I wrote the majority of this story a while ago, but abandoned it. I decided it was actually not entirely terrible so here you go.
I can report that I have at least thought about finally writing another chapter of Enflame.
Warning: discussion of recent/current British political goings-on.
It had been an utterly stupid argument.
Some time in the spring of 2015, Crowley ran into AZ Fell and Co., a black scarf wrapped around his head. He barged his way past a couple of browsing customers and yelled "Aziraphale! Aziraphale, where are you? I need to-"
There was a thunk as he ran straight into something and fell right over it. He scrambled up, pulling the scarf off his head.
Aziraphale was standing there, his hands clasped in front of him. "Crowley! So glad you're here. Look I-"
"No time for that, I-"
"I need a favour. You know eeebay?" The angel asked, drawing out the word in an unsure way.
"Yes, yes. Our lot worked on the customer service. What about it?"
"Well, I've made a rather large purchase," Aziraphale said, looking a little bashful. He glanced down at the floor. Crowley followed his gaze to an unpacked box of books. That must have been what he had fallen over. "Would you drive me there to collect it?"
"Why not?" Aziraphale looked flustered. "Would you like a cup of tea?"
It was too late, Aziraphale had already rushed off into the back room. Crowley sighed, then followed him.
"Aziraphale, I need you to shut up and listen to me for one-" Crowley found the one black mug Aziraphale owned thrust into his hands. It had miraculously appeared after Crowley grumbled about drinking out of the white winged cups.
"No I don't have time for-"
"Now come on, sup up quick. We need to go and collect those books," Aziraphale said, taking a sip of his own tea then gasping and blowing on it when he realised it was far too hot to drink. "Only the gentleman neglected to tell me he was emigrating to Spain, and he is leaving tonight."
Crowley scoffed. "He shouldn't bother. He'll be back soon enough."
"What? Never mind, I need you to-"
Crowley waved a hand. "Oh take the bus. Get a cab."
"But they're too heavy for me to carry alone! Come on, old friend. You know you like driving me places."
The look on Aziraphale's face almost made Crowley relent, but then he looked away. "I don't have time for your nonsense, I-"
"I came here to tell you something important. But all you care about is your stupid books!" Crowley shouted, waving his arms around. He was aware that the customers were looking at him. "They're just things. They'll get woodworm. Or fall apart. And you can't possibly have all of them. And none of this will matter in the end!"
"Crowley, you can be very hurtful sometimes," Aziraphale said in a small voice.
"I'm off," Crowley said, turning around and heading for the door.
"Wait, what was it you wanted to tell me?"
"Nope, not gonna tell you now," Crowley said, stepping through the front door and closing it quickly behind himself.
He threw himself into the driver's seat of the Bentley and started the engine. Queen started playing immediately, and Freddie barely made it into the second line of Crazy Little Thing Called Love before he ejected the CD and threw it out of the window.
That was the end of that, Crowley told himself. But it never was, was it? On one hand, it was safer for the both of them if Aziraphale was upset with him. But on the other, well, he'd never been able to leave him alone for long.
It wasn't safe for him to visit the bookshop again at the moment. And yes, okay, there was a certain amount of not wanting to be seen to be admitting to having done something wrong. So in between taking care of his own business, he wandered around their old haunts, hoping to stage an accidental meeting.
Although he would never admit it, his heart leapt when he finally caught sight of the angel's distinctive figure entering a high class restaurant in Mayfair.
And that was how he found himself sitting across the room from him, making his way down the wine list while giving vague answers about waiting for someone when the wait staff bothered him about ordering food.
A large plant provided cover, one which he had psychically bullied into growing several inches taller so he didn't have to slouch so much in his seat. Much to Crowley's annoyance, Aziraphale hadn't requested a lonely table for one. Instead he had joined a man so gratingly posh it was as if he was overacting as one of the upper class in a play.
"And it will be ever so good for the economy, you know. Take back Britain for the British and all that. Jolly good show!"
Crowley gritted his teeth, trying very hard to resist the urge to make something horrible happen to this man. But he waited, sure that Aziraphale would say something.
"Is that right?" Aziraphale said with a smile, then did a nervous laugh.
The conversation only went downhill from there. Crowley ordered a bottle of wine next, telling the waiter that his companion was but minutes away.
"And I have a lovely cottage in Cheshire. Have you ever been to Cheshire?"
"No," said Aziraphale.
Liar, thought Crowley.
"It would be my pleasure to invite you there in the future. The countryside there is simply splendid and we could go for so many lovely strolls together. And go hunting away from those dreadful people who disapprove of traditional pursuits."
"Yessss. Maybe." Aziraphale still had that odd fixed smile on his face. He dropped his fork.
Crowley narrowed his eyes. Hunting? Just who was this new friend of Aziraphale's? And why was he acting so odd? This was no demon, Crowley could tell. Definitely human. But humans could be just as bad, if not worse.
And besides, going for strolls was their thing. But not using that word. It was a bloody walk.
"It's so nice to finally find someone on the same wavelength. So many people just have no idea about what is important, don't you agree."
"Oh yes, I've definitely found that," Aziraphale said, looking at his companion while attempting to scoop up some berries from his plate. Crowley would have laughed at the one that escaped and rolled a purple line across the tablecloth, but he was so furious about what the angel was saying. He and Aziraphale were on the same wavelength. Or at least opposite wavelengths that just so happened to intersect.
"Well it has been quite lovely to meet you, ah, well what indeed is the Christian name of the enigmatic Mr A Z Fell?"
"Oh, um..." Aziraphale looked panicked. "Anthony."
Crowley set down his wine glass and stared. He was sufficiently drunk to snap his fingers and disappear in the middle of a crowded restaurant, but better judgement made him climb out the bathroom window.
Well. Well. That was that then.
He stalked right past the Bentley in the vague direction of his flat. He was in no mood to be sober right now.
You don't need me any more. Well that's just fine. See if I care. See. Look at me over here, not caring. Not one bit.
The streets of London were buzzing with people, which probably meant it was a Friday night. Or maybe a Saturday. Or perhaps an uncommonly raucous Tuesday. Crowley pushed right through the crowds, ignoring their complaints and shouts.
Aziraphale was fond of humans. Yes, that was true. He'd had plenty of human friends over the years. Mostly dead ones now. But Crowley had a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach that this time it was different. They had just met at a terribly fancy restaurant. And were talking of meeting again. No, it couldn't be. That was too stupid.
"You're not bloody replacing me!" Crowley yelled. A couple of women turned to look at him. A dog started howling.
He'll be dead in thirty years or so, Crowley consoled himself. Less, if he ate that way every day. And by then all of this will have blown over, and things could go back to normal again.
Yes. They'd been apart many times before.
Crowley was now back at his flat. He stumbled up the stairs and threw himself down on the only chair at his table. Before he could stop himself the phone was in his hand and he was calling the bookshop, gripping the receiver so tightly it started to crack.
The sound of Aziraphale's light, melodious voice on the answerphone message dissolved his anger. He missed the angel terribly. He wanted to redial the number just to hear his voice again. Putting the phone down, he murmured what he'd wanted to yell down the phone. "Anthony? Couldn't you have picked your own bloody name?" He put his head down on the table in his arms.
It was almost a year later before Crowley saw Aziraphale again. While his personal opinion was that his performance in his demonic duties had been subpar to say the least, the bosses were pleased with him. He let them believe he had been working hard on the project, but in truth he had been standing on the sidelines, shaking his head.
It would have been almost bearable if he had had a friendly ear to listen to his troubles. But who could he talk to? His plants didn't care.
It was accidental. Crowley was strolling through St James's Park. No, not strolling. Walking. Definitely walking. He heard Aziraphale's voice first, excitedly waffling about various authors Crowley remembered him insisting he should read.
Aziraphale was strolling. Arm in arm with a well dressed red haired man. Who wasn't telling him that books were stupid and it was a good job that all those authors were dead because at least now they wouldn't be wasting any more trees. They were talking animatedly. And Aziraphale was beaming.
He used to smile that way at me, Crowley thought, stepping behind a tree. And he never told him how much he liked that smile. Although that would be a strange thing to say, even if he wasn't a demon.
They looked happy together. There was a hundred ways Crowley could ruin it, just with a snap of his fingers. But he didn't.
Crowley saw them together on a number of occasions. Not on purpose. Of course not on purpose. Each time, his heart sunk a little more.
Humans were awful, he told himself. Something would go wrong sooner or later. It was inevitable.
Crowley was still surprised when he finally got the phone call. He kept up the pretence of being busy by letting it go to voicemail. Then sat for a while and tried to decide on how he should make his entrance. He had never put much thought into how he would walk into the bookshop before. In fact he had never put any thought into it. In the end he decided that it would be best to walk in the usual way. But now he wasn't so sure what that was.
He tried on various black outfits, before settling on one of his usual ones. Wearing something different would make it look like he was trying too hard. Then he spent an unnecessary amount of time getting his hair right.
Crowley shook his head at himself in the mirror. Aziraphale needed him, and here he was stalling, out of stubbornness, trying to make it look like he didn't care. He had sounded quite distraught on the phone. He put on a pair of dark glasses and headed out.
Leaving the Bentley largely closer to one side of the road, Crowley headed for the bookshop. Closed, the sign on the door said. He pushed open the door, a little too forcefully so it swung back on itself. The bookshop was a mess. There was a significant amount of new books from last time he was here. A lot of them on the floor.
He found Aziraphale in the back room, sitting in a chair. A pile of unwashed cups stood by the sink.
"All right, angel?" Crowley said, leaning on the doorframe.
"No-o-o," Aziraphale said, drawing out the word to an unreasonable amount of syllables, then proceeding to sob into a handkerchief.
"Didn't think you were. I've got a whole side of a tape filled with you crying. Think I'll sell it as avant-garde music. What do you reckon?"
Aziraphale looked like he was trying to smile, but the corners of his mouth still pointed downwards. "Oh Crowley, I'm glad you're here." He sniffed and blew his nose. "Missed you."
I've missed you too, Crowley wanted to say. So much. But he just grunted.
"Come on, let's go outside. It's a heaven of a day."
Crowley held a large black umbrella over the two of them as they walked through the park.
"So what's kept you so busy this past year?" Aziraphale asked.
"Oh," Crowley grimaced. "I hate to even say the word. The one beginning with B."
"That's terrible. How could you?"
"It's what we do. Hell has been suspicious as hell - damn it, suspicious as heaven- of me lately. I had to be seen to be doing well, bad."
"So you were the one who swung the referendum?"
"Well, the thing is, no. I didn't need to. The humans did it all on their own. I just watched. Watched the fear and stupidity turn to hate. And now hell has big plans to make things worse."
Aziraphale sighed. "When will humans realise that they are all just humans? Why must they always take sides and fight?"
They came upon a multicultural fair with a variety of food stalls. "Can I tempt you to some street food?" Crowley asked with a smirk.
"Oh, go on then, I suppose you might be able to."
They sat on a soggy bench with a veritable feast.
"So, you gonna tell me why you called me?" Crowley asked when they had both eaten so much they had to take a break.
Aziraphale looked at his feet. "I think you already know," he said.
"No I don't," Crowley said, thinking guiltily about the restaurant. And the rest.
"Crowley, you're not very good at finding an inconspicuous spot for the Bentley. You may as well have told me you were spying on me."
"It's a fair cop," Crowley said, throwing up his hands.
Aziraphale was still not looking at him.
"He looked a lot like me, you know. Mr red hair and devilishly handsome." Crowley regretted the words as soon as they came out of his mouth. He almost wanted to disappear before he could see Aziraphale's reaction.
Aziraphale sniffed and covered his mouth with his hand. "Oh don't, Crowley."
"Relax angel, just pointing out an odd coincidence, that's all."
There was a long silence.
"I know it's silly, but I always liked the idea of love and companionship."
What do you think we had? Crowley thought. What he said was, "Waste of time, in the grand scheme of things."
"It was lovely, for a time. But he wanted me to sell the bookshop."
"What? But you love that dusty old place!"
"He asked me to move in with him first. He told me he was worried he didn't seem serious when he asked me to stay the night as his place."
But you've never even spent the night at my place, Crowley thought. Your best friend's place.
"But I won't bore you with the details!" Aziraphale said, forcing a laugh.
"Oh, you could never bore me," Crowley said, opening a box of pastries, then closing it again. Not that that was strictly true.
Tears were forming in Aziraphale's eyes. "He said he wasn't prepared to wait for someone as slow as me. Not at his time of life."
Crowley shook his head. "Bloody brief mortals," he said.
Aziraphale looked at him and they shared a smile.
"I wanted to say goodbye," Crowley said.
"What?" The angel looked startled.
"That day at the bookshop. I was trying to tell you that I wouldn't be in contact for a while. Didn't want to put us both in danger. But you wouldn't let me get a word in edgeways."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"Don't make me say it too."
"I won't. I know you are."
Crowley frowned. Then looked away.
"Did you pick up your books?" he said eventually.
"Yes. But I had to miracle them onto the bus. I was doing okay until I had to find my ticket." Aziraphale reached into his inside coat pocket. "That reminds me, you left this. By the side of the road." He handed Crowley a CD of Queen's Greatest Hits. He had even put it in a plastic sleeve.
Crowley took it. "Oh yeah," he said. Why did Aziraphale have to be so damn nice? "I've got a few copies of this one anyway," he added flippantly.
"I tried to play it but it wouldn't work on the gramophone."
"Really?" Crowley narrowed his eyes.
"No," Aziraphale admitted, and started laughing. Crowley laughed too.
"I expect the Z was just a Z then?"
"What do you mean?"
"Anthony Z Fell, is it? Not very original, is it?"
Aziraphale looked very uncomfortable. "Sorry. Mind went blank," he said. "Wait, why am I saying sorry? You were spying on me."
"Why were you spying on me?"
Crowley's mouth twitched. A few answers sprung to mind, but he wasn't sure which one sounded better. He was also not sure which one was even the truth. "Well I noticed you knocking about with those dodgy looking buggers, and I wanted to make sure nothing bad happened to you."
"Now I see. Of course." Aziraphale beamed. "You care."
"No I don't," Crowley said reflexively, folding his arms and looking away. He glanced back at the angel.
"Okay, maybe, but don't go shouting about it."
Aziraphale was fidgeting with his hands more than normal. Then he reached his arm around Crowley and gave his shoulder a little squeeze.
"What are you doing?"
"Giving you a hug. Is that all right?"
Crowley made a non-committal noise and shifted closer to put his arm around Aziraphale.
One of the boxes between them fell off the bench and scattered its contents on the path. Instantly, a flock of pigeons descended on them. Crowley remembered with a smirk that they were the mexican brownies with cayenne pepper. The statues and passersby were going to be in for a surprise later.