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Dawn in the Garden

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They were sitting in the park, watching the ducks. “Why DO you think they haven’t called?” Aziraphale gestured vaguely upward, then down.

“Probably some conspiracy.” Crowley said lightheartedly. “It’s probably the ducks.”

Aziraphale looked sideways at him. “The ducks.”

“Sure. All these years feeding them bread. Come to find out it’s bad for them, right? They’ve got to be out for revenge.”

There was a lot the demon wasn’t saying, but Aziraphale thought it was sweet that he was trying to be comforting. Distracting. Whichever, in the situation at hand- it was quite nice to think about a motive besides the Wrath of Upstairs. The angel reached over to pat Crowley’s knee. “I appreciate your trying to make me feel better, my dear.”

“Who says I’m trying to make you feel better?” Crowley pushed his glasses further up his nose and folded his coat around himself. “I think the ducks are out to get us.” A mallard wandered closer and Aziraphale scattered a handful of seeds in its direction, smiling softly. “Don’t encourage that one.” Crowley warned.

“So, how are the ducks conspiring against us?”

“If I told you, I’d have to discorporate you.”

Aziraphale rolled his eyes. “As if you could.”

“Arrogant angel.”

“Realistic,” Aziraphale replied primly.

Scoffing, the demon stood. “Come on, let’s get lunch.”

The Ritz was crowded, but their table was just freeing up. A lovely middle-aged couple seemed to have forgotten their soups- Aziraphale paid for their meal as Crowley watched them wander vaguely out. “Really, my dear.” The angel chastised mildly. The demon shrugged with a smile. It made Aziraphale want to smile back. He really should be Smiting the being across from him, by all rights. Taking advantage of mortals like that. However, after so many years… a slap on the wrist seemed like a proportional response.

“What would we have done to offend the ducks so badly, assuming they had the powers to affect us?” Aziraphale asked once their waiter had handed them menus and left.

Crowley considered. “It’s your sweaters. Ducks are very fashion-conscious.”

Aziraphale ‘hrmph’ed, but he was smiling.

The conversation meandered, as their conversations often did; Aziraphale told Crowley about the first edition biography of Rumi he’d acquired, and Crowley went on about an eclectic variety of things he’d found in the last week- air plants, bamboo sheets, and a new device for holding onto one’s cell phone while taking pictures. “Amazing inventions, you know?” The demon was saying enthusiastically. Aziraphale smiled gently.

“Quite so, my dear. I’m intrigued- how did they make sheets out of bamboo? Are they comfortable?”

“I don’t know yet,” Crowley said. “I ordered some, they should be here in a few days. All the reviews say they’re soft. I’ll let you know,”

“Dessert, gentlemen?"

“Of course,” Crowley gestured for Aziraphale to order. The angel smiled. They’d fallen into a comfortable routine over the course of the Antichrist’s lifetime, and now that the pressure of impending doom had been somewhat relieved their routine was simply… nice.

One mousse and a boxed-up cherry souffle later, they wandered back through the park, Crowley’s hands in his coat pockets, their elbows brushing occasionally. Aziraphale wondered if Crowley noticed that as acutely as he did.

“Maybe they’re trying to drive up bread production. They might have stocks, you know.”
Picking the thread of their earlier conversation up easily, Aziraphale looked at the gently paddling waterfowl. “Ducks with stocks?”

“Angels and demons with takeout?” Crowley countered, nodding at the bag Aziraphale held. “I think the ducks might not be such a long shot.”
Back at the Bentley, Crowley held the door as Aziraphale climbed in, careful of his boxed soufflé. The demon got in the driver’s side and punched on the music- Aziraphale sighed in his direction when the first quiet vocals came on, asking whether anyone could find Freddie Mercury someone to love. “Wasn’t this Handel?”

“Another one bites the dust,” Crowley quipped, not taking his eyes off the road. Aziraphale rolled his eyes, chuckling.

It was really too bad that they hadn’t picked up a bottle of something to share, Aziraphale thought as the car pulled up to his bookshop. That was always a good excuse to invite the demon in. “Would you like to-” he began to ask.

At the same time, Crowley said, “I’ll bring the wine tomorrow, shall I?”

“I- oh, yes. Yes, if you would, my dear.”

“See you tomorrow, then.” Crowley nodded as the angel climbed out of his car.

“See you tomorrow."
*

It was a long morning of routine Evils for Crowley- not that he’d lost his conviction that the little things could make all the difference. Still, wandering the city removing time from parking meters and leaving mysterious sticky substances on the sidewalk could get old sometimes. He could use a bigger project- but he wasn’t keen to hear from Hell. He tried to push that thought away by making each stoplight stay red for a few seconds longer than it was meant to.

Finally, it was quitting time. Crowley walked back to the Bentley, amused to see that it had been ticketed. He moved the ticket one windshield over, the data changing obligingly to match the plates. He drove to the market, foot tapping in anticipation. Not the foot he was driving with, at least.
When voicemail was first invented, Crowley was the first to have an outgoing message that sounded as though he’d really picked up. He was quite proud of the annoying trend he’d sparked. It was true what they said- the devil was in the details. Well, maybe not THE devil, but certainly A devil. Demon. Point being- it was the little things. Certain Dukes of Hell might not appreciate that, but Crowley knew someone who did. Hence, the phone call from the middle of the wine aisle.
Sadly, Aziraphale apparently remained ignorant of the ingenious form of outgoing message he could set on his phone, courtesy of one Anthony J. Crowley. In fact, he’d set no outgoing message at all. The tinny voice on the line read him back the number he’d just dialed. “Hello, angel. I was thinking, remember when you introduced me to chocolate? What was the wine we had then? I’m picking some up, wondering what pairings you might like. Call me back if you can pull your nose out of whatever dusty book it’s buried in.”

He shoved his phone back into his pocket and managed to waste about half an hour rearranging the item prices on the shelf before he gave up on Aziraphale calling him back. He chose a nice-ish white and a good red, then grabbed some champagne on impulse before picking out seven kinds of chocolate he thought the angel would like. They’d had much nicer wine way back when, the first time Crowley had experienced chocolate and wine together, but these would be fine too. After all, at the end of the day, wine was mostly made for being drunk on.

He drove to the book shop with his fingers tapping anxiously on the steering wheel. For all his talk about the ducks, Aziraphale was right. Things had been too quiet. It was making him feel suspiciously normal. Spending all his free time with an angel. An angel he… well. Something should have happened by now, he felt. The Almostaggedon was a month past. He’d seen Aziraphale nearly every day since, hadn’t really let the side down too badly in terms of Temptings and Deals and whatnot, but he’d not heard a word from Down Under. Not even about the whole Hastur and Ligur… situation. That wasn’t going to be a fun job performance review, whenever it happened. He’d probably wind up back in Hell doing another torture shift. The Bentley shook with him, and he patted the dash reassuringly. “It’ll be fine,” He murmured. “Probably.”

After parking and getting the bags, Crowley knocked at Aziraphale’s door. “It’s me, angel,”

“Come in!” He heard Aziraphale call. The door unlocked itself obligingly, and Crowley came in, finding Aziraphale just bookmarking his spot. Like any good door, the shop one shut and locked itself behind him. “Hello, my dear,”

Crowley rolled his eyes to stop a smile. “Did you even notice that I called?”

“Oh, did you?” Aziraphale set down his book. “I put the thing down somewhere a week ago. Haven’t found it since, unfortunately.” He didn’t sound very unfortunate as he stood. “Nothing urgent, I hope?”

With a shrug, the demon said, “Just asking about wine and chocolate pairings. Luckily, I know your tastes. Couldn’t remember exactly what we had last time, though.”

“Oh. Hm. Something French, wasn’t it?”

“Would have been a shame if it hadn’t been- weren’t we in Bordeaux?”

Aziraphale snapped his fingers. “Oh, that’s right! Well, come up and show me what you’ve picked out this time,”

As he passed Aziraphale’s chair, Crowley caught sight of the book the angel had been reading and took a quick hop back.. “Really?” He asked irritably, gesturing at it with the shopping bag. “Forget how it goes?”

“I apologize, my dear.” Aziraphale tucked the Bible under a throw pillow. “I just thought- it might shed some light on our current... ‘circumstances.’”

“Attack of the ducks?” Crowley clarified as Aziraphale led the way up the stairs. The demon found himself staring at the angel’s… well, at Aziraphale, anyway. He told himself to look down. Watch his own feet climb the stairs, or something. But what kind of a demon would he be if he didn’t indulge in a little Lust and Covetousness every now and then?

Every time he looked at Aziraphale, for instance. That seemed to be a good amount of Lust to indulge in.

“Yes, attack of the ducks,” he could hear the angel smiling.

“Find anything?”

“Not really.”

Crowley paused as he was setting the bags down. “What are you doing tomorrow, angel?”

“Some work. Why do you ask?”

“I was thinking we should take a day trip to Tadfield.”

Aziraphale looked at him thoughtfully, already holding two wine glasses. “That… might be a good idea.”

“It’s a useful idea.” Crowley said, uncorking a wine bottle with a wink. “Don’t call me good,”

Aziraphale rolled his eyes. “Whatever you say, my dear. I’m going to go put that book away safely before I forget,”

“Alright,” Crowley agreed. He watched Aziraphale leave the room, his eyes lingering on the angel and the way he moved. He shivered. Go- Someone- what WAS it? He felt tied up, he always had- Aziraphale, Aziraphale, Aziraphale. He didn’t want to untie himself. But… “The road to Hell is paved with my name,” Crowley muttered to himself, pacing. “I don't have to be- I'm not- I beat a Duke of- I- oh for fucks’ sake.” He poured some wine into his glass and took a sip. A deep breath. Another sip. He splayed his free hand flat on the counter. Aziraphale climbed back up the stairs, one hand in his golden curls, pushing them back. “Starting without me?” He asked, sounding amused.

“You’ll have to catch up,” Crowley smiled, passing Aziraphale a glass, absolutely one hundred percent acting normal.

"Are you alright, my dear? You look a bit-" Aziraphale peered at him, and Crowley pushed his sunglasses up his nose.

"Fine," he said. "Let's get smashed,"

Aziraphale chuckled, toasting him, and they proceeded to do just that.

Hours later, Crowley was back on the road to Hell thing. He knew there were lots of ways to get to Hell. Probably not many of them with more than a few bricks that had his name on them. There might be just one or two paved with good intentions. Several more were roads of apathy of one sort or another, but most of them were roads Crowley never needed to drive anyone too far down. They were the ones humans took when they saw the opportunity to be greedy or take an active disinterest in the wellbeing of other humans. Some of those humans had an ingenuity that Crowley admired, but he never spent too much time on them- no need to nudge a juggernaut.

“You're awfully quiet, my dear. Something on your mind?” Aziraphale tipped more wine into both their glasses.

“What’s the road to Upstairs made of?”

“Stairs,” Aziraphale answered primly.

Crowley almost spit out his wine laughing.
*

Some time after the arrival of his favorite demon bearing some of his favorite gifts, Aziraphale found himself reclining on the couch he’d acquired for nights just such as this. Crowley was at the opposite end, trying to prove a point by gesturing vigorously with a wine glass that had been emptied several times that evening. Aziraphale wasn’t quite listening. He was watching the way the demon moved, listening to the long sibilant ‘s’ sounds he was making, the way his yellow eyes widened and narrowed as he talked.

Crowley was a demon: fact. Aziraphale had seen him do all sorts of little demonic things over the years- pack ten crying babies onto one plane, add beads onto an abacus mid-count, cause people to sneeze at inopportune moments. That last little hobby had caused something of a diplomatic incident once upon a time, and when the dust had settled and there were three popes all trying to excommunicate one another, Crowley had looked at him and said, ‘I had no idea,’ with a mix of awe, regret, and a touch of demonic glee. He was who he was, and Aziraphale had loved him so much in that moment. His Righteous Forgiveness and something less Heavenly had made him pat Crowley’s hand with an understanding smile and say, ‘now you know, my dear.’ It was the first time Aziraphale had called Crowley his dear. Neither of them said anything about it, and not long after they went their separate ways again- Aziraphale on a Holy Mission in Greece, and Crowley to put some Sin in Sinai. But still, every time Crowley made someone sneeze just as they met their date (and wasn't that a thought, Aziraphale's hazy mind interjected- the word 'date' and Crowley in the same sentence), or with something fragile and easily-dropped in their hands, Aziraphale thought about the time with the three popes and smiled. It probably wasn’t very Angelic of him. Sometimes, however, it wasn’t about the mere FACT of Angel-ness or Demon-ness. In Crowley’s case, Aziraphale was very much inclined to account for ways and means, when Ways was just sort of vaguely downward, and Means was a series of fairly harmless hobbies and the occasional cursed highway. Crowley had never been much of a vengeful, spiteful, or even particularly energetic force for evil.

Aziraphale smiled at him. He enjoyed being drunk with Crowley. It felt very much as though anything he wanted could happen.
*

“Are you lisssstening to me?” Crowley asked.

“Hm?” Aziraphale started, almost spilling what little was left of the wine in his glass. He set it down among the wrappers of the chocolate Crowley had brought. "What?"

Crowley shook his head, reaching for the bottle. “Nev’r mind. Wasss a good point- take m’word f’r it.”

“I will,” the angel said, looking very serious. Crowley poured them both another drink, finishing off a bottle that should have been finished hours ago, if it weren't for its tendency to refill itself. He loved the face Aziraphale was making, and took a drink to avoid making eye contact for a moment. “What was it?”

“Don’ remember,” Crowley laughed, and the angel beside him joined in, listing over to rest against Crowley’s shoulder. Somersaulting like an Olympic gymnast, Crowley’s heart suggested that he absolutely should kiss the top of Aziraphale’s head. Pretending he couldn’t hear it for a multitude of reasons (not the least of which being that he was a hardened demon who had defeated a Duke of Hell and would absolutely never do something so sappy as kiss an angel's forehead), he shrugged the angel off of him and stood, weaving his way toward the kitchen and downing the rest of his wine. “Prob’ly tha’ we needed ssssome more wine,”

“My dear,” Aziraphale laughed, following him to lean on the kitchen door frame. “Do you think- we might have had enough?”
Crowley peered at the label of the bottle he was holding, his other hand on the counter. Casually. Definitely not for support. “Mm.” He jerked his head vaguely. “Notta great year anyway.”

“Good- now- c’malong.” Suddenly Aziraphale was a lot closer, his hands slipping around Crowley’s hips. The demon gasped, hand tightening spasmodically on the wine bottle. Aziraphale was tugging him backwards- towards the couch, Crowley’s last sober brain cell insisted to the rest of him. The living room. Perfectly natural, that one logical brain cell rationalized, and not at all a reason for a certain supernatural entity’s knees to be turning to water. Said useless body part gave in to Aziraphale’s pull as Crowley tried to set the wine down without shattering the bottle.

“I cannwalk.” Crowley’s words were slurred, but he could hope they were at least slurred suavely. The room was so blurry, and Aziraphale’s hands on his hips felt so good-

The angel was laughing at him. “Crawley,” Aziraphale giggled, putting his hands over his mouth. Crowley couldn’t help but smile at him. “You can walk. Crawl’y. You can walk.” Aziraphale lapsed into another fit of giggles, leaning on the door frame for support again.

“It’s a couthle- it’s a couple-” Crowley tried again. “Issa couple thousand years since that joke washfunny,”

Behind the times as ever, Aziraphale continued to laugh, sliding down to sit on the floor. Crowley rolled his eyes and joined him, trying to ease himself down gently. He succeeded in the way that jenga stacks succeed in collapsing neatly.

“H-h’lo,” Aziraphale listed toward him. Crowley felt himself mirror the motion.

“Hi, angel,” The room was kind of swaying. Aziraphale’s eyes seemed to be still, so Crowley focused there. “Hi, angel,” he said again, softly.

“Hello,” Aziraphale returned, blinking blearily. Go- Someone, but he was attractive. Crowley wanted to reach out and touch his face. He was so- so- “Crowl’y?”

The demon jerked himself into a sitting position. Final brain cell, back in action. Hold the line, now. “Mm?”

“Why d’you think Heaven hasn’t called?”

“Dunno. Ducks. Gabriel forg’t t’pay th’ phone bill. S’probly ducks.”

Aziraphale smiled and shook his head drunkenly. “Good a reason as any, s’pose. Probl’y gonna get- get-” He fixed Crowley with a stare. “Y’don’t think ‘m Falling, d’you?”

Crowley shook his head. “When- y’r Falling- y’know.” He extended his wings, something he had almost never done in front of Aziraphale. He wanted to be reassuring. He really wanted to be reassuring. “They don’ go black allat once.” He gestured at the feathers trailing on the floor. “P’nions firssst.”

Aziraphale was staring at his wings. Crowley told himself he wasn’t embarrassed- Aziraphale’s wings always looked so pretty, if a little under-groomed, and he felt the angel was pitying him six ways to Sunday. “Start t’smell a lil’ like sulfur, too. Y’don’ smell like tha’.” Crowley added when it became clear that Aziraphale wasn’t going to say anything. The angel still leaned on the wall, staring at Crowley’s wings. “See?” Crowley rustled them. Aziraphale reached out, trailing one hand lightly across the feathers closest to him. Crowley shivered.

“Will you check?” Aziraphale met his eyes. Crowley’s heart did something concerning in his chest.

“Sure,” he struggled to sound nonchalant. Come on, last sober brain cell. “Lemme see.”

Aziraphale extended his wings slowly, snowy white and soft. So beautiful. Crowley stared. Hang in there, one functioning brain cell. Oh, he wanted to touch them. “You’re- ah- you’re good.” Crowley cleared his throat. “All white.”

“No sulfur?” Aziraphale asked.

Crowley leaned close. Oh- oh. “No,” he said softly, lips inches from Aziraphale’s neck. Go-SOMEONE, this was the furthest he ever wanted to be from Aziraphale. “N’sulphur,” He wanted to close the gap, press his lips to the angel’s throat above his stupid jumper, kiss up to his mouth and-

“Thank you, my dear. That’s very com-comforting.”

“Mm.” Crowley inhaled again. “N’sulfur.”

“Good.” Aziraphale was stroking Crowley’s feathers again. The demon decided not to breathe, since he couldn’t really anyway. He was happy. His chest hurt. Oh, someone. Oh, Aziraphale. “Crowl’y?”

The demon looked at the angel’s white wings. “S’rry.” He leaned away. “Sssorry,”

“What?” Aziraphale blinked at him. Crowley put his wings away, and Aziraphale tilted his head, peering at the demon. “Y’okay, m’dear?”

Crowley smiled. Where were his sunglasses? He’d invented the damn things for a reason, after all. His eyes had always been too easy for Aziraphale to read. “Drunk.” Damn glasses were on the table, he thought balefully. Didn't even come when he called. Maybe it was time to start putting the Fear of Crowley in them- worked with his plants, after all.

Aziraphale giggled. Crowley wanted to kiss him. “Me too,” The angel looked like he was thinking hard. It was a good face too. Everything his face did was a good face. Fuck, he was drunk. But at least he could curse about it. “So, t’m’r’w we work, nex’ day we go t’ Tadfield. Right?”

“Right,” Crowley nodded decisively. Aziraphale was listing toward him again, looking at him with earnest eyes. His final brain cell lost it. “I gotta go,” he said, sobering up with a jolt.

“Oh,” Aziraphale said. “Right,”

“See you soon,” Crowley said, slamming his sunglasses back on.

Outside, he took a deep breath. Then, just because he could, he set off every car alarm on the block and revved the engine of the Bentley has he drove away.

Once home, he sat down on his pristine kitchen floor, he got his wings back out, and got blitzed, staring at the places Aziraphale had touched.

He made the mistake of failing to sober up, so when Crowley clawed his way back to consciousness an unknown and unknowable amount of time later it was to a pounding head, bright lights, and plants looking smugly on his suffering. His suffering only lasted until he Miracled it away, but it was a rough couple seconds. He picked up his sunglasses from where they’d wound up below the dishwasher, slipping them on and heading out the door.

Crowley had been working as a media consultant since he invented the profession, which really just meant getting paid to give his opinion, an arrangement he liked so well it was really only rivaled by The Arrangement. Commercials were his favorite to work on- especially commercials for legal firms. As he drove to the studio he was currently working with, he thought about how to make a commercial that would one-up the team who’d made the one with the two lawyers who did the pointing and shouting with the nodding, but so far he’d only managed to layer inappropriately dramatic music over mild-mannered accountants and tax lawyers. The other one was just too annoying. The sheer amount of bad energy it gave off made him wonder if another demon was playing his turf, but he doubted anyone else understood humans well enough to design something like that. Except other humans, and he enjoyed watching what they created, even if he thought he should have come up with it first. Still, it killed the time, paid the bills.

True, he could have just used Hell's money, but that required budgeting, planning, expense reports. Spreadsheets. He'd skip that, thanks- he was on thin ice with Management as things were, let alone if they knew he'd been taking Aziraphale out for lunch off and on for as long as the practice of going out to lunch had been around. Not that he didn’t think they knew, but submitting an expense report for ‘bought an angel some apple pie’ might finally break the camel’s back.

He tried his best to focus, make the day go quickly. About halfway through his fifth fantasy involving Aziraphale touching his wings, he realized how little success he was having. It was probably best that he give his opinion and leave quickly, cut his losses. Trying to do just that and maintain his aura of smug know it all media consultant, he eventually just said fuck it and handed the editor one of the many Queen albums OPthe Bentley had generated for him over the years. "Just have the sound guy do some remixing, or something." Crowley said, already halfway out the door. There was too much on his mind to put any more effort in than that. Aziraphale touching his wings last night, the angel's hands around his hips… their trip to Tadfield tomorrow. Today just wasn't entitled to any mental energy. He drove for hours around London, watching people and nudging them every so often toward Sin. He drove by St. James' but the park held no appeal without Aziraphale. He sighed and raked a hand through his hair. It was at that point that he decided to simply cancel the day- he'd slept much longer than a day over his feelings for Aziraphale before, after all.

The morning came swiftly thanks to the magic of sleep, that glorious fast-forward button.

Crowley picked Aziraphale up with a terse, “Morning.”

“Good morning, my dear,” Aziraphale climbed into the Bentley holding a picnic basket and a thermos Crowley would have bet souls had some awful tea blend in it. The angel noticed him looking askance at these accoutrements. “I thought we had might as well make a day of it,”

Crowley sighed loudly. Affectionately, though Aziraphale didn't have to know that. "If that's what you want," he shrugged, pulling away from the curb.

"Productive work day yesterday?" The angel asked.

"Oh, absolutely fantastic," Crowley lied. "If I'm still on payroll I might just be in for a raise."

Aziraphale laughed, knowing very well that wasn't how things worked. "Mine was lovely," he said. "Very few actual people,"

Crowley loved people, and found it almost hilarious that Aziraphale didn't, after all these years. One thing the angel did like was what humans created. "Any good sushi restaurants?"

"As a matter of fact, yes," Aziraphale smiled at him. "Young man just over from America, wants to be a chef. We should really go one night, it isn't too far from the shop."

"What a coincidence," Crowley smirked. "Any other dreams you realized?"

The angel looked at him oddly for a moment. "Oh! Ah, no, after all it doesn't do to just hand humans everything. Not exactly by the rules, you know."

"I know," Crowley said, and they let the subject drop. He drove out of London, then followed Aziraphale's directions to what Aziraphale called "an almost divine" picnic spot, which did turn out to be quite pretty. Crowley was grateful for any small distraction from their destination, which he guessed was either going to be the answer to a lot of his questions or the place where he shuffled off the mortal coil permanently.

They sat down at a table on the grass, and as Aziraphale talked, his hands moved, and Crowley watched them distractedly, imagining them wrapped around his hips again.

Swallowing hard, Crowley forced a subject; “have you thought about the Sides?”

“In what way?” Aziraphale asked, taking another bite of pastry.

Crowley gestured vaguely at the picnic table between them. “It was like Solitaire at first, wasn’t it? And then it was chess, and now it’s… Chinese checkers.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand you, dear boy.”

“I’m talking about Our Side,” Crowley clarified. His and Aziraphale’s Side. “There’s more than two choices now.”

Aziraphale’s brows rose. “Ah. You're saying that in The Beginning, there was one Side, and when the Adversary Fell and others followed there were two, and now, after… All that,”

“The almost apocalypse. The Apocalmost.” Crowley supplied.

Aziraphale gave him a look that withered his wings. “Yes, I suppose one COULD call it that. In any case, now someone else has chosen Earth. Chosen Humanity.” The enormity of what they’d done washed over Crowley again. He wished Aziraphale had brought something he could take a shot of, but there was just the tea. “So now there are three sides.”

“Four, don’t you think? Or are you counting Adam in with us?”

“Oh, I don;t know that I would could us in with him, actually.”

“Alright, four Sides then."

They looked at each other across the picnic table between them. Crowley let out a low whistle. Aziraphale nodded as if to say that that about summed it up. “Not very evenly matched,” he mused, thinking of the Pantheon.

“Depends on alignments, doesn’t it? Treaties.”

“No one shoot Franz Ferdinand,” Aziraphale quipped.

“Again, I had nothing to do with that.You were so close to thwarting it, changing the route and all-” Crowley paused. “I wish you’d succeeded,” He said quietly.

Aziraphale’s face fell, and Crowley felt the urge to reach for him. The first Great War had been… Well, Hell. “So do I, dear boy. So now… We just have to figure out how to keep the peace.”

“Oh, well, if that’s all.”

Aziraphale finished his pastry and brushed his hands together to rid them of crumbs. “I suppose we’d better be getting on to Tadfield."

“You’re probably right.”

They drove on relatively quietly, neither of them ready to speculate what they might find when they arrived.

The place had a weird Feeling hanging around it, the same as last time, and Crowley followed the vagaries of its pulls to the Antichrist, pulling the Bentley over beside a low stone wall around a perfectly green field. "Okay." He said.

"Okay," Aziraphale echoed. They looked at each other and got out of the car at the same time.

Crowley walked over to the wall, where he could hear young voices. Peering over it, sure enough, he saw Pepper and Adam crouching in the mud. "Hello," he said, thinking it was rather anticlimactic.

"Oh, hi!" Adam looked up. "Did you bring your friend?" He jumped to his feet and looked over the wall at Aziraphale. "You guys must be enjoying your time off, right?"

"I'm sorry?" Aziraphale asked. Crowley watched Pepper climb over the wall, holding a pointed stick in one hand. He had an ominous feeling about that.

Adam jumped on top of the wall, swinging his legs against it. "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you! I fixed it so you could have a vacation." He beamed.

“A… Vacation?”

"You guys work all the time. Doesn't seem too fun," Adam kicked his heels against the brick wall. Pepper was crouching beside the wall, making a mud ball Aziraphale was clearly considering a threat. Crowley, for his part, just stood dumbly through the Anticrist's explanation of their... vacation.

"Won't they be terribly upset with us when we do-er- go back to the office, as it were?" Aziraphale gave voice to Crowley's thoughts.

"Nah. I told 'em you weren't in trouble, see. But if I need you, I call and you come. That's fair, right? S'important to be fair."

Pepper nodded at this sage advice. She rubbed her nose, smearing mud on it.

"Of course." Aziraphale said. "And you can- er- call us?"

"Sure," Adam shrugged. "You two got a radio in that car, dontcha? It'd be like a police scanner." He smiled. "Be fun,"

"I see," Aziraphale sounded as overwhelmed as Crowley felt, which he supposed was something.

"Have you talked to either of them? Upstairs or down?" Crowley asked. "Since then?"

"Oh, sure," Adam said. My dad's always bugging me now. Well, my dad downstairs. My dad here bugs me too, only him I don't mind." The fact that Himself talked to Adam regularly was an alarming new development for Crowley, but Adam kept on talking. "He likes you, y'know. He tol' me he didn't know you had that much spark."

"Spark," Crowley repeated. Oh he was fucked.

"What's he mean spark?" Pepper asked.

Adam considered. The little girl, angel, and demon waited. "I reckon he meant a flashy kinda style. Like us, we've got spark. Only the grown ups don't call it that. They just say we're trouble." Adam smiled at Pepper, who smiled back. Crowley was absolutely positive that they were, in fact, trouble.

Aziraphale seemed to have reached the same conclusion. "Well, that does clear things up quite considerably. Thank you," the angel began to back away. "We'd better get back to London. Do- uh- do call if you need us."

"Sure thing," Adam jumped off the wall to crouch in the mud beside Pepper. As they walked away, Crowley heard mud splatter behind the angel. Aziraphale winced.

They were silent on the drive back to London, the kind of silence which had rarely happened between them in six thousand years. Crowley spent the time contemplating both Adam's news and the angel beside him.

"So," Aziraphale said as they reached the outer limits of London.

"Yep." Crowley replied.

They drove back to the book shop, even Freddie Mercury quiet for once.

Aziraphale got out. "See you tomorrow, my dear?"

"See you," Crowley gripped the wheel of the Bentley hard, feeling himself shudder as he pulled away.

An hour later, he was back in front of the shop. “Dinner?” He asked when Aziraphale opened the door.

“Lovely,” Aziraphale stepped out of the book shop, locking the door behind himself.

"When do you think we should go back?"

"I'm… I'm not sure, my dear."

"Remember the time Downstairs didn't check in for two hundred years?"

Aziraphale nodded.

"Time is… well, we've got a longer view, right? Who cares about a few weeks, or months. A few years." Crowley couldn't say he wasn't delighted by the idea of a few years just to spend with Aziraphale. He hoped the angel wouldn't suggest taking their vacations separately.

"That's true," Aziraphale agreed, and Crowley wanted to believe he sounded wistful. "But what Adam said troubled me. If the Adversary is speaking to him regularly, that can't be a good sign. We should report in soon."

Unable to disagree, Crowley asked, "How soon is soon?"

"Not tonight," Aziraphale answered. Crowley felt disappointment drop heavily on him. Just when he'd thought they might have the time for a trip to the south of France, back to Bordeaux, on to Paris for a few nights, or months…

"Not tonight." He agreed aloud.

They went to the symphony after dinner, which Crowley liked well enough because he got to see Aziraphale nod along, smiling. The music was good, too, he’d be the first to admit. It was just a little behind the times. What he wouldn’t give to take Aziraphale to a modern concert. He smiled to himself, picturing it. Maybe a metal show. Bunch of kids pushing each other around in the front, speakers blowing out the eardrums and circuit breakers within a few blocks’ radius. And Aziraphale, standing there in his sweater with his lips pursed.

The demon pushed his sunglasses up higher, smiling.

"That was lovely, my dear, thank you." Aziraphale said as they descended the steps outside the concert hall.

Crowley just nodded, his hands deep in his pockets to stop them reaching to hold Aziraphale's hand. Maybe going back to work was the best idea after all. Some distractions, maybe even a work trip abroad. Maybe just some time away, to try and put this particular useless fire out.

He held the Bentley's door open for the angel.

"Thank you, my dear," Aziraphale said.

"No problem," the demon replied, sliding behind the wheel and edging the car out into traffic.

“Crowley?”

“Hm?”

“Could we kiss?”

The demon almost crashed the Bentley, slamming on the brakes to a cacophony of honking behind him. Minor wreck. Not worth a commendation. Not that he was really thinking about such things, as he stared at Aziraphale in the passenger seat. “Really, now, my dear,” The angel was looking over his shoulder, frowning censoriously.

“Say that again?”

Aziraphale turned back to look at him. “Well, obviously not if you don’t want to. And you’re holding up traffic,”

Crowley eased the car forward. “What,” he said. “Uh, start from the beginning?”

Aziraphale sighed as though Crowley were being particularly dense. “I asked if I could kiss you, my dear.”

Crowley squeezed the wheel of the Bentley tightly to hide the tremor in his hands. “I- isn’t there a Rule about that, or something?”

“I’m not sure,” Aziraphale admitted. “I’ve been reading up, but obviously relationship advice for angels is fairly thin on the ground.”

Crowley just blinked at him. Why was it that whenever they went to Tadfield, his day turned completely surreal? “So- just- just to clarify, you want to kiss me?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale agreed patiently. “But only if you want to, of course.”

“But… won’t you- Fall?” Crowley was practically crushing the steering wheel. He’d have to make it up to the car later.

“I’ve no idea. I think not.”

“You think?” The demon wanted to shout. He pulled the Bentley to the shoulder of the road.

“Yes,” Aziraphale replied a bit waspishly. “To the best of my knowledge, I might Fall, but I think not.”

“Then why?- I mean, angel, I’m not worth-”

“Yes you are,” Aziraphale reached over to pat his knee.

Crowley felt a weird tight something happen in his chest. He wanted to take Aziraphale’s hand. “Angel.” He pushed the hand off his knee. “I’m not going to be the reason that you Fall.”

“I doubt one kiss will accomplish what That Day didn’t.”

Crowley hesitated. “I think it might have, if Adam hadn’t done… whatever he did.”

“Maybe.”

“And what about Temptation? You can’t just give in to Temptation. You’re an Angel, for chr- for Someone’s SAKE.”

“I’m not sure it counts as Tempting.”

“Are you trying to talk me into this? Because believe me, angel, you’re preaching to the- well, not the choir, but- anyway, I agree with you. No convincing needed.” Crowley was flustered. And he didn’t fluster easily. To Hell with Tadfield Days, anyway, he thought irritably.

They stared at each other.

“You’re saying…” Aziraphale fussed with his jumper. “You’re saying you… Want me.”

“G- yes. Yes.” Crowley shoved his sunglasses all the way up.

“Well, my dear. I think it’s rather your turn to… give in to Temptation, as it were.” The angel was smiling slightly. How could anyone look so good and be so infuriating? “I really don’t think I’d Fall over one kiss, Crowley.” Aziraphale was smiling that gentle little beatific smile certain Renaissance painters had stolen for their angels of mercy. “May I kiss you now?”

“Right- in the Bentley?” Crowley might have been breathless at the idea if it were something he could conceptualize as really, actually about to happen. He nodded. Aziraphale unfastened the safety belt he wore for some reason, reaching over to gently remove Crowley’s sunglasses. His fingertips lightly brushed Crowley’s skin, and the demon’s breath caught as he realized what was about to happen. Aziraphale was going to kiss him. Aziraphale was going to kiss him. The angel set his sunglasses on the dash and leaned toward him again. Crowley’s eyes closed and then it was happening and it was wonderful, his hands in Aziraphale’s hair as the angel cupped his jaw. Crowley heard himself whimper, embarrassed but entirely unsurprised by the sound. Aziraphale didn’t seem to mind, tugging at Crowley’s hair and deepening their kiss. Crowley ran his hands over Aziraphale’s shoulders, squeezing his biceps and pulling the angel closer. He was shaking, on fire in a good way for the first time in his existence. Aziraphale tasted sweet, tasted right, his breath warm against Crowley’s skin as the angel moved to kiss his neck. “Aziraphale-” Crowley made a noise in the back of his throat. “Please-” every fantasy, every stray thought for six thousand years was running through his mind again, and he knew he had to stop because Aziraphale would definitely Fall if they did THAT, and oh- oh, no. He leaned away. "Stop. Please,"

Aziraphale pulled back immediately. "I'm sorry, my dear, was that not-"

"No, it was- it was great, but we can't- we have to stop." He looked at Aziraphale, knowing his eyes were burning yellow orange. "I-" The demon exhaled shakily and dragged his hand over his lips, unable to stop them from tingling. He could feel the smugness radiating off of Aziraphale in the passenger seat, which kind of pissed him off but also made him smile.

"My dear…"

Crowley clenched his teeth on a whimper. "Aziraphale."

"Apologies," the angel leaned back into his seat. "You're right, of course."

Crowley took a deep breath and managed to merge back into traffic safely, his entire being hung up on the knowledge that Aziraphale kissed him, asked to kiss him, wanted to kiss him. "How long- why-?"

"You looked beautiful," the angel said simply. Crowley felt his face flush. "And I'm not quite sure, my dear. A long time. You were the real fruit of the garden." Crowley didn't know what to say to that.

He drove them slowly back to the bookshop, wanting to put a hand on Aziraphale's leg, ache of longing worse now that he knew it was the same on the other side of the mirror. "I love you," Aziraphale said softly.

"I-you too." Crowley choked out. "I mean, yes." What even was this day, he asked himself.

"Would you like to come in?" Aziraphale asked.

Crowley knew very well that he shouldn't go.

He went.

Aziraphale held his hand, which was sweet, and they talked about other things as the angel poured them both glasses of wine. Crowley kept looking down at their joined hands. He was struggling to think of something to say about it. Actually, there were six thousand things he wanted to say about it, and he was trying to pick the best one.

Every wall looked perfect for kissing Aziraphale against.

"Did you hear me, my dear?"

"I'm sorry," Crowley refocused. "What?"

Aziraphale leaned just slightly closer. Crowley met his eyes. "I asked whether I could kiss you once more."

Crowley's breath caught and he leaned in, pressing his lips to Aziraphale's. Like lightning striking, heat and light overwhelmed his senses. Almost immediately, he found his lips parting, felt his hands running over Aziraphale's shoulders, down his back, over his soft hips. He whined, pulling the angel close.

"Oh, my dear,"

The demon felt Aziraphale's hands tug at his hair again. Oh, bless, how did he know- Crowley nipped at the angel's lower lip, feeling Aziraphale's hands tighten in his hair in response. He loved the way they fit together, loved feeling Aziraphale's soft belly pressed against him, how easy it was to turn his head just so and fit them together like two tectonic plates. Certainly there was a ring of fire where they came together. Crowley's breath shuddered out between them and he felt small tremors in his knees. Geologic instability.

"Would you like to-" Aziraphale gestured to the sofa.

"Yes," Crowley agreed immediately, wincing at the comparisons he'd been drawing and eager to go back to just feeling that giddy thrill of kissing Aziraphale, finally, incredibly. "Angel," he cupped his friend's face in his hands, kissing him again. "Oh," the feeling that coursed through him when they kissed was- Divine- more than he'd ever imagined, and he'd entertained more than his share of desperate fantasies in the early hours of countless mornings before mornings were even called mornings.

Aziraphale led him to the sofa, drawing him down by the hand and kissing his knuckles. Crowley watched, spellbound. He couldn't remember ever feeling more keyed to something in his entire existence, his whole body thrumming to the pace his angel set. Aziraphale placed a series of light kisses on his lips, then began to kiss down his neck. Crowley wanted more, wanted Aziraphale. He scratched down the angel's back.

“Azzziraphale,” Crowley sighed out a hiss. The name felt holy on his lips. He liked the sting of it. “Yessss.” Aziraphale moaned softly. The sound was heady and incredibly Tempting. “Sssstop.” Crowley sighed in a far more dejected tone. He unwrapped himself from the angel.

Obviously not feeling very Angelic, Aziraphale trailed his fingers over Crowley’s face as the demon withdrew. “Crowley...”

“Sssstop it, angel.” Crowley said halfheartedly. He put his sunglasses on and sat up, one hand reaching for the rest of his wine as the other straightened his tie. To stop them reaching for Aziraphale. His hand was trembling. He hoped the angel didn’t see.

“You know,” Aziraphale began, “This brings up an interesting theological question.”

“Oh?” Crowley ran a hand through his hair.

“Where… Exactly is the line, do you suppose?”

Crowley knocked back his wine, moving a few inches away from Aziraphale. Necessary distance.“The line?”

“Well, we’ve-” Aziraphale gesture between them. “And I'm not Falling. How… far exactly do you think we’re allowed to go?”
Crowley saw Arizaphale’s hand shake as he set his glass down. He reached to take it. “I don't know,” the demon said, squeezing his hand. Crowley’s eyes moved over his angel, burning.

“I think… I may know someone I can ask.” He said slowly, holding Crowley’s gaze.

The demon made a choked sound, shifting in a sinuous little motion, his hand tightening on Aziraphale’s. “Please. Er- please do.”

His hands ached to run up Aziraphale's thighs. “I will,” the angel said, releasing his hand and shifting a few inches away. Crowley moved as if to follow him, then retreated to the far side of the couch. “As soon as possible,” he promised.
*

Meeting with Zadkiel wasn’t worrying Aziraphale overmuch. He was an angel of Forgiveness, after all. If anyone would be willing to be talked around, it would be Zadkiel. Besides, they were friends. Aziraphale made a point of stopping by anytime he was in Heaven.

Aziraphale ordered for them both at the front and they sat down together in a booth at the back.

“How are things at the office?” Aziraphale asked politely.

Zadkiel shrugged. “Practically the same as always. Your… Surprise vacation has stirred up some talk. Nothing extreme. Just office gossip, you know.”

“Yes,” Aziraphale agreed, aware that however he phrased his question he was likely to stir up yet more talk. He thought for a moment.

“You had a question,” Zadkiel prompted gently.

“Relating to… Going behind enemy lines, as it were.” Aziraphale felt his face heat. “I’m sure you remember Crowley.”

“I do,”

A waitress brought their drinks, giving Aziraphale a split second to think.

“I was wondering… Well, that is, I’d like to-”

“Oh, you wouldn’t be the first, you know,” the other angel ran a finger almost distastefully around the rim of the glass. “I can’t say I fully understand it myself, but-” Zadkiel shrugged, oblivious to the crisis of confidence Aziraphale was having. “There you are.”

“A-oh. What?”

Zadkiel smiled. “I suppose that means you hadn’t heard. Gabriel and Uriel have a bet between them on who will- er- have Unholy Communion, if you will, with the demon of highest- lowest? Standing.”

Aziraphale started laughing, perhaps very slightly hysterically. The world entirely ceased to make sense, as far as he was concerned. Next thing, he’d find out that the Metatron shot pool with The Adversary. He’d known that Upstairs had some idiosyncrasies, of course. The bit about the shellfish in Leviticus, for example, was completely true. The rest of that Book, Aziraphale often thought, had been invented sheerly to make the bit about the shellfish make sense in comparison. He had no idea what the reasoning was- maybe Gabriel was allergic. Or simply had bad taste. Like in demons. Though, maybe Aziraphale couldn’t throw any stones on that one. “Truly?” He finally asked.

“Yes,” The other angel was still smiling. “It’s gotten to be department-wide. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone started sending memos.”

“But… Isn’t there- a rule against that, or something?” Aziraphale echoed Crowley’s words.

Zadkiel shrugged. “I suppose if it were Lust, or some form of Covetousness. But there have been bets about the two of you since… oh, since Eden.”

Past being surprised by anything Zadkiel said, and if he were honest with himself not very surprised by that in the first place, Aziraphale asked, “And if we… do, now, who wins?”

Zadkiel considered. “Amitiel, I believe.”

“Oh. Well, that’s alright then. She’s always seemed the decent sort.”

“Yes,” the other angel stood. “Well. It’s been… come see me in Heaven, next time,” Zadkiel looked around the restaurant as if afraid its very earthliness were somehow contagious. Aziraphale was glad he didn’t remember that feeling.

“I will,” Aziraphale promised warmly. “Thank you,”

He left in something of a daze, made it back to his shop and unlocked the door, stepping inside and immediately locking the door again. If there was one thing he didn't want, it was customers. Aziraphale shrugged out of his jacket, hanging it neatly on the peg. He stood in the entry for a moment, considering. Life on Earth was full of surprises. Tension in his chest and tingling down to his fingertips urged him to refuse to wait, and instead of calling Crowley he simply Miracled himself to the demon's doorstep. Whoever did his books was going to have a field day.

"Crowley," he knocked. Oh, please be home.

The door swung open. "How did it go, angel?" Aziraphale looked at him speechlessly for a moment. Crowley removed his sunglasses. "Is everything okay?"

"I…" Aziraphale still hadn't managed to internalize the fact that he could have been kissing Crowley since EDEN. "Everything is fine." He chuckled, trying to keep it from becoming hysterical. "I'm not going to Fall." He reached for Crowley, hands on the demon's chest, feeling the warmth. Oh, dear L- oh, he was so in love. Sliding his left hand up to cup Crowley's jaw, other hand winding around the demon's tie, he said, "Did you know," he leaned closer, "We could have been doing this since Eden? No one would have batted an eye," they were scarcely an inch apart now. "They've been betting on when," he chuckled lightly, inhaling sharply when Crowley met his eyes. "Come here," he invited.
Crowley whined as he closed the infestiminial distance between them. The sound shot through Aziraphale, every inch of him buzzing.

"Bedroom?" The angel breathed.

Crowley whined again, his hands in Aziraphale's hair, keeping him close. "Please," the demon kissed him, biting his lower lip hard. "Please," he murmured again.

Aziraphale pushed Crowley back, watching the demon's eyes dilate. He smiled. Thank You, he thought. Thank You.

"Aziraphale," Crowley pulled at him. "Please."

Aziraphale shut the bedroom door. "Oh, my dear." Crowley sank to his knees, gripping Aziraphale's hips like the back of a pew. "You are so beautiful." Aziraphale caressed his face, and Crowley's eyes closed. "Look at me,"

Crowley moaned softly. His eyes opened, fixing on Aziraphale's face. "Please," he said again.

"Get on the bed," Aziraphale told him. Crowley's breath caught, and he scrambled backward.

"Angel…" Crowley moaned.

Aziraphale smiled, climbing on top of his demon. "How long have you been waiting for me, my dear?"

"Mm," Crowley clung to his shoulders. "Hard to say," one hand tangled in Aziraphale's hair. "Maybe since Eden,"