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Riverside Rendezvous

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“It really is quite spectacular what they’ve done here, don’t you think?”

Crowley watches as Aziraphale takes in the theatre.  It’s the Globe, but not the Globe.  It’s a newer one, more modern.  They’ve been here before, dozens of times now, but for Aziraphale it always holds the same wonder and the same magic.  A little slice of history, ripped from time and planted back in London.  Crowley can still smell the hay and the sweat of the stage, the fresh fruits and oysters that Juliet would sell before the performances.  Memories are a funny thing, so easy even in six thousand years to be pulled back to specific moments in time.

They stroll leisurely through the lobby, hand in hand and pressed close together.  A casual display of affection that the other theatre-goers pay no mind to.  It’s still thrilling, even now, to be in love and in the light.  Aziraphale has to stop and read all the little markers at the mini ‘museum displays’, to try to remember if he were there for the events in question.  Crowley just follows along, happy to follow Aziraphale’s lead, to go with his particular flow.  This night is for him, after all.

The ring box is nestled in Crowley’s chest pocket, another grand gesture four hundred years removed from the first one here.  Tonight will be the night, he’s determined and certain.  Nothing will stop him this time.  

It’s Hamlet tonight, because of course it is.  Crowley still remembers walking out of the theatre, trying to keep his cool after promising something so huge and seemingly impossible.  And yet, he had managed it.  One of Shakespeare’s most noted plays of all time, one of the greats (sadly not one of the funny ones).  Aziraphale, he’s sure, chalks it up to a little demonic miracle.  The angel doesn’t have to know about the long hours spent going over the production, helping with script rewrites, and paying off kids to hand out fliers in the streets.

Nah, leave that to ancient history.  Crowley can keep a few secrets, anyway.

“It’s such a faithful recreation,” Aziraphale says as he runs a hand over a plaster wall, “You can feel the love that was put into this building.”

“Oh?” Crowley asks, trading the hand-holding for putting an arm around Aziraphale’s waist instead.

“Yes, it’s all over.  Love of the theatre.  Love of William and his works.  Love of it all, poured into every single piece of it, down to every nail and screw.”

Aziraphale sighs happily, always content when surrounded by any kind of love.  Crowley wouldn’t know, not a thing for a demon to sense.  But he sees how Aziraphale’s eyes sparkle; how he becomes lighter, almost like a weight is lifting.  Aziraphale’s steps always have more of a spring to them in places that feel loved.

Crowley hasn’t ever put much stock in the human concept of “social batteries”.  He remembers when he first heard about it, and assumed that, for them at least, it made a bit of sense.  It wasn’t until after the Apocalypse-That-Didn’t-Happen that he noticed.  Places that were loved would build his angel up, places that were not-so-much could be taxing.  It was the difference between a stuffy upscale chain restaurant and a hole-in-the-wall dive bar; the love that was poured into the product.

An angel surrounded by love is an angel in their element, and to be able to be a part of that love, to contribute to it?  That’s worth every bit of pain he’d ever experienced on Earth.

They join up in the queue to enter the theatre proper, tickets nestled right next to the ring box in Crowley’s pocket.  The line is moving fairly slowly, but it doesn’t really matter.  The show won’t start until they are good and ready, even if the actors aren’t sure why.

Crowley gets out his phone, intent to catch up on some of the monotony of the day.  Before he can so much as click on an app, Aziraphale leans in and kisses him on the cheek.  Crowley feels his face go hot, blush rising in the wake of Aziraphale’s lips even now.

“What was that for, angel?”

“I know how opposed you are to thank-you’s. I figured I’d try a different approach.”

Crowley leans in and kisses him properly.  “Don’t mind them so much nowadays, but what are you thanking me for?”

“For tonight, for this…I know how you feel about the gloomy ones, you know.  But Hamlet is always going to be special to me.”  He looks at Crowley pointedly, and the meaning is clear, even if he doesn’t say it.  It’s important because of Crowley ; otherwise it would just be another literary work lost to time.  

“Eh, so it’s gloomy, s’why I brought my phone.”

The remark earns him a swat on the arm that’s accompanied by a laugh as Aziraphale’s hands find Crowley’s lapels.  He smoothes them down, despite them not being out of place, before running a finger along Crowley’s necktie.

“We both know I’m not the only nostalgic one here, darling.  I do remember the last time I saw this tie, my dashing and debonair hero.”

“Didn’t think you’d notice,” Crowley says, voice small.  “I like to keep my souvenirs, you know.”

They both know that Crowley’s clothes are usually manifested, not kept and cared for, with very few exceptions.  This is one of them, his necktie from the 1940s; a deep crimson with a gold star near the end of it.  He’d been wearing it at St. Dunstan’s, and he’d kept it ever since.

“Besides, why get rid of something when it looks so dashing on me?” Crowley offers with a grin, offering Aziraphale his arm.

“Sentimental old snake,” Aziraphale says as he takes Crowley’s arm, leaning against the demon as Crowley leads them to their box seats (miraculously, they will be the only ones in the section meant for eight).

“Maybe, but I learned from the best.”

They take their seats, watching the people bustle around below looking for their own spaces.  The stage is so familiar, the wooden pillars and beams, the creamy beige of the walls, the stars and moon looking down on them from the sky.  There are markers, though, things that make it not so old.  There’s the electrical booth for the microphones, the lighting for the stage.  The old smells aren’t there, not as worn down by time.  It’s as close as humans can get, and Crowley loves them for it.

The lights go down and the curtain goes up.  Aziraphale wiggles his way to the edge of his seat, gripping the railing like an excitable child at the circus.  Crowley isn’t here to see Hamlet, never has been.  He’s here to watch Aziraphale.

Crowley takes it all in, lets himself bask in Aziraphale’s glow.  He’s enraptured with the performance, and Crowley can see even in the dark of things the way Aziraphale mouths along with the words of the actors.  Well-trodden lines of one of many much-loved stories.  Crowley remembers one time, for the first run of [something after Hamlet], Aziraphale had auditioned for the lead role.  Crowley had been there for moral support, of course, but Aziraphale had chewed the scenery hard enough that they shouldn’t have had to go for lunch that day.  A thespian Aziraphale was not, but he made up for it in enthusiasm.  And right now, as the play goes on, Crowley is content to watch this one man —er, angel— show.  To listen to the affectations that Aziraphale puts on for each character and the funny accents he (badly) gives them.  

Soon enough, Hamlet is in the throes of his big soliloquy and it brings to mind centuries past, in a much less crowded Globe.

“He’s very good, isn’t he?” Aziraphale says, leaning in closer.

Crowley chuckles and presses a kiss to Aziraphale’s temple. “You said the same thing about Burbage, and he was a tosser.”

“Yes, my dear, but I do recall you thinking Burbage was a looker at the very least.”

Crowley scoffs.  “That youngster? Nah.”

“But you said—“

“I know what I said,” Crowley smiles like a loon, resting his elbow on the railing and arching an eyebrow.  “I said ‘ age does not wither nor custom stale his infinite variety’.”

Yes, precisely.”

“Angel, did you really think I was talking about Burbage?”

Aziraphale and Crowley stand side by side.  Aziraphale's face is happy and lit by a soft and warm light, he's looking offscreen.  Crowley leans on a brown railing, wearing a nice suit with a crimson necktie.  His sunglasses are on, but he's staring at Aziraphale.  His elbow is propped on the railing and his chin is propped on his hand.

Aziraphale fidgets with his signet ring, face going visibly red even in the low light.  “Possibly?”

“Oh dear, oh dear,” Crowley says with a chuckle, letting his head fall to rest on his palm.  “You are so very clever and yet so very stupid.”

“Yes well, you’re the one who loves me, so what does that say for you?” Aziraphale practically beams at him before he turns his attention back to the actors on the stage.

“That I’m the luckiest demon this side of Hell, but also I’m in love with a featherbrain.”

“Oh, shush you.”  Aziraphale scolds with infinite fondness. “Wily old serpent.”

“And what does that say for you then, that you love me?” Crowley all but slithers closer, further into Aziraphale’s space, draping an arm around the angel’s shoulders.  “Tell me, dove, for which of my bad parts didst thou love me first?”

“That’s not how the line goes and you know it.”  Aziraphale leans into Crowley’s side, sighing happily.  This simple act of existing together, in the same space, and being free to touch still something so new and so wanted.

“Question still stands.  S’ a valid one.”

“Really, my darling, I might as well ask you for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?”

Crowley laughs again, holding Aziraphale tighter and nuzzling his nose into the angel’s hair just above his ear, “Oh angel, if you knew how I suffer.  Suffer through love and affection and everything good in the world.  S’ real bad for a demon like me.”

“Such a hardship, my darling.”

They let the moment fall into a soft and gentle silence, watching Hamlet and Ophelia onstage.  They let the night and the magic of human stories carry them both away, through the acts and near to the end, wrapped up in each other’s company.  Aziraphale cheers when he should, gasps in shock when it’s expected.  As though the Bard’s words so many years ago never left him, and he fully intends to give the actors something to work with like a proper audience member.

Back in the old days, Crowley had hated this play with a passion.  This Danish prince and his philosophical bullshit and his questions.  Seemed pointless, stupid, and more than a little pedantic.  As time had gone on, he’d come to realize that it was because listening to these words and these laments was like being in his own skull.  The sulky and reluctant individual, charged with a duty he never asked for and never wanted.  Crowley had never wanted to admit it, but somewhere deep inside of him he feared his own end would mirror Hamlet’s as well.

But oh, Aziraphale.  Aziraphale was as much Horatio as any one man could be.  Sturdy and strong, present and resolute.  A steadfast rock in everything he did, and in everything he enjoyed.  Really, none of the archangels should have been surprised when Aziraphale dug in his heels at Armageddon and said “No, you move.”  Not given what Crowley had always known of him.

Now, after everything, he can appreciate it more.  Can appreciate the nuances of the characters and of what they mean to each other, what they’ve always meant to each other.  

The play comes to a close, Horatio uttering “Good night, sweet prince,” as Hamlet fades from this life and into the next.  Aziraphale sniffles just a little, head resting on Crowley’s shoulder, handkerchief dabbing at his eyes.  Crowley holds him close, lets him have the tragic emotional release that something like this brings out in the angel.  

“Truly beautiful, what a lovely iteration,” Aziraphale says with another sniff.  

“Eh, was alright.” Crowley never has been one for being overly complimentary.

Aziraphale turns and captures his lips in a kiss, soft and gentle and everything that Crowley still doesn’t believe he gets to have.  “Thank you, darling, tonight was wonderful.”

They stay there for a while, letting the other patrons filter out and trading kisses and murmurs of love in the dark of their private box, until finally they have to take their leave as well.  As they make their way out of the theatre, Crowley has the distinct feeling that he’s forgotten something, but can’t quite put his finger on what.  But when Aziraphale laces their fingers together once again, he finds he doesn’t much care.

The night air is crisp and cool as they make their way to the Bentley, moon a bright beacon hanging low in the sky.  Aziraphale hums to himself, a tune that Crowley can’t place but is certainly from a time long since forgotten.  He beams at Crowley from the passenger seat as he laces their fingers together, not wanting to be apart for even this short drive home.

Crowley drops him off, not coming in for a nightcap this time.  He’s tired and it’s late, and even now it’s nice to have a bit of time for himself now and again.  Aziraphale has never been fond of sleeping, so they go their separate ways.

Aziraphale leans out of the doorframe, kissing him deeply right there on the front steps of the bookshop.  “Mind how you go, darling,” he calls out as Crowley ducks into his car.  Crowley feels like he’s floating the whole trip back to Mayfair; he always does after nights like this.  It’s like his feet don’t want to touch the ground, like his wings have gotten a mind of their own and are lifting him despite not even being on the right plane of existence for that.

He takes the stairs two at a time, breezing through his own front door without stopping to unlock it.  His feet shift from the visage of snake-skin boots to just scaly feet as he pads through the flat towards his bedroom.  The tie is taken off carefully, deposited back in his closet before he falls face-first onto his bed, still in his coat and trousers.  He sighs happily, but shifts uncomfortably at the sensation of something digging into his chest.

Fuck!

Crowley shoots upright, digging into the pocket of his jacket and pulling out the ring box before collapsing onto his back with a groan.