“Yes, my dear?”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“I need you to understand that.”
“I need you to understand it. I’m not saying it out of fear or desperation. I love you. I have always loved you. And I will always love you. Even if I’m not supposed to.”
“Why wouldn’t you be supposed to?”
“I don’t know. I just… need you to know that. I love you, Aziraphale.”
“I love you, too,
Aziraphale turns at the sound of a voice; a very familiar voice, but he doesn’t dare get his hopes up. His eyes flicker over the garden, but he sees no one. He looks again, with expert precision, and still he sees no one, so he sniffs and turns back to his post.
Aziraphale turns again, at attention, his eyes flitting around the garden.
“In the tree.”
Aziraphale follows the voice with his eyes, and he finds a snake perched lazily on the branch to his left. He squints, trying to ignore the racing of his heart; he opens his mouth, and almost asks, but immediately thinks better of himself. He shuts his mouth and regards him politely but stiffly.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I wasn’t expecting to converse with a serpent.”
He tries to put a little venom into the words, but it falls flat. Either way, the snake isn’t deterred. “Nice day.”
Aziraphale glances at the dark clouds slowly rolling their way through the sky. “Perhaps not for long.”
The snake makes a thoughtful noise. “Perhaps not.”
Aziraphale looks over him silently, trying to be discreet. His voice was the same, charming and slow, and currently laced with his telltale trill of anxiety. Aziraphale thought it best not to comment, although he did wonder…
“What brings you to the Eastern Gate?”
The snake makes another little noise. “Just looking for a little conversation,” he admits. “Now that the two most interesting parties are no longer with us.”
Aziraphale purses his lips, a harrowing emotion he couldn’t quite name tugging at his heart. “Well, who do you have to blame for that?”
“My Lord, actually,” the snake says, and Aziraphale winces at the reference despite his tone, which edges on mocking. “Just following orders.”
“Well, you didn’t have to,” Aziraphale points out.
“Well, you don’t have to stand here all day,” the snake shoots back. “And yet you do, anyways.”
“Patience,” Aziraphale says simply. “Diligence.”
“Ah,” the snake says, as though he just remembered something. “Virtuous. Good for you. Although admittedly, I think gluttony would look good on you, angel.”
Aziraphale stiffens at the pet name, and again, he almost opens his mouth and asks, but he stops himself. Either way, the snake notes his change in demeanor. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to come off as nasty. Just don’t know your name.”
“Aziraphale,” the angel says, a bit sadly. “You?”
“Crawley,” the snake says, and Aziraphale nods, processing.
Aziraphale asks, “Isn’t it, though?”
“Sorry?” Crawley asks.
“In your nature?” Aziraphale elaborates. “To come off as nasty?”
“Not in the slightest,” Crawley says, sounding offended.
Aziraphale apologizes. “I just figured, you know.”
“Sure,” Crawley says, annoyed.
“I mean, with the tempting, and whatnot.”
“Would you eat food given to you by someone who was being nasty?”
“I wouldn’t eat food at all, if it were forbidden.”
“Oh, all high and mighty, are we?”
Aziraphale takes a breathe. “No. Sorry. Excuse me. For the sake of your scenario, no, I suppose I wouldn’t.”
“S’what I thought,” Crawley says. “Not off to a great start, this conversation.”
“Then why not chat with someone else?” Aziraphale suggests. “There are other Guardians.”
Crawley hums. “The others aren’t quite as friendly. I like to avoid being smote, when I can.”
“Besides, I—” Crawley stops suddenly, as though second guessing himself even as the sentence was tumbling out of his mouth. Aziraphale cast him a curious glance. The snake hesitates, then continues. “When I saw you, I… wanted to speak to you. Not quite sure why. Just wanted to.”
Aziraphale’s heart aches, and he wants to remind him, but he knows better than that. Instead, he says, “I’m certain the reward you’d get for tempting an angel is quite something.”
Crawley grunts. “Not really in the mood for tempting.”
Aziraphale ponders this statement in silence. “A bit too much wickedness, for one day?”
Snakes can’t frown, per say, but Aziraphale still hears it in his tone. “I’m telling you, it wasn’t wicked.”
“Well, surely it must have been,” Aziraphale reasons. “You’re… a demon, after all.”
“Again,” Crawley says, “if you saw someone, and your first thought was, oh, they look wicked, would you take any food they offered you?”
Aziraphale shrugs. “I suppose not. But I am conversing with you, after all.”
Snakes can’t smile, per say, but Aziraphale still hears it in his tone. “Am I really so persuasive, angel?”
Aziraphale stiffens at the second use of the pet name, and Crawley catches the body language yet again. “Sorry. Sort of just rolled off the tongue.”
“I don’t believe you expect me to consider that you used… unconventional methods of temptation?” Aziraphale asks.
“Well, it worked, didn’t it?” Crawley asks. “None of this seduction and whatnot. Just kind words and promises.”
“Kind words?” Aziraphale asks, weary.
“Sure,” Crawley says.
“Hah!” the snake exclaims. “Look at me, being all virtuous and still committing sin!”
The two exchange a glance.
Crawley suddenly sobered. “Maybe don’t tell anyone I said that.”
They sit in silence for a long moment.
“I don’t want to tempt you,” Crawley says. “Just making honest conversation. I’ve had enough excitement for one day. That went down like a lead balloon.”
Aziraphale is listening, earnestly, enjoying the sound of his voice and allowing himself to admit that he missed it. He’s distracted, though, when a droplet of water hits hits his nose. He glances up, noting that the dark clouds have closed in, and it’s beginning to drizzle. Funny word, drizzle.
Aziraphale puts his wings over his head to shield him from the first drops, making sure to nonchalantly shield Crawley, as well.
“I’m sorry,” he said politely. “What was it you were saying?”
“I said that one went down like a lead balloon.”
Aziraphale would never say he snooped. He likes to think he was naturally curious, especially when it came to a certain demon.
“What’s this?” he asks, looking closer at the paperwork scattered on Crowley’s desk. “Anthony J. Crowley?”
He looked quizzically at Crowley. “What does the J stand for?”
“Oh,” Crowley says, standing from his couch a little too quickly to sweep the paperwork off his desk. He attempts to make the action nonchalant, but Aziraphale notices the anxiety anyways. He’s especially attuned to it.
“Nothing,” Crowley says flippantly. “It’s just a little. You know,” he makes a vague gesture with his hand. “A little embellishment. Doesn’t really stand for anything.”
He’s obviously lying. Aziraphale smiles like he believes him, hesitates thoughtfully, then asks, “Why now?”
“Hm?” Crowley asks, shutting the drawer and sitting down at his desk chair, for convenience.
“The embellishment,” Aziraphale elaborates. “Why add it now? You’ve just had your two names for thousands of years, why suddenly change it?”
“I didn’t change it, just added to it,” Crowley insists. “Lots of people have middle names, nowadays, angel.”
“Right,” Aziraphale says. “You do like to stay up on the fads.”
Crowley makes a face, but he doesn’t comment on the angel’s phrasing. “Besides, I think it flows better. Looks better for signatures.”
“You do have a dedication to your aesthetics,” Aziraphale agrees.
“Unfortunately, so do you,” Crowley says, regarding his choice in clothing. Aziraphale hits him lightly on the shoulder.
“A.J. Crowley,” he says. “Yes, I suppose it does roll off the tongue rather nice.”
“Doesn’t it?” Crowley asks, smiling eagerly. “I really think it pulls the whole thing together. A nice little middle name. Anthony James Crowley.”
“Er,” Crowley says, embarrassed.
Aziraphale smiles. “Thought you said the J didn’t stand for anything?”
“Did I say that?” Crowley asks.
“I believe you did,” Aziraphale teases. “Just a few short moments ago.”
“Well, I don’t know why I would have said that,” Crowley says, sitting back in his desk chair awkwardly. “It just stands for James. Not a big deal.”
“Then why try to hide it?”
“Dunno. Like I said, not a big deal.”
“James is a rather Biblical name.”
“That doesn’t seem like your style, my dear.”
Crowley fidgets, crossing his legs at his ankles. “Dunno what you mean.”
“I think you do,” Aziraphale says. “With the Bentley. And your suits. You always look very suave, in my opinion.”
A slight blush rises on Crowley’s cheeks. “Yeah?”
“You know who you remind me of, come to think?” Aziraphale asks, leaning on the desk. “That spy character you were going on about.”
The blush on Crowley’s face deepens.
“You know, those novels you were raving about,” Aziraphale continues. “With the spy, what’s his name, again?”
“I’ve never read any sssuch thing,” Crowley hisses, eying his well-loved copy of Casino Royale that’s sitting on his coffee table.
“What’s his name? Remind me, dear.”
“Oh, I remember!” Aziraphale says, delighted. “I believe it’s Bond. James—”
“Let’s talk about something else!” Crowley exclaims, springing out of his seat and willing Casino Royale to the other side of his flat, hidden away.
“Alright, my dear?”
Crowley is panting, running his hands up and down Aziraphale’s sides. He takes a moment to respond, his face screwed up in pleasure. “Yes.”
“You’re sure?” Aziraphale asked softly. “It’s not too much? You’ve… well, I just don’t want you to overdo it, my dear.”
Crowley huffed out a laugh, and the smile on his flushed face made Aziraphale’s heart beat fast. “I’ve got a bit of a talent for overdoing it, angel. Don’t worry about me. ”
“I do, though,” Aziraphale says. “Worry, I mean.”
“You’re all flushed,” the angel points out. “The sounds you keep making, they’re—they’re endearing, don’t get me wrong—”
“You can say hot—”
“You can’t, though, without blushing so hard I worry about discorporation—”
“I’m not going to discorporate, angel—”
“Has anyone ever? Discorporated from overstimulation? Do you know?”
Crowley’s snarky response is drowned out by the sob he chokes out when Aziraphale resumes stroking him lazily. He grips the angels shoulders, shuddering as he comes, again. As he calms down from the high, he pulls Aziraphale down into a kiss.
“I don’t mean to worry you,” he says earnestly. “It’s just… it’s just how my body is reacting. I can control it, if you want, but it’s… this is easier. I’m enjoying myself, I really am. I’ve just never done this before.”
Aziraphale’s heart pangs. He kisses Crowley again. “You’re lovely. Be as you are. That’s exactly how I want you.”
Crowley shudders. “I love you.”
“I know,” Aziraphale says. “I know. I love you, too, Crowley. More than you could ever know.”
“Are you interested in something to christen the home?” the young lady at the counter asks loudly, following the couple around the shop with her eyes. “We have a lovely selection of crosses—”
“No,” Crowley and Aziraphale say at the same time; they exchange a glance and Crowley snickers.
The woman at the counter folds her hands, a tight smile pressed to her lips. “Not religious?”
“Oh, no,” Aziraphale says, at the same time Crowley says, “Catholic.”
They exchange another look, and then they both laugh.
“Catholic,” Aziraphale laughs once they leave the shop. “You’re ridiculous, my dear, the things you say.”
Crowley whacks him lightly on the shoulder, then reaches down and takes his hand in his with a shy confidence. “Nothing in there of much interest.”
“I liked that sign,” Aziraphale insists. “Live, laugh, love.”
Crowley makes a face. “You’ll hang that up in our home over my dead body.”
“That wouldn’t be so difficult.”
“I’ll discorporate if you buy that, I really will,” Crowley threatens, leading him down the sidewalk towards another shop. “We can find better interior decorations.”
“No leather,” Aziraphale says, and Crowley frowns but he doesn’t offer a rebuttal.
Aziraphale continues. “We just need to find some things that equally compliments your plants and my books.”
“Two rather contrasting aesthetics, if you ask me,” Crowley mutters.
“We could get some of those hanging pots, do you think that would look nice? Out on the porch?”
Crowley hums thoughtfully. “I maintain that we should find you a nice antique bookcase. Would look nice with all your old manuscripts.”
“You do know the way to my heart, don’t you?” Aziraphale asks.
Crowley lifts Aziraphale’s hand and kisses his knuckles. “I’ve had a lot of practice.”
Aziraphale huffed out a laugh. “They tend to be.”
“Well there’s not much else to talk about.”
There was a pause. They stared at each other.
“What else would you like me to talk about, my dear?”
Aziraphale made an amused sound. “Let’s start with that pet name. Where’d you come up with that?”
“Dunno. Just thought you’d like it.”
Aziraphale smiles. The two angels sit next to each other, content, and then Aziraphale leans closer and presses a chaste kiss to his lips. “I do like it. My dear.”
“Hey, that one’s mine. Get your own.”
“I quite like the sound of my dear, though,” Aziraphale insists. “Besides, I’d like to see what else you can come up with.”
“Hm. Alright. I’ll see what I can think of. Angel.”
Aziraphale blinks. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just testing things out. You nicked my good one.”
Aziraphale presses another kiss to the angels lips. “You’re ridiculous, my dear. The things you come up with.”
“I have plenty of time to make things up. And you by my side to listen to me.”
“Watch yourself,” Aziraphale says in a hushed voice.
They lace their hands together, but there’s no where to wander to that they haven't seen a thousand times before. “Love you, my dear.”
“Love you, too. Angel.”
“You’re going to keep that one, aren’t you.”
“Maybe just to tease you.”
Crowley snakes his way into Aziraphale’s lap while he’s reading, draping his long legs over the arm of the couch and resting his head on Aziraphale’s shoulder. The angel doesn’t comment, just places a hand on his hip and holds him close. Crowley doesn’t say anything to him, doesn’t actively attempt to bother him, just lets him read and closes his eyes and rests against him.
Aziraphale doesn’t blame him; Crowley mentions often that he’s warm, and being cold blooded, the physical contact is certainly an upside to their… developing relationship.
Aziraphale’s heart leaps in his chest at the thought. He never imagined they’d be around this bend again, but the way Crowley clings to him is distantly familiar. It’s different, though, too. Crowley didn’t used to be cold blooded. He didn’t used to crave the warmth he feels when he presses against him.
Aziraphale can’t even begin to dissect the layers of implications such a thing has. Thinking about it for too long makes him fret, makes him think too hard about good and bad and Crowley’s morals and his implementation of such things. Makes him wonder if all demons crave the warmth of heaven that is ever present on an angel, or if Crowley has just spent too much time around him. Or if Crowley never wanted to Fall in the first place.
Aziraphale blinks. He turns the page. He hasn’t been reading for the past several minutes. Crowley hasn’t noticed; he’s already asleep. Aziraphale squeezes his hip and tries to pick the plot back up. He’s already read the book hundreds of times.
Beelzebub tugs on the Adversary, who looks down at him curiously. The Prince points at their newest addition, who seems rather frazzled, still attempting to put out the fire his wings are consumed in, which is turning them to an ashy grey color.
“Izzn’t that..?” he asks, and the two peer at him.
“The lover,” the Adversary recalls, although he's hard pressed to remember his name. “Without his other half?”
“He hazz not Fallen.”
“How unfortunate,” says the Adversary, not sounding the least bit bothered in any way.
“I wonder what will tranzzpire of thizz.”
Crowley hisses, arching his back and making a face that suggests pure bliss. “Please—please, angel, please don’t stop—”
“You’re setting the pace, my dear,” Aziraphale reminds him, still holding his hips tightly. “It’s your afternoon. You even picked the venue.”
Crowley lifts himself nearly all the way off of him, then sinks back down slowly, his eyes rolled back in pleasure. Nevertheless, he argues back in a shaking voice: “You said we could do whatever I wanted.”
“And we are,” Aziraphale says, his voice steady. He sounds completely unaffected, as though Crowley hasn’t been riding him for the past half hour.
“You think it’s dumb,” Crowley continues. “You’re not enjoying yourself.”
“You don’t sound like you’re enjoying yourself.”
“Crowley,” Aziraphale says warmly; he runs his hands up and down his sides, and he shudders. “I’m not usually the one who devolves into a whimpering mess during these things.”
Crowley frowns at him, but he’s not truly angry. He likes the tease, if he’s being honest. “I bet I could make you beg. If I tried.”
“I’m sure you could.”
“Was that sarcasm?”
“You’re a bastard.”
Aziraphale hums. “You’re the one who wanted to have sex on the beach.”
Crowley can’t pull together the words to explain the sun feels nice on his back, and that the minor possibility of someone wandering down the shore near their cottage excites and embarrasses and turns him on in equal measures, because Aziraphale picks that moment to thrust his hips up lazily. Crowley decides that’s enough talking, for now, and makes a much more involuntary noise.
“Oh,” he whimpers, “oh—oh, fuck, Aziraphale—oh, fuck, fuck—”
“You’re fucking me on a beach!”
Aziraphale swats his thigh, and Crowley moans and shuts up, at least for a few moments.
“Aziraphale,” he whines, “angel, please—pleassse touch me.”
Aziraphale hums. “You’re sensitive.”
“Yeah…” Crowley moans. “Yeah, it—ye—yesss…”
He hisses and rolls his hips when Aziraphale takes him in his hand. “Oh, God. Ssstings…”
Aziraphale falters. “Stings?” he asks, retracting his hand.
Crowley grabs his wrist and yanks it back onto him, letting out a strangled little noise that sounds reminiscent of a sob. “No! I—I mean yesss—I—I mean—it’sss good.”
He rolls his hips again. “Don’t ssstop, angel…”
Aziraphale does something fancy with his wrist, then, and Crowley shouts. Aziraphale looks up at him as he comes; he arches his back and the sun silhouettes him from behind, the light creating a halo effect around his head, and Aziraphale gasps. He looks—he looks—
“Oh, Crowley,” Aziraphale moans, following right after him.
ʏ̷̹̤̠̳͊̃͝ᴎ̸͉̈̓̔͘o̷̟̺̅̿̑̀ʜ̸̡͚̜͔̏̈́̐ƚ̷̤̯̹́̊ᴎ̸͓̗̮̂̏̕ɒ̴̪͔̯̐͘, we really shouldn’t be doing this.”
“You know the answer to that. Don’t tease me.”
“What’s wrong? Genuinely?”
“We’re not supposed to do this. It goes against—”
Both parties enjoy it.
“What’d I do? What’d I do?”
“You know we’re not supposed to be doing this. We can’t do this.”
“I don’t see why not.”
“Don’t say that. You’re going to get into trouble. You know what’s sinful.”
“Stop talking like that! Before you…”
“Before I what?”
A downward cast of the eyes.
“I’m not going to.”
“Really, my dear…”
“Well, I wouldn’t be doing you any favors.”
“…I won’t push it if you don’t want to. Honest. I just thought—”
“That’s exactly the issue. You spend too much time thinking.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do? Sit around all day doing nothing?”
“You shouldn’t sit around all day questioning Him.”
“I know you do it, too.”
Both parties revel in it.
“…Besides. It’s not like we’d… be able to—”
“We could make the effort.”
“I’m just making suggestions!”
“Lust is a sin.”
Both parties crave it.
“Not at all, angel. It’s not lust when you love one another.”
“Oh, my dear…”
“…Your decision. I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to, for my sake. I especially don’t want you to…”
A downward cast of the eyes.
“Yeah. I know. Don’t let me ruin that.”
Neither party breaks it.
And, so on.
Aziraphale watches Crowley as he waters his plants. He’s made his rounds awkwardly, a strange shyness on his person as Aziraphale watches him. His cheeks are tinged with a slight blush, and he’s not even threatening his plants, just watering and avoiding Aziraphale’s eye.
“S’not my fault,” he says suddenly, not looking at him. “I didn’t, you know… ask for that feature.”
Aziraphale hums. “It is endearing, though.”
Crowley looks at him oddly; Aziraphale shrugs. “I don’t hear you laugh enough.”
Crowley blushes and slides into the kitchen, meaning to give attention to the plants seated on the windowsill above the sink. He hopes they can’t sense his embarrassment. “Maybe if you said something funny, once in a while, we wouldn’t have that problem.”
“Oh, good one,” Aziraphale says, leaning against the doorframe to watch him.
“S’not a big deal,” Crowley continues, not looking at him. “Just don’t jab me in the side next time you want my attention, yeah?”
“It wasn’t a jab.”
“It was a jab.”
“I put my hand on your waist.”
“You jabbed me.”
“Well it’s not my fault you’re ticklish.”
Crowley presses his lips into a thin line, the blush creeping down to his neck. “S’not mine, either. Again, I didn’t ask for it.”
“Sucks to be you, then.”
Crowley blinks, finally looking at him, clearly startled by his choice in words. Aziraphale raises his eyebrows, and waits until Crowley is about to say something, and then he makes his move.
Crowley is smart, though, and just as quick, and he jumps to attention and then they’re squared off in the middle of the kitchen, both poised to strike. Aziraphale, with his hands reaching out for him, a clear intent they both understand, and one that Crowley waits to avoid. And Crowley, with his spray bottle raised up, aimed directly at the angel’s face; it’s filled with water, but still a low-grade threat.
There’s a beat. The two regard each other, appearing to mentally calculate their next moves. Then, Crowley smiles like a snake. “Reminds me of something.”
Aziraphale returns the smile. “Greece?”
“Carthage, actually. In the gardens.”
“You threw a pot at me.”
“You pinned me down in a fountain.”
“You enjoyed that, didn’t you?”
Crowley blushes fiercely, because he honestly did. “You drowned me!”
“I was thwarting your wiles.”
Crowley sprays him in the face.
He laughs loudly at the face Aziraphale makes, but then he’s laughing even louder as Aziraphale digs his hands into his sides and pulls him down onto the ground. He drops the spray bottle, forgetting about it instantly as he scrambles to get out of the angel’s grip, laughing the entire time. Aziraphale is strong, though, and he’s smart, positioning himself where Crowley’s long, kicking legs can’t get him.
Crowley lifts his arms and grab’s Aziraphale’s shoulders, trying to pull himself up, but that just provides another weak point, proved when Aziraphale digs one hand under his arm and Crowley makes a loud, undignified noise that sounded an awful lot like a squeal, but he’ll never admit to that.
“Aziraphale—!” he says, breathless through his laughter. “Aziraphale, ssstop—I’m—I’m going to kill you—!”
“Inconveniently discorporate,” Aziraphale corrects.
Crowley hits his shoulder with no real force. “Convenient for me!”
He dissolves into laughter, again, squirming in Aziraphale’s grasp, twisting and trying to pull himself away with no real intent.
“I’m gonna kill you,” he wheezes, but there are tears streaming down his face and his smile is a mile wide, his words escaping between giggles. “I’m gonna kill you—I’m gonna—!”
Aziraphale has mercy, and Crowley gasps in his arms for air he doesn’t need. “You’re a bassstard,” he says breathlessly. “I’m gonna—”
“Wile my thwarts?” Aziraphale offers.
Crowley cackles, and it’s a happy sound that makes Aziraphale’s heart tighten in his chest.
“See?” he asks, as Crowley calms back down. “I’m funny.”
Crowley doesn’t have time to argue, because he’s too busy kissing him.
That’s the first opinion Aziraphale forms of him; well, he had other opinions, but they were… outdated. Time to start forming new ones. And here was his first: he was gorgeous.
Aziraphale allows himself exactly five seconds to regard him, to drink in his appearance—his high cheekbones, his long limbs, his eyes.
For a moment, he’s overwhelmed with the desire to pull him close. Tell him he misses him, hold him, kiss him. He compartmentalizes each desire as it arises and pushes them away. Enemy, he is, now, and Aziraphale can’t go around romancing the enemy.
Crawley meets his eye, something he never dares to do with any human, and he smiles like a snake. Slithers through the room to stand by his side. “Fancy seeing you here.”
Aziraphale stares straight ahead. He can’t do anything in the presence of so many humans, except keep him distracted. “Crawley.”
Crawley makes a face. “Er—had that changed, actually.”
“Did you?” Aziraphale asks, trying not to let his genuine curiosity trickle into his tone. “Excuse me. What do you go by, then?”
Crawley hums. “Anthony Crowley.”
Aziraphale stares at him.
“I know it’s not a big change,” Crowley continues. “Well—the first name is, sure, but that’s mostly for formality. You know most, uh,” he looks around at all the people, “well, most of them have two names, you know? But just Crowley is fine.”
Aziraphale is still staring at him.
Crowley bristles. “What?”
He’s so handsome. And so familiar.
Aziraphale looks away. “Nothing,” he says quickly. “Just… nothing.”
“Interesting name, Anthony,” Aziraphale says quickly, scanning his face. “Where’d you come up with it?”
Crowley shrugs. There’s no hint of anything under his handsome features. No glint of recognition in those golden eyes. “Heard it in a village somewhere down in, uh…” he hesitates, then waves his hand in a vague gesture. “You know. They’re still deciding what to call everything. I just heard it. Thought it sounded nice. Anthony Crowley.”
“Sure,” Aziraphale says, looking away.
“Er…” Aziraphale fumbles with the question. “Your… eyes…”
Crowley stiffens. “What about them?”
Aziraphale shakes his head. “Nothing.”
“What?” Crowley presses, frowning.
“Nothing,” Aziraphale insists. “Nothing, my dear, it’s nothing.”
“What did you just call me?”
Aziraphale looks at him slowly. “What?”
“You—” Crowley stops short, trying to process the situation. “You just…”
“No, I didn’t.”
They stare at each other. They’re both blushing.
Aziraphale looks away. “It’s a, um… it’s an angel thing.”
Crowley squints. “Oh, is it?”
“Yes!” Aziraphale snaps. “Why else would I call you that? Foul fiend?”
Crowley raises his eyebrows at him. “All right. Whatever you say, angel.”
Aziraphale takes a breath he doesn’t need. He shouldn’t, he thinks. He shouldn’t. It’s over. It’s done, and they can’t go back. Still, though, it’s… it’s tempting. Which means he shouldn’t, and yet it’s the only thing he wants. And really, where has it been outlined as bad, anyways?
Everywhere, Aziraphale screams to himself in his head, everywhere, everywhere, it’s outlined everywhere, you fucking fool. It’s subtext, it’s implied, it’s common sense. He’s a demon. You’re an angel. He is Fallen. He is Evil. He is Wicked.
Aziraphale regards him sadly. He is Familiar.
His hand itches to lace their fingers together.
Familiar, but not the same.
Aziraphale opens his mouth. He closes it. He won’t tell him. He can’t. If he doesn’t remember on his own accord, Aziraphale won’t remind him. It’s the merciful thing to do.
Aziraphale hangs his coat by the door. Crowley doesn’t take his off as he wanders into his flat, regarding everything with a new sense of… well, a new sense. He stands in the middle of his living room, frazzled, and then slowly looks back at Aziraphale. The angel is already watching him.
They stare at each other. They look away at the same time.
Aziraphale fusses over his coat, desperate for something to do. He can’t think of a single thing to say.
He looks back again; Crowley has wandered closer. He looks terrified, his golden eyes wide and shining with something that might be tears. Aziraphale softens. “My dear—”
“I love you.”
Aziraphale goes silent, startled. Crowley almost looks shocked at himself. For a long moment, neither of them say anything, and then Crowley takes a shaky breath. “I need you to understand that.”
Aziraphale feels cold all over.
“I need you to understand it,” Crowley insists nervously. “I’m not saying it out of fear or desperation. I love you. I—” he hesitates, clearly terrified, but then he seems to decide. “I have always loved you. And I will always love you. Even if I’m not supposed to.”
Aziraphale isn’t breathing. He’s staring at Crowley, unblinking. His words are ringing in his ears, and he just said them, just now, but he did, too, before, and it’s not just familiar, it’s the same, and—
“Please,” Crowley says quietly, desperately, and he reaches out and Aziraphale mirrors him, entirely without meaning to, and takes his hands in his. Crowley shudders, tears spilling down his pretty face. “Aziraphale, I—I just need you to understand. I’ve loved you from the moment I saw you. In the garden. I can’t explain why, I just have.”
Aziraphale sobs silently; his face is tear streaked to match Crowley’s, and he opens his mouth, wants to tell him—
“Don’t,” Crowley says sharply. “Don’t say something stupid, like… like ‘I’ve always known’ because if… if you’ve always known and you haven’t kissed me yet, I’m going to be mad at you.”
He sniffs, his eyes downcast. “The world almost ended, angel, it…” he shakes his head, “and now it’s not ended when it should have been, and I… I wanted to kiss you. Every minute that ticked by. I’ve always wanted to, always, but time was running out. But now it’s not, and it never will, and I want to kiss you even more. I didn’t even know that was possible.”
“I’m not…” Crowley’s voice cracks, and he makes a face and tries again. “This isn’t a trick, angel. I’m not trying to tempt you. I just… I just love you, Aziraphale. I just need you to understand that.”
Aziraphale nods so weakly he hardly moves. “I do.”
Crowley makes a little noise in the back of his throat and shuts his eyes, shaking his head. He looks miserable, and Aziraphale can’t stand it. He pulls him closer, letting go of his hands and instead wrapping his arms around his waist, holding him close. Crowley makes a startled little noise.
“If you want to kiss me,” Aziraphale says softly, “why don’t you?”
Crowley shudders. “Don’t tease me.”
“Why do you think I took your hand out there, Crowley?” Aziraphale insists. “Camaraderie? The Arrangement? Did you think I was offering you a handshake? Crowley, I held your hand at the end of the world. I was prepared to die with your hand in mine.”
Aziraphale raises his hands and cups Crowley’s face. “What do you think I did that out of, my dear? I love you.”
Crowley sobs, shaking as he leans forward and kisses Aziraphale as hard as he can. He pushes him back against the door, wrapping his arms around his neck, and vaguely Aziraphale thinks this isn’t right, and flips them, so Crowley is pinned against the door, and yes, that’s much better, but it doesn’t truly matter as long as they don’t stop.
Crowley makes desperate little noises as they kiss for what feels like ages, the two of them overflowing with emotion from so long of wanting but never having the courage to ask. It’s intimate, but not sexual, and it’s just… it’s just. It just is, and it’s the only thing the two of them have ever wanted.
Neither of them know where to go. Neither of them know what to do when they stop kissing, so they just don’t.
When it does end, Aziraphale keeps him close, cupping his face in his hands. Crowley presses their foreheads together, tears still streaking his cheeks.
It is quiet for a long time.
“I’m sorry,” Crowley says shakily. “I just… I had to tell you that. I needed you to understand. I show you, I think. I show you. I certainly did out there. But I needed to say the words. At least once. While no one was paying attention to us.”
Cold fear washes over Aziraphale. He holds Crowley a little bit tighter. “Right,” he whispers. “While no one is paying attention to us…”
Crowley shakes his head. “I’m sorry.”
“No,” Aziraphale says gently. “No, not at all, my dear. Don’t apologize.”
“I shouldn’t have told you,” Crowley insists. “I shouldn’t have kissed you. Because when we pull away I’ll never be able to do it again. I’ve ruined everything good about the world we just saved, because you’re the only thing I want.”
Aziraphale shakes his head, but he can’t think of a single thing to say, because he agrees. He knows he has to let go, he knows he can’t hold Crowley here forever, because sooner or later someone above or below is going to turn eyes to them, and they can’t be caught in a compromising position. Things are complicated enough as it is.
“Kiss me,” Crowley whispers. “Once more. Please. I’ll be content.”
Aziraphale kisses him for a long time.
They hold each other sadly.
“Are you content?” Aziraphale asks.
“No,” Crowley says immediately. “I never will be.”
“Neither will I.”
Slowly, regretfully, miserably, they untangle themselves, letting go until Crowley is leaned against his door and Aziraphale is standing a few paces away. They stare at each other. They’re both thinking the same thing.
Crowley shakes his head; he rubs the tears from his face, not bothering to be embarrassed about them. “I, er…” he mutters, looking towards the kitchen. “I think I have a bottle of whisky. If you feel like a drink.”
Aziraphale nods slowly. “I would love one.”
Crowley sniffs and pushes himself off he door, sliding past Aziraphale and into the kitchen. The routine is familiar, but not the same.
Aziraphale pauses when he enters the room, startled by seeing Crowley’s wings; a deep, faded grey, immaculately groomed as usual. Aziraphale watches him, dozing in the midday sun on the bed, clad only in a pair of faded pajama pants, then he creeps over and crawls onto the bed.
Upon looking closer, his wings aren’t as well groomed as they usually are. Hesitantly, Aziraphale reaches forward and combs his fingers through the feathers; Crowley hardly stirs. His nose twitches and his shoulder blades shift, but other than that he’s still dead to the world.
Crowley has groomed Aziraphale’s wings plenty of times in the past. He put up a front of being annoyed by it, inconvenienced as he combed through the unkept feathers, but really he enjoyed it. It had always been a small display of intimacy the two of them could get away with. Granted, it would’ve been more intimate if it had been a two way exchange, but Aziraphale can count the times on one hand he’s seen Crowley’s wings since he’d Fallen.
Crowley would never admit to being insecure about his wings, but it’s a fact that’s what he is. He can’t recall clearly things about heaven, but human gospel helps him put together bits and pieces, and the wings of an angel are certainly something to behold. Aziraphale’s are evidence of this; that is, they were once Crowley had thoroughly picked them clean.
Crowley groans, stretches and shifts again, and Aziraphale stills his fingers and waits for him to settle. When he does, he does it with a contented sigh, and Aziraphale feels a warmth bloom in his chest over just how much he loves him.
“What are you doing?”
Crowley’s voice is thick with sleep, his golden eyes hooded from where he’s gazing at Aziraphale over his shoulder, his face still half pressed into the pillow.
Aziraphale smiles softly. “Just returning the favor.”
Crowley grumbles, blushing all the way down to his neck as he comes to terms with what Aziraphale is doing. He pushes his face back into the pillow in an attempt to hide his embarrassment.
“I’ll stop if you want,” Aziraphale says gently. “Do you want me to?”
“S’fine,” Crowley says, his voice muffled.
Aziraphale continues with his right wing, taking his time. Every now and then, when he had to pluck a feather or smooth out a particularly difficult patch, Crowley would make a little noise into the pillow. As Aziraphale closed in on where his wing connected to his back, the noises increased in frequency and volume.
Aziraphale frowns. “Crowley, are you moaning?”
Crowley picks his face up out of the pillow, glaring at Aziraphale over his shoulder. His whole face is flushed. “I’m not aroused, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Aziraphale does a particular little move with his fingers then, and Crowley whimpers and worries he might have to retract that statement. He has his pride, though, so he clears his throat and says, “It just… it feels nice.”
Aziraphale hums, and there’s a lapse of silence, and then he presses his knuckles into the junction of Crowley’s wing and his shoulder blade, and he can’t quite duck his face into the pillow in time to suppress his moan.
Aziraphale raises his eyebrows. “You sound plenty aroused to me.”
“I’m not,” Crowley insists, and the more he thinks about it, the more he realizes it’s true. He’s just… lonely. He’s only ever groomed himself, and the back is far too difficult to reach, so it’s never been touched, and that spot where his wings connect to his back is so sensitive anyways…
“It is, isn’t it?” Aziraphale asks. “Sensitive.”
Crowley scowls. “Did I give you permission to go poking around in my head?”
“I didn’t poke around anywhere,” Aziraphale says indignantly. “I got that from your body language. It’s tender.”
Crowley hesitates. “Yeah. Tender.”
Aziraphale presses into the junction, again, and Crowley shudders, his eyes rolling back as he sinks into the mattress. “S’nice.”
“You’re lovely, my dear,” Aziraphale whispers. He leans down and presses a kiss to the skin between his shoulder blades.
Crowley hums. “Love you, Aziraphale,” he says, drowsily.
“Love you, too,
Aziraphale covers his mouth with his hand, horrified, but Crowley is already asleep.
Crowley is sitting behind the front desk of the book shop, drumming his fingers against the countertop. In his other hand, he’s holding his second glass of wine. He’s no where even near being tipsy. Outside, it’s drizzling lightly.
“Funny word,” he says absently. “Drizzle.”
“Yes,” Aziraphale says vaguely.
Crowley isn’t looking at him, and he knows exactly why. It hurts, staring at him from the other end of the counter, but Aziraphale doesn’t stop. Somehow it hurts more when he looks away. And then hurts even more when he looks back. It just hurts always, infinitely multiplying, with the memory of a kiss so fresh in his mind.
Aziraphale wishes he was drunker. He wants to be plastered right now.
“You know what I’ve never done?” Crowley asks absently.
“Checkers,” Crowley says. He swirls the wine in his glass and takes a sip. “Never played checkers. Isn’t that funny?”
“Played chess,” Crowley muses. “Once or twice. Have you ever played chess, angel?”
Aziraphale wants to pin him to the counter. “Yes.”
“Oh,” Crowley says. He sounds vaguely disappointed. “Maybe we could play some time.”
Crowley looks at him slowly; sadness is a feature all it’s own on his face. “Yes, angel?”
Aziraphale takes his hand off the counter and pulls him closer, kissing him.
Crowley drops his wine glass, but it never shatters. With the last of his clarity of mind, Aziraphale moves it to the counter without touching it.
Crowley immediately melts into the kiss, then places his hands on Aziraphale’s shoulders and pushes him back. “Aziraphale!”
Aziraphale pulls him back into another kiss. Crowley makes a helpless noise. He wants to stay that way forever.
He pushes him away again and takes a step back. “Aziraphale, we really shouldn’t be doing this.”
Aziraphale is still holding his hand. “Why not?”
Crowley frowns angrily. “You know the answer to that. Don’t tease me. We’re not supposed to do this. It goes against—”
It doesn’t last long.
“Aziraphale…” Crowley whines, his hand curled in the fabric of his shirt. “You know we’re not supposed to be doing this. We can’t do this.”
Aziraphale shakes his head. “I don’t see why not.”
Crowley looks terrified. “Don’t say that. You’re going to get in trouble, angel, I don’t want—”
“Don’t want what?” Aziraphale asks quietly.
Slowly, Crowley looks down. He doesn’t speak, but Aziraphale hears him.
“I’m not going to fall,” he promises, despite not even knowing himself.
“I wouldn’t be doing you any favors,” Crowley says. “Aziraphale, we can’t. If you Fell, because of me, I’d never forgive myself.”
“I don’t care, Crowley,” Aziraphale insists. “I don’t care. I’m fully prepared to Fall should it mean I get to kiss you again.”
“No,” Crowley shudders. “Angel, don’t say that—”
“Just once,” Aziraphale continues. “I would Fall a thousand times to kiss you just once more.”
“No,” Crowley says again, this time his voice hard. “You wouldn’t. Don’t let me set the example for you, Aziraphale. I don’t want to see that happen to you. I don’t want to see you hurt.”
“We could make the effort,” Aziraphale whispers.
“Angel, stop it—”
“I want you,” Aziraphale says, and Crowley nearly melts. “I really do, Crowley, I want you.”
“Angel, stop,” Crowley whispers. “He’s going to hear you.”
“I don’t care.”
Crowley cups his face in his hands, staring down at him. “Angel, it’s…” he hesitates, staring into him, “it’s a beautiful look on you, but I don’t want you committing sins for me.”
Aziraphale shakes his head. “No sins.”
Crowley frowns. “Lust is a sin, angel. Don’t tease.”
Aziraphale pulls him close, pressing their foreheads together. He whispers: “Not at all, my dear. It’s not lust when you love one another.”
Crowley blinks. He looks as though he just remembered something. “Oh…”
It’s fervent. It’s desperate. It’s heated. It’s fervid.
Both parties enjoy it. They revel in it. They crave it.
Neither party breaks it.
And, so on.
Crowley is enjoying himself.
Out in the garden, he’s enveloped in his own little world of seeds and soil and trowels and tilth. He genuinely hasn’t noticed Aziraphale watching him through the kitchen window.
He’s is gripping a mug of cocoa. It’s long since gone cold.
A sense of guilt is curled in his stomach, coiled up and gripping at his soul like an anchor.
I have to tell him, he thinks worriedly. Sooner or later he has to stop dancing around the topic in his head. Sooner or later, he’s going to slip again.
The demon hums, not taking his eyes off his well-loved copy of Casino Royale.
Aziraphale swallows nervously. “Crowley, what… what do you remember about Heaven?”
That gets his attention; he looks up, frowning. “Er…” he hesitates, “not much.”
They stare at each other.
“But what do you remember?” Aziraphale insists.
Crowley dog-ears his book—Aziraphale can’t stand that, but he ignores it in favor of their current conversation—and sets it on the coffee table. “Does it matter?”
“A little bit,” Aziraphale says softly.
Crowley looks surprised at that. He thinks, for a long moment, then says, “They’re… not really memories. Well, I suppose they are, but I don’t remember anything specific. Just… feelings. Emotions. I don’t remember conversations, or people…”
He ponders for a moment. “Remember names. Not much else. Can’t…” he hesitates, looking sad now, “…can’t remember what it looks like…”
Aziraphale fidgets nervously. “That’s all?”
Crowley looks at him curiously, a bit frustrated. “Are there things I should remember? Do I owe someone money? Why the sudden urgency, angel?”
Aziraphale stiffens, wondering how on Earth he’s going to explain himself. Crowley catches his response; his body language and his anxiety, and he adopts a similar state.
“Aziraphale,” he asks slowly, “are there things I should remember?”
Aziraphale opens his mouth, shuts it, and then finally opens it again and speaks. “We… knew each other.”
Crowley looks a little relieved. “Well, most of us did,” he says. “I remembered your name. When you introduced yourself in the garden you rang a bell.”
“I did?” Aziraphale asks hopefully.
“Sure,” Crowley says. “With the name and the… er… no, it was just the name”
Aziraphale deflates. “Oh.”
Crowley stiffens. “Why?” he asks, wary. “Was… there more?”
“Well,” Aziraphale says, in a very odd tone that Crowley can’t quite place. “We… we knew each other.”
“So you’ve established,” Crowley says nervously. “Were we… friends then?”
“Angel, you can just tell me,” Crowley says, in a rushed way that suggests he’s trying harder to keep himself calm. “I’m sure it’s not that bad. We were friends, yeah? That’s not bad. Not bad at all.”
Aziraphale hesitates, worrying he’s made a mistake. “We weren’t… quite… friends…”
Crowley looks paler than he usually does. “Please tell me we were enemies.”
“Aziraphale, please tell me we were enemies,” Crowley begs. “Please tell me we despised each other. We fought, is that it? Or, I fought? That wrath that I had for you, s’why I fell? Aziraphale, please—”
“Lovers,” Aziraphale says, before he can stop himself. “We… we were lovers.”
Crowley looks terrified. He sits stiffly on the couch, his eyes wide and unblinking. He doesn’t speak for a long time.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale says softly, inching closer across the couch. “I… my dear?”
Still no response. Aziraphale tries again. “You know you… you came up with that pet name, actually.”
“You called me ‘my dear’ first, and I sort of nicked it from you,” he explains. “Do… do you remember that?”
“No,” Crowley snaps, still not looking at him. “I don’t remember anything.”
Aziraphale swallows nervously. “I’m sorry—”
“Why would you say that to me?” Crowley asks. He doesn’t blink, because if he does he’s going to send a cascade of tears spilling down his cheeks. “Why would you say that to me?”
“I was fine,” Crowley says, and he sounds miserable. “I was happy. As we were. Like this. Right now. And now you’ve put all these faint, these… these almost memories into my head that I’m never going to be able to recall,” he looks at him angrily. The jerky movement of his head sends the tears spilling. Aziraphale reaches out to wipe them off, and Crowley swats his hand away.
“We were lovers?” Crowley hisses. “We—we—?”
“Yes,” Aziraphale says softly. “Yes, my dear, I—”
Crowley laughs loudly. Sarcastically. “So that’s it, then!?” he exclaims. “Nothing—none of thisss matters at all, does it?”
“Of course it matters—!”
“To me! It matters to me!” Crowley snaps. “Because I can’t remember the first time! I can’t remember the first kiss! I can’t remember falling in love with you! And I never will! This go around is all I have, and it means everything to me and nothing to you!”
“It means the world to me!” Aziraphale insists.
“You’ve been around this bend before, you already know everything I don’t! I’m still learning you, and you already know what makes me tick! Know how I kiss, how I sleep, how I make love! Know I’m sensitive! Know what I like and what I don’t! Know what buttons to press! Know I’m fucking ticklish!”
“It’s been a long time, Crowley—!”
“You’ve kept it to yourself six thousand years, why not another?”
Aziraphale grabs his wrist, holding it tightly, pleading. “We haven’t been lovers those thousands of years!”
Crowley stops, staring at him angrily. Aziraphale continues. “Crowley, the guilt was eating me alive. I couldn’t continue without telling you. I—”
He stops short. No. He can’t say that.
Crowley narrows his eyes. “What?”
Crowley pulls him closer by his wrist. “What?”
“I—” Aziraphale searches his eyes. One last hesitation. Then he holds Crowley’s hand tightly and says, “I said your name.”
Crowley looks confused. “My name?”
“Your…” Aziraphale hesitates. “Your first name.”
Hah, he thinks to himself.
Crowley looks horror stricken. He stares at him, wide eyed, for a long time. Finally, in a whisper: “What is it?”
“What isss it?!” Crowley hisses. “What was my name?!”
“Crowley, I won’t tell you!”
“Please!” Crowley begs, and he’s not sobbing yet but he will be very soon. “Please, please, I’ll do anything—anything, just tell me—”
It would be so easy. So easy. It’s on the tip of Aziraphale’s tongue, but he bites it back.
“I won’t,” he says sternly. “Crowley, it will haunt you for the rest of eternity. You’ll go insane trying to remember.”
Crowley shakes his head. “No. No. No, I won’t. I won’t—”
“We both know that’s a lie.”
“Please,” Crowley says, in a very small voice.
Crowley swallows. He sobers and sits back, retracting his hands from Aziraphale’s grasp and placing them in his own lap. He stares at the wall, quiet for a long time.
“Is it better?” he asks.
Aziraphale frowns. “Is what better?”
“Sex with an angel?”
Crowley laughs. And then Crowley sobs.
He dissolves into tears, shaking as he cries, and Aziraphale panics, drags him into his arms and holds him tightly as he heaves sobs.
“No,” Aziraphale says, trying to soothe him. “No, no, Crowley, it’s… Crowley don’t say things like that, please—”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Crowley sobs. “In the garden? Why didn’t you tell me when you saw me again?”
“I wanted to,” Aziraphale admits, ashamed. “I have wanted to tell you from the moment I met you again. I was afraid. I’m so sorry.”
Crowley shakes in his arms, angry and miserable.
“I love you,” Aziraphale assures him. “I do. I never stopped.”
Crowley makes a wretched sound, presses his wet face into the crook of Aziraphale’s neck, and stays there.
“I… like you.”
“Oh. I like you, too.”
“No, I mean…”
“Well, I’m not entirely sure what I mean. But I like you. More than I like any of the others.”
ʏ̷̹̤̠̳͊̃͝ᴎ̸͉̈̓̔͘o̷̟̺̅̿̑̀ʜ̸̡͚̜͔̏̈́̐ƚ̷̤̯̹́̊ᴎ̸͓̗̮̂̏̕ɒ̴̪͔̯̐͘. Come to think of it, I like you more than I like any of the others, as well.”
“Yes. But don’t tell Gabriel I said that.”
ʏ̷̹̤̠̳͊̃͝ᴎ̸͉̈̓̔͘o̷̟̺̅̿̑̀ʜ̸̡͚̜͔̏̈́̐ƚ̷̤̯̹́̊ᴎ̸͓̗̮̂̏̕ɒ̴̪͔̯̐͘, I really think—”
Both parties are… not very good at it.
They’re going to practice.
And, so on.
When Aziraphale wakes up, Crowley is clung to him like he usually is when he sleeps, but his eyes are open. His face is tucked into is side, his arms and legs wrapped around him. Rather snakelike, Aziraphale muses to himself, as he reaches down and runs his fingers through Crowley’s dark hair.
He trills quietly in response, probably involuntarily. Either way, he doesn’t speak for a long time.
Aziraphale looks down, surprised. “Remember what, my dear?”
Crowley looks up at him. He looks so in love. “Our first kiss.”
Aziraphale pulls him up onto him for what is likely to be their millionth.
“I’m not angry,” Crowley says breathlessly. “Not sorry. For how I reacted, I mean. Seems justified, considering the context. But I’m not angry. Just… sad. A little. For all the missed opportunities.”
“I try not to think about them,” Aziraphale says honestly. “I’ve missed you.”
Crowley hesitates. “Am I… different?” he asks. “Was it hard to fall in love with me again?”
“No,” Aziraphale says immediately. “If anything, it was easier than the first time. This time I knew what I was doing.”
Crowley blushes fiercely. “I didn’t.”
“Well, once neither of us did, but we still managed,” Aziraphale points out.
“If I may be so bold,” Crowley says lowly. “What made this go around easier?”
“Realizing you were exactly the same,” Aziraphale says. “And your eyes.”
Crowley blushes even harder. “My eyes?”
“They’re gorgeous,” Aziraphale says, and kisses him. “The first time I saw you, in a human body after you’d Fallen, you were tempting me and didn’t even realize it.”
Crowley is quiet for a long time.
“What… what did they look like before?” he asks.
“I like them now,” Crowley admits. “I think they look… cool. And the fact that you like them that much, too, is… keen. I’m just… curious.”
“No, they were green.”
Crowley flicks his head lightly. “Bastard.”
Aziraphale huffs out a laugh. “No more questions,” he murmurs. “There are other things I’d like to do.”
Crowley hums in agreement, meeting him halfway with a kiss.
“…Bit odd, isn’t it?”
“…Sorry. Bit new at this.”
“Oh, we all are, don’t apologize.”
“…I was just teasing.”
“Course we’re all new at this.”
“Yes, of course.”
And, so on.