AN: Right. Okay. Um. A Goddess in Human Form, a Being of Celestial Wonder, asked me to write some AziraphaleCrowley stuff for her. I said yes, because she is, as mentioned, really freaking cool, and also I owe her pretty much my soul for all the things she writes - so achingly well - when I whine for them.

Then she said, "Or, on the other hand, let's both write it, in alternating one-shots." Which takes half of the burden off of me, plus means I get to read more of her stuff, so obviously my response was, "Yes, this does resemble paradise on earth."

And… here it is. This shot is mine, the next one will be hers, and so on, but I'll mark them as such each time.

For the belated record: this being is Fading Grace.

Disclaimer: Neither of us own anything to do with Good Omens, except copies of the book. It's all Terry Pratchett's and Neil Gaiman's.

Cordelia: Hello? It felt like I was talking. My lips were moving.
Xander: Give it up, Cordy. You're never going to get between those two. Believe me, I know.

- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Halloween"

Three, Crowley thought, was a good number. It had a sound mythological base. Maybe not in his mythology, as much as others, but sometimes it didn't pay to be picky.

Three was also the number of the kinds of people who visited Aziraphale and his book collection in Soho. This was a good thing as well. (Or notgood. Not good exactly. One didn't throw words like "good" around without qualifiers.) Not only was it a solid number, a predictable number, it was a manageable number.

Sometimes one wanted to drop in on an old not-friend, and Crowley's personal preference was for Aziraphale's company to be rather like the number three - solid, predictable, and manageable. This meant not having to fight his way to the door. Also, even if they were not-friends, they were still On Opposite Sides of the Eternal War Between Good and Evil, so he did expect a bit of attention when he showed up. For form's sake.

Suspicious auditors, misguided souls under the impression that they could give Aziraphale money and then leave with a book, and the kinds of people who made threats about how flammable paper was (whether out loud or just with large smiles). Those were the kinds of people who were expected.

None of them stayed very long.

And then there was Crowley. And then, one day, there was Alex.

Alex didn't fit into any of the established categories. He had originally been at least theoretically one of the lost souls, but had quickly realized that this tactic was not working and applied others in order to achieve his actual aim, to which Aziraphale remained blissfully oblivious.

The first time Crowley dropped in they were laughing together (an angel and a human! Not that there was anything wrong with interaction, per se, a little divine ecstasy was fine, but a conversation? It was like rats and mice. Same shape, but there was nothing to talk about) on the subject of old books, which apparently were the new banana peel of humor. Crowley had missed the memo.

He had waited, impatiently, until Alex left. He had stood in the light just so, to show off his cheekbones and sunglasses, which he could wear inside the dark shop without bumping into things - more than Alex could ever do. He had been successful, on a small scale, since Alex had seemed intimidated and suspicious and curious. This, unfortunately, had only made him linger.

Still, he did leave eventually. "What," Crowley had asked, "do you think you're doing with him, angel?"

"Doing? Nothing. Why? Haven't you ever had a human hang about like that?"

"Yes," Crowley admitted. It was the cheekbones. Aziraphale, though, was pleasantly soft and plump-looking, not at all in keeping with what vapid modern people like Alex ought to be interested in. "But I know what they want. I wasn't born yesterday." He reflected upon this. "Rather the opposite, really."

"What, tomorrow? That's a tad ridiculous, dear."

This had resulted in Crowley explaining what he'd meant in rather sharp tones, which in turn degenerated into a philosophical and theosophical debate, which is what any disagreement between a Celestial and an Infernal being becomes even when it consists mainly of name-calling.

So Crowley came back the next day - not to apologize, because low-grade, annoying evil was what he did, even to not-friend angels, and he'd been doing his job, certainly not spiraling into an Emotional Morass. Just to sort of drop in.

Alex was there again.

This time, Crowley decided to pitch in and do his bit to make the world a better place. (Well, not better. Not better exactly.) So he materialized some doughnuts and proceeded cheerfully into the shop, making a show of being extremely friendly. Aziraphale was pleasantly surprised, and ridiculously easily pleased with the façade of getting-on that his two companions erected.

Shortly after the last jelly had been eaten, Alex left. He did not come back. Aziraphale barely noticed, and Crowley reveled both in that fact and in that he had made his own personal world a better place in the name of good by saving an angel from temptation, if said angel had never noticed.

Alex found himself a nice boyfriend shortly after, and they laughed together - once they were past the jealous stage - over the stories of Alex's last crush, and how his crush's ex had plainly been some kind of circus freak, with the tricks he could do with his tongue when Aziraphale's back had been turned. The glowing red eyes had been a nice touch as well. And the Air of Undeniable Menace had been the capper. Hilarious, really.

Neither of them ever asked why, then, Alex hadn't laughed it off, any more than Crowley asked himself why it had been so important to make Alex's clothes smell of brimstone for several days on end for good measure.