The problem with living on Earth after being close to omniscient in Heaven and, later, Hell, was that linear time was so slow. Crowley had no complaints about all the food and drink of the period being organic and unprocessed courtesy of other farming techniques being a few millennia from invention, but waiting for the internal combustion engine to be designed and put into use was maddeningly slow.
In short, Crowley could have done with the means for a quick getaway, but linear time demanded he make do with what resources were available to him.
Crowley hissed loudly as footsteps neared the barrel he had hidden himself in. If they got any closer he would have to follow up on his hissing with turning into a snake, and he always felt a little squashed these days in serpent form.
"My dear, is that really necessary?" Aziraphale asked, revealing himself as the source of the footsteps.
"I'm hiding," Crowley pointed out, sullen.
"I guessed," Aziraphale said. "That does look rather cramped."
"There is an archangel in your kitchen. Did you know there's an archangel in your kitchen?"
Aziraphale blinked. "Er. Are you sure?"
"There is a bloody archangel in your kitchen."
Aziraphale was quiet for a long moment, probably contemplating as Crowley had the possibility of ending up as a smear of blood on the kitchen walls.
"Oh," Aziraphale said. "I don't suppose I could fit in there with you, could I?"
"Find your own damn barrel."
"You can come out now," Aziraphale said. "Gabriel isn't here to torture or otherwise destroy us."
Crowley supposed it was a good sign that Aziraphale had returned unroasted and unexploded, but his stomach did revolt nonetheless at the idea perhaps Aziraphale had returned for a less than altruistic purpose. They tolerated each other, but that didn't rule out the possibility of betrayal altogether. "What if he's lying?"
"Oh, thanks," muttered Gabriel. "We angels are renowned for our lying skills."
"Aziraphale's a decent liar," Crowley said, shrugging when Aziraphale glared. "What? You are."
"Crowley, bending the truth is not -"
"It's fine," Gabriel interrupted. "I could do with the practise anyway. Sorry about the scare."
"Sor - right. Right." Crowley climbed out of the barrel, stood up straight. It was a little disconcerting to realise Gabriel's vessel was shorter than him. "What's going on here?"
"He's in hiding."
"He didn't say," Aziraphale replied, looking to Gabriel with unease. "Why are you hiding?"
Gabriel scratched the back of his head. "I may have skipped Heaven."
Crowley couldn't remember the last time he'd heard Aziraphale curse.
As much as it was terrifying to have the archangel be in their debt, all things considered that said archangel could clear that debt by snapping his fingers and creating a puddle of Aziraphale and Crowley-flavoured jam at any given moment, Gabriel was surprisingly bearable to have around at first. Running away from Heaven meant he was busy with making sure that he hadn't been followed, that he couldn't be followed, and that he was going to be able to fit in on Earth; with so much to do, he didn't have much time left over for being an arse.
Not that he didn't try. Being a runaway archangel, Gabriel was all too content to flout regulations as to what you could and couldn't summon into being, calling up Babylonian wine with one hand and chupa-chups with the other.
It was enlightening in a way because Crowley had never seen Aziraphale so wrathful so regularly in a long, long time, although that wrath was normally only ever expressed through passive-aggressive commenting on Gabriel's actions.
Truth be told, Crowley half expected Gabriel to take up smoking and writing bad poetry; the archangel seemed determined to mark his escape from Heaven with a rebellious streak clichÈ enough he might as well have been a teenager.
A rebellious teenager who could kill with a click of his fingers - formerly one of the highest four in Heaven - and people had once wondered why Crowley questioned God's management techniques.
Arsehole he might not be, but Gabriel was definitely a brat. Crowley refused to say a word about the littered clothes and sweet wrappers and empty flasks the archangel left lying around Aziraphale's home, but Aziraphale was in full-on mothering mode, picking up after him at first then ordering him to tidy up, even going so far as to pull the "I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed" trick, though it didn't particularly work.
Gabriel was sulking and despondent, Heaven having apparently descended into one long, drawn-out family brawl even after Lucifer's Fall. Raphael was apparently miserable with humanity, Michael was miserable because he missed Lucifer even if he did still have every intention of killing him next time they met, and Gabriel was just - miserable in general. It didn't help that God was playing the absentee parent, though in Crowley's personal opinion - which, he noted, no one was asking for - that was probably a good thing in the long run.
It was amusing in a way, though the fact Aziraphale's attention was focused entirely on taking care of Gabriel was rather grating, and the angel's reluctance to answer any questions with more than a quick, "Mmhm", "Yes, dear" or "No, dear" was even more so.
The problem with having an archangel hanging out in his friend's house, other than the fact an archangel was hanging out in his friend's house, was that archangels were pretty much as high in the food chain as anyone could get without actually being God.
Gabriel starting to call in debts meant Crowley having to keep his distance courtesy of every creature that had ever been used as a cautionary tale for children crawling out of the shadows to say hello. More than a few would have been just as mortified to see Crowley as Crowley was to see them - it was an unspoken but obvious rule that one wasn't supposed to associate with the enemy, let alone owe them a favour.
It was good to know that if any of said nasties ever caught him with Aziraphale he could hold their links to Gabriel over their heads, but it still meant that Gabriel might as well have covered Aziraphale's house in anti-Crowley sigils.
Sure, there were a few creatures here and there he could hold his own in a fight against, but there were an awful lot more where he couldn't.
When Crowley invited Aziraphale out to dinner and the angel declined his offer due to Gabriel needing to learn how to mimic the exact shade of blue a frost giant ought to be, it was safe to say Gabriel had gone from grating on his nerves to scraping them raw.
It wasn't that Crowley didn't have other friends - or, well, colleagues and acquaintances - or that Crowley had any objections to Aziraphale spending his time with others, it was the humiliation of being shut out. After a couple of centuries of not killing each other, he'd thought himself to be getting along quite well with the angel, all things considered. And yes, he did still occasionally think about tearing out Aziraphale's throat with his teeth, but only when he was being particularly annoying or -
- or. And there was the problem. Envy was all well and good, a deadly sin, perfectly acceptable in any demon, but envy over an angelic sleepover was embarrassing.
It didn't help that even if he was kind of funny-looking in his vessel, Gabriel was far too suave for his own good and his true form was ridiculously beautiful in all its genderless glory.
Certainly, Crowley wasn't bad looking himself, even with the additional appendages of his demon form, but everyone in Heaven knew Gabriel was the hot one. Lucifer just had better press.
It was the better part of a month later when Crowley blinked on opening his door to Aziraphale; the angel usually tended to avoid inviting himself over, seemed to consider it impolite. Tempting as it was to slam the door in Aziraphale's face as petty revenge, he allowed the angel to step inside.
Aziraphale closed the door behind himself. "You haven't visited recently. I thought I'd see how you were."
"I'm fine," Crowley said. "Are we done?"
Aziraphale tilted his head, frowned just a little. "I'm sorry, have I said something to upset you?"
"No, no," Crowley said, smiling with a too-tight pull of the lips, "No, you haven't said anything."
"Then why -"
"That's the blessed point," Crowley snapped. "You let an archangel stay in your house for weeks - bloody weeks - while he invites over his friends, most of whom could kill me in a permanent, no new body ever sense, and you don't, you didn't send me a letter, you didn't -" He shook his hands, searching for words and not finding them, angry and upset, and wasn't that the most ridiculous thing of all? A demon, upset because of a bloody angel. "You hardly even tried to sssspeak to me!"
Aziraphale watched Crowley evenly for a moment that felt far too long, tricking Crowley into meeting that steady, frustratingly serene gaze before smiling. "You poor thing."
"Oh, don't bloody pity me," Crowley said, rolling his eyes.
"I'm not pitying you," Aziraphale said, lowering his head a little before holding out his hand.
"What is that?" Crowley asked. He wasn't going to take it.
"Crowley," Aziraphale said.
That Aziraphale responded by tugging him forward and into a kiss was a greater surprise. "What was - why -"
"I do like you," Aziraphale replied, calm and pleasant as if he weren't two inches from a demon's lips. "I don't know why you're shocked."
"Oh," Crowley said, feeling small at first, then very, very big* at the thought of what Aziraphale had just granted him permission to do.
He slid his free hand into Aziraphale's hair and tangled it in the mess of curls. "You're going to really, really like me in a minute."
Strictly speaking, no demon was bound to keep his word. Not without making a Deal - an actual, capitalised Deal, usually bound in some unfortunate human's soul.
Even so, once in a while a promise was worth keeping.
Aziraphale did really, really like Crowley. Crowley made quite certain the angel told him so.
* Not that he was making an effort just yet.