When Aziraphale walks down the street, people tend not to notice him. Even when he’s sure he’s perfectly visible people bump into him, and he’s the one who somehow ends up apologising. When he’s invisible it’s worse, especially during rush hour. When Crowley walks down the street, people get out of his way. Usually they don’t realise they’re doing it, it’s just that Crowley cannot conceive of a world where someone might actually occupy the piece of pavement he wants to stand on. Aziraphale watches him in action, quick strides along the most crowded streets in London, never so much as brushed against by the mortal inhabitants. If he walks fast in his wake, Aziraphale can feel something of the pleasure of getting where you want to go without someone standing on your shoes. Crowley doesn’t swagger, doesn’t need to when every step he takes proclaims with perfect self-confidence that maybe people should get out of the way of Hell’s field agent. It’s wrong to want so badly to be able to do that, but after six thousand years Aziraphale is getting tired of the continual jostling.
* * * * *
Crowley looked out his bedroom window at the bright sunshine and grinned evilly. A decent day for it at last. He hated doing it in the rain, and there hadn’t been a properly sunny day for weeks. Not that he’d forget the way to reach his goal, of course. It was like riding a bicycle; once learned never forgotten. Although he’d never admit being able to ride a bicycle of course. That was a more angelic sort of transport. An image of Aziraphale falling off a bike flashed into his mind, cheering him immensely. He shoved the laughter down, concentrated on the longed-for reunion. He imagined stroking the smooth skin, feeling the shiver beneath his hands. He closed his eyes, and felt himself shiver at the mere thought. His breath quickened as he remembered the response he could get if he pushed for just a little more than would be thought possible. He swallowed hard, enjoying the feel of a suddenly dry mouth, and wiped damp hands on his thighs. He wondered if he might burst with anticipation, and forced himself to walk slowly to the door, even slower down the stairs. He paused for just a moment at the street door, one hand resting lightly on the wood as if he could feel the desired presence outside. All right. Enough was enough. There was a point at which anticipation became torture, and he only enjoyed torture when the person in agony wasn’t him. He flung the door open and rushed outside.
“Hey, baby,” he whispered, running a gentle hand over the Bentley’s bonnet. “Miss me? We’re going for a long spin today; all the way to Inverness on the scenic route, promise.”
* * * * *
Aziraphale meandered up Charing Cross Road, humming “O Jerusalem” quietly to himself. It always took hours, because he went into each and every bookshop. There are a lot of bookshops in Charing Cross Road, but he wasn’t in any hurry. He’d started out quite early in the morning with a handful of empty carrier bags, and it was now 2pm and his arms were getting tired with the weight of his purchases. He was also getting decidedly peckish. A cup of tea and a few sticky buns would not go astray. When he’d finished with this second hand shop he’d go straight to the nearest café, he thought. There wasn’t anything worth buying here anyway. A cheap paperback that promised an exciting history of violent crime caught his eye. On a whim he picked it up. It looked very lurid. Perfect for a spur of the moment gift for Crowley. He idly peered into the space where it had been and froze. There was something old in there. He pulled out an old, old book, opened it, looked at the print, looked at the title page. Looked at the title page again. Oh, oh dear heavens. A first edition Vanity Fair. With a horrid bright yellow price sticker on its poor, dear front cover. £5.50? That couldn’t be right, surely? The thought struck like one of Crowley’s “harmless” cocktails. They didn’t know what this was. He could walk out of here with this for less than he’d be willing to pay for a snack. Aziraphale swayed a little, and saw black spots in front of his eyes. He could practically see a little Crowley sitting on his left shoulder telling him to buy it, and a little version of himself on the right shoulder gently admonishing him to do the proper thing. He smothered a hysterical giggle, and checked his wallet. Oh dear. He was down to his last £10. He’d ask them to hold on to the book, and would come back later. Yes, he’d tell them what it was and pay a proper price. He wandered up to the desk, his prize and the crime book in his hand. As he reached it, the assistant looked up and gave him an insincere smile.
As clear as if she had shouted it, he heard her think “Jesus. Doesn’t this guy have any life? Third time this bloody week I have to hear him call me dearest lady’.”
He blinked. Well. A person tried to be polite. He gave her a sweet and sunny smile, and put both books in front of her.
“Good afternoon, my dear,” he said cheerfully. “Lovely weather, isn’t it?”
“Mmm,” she said, throwing the books into a paper bag. “£8.50.”
“Thank you, dearest lady,” he said, accepting his change and watching her try not to roll her eyes.
He casually put the books into the least crammed of his bags and sauntered out, struggling not to grin. He would not think about the warm, naughty glow he was feeling. He had got a good bargain, that was all. And he even still had enough for a nice cup of tea.
* * * * *
After using the chamber pot, and washing his hands in the dusty water from the pitcher, Crowley sleepily peered around his room. A bit grimy looking. Maybe he should fix that. He thought about getting dressed, and maybe going out for a bite to eat. He quite fancied something stodgy and sweet. With a few glasses of wine to wash it down. He yawned. Who knew what the angel was up to without someone to keep an eye on him? Probably off inspiring all sorts of tedious good works. Hah. It’d be safe to leave him alone for a while. What could he do after all? Abolish slavery? And if he went out for food he’d have to work out what people were wearing, get dressed appropriately and wait for his meal to be cooked. It all sounded too much like work, and his bed looked so warm, and comfortable and enticing. Crowley snuggled himself back under the blankets, telling himself sternly not to sleep a moment past 1885. Moments later he was dead to the world again, a contented little smile on his lips.
* * * * *