Crowley cursed. That was really not how he had planned this. Instead of a cosy evening in front of the fireplace with the storm savely locked out, he was running right through said storm.
The reason - what else could it be - was Aziraphale. But this time Crowley felt like it was not his overdramatic prince who was to blame, at least not solely. Crowley himself might have messed things up a bit.
An hour earlier
The rain spattered against the window. Grey clouds hung over the late afternoon and the few people still on the streets hurried to get home. Even Starholden, capital of Avriburg, “pearl of the south” and so-called “most beautiful city of the known world”, looked rather glum on a day like this.
Crowley was glad he had arrived home before the rain began. Now he got to watch the scenery from their humble but safe and dry home. A dancing flame in the fireplace spread its warmth and a delicious smell emanated through the place.
Steps made Crowley turn his head. Aziraphale entered the living room from the small kitchen, carrying a tray with two steaming mugs. Smiling, he gestured Crowley over to the small sofa near the fire.
“Soup is almost done,” he announced. "Tea?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Inwardly, Crowley sighed. The scene reminded him of a talk that was due.
Aziraphale had learnt to cook and was quite good at it. It was a strange feeling to have a literal Prince prepare and serve Crowley’s meals, make him tea and in general take care of most of the chores in their shared home. A strange feeling, but not a bad one. Having Prince Aziraphale sit next to him and willingly serve him food and drink, made part of Crowley wonder what else he could ask. It slowly wore down the wall Crowley had built between Aziraphale and himself. The wall that said “watch and protect but never touch”.
This was dangerous. While Crowley thoroughly enjoyed it, it was time to end it. The carefully built boundaries needed to be maintained.
“Aziraphale,” Crowley said. “We should talk.”
“Oh? Sure. About what?”
Sighing, Crowley sat on the couch. He patted the free spot and Aziraphale sat down obediently.
“Erm, we have been in Starholden for a while now, right?” Crowley said.
“Half a year, I’d say,” Aziraphale nodded.
“We both are doing well, right? I have a nice post at the city watch and you are happy at the library, aren’t you?” Crowley asked.
“Oh, yes, very!” Aziraphale beamed. “I love working with books!”
“So, maybe it’s time to… erm… end our relationship?” Crowley said and laughed, “I mean, pretend to end it, just like we pretend to have one in the first place.”
Aziraphale’s face fell.
“What? Why?” he whispered.
“Well, the less lies, the less risk to be caught lying,” Crowley explained.
“But our disguise,” Aziraphale said quietly. “Same sex couple fleeing from intolerance.”
“It’s not unrealistic that a relationship ends,” Crowley said. “As you said, it’s been half a year. Nobody will be surprised that we stay after building our lives here, even if we are no longer together.”
“But, the… the house?”
“You keep it,” Crowley said. “My work pays enough to afford something on my own.”
“Yes, but why risk it?” Aziraphale asked, his voice sounding strained. “It works as is.”
“You are safe now,” Crowley said. “We both are. We got work, a life, new friends. At some point we might want a real relationship and…”
“I see.” Aziraphale suddenly stood. “Well, I won’t keep you, Captain Crowley. I thank you for your help.”
“No, it’s fine,” Aziraphale said, voice breaking lightly. “You’ve done so much for me. I can’t ask you to further forgo the attention of all the Pearls, Lisas, Marks, Irvings and… and… the tall blond nordic guy at the tavern.”
“I don’t care what his stupid name is,” Aziraphale suddenly yelled.
“Could you tell me what is wrong now?” Crowley asked, loud now as well.
“Nothing!” Aziraphale shouted. “You want to get rid of me to find someone to love! I completely understand!”
“What? I never said… where are you going?” Crowley grabbed Aziraphale’s wrist, but Aziraphale pulled himself free and stormed out of the door.
Crowley stood dumbfounded. Very eager to understand what the Hell just had happened, he forgot for a moment that he probably should go after Aziraphale who ran outside into a rainstorm without so much as a jacket. But when he caught up, he cursed, grabbed his coat and Aziraphale’s and followed his runaway Prince.
Outside, he rather helplessly looked around. He had no idea in which direction Aziraphale had run and the rain pattering on the ground made it hard to hear anything.
Crowley startled when a small hand landed on his shoulder. Beside him suddenly stood Madame Tracy, the healer from next door. She had pulled the lapels of her coat up and a hood protected her red hair from the rain. Smiling, she pointed towards the Market Street.
“He ran that way, dearie,” she said but before Crowley could thank her and take off, she held him back and said, “You should rethink that, you know.”
She blushed and said rather sheepishly, “I just got home and could not help hearing you two yell at each other. I didn’t hear everything, but enough to understand that you want to leave him. Look, I don’t know your reasons, but I see how you look at him. You are crazy about him.”
Probably Crowley should be annoyed with his charming yet nosy neighbour. But he knew that her heart was in the right place and she always wanted the best for everyone. So he gave her a sad smile.
“You’re not wrong,” he admitted. “But it takes two, doesn’t it?”
At that, she furrowed her brows.
“So?” she asked. “He looks at you just like the other way around. It’s cute really. How in love he is with you.”
“Well, you can’t be surprised that the man you fled your home for worships the ground you walk on, can you?” she laughed. “The Gods know I never saw two people so besotted with each other.” Then, with a more serious expression, she said, “So whatever caused your decision, rethink it. You’d both be heartbroken without the other.”
“I… I guess,” Crowley said. “Better go inside now, Madame Tracy. I’ll find him.”
“You better,” she said. “Good bye.”
Could Crowley really have been so blind? Had Aziraphale harboured the same feelings for Crowley as Crowley for him? Had Aziraphale hoped their pretend relationship would grow into something real? A hope, perhaps even stoked by Crowley’s adoration and dedication? If so, Crowley had to take a huge chunk of the blame this time. If Aziraphale had hopefully waited for Crowley to love him back, Crowley had just ripped out Aziraphale’s heart and stomped it - without preamble.
Driven by concern and guilt, Crowley raced toward Market Street. His heavy footsteps on the wet grey cobblestone echoed through the city like cracking whips. Where could Aziraphale have gone? Most public buildings were closed at the moment. There was only the tavern on Market Street, but Aziraphale had always disliked it - now Crowley even knew why.
Crowley was about to leave and try his luck at the library when he heard a tiny sob. Carefully, he followed the noise. It led him to the backside of the tavern.
There, underneath a make-shift wood shelter for the tavern’s firelogs, Crowley found what he was looking for.
Sniffling, Aziraphale leant against the wall. He was completely soaked, his light linen clothes transparent in their wetness and hugging his generous body. The lovely blond curls were dripping wet and clung to his pretty face. His shoulders were shaking with his sobs. The wave of fondness Crowley felt at the sight was almost painful.
“Hey,” he said softly.
With a gasp, Aziraphale looked up. The surprise on his face did not last long and soon gave way for defiance.
“What are you doing here?” Aziraphale asked and crossed his arms in front of his chest.
“I was worried,” Crowley said, stepping closer.
“I’m fine,” Aziraphale said, lifting up his chin and averting his gaze. “I can look out for myself.”
“Said the man who ran out into the rain, wearing his night clothes,” he teased. Then he looked down on Aziraphale's body and sighed, exasperated. “You’re not even wearing shoes.”
A blush spread on Aziraphale’s cheeks.
“That’s none of your business,” he said.
“Right.” Shaking his head, Crowley approached Aziraphale and swung the second coat around him.
Weakly, Aziraphale tried pushing him away.
“Leave me alone,” he said and added in a whisper, “That’s what you want to anyway.”
“Aziraphale, that’s not...”
“Just go, I don’t want you around,” Aziraphale pouted.
Fed up, Crowley grabbed Aziraphale’s shoulders. Aziraphale’s eyes widened when Crowley pushed him against the tavern wall.
“But you do,” Crowley said roughly. “You do want me around and that’s the problem.”
“What do you…”
Without thinking, Crowley silenced Aziraphale with a kiss. Aziraphale’s body tensed, but the resistance melted away fast when Crowley slipped his tongue between Aziraphale’s lips.
Groaning, Crowley pressed himself against Aziraphale’s plush form. Aziraphale tasted of tea, apples and the rain and the Prince was so pliant in his arms. Their lips and tongues were entwined, their muffled moans mingled with the storm. All desires, hidden for years, broke free. Crowley grabbed Aziraphale harshly. As if driven by greed, he claimed the hot mouth, licking into it, mapping it out with urgency.
When Crowley finally broke the kiss, Aziraphale was flushed and trembling. His eyes were hooded, single drops that might have been tears or rain adorning his lashes. He clung to Crowley and smiled shyly with swollen lips.
“Let’s get you home, Aziraphale,” Crowley said.
To his relief, Aziraphale nodded and for once did as he was told without protest or backtalk.