A.N. Written under the influence of far too many late nights and a ton of revision for Finals that I didn't really feel like facing. Hope that explains this rather peculiar offering.
Hellish trials basically boiled down to the accused being stood up in front of a throng of demonic beings and being jeered at and humiliated, while the officials decided amongst themselves whether the undeniable entertainment of the accused's torture would be greater than the good, or rather evil, that could be done by their release.
Trials of the underworld were notoriously lengthy affairs because even if release was decided upon it would usually only follow a hefty dose of torture as even demonic court officials can't be expected to deny themselves a bit of fun. It was not uncommon for trials to last a number of years with the members of the crowd changing every so often as they either got tired or bored of it all. More often though it was months, as Hell has a lot of soul-tormenting to get done. Still, days or months, the trial of Crawly, (or Anthony J Crowley as he was more recently known,) had only been going for five minutes, and he had a rather nasty feeling he was in for the long haul. After all, dousing a Duke of Hell in holy water is behaviour of which even demons take a very dim view.
Crowley stood on the little dais and listened to the insults being thrown his way, while the court officials indulged in a private joke on the High Table. He wondered, not for the first time, if returning to Hell had really been the best idea. While the Powers That Be in the underworld may have ignored his actions for so long while he kept his head down on Earth, blatantly showing his face in Hell forced them to act. But Crowley was not content to sit around on Earth, waiting for them to run out of other victims and decide to pay him a little visit. No, much better to face the inevitable and get it over and done with. The angel asking him if he'd considered repentance recently being the last straw, Crowley had left his flat, his Bentley, his numerous Best of Queen albums and his terrified plants and had headed back Down.
Only to be slapped in chains the moment he laid foot on fire and brimstone.
And here he was: five minutes into a trial that was going to result in either agony and eventual destruction, or agony and eventual release.
" Hello Crawly, how you doing? "
Crowley ducked the severed head that was flung at him from the crowd and turned to see Hastur grinning at him broadly.
" Told you I'd get you, " the Duke informed him smugly.
" Good job, " Crowley responded. " I notice you waited until I came Down here of my own free will though. Interesting move that. Lulling me into a false sense of security were you? "
Hastur's grin broadened.
" Doesn't matter how you got here Crawly, all that matters is that you're here now. "
Crowley nodded, jumped back a few steps to avoid the thighbone that a member of the demonic throng had thrown at him, and smiled reassuringly at Hastur.
" Glad to see you've kept a positive attitude about things. "
" Shall we get started then? " a hoarse voice rang out above the thunder of the mob.
A wizened old man shuffled through the crowds and settled himself down on the central throne at the High Table.
" It's Belial, " Hastur smirked at Crowley. " Came Down with Ligur in the old days, you know. You remember, the Duke you gave a Holy Water bath to? Reckon you're for it now, Crawly. "
Crowley brushed at the droplets of blood that had sprayed his black trench coat from the severed head and turned a dazzling smile on Belial.
The old man sorted through some parchments, exchanged a few words with the demon next to him then turned to look at Crowley, green eyes sparkling with interest and curiosity.
" Right then, over to you Hastur. "
Besides being over-long, demonic trials also suffer from being unbearably shambolic. The only organisation that takes place is deciding who the accused is, which in this case had already been done. After that came the humiliation and degradation which everyone thoroughly enjoyed while waiting to get down to the real fun of torture.
Hastur moved a few steps from Crowley and addressed the High Table.
" I, Hastur, Duke of Hell, accuse Crawly over there of behaviour inappropriate for demonkind. "
" Fair enough, " Belial allowed, scribbling something down. " Like what? "
Crowley cleared his throat and raised a hand. Realising that he'd spent too long around Aziraphale, he put his hand back down and shouted instead.
" Oy! " Belial turned to look at him, wavering between interest and annoyance. " It's not Crawly anymore, it's Crowley. "
There was a moment's silence as Belial looked at him sceptically. Then he raised his eyebrows and shook his head, scribbling something else down on the papers.
" Crowley then, " he agreed in a slightly impatient voice.
Appearing before court in a human body and insisting on a human name, Crowley knew, was simply evidence that he had indeed gone native. However, hellish courts weren't overly bothered with evidence of any kind, simply the varying means of torture that could be applied in obtaining it, so he wasn't particularly concerned that he had provided them with two damning pieces.
" Anyway, Crowley, " Hastur drawled the name out with elaborate care, " went directly against the plans that had been put in place to bring abou… "
Belial looked up sharply. He waved a hand and Hastur made a gargling noise. The Duke slapped a clawed hand to his throat a couple of times and then fixed Belial with an angry glare.
" You won't be mentioning that because it didn't happen, " Belial informed him firmly. " The court won't be punishing a reliable field agent like Crawly, excuse me, Crowley, for something that didn't happen. You'll have to take that outside. "
Although they remained unaware of the Incident-That-Did-Not-Happen, a couple of demonic denizens of the crowd took Belial's last statement as an invitation and surged forward gleefully to drag Crowley from the platform.
" No, no! " Belial shouted at them angrily. " You can't do it yet. We have to do this first. You can punish him after. "
The mob edged back, eyeing Crowley with eager eyes and muttering to themselves.
" Anyway, Hastur, what else have you got? " Belial asked, releasing the Duke's voice.
Hastur didn't appear best pleased that his ace card had been shoved back up his sleeve but soldiered on.
" Alright then, how about what he did to Ligur? "
The crowd latched onto this excitedly and began chanting: Justice for Ligur. It should be mentioned that the majority of them were glad he was dead while the others weren't entirely sure who he was anyway. And of course it goes without saying that Justice was treated with the same amount of ridicule as Fair Play and Not Kicking A Man When He's Down.
" Melted by a bucket of Holy Water to the head! " Hastur bellowed, encouraged by the clamouring of the mob. "Ligur is nothing more now than a sticky patch on this bastard's carpet! "
" Uh, that was an accident, " Crowley pointed out. " I didn't mean at all for that to happen and no one regrets what happened to Ligur more than me. Terrible business. "
Belial looked doubtful.
" An accident? "
" How could it be anything but? " Crowley asked smoothly. " Shocking, absolutely shocking. "
" You knew we were coming and you propped it up on your door! " Hastur retorted. " How is tha…"
There was a sudden buzzing at the High Table and large red flames manifested in an empty chair. The court fell into silence as Beelzebub appeared; something that seemed to disconcert even Belial.
So far everything had been pretty much what Crowley had expected. Vicious crowds and Hastur baying for his blood. All regular so far. The appearance of the spokesman of Satan Himself however, put a different spin on things. Even Crowley had known that liquefying Dukes of Hell in Holy Water was a fairly brutal action but could he have crossed even Hell's ethical boundaries? He ran a hand through his thick black hair and wondered if leaving Earth without even saying cheerio to Aziraphale had been such a wise move after all.
" Beelzebub sir, " Belial said deferentially. " Weren't expecting you sir. What do you… er…. How can we help? "
" The inzzident involving Ligur, " the Prince of Hell droned, " dizzzolving him in Holy Water… "
Beelzebub became silent, or as silent as something that is continually buzzing could be. Hastur and Belial exchanged hesitant looks. Crowley waited patiently until he found he was actually feeling quite impatient. They were either going to destroy him or not; no point bowing and scraping now.
" What about it, lord? " he asked finally.
Belial looked at him as if he was certifiable and Hastur flinched in anticipation of Beelzebub's reaction.
" Our Lord ZZZatan found it… amuzzzzzing. There will be no punizzshment for that. That izzz all. "
The flames, and the buzzing Prince of Hell, were gone. Crowley felt his knees go weak momentarily as Belial drew a line through something on the parchment.
" You heard Beelzebub Hastur: no punishment, " Belial stated. " What's next? "
Hastur looked around himself, looking a little lost. It was an expression that did not sit well on the face of a Duke of Hell, so he changed it for one of mocking contempt, which he was a little more used to.
" Okay, I didn't want to have to do this, but, " Hastur paused dramatically. " what about the angel? "
This caught everyone's attention. The crowd jeered and booed, as was customary when anyone from Up Above was mentioned. Belial raised his eyebrows and looked expectantly at Hastur.
" The angel? " he repeated blankly.
"I imagine he means Aziraphale, " Crowley supplied helpfully. " Field agent from the Other Side. "
While maintaining an unruffled exterior, Crowley felt a nasty sinking feeling in his stomach. Explaining the Arrangement was going to be a trial in itself, let alone the other…
" So what's this about an angel then? " Belial asked, quill poised over his parchment.
" This pitiful excuse for a demon, " Hastur gestured flamboyantly at Crowley, " has been engaging in an entirely unnatural relationship with the Principality known as Aziraphale. "
Belial looked distastefully at Crowley.
" Do I even want to know? " he asked dubiously.
" Let me show you, " Hastur offered, grinning maliciously.
A steaming pit of lava opened up in the middle of the courtroom floor. There was a moment's entertainment as some of the demonic throng who had been standing too close fell in and had the flesh burnt from their bones. Hastur waited until the merriment had died down before flicking a hand and summoning a thick red mist that hovered lazily over the pit.
" These were all discovered floating around in Crowley's imagination when he was first apprehended, " Hastur declared as images began to appear in the smoke. " Pretty nasty stuff. "
His curiosity piqued, Belial leant forward.
" Well lets see then, " he demanded.
The shop bell rang quietly as Crowley stepped inside. He walked silently and yet purposefully to the counter. Aziraphale looked up from the piles of books, blue eyes wide and uncertain, full lips moist and parted.
" Crowley, " he murmured.
Crowley moved behind the counter and pulled the angel roughly into his arms. He pushed the angel's head to one side and pressed hot, open-mounted kisses to the pale throat. As the angel made a soft noise of protest, Crowley slid one hand up to clench a handful of silky, blond curls and hold his head steady. His other hand slid to the front of the angel's shirt, teasing the top button before ripping it open savagely. Aziraphale's own hands hesitantly slid up Crowley's arms, all feather-light touches. They settled around his neck, stroking and caressing the bare skin as the demon bent his head to one of the angel's nipples, sucking hard.
" Crowley, no, this is… " the angel breathed.
" Shh, angel, " Crowley muttered, pressing Aziraphale gently but firmly down over the desk. He laced his fingers through the blond hair and slid his other hand round to the angel's flies…
" Oh shit, " Crowley mumbled, when he finally forced himself to admit that this was actually happening.
Torment by having one's sexual fantasies broadcast in front of the demonic host was a form of torture Crowley was previously unaware existed. Trust Hell to have discovered it and put it to use so effectively. The crowd was in pandemonium, ecstatically wolf-whistling and calling out lewd, and fairly explicit, catcalls. Belial was leaning forward, watching the cavorting images in the smoke.
Crowley rubbed the bridge of his nose, feeling a monster headache coming on.
" How much of there is this? " Belial asked in a carefully casual voice.
" Heaps, " Hastur answered gleefully, shooting Crowley a triumphantly ugly look. " The angel, or more specifically what Crowley here would like to do to him, takes up a fair proportion of Crowley's mind. "
The smoke shimmered for a moment before displaying a new set of images.
" Oh Crowley… don't stop… want you, always wanted you... "
Aziraphale settled back against the soft leather on the Bentley, allowing Crowley to straddle him. He let out an ecstatic moan of pleasure as Crowley eased his trousers off his narrow hips. The angel's hands traced wandering patterns over Crowley's bare chest as he gave a shuddering breath while Crowley licked and teased. With a deep growl, Crowley used one hand to pin the angel's wrists above his head, rendering him helpless. His other hand hooked one of Aziraphale's knees over his shoulder. The angel gasped as Crowley thrust forward roughly.
" Yes Crowley, yes. Fuck me… "
" I think everyone's got the message, " Crowley protested as the crowd set about loudly cheering on the Smoke-Crowley-And-Aziraphale. " So I want to give the angel a good seeing to. What of it? "
His complaint went unnoticed. Belial, like the demonic throng, was intent on the outrageously graphic display of Crowley's feelings for Aziraphale. Hastur grinned at Crowley.
" Though you'd get away with it, eh? Didn't realise I'd spent half an hour on your ansaphone listening to your sweet little angel try and get through to you, did you? Didn't take a genius to figure out there was something going on there. "
Crowley decided to ignore the obvious response and instead sat down on the dais and tried to ignore the increasingly noisy grunts, groans and screams echoing around the courtroom.
He was sure it could actually be more embarrassing but he wasn't entirely sure how.
" Erk, " Aziraphale commented intelligently.
" Yep, that's how, " Crowley told himself as Aziraphale and the Metatron walked further into the courtroom.
Currently visible in the smoke a nude Aziraphale was knelt before Crowley, enthusiastically giving him a blowjob, while Crowley guided his head and whispered instructions.
On seeing this, the angel had tripped over his own feet and would have landed in an ungraceful angelic sprawl if the Metatron hadn't caught hold of his arm and pulled him steady.
Aziraphale watched the smoke, wide-eyed and stunned with a decidedly ill expression on his face. The Metatron took one look at it and then shot Crowley a disgusted and outraged look.
" Right, " the Metatron said briskly. " Knock it off Hastur, there are angels present. "
Hastur seemed about to protest but Belial reluctantly waved a hand and the smoke dissipated. While the Metatron appeared spectacularly as a young man engulfed in flames, Aziraphale remained looking like a gay, English bookseller. He was still staring at where the smoke had been and Crowley found himself subconsciously sinking lower to the ground.
" Metatron, " Belial greeted him, his tone seemingly unable to decide between respect, contempt or surprise. It settled for extreme neutrality.
" We're here as witnesses for the Defence, " the Metatron said finally, throwing a dubious look at Aziraphale, who was still shell-shocked.
Belial seemed confused.
" Witnesses… the Defence? " he asked slowly. " What do you mean? "
The Metatron fumed and seemed very impatient to get things over and done with.
" You really are hopeless, " he scowled. " Still, I should have realised you wouldn't hold trials properly. "
" You mean fairly, " Hastur retorted. " This is a proper trial for us. "
" Whatever. I don't have the time to debate moral standards with a demon. I still have things to do this century. Anyway, this has all been discussed at a higher level. Or rather a more senior one, " the Metatron amended seeing Hastur open his mouth to debate the authority of God in a hellish courtroom.
" So, what's that mean? " Belial asked finally.
" It means, " the Metatron explained frustratedly. " That someone is going to come and say some things in favour of you not destroying the demon Crawly. "
" Crowley, " Belial corrected.
" I don't care what you want to call him. That one over there, " the Metatron persisted, pointing a figure at where Crowley was skulking.
" So, this someone, " Hastur asked, a tone of jeering in his voice. " That going to be you or the angel Crowley wants to screw the wings off? "
Crowley noticed Aziraphale was resolutely refusing to meet his eye, for which he felt immensely grateful. He decided not to offer thanks to anyone in particular because in the time it would take to work out who precisely he should be giving thanks to, something important could happen.
" Keep a civil tongue in your head, Hastur, " the Metatron commanded. " And for your information, I and the angel Aziraphale are simply here as interested parties. "
" Am I late? Have they started the torturing already? " Dagon asked as he entered the courtroom. Like Beelzebub, Dagon was accompanied by a persistent hum. Unlike Beelzebub, Dagon's buzzing originated from the large swarm of flies that formed a thick mist around his form.
" You're offering a Defence for Crowley? " Hastur demanded, looking suspiciously at the Lord of Flies.
" A what? " Dagon asked, completely non-plussed.
The Metatron rolled his eyes.
" You're going to say something to persuade them from destroying Crawly, " he explained with extremely unangelic brusqueness.
" Crowley, you mean? " Dagon verified.
" Yes whatever. Can we just get on with it? " the Metatron ordered.
" Certainly, wouldn't want to keep you angelic folk hanging round a scummy place like this all day, " Dagon assured them cheerfully. Flicking away a fly that had flown too close, Dagon turned to Belial.
" From that rather educational display there, seems to me that all we're dealing with is a simple case of lust. And do I need to remind anyone that lust is in fact one of the Seven Cardinal Sins? And when have we ever punished a demon for indulging in one of those? "
" But with an angel? " Hastur argued, sensing that he was losing the favour of the court.
" Well come on, " Dagon said reasonably. " Everyone knows angels are pretty little buggers, it's part of their job description after all. Honestly now, who didn't entertain a few lascivious thoughts when these two came in? " Dagon asked, pointing to a bright red Aziraphale and a livid Metatron. " Hands up now, who didn't? "
When no one put their hands up Dagon's smile broadened.
" See? " he stated smugly. " I myself had a nice one going involving the two of them together, it's only natural. And ole' Crowley here has been knocking around with this one here, " Dagon gestured to Aziraphale, " for the last couple of millennia. Of course Crowley's going to lust after it. "
Dagon paused and peered closer at Aziraphale who was studiously looking at the stone floor. The Lord of Flies reached out and took hold of the angel's chin, tilting his head up to examine him further. Crowley felt a prickle of annoyance but before he could say anything the Metatron slapped Dagon's hand away.
" Don't touch, " the Voice of God snapped, evidently down to his last reserves of angelic patience.
Dagon backed off.
" Er anyway, where was I? " Dagon thought for a moment, his eyes still on Aziraphale. " Oh yes, Crowley. Right, so, anyway, the final accusation that Hastur has levelled at Crowley is one of Lust. Which unfortunately we don't need to watch anymore of his fantasies to say is probably true, so let's give him a commendation. "
Crowley felt as wrong-footed as Hastur looked.
" What? What are you giving him a commendation for? " Hastur shrieked.
" Crowley's committed a sin, fairly long term one. That's worthy of a commendation, " explained Belial. " Seems that's all sorted then. Thanks for your time Dagon, Hastur, Crowley. "
Belial paused in his farewells and looked at the Metatron and Aziraphale speculatively.
" Don't suppose either of you two are hanging around for long after this are you? " he asked hopefully.
" Just get out, " the Metatron barked.
" Thought not, " Belial muttered as he got up and shuffled back through the dispersing crowd who were all thoroughly disappointed that there was to be no excessive torture, or indeed any torture at all.
Crowley stood up and looked around the rapidly emptying courtroom. Hastur was looking at him with a decidedly dangerous expression. He seemed to want to say something but was apparently unable to find the words required. Instead he stabbed a wavering finger in Crowley's direction, and then stalked off.
" That's all sorted then, " Dagon said brightly, rubbing his hands together and looking at the Metatron.
" Good, we'll be off. "
The Metatron turned to Crowley and glared as fiercely as an angel could, which in the Metatron's case was really quite fierce.
" And you, keep your dirty little thoughts in that cesspit you call your mind. You try and do any of those unspeakable things to Aziraphale and I'll make the torment of Hell look like a bloody day at the beach. Understand? "
" Gotcha, " Crowley answered, noticing that Aziraphale was still looking the other way.
The Metatron looked like he was going to say more but settled for another impressive glare. He turned and left the courtroom, catching hold of Aziraphale's elbow as he went.
" Nice seeing you again Metatron, " Dagon called cheerily after their retreating backs.
As soon as they were gone he spun round and fixed Crowley with a furious look.
" You do not know how bloody lucky you are, mister, " he spat. " You should be on the fucking rack for stunts like that. "
" You were a lot nicer a moment ago, " Crowley remarked nervously.
" Yeah well in case you haven't noticed but for being the Voice of God the Metatron makes a damn convincing arch-devil and I'm not going to get on his bad side. You're lucky he was around to swing things your way or else I'd have had your head. "
" He swung things my way? " Crowley repeated dubiously. " That was nice of him. "
" It's that insufferable angelic pity, they just can't help themselves. You're just damn lucky he wasn't aware of what's been going on in your head regarding the angel. Otherwise I would have been the least of your problems. Now listen here Crawly, or whatever it is you're calling yourself, fuck the angel if you must but if you do you'd better make damn sure he Falls. "
" I'll bear that in mind, " Crowley agreed smoothly.
Dagon seemed to relax a little.
" We're expecting big things of you in return for this Craw… Crowley. Bear that in mind too. Now get out of here. And mind out for Hastur. The Holy Water joke is only funny the first time. "
" Yes sir, " said Crowley as he left the courtroom, probably the first accused to do so without a single bruise on him.
The shop bell rang quietly as Crowley stepped inside. He crossed the floor silently yet purposefully. The angel wasn't there.
" Aziraphale? " he called out softly.
There was a moment's silence then the angel emerged from the back room, looking nervously at the demon.
" Crowley? " he asked hesitantly.
Crowley had been in many awkward situations during his existence. Being unexpectedly summoned up by a group of amateur Satanists in the 1970s had proved embarrassing and there was a particularly nasty incident in a French convent in the fifteenth century that always made Crowley's skin crawl. This first meeting with the angel, however, topped them all.
" Er, " Crowley offered.
" Yes. "
" So. "
" Right. "
" Anyway. " Crowley tried a charming smile but managed only a sickly grimace. " I'll be going then. "
" Okay. "
Crowley swallowed an inexplicable feeling of disappointment and headed for the door.
" Crowley? "
He turned back, trying to maintain a neutral expression.
" Yes? "
The angel looked at him anxiously. He was quiet for a long time.
" You wanted to say something, angel? " Crowley prompted gently.
" Er. No. "
Crowley felt his face twitch as the neutral expression fought off a frown.
" I mean, yes, " Aziraphale said hurriedly. " I wanted to ask… "
The demon gulped and prepared himself for what could be an excruciatingly uncomfortable discussion.
" What do you want to know? "
Aziraphale flushed and began flicking nonchalantly through the pages of one of the books on the counter.
" Uh, well, those… um… those pictures. Are they really… well, do you honestly, er, think those things? About me? "
" Yes, most of the time, " Crowley admitted, mock cheerfully.
The angel seemed taken aback and stared at Crowley in disbelief.
" But… Oh. Right. "
Crowley waited to see if anymore was forthcoming. The angel rubbed his fingers nervously over the yellowing pages of the book. Crowley wondered if the best thing to do would be to just walk out and set up operations in a different part of the world. He looked at Aziraphale, trying to gauge what the angel was thinking.
" I don't understand, " Aziraphale commented finally.
Crowley raised his eyebrows.
" What part? "
" Well, it's lust isn't it? I don't understand it. "
" I suppose that's part of being an angel. "
Aziraphale didn't look convinced.
" Did you get your commendation? " he asked after a long pause.
Crowley wasn't sure how to most tactfully answer that question.
" Uh, no. "
" How come? Is it because I haven't Fallen? "
There was a distinct coldness in the angel's tone that Crowley hadn't heard before.
" Probably. "
They stood in silence for a while. Aziraphale stared down at the book, which was a first edition of Dodger Brown and the Shilly-Shally Smugglers. Crowley looked around the shop uncertainly.
" The Metatron said they'd probably torture you, innocent or not. Did they? " the angel asked casually, without looking up.
" Sorry to disappoint you but no, " Crowley answered with a wry smile.
Aziraphale glanced up sharply.
" If I'd wanted you to be tortured I wouldn't have gone to the trouble of going Down there to try and help. "
Crowley considered this.
" Why did you? "
Aziraphale frowned at him.
" Isn't it obvious? We're friends. It's what friends do, isn't it? "
Crowley considered this also.
" And the Metatron, how did he get involved? "
" He was at my trial, when I said I was intending to go Down to help you. The Metatron didn't think it was a good idea for me to go on my own. "
" How did you know abou… Hang on, your trial? "
The angel shrugged.
" It wasn't much of a trial, more like a slap on the wrist. Not to mention a lecture on what hanging around with the wrong crowd can lead to. "
" I didn't know, " Crowley admitted sheepishly.
" No, you were too busy running off for your own trial. Did you honestly think I wouldn't hear about it? "
" I suppose… I suppose I had other things on my mind. "
Aziraphale made a small noise of distaste and Crowley realised it hadn't been the best choice of words.
" Look Aziraphale, I don't think you have any right to sulk about how I feel towards you. I've never made you feel uncomfortable about it, or tried to force the issue. In fact, before today, you didn't have the faintest idea. I'm the one who's had my privacy invaded so stop acting like the injured party, alright? " Crowley snapped, losing his temper in the face of the angel's cool irritation.
Aziraphale was quiet. He merely looked impassively at Crowley.
" I'm afraid, dear boy, you simply don't understand. So it's best if you and I just forget all about this and get on with our individual jobs. Agreed? "
" No, it's not agreed, " Crowley snarled, slamming his hand down onto the counter. " I don't think you're treating me very fairly. "
Aziraphale seemed shocked by Crowley's display of anger. He took a few steps back.
" I don't like this Crowley. Please go away. "
The demon sighed and fidgeted wretchedly, trying to calm his temper and bring his thoughts into some coherence. His obvious discomfort apparently brought out the innate goodness in Aziraphale and the angel took pity on him.
" I thought we were friends Crowley. I thought you… liked me. "
" I do like you angel. Did you miss that part of the film? "
" No Crowley, " the angel persisted gently. " Those things… the things you think about doing to me, they aren't nice. It's just lust. I thought… hoped, you'd think more of me than that. I thought we were friends. I thought you actually cared about me. "
This was not how Crowley had envisaged the conversation going. He did his best to get back on track.
" I do, of course I do. I don't think about hurting you, or making you bleed. Just… touching you, kissing you, holding you down and… "
" Crowley! " Aziraphale was obviously as out of his depth in this conversation as Crowley was. He closed the book finally and took a deep breath. " Why can't you see the difference? My love for you means I want to protect you and make you happy. Whereas what you feel for me is just… nasty. "
" You love me? " Crowley asked, dazed.
Aziraphale frowned ever so slightly.
" Of course I do. Angels love everything, we can't help it. "
" Oh. "
" That doesn't mean to say that… Crowley, you're my friend and I love you, but more than that, I care about you. I enjoy spending time with you. You've made these past six thousand years more than bearable, and I don't know if any one else could have. "
Crowley and Aziraphale stood in silence for a long while. A prospective customer tried the shop door, but Crowley imagined he'd locked the door behind him, and so of course he had.
" Angel, don't you think that I would love you if I could? " the demon asked softly.
" But demons aren't allowed to I suppose, " Aziraphale allowed, a touch miserably.
" Can't, " Crowley corrected meaningfully. " Look, angels go for holding hands and walking through the park, whereas demons go for handcuffs and vigorous sex on a park bench. That's demonic affection for you. "
The angel was stunned but mollified.
" That's not very nice, " Aziraphale muttered.
" Demons don't tend to be. "
" So, all those awful things you think about, that's the demon version of love, is it? "
" Yes, if you like. " Crowley sensed that the icy demeanour the angel had attempted to cultivate was thawing, and found he could not help himself. " And perhaps I could show you that they're not that awful. "
Crowley gave an evil grin and took a few steps forward. Aziraphale stepped back quickly.
" Er, no, I don't think so. "
" But you love me and I lust after you, that's works for me. "
The demon caught Aziraphale's chin and traced his thumb along the angel's lower lip.
" Well it doesn't work for me, " Aziraphale said tartly, pushing Crowley's hand away.
" Oh. Are you sure? " Crowley asked hopefully.
" Positive, dear boy. "
They were silent again, but it was a silence that was much more companionable.
" And stop looking at me like that, you're making me feel grubby. "