Chapter 1: By the Riverside
“Crowley, darling, I do wish you would at least tell me where we’re going!” Aziraphale shouts over the roar of the Bentley’s engine as they zoom through the countryside. He scrabbles for purchase at the door and the roof of the car, trying to find something to hold onto.
The Bentley’s speedometer climbs well past 90, the lush scenery around them is nothing but blue and green blurs, the occasional bit of wood or stone interspersed in browns and greys. Crowley is incapable in this moment of taking his foot off the gas or slowing down. His entire being is thrumming with anxiety and nerves just below the surface, and no amount of planning and wishing and running it over in his head again and again and again has worked to squash it. So instead, he pushes the pedal harder.
Stupid nerves, stupid wants and stupid desires. This whirlwind of the past year has made him somehow more anxious than he’s always been. Leave it to life to finally give him everything he’s wanted but still leave him stumbling and wrong-footed on it all.
“You’ll see when we get there, angel, I promise you’ll love it, worked really hard on it,” Crowley says as he takes a hairpin turn around a sharp corner, “It’ll be fun!”
“Yes, it always is with you, but really could you please slow down just a little?”
The tinge of fear in Aziraphale’s voice goes straight to Crowley’s heart and controls his foot against whatever say he has in the matter. He eases off the gas, and the car slows to a more respectable 75. Aziraphale tugs at his bowtie and his cuffs while Crowley watches. Crowley has always watched, but now it’s encouraged. Almost expected, really. Aziraphale catches him and smiles, sunshine lighting up the passenger seat, settling some of Crowley’s nerves.
They’ve been going slow, in the human sense, ever since the world didn’t end. Whispered confessions in the dark of a bus to Oxford, headed for London. A plan and an escape, and then after…well, after was after. A brush of hands across a wine glass stem, a head on a shoulder on the backroom sofa, soft kisses traded in the fading daylight. Suddenly there was a bright and shining angel taking up space in his flat where he had never dared to take up space before. Soon enough, several new plants had taken up residence in the bookshop, tartan blankets appeared on his sleek black leather sofa, a blending of their lives that came about as naturally as breathing.
It was an otherwise ordinary day, while Crowley was shelving books he'd never owned onto a shelf in his flat that he was also sure he'd never owned, that it hit him. This was what he wanted. The tartan, the pungent aroma of strange teas, the old books left on the coffee table and the nightstand. The long nights on the sofa, curled up together. Bright mornings waking up next to each other. He wanted to stand next to Aziraphale, wash the dishes the human way while Aziraphale dried them the human way. He wanted matching coffee cups, and matching towels in the bathroom, and a pair of chocolate brown brogues under the key rack by the door.
Crowley had always known he was in love, that he would go to the ends of the Earth if Aziraphale so much as asked, but he never thought he’d get to have anything, much less this. But he realized, in that crystalline moment, he didn’t just want to be with Aziraphale; he wanted to be Aziraphale’s — singularly and specifically.
So he worked up a plan, put it into action, and now they’re in his Bentley, on their way to the riverbanks of the south of England. His heart has forgotten how to beat properly, thumping a rhythm that it shouldn’t be capable of. The box in his jacket pocket is a heavier weight than it has reason to be, weighted not just with velvet and cardboard and silver but with the weight of questions and decisions and all of the things that go with them.
Crowley has always been very good at questions, not so good with answers. The potential answer to this one terrifies him.
Aziraphale prattles on happily from the passenger seat, pointing out the scenery and the cute little houses as they get closer to their destination. He reaches over, twines their fingers together and Crowley’s heart stops entirely. He’s so gone and in love that it hurts sometimes, but a good kind of hurt. The kind of hurt like when you start laughing and someone you care about laughs with you. And your laughter feeds and builds off of each other until your side is in pain and you can’t breathe anymore. A good and deep hurt that’s beautiful in its aching.
God he’s become a hopeless romantic in his old age.
The winding roads take them further into Hampshire, past the greenery and the farms, until they reach the River Meon. It had taken Crowley weeks to find this particular secluded place, nestled amongst the trees along the river. A haven surrounded by wild plants (but not so wild as to be above his persuasions). An alcove just for them, tucked away from the rest of the world.
He pulls the Bentley to a stop, squeezes Aziraphale’s hand as he brings it to his lips. He softly kisses those well-worn knuckles as Aziraphale looks out at the sparkling clear water. The sunlight dancing on the river is a match for the sparkle in the angel’s eyes and Crowley is, not for the first time, thankful for his sunglasses. He’s not sure this is the kind of thing he could look at straight on; blinding like a solar eclipse.
“It’s beautiful here, what a lovely little place you’ve found.” Aziraphale’s voice has a breathy sort of wonder to it, the kind that lets Crowley know that he approves even more than his words.
“Seemed nice enough,” Crowley says over his own internal screaming; ever trying to play it cool and nonchalant even when that isn’t how he feels. “Ready for the mystery to be revealed then, angel?”
Aziraphale quirks a questioning eyebrow at him, Crowley fails to suppress a giggle as he jumps out of the car, quickly making his way around to open Aziraphale’s door for him.
“After you, dove,” Crowley says with a sweeping gesture of his arm, earning him a reproachful look. But Aziraphale all but wiggles as he takes Crowley’s hand, stepping out of the car and onto the soft grass. “Be back in a moment,” Crowley says, kissing Aziraphale’s cheek quickly, “Have to get the surprise out of the boot.”
“I must say I’m quite curious,” Aziraphale says as Crowley rummages around in the boot of the Bentley before pulling out an old picnic basket. One of the old wicker numbers, vintage because Aziraphale likes vintage things. Crowley holds it up in one hand as he closes the boot, watches his angel’s eyes soften. “Oh, Crowley …”
“Thought maybe we could finally have that picnic.” Crowley joins Aziraphale again, offering his arm. “Satan knows we go to the Ritz enough.” That night in 1967 sticks in his mind, as it always does. Maybe someday we could go for a picnic, dine at the Ritz. It had been a promise, along with the holy water. A promise from Aziraphale and a question. Wait for me, I’ll catch up eventually, just not now.
Aziraphale smiles as he loops his arm through Crowley’s, “Yes, my dear, I think we’ve waited for that picnic long enough.”
The walk to the bank is leisurely, as most of their walks are these days. Crowley feels like he’s floating rather than walking, the tandem energy of nerves and happiness warring inside of him. The ring-box in his pocket feels like it’s burning him, just begging to be brought out and placed on an angelic finger. But not yet, there’s more to be done.
Crowley resolves not to overthink it too much, to enjoy this moment. The soft rustle of the grass under their shoes, the feel of Aziraphale pressed in close to him, the lilt to the angel’s voice as he talks about the last time he was in Venice, back in the 1820s; Crowley commits all of it to memory, not wanting to miss a moment of this day, wanting to carry it with him for the next six thousand years.
He guides their steps, charting a course for what he had left here the day previous. He finds it right where he left it, because it wouldn’t dare not be. A little rowboat, just the right size for two.
“Look! A little boat,” Aziraphale says with an air of wistfulness, “Wouldn’t it be lovely to take a boat out? The water is so nice and calm today.”
“I have good news for you, then,” Crowley says as he presses a kiss to Aziraphale’s temple, “Because that’s our boat.”
There’s an audible gasp of delight from the angel next to him, and Crowley allows himself half a moment of pride at a job well done. He lives for these moments, lives to make Aziraphale happy and to give him what he wants. Always has, for as far back as he can remember. Ever since this shining angel shielded him from the rain in the early days of the world. He’s been a goner for quite some time.
“A picnic on the water, Crowley, that sounds positively delightful,” Aziraphale says as he hurries just a bit ahead, runs his hands along the coarse wood frame of the boat, taking it in. He pauses, just for a moment, and turns back to Crowley. “Darling, it’s not that I don’t love all of this, but is there a special occasion I’ve forgotten?”
“Does it need an occasion?” Crowley asks as he secures the picnic basket in the back of the boat. “Can’t it just be Thursday?” Aziraphale scrutinizes him a bit, appraising him like one of his many tomes. Crowley smiles and takes the angel’s hands in his, threading their fingers together and pulling him close, kissing him like he means it. He always means it, always cherishes it.
“Well, I suppose Thursday is as good of a day as any for a picnic. Oh, how romantic, a picnic on the water. Ah! I know just the thing I need for this…”
Aziraphale snaps his fingers and he’s suddenly holding a straw boater hat, straight out of the 1920s. A dorky thing, complete with a blue ribbon. He turns it over in his hands before finally placing it jauntily on his head and looking up at Crowley expectantly with open arms. “Well, how do I look?”
Crowley suppresses a laugh. It’s a ridiculous thing, completely unnecessary. They’re celestial beings, they don’t get sunburns or even too warm if they decide they don’t want to be. But Aziraphale is smiling and clearly proud of himself, and Crowley’s heart is full to bursting. He wraps his arms around Aziraphale’s waist and nuzzles his face into the crook of Aziraphale’s neck, “It’s perfect, angel.”
He breathes in deep before they part, taking in the book dust and bergamot that follow Aziraphale around. Lets his head swim with it. Every sense is focused on committing things to memory today.
Crowley climbs into the boat before taking Aziraphale’s hand and helping him in. He pushes the boat off from the shore, no real destination just drifting aimlessly in the midday sun. Aziraphale lazily drags his hand through the water as they drift, staring out at the scenery with a faraway look of delight. Crowley wishes for a moment that he had the old hand of one of the great impressionists. That he could daub the colors onto a canvas and recreate this — the look on Aziraphale’s face, the blues and pinks of the water, the bright greens of the foliage near shore, the deep browns of the boat.
Crowley doesn’t have an artist’s hand, but Aziraphale has never cared about that. So instead, he delves into the picnic basket. Egg and cress sandwiches, Aziraphale’s secret favorite, made by Crowley’s own hand. There’s an assortment of fruit and fancy cheeses for them to nibble, and a bright Riesling to go with them. They indulge slowly, pouring each other wine and feeding each other while enjoying the scenery and the company.
The meal is perfect, it wouldn’t dare be anything less. They talk about this world, of other meals they’ve shared. It’s free and easy, as conversation always is with them. Crowley likens it to being wrapped in a warm blanket, a feeling of comfort and home that can only come when someone knows you —really knows you.
The sun starts to set over the water as they polish off the last of the wine, the golden hour casting a honey glow over everything. Crowley isn’t sure if it’s the food or the company that has him feeling so warm and hazy; truth be told, it’s probably the wine. Just enough liquid courage to swallow down the lump in his throat.
Crowley’s hand finds his pocket, a passing habit over the past several hours, patting it and making sure the box is still there. He takes a deep breath, rehearsing his words for the fiftieth time in his head, and stands.
“Crowley, what are you doing?!” Aziraphale shouts as the boat tips from side to side under Crowley’s sudden movement.
“S’alright, angel, it’s important!” Crowley turns away from him to dig into his pocket, fingers tracing the black velvet of the box. “You can do this, you can do this…” He mutters to himself, feeling quite like he’s going to be sick. Or turn back to a snake. Maybe both.
“Crowley, are you alright?”
“Great! Good!” Crowley says a bit too quickly, kicking himself at the crack in his voice, “Tickety-boo, as you would say.”
He doesn’t need to see Aziraphale’s face to feel the concerned look the angel is radiating. No time like the present. There’s a familiar voice in the back of his head. Buck up, it says with bright shining eyes and a smile that can barely be contained by it’s face. He takes a deep breath, wraps his fingers around the box, and turns. But his legs get tangled up, still unused to being human after all these centuries, he falters and stumbles—
—And lands in the water with a loud and resounding splash, scaring off two very offended ducks and an extremely perturbed otter who had been swimming nearby.
“Crowley!” Aziraphale reaches for his hand to pull him back into the boat, but only manages to capsize it further. They find themselves both in the water as the picnic basket and Aziraphale’s straw hat float by them.
The moment stretches, and Crowley is terrified he’s ruined something, until Aziraphale starts to laugh. Bright and loud like bell chimes, crinkling the corners of his eyes, lighting up Crowley’s world. Crowley can’t help but laugh, too, as they tread water together, cackling like maniacs.
“I’ve warned you about those snake hips of yours, dear,” Aziraphale says between laughs.
“You’re the one who turned the boat over!” Crowley watches water drip from Aziraphale’s golden curls, reaches out to push them off his face. A snap has the boat steady in the water, a small miracle to keep it from tipping again as they climb back into it, all the while laughing like kids.
Another demonic miracle has the boat heading back to shore, while an angelic one assures that they are dry. Aziraphale leans against his chest as the sun sets below the horizon, past the green fields and the goats all the same. Crowley wraps his arms around him and nuzzles his nose into the angel’s hair.
“Sorry I ruined our date,” he says softly. Aziraphale doesn’t know the half of it, but Crowley still feels the apology necessary.
“Nonsense, darling,” Aziraphale says as he nestles his fingers between Crowley’s, and Crowley marvels not for the first time on the fact that they fit together perfectly. “It was splendidly fun, and I wouldn’t trade one single moment for the world. Perhaps we can come back another time, for another picnic?”
He looks up at Crowley expectantly, and Crowley has always been powerless against this. “Of course,” he says as he leans in for a kiss, “Whenever you like.”
They make it back to dry land just as the stars come out. The picnic basket, hat, and wine glasses all find themselves quite suddenly transported into the Bentley’s boot before they pull away from the shore, heading back to London.
Crowley watches as Aziraphale dozes, head pillowed against the passenger window. Watches Aziraphale sleeping peacefully, a rare moment in time that he gets to witness now.
The question can wait for another day, this day has been perfect as it is.
Chapter 2: Close To You
Crowley takes Aziraphale out for a night on the town.
Chapter 2! Featuring more art by the amazing Atelier_de_Licorne <3 I love her so much y'all she's been making this project so ridiculously fun to do!
Crowley stands in front of the mirror in his flat just a few weeks later. He groans in frustration, snapping his fingers and ridding his hair of product for what feels like the millionth time. It’s date night, out on the town in Soho, and he wants to look his best. The ring box sits on the vanity, tucked in between the hand soap (lavender, not his idea) and the cup that holds toothbrushes (two of them). He almost feels like it’s mocking him.
He runs his fingers through his hair again, not sure precisely what is bothering him about it today. The last time he went out to a club was in the seventies. Now that was a decade - great time for demons, with all the sin and hedonism around. He wonders for a moment, maybe that would work. Couldn’t hurt to try.
A snap of his fingers has his hair down to his shoulders, with a bounce and a curl in it that it hasn’t had in over a decade. He works his fingers into it, fluffs it out. Sometimes he gets restless, needs to change to feel steady. This is one of those times. He feels his nerves start to subside as he grabs the ring box and leaves the bathroom.
Crowley digs through his closet, feeling the night too important for manifested clothing. He rummages through all the way to the back of the closet before finding his goal. An old polyester shirt (circa 1972), a velvet paisley coat (circa 1965) and some lovely bellbottom trousers that one might even call “flash”, snake motif embroidered along the hem. They’re going to a discotheque anyway, might as well look the part.
He checks himself in the mirror one more time. His fingers trail the lapel of his own coat, black paisley shifting to silver. Bit of an update to an old classic. He slides his glasses onto his face (a nice gold number, with blue tinted lenses). He picks and prods at the outfit, buttoning and unbuttoning his blazer, trying to decide which is better. He settles on unbuttoning his shirt, just a few down, just enough for a peek of wiry red hair. But there’s still something missing.
Crowley smiles in the mirror, realizing exactly what the look is missing. He places his thumb to his upper lip, runs it across the skin there. A nice moustache, he’d missed having one. The seventies were his time, and he hopes Aziraphale has as much fun tonight as Crowley knows he will.
Because now they can go back and do these things together. For all the nights Crowley had spent among the music and neon missing Aziraphale, they can make new memories together. Crowley intends to savor every moment of it, to make up for every speck of time that they lost being afraid.
It’s a brave new world, after all.
He grabs his keys, takes the steps two at a time, shiny leather boots clicking on the concrete. The Bentley is shinier than usual, always seems to be on their date nights. The soon-setting sun glints off the shiny black paint as he starts the engine, turning her towards Soho and the bookshop.
Crowley’s usual parking spot is empty, wouldn’t dare be otherwise. He’s a little early, but Aziraphale has never minded before and certainly doesn’t now. The sign says closed, but it opens for him anyway. He’s always welcome in Aziraphale’s space, always has been and always will be.
“I’ll be down in a moment, darling!” Aziraphale calls from upstairs. Crowley debates for a moment climbing that spiral staircase and stealing a kiss or two before they leave, just because he can.
“Still getting ready then?” He shouts up instead, poking around the various papers and knickknacks scattered around the til. “Can’t take that long to do yourself up the same way every day.”
He hears the stairs creak under footsteps and turns, and immediately a flood of memories comes rushing back to him. A neon night in Soho, a rain-soaked street, and a tartan thermos. “Well,” Aziraphale asks rather sheepishly, “how do I look?”
All Crowley can do in that moment is stare, eyes wide behind his sunglasses. Aziraphale has traded in his usual Victorian stuffiness for something more fitting to the theme. His blue shirt is a spearpoint collar, his bowtie replaced with a tartan ascot. Even the cut of his coat is a bit more modern (if one can call the sixties modern), as are his trousers. He’s put more effort into his hair, curls defined and purposeful. And he’s smiling at Crowley like Crowley is the vision here, not him, and that simply won’t do.
“Angel, you look marvelous,” Crowley breathes out as he crosses the room, wrapping his arms around Aziraphale and kissing him. He breaks when the angel starts to giggle. “What, what is it?”
Aziraphale runs his hands along the beading on the lapels of Crowley’s jacket. “Not that I don’t appreciate this lovely coat, or this particular sight…” he rakes his nails teasingly through the chest hair poking out of Crowley’s unbuttoned collar, “…but what on Earth is that on your face, darling?”
“Wha—I—hnn—I’ll have you know this was the height of fashion back in the day!”
“Yes of course it was, dear,” Aziraphale says as he threads his arm through Crowley’s, steering him out the door and towards the discotheque, which is only a short walk from the bookshop.
“Broke lots of hearts with this face, me!”
“I’m sure you did, love.”
“Regular stud muffin, I was,” Crowley says as they join the queue waiting to get in, “You just don’t appreciate—“ Aziraphale grips his arm tighter and silences him with a kiss and Crowley promptly forgets what he was complaining about in the first place.
“If you love it, then I love it. Just tickled a bit, is all.” Aziraphale kisses him again, right in the open in front of everyone. It still thrills Crowley to his core that they can be this open now.
The line is fairly long, and he could miracle them onto the VIP list, but it’s nicer this way. There’s something about it, about hearing the muffled music and seeing the lights from inside make patterns on the sidewalk out front. Something in the anticipation of the evening, and of spending it with Aziraphale, makes this moment worth it. Aziraphale’s arm is linked with his, and Aziraphale’s head is leaning against his shoulder. They talk about nothing, just random things of the day. Customers from the shop, how the plants have been behaving, what needs to be bought at the grocer’s this week. Nothing remarkable, but everything remarkable. Soon enough it’s their turn in line, and they’re waved into the club.
It’s loud and bright, but in a fun way. The disco ball spins and sends out light fractals, prismatic patterns painting every wall and surface in the place. They smile at each other, at the couples dancing to what Crowley believes is some of the best music humans ever created. They make their way to the bar, hand in hand, and order two extravagant cocktails. Let it loosen them up as they watch the happy couples spin around and around.
“It’s wonderful, isn’t it, angel?”
“It is nice. A bit loud for my usual tastes, but everyone is having so much fun, it’s rather lovely!”
“Humans, angel, clever creatures that they are,” Crowley says, taking a sip of his drink, some pink thing with a lemon tuile in it. “Half of these kids weren’t even born when the seventies happened, but they’re here and enjoying it.”
“Yes, they do rather like to look to and embrace the past, don’t they?” Aziraphale says as he gazes out at the dance floor, no doubt bestowing blessing after blessing. He can do that now with abandon, no one’s keeping score anymore.
“Music and stories, angel,” Crowley says as he wraps an arm around Aziraphale, pulls him closer. “All the emotions and feelings that come with them. Generation after generation, they do this. Singing the songs and telling the stories.”
“And they get to keep going now, don’t they?” Aziraphale asks with a knowing look. He knows how soft for humanity Crowley truly is, because he is just the same. Crowley leans in and kisses him on the cheek.
“They sure do, dove, they sure do.” Crowley sets his drink back down on the bar, makes a decision as he hops off the barstool and extends a hand to Aziraphale. “Dance with me, angel?”
“Oh dear,” Aziraphale says nervously, “I couldn’t possibly. I only know the gavotte, and I daresay this isn’t the place for that.”
“Bah, nonsense! All this place is for is fun, feeling the music and moving to it. If that is the gavotte then let it be the gavotte, no one’s here to judge you. Come on then, let me tempt you.” Crowley winks at him and Aziraphale laughs, taking his hand.
“Alright then, darling, consider your temptation accomplished.”
Crowley grins from ear to ear, Aziraphale’s warm hand in his as he leads them to the floor. Neither of them are very coordinated, and Crowley himself has never claimed to be a good dancer. But Aziraphale’s gavotte fits with “Staying Alive” more than one might think, and the joy on his face as he chastises Crowley for his ‘uncouth hip movements’ is something that Crowley will carry with him for the rest of time.
At some point a very drunk girl comes weaving through the crowd, and mistaking Aziraphale’s moves for an Irish step dance, she whisks him away as Crowley laughs. They take a spin around the room before she drops him back with Crowley, leaving him a fluffy pink feather boa as a present. They both have a good laugh about it as Crowley takes Aziraphale’s hand and spins him around to Dancing Queen.
Crowley loses track of what music is playing, lost in this time with Aziraphale. How could he pay attention to music when Aziraphale’s laughter is ringing through the air? When his angel is letting loose and having fun, in ways he hasn’t for centuries? No, much more important things are happening here.
The song fades out and then into a slow piano as their eyes meet. Crowley takes Aziraphale’s hand, wraps his other arm around the angel’s waist. “This alright, angel?” He whispers low into Aziraphale’s ear.
“Of course, darling…” As Aziraphale lays his head on his shoulder, Crowley feels the world shifting into place. The rest of the dancers fade away. It’s just him and Aziraphale and the Carpenters.
Crowley would never admit to knowing this song, but he sings along anyway. Quiet and hushed, just enough for Aziraphale to hear. “ Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?”
“Crowley…” Aziraphale sighs as he nuzzles into Crowley’s neck, holds him tighter. Crowley can feel his grin spread wider as he keeps singing, holding Aziraphale close. On their own side, even somewhere like here.
“ Just like me, they long to be close to you.”
Aziraphale looks up at him, eyes shining in the disco light. He’s perfect, he always is. But in this moment, he’s staring back at him with all the love in the known universe, so much more than Crowley ever thought he would ever be allowed, more than he’s ever deserved.
There couldn’t be a more perfect moment as the song comes to an end.
“Yes, Crowley?” He looks so dreamy in this moment, every bit the angel that he is. Heavenly and beautiful and everything Crowley has ever loved in this life or the last. The music starts to fade out and Crowley stops, reaching into his jacket pocket for the velvet box that resides there.
“Angel, I wanted to ask…that is… I was wondering if—“
He’s cut off by loud guitars and a stilted beat, and the dance floor is suddenly much more crowded and loud. People pushing in on every side, spinning and moving and shoving them this way and that. He watches it happen, watches Aziraphale turn inward on himself, the anxiety painting shadows on his face. It’s too much now, the crowd is too loud and too close. Crowley takes Aziraphale’s hand, pulls him through the crowd and away from the dance floor, back to a quieter corner away from everyone.
“Hey, shh, shh, it’s ok,” Crowley keeps his arm around Aziraphale’s shoulders, kisses his cheeks and his forehead as his breathing levels out and comes back to normal. Sometimes larger crowds have this effect, reminders of other times with large crowds. Of battles and executions, loud noise and harsh times. Crowley stays steady, holds Aziraphale tight as he calms down. “Do we need to leave? We can, if it’s too much.”
“I don’t want to ask you to do that, darling, you were so excited for tonight,” Aziraphale says, tears already forming in his eyes.
“Shh, none of that,” Crowley wipes the tears away with the pad of his thumb, “It’s only fun for me if it’s fun for you too. I’ve had a blast tonight, but I want you to have fun, not just me. I’d be just as happy on the backroom sofa listening to you read, you know.” Crowley cups Aziraphale’s cheeks and kisses him gently, feeling the tension ease as Aziraphale sighs against his lips.
“I do think I’d like to go home now…” Aziraphale trails off, still a bit on edge.
“Right then,” Crowley says, offering his arm. “Let’s go, angel.”
They make their way out of the club and back to the bookshop. Crowley heads for the kitchenette, making a mug of cocoa just the way Aziraphale likes it. A little something to brighten his mood, to make him happy. Aziraphale settles onto the sofa with a book in hand as Crowley joins him. His mood instantly brightens on the first sip of cocoa, and Crowley curls up close to him as he reads.
“Oh!” Aziraphale says suddenly after several minutes. “Were you going to ask me something, dear?”
“Right, that.” Aziraphale is looking at him expectantly, but the moment is wrong now. He could, he has the opening to ask now; but he doesn’t want the memory tied to something like this. To a day that, while it was good, affected Aziraphale so badly. No, it can wait. Another perfect moment will come, and when it does, Crowley will be ready for it.
He leans in and kisses Aziraphale once more before settling comfortably against his side, reveling in the love and safety of Aziraphale holding him. “S’nothing. Just wondering where you want to go for dinner next week.”
He does notice, several days later, that the feather boa has taken up residence draped over a mirror in the upstairs flat, and he smiles.
Chapter 3: Perchance to Dream
Crowley takes Aziraphale to see one of his old favorites at the Globe
Hello everyone! We're back with chapter 3!
Thank y'all for sticking it out, the bad weather here in Texas got me and put me behind on pretty much everything I was working on; but we're back on track now!
As always I am forever grateful for LicorneAtelier and her amazing art and for going on this journey with me <3 <3 ; and we're halfway there!
Also big thanks to my beta reader Dashicra1!
“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 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.