’s location, that he almost missed the bright-eyed, crimson haired individual walking toward him until the sound of his name broke his concentration.

“Aziraphale?”

The hero stopped, turning to the side to see Crowley, cheeks flushed and slightly out of breath, coming to a halt on the other side of the stream of pedestrians making their way down the street.

“Crowley?” The shock was evident in his voice. “Whatever are you doing here? Did I forget something?”

The man shook his head, hands pressed flat against the fabric of his apron. “No!” he shouted over the bustling crowd, then darted forward to join Aziraphale on his side of the pavement, pressed up against the window of what appeared to be some kind of café. “Not at all. I just - “

He broke off, color staining his cheeks bright pink. Was it the exertion that was causing the reaction? Or something more? “Well, it’s obvious that I’m new around here.” He took a deep breath, “and I suppose I was just wondering, well, that is, if it wasn’t too much of a bother…”

Aziraphale smiled, something coming alive inside his chest. True, it wasn’t exactly a promise of a romantic date, but Crowley had come all this way. Wasn’t it only fair for Aziraphale to meet him halfway?

“Would you like to have lunch sometime?” Aziraphale asked him, trying to ignore how his own heart was threatening to burst forth from his chest. “It sounded as though you had dinner plans tonight, but perhaps we could get together for some tea and sandwiches? Or something a bit more adventurous, if you prefer.”

“No - “ Crowley began, then snapped his mouth shut. Nostrils flaring, he released a breath from deep inside his chest in a way that signaled he was very much trying to form coherent thoughts. It was cute, how flustered he was getting, only serving to widen Aziraphale’s grin. “I mean, yes. That would be great. Sandwiches, yeah. Sounds perfect.”

Looking to his right, Aziraphale noticed that this very café had some sort of lunch menu posted in the window just over his shoulder. “Shall we meet up here then?” he asked, noticing that the location was rather central to both their shops. Barely a block away in either direction. “It’s as good a place as any.”

Crowley nodded his head enthusiastically. “Sure. Tomorrow, then?”

Aziraphale’s face fell as he thought about the bank and the heist and the long day he would most certainly have tomorrow. “Oh, I can’t tomorrow.” His stomach twisted in disappointment, fearing he’d already lost his shot. “A previous work engagement I can’t get out of, I’m afraid. Does Saturday work?”

“Sure,” the other man smiled, filling Aziraphale’s chest with the most extraordinary of feelings. Oh goodness, he hadn’t felt like this in a long time. “I will see you here at noon on Saturday.”

One more nod of affirmation and Aziraphale was on his way. “Noon on Saturday, it is.” It seemed forever away, and yet so close at the same time. Based on previous experiences, tomorrow would go by extraordinarily slowly, but it would all be worth it in the end, to spend an entire afternoon getting to know this charming man.

He couldn’t wait.

Chapter Text

“What, exactly, did The Serpent say to you?”

Aziraphale sighed, looking down at the petite form beside him. The heroine was leaning over the black metal raining in front of her, peering down at the people milling about underneath. Her shoulder length black hair fell forward in a curtain, blocking the left half of her face. Her fingers locked together as she studied the area below, looking for any sign of trouble, glittery, blue-violet fingernail polish reflecting the fluorescent lights up above.

“You really shouldn’t stare at them too much,” Aziraphale murmured, trying to keep his voice down. It wasn’t that he was trying to specifically avoid being overheard. But the vaulted ceiling caused noise to echo and they were on official superhero business. “I think it makes them nervous.”

The woman, Stormfront, snorted. “Well that’s their fault, isn’t it? They’re the ones who decided to show up after a public warning was issued.”

He couldn’t argue with that logic. And after being coworkers for nearly ten years, Aziraphale knew that Stormfront didn’t mean anything by it. She was a ‘down to business’ kind of hero, but ultimately he knew she cared about the well-being of each citizen in their city. She wouldn’t be a superhero if she didn’t.

“You’re dodging the question,” she pointed out, turning her deep brown eyes on him. He couldn’t see the top half of her face, due to the navy blue mask situated around her eyes and across her brow, but Azirpahale could tell she was raising her eyebrows in query. “What did he say to you?”

Aziraphale frowned. “You saw the news. Our whole exchange was caught by the media.”

The edge of Stormfront’s red lips curled up in the smallest quirk of a smile. “Please. The media can’t be trusted to get anything completely right.”

Blue eyes remained peeled for any sign of trouble as Aziraphale shrugged his shoulders. “I gave my full report to Archangel on Tuesday. I imagine he passed it on during your meeting.”

He tried his very best not to seem bitter about the fact that he’d been excluded from that meeting, but some of the irritation managed to seep its way through. Stormfront chuckled to herself, bringing a gloved hand up to tuck a strand of her pin-straight hair behind her ear.

“We focused more on the general plan, rather than who said what to get us here,” she revealed, giving him a look that said everything she hadn’t out loud. “I’d like to hear it from you.”

Once more, Aziraphale took a look around the room. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was looking for, but it was early yet. The Serpent had said ‘around lunchtime’, which didn’t give them an exact moment to prepare for, but a window was surely better than nothing. If the villains in question did try to rob the bank, he hoped there would at least be some kind of sign preceding the attack, to give himself and Stormfront a chance to sound the alarm.

According to the morning briefing, they could not say with confidence that the villains would strike the location given with any certainty. Two full days of research and patrols from all members of The Host had yielded the suspicion that they were, indeed, planning something. The City was entirely too quiet, with not a single one of them being spotted out and about since The Serpent had escaped from prison. 

Unfortunately, they had been unable to pinpoint a single location, so The Host had split up in pairs all over the city, as close to the various “hot spots” as they could. The odds that the bank The Serpent had warned them about was the actual strike point was slim to none, which is why Aziraphale had been assigned it. Stormfront had just been the unlucky member to be paired with him.

“We got into a bit of a fight,” Aziraphale admitted. “Not a physical one. More of a verbal altercation. He’d just got out of jail, again, and was pulling the most ridiculous stunts downtown. I told him just that and then he informed me about this heist.”

Aziraphale cleared his throat, tearing his eyes away from her rounded face and forcing them to look around the room again. “I am almost entirely sure he told me out of spite, but protocol is protocol, and I immediately informed Archangel of the situation.”

Stormfront heaved a great sigh and leaned even farther over the railing. “Figures. I was hoping to get a good workout in this afternoon so I could eat my dessert guilt free tonight.”

A chuckle escaped the hero’s mouth. “You could do what I do and eat it guilt free anyway.” He patted his stomach for good measure, which, naturally, only served to make her laugh. It was impossible to tell now, confined within his super suit, but Aziraphale had somewhat of a rounded belly. Not overly so, like many older men he saw walking about the city, but he wasn’t nearly as sculpted as the a hero-themed advertisements would lead people to believe. 

It was the suit, he’d eventually allowed himself to conclude. They were all provided by The Host and functioned not only as a hero’s identifier to the public, but also as a surefire way that they were always looking their best. These suits smoothed every last wrinkle, tucked away every unwanted fold or roll. Aziraphale didn’t quite understand how, but whenever he put it on, he looked at least twenty pounds lighter.

“If this day turns out to be a dud like I expect it to,” Stormfront sighed, standing upright to stretch out her back, hands linked and rising up over her head. “I should have plenty of time to hit the gym before my big date.”

Aziraphale’s mouth opened instinctively to inquire further, but snapped itself shut when Stormfront uttered a surprise ‘ oh! ’, retracting both her hands rapidly to her side. Both pairs of eyes flickered upward to see a single housefly, zooming about in the air above them. An ordinary occurrence, by any measure, except they were dealing with extraordinary people.

“There’s one on you too,” Stormfront whispered, as if lowering her voice would prevent them from being overheard. At this point, if his suspicions were correct, it didn’t much matter what they did. They were already made.

Casting his eyes as far to the left as he could without moving his head too abruptly, Aziraphale searched for the obvious way in. Some sort of window or vent. Something that would obscure those pests from sight until the last possible second.

There . An air conditioning vent on the south wall, behind him and just above his head. Aziraphale was moving in an instant, energy surging within his body. Hand outstretched, a golden light began to materialize within it slowly taking form until it manifested in the shape of a sword.

In addition to his wings, Aziraphale had the ability to manipulate radiant energy that was continually coursing through his body, like the blood through his veins. He could form it into any shape, or give it no shape at all, choosing to send short blasts at his enemies, rather than a heftier, more physical attack. There was no reason he had to manifest a sword, other than that had been the shape his seventeen-year-old self had decided looked the most heroic, and the image had stuck. If there was anything The Host appreciated more than a superhero getting the job done, it was one who got the job done with style. From day one, Aziraphale had been branded as the guardian angel, Principality. Bringer of light and protector of all the citizens in their fair city. 

Having a glowing, golden sword that appeared to be made of fire only added to his image, and so it was heavily suggested he utilize that familiar shape, whenever possible.

One flick of his free finger against the dial and the vent was open. His sword’s golden light cast shadows down the metallic vent, illuminating a miniscule tunnel of open space that was surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands of buzzing insects, waiting for their signal to strike.

Aziraphale slammed the vent shut, stumbling back as the wall began to vibrate with growing intensity. Adrenaline coursed through his veins as the hero gripped his weapon tighter, the brightness only increasing in intensity as the energy in his body began to spike.

“We’ve got villains incoming!” he announced, taking several giant steps backward until he was level with the railing once more. Several people below caught sight of the sword in his hand and immediately began rushing toward the doors, both front and back, hoping to make their escape before things got messy.

“I’ve already got Archangel on the line,” Stormfront responded, much closer to him than Aziraphale had initially expected. Unlike him, she hadn’t quite prepped herself for a fight, choosing instead to call in the backup they would most likely need. “He and the others are on their way.” 

Aziraphale nodded, torn between keeping his focus on the buzzing vent filled with all manner of nasty, blood-curdling insects, or attempting to find the villain who was controlling them.

Beelzebub.

They had to be somewhere nearby, he knew that much from experience. Although Beelzebub was traditionally paired off with Archangel when it came to dueling their nemesis, Aziraphale had, on occasion, been forced to toe off with the insect wielding villain. It was never a fun time. No matter how many of their miniscule minions he managed to kill off, there were always more to take their place. Stinging wasps, fire ants, and black widows to name a few. Alone, the insects were a nuisance at best. In a swarm like Beelzebub liked to use in their attacks, they could be more than problematic. 

“How long do we need to stall?”

Stormfront tore her eyes away from the watch situated on her wrist, glancing first at Aziraphale, then at the entryway down below. “Five minutes,” she concluded. “Ten, tops.”

“Right,” Aziraphale murmured, his eyes following Stormfront’s gaze until they landed on the bank’s front entranceway and the figure cloaked all in black that was currently striding through it. “Should be a breeze, right?”

The hero beside him smirked, then stepped forward, hoisting herself up until she was standing on the railing. Beneath his feet, Aziraphale felt the floor beginning to vibrate, rapidly growing in intensity until a fountain of water burst forth from a nearby drinking fountain. It drifted through the air, swiftly wrapping itself around Stormfront’s waist as she leapt over the railing, slowing her descent so she landed on the first floor with hardly a sound.

Wings erupted from his back, manifesting into physical space as Aziraphale joined her on the ground, hoping this show of force would at least deter Beelzebub for a little while, giving their allies time to arrive on the scene.

The villain was dressed head to toe in black. Black boots. Black gloves. Shiny black leather jacket wrapped over an outfit of their own design. Spun from spider’s silk, it was breathable, light, and most importantly, bullet resistant.

Not that those characteristics would help them in a scuffle with superheroes, but it did do a lot to impede the efforts of any law enforcement caught in the fray.  

So, ” Beelzebub taunted as they took up their place in the center of the lobby, hands on their hips, red eyes staring out at the two heroes standing in their path. They weren’t real red eyes, of course. Likely some sort of colored contact lens. The villains seemed to enjoy altering their image this way, rather than wear a mask to hide their identity. “You decided to listen to The Serpent’s ridiculous claim and come here anyway? How sad.”

Aziraphale frowned. “We’re covering our bases.” He resisted the urge to look down at his watch. The less Beelzebub knew about their plan, the better. By the looks of it, they had come alone, but Aziraphale didn’t trust that front for a second. If the plan really was to get away with robbing this bank, Beelzebub wouldn’t be here on their own. 

If it was a trap, well, the same logic stood. Even with thousands of insects at their disposal, they were no match for Aziraphale and Stormfront on their own. 

“What do you want?” Stormfront queried. An attempt to draw out more information, no doubt. Was the villain here to rob the bank, even knowing that there were heroes here to defend it? Or was there something else afoot?

Aziraphale chanced a glance behind him, still painfully aware that there was an air duct packed full of hornets and spiders and ants just waiting to attack. How much longer until Beelzebub decided enough was enough. Could the two of them incapacitate the villain before they got swarmed, or would they have to fight their way out? 

Beelzebub laughed, extending their hands on both sides, as they did a quick spin around. “Money, of course. What else would I come to a bank for?”

Blue eyes narrowed as they returned to the villain’s face. It was difficult to gauge the full extent of their expression, as parts of their eyes and upper nose were blocked by ragged strands of deep black hair. Aziraphale wondered if it was some sort of wig, part of the disguise, or if they always wore their hair so haphazardly. 

“You should try coming about it honestly,” he prompted, golden light from his sword still flickering in his hand. He could attempt to blast them with an energy beam as a preemptive strike, but there was an inherent risk to that. The chances that the only insects in this building at Beelzebub’s disposal were those in the vents was unlikely. In fact, as Aziraphale focused his gaze on the villain once more, he noticed pinpricks of darkness crawling out from underneath the sleeves of their jacket.

They had come prepared. 

“What?” Beelzebub challenged, the disgust in their voice evident. “Like you lot do? With your special events and your merchandise . All honestly earned, I’m sure.”

Stormfront bristled beside him, but managed not to erupt in frustration. The water collecting around her hovered in midair, casting dappled shadows and highlights on the floor beneath her. It was somewhat reminiscent of the bottom of a swimming pool on a warm summer’s afternoon. 

“Let’s not do this,” Aziraphale tried, aware that Archangel and the others were likely moments away by now. “You were tipped off and we followed through on that information. You can’t beat us in a fight, so best case scenario, you’re looking at an afternoon of pain and a one way ticket to prison.”

Beelzebub smirked, like the truth of the situation didn’t bother them at all. What, exactly, were they playing at? They couldn’t possibly hope to win.

“Come on, now,” he tried to reason with their sensible side. Beelzebub wasn’t like some of these other villains - always out to cause as much chaos as possible. They were clever - driven. As sharp as The Serpent and at least twice as ruthless. “What is the point in this? You must know by now, our backup is practically here!”

Instead of shock or irritation, a hint of glee entered their eyes. Pale lips curled upward in a wicked grin as the villain took a single step forward, the insects crawling across the sleeves of their jacket scurrying away and out of sight.

“So is mine.”

Thank heaven above fire was a source of light. Aziraphale saw the bright flash mere moments before the tornado struck. He had just enough time to grab Stormfront by the waist and launch them up and over the counter to their left, taking cover as the funnel of flames barreled through the glass front of the building, shattering it completely.

Heat rushed into the room, casting a bright orange glow over everything. Aziraphale let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding as he turned toward his companion. Stormfront’s eyes were blown wide, but she’d had enough sense to keep the water she’d already collected nearby, sparing it from being scattered right away.

“You’d better be right about that backup,” she teased, a glint of humor in her eyes. Aziraphale just huffed silently to himself. How Stormfront could have been a part of The Host for ten years and not be tired of the back and forth, cat and mouse games by now, he would never understand.

“Lend me a hand, why don’t you?” she asked, glancing over toward the wall. There was a single doorway on the back wall several feet away labeled ‘Employees Only’. If Aziraphale and Stormfront were on the same page, he knew exactly what he needed to do next. If not, well, the next few seconds were about to get very interesting.

Sucking in a deep breath, trying to ignore the scorching heat still hovering over their heads, Aziraphale lurched forward toward the door, scrambling to his feet at the same time Stormfront hurdled back over the counter, wave of water crashing into the figure they knew had to be there.

He flung the door open just as a loud crash was heard from upstairs. Fifteen years of training and experience was the only thing that kept Aziraphale from freezing up in that moment. The vent .

At least the civilians had gotten themselves out. At least property damage was the only thing they needed to worry about. He couldn’t imagine what kind of tragedy might have occurred here if that hadn’t been the case. If they hadn’t been warned. If the villains had decided to strike on another day.

Just so you know…

Why had The Serpent told him the truth about their plan? If he had just kept his mouth shut, Beelzebub and Hellfire might have been able to take the bank by surprise. They would have had hostages and could have negotiated some kind of trade. What was the point of tipping him off? Were they in on this together? Was there something Aziraphale was missing?

A yellowjacket darted at his face and Aziraphale sliced it in half with his sword, watching as the body fell to the floor with a soft tink . Standing in the doorway, he found himself face to face with a janitorial closet. A space barely big enough to turn around in, with a pile of brooms, mops, cleaning supplies, and a single metallic sink.

With a quick flash of his free hand, Aziraphale spun the faucet handles to their maximum position. Stormfront didn’t need the water to be flowing in order for her to utilize it, but the fewer barriers between herself and the source, the easier it was to manipulate and replenish. And if Aziraphale had learned anything about his past encounters with Hellfire, she was going to need all the ammunition she could get. 

There he was, standing in the center of the lobby, dressed as drab as ever. All the other villains Aziraphale had ever run into seemed to embrace the showmanship of the hero-villain lifestyle. Even Beelzebub, whose costume consisted of all black, had a theme, their red contacts and insane hair somewhat reminiscent of a fly. Not Hellfire. The villain with arguably the most intense powers could have gone with any number of memorable designs, and instead chose to dress in a faded trench coat and tattered grey pants.

A sharp pain erupted across the back of his neck, and Aziraphale responded instantly, releasing a sharp wave of energy across his entire body, like some kind of zapper. Several spiders dropped to the floor - black widows, if he wasn’t mistaken - their legs curling upward as if they’d been singed. He suppressed a shudder, thankful that he’d gotten rid of them before more bites had been incurred. Three or four, he could probably handle. Any more than that, and his effectiveness in this fight would be significantly reduced.

Beelzebub was approximately two dozen feet away, staying out of the main fray as Stormfront and Hellfire went head to head. Streams of fire and water colliding in midair, filling the room with billowing steam so thick it threatened to obscure all visibility in a manner of seconds. Aziraphale flapped his wings and sent another shock of energy through his system, watching as more insects tumbled toward the ground.

Fighting Beelzebub was not a close combat sort of fight. Even now, they had drawn their swarm close to them, blurring the lines around them and making it nearly impossible to tell their exact location. If Aziraphale tried to get too close, he was asking for trouble. For now, it was likely best to keep his distance, continue pulsing energy to avoid being bitten too much, and attack from afar.

It was a great plan, really. An excellent one, until the moment he stepped forward to execute it, and the bright blast of golden energy that had moments ago been coalesced in the shape of his sword, passed through an entirely different person, causing them to disintegrate in mid air.

“Missed me.”

Aziraphale whirled around, all thoughts of Beelzebub vanishing from his mind as another villain made himself known. Replica. A villain whose powers were more defensive than anything else, but still made his job a multitude times more difficult. One version of Replica had already vanished thanks to Aziraphale’s attack, only to be replaced with four others. All identical in nature. Impossible to tell which one was real.

This fight was very different from a face off against Beelzebub. With Replica, Aziraphale could be direct. In fact, it paid to be direct. He didn’t understand exactly how the villain’s power worked. As one of the newest villains in the city, there hadn’t been many altercations with him. But, it would seem that splitting himself into several different copies took some level of concentration. And the more Aziraphale threw at him, the less brain power Replica would have to use his abilities.

In an instant, the sword was back and Aziraphale was pressing forward. He feinted to the left, switching right at the last minute to run the blade through the figure to his right. It exploded in a puff of smoke as another one appeared several feet away, just out of his reach.

He swung again, and this Replica dodged. One of them closed in from behind and landed a solid punch on his left side before Aziraphale swept around, wing striking the figure, knocking him to the ground. Another slice and another copy vanished, leaving only three for the time being.

More steam billowed about them as Stormfront and Hellfire clashed once more. A quick glance told Aziraphale that the faucet was still on, which was the only good thing about this situation. Three on two was hardly an easy fight, especially when Stormfront’s entire focus was occupied dealing with a single villain. Aziraphale could handle Replica well enough, even with his constant copies disappearing and reappearing. It was Beelzebub he was worried about. Their swarm of insects was only growing by the second, swarming around them like a shield or cocoon. 

What was the main goal here? Did they have a plan, or were they hoping to burst in and take as much as they could? It seemed a bit chaotic to be any formal plan, but then again, there were still plenty of villains that had yet to show. Plenty of time for anything to happen.

The closest Replica lunged again and Aziraphale and he reacted by swinging his sword around in an arc, slicing through one of the copies behind him. Another sharp pain bit at the area where his blonde curls met his neck and Aziraphale instinctively sent out another burst of energy, colliding with the copy currently moving to punch him in the stomach from the front side.

Where the hell were Archangel and the others? They should have been here by now. Did they get held up along the way? Had some of the other villains in the city been hiding around nearby to try and halt them on their way to help? Aziraphale didn’t know how much longer he and Stormfront could hold out without completely - 

Aziraphale’s thought completely flew from his mind the moment Beelzebub’s growing swarm was knocked aside suddenly by an invisible force. The dark cloud dispersed with an angry buzz, revealing their form as they tumbled to the floor, red eyes wide in shock.

In a flash, Archangel appeared in the space before Beelzebub, standing over them with a satisfied smirk on his face as he looked at his opponent with shining violet eyes.

“Give it up,” he taunted as Beelzebub sat up on their elbows, swarm buzzing angrily behind them, but not yet going in for the attack. “The cavalry has arrived.

Sure enough, in through the door walked Prism, with her multicolored, skin-tight uniform and golden makeup adorning her dark skin. Aziraphale felt relief flood through his body and immediately stepped aside to assist with Beelzebub. Over the many years they’d been at this hero business, they’d figured out the best way to combat the threat of villains, and that included pairing up each hero with the optimal opponent to play to their strengths. Prism, with her ability to see patterns both in human behavior and in the world overall, was the perfect match to go toe to toe against Replica’s antics. The last thing he wanted to do was stand in her way.

“Outside,” Archangel barked as Beelzebub scrambled to their feet, sending forth a wave of yellowjackets his way. “Vertigo is right on our tail.”

Aziraphale gritted his teeth and took off, narrowly avoiding getting bitten or stung a third time as Archangel let out a hundred tiny bolts of violet light, striking down every insect in the vicinity. Wings beating heavily behind him, the hero took to the air, soaring through the fragmented glass where Hellfire had burst through, eyes peeled for his target.

The key to fighting Vertigo was to keep both feet off the ground. They had a nasty ability, as a side-effect of their powers, to cause dizziness and nausea to anyone nearby. Aziraphale had experienced it many times firsthand - the sensation of the world spinning around him. Like he’d had one too many glasses of wine and was about to faceplant on the floor. At least, in the air, there was no danger of losing his balance and gravity pulling him to the ground. As long as his wings kept beating, he had a chance.

Moments after exiting the building, Aziraphale spotted the black and green spiraled uniform soaring over the street several blocks away, growing closer with each passing second. He sent a blast of energy at the villain, gritting his teeth in frustration as they deftly dodged to the side, spiraling off in one direction with ease, like the desire to keep themselves oriented was a pointless endeavor.

“Give it up, Vertigo,” Aziraphale challenged as the villain pulled up in front of them, hovering in the air much like Archangel did, without the beams of purple energy keeping them afloat. “We’ve got you outnumbered.”

The villain laughed, their eyes hidden behind a pair of wide, black tinted aviator goggles. “Is stupidity a requirement to be let into The Host?” they inquired, harsh smile upon their thin lips. “Last I checked, four against four is hardly outnumbered. And one of ours can duplicate himself.”

 Aziraphale sighed, ignoring the jab in favor of finding a way to talk them out of this conflict. It wasn’t that he was against fighting Vertigo or any of the others, but it all seemed so pointless, in the moment. If their goal was actually to break into the vault downstairs and steal any amount of money or valuables, they would each have to defeat a superhero. A task that was certainly not an easy one. It just didn’t make any sense.

“We don’t have to do this,” the hero started, hoping Vertigo might pause a moment and take the time to reflect on their current situation. You all can walk away now and escape any repercussions.” Normally, as heroes, Aziraphale and the others were expected to wrangle the villains up and send them to jail to serve time for their crimes, but hero and villain both knew that wasn’t how this would go. Each of the villains would make their escape and the heroes would remain behind at the scene of the crime, to make their statements to the police, assess property damage, and ensure that nothing of value was taken.

By the time they completed their tasks, the villains would be long gone.

“Now where’s the fun in that?”

All of a sudden, Aziraphale felt the world start to spin around him. His stomach churned angrily as his brain fought to decipher which way was up. He could still see Vertigo hovering in front of him, but the distance seemed distorted. His vision was funneling, making everything seem much further away. Something that would have been a problem, had he needed to make any precise movements.

Luckily for him, Aziraphale did not. His wings flapped roughly behind him, keeping him aloft in the air as the hero sent his radiant sword blasting away, changing form into three short blasts of energy headed straight for his opponent. 

Vertigo nimbly dodged out of the way, avoiding all three attacks, but the assault was enough to break their concentration, lifting the uncomfortable sensation Aziraphale was experiencing long enough for him to get in a decent shot. The blast of energy clipped the villain’s arm, sending them tumbling through the air for a moment before they were able to right themselves once more.

In all his years fighting opposite Vertigo, Aziraphale never fully understood where they got their ability of flight. Of course, he never fully understood how any of them got their abilities. The doctors and scientists said they all had special gene deformities that manifested superpowers when they transitioned from child to adult. For a while, that explanation was enough, but recent studies reported that there were other individuals in the city - not many, but more than an insignificant amount - that had the same deformity, and yet never experienced any changes.

Aziraphale was no scientist. He trusted those who were brighter than him to figure out an explanation for this crazy world they’d found themselves in twenty years ago, when Metatron and Myosotis stepped forward in front of the microphones and the reporters and changed everything.

Myosotis. The Host’s oldest superhero. And, quite possibly, the most mysterious of them all.

Once again, Vertigo tried to send a sound pulse his way, but Aziraphale was able to evade. Fire still raged inside the building and he wondered if he should head back inside and try to assist. Even if they did manage to stop the villains from getting away with any money, the amount of property damage alone was bound to bring a lot of bad publicity. If they didn’t wrap this up fast, there would be hell to pay later.

“Shit!”

The expletive came seemingly out of nowhere. It was so sudden that Aziraphale’s golden blast faded mid strike as his eyes drifted down to the street toward whatever had just caught Vertigo’s attention. He half expected it to be some kind of ploy, and braced himself for another wave of nausea and disorientation, only to find himself shocked to see a familiar looking face casually walking down the street.

Aziraphale had never actually met Myosotis before, though he’d seen her likeness on nearly every poster at every convention or meet and greet he’d ever been to. She’d never actually attended any of them - as the first ever superhero and Metatron’s right-hand lady, she had far more important things to do. But that didn’t mean The Host shied away from capitalizing on every bit of her mystique and fame.

She was wearing her tried and true pale green uniform, with intricate white vines crawling up the sides and across her chest. White gloves covered her hands and an identical mask covered the area around her eyes, tied tightly over the tangle of brown curls that had been pinned up neatly atop her head. An emerald cape billowed behind her as she slowed to a stop outside of the shattered bank doors.

For a moment, she did nothing, and both Aziraphale and Vertigo hung suspended in midair, watching her. It wasn’t every day you saw a literal legend walking down the street. What was he supposed to do? Should he keep fighting Vertigo, even when they were not fighting back? Or did he wait for her to come in and take over?

Three strides and she vanished into the bank, no doubt deciding that her help would best be utilized inside, where the fray was wilder and much more destructive. Aziraphale blinked and turned his head to his opponent. What was Vertigo looking at? What purpose did staring at the building serve? Were they waiting for some kind of signal that some milestone had been accomplished, or had something caught their attention?

Slowly, Vertigo turned back to him. Their eyes were still hidden behind those dark tinted goggles, but Aziraphale was sure that if they weren’t obscured, he would have seen a look of confusion in them. He thought back on their previous interactions, but couldn’t come up with anything that would have happened to confuse or stun them. Had one of his radiant blasts hit them on the head by mistake? As a general principal, Aziraphale tried to avoid doing any permanent damage to his opponents. They may be villains, but they were still human. Wasn’t it their job, as heroes, to be just, but also to be merciful?

Two more seconds passed before Vertigo reacted. They floated backwards, raising their hands to undoubtedly send another blast of disorienting sounds his way. Right before anything emerged, a flash of fire appeared in Aziraphale’s peripherals. Vertigo must have seen it too, because they turned instantly to look back down at the shattered glass doors where Hellfire was currently careening out of in a tornado of fire, hightailing it down the street without a second glance back. 

Seconds later, Replica and five of his mirror images rushed out the door, spreading out in all directions, so it would be impossible to track him down. Aziraphale hesitated, wondering if he should try to apprehend them, or keep his focus on Vertigo, who was still very much near him.

Last, but certainly not least, was Beelzebub, followed by an impenetrable wall of insects at their tail, spreading out to cover the entire front wall in an effort to keep the other heroes trapped inside for the time being.

Aziraphale saw them look directly up at Vertigo and make a very distinct motion with their hand. From left to right, it flew across their forehead, palm against the exposed skin before turning into a solitary fist, single thumb raised. 

Whatever it meant, Vertigo obviously understood. They immediately took off in the other direction, seemingly abandoning Beelzebub to the remaining heroes and law enforcement officials that were surely on their way. However, before any of the heroes could come bursting out of the wall of insects the villain had created behind them, another swarm erupted from a nearby sewer, tossing the manhole aside like it was a piece of Styrofoam. 

Aziraphale watched with wide-eyed wonder as the group of insects swarmed around the red-eyed villain, circling around and underneath them until they’d created a dense, dark cloud. Inch by inch, they lifted Beelzebub up into the air, as if they were riding upon the magic carpets featured in “A Thousand and One Nights.” 

With one last wave in his direction, Beelzebub commanded their legion of miniscule winged beasts to retreat, taking them away from the scene of the crime, over the nearest row of buildings and completely out of sight.

Chapter Text

Chapter Text

How early was too early to show up to a lunch date?

Crowley found himself asking that question constantly throughout the morning. As he chose which outfit to wear and styled his hair, changed his outfit, went to check on some of his plants at the shop. Came back to his duplex, waved ‘good morning’ to Anathema through the window. Changed his outfit for the third time. The question always lingered.

How early was too early?

The last thing Crowley wanted to do was seem desperate or pathetic. If he showed up thirty minutes prior and Aziraphale walked in to see him already settled, what would the other man think? It wasn’t as if Crowley didn’t have anything better to do with his time, he was just so utterly and completely nervous, he could barely think straight.

“I should just cancel,” the man muttered to himself as he paced back and forth across the concrete floor of his basement. “This whole thing is a terrible idea anyway. He’ll see right through me. If not today, then the next time we go out. Or the time after that. Might as well quit while I’m ahead.”

No amount of reasoning could force him to pull the trigger. Even if Crowley had wanted to jump ship, he realized the only way to get out of it would be to march down to the bookshop and tell Aziraphale to his face, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to do that. Crowley didn’t have a phone number to call or an email address to contact. He had nothing but a date, time, location, and the promise that he would be there. The only way he was getting out of this lunch would be to stand Aziraphale up, and no matter how frazzled he became, Crowley knew he would never be able to stomach such a horrid act.

He may be a supervillain, but he wasn’t cruel.

“Any plans for today, sir?”

The question, and proximity of the voice asking it, nearly caused Crowley to jump out of his skin. He whirled around and found himself face to face with Minion. The plant was riding atop their faithful Segway, one root wrapped firmly around the handle as they steered it around. A small tray had been bolted to the front where Minion could place various tools and other items they wished to carry around. Right now, Crowley could see evidence the plant had been making upgrades to their suit - a mechanical device of Crowley’s own invention that allowed the sentient plant to walk around like any other life form. Various nuts, bolts, and screws lay strewn about along with the strangest assortment of tools he’d ever seen.

“No,” he answered far too quickly to be even remotely believable. “Nothing set in stone. Might head over to the shop for a bit. See how the plants are getting on. Grab some lunch, or something. Maybe some tinkering this afternoon. Who knows?”

“Right,” Minion responded, wheeling around to the other side of Crowley’s desk and the multitude of drawers by his right leg. The villain wasn’t entirely sure what his companion was looking for, but he knew by now not to get in Minion’s way. “Is that what you want me to tell Beelzebub when they inevitably call later this afternoon?”

Crowley groaned. For a few blissful minutes, he’d managed to forget all about that annoying pest of a villain. This entire week had been spent at his shop, leaving Minion to mind the lair back home. Normally, this wouldn’t have been an issue at all, but Beelzebub was determined to have him be a part of the next phase of their plan. And for the life of him, Crowley couldn’t understand why. 

“Absolutely not,” he replied, making it very clear Minion was, under no circumstances, to allow the villain any knowledge of Crowley’s whereabouts. “I don’t want you to even answer the phone while I’m out. Let them stew for all I care. They deserve it, for trying to ruin my vacation.”

That last bit was more of a formality than anything else. Crowley honestly didn’t care what Beelzebub was up to, so long as they left him out of it. He knew that eventually, Beelzebub would track him down and he’d either have to go along with their insane plan to infiltrate The Host or find some other reason he couldn’t participate. Avoiding the problem had been working well so far, he might as well keep trying until something changed.

“But sir?” Minion protested and Crowley quirked his eyebrow at the plant. They cut off abruptly, stems shaking slightly as if they were carefully contemplating their next words. Which they should, if they wanted to keep all their leaves. “It seems as if Beelzebub has something big planned for the superheroes. Why wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?”

Crowley sighed, trying not to feel too self-conscious about how close Minion was getting to the root of the problem. He was a villain. He should want to do villainous things, and breaking into Host Tower certainly counted as such. The problem was, after fifteen years of this, Crowley could hardly be bothered to care . The only thing that he actively enjoyed about being The Serpent was his interactions with Principality. It was obvious, based on their last conversation, the hero did not feel the same. 

Well, if Principality couldn’t be bothered to care, then neither would he.

“Until Beelzebub brings me in and tells me exactly what they plan on doing and why I should care, I’m not interested,” Crowley stated in a tone that was very much final. “And I will have that conversation on my terms. Not anyone else's.”

Silence fell between the pair as Minion found whatever tool they were looking for. The machine whirred back to life as they started to wheel away, only to pause and look back, the smallest, uppermost leaves lifting upward as if they were looking straight at the supervillain. “If that’s what you want, sir.”

It was what he wanted. Or, rather, talking to Beelzebub was not what he wanted. Crowley didn’t actually know what he did want, other than to get away from home for a bit and spend a nice meal with a kind and very handsome bookshop owner.

All in all, he made it to the café with ten minutes to spare.

The first time he passed by, peeking in the window as he casually strolled down the street, Crowley didn’t see any sign of Aziraphale. He checked his watch, flashed his eyes once more over the two wide glass windows at the front of the café, and then turned the corner, looping around the block to have another go at it.

On the third such loop around the block, he spotted the blonde haired man, hand on the café door, just about to pull it open. Internally, Crowley cursed himself. If he’d been just a bit earlier, he might have timed it so he could have held the door open for Aziraphale. The other man seemed like the type who would appreciate a gentlemanly gesture like that. Based on his clothes - a similar colored tan suit with a deep green bowtie this time - Crowley assumed Aziraphale was an old-fashioned type. Someone who appreciated polite conversation, doors being held open, and all that other stuff. Acts that weren’t necessarily in Crowley’s wheelhouse, but ones he found himself wishing he could do, just so that this kind man might like him, just a bit.

“Oh Crowley!” Aziraphale greeted with a smile as Crowley entered the building a few steps behind him. As he looked over at the other man’s face, butterflied erupted inside his chest. Honestly. How was he supposed to even think let alone say anything interesting when Aziraphale practically lit up like that? Eyes crinkling, dimples appearing in the center of his cheeks - it was completely unfair how attractive he was. Crowley was absolutely doomed. “So glad to see you!”

Crowley nodded his head silently as his eyes drifted toward the menu behind the counter, not comprehending a single word written in chalk there. It was difficult to be hungry when his stomach was currently twisted in knots, lodged in his throat, making it impossible to say a single word, let alone eat. Had he smiled back at Aziraphale? He must have, or he would seem like an absolute wanker.

He had to say something. Crowley had to say something right now that was clever, and funny, and showed Aziraphale that he was glad to be here, without seeming too desperate. If he came across too desperate, Aziraphale might lose interest. He had to seem cool. Put together. He could do this. All he had to do was take a deep breath and - 

“How was your walk?”

How was your walk? What the hell was wrong with him? Was he trying to make an absolute embarrassment of himself? Biting back a groan, Crowley turned to look at the other man who beamed at him while the line shifted forward and they followed along with it.

“Oh, it was quite splendid, actually!” Aziraphale responded, not looking put out in the least by Crowley’s complete and utter awkwardness. “I’ve been up for a while, you see, trouble sleeping and all, so I took a walk through the park to clear my head. Have you ever been to the park in the early morning?”

Aziraphale paused, and after a few seconds, Crowley realized he was waiting for a response. Quickly, the man shook his head and his companion continued. “This time of year, there’s usually this layer of mist that hangs around until mid morning. One would think it would give off an almost spooky feeling, but the atmosphere is actually quite mysterious. It reminds me of some of the fantastical tales I used to read as a boy.”

He was talking a lot, which Crowley hoped was a good sign. Maybe Aziraphale was a nervous talker. There was no reason to believe he’d be nervous in a situation like this, except, well, he had been on his way back to the shop the other day after they’d said goodbye. Crowley hadn’t stopped much to analyze their previous interactions, for fear that he might find obvious signs that Aziraphale was simply being a kind neighbor.

“You - uh, you read a lot as a kid then?” For a moment, his voice wavered, sticking in his throat like peanut butter to the roof of his mouth, but Crowley pushed past the sensation. He wasn’t about to let Aziraphale grow bored with him because he couldn’t bring himself to speak. Crowley may be a handful. He was fickle, bouncing from one thing to the net without rhyme or reason. When some idea captured his attention, he could vanish for days, not even responding to Anathema to let her know he was alright. He could be selfish, and inconsiderate of others, not to mention he was a literal supervillain.

There were many reasons for Aziraphale to lose interest in him. Being boring was not one of them.

“Oh yes!” Aziraphale responded as they reached the counter. “All the time. My life was a rather dull one, you see. Both my parents worked and while I liked the daycare I attended before and after school, the other children could be...quite rambunctious at times. I much preferred to sit in my comfy chair and be whisked away into other worlds.”

Crowley remained quiet as Aziraphale turned away to place his order, realizing with a rapidly increasing heartbeat, that this might be his chance to take charge. If he did nothing, they might still have a perfectly enjoyable lunch, and that might be all it was. A lunch. Not a date.

And that was what Crowley really wanted. He wanted this meal to be a bonified date. He wanted there to be no way for either one of them to misread the situation. And the only way to do that was to take charge of the situation right now.

“I’ve got it,” the red-haired man cut in as he quickly placed his order, stopping Aziraphale in his place. He reached for his wallet, ready to pay for the both of them before the other man could get a word in edgewise.

Turning toward Aziraphale, Crowley shot him a wink, hoping it came across as flirtatious and not arrogant or creepy in any way. “You can get the next one.”

Aziraphale’s cheeks flushed in the most charming way and Crowley could hardly focus on anything else. He simply smiled as the other man’s response went in one ear and out the other, keeping close to his side as they took their seats and waited for their food to be ready.

“So!” Aziraphale started, leaning forward slightly in his seat as he unfolded the napkin in front of him and placed it gingerly on his lap, reaching a single hand up to straighten out the silverware on either side of him - fork on the left, knife on the right. “A plant shop? What prompted you to take on quite an endeavor?”

Crowley shrugged, leaning back ever so slightly in his chair. “I’ve always liked gardening, I suppose,” he answered, not really wanting to go into all the details of his very unique situation. “Seemed like the thing to do, being on vacation, and all.”

He winced internally, already regretting opening his mouth. Aziraphale was sure to catch onto that. He should know by now to be more careful with what he said, but it had been so long since Crowley had interacted with anyone else in his normal life besides Anathema. At least, on a more personal level than saying ‘hello’ as he passed by people in the grocery store. If he didn’t reign in his tongue, he was sure to let something slip.  

“Vacation?” Damn. Not even a second to figure out what he should say next. “Are you only here temporarily?”

Was that a hint of...disappointment Crowley heard in Aziraphale’s voice, or was he imagining things? Surely, Aziraphale didn’t actually believe he’d moved here to temporarily open up a plant shop, only to leave several weeks later? He may bounce from project to project faster than a cricket avoiding capture, but he wasn’t a complete idiot.

“No,” he assured the other man as their food was brought over by someone from behind the counter and placed on the table in front of them. “That’s not what I meant - ‘vacation’ probably was the wrong word. I just meant I needed a break from my usual line of work.”

“Oh.” Aziraphale smiled and Crowley felt the room brighten around him. “What sort of work do you usually do?”

“I’m an engineer.” Technically, not a lie, but even the half truth made Crowley’s stomach squirm. This was a bad idea. Normally, he could lie with ease. As a city-wide villain, he had to or he’d have been put away years ago. This stomach-curling, nausea was new though. Aziraphale was just so kind. So genuine and trusting, it physically hurt to lie to him. Which was going to be a problem in the future. If they even had a future.

“Mostly mechanical, though I’ve been delving a bit into software development recently. Got tired of doing the same old thing. Do you know anything about mobile games?”

Aziraphale shook his head and Crowley could have slapped himself. Of all the people he could be out with, of course Aziraphale wouldn’t be the type to play mobile games. He probably didn’t even own a mobile phone, by the looks of him.

“I’m afraid not,” he admitted somewhat apologetically, confirming Crowley’s suspicions. Keeping up with the times is a bit difficult for me. My work issued me with a newfangled watch a year or so ago that is also some sort of communication device, and I have a rather dreadful time with it.”

Crowley frowned. “You have a smartwatch as part of being a bookshop owner?”

A soft chuckle emerged from the man’s chest and Crowley’s heart glowed. He hadn’t meant to make Aziraphale laugh, but he was glad for it, nonetheless.

“No, my dear.” Crowley’s cheeks colored splendidly at the term. So much for keeping his cool. “I’m afraid I only tend to the bookshop on my off hours. I’m also a volunteer rescue worker.”

Good Lord, this man was the whole package. Handsome, kind, thoughtful and self-sacrificing. If he had superpowers, he’d be a bloody hero - and not one of those pretentious assholes that made up The Host. A legitimate hero, like the ones Crowley had grown up reading stories about.

“In other news, after their successful encounter at First National Bank yesterday afternoon, the hero Archangel has announced that The Host will be holding a press conference at the end of next week to announce a new hero being added to their ranks.”

Crowley could not have held back the groan if he tried. It slipped out between his clenched teeth as amber eyes took in the scene unfolding on the tv behind the bakery counter. The screen was small and partially obscured by the cashier, but Crowley could still see the right half of a news reporter standing downtown in front of the bank that Beelzebub and the others had attempted to rob the previous day.

With everything said and done, Crowley was extremely relieved he hadn’t taken part in the skirmish. For a fight that only lasted twenty minutes, the contractors and construction workers in this city now had weeks of repair to replace the shattered glass and broken walls inside the building. It had been an all out brawl - one of the worst in recent memory - and honestly, with both Hellfire and Stormfront there, it had been a miracle all of them had made it out alive.

“Not a fan of a new cape in town?” 

Crowley turned back toward the man sitting opposite him. Aziraphale was still seated as prim and proper as always, his hands folded neatly on his lap under the table, back straight, shoulders square. His face held the hint of a smile, one eyebrow quirking upright as an amused grin tugged at his lips. A wave of anxiety hit him like a truck. Even though all signs pointed at the opposite, there was still a chance that Aziraphale was like all the other civilians in this city - a fan of The Host. Lining the streets every time one of them decided to speak. Filling his home with collectibles and merchandise and comics about fights that never even happened.

It was a completely plausible concern. One that had a chance of ruining anything here between them, if there even was anything. Crowley hoped there was, but then again, he knew very little about the bookshop owner. Finding out that Aziraphale was just another face in one of those cheering crowds might be enough for Crowley to call this whole thing quits. He may be on vacation, but he was still a villain. He had been, for fifteen years now.

It wouldn’t do well to forget that.

“It’s not that I mind having someone new, necessarily, ” Crowley backtracked, trying not to seem too suspicious. What a disaster of a first date this would be if Aziraphale found out he was having lunch with one of the most wanted criminals in the city, hiding in plain sight. “I’m just not super jazzed about all my magazines being overtaken by articles about this new hero. And about how that’s all the news will be talking about for weeks. No more sweet human interest stories about rescuing baby foxes out of wells or baking the world’s largest pepperoni and pineapple pizza. Just some new teenager who doesn’t quite fit into those big hero boots.”

Another smile flashed his way as Aziraphale lifted a hand to sip at his tea. “You forgot about all the new merchandise and press conferences and publicity stunts and the dozens of advertisements that go with them.”

He was joking . Crowley’s eyes widened as relief washed through him. Aziraphale was dreading this new superhero just as much as Crowley was, perhaps more so. 

You hate The Host too?” he asked, uncrossing his legs and leaning forward, as if adjusting his position would allow him to hear Aziraphale more clearly.

The blonde man chuckled. “Hate is a strong word, but I will say I find their antics, hero and villain alike, to be quite tiresome. And that’s on a good day.”

Oh, thank the heavens. Aziraphale wasn’t some crazy fanatic after all. He was a sane, normal human being who, like Crowley, had grown tired of this twenty-year long cat and mouse game. If Crowley hadn’t been enamored with the blonde-haired man before, he certainly was now. He could feel his heart thrumming inside his chest and quickly reached for his drink in an attempt to alleviate the sudden dryness in his mouth.

What did he do now? He liked Aziraphale, really liked him. How long had it been since he’d had romantic feelings for someone? What was he supposed to do with them? From what he could tell, this date was going well so far, but he still had plenty of time to mess it up. Knowing him, he probably would.

“Did you want to go together?” Crowley found himself asking as the reporter continued to drone on about the event. It wasn’t exactly the ideal spot for a second date, but it could be fun. There were sure to be some parties around town they could hit if the weather was nice, and it might be interesting to speculate on the way there what this new superhero might be like. Were they a boy or girl? What kind of powers did they have? Who did The Host intend on pairing them with for training? Who would be their nemesis?

All perfectly valid questions that were much more fun to speculate about with someone else. The last time this happened, Crowley and Minion had stayed up all night in their basement, planning a grand welcoming event full of villainous shenanigans. Minor ones, of course. Just enough to get the new hero’s feet wet. He’d obviously be abstaining from such actions this time around, but spending more time with Aziraphale sounded just as grand. 

Aziraphale’s face fell and Crowley knew immediately he’d said something wrong. What could it have been? Was it the specific act of asking the other man on a second date? Had Aziraphale realized already that they weren’t a good match? Or had something else tipped the scales? Crowley wanted to backtrack, but he couldn’t see how. Not when he had no clue what was going on in the other man’s mind.

“Too many people for me, I’m afraid,” Aziraphale answered in a tight voice, and Crowley wondered if there was a story behind that sudden flash of anxiety. He didn’t press, however, choosing to turn his gaze to the partially eaten food in front of him, no longer as hungry as he had been moments before. 

“I would, however - “ Crowley looked up suddenly at the brush of soft skin against his own. Aziraphale was leaning slightly forward in his chair, hand resting gently over Crowley’s as he smiled softly at the villain. “Love to see you again after this, if you’d like.”

Once again, Crowley’s mouth went dry. His eyes widened, heart feeling like it was about to explode all over the table and ruin their moment. “Yeah,” he managed to croak, wishing he didn’t sound so much like a dying frog in that moment. “You, uh, you want to go on a second date?”

There. He’d said it. The words were out in the open now. No taking them back. It was time to see where Aziraphale’s intentions truly lay.

He beamed, squeezing Crowley’s hand once before returning it to his lap. “Very much so. I do believe,” he continued, after a moment, blue eyes training on the wide smile that had found its way onto Crowley’s face. A smile that wasn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. Crowley was sure of it.

“I am supposed to ‘get the next one’,” he said with a wink and Crowley’s heart was gone. If he wasn’t so afraid of messing up what was obviously an invitation for a second date, he might have leaned in and kissed the other man, but somehow, he held himself back. Now wasn’t the time. He’d have another opportunity, because Aziraphale was, right now , in this moment, asking him on a second date.

“Isn’t that right?”