Very little point to this one, I wrote it because I was bored and thought it would be fun.
Aziraphale and Crowley belong to their creators, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. All shall love them and despair.
A Frank Exchange of Ideas
"I don't sleep, Crowley. You know I don't."
Crowley scowled. "You could try."
"Why?" Aziraphale couldn't understand why anyone would voluntarily waste half his life in unconsciousness. The humans did it because they had to, of course, but Crowley didn't have to. Neither did Aziraphale, and he didn't intend to.
"It's fun. Sometimes there are dreams." Crowley shrugged. His tendency to sleep when he wanted wasn't something he could explain. He liked it, that was all, but the angel would insist on reasons.
"It's oblivion, that's what it is." Aziraphale shook his head, closed his book. He wouldn't be finishing it anytime soon, not with Crowley in one of his more tenacious moods. "And as for dreams, I don't need them. From what I hear, half the time they don't even make any sense."
"More than half, actually."
Aziraphale frowned at him. "Then what's the point?"
"Does there have to be?" Crowley tossed one leg over the other, stretched one arm out along the arm of the squashy sofa he was sitting in. Long fingers tapped their master's irritation, picked at a loose thread. "It's all points with you, isn't it? You always need a bloody reason."
"Only sometimes," said Aziraphale, and there was a warning note in his voice that made Crowley glance up. The angel was gazing at him steadily, unblinkingly, and another day Crowley might have nodded and conceded that particular point. Today he felt like being contrary.
So he smiled. Flashed half a grin, threw his head back, sardonic. "Don't tell me you've never once doubted. I know you. You only refuse to actually question because you think it'd get you tossed."
Aziraphale looked at him, his mouth set in a hard line. "You're trying to make me angry, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am," said Crowley. "Is it working?"
Aziraphale didn't answer immediately. You're wrong, he wanted to say, wanted to spit the words and throw them in the demon's face. You're wrong. I have my doubts, mostly about you. Why you're here, you're not like the others, you're different from those two dukes. You're Machiavellian, not evil, not demonic, but you're still a demon. Still ruthless, still calculating, and oh I've seen you be cruel, but you don't find any joy in it. Slowly, he got up and tried to light the camp stove so that he could heat water for tea, but his fingers were cold and he couldn't get a good hold on the match. Outside, the snow kept piling up, inch by inch, foot by foot. The burner flared without any match, and Aziraphale looked at Crowley.
The demon's lip curled. "You're a brick, you know that. You could just light the thing, or get your electricity running."
"Bit conspicuous, wouldn't it be, if only my shop had lights on and heat."
"Not if you didn't want it to be."
Crowley had a point, and they both knew it. Aziraphale didn't have to sit in the cold and dark and use matches to light things. He did it because he wanted to, because it made him feel at home. The little rituals were comforting. "I know that." And I don't have to question, because I already know. Everything turns out right in the end, and that includes you. You're a good person, even if you are a malicious bastard sometimes. I believe that.
Crowley drummed his fingers again, inspected his nails. "You do all these human things, but you refuse to sleep."
Aziraphale shut his eyes. This again. When Crowley wanted to know something, he worried it like a dog with a bone. "Yes. I refuse to sleep."
"Why?" He smirked. "Surely you have a reason."
The lid went on the teapot with a sharp clink that made both of them wince. "I can sleep when I'm dead," said Aziraphale shortly, then blinked. Crowley had gone unexpectedly white, his hand on the arm of the sofa clenched into a white-knuckled fist.
He glared at the angel from behind his glasses, bit back a curse. "Don't say that," he hissed.
Aziraphale had long ago discovered that he could be annoyed and concerned at the same time. "Crowley, what on Earth?"
"'You boys kin sleep when yer dead,'" said Crowley, pitched his voice lower, rougher, obviously an imitation. "It's what my sergeant used to tell us."
Aziraphale remembered when Crowley had finally made his way back to England, back home, after the war. He hadn't slept for months, and when he finally did he remained catatonic for almost a year. He rarely mentioned his service, and Aziraphale knew better than to bring it up (though he had always been curious as to why Crowley had gone). He remained silent, afraid that if he spoke, Crowley would leave – snow or no snow. He usually disappeared when the subject came up.
After a minute or so, Crowley cleared his throat. "I hated him for it. He kept pushing. The men were falling over in line, falling asleep on their feet, and he just kept pushing. I loathed him." His eyes were distant; Aziraphale wasn't sure what he was seeing, but it wasn't the angel or the bookshop.
The minute hand had moved conspicuously before Aziraphale broke his silence. "What became of him?"
The demon focused on him, left his reverie. "He died," he said flatly. He did not say how. "So. You don't say that, understand? You can't die. I can't die. It's a ridiculous saying, coming from either of us, and being flip isn't like you." He grinned, suddenly himself again. "Flip is my job."
"And I learned from the master." Aziraphale studied him for a moment. "I'm – sorry I upset you."
Crowley looked disgusted. "You didn't upset me," he said. "I don't do upset."
"Of course I did," said Aziraphale, "the same as I would be upset if you were… flip about Hiroshima, perhaps." It was only decent, he told himself; Crowley had said something he would never have otherwise mentioned, now Aziraphale should do the same.
Crowley understood his reasoning, knew why the angel had said it, but had not known that and he cocked his head. "You were in Hiroshima?"
The angel looked down at his hands. They'd been covered in blood and ash and gore for days, it had gotten under his nails and he'd wondered if he would ever get the smell of death off. There were times he thought he could still smell the stench of burning bodies on his hands. "I received orders to go to Japan; I wasn't told why. I managed to get out of Cassiel that I would be required for some sort of 'clean-up,' but he wouldn't say what…"
"Cassiel told you that?"
"He was the only one who would say anything on the subject."
Crowley sat back in his chair, shook his head. "And the fact Cassiel was the one saying it didn't tip you off at all?"
Aziraphale shrugged. "I was surprised, of course. He doesn't talk much at all, let alone to me. But I didn't think anything of it, really. So I went."
Blinding light, searing heat. His mortal corporation had been vaporized and his feathers had been singed, had smoldered, had turned black with soot before the week was out. There had been other angels there, stumbling through the wreckage, weeping as they tried to salvage what souls they could. Even the humans' souls were disoriented, in shock. They wandered over the scorched earth until some angel found them and guided them home.
Aziraphale had been too shocked to weep, at first. He had done everything he could think to do and he still felt, sometimes, that it hadn't been enough. And then, three days later, another plume of smoke had appeared in the south. Between comforting souls, Aziraphale had wondered, seriously wondered, about the Plan.
He knew it would be all right in the end. He knew that with every fiber of his being, believed it with all the strength of his will, but he couldn't see how. He knew that God must know how this destruction was necessary, knew that he had to trust in Him and he did, he did, but the screams of the wounded men and women and children still echoed in his ears.
Crowley's voice startled him back to the bookshop, dark and cold. The teakettle was shrieking. That was the scream he had heard. "And you never once questioned? Even then?"
Aziraphale could have hit him, but he didn't; Crowley had not sounded belligerent. So he swallowed his anger and reached for the teapot instead, tried to pour steaming liquid into two cups, Crowley's first because he's a guest and that's how it's done, but in the dim light the steam was like smoke and Aziraphale's hands were shaking violently and he nearly spilled.
And suddenly Crowley was there, scowling blackly, taking the teapot away, heedless of how the ceramic would burn his hands. "Here," he said, "let me."
It did not escape Aziraphale's notice that Crowley handed him his cup first. He smiled a little. "Thank you."
Still scowling, Crowley pushed him onto the other end of the couch and told him to sit, for Someone's sake, before he hurt himself. Crowley sat where he had before, so that there was a comfortable amount of space between them.
Aziraphale sighed into his tea. "I questioned, but not the way you do. I know it'll all work out in the end. I know He knows what He's on about. What I can't understand is how everything fits into His Plan."
"I'm not sure He has any idea what he's doing," Crowley said.
"I always will be sure He knows. He's had this plan from the beginning. It's like – a story, I think." Aziraphale looked at the pattern on the couch, traced it vaguely. He liked patterns. They were predictable. "It's been written, but we're only reading it, so we don't know how everything works just yet."
Crowley hissed, and Aziraphale glanced up. A hard little smile was dancing around the corners of Crowley's mouth, and he was running a finger around and around the rim of his cup. "I used to think that." He looked back at the angel, and his jaw was set. "But that means he created me knowing that I would Fall. What kind of – of creature creates beings only to damn them to Hell from the outset?" He shook his head. "I can't accept that. I won't."
Aziraphale didn't say anything right away, instead stored away the knowledge that Crowley would rather believe in an unwitting God than a cruel one. And again he wondered why Crowley had Fallen.
All he could do was shake his head. "I don't understand that part, either," he admitted. Crowley stared at him. "I don't think I'm meant to know."
"You're incredible," said Crowley with another quiet hiss. Aziraphale would stand like a rock no matter what horrors happened around him. Even on that awful Friday, he had stood firm while Crowley had turned bitterly away.
"Thank you, I think."
"Tenacious, I should have said," Crowley muttered. "You don't do anything you don't want to, do you?"
Aziraphale blinked at him, astonished. Crowley might as well have just called him selfish, and he wasn't sure if the demon had meant that or not. It was utterly out of context, which should have alerted him to – something. He missed Crowley's hidden grin.
"Of course I do," he exclaimed. "All the time. You know I do."
Crowley looked at him over the tops of his glasses, gold eyes dancing. "But you won't sleep."
Aziraphale buried his face in his hands, startled into laughter. Oh, Crowley was manipulative. He really should have seen that one coming. "Not tonight, no."
"But you're not refusing."
"Do we have to keep arguing about this?" Aziraphale wanted to – go someplace dark, alone, be quiet for a while. He wanted to forget things for a while. "I'm tired of arguing."
"So give in," Crowley suggested.
Part of Aziraphale wanted to. It wouldn't be so bad. Crowley would be here to wake him if he slept too long, after all, and he did want to be quiet and forget. But he didn't want to just lose the argument so quickly, and he had centuries of practice in manipulating stalemates, so he shrugged. "I have better things to do with my time than sleep, that's all."
Crowley snorted. "Like what? Sit here arguing with me?"
Aziraphale decided to wipe the smirk off Crowley's face. "Being with you is lots more fun than sleeping would be," he said with a sly smile, and laughed when Crowley's mouth opened and closed like a fish's.
Crowley laughed, too, once he got over the initial shock. "Well played. But how do you know? Either of those things, for that matter. If you know what I mean." The smirk was back.
"Well, you're planning on sleeping here, too, aren't you?" At Crowley's nod, Aziraphale smiled triumphantly. "I only have one bed, you know that. And my loft isn't big enough for two. And I won't have any guest of mine sleep on a couch. And I won't sleep on a couch."
"I know, I know, I might have guessed, and I wasn't going to suggest it."
He didn't sound like he was giving up, though, and Aziraphale peered at him. "Then what, pray tell, were you going to suggest?"
"That we share." Aziraphale spluttered. Crowley gave him a dirty look. "Oh, come on. It only makes sense."
Aziraphale looked at him intently. "You aren't propositioning me, are you?" It was Crowley's turn to splutter, and Aziraphale nodded, satisfied. "Good."
Crowley recovered himself with as much dignity as he could muster. "Besides, since there's no heating I'm going to want two comforters, but you'll probably only want one. So you'll sleep in between my two. There'll be a nice layer of cloth and feathers between us. You can't get me on that point."
"You sleep nude," said Aziraphale. "I'm pretty sure I can get you on that one."
"Oh for – you've seen me naked already." Aziraphale crossed his arms, and Crowley rolled his eyes. "Fine. I'll wear pajamas. Sissy."
"Oh, just for me?" Aziraphale didn't bother hiding his sarcasm. "I'm touched."
"You're touched all right." Crowley snorted. "Did you really think I was propositioning you?"
Aziraphale's lips twitched. "It wouldn't be the first time."
That brought Crowley up short, took the smile right off his face. "Yes it would."
"I'm not surprised you don't remember," Aziraphale said, grinning. "You were drunker than I'd ever seen you. You actually passed out."
"I don't pass out," said Crowley, scandalized. "Ever."
"You did," Aziraphale told him. He was quite enjoying this. It wasn't every day that he got to catch Crowley off-balance.
"When was this?"
Crowley suddenly looked very uncomfortable. "Ah. Yes, well. I do remember that, actually."
Aziraphale blinked. "Really?"
"You never said anything after," said Crowley. "I thought I'd dreamed it. I was very glad I'd only dreamed it. Shit." He tried to smile lasciviously, only managed to look ill. "Were you disappointed?"
Aziraphale chuckled. "You were hilarious. 'What sssssay, Azzzrafail. Shall we do th' nasssty?' and then you laughed and hiccupped at the same time and blew wine out your nose. And fell over."
"Tell you what," said Crowley after a moment. "If you swear to never mention that again, I'll drop the sleep thing right here and now."
Aziraphale smiled, triumphant. He had won. "That sounds like a fair trade, my dear."
Crowley nodded and threw back his tea, changing it to liquor as he did so. He wanted a drink. He couldn't believe Aziraphale had sat on that for so long – it was blackmail, was what it was, but Crowley had no problem going along with it. There wasn't much he could lord over the angel at this point, nothing that would match.
When Aziraphale got up, he looked at Crowley expectantly. "Aren't you coming?"
Crowley frowned, uncomprehending.
"To bed," said Aziraphale with infinite patience. "You agreed to drop the sleep thing. I never said I wouldn't try it, and I must say, I would like to have someone experienced there to wake me up if I can't figure out how. And with this snowstorm, I doubt I'll get anything else done." He waited for a moment while Crowley boggled, then turned and went upstairs.
Crowley shook his head blankly and had another drink. But there was something fundamentally wrong about doing shots out of a teacup, and finally he decided that Aziraphale hadn't been joking. He went up to the loft and crawled into bed, though he decided not to bother with pajamas. Aziraphale hadn't agreed that he had to wear them, and Crowley felt that the angel deserved a good shock for tricking him.
Aziraphale didn't notice. He was already asleep.