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a picnic plan for you and me

Chapter Text

i.

angel food cake.


 

 

The man on Youtube made it look so easy .

Crowley glared down at the bin where the remains of two not-quite-cakes were splattered. The first try - he still isn’t sure what he did wrong with that one, but he thinks he might’ve gotten the egg temperature wrong when he added them. Because, according to Youtube man, he was supposed to use cold eggs. Like it mattered . Except apparently it did, because the batter looked nothing like the one in the video, to the point where Crowley assumed he’d accidentally messed up something more serious than egg temperature.

The next attempt had been better, that had actually made it into the oven, but Crowley had come back a while later to find that one burned despite coming back to it at the exact time that the Youtube man had told him.

Crowley scowled at the instructions that were below the video. One hour, yes, he definitely -

He paused. Squinted.

“Cold oven,” he said to himself. “Put the cake into a cold - why does that matter. Isn’t it - you’re supposed to pre-heat the oven, right? That’s what they always say, pre-heating is supposed to be a very important in, in those stupid fucking cooking shows, with the basting and the flipping and the shouting, they’re always pre-heating-”

He bit down on his tongue. Made it forked for a moment and flicked it comfortingly around his mouth before returning it to normal, then smashed his phone on the countertop.

“Oops,” he said, taking a vicious delight in how many bits the phone shattered in before he miracled it back together and went through the recipe again and sighed.

He reached for the bag of sugar. At least he’d never gotten around to putting the ingredients away this time.




 

An hour and a half later, Crowley was whipping cream. It was more tiring than whipping the egg whites, and he was going to have to find something to do with all the egg yolks now, Aziraphale hated it when they wasted food. Which meant Crowley was eating a lot more than he used to, since he never really got much into it in the first place - drinking, absolutely. Sleeping, definitely. Eating? He could mostly leave it to the humans.

But Aziraphale was all about no-waste, and they were doing this crazy thing called ‘buying groceries and making their own meals a few days a week instead of buying every meal from somewhere,’ so Crowley had made some adjustments.

He sighed as he whipped the cream, imagining all the boring omelettes he was probably going to be having over the next few breakfasts. How long did eggs last after they were opened, anyway?

The cream finally got into a tolerable state and he had just finished covering the cake, moving to start chopping fruit, when the front door opened.

“No,” Crowley called, on a reflex. He grabbed the strawberry box and dumped it out on the chopping board - something else he owned after the world didn’t end. Like he was some kind of human.

Aziraphale’s footsteps paused in the hall.

“No?”

“Definitely not,” Crowley called.

Aziraphale gave a very specific sigh. It was his Crowley, whatever are you doing sigh, but Crowley’s favourite version, which meant he wasn’t annoyed.

“Two minutes,” Crowley said.

“Can’t I just-”

“Nope!” Crowley went to miracle the strawberries, then stopped and started chopping like a madman instead. The slices went onto the cream-covered cake and once it was covered with fruit, Crowley stepped back and considered. Not bad. Not good , not as good as the Youtube man, who must’ve tossed out a lot of strawberry slices that weren’t the same size, but not bad.

Out in the hall, Aziraphale was tapping his foot.

“May I-”

“Yeah,” Crowley said over him.

Aziraphale shot him a look as he came into the kitchen. “Now, what was that about? I do hope you’re not inventing another monstrosity to terrify the plants while you’re not around, their poor nerves can’t-”

He caught sight of the cake and blinked.

“Oh,” he said.

Crowley waited. It sounded like a good oh . A confused oh , but also, hopefully, a good one -

Aziraphale looked at Crowley, then at the mess of the kitchen in increasing puzzlement.

“Did you-” Aziraphale kept going over the kitchen and Crowley tried not to wince. He’d maybe made more of a mess than was sensible, but he’d been righteously - well, not righteously , obviously, but the demon equivalent - spitefully angry since the first attempt had failed, and by the third he’d been all but throwing ingredients into the bowl.

Aziraphale looked at Crowley again. “Did you make this? Without - miracles?”

Crowley smiled. He started off with a grin but it felt too enthusiastic, so he forced it back to a smirk. Devil may care. There we go.

“What does it look like?”

“It looks-” Aziraphale reached onto the counter next to the cake and wiped a streak of flour off with his finger. “Like there was a minor natural disaster in your - our kitchen.”

Crowley forced his smile not to get strange when Aziraphale said our . Since the apocalypse-that-wasn’t, Aziraphale had moved in. After they’d had their body-switch adventure and gone to the Ritz, Aziraphale had made some comment about heading back to the bookshop. Crowley hadn’t said anything, but then he’d looked over and saw, to his surprise, that Aziraphale was looking at him with something like - like -

Like he wanted Crowley to say, You can come back to mine, if you want, one more time.

So Crowley did. And he’d kept saying it. Occasionally in the oncoming weeks, Aziraphale would say, I’d better get back to the bookshop, and Crowley would suggest he stayed. When Aziraphale would go to his bookshop, Crowley would tell him to come around for tea and then invite him to stay. Then, like every night, Crowley would go to sleep in his bed and Aziraphale would stay up in the lounge, reading books or undoing all of Crowley’s good work with his plants by being nice to them. And in the morning Crowley would get up and Aziraphale would have the tea done just as Crowley liked it, and they’d sit in the kitchen or the lounge and chat.

Well, almost every night and morning went like that. The first night - well, Aziraphale had looked so exhausted, and Crowley had suggested he actually try sleeping for once, and Aziraphale had stared at him for a bit before nodding shortly and heading for Crowley’s bedroom. Crowley had gone to magic up a bed but stopped when he saw Aziraphale reaching for the covers of Crowley’s.

Oh, I’m sorry, is this alright, Aziraphale had said when he’d caught Crowley staring.

‘Course, Crowley had said, trying desperately to clamp down on the onrush of something that had welled up in his chest. Then Aziraphale had miracled himself into some truly awful pyjamas that somehow made him more endearing and Crowley had lost himself to laughter for a good thirty seconds.

I think they’re stylish , Aziraphale had said when Crowley had just about got himself under control.

Oh, they are , angel, Crowley had said, still gasping. He’d miracled himself a matching pair, but his had horns decorating the fabric instead of angel wings.

He’d climbed into bed. Aziraphale had climbed into the other side. Crowley had forced everything that was vibrating inside him to shut up, and eventually fell asleep around 2am. To his knowledge, he and Aziraphale had never even grazed each other as they were in that bed together.

When he’d woken up, Aziraphale was fully dressed in the kitchen, waiting to give Crowley his tea.

That was refreshing, Aziraphale had said. The sleep, I mean. Thank you for the suggestion.

He hadn’t taken Crowley up on it since, which was - fine. Crowley was honestly happy for the company during daylight hours, even though he’d rather gargle holy water than admit it.

Anyway, the cake. Aziraphale was still looking at it like he wasn’t sure if it’d bite him or not, so Crowley reached up and patted his shoulder.

“It’s angel food cake,” he said. He waited. When Aziraphale did nothing but nod politely: “It’s funny, see, ‘cause-”

“No, no, I get it.” Aziraphale nodded again. “ Very funny.”

“Oh, shut up, it is-

“May I ask what brought this on?”

Crowley paused. Flickered his tongue around the inside of his mouth.

“Can’t a guy just want to try baking?”

“A guy can,” Aziraphale said slowly, “but I find it slightly suspicious that you would. Crowley, you hate making food. Remember that time in 1904, we were in that bakery kitchen after you tempted a delivery boy by pretending to be-”

“That was fun.”

“No it wasn’t, it was terrible . Anyway, we had some time to kill before we were due for our reservations, I thought it would be fun to try bread-making and you ended up throwing the dough into the street?”

Crowley considered. From what he could remember, it had been very annoying dough. Sticky in a way that seemed to stay even after he vanished it off his hands.

“Nope,” he said, just to make Aziraphale make that noise in the back of his throat. “Anyway, here you go.”

Aziraphale blinked some more. “Did you - is this cake for me?”

“Well, not only for you.” Crowley busied himself with getting forks and knives from the drawer - he owned cutlery now, who was he - so he didn’t have to take the full brunt of Aziraphale’s overwhelming gaze, which was all soft and surprised and pleased and 100% something Crowley couldn’t handle.

He cut them both a slice - a thin one for him, a slab for Aziraphale - and set them on plates, and watched Aziraphale take a bite. As Aziraphale chewed, Crowley wondered if he should’ve tried his first, just in case it wasn’t good after all -

He dove for his own slice just as Aziraphale made a loud, bright noise that usually meant he was eating something he enjoyed.

Crowley’s fork paused in mid-air.

“Oh, this is-” Aziraphale swallowed his mouthful. “Crowley! I can’t believe you made this.”

Crowley thought about playing it off, then said, “There are two attempts of this cake in the bin.”

“Well,” Aziraphale said, “Their sacrifice is appreciated. This is lovely .”

Crowley didn’t know what to say to that, so he took a bite from his slice. It was pretty good.

“Glad my efforts weren’t wasted, then,” he said, when Aziraphale didn’t say anything else, too busy with the cake.

“Not at all,” Aziraphale assured him. He glanced over at him another two times before asking, “Is there - an occasion?”

“What? No, just-” Crowley waved his fork at the cake. “Just. You always have tea out for me in the mornings, and. You said that it feels more - rewarding - when you make it from scratch. That it’s meaningful. Thought I’d… try it out.”

He didn’t dare look up from his cake to see if Aziraphale was looking at him, because he knew Aziraphale would be looking at him. Aziraphale’s gaze would be burning the side of his face, if anything about Aziraphale could be likened to fire. As it was, his gaze was beaming angelic light onto the side of Crowley’s face.

He ate his slice and tried to breathe normally. How did he usually breathe? Maybe he should stop. It would be annoying, but his breathing did have a tendancy to stutter sometimes when Aziraphale did something particularly impactful, which could give Crowley away as being stupid in love with him. Couldn’t have that. Also, not breathing made eating faster.

He held his breath for a chew and a swallow, until he remembered he did actually need to breathe to speak. Fucking bodies always ruining his plans.

“So,” he said, as casual as he could manage, “Two birds. Killing them, I mean. The birds. With a stone. As the saying goes. I mean, I tried the making-food-from-scratch thing, and the… thanking you. Thing. Both at once. Here you go.”

He helped himself to another slice and dug into it with gusto, adding, “This is pretty good,” hoping that would cover up that he was only eating it so he had something to look at and do with his hands.

Speak, you bastard , he thought at Aziraphale.

Then, as if the angel could hear his thoughts - which would be mortifying in a million different ways - Aziraphale said, “Thank you, Crowley.”
He said it the same way he had been looking at the cake: soft and pleased. Crowley risked a glance over at him and thought about the not-breathing thing when it faltered in his throat. How could one person’s face convey all that - all that -

Crowley swallowed, which was fine because he had a mouthful of cake. A swallow when one has cake in their mouth is very different than when one doesn’t. A swallow out of nowhere could indicate a lot of things that one didn’t necessarily want to show, especially the angel one has been reluctantly in love with since Eden.

“It wasn’t that hard,” Crowley tried. He finished off his second slice and picked a strawberry off the cake. “After the first two attempts. Did you know some recipes make you specifically not pre-heat the oven? I thought pre-heating was something all baking revolved around!”

“Ah. No, not always,” Aziraphale said after a second, like he’d had to catch himself and put his thoughts on another track. “The rules are never consistent when it comes to making food. There are always exceptions. It can be quite exciting.”

“It can be quite annoying,” Crowley replied, picking off another strawberry. How did Youtube guy get them all so evenly-spaced, and in a neat pattern? He picked off another strawberry, not bothering to eat it, and wondered why he didn’t think to place the strawberries on the cake in the shape of some demonic sigil, just to see Aziraphale’s I’m-not-disappointed-in-you-no-really-this-is-my-normal-face look. He always got a laugh out of that look.

“Well,” Aziraphale said. “In any case, I’m touched that you went to all that trouble for me, Crowley. Thank you.”

“You already said that,” Crowley said, shifting from foot to foot and then stopping himself.

“I did,” Aziraphale said. “And I’ll say it a third time. Thank you, Crowley. It - means a lot. To me. That you would think to do this.”

He gave another radiant smile, then ducked his head, first at the floor and then at the cake. When he spoke, it was towards the cake.  “And, and did you find it - rewarding? More meaningful?”

“Uh,” Crowley said. He’d found it frustrating , to tell the truth. Even after he’d gotten the hang of it, the most he’d felt was the bitter triumph that came with succeeding after failing spectacularly several times. The only time he’d felt much of anything at all, when it came to the cake, was when the front door had opened.

“Yeah,” he said when Aziraphale’s face started to look like it might fall. “Yeah! Definitely, uh - different than clicking your fingers and having it appear. Really - demonstrates the fruits of my labour. Hard work and - oh, hey, fruits of my labour.”

He pointed at the strawberries, which wasn’t - yes, okay, wasn’t his best line, but he was all nerve endings at the time.

Aziraphale laughed. It only sounded a little forced, which Crowley appreciated.

“Fruits,” Aziraphale agreed. Absentmindedly, he reached over and took a strawberry that Crowley had picked off. Crowley watched it vanish into Aziraphale’s mouth, watched his jaw work, then his throat as he swallowed.

“Well,” Aziraphale said. “This was a lovely surprise to come home to.”

Crowley shifted so his hip was angled into the counter, pressing it hard into his hipbone, pressing until it twinged. Come home. Aziraphale, coming home to him. It had a nice ring to it.

“Don’t expect a repeat performance,” Crowley said. “One time thing, this. I did my experiment, and now I know - what I set out to learn. So.”

“I won’t expect a thing,” Aziraphale said, still smiling like Shakespare offered to put on a personal performance. “Thank-”

“Don’t you dare. No, stop it. Soon you’ll start calling me nice-

“How awful.”

“It is! I’m a demon, I’m not supposed to be-”

That stopped them both. Aziraphale’s smile shrunk and Crowley caught himself, body posture tightening where it had just begun to loosen.

They were supposed to be a lot of things. They definitely weren’t supposed to be ‘coming home’ to each other.

“Not that it matters much now,” Crowley said. He meant it as a throwaway line, but Aziraphale’s whole face twitched. Crowley didn’t know what to make of it, and it didn’t seem like Aziraphale knew what to do with it either.

“No,” Aziraphale agreed quietly. “It doesn’t seem to.” He paused, then, half-jokingly: “You could make me angel food cake everyday and it wouldn’t matter.”

Crowley’s chest twisted. If he was human, he’d think - well. Anyway, spend enough time around them and all sorts starts to happen. Pick up their weird habits and then it’s their strange bodily functions - blushing, burping, the works. Crowley doesn’t technically have organs, doesn’t have a heart, per se, but -

I would, if it’d make you smile, Crowley thought, and found self-loathing spiral down after it. For Satan’s sake .

“Don’t get your hopes up,” Crowley said, instead of all the stuff he’d never dare let out from behind his teeth. His tongue flickered against the firmness of them, pressing hard.

“I won’t,” Aziraphale said. He held Crowley’s gaze for one second, then two, and Crowley concentrated on breathing slow and steady-

“Well!” Aziraphale broke eye contact and reached for his knife. “I think I’ll help myself to another slice and then go sit in the lounge to finish that radio show. Care to join?”

“It’s a podcast,” Crowley said absently. “And sure.”

He waited for Aziraphale to collect another slice onto his plate and then waited some more when Aziraphale eyed him expectantly. Crowley looked back just as expectantly.

“Aren’t you going to have some more,” Aziraphale asked.

Crowley looked over at the cake. It wasn’t even half gone, damn it.

“I’m good,” Crowley said. Then he grinned. “I’m not , but you know what I mean.”

Aziraphale gave him a Look and made a Noise, something sadder than Crowley had been going for. But all he said was, “Don’t hog the cushions this time,” and started out into the lounge.

“No promises,” Crowley said, and followed.