It was a pleasant day to take a stroll through Hyde Park. Tourists ambled about in the vague manner beloved by hapless tour guides and pickpockets alike, and the sun was out for a change, warming the cool summer morning into the promised humidity of the afternoon.
Taking advantage of a sun-warmed spot out on the deck overlooking the water, Crowley sat reading the paper, a neglected cup of coffee left to gradually cool on the table. He was just about to reach for it in inject a little warmth back into it when he heard…
Crowley’s head jerked up as he twisted round awkwardly in his chair to find a familiar face staring at him through the crowd, the time-altered features torn somewhere between consternation and twitching on the verge of a grin. He stared.
“Warlock?” Crowley he demanded, reaching for his glasses and only just managing to resist the urge to pull them off, “Warlock?”
“I thought it was you!” the young man exclaimed, all but bouncing up the steps toward him, a young woman in tow.
“Warlock,” Crowley repeated with a laugh, subconsciously tilting his accent up a notch and several vowels broader to the north west as he stood up and closed the distance between them, completing the hug the boy had been leaning into without even seeming to realize. He’d always come to Crowley for hugs, right up until he’d hit that awkward age around ten and his father had gotten to him and filled his head with nonsense. “Come here lad, let me look at you. How did you…”
“I saw the glasses,” the young man beamed at him as they separated. His American accent was more pronounced, but there was still a tinge of British affectation to his mannerism, “and the red hair, and I just knew.”
“I…yes well,” Crowley glanced down at his own lanky frame and glaring at his feet. He could have sworn he’d been hiding his presence. Evidently time away from Hell was making him soft. “I suppose that’s all that’s about recognizable…”
“Oh no,” Warlock continued to beam at him, shaking the long curls of his brown hair out of his face, “I’d have known that frown anywhere.”
“Well I should think so,” Crowley smiled back, surprised to find how genuinely taken aback he was by the rush of fondness he had for his former charge, “you saw it often enough. And who’s this?”
Seeming to remember the young woman beside him, Warlock turned with a start toward her. “Oh right yes, sorry, this is Pamela,” he said, and Pamela offered Crowley a tinkling little wave and a bubbly smile to match, “Pamela, this is…” he floundered, looking to Crowley for help.
“Anthony,” Crowley supplied, leaning forward and offering his hand to the young woman and giving it a polite little squeeze which she returned. “A pleasure.”
“So you’re the infamous Nanny!” she enthused in the high, effervescent drawl beloved of American daytime television, giving Crowley a thoughtful once over. There was no malice in her gaze or thoughts, just surprise and a whole lot of interest. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
“Really?” Crowley asked, somewhat taken aback. He’d assumed the boy would forget about him the moment he’d left.
“Oh yes,” she smiled, her bright blue eyes crinkling, “you and the gardener. You’re all he ever talks about when people ask what it was like growing up in England. Always Nanny this and Nanny that…”
“I…well,” Crowley started, not sure what to say to that.
“And then the stories about the Gardener who used to sing to the birds…” she shook her head in wonderment, “it always sounds so magical. I wasn’t entirely sure you were real.”
“I…yes, it was a very ethereal time in my life too,” Crowley admitted, scratching awkwardly at the snake tattoo on the side of his face, viscerally aware of Warlock’s eyes moving rapidly over him, tracking the changes.
“Gosh, it really is so good to see you,” Warlock said, shaking his head, his brown eyes brimming with an emotion Crowley was fairly certain he was experiencing himself. Not-The-Anti-Christ or no, he’d spent six long years with the boy, teaching him to ride a bike and practicing his sums, kissing him good night… all the things parents were supposed to do…
“Thank you,” Crowley inclined his head to the side, “You’re looking well. And tall too! Why I’d barely recognize you if it wasn’t for the hair! I see your father never managed to get you to cut it.”
“Oh, he tried,” Warlock laughed, and Crowley heard the bitterness that lay behind it, felt the darkness brimming over in the boy’s heart before it was quashed under a soothing wave of loving calm, prompting Crowley’s eyes to skip down to where the two young people were holding hands. “But I won.”
“Well, you always did know your own mind.”
“Yes,” Warlock agreed, giving Crowley a look charged with an entire childhood’s worth of adoration and affection that should have belonged to someone else, “you always made sure of that.”
“So,” Crowley said, when he could speak past the sudden lump in his throat, cursing the summer pollen even though it had never bothered him before in all the six thousand years he’d been on earth, “what are you doing back over here? Just sightseeing or?”
“We’re thinking of moving,” Pamela said, giving Warlock the shy, adoring smile of someone very much deeply in love, “after our wedding.”
“Oh congratulations,” Crowley all but crowed, unable to keep the ridiculous smile from breaking out over his face, “when’s the happy day?”
“August 15th,” the pair said in unison, laughing and turning to look at each other adoringly. It was positively sickly sweet to watch.
“Oh congratulations, well, I wish you both a lifetime of happiness,” the demon replied, letting a sliver of power slip through the dulcet tone of his words. “Oh really, I’m so made up for you dearie…”
“But what about you?” Warlock asked, gesturing toward Crowley, “what are you up to these days?”
“Oh not much, well,” he laughed shortly, a sharp little bark of a sound as he gestured to himself with both hands, “I changed career paths, quite dramatically actually. Among other things.”
“You look really good,” Warlock said, shaking his head again in wonderment, “you really do. You look happy. No really you do. I’m so happy for you.”
“I…thank you,” Crowley finished lamely, feeling an uncharacteristic flush rising to his face. He’d always thought he’d failed the boy growing up, in more ways than one. But perhaps he hadn’t done such a bad job after all. “I am happier, I suppose.” He thought about the bookshop and the summer cottage. And Aziraphale. “More settled you could say.”
“Gosh I still can’t believe we just ran into you,” Warlock laughed, “Of all the parks in all the world…”
“Yeah,” Crowley agreed, glancing toward the Serpentine where some ducks were playing a game of chicken with the swans. “It’s a funny old world, sometimes…”
“What happened?” he asked, and Crowley opened his mouth, prepared to try and explain, when the boy kept talking, “I mean, I know my dad dismissed you when he said I was too old, but one minute you were there, the next minute you were gone, you and the gardener! Did you run away together?”
“I…” Crowley looked back at him, making flustered sounds. “I, well, we…”
“You did, didn’t you?!” Warlock beamed, giving Crowley the same triumphant look he’d given him when he’d been six and managed to climb up on top of the fridge to get the biscuit tin down the moment Crowley’s back had been turned.
“We…came to an arrangement…” Crowley said tacitly, letting the truth of it carry over into his words as Warlock punched the air in victory. It seemed age hadn’t been able to erode all of his obnoxious qualities. Or perhaps he was simply American. Hard to tell. And then because Crowley was also an obnoxious little shit and not above bragging said, “We’ve got a flat together, in Soho. We’re very happy.”
“Yes, I knew it! It was so obvious.”
“It was?” Crowley demanded.
Warlock gave him a look that made Crowley glad he hadn’t been around for the boy’s teen years. “Uh, yeah. All the other staff used to talk about it. I think even Mom thought you were an item at one point. I mean you were hardly subtle, you used to call him “angel” when you thought no one else was around.”
Crowley’s eyes narrowed behind his glasses. Apparently some of his wily nature had worn off on the boy if he’d been able to sneak up on Crowley without him knowing.
“And he was always calling you “my dear”. He never called anyone else that.”
“Yes, I suppose he didn’t,” Crowley said softly, lost in his thoughts, remembering the long summer evenings spent out in the garden after the boy had gone to bed. Somehow it had always been the garden…
“Anyway, we should uh, get going,” Warlock said after the pause had worn itself out, glancing toward Pamela who smiled prettily up at him, “we’ve got an appointment with the realtor.”
“Oh right yes,” Crowley said, snapping his thoughts back into the present, “well…it was lovely, seeing you again dearie, and lovely to met you too, my dear,” he said turning his attention toward Pamela, who to his surprise leaned in for a hug.
“It was nice to meet you,” she said, giving him a squeeze that would have rivaled a python, “It’s so nice to finally put a face to all the stories.”
“Take care, dearie,” Crowley murmured letting her go, “of yourselves, and the little one.”
The couple shared a startled glance, “how did you…?” and Crowley gave a short little laugh, cursing himself for a fool.
“Oh, once a Nanny always a Nanny,” he said, waving his hand as though that explained anything, but doing so in such a tone that it felt like it did. “I wish you both all the best, truly,” he said, turning toward Warlock who clung to his shoulders a little harder than he probably meant to. “I can tell you’re going to have a wonderful life together. There's a whole world at your feet.”
“Thank you,” Warlock said, still hanging on, and Crowley was of a mind to let him. “For everything. For the weird childhood,” he laughed just a touch brokenly, “just everything. Tell Brother Gardener I said hello.”
“I will,” Crowley soothed, giving him a pat on the back. “And I’m sure he’d add his blessing onto mine. You’re going to be just fine, love. I promise.”
He stood for a while, watching them go as they disappeared into the crowd. He didn’t move when he became aware of the presence beside him.
“I felt that,” the angel said, and Crowley glanced sideways at him.
“I’m not sure what you’re referring to.”
“Little flashes of love,” Aziraphale murmured slyly, annoyingly close to his ear. Smug. Like he’d been proven right about something.
“Shut up,” Crowley muttered, turning around, thoroughly abashed. “It was just a little miracle is all…see them well on their way.”
“Mhm,” the angel hummed agreeably, taking the seat opposite him, and absently tapping Crowley’s coffee for him, causing steam to rise from the mug. “I suppose it was the least we can do to make up for all the…oddities.”
“We?” Crowley asked, and Aziraphale gave him another small smile. “How long were you there?”
“Oh, only the whole time, my dear,” the angel soothed, reaching across the table to take his hand. “Only the whole time.”