“I never quite figured you the sort to march in the street, angel,” said Crowley. “Me, yes, I’ve been in any number of revolutions, though I did try to skip the French one,” he gave Aziraphale a wink. “But it’s not really your thing, is it?”
“The Tadfield Pride march isn’t a revolution, my dear. And I feel a certain kinship, you know. Quite a lot of them come closer than most humans to understanding how an angel or a demon can be neither man nor woman, even if we happen to look that way. And others, well… Surely you can feel a certain…sympathy for people who’ve been told by the powers that be that their love is impossible?”
“I, well, I mean…” Crowley hemmed and hawed with an adorable blush, and Aziraphale smiled. He knew Crowley wasn’t good about discussing these things. Indeed, he’d brought it up at least half to tease the demon. But it was true all the same.
“So you wanted your new outfit to wear to a pride march? Isn’t it a bit subdued for that?”
“You’re quite free to wear rainbow if you like, Crowley.”
That was worth it just for the expression on Crowley’s face. “Yeah, I’ll pass on that. Though I suppose I might get a flag pin or something. They have lots these days.”
“They do, yes. I’m given to understand that there will be booths selling that kind of thing at the event itself, at the end of the march. Or you could miracle up one, if you like.”
“Hmm.” Crowley frowned faintly. Then a small flag-shaped pin in black, white, and gray, with a central stripe of bright green, appeared on his lapel. “There, that’ll do.”
Aziraphale smiled and conjured an eight-banded rainbow in the same shape for his own lapel. “Indeed. I just need to finish my sign, then, and we can be off.”
Crowley blinked. “You made a sign?”
“I like to do things properly, my dear, you know that. It’s very much the done thing to carry a sign when marching in a Pride march. So yes, I made a sign. Not a massive one, but I need to finish coloring in the last bit. It’ll only be a moment.”
“Only for you would I do this, angel. Only for you.”
“Come now! There will be plenty of opportunities to cause mischief at the march, I’m sure. Perhaps I’ll even be able to check off another sin. I’ve gotten three out of seven now, by my count.”
Crowley just shook his head and smiled.
They got to the march just in time, Crowley of course miraculously finding a perfect parking spot for the Bentley despite the pair being among the last arrivals. The atmosphere was festive and cheerful. Groups marching together were organizing themselves behind their banners, while those who were here alone or at least weren’t part of any formal organizations clustered randomly here and there, the march’s organizers gently herding them about.
As humans in bright colors and carrying signs and banners milled around them, Aziraphale noticed something.
Humans always left a little bit of space around Crowley. They weren’t consciously aware of it, but they could sense the demonic nature radiating from him. It made humans just a little bit reluctant to approach him, so unless the crowding was very bad, there would always be a little clear space around him.
Aziraphale had previously had just the opposite problem. Humans were drawn to him. It wasn’t that they stood too close. It was, rather, that something in his angelic nature drew their confessions, their tales of hurt and woe, their worries and troubles.
He’d never really liked it. It was nice when he could help them, but so often he couldn’t, and he could never go out in public without hearing an endless stream of far too personal information. It was extremely uncomfortable.
It was yet another reason why he liked being around Crowley. The demonic repulsion and angelic attraction canceled out, and they ended up being treated like anybody else in the crowd.
Now, though, there was a little circle of empty avoidance around them both.
It felt like a rejection, like humanity itself had judged him and found him wanting. He felt a heaviness in his heart, a sinking feeling in his stomach. He was evil now, and humanity knew it.
That was absurd. Aziraphale had never liked the approaches and the confessions, he should be pleased to be free of them. But he had very much liked being just part of the crowd, and now it seemed that was impossible. He sighed, leaning into Crowley for a moment, taking comfort from his presence, from the warmth of their interlaced fingers. That touch came with a cost, he’d known that. No doubt other problems would crop up as he went on with life as a demon. The feel of Crowley’s fingers twined with his was still worth it, he told himself, but the heaviness lingered all the same.
There was a fine mist of rain as the march began, but the air of cheer didn’t diminish. Aziraphale had a stab at a hellish miracle and willed the clouds to thin and the rain to trail off. The wellspring of his power felt different these days, but using it seemed to work about the same. The sun peeked out as he and Crowley took their places amid a little cluster of other individual marchers and began.
Aziraphale’s sign had each letter filled in with a rainbow, and read “God is Love, Love is Love,” which had gotten him quite a look from Crowley.
“Bringing God into this, really? After everything with Heaven?”
“Heaven isn’t God, my dear. I don’t like Heaven one bit, but I still do believe in Her. I still believe that She loves all Her creations. Including the queer ones. Including the Fallen ones as well.”
Crowley’s lips had thinned at that, pressed together on some no-doubt scathing words about the Almighty, but the sign remained, and now Aziraphale hoisted it cheerfully and strode along the street with the other marchers.
The streets were not exactly thronged along the march’s route. Most of those who really cared were out in the road, marching. But there were some observers, and many of them were full of smiles and cheerful waves.
Some, however, were not. Some had scowls, or stiff expressions of self-righteousness. Some had signs of their own, with messages of hate. Seeing them stirred something within Aziraphale. Said something had a few drops of shame in it—he knew what it was to think himself more righteous, and most of the hate-signs were about god and religion—but it mostly consisted of anger. How dare hate bring itself here, to this celebration of unfettered love? There weren’t many of the hateful along the route, but when the march reached its conclusion, there was a sizable knot of them just outside the festival’s gates.
A bored-looking policeman was standing between them and everyone else, and they seemed content enough to be so contained, but as Aziraphale approached, the policeman pulled the radio from his belt, said something into it, and then after giving the protesters with their hate-signs a stern look, dashed off into the festival proper. Aziraphale hadn’t been able to hear what had called the man off, but he felt everyone around him tense ever so slightly as one of the protesters took a step forward, grinning, as if eager to take this brief window to do something more than merely stand with a sign.
One of his fellows plucked at his sleeve, as if to hold him back, but it was a half-hearted gesture. The man didn’t quite step into the middle of the march, he stopped on the cub, short of the street, but he shouted out a slur-laden threat to the people passing mere feet away.
Aziraphale found himself hoping everyone would just ignore him, just push on into the celebration. The cop would be back soon enough, no doubt, and the opportunity for this to explode into violence would pass.
But just ahead of the fallen angel a couple of young women halted. One was a very short woman with a rough butch look—buzzed hair dyed bright purple, several tattoos, quite a few piercings—the other more conservatively dressed, with long hair and a neat pantsuit.
“What did you say?” said the shorter one, glaring. Her partner or friend or whatever else plucked at her sleeve too as she stepped forward, but it had no more effect than on the man.
“You heard me.” The man grinned, hands fisting, having found the fight he wanted. He was a head taller than the short woman, and twice as broad as the taller one. Aziraphale found his mouth twisting in disgust at the cowardly nature of it. The disgust lay atop the anger beneath, like an oil slick over water. He felt nearly ready to toss a match and watch it flame, consequences of a demon losing his temper amid a crowd be damned. The short young woman was being reckless, yet Aziraphale knew exactly why she’d halted, why she’d called the bigot out on his words, for he was ready to be reckless himself.
It felt as though a lifetime of getting looks, of “poof” and “queer” and even less savory things flung at him, often for no reason whatsoever, though lately because he had dared to hold Crowley’s hand in public, was bubbling in him, and every bit of annoyance and aggravation and irritation had piled up to become something more.
The short woman’s tone suggested she felt much the same. “People like you have no business here. People like you don’t have the brain cells to understand what love is, or what God is.” The woman gestured at the man’s religiously-based sign. “Why don’t you go crawl back into the miserable slime pit that birthed you?”
Aziraphale shifted his grip on his own sign, his hands suddenly remembering what it felt like to wield a sword. The narrow bit of wood wouldn’t do much damage, but it would be better than nothing. He felt Crowley at his shoulder, but even without that support, Aziraphale was pretty sure he would have approached the confrontation anyway.
“You just need to get yourself a real man, sweetheart,” said the supposedly-godly bigot. “You’d leave her like that,” he snapped his fingers, “if you’d ever had a real man between your legs.”
“Next time I meet a real man, I’ll consider it,” said the woman with a sneer.
The bigot was close now, within arm’s reach of the woman, but so was Aziraphale. The man began to draw back a fist, and Aziraphale got an angle to poke the bigot with his sign, interrupting his swing. The man rounded on Aziraphale, lips pulled back from his teeth, mouth opening to deliver some further vileness, then froze as his eyes met the no-longer-angel’s.
Aziraphale felt a connection there. He’d felt it before, when people had soulfully stared into his eyes while confessing their troubles. He’d been able to trickle a little grace into them, then, to comfort them. He knew he could push power through his gaze now, but it wouldn’t be giving comfort. Not with the power he had these days.
With anger still bubbling inside him, just short of a violence that went far beyond a minor curse, Aziraphale did so, and the man stepped back in sudden terror as just a hint of hellfire licked hungry tongues into his mind. He wrenched his eyes away from Aziraphale’s ice-cold, slitted gaze and was caught again by Crowley, standing at Aziraphale’s shoulder. Crowley still had his shades up, but he snapped his fingers, and Aziraphale felt the curse surge across the space between demon and human.
The man took another step back, tripped on the curb, and fell on his ass.
“What’s all this?” The policeman returned just in time to see the protester go down.
The man on the ground said nothing. His gaze had gone unfocused and he was trembling violently.
“He tried to pick a fight,” said the taller woman, suddenly smiling. “Didn’t get a hit in, as this nice gentleman here blocked it with his sign.” She gestured at Aziraphale. “But he was shouting some very nasty things and he did definitely take a swing at my girlfriend. Then he tripped. None of us touched him.”
The policeman’s gaze swept across the quartet, eyebrows lifting ever so slightly at Aziraphale and Crowley, then lowering. “Right then. You there, get up and get back to your zone. I explained it to your lot very clearly earlier, you’re not to be in the street.”
The man still stared, sitting in shock.
“He just fell, nothing else?” The policeman turned back, looking puzzled.
“Nothing else,” said the Aziraphale.
“Might be having some kind of fit,” suggested Crowley. “Better have his mates cart him off to the hospital.”
The cop smiled at that, no doubt seeing less work for him if some of the protesters buggered off to take care of their fallen comrade. “Excellent notion. You there!” He headed for the rest of the hate-sign bearers, leaving the two couples behind.
“Thanks for the save,” said the shorter woman, as they started to make their way the few remaining yards to the festival. “I’d have held my own until the cop got here, once he took the first swing, and I’d have liked to see him hauled away in cuffs, but I suppose I’d rather go enjoy the festival than hang around giving statements to the police all day.”
“It’s no trouble,” said Aziraphale.
“Did you give him the evil eye or something?” asked the taller woman curiously. “You’ve got the eyes for it.” Aziraphale considered a little miracle to make her forget his eyes, but then the woman said, “The contacts don’t really match the ‘absent-minded-professor’ look, but they suit you somehow.”
So he merely said “Why thank you my dear,” with a smile. “And if anyone ever deserved the evil eye, that fellow did.”
“I gave him fleas,” murmured Crowley under his breath, so just Aziraphale heard, and the former angel couldn’t help himself, he started to laugh.
“I suppose it’s nice to return to the classics,” he said to Crowley. His anger melted away, and he hardly minded the way the crowd avoided them as he and Crowley finally stepped into the festival proper. Feeling almost chipper, in fact, he took in the various booths and displays, then clapped his hands in delight.
“Oh look, there’s a falafel booth. It’s been ages since I’ve had falafel! They wouldn’t have it be the theme of the whole booth if they didn’t do it well, I would think. Come on, let’s get some. And then of course we should go see Anathema’s booth. It’s going to be such fun!”
Crowley only smiled his usual indulgent smile, but he took Aziraphale’s hand and let himself be towed over to get food he wouldn’t eat, and he didn’t let go until the arrival of the former angel’s falafel made it necessary.
Wrath at Pride. This chapter is part of why I figured I should post this story this month.