After the apocalypse is cancelled, Aziraphale returns to his remarkably intact bookshop and Crowley sleeps for approximately three days, the chaos of Armageddon and subsequent havoc catching up with him. When he wakes, the sky is no longer threatening to fall down, and somehow it feels anticlimactic to return to a humdrum life of tempting a few humans and being micro-managed. One thing leads to another, and they find themselves at the Ritz for another celebratory afternoon tea, debating the merits of the cream puff over the Eccles cake. Aziraphale has just ordered a platter of mini cake samples to prove his point when Crowley realizes with a start that he doesn’t quite know what to do next.
“No, no, I still think raisins in cakes are an abomination,” Aziraphale says emphatically, gesturing with a butter knife. “Chocolate, on the other hand, is perfectly acceptable in anything. Raisins belong to biscuits, and biscuits alone. Say no more.”
“Mm, no, definitely not, I saw chocolate in a stew the other day. That’s just weird.” Crowley considers the rapidly disappearing plates they had before them, and wonders if it would be bad manners to swallow the eclairs whole. “And now they’re putting raisins in chicken? Truly commendable.”
Aziraphale makes a face. “Urgh. It’s like they did it on purpose.” Crowley nods in agreement and they fall into an easy quiet, scraping the rest of the crumbs and enjoying the last of the wine.
“So, what do you want to do now?” Crowley asks. It’s been a busy few days, and it comes as a shock when he thinks that he doesn’t have anything in particular to do today, or tomorrow, or the day after that.
“Ooh, I don’t know,” Aziraphale says. “I think Adam restocked some new wines I haven’t seen before, we could see if they’re any good?” He takes another bite of cake and rolls his head back in pleasure. “Oh, that’s very nice.”
Crowley resists the urge to brush crumbs off Aziraphale’s lapels, and instead shakes his head. “Nah. Well, obviously yes, alcohol sounds good, but I meant what next? Where do we go? If they leave us alone, then we’ve got the whole world, haven’t we?”
“Well,” says Aziraphale between mouthfuls of puff pastry, “We do both need a change of scenery. I’ve always fancied retiring to the country and starting a goat farm. Perhaps Tadfield?”
“You? On a farm? Hah!” Crowley snorts. “In your cream coat and trousers, you wouldn’t last a day.”
Aziraphale looks indignant. “The tweed would be very suitable. And anyway, it’s not about your fashion sense. It’s the simple way of life, and all that.” He looks a little unsure. “Although I’ve never kept goats. Do you think they actually eat scrap metal?”
“You really don’t know much about animals, huh.” Crowley has always thought of Aziraphale as very much a city person. They’ve both always loved the buzz, the influx of new cultures and food, and oh the food. Crowley gives it two weeks before Aziraphale is back at the bookshop and begging Crowley to go out to some new sushi place in Camden.
“You don’t fancy it then? I mean, I haven’t really given much thought to it, but it might be nice to take a few centuries off,” Aziraphale notes, setting his cup back on the table. “Now we’ve got HR off our back, no reason not to. Could do chickens as well, organic and ethically reared of course.”
“Hmm.” Crowley slides his sunglasses further up his nose, pondering Aziraphale’s words. “You’d want company then?”
“Why of course! No point in being alone in retirement is there?”
A warmth spreads in Crowley’s belly and he smiles involuntarily. “If you say so. I suppose we’ve earnt some time off work.”
“Oh yes, nothing wrong with a few little miracles or temptations here and there, but certainly no communication with upstairs.” Aziraphale nods. “We could have a little kitchen garden. Plenty of room for your plants, and maybe even a little library as well.” Aziraphale looks lost in thought at the prospect, and Crowley’s grin grows wider.
“I suppose I could be tempted,” he says. “And we can always say it’s to keep an eye on the Anti-Christ.”
“After all, we are godfathers. Of some kind, anyway.”
“He may yet grow some horns. Hey, goats have horns, don’t they? That’s fitting.”
“They do indeed.” Aziraphale smiles. “Let’s go. There’s a little place that I’ve had my eye on…”
The farmhouse that Aziraphale speaks of is within walking distance of Tadfield and has seen better days. There’s a grassy paddock to one side of the cottage and a yard on the other, with an overgrown hedge boundary between them and the next house. The cottage itself is small and the shed a bit dilapidated, housing precisely three goats, a lawnmower, two pigeons and a hibernating hedgehog, but Aziraphale loves it.
“Look Crowley! Proper butcher’s hooks in the kitchen, we can hang our own meat.” He points up at the kitchen ceiling and all Crowley can notice is how low it is. Stand on tiptoes and he might just come up through the bedroom floor.
“You don’t plan on eating the goats, do you?” he asks. “Might have to consider veganism at this point.” He’d received a commendation for that too, but still wasn’t sure whether the movement was demonic, angelic or just plain human.
“Oh no, that wouldn’t be a good idea.” The corners of Aziraphale’s mouth turn down. “We could dry herbs on them instead?”
“Maybe. Or instead we survive on potatoes.” Crowley fingers the old spotted curtains by the sink, scanning the surrounding fields for the occasional fat cow.
“I couldn’t look at a potato for a few centuries after Ireland,” shudders Aziraphale. “What about cabbage soup?”
“Urgh.” Crowley shakes his head and they head outside to point out the neighbouring fields. “It’s a bit pokey, isn’t it?” At the front there’s only a small porch and two windows either side of the door, dark slates from the roof extending down almost to head height. “Not much room to skin a cat. If we wanted to, that is.”
“We can always expand a little. There’s a courtyard area, could possibly push the walls further out.” Aziraphale eyes the front door speculatively and walks around the side of the house through a small white gate. “Oh Crowley, there’s plenty of room for a vegetable patch. And even a greenhouse if you fancied it.”
“Oh really?” Interest piqued, he follows Aziraphale around and stops. A small squeak emerges from somewhere in the back of his throat. “Oh, angel.”
The afore mentioned courtyard is a gardener’s dream. Instead of a manicured lawn, wildflowers grow in between cobbles leading between patches of earth, with a few apple trees at the bottom of the garden. There’s a small wall extending all the way around, and he can spot a trellis against the side of the house. But what caught his attention was the group of small purple plants growing in the long grass, only a few inches high but bright in the greenery surrounding them.
“They’ve got wild orchids.”
“It’s nice, isn’t it?” Aziraphale smiles, and doesn’t take his eyes off Crowley. “I know you’ll do wonders with it. And with a little adjustment here and there, we can have an open plan kitchen all the way through to a patio.”
Crowley thinks that Aziraphale must have created this as a temptation just for him, then he dismisses the thought from his brain as ridiculous. It would be more like a miracle, as if he’d looked straight into Crowley’s green-fingered brain and picked out a dream. He supposes that now they don’t have management recording every little temptation or miracle, maybe they could be a little more free with them.
“It’s alright, I guess.” He doesn’t say that it’s cosy and cute and he’s too comfortable with the idea of this becoming a thing in their future. If he voices any of these thoughts, they might come out in a scream and Aziraphale may think he doesn’t like it. Which he doesn’t. Obviously. Because decorated demons of hell don’t settle down in the Oxford countryside with their mortal enemy and three pensioner goats.
“Hmm, thought so.” Aziraphale nods. “Shall I tell them we’ll think about it and then we’ll ring them tomorrow? The buyers are happy to leave the goats, they’re retiring to Spain once everything’s settled down.”
“Maybe. If you want.”
“I do want.” Aziraphale links his arm with Crowley’s, and Crowley doesn’t stop him. “I can see space for a chicken coop down there.” He points to the end of the garden, and Crowley’s already imagining the raised beds he’d make, with a compost heap to the side and plenty of perfect ferns in the wall cracks. They wander slowly around the house again, pointing out small things to each other that could do with a little divine help, and Crowley thinks he could quite happily live like this until the next Apocalypse.
The sale goes through suspiciously quickly, and a couple of weeks later they start to gently push, pull and craft the cottage into something they’d both like to be around in. The house is painted in a light cream colour, similar to one of Aziraphale’s many jackets, with some extra windows added in to keep the dark corners full of light. It’s not cluttered nor cramped, but no surface is bare, with collections of everything from seashells, arrowheads and first-edition poetry to jars to dirt from a thousand years ago. Books line the stairs and the hallway, but the best are kept for the second bedroom which Aziraphale has made into his study. The second-best editions are, of course, still in London, open around once a week by appointment only. He still doesn’t sell any of them though. That would be ridiculous.