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.
They move into the cottage slowly, a day here and a weekend there spent away from London. Even when Aziraphale’s favourite books are ensconced in various corners and stacked away on bookshelves, Crowley is still tittivating with the garden outside for weeks to come. The rest of his plants quietly trickle into the house, finding the best spots in the master bedroom and kitchen, and it gradually starts being somewhere he likes to come back to.
Both still retain their London flats, but before long they’re spending more time in the cottage than the city, and Crowley often pokes around the garden until the sun goes down. It’s taken longer than he’d thought to plan out what he wanted the garden to look like, and he enjoys listening to Aziraphale attempting to master rural life. Although he’d swapped some of the cream for tartan, he wasn’t yet adept at negotiating puddles and mud, and some of his screeches were quite memorable and could be heard throughout the house. This was one such occasion.
Up to this point, the previous owner of the goats had come by once a day to take care of them, but they were flying to Spain tomorrow, and the task was now up to Aziraphale. He’d spent half an hour gathering the necessary equipment to milk the goats (a small stool and a bucket), before another forty minutes giving himself a pep talk.
“Crowley, we have a problem.” Crowley looks up from the future vegetable bed to find Aziraphale stood by the garden gate looking grey.
“Oh no. What did you do.” Crowley runs through his options of who to bribe in the village to keep hush in case they’d noticed any unusual goings-on. Small miracles are explained by hand waving, big ones sometimes grew wings and flew away and before you knew it, they’re on the front page of the Times.
“We can’t milk the goats.”
“We?” Crowley lifts an eyebrow as Aziraphale wrings his hands. “Goats were the first animals to be domesticated, pretty sure they’ve been milked before. Unless we’ve got three billys, that is.”
“Oh, alright then, I can’t milk the goats. It just doesn’t work!”
“Have you tried a little uh, persuading? The lady did say you need a gentle hand, you’re probably just out of practise.”
“Yes, of course I have.” Aziraphale huffs. “I have cajoled, I have stroked, I have pleaded and I have even threatened. But it refuses to happen! I had to resort to a miracle.”
“Something happened, my dear. Something… awful.”
“What? Oh angel, you haven’t killed Gertie have you?” Shame, he thinks. He was just starting to get used to the idea of domestic bliss, the last thing he needs is Aziraphale calling himself a failure and running back to London. And he’d never be able to grow orchids like these indoors.
“No, something even worse,” Aziraphale says with a grave face. “I’m afraid Gertie… Ate my scarf.”
Crowley can’t help but cackle.
“It’s no laughing matter, Crowley! I looked after that Harris Tweed perfectly for seventy years, then that blasted thing nibbles one end and whoosh, it’s gone.”
“That’s the worst thing you can think of? And here I was supposing you’d reduced that shed to a smouldering mound of rubble.”
“No, no, it’s awful, it was a herringbone design,” Aziraphale moans. “And if we can’t milk them, they’ll get ill; what are we going to do?” His eyes grow round and Crowley knows instinctually that whatever he’s going to ask of him, he’ll do without question. “A second opinion wouldn’t hurt?”
“Fine.” Crowley sighs and they make their way to the goat shed. Gertie is calmly standing in her pen, with the other two goats in the next pen looking on in interest. “She looks fine to me?”
“Obviously she’s fine, it’s my scarf I’m worried about! Suppose it never comes out again?”
Crowley wrinkles his nose. “Do you really want it again after that though?”
“Oh, I suppose not.” Aziraphale takes a big breath and squats down on the ground, coat carefully held up as he edges closer to the goat pen. “Here, Gertie Gertie Gertie, here Gertie Gertie Gertie.”
Crowley stares. “What. Are you doing.”
“Shh, you’ll ruin the ambiance. Apparently, goats need a quiet and calming atmosphere to lactate.” Flapping a hand behind his back at him, Aziraphale eases himself into the pen with the goat and slides himself along to her. He places the pail beneath her and gently starts to massage the goat’s back, sliding his hands up and down her coat before placing his hands on her udder. The goat, non-plussed about the strange man attempting to stroke her legs, shakes herself and walks straight past Aziraphale to the other side of the pen to nibble on Crowley’s sleeve.
“It’s no good! She just won’t stand still.” Aziraphale declares, standing up to walk back to Crowley and the goat.
“Wait. Have you never milked a goat before?” Fondling Gertie’s ears, Crowley watches as Aziraphale mutters indignantly.
“Yes. Well, maybe. Well, not really. No?”
“However did you survive the first few hundred years,” he says with a shake of his head. “You can’t just follow her around and hope she stands still. You’ve got to bribe her.”
“Bribery?” Aziraphale gapes as Crowley gets a scoop of food out the sack by the door.
“Haven’t you heard of it? And also, you can’t milk her where she sleeps. See that table by the door?” He points to the open shed door where a little platform was set up with a washbasin next to it. “Lead her up there, she’ll know what to do.”
Gertie crosses nicely over to the milking stand and hops up, looking expectantly at Crowley. He empties a handful of nuts into a bailer and she sticks her nose in it, crunching loudly.
“There you go, angel. All she needed was a handful of nuts. And now you’re good to go.” Pointing at the stool next to the stand, Crowley directs Aziraphale through milking Gertie and the two goats after her. By the time they’re finished the sun has gone down and the air has a chill to it, reminding the occupants of the shed that it wasn’t quite summer yet. There’s a few streaks of orange in the sky to the West, and they stand in the shed doorway for a moment, watching the clouds skid across the skyline. Aziraphale’s hand is close enough to Crowley’s that he’s acutely aware of it, but he doesn’t let himself think about bridging the gap. He’s comfortable here, just as they are, and if they happen to grow closer every day, well. It’s a slow process, wooing a celestial being, but like all delicate things, nothing can be forced that doesn’t want to be. One step at a time, Crowley reassures himself, and watches Aziraphale’s face bathed in the last of the sunlight.
The garden soon begins to flourish, and for somebody who doesn’t have a keen interest in food, Crowley begins to do a lot of cooking. The vines and trees he’s set up next to the fruit wall have to wait a few years to produce a true crop, but occasionally he sees signs that a certain angel has talked exceedingly nicely to the plants and they’ve been persuaded to grow a few grapes or apples here and there. Crowley doesn’t mind, it’s worth it for the moan of pleasure when Aziraphale encounters a new dish of sugary rhubarb or tart berries with cream.
Soon Crowley begins to experiment with jellies and jams, and he’s chopping up Seville oranges for some sort of marmalade one morning when there’s a sudden knock at the cottage back door. He looks up to see Aziraphale standing there beaming, tapping excitedly with one hand and pointing down at his feet with the other.
“Crowley, look!” he shouts through the glass. “I bought a dog!” Aziraphale bends out of view and seems to be struggling for a second, before re-emerging with what looks like a large black sack of hair with a slobbering tongue sticking out the front.
“You bought a what?” Crowley shouts back, wondering whether it was too late to flee out the window. Pets never went well with house plants, and he dreaded to think how a dog could destroy the vegetable beds, not to mention the roses in the process of twining their way up the side of the cottage.
“A dog! Isn’t she lovely?” Aziraphale has disappeared behind the large animal currently in his arms, showing more paws and fluff than angel. “Or rather adopted, not bought, but there was a fee, so technically bought?”
Crowley curses as much as he can without giving himself an ulcer and sets down his knife. “Angel, let me rephrase that; why have you bought a dog? Send it back!”
“It’s adorable! And plus, she was going to be put down on Monday, and no one wanted her.” Aziraphale sets the dog on the ground and opens the back door, with the animal tugging in front of him. “She’s just a big cutie, you can’t trust what they say about certain breeds.”
The dog is almost up to Aziraphale’s waist, and Crowley thinks it might have some bear ancestry in it. It pants back up at him and he can almost see it shedding over the kitchen floor.
“… I have allergies,” he says finally.
“You’re a demon! You practically invented allergies!”
“Oh, don’t look so insulted,” Crowley says. “You couldn’t have performed a little miracle, got her a loving family of her own?”
“No need. That’s us,” Aziraphale says happily, oblivious to Crowley’s frustration. The dog sits at his feet, beadily eyeing the room for any kind of snack.
“And uh, isn’t she rather, uh, fat?”
“Big boned, Crowley, big boned. Although the vet did say she needed to go on a diet. Something about being overfed and a chunky girl,” he admits.
“Fine,” Crowley sighs. “At least keep her out of my kale beds.”
“As you say. And Crowley, she needs a name.” Aziraphale pets the large beast. “They don’t know what she was called before, and she’ll quickly learn a new one.”
Crowley considers the dog, and pops a bit of orange in his mouth. “It’s not a hell hound, is it?”
“Not that I know of.” Aziraphale looks worried for a moment. “At least, the lady at the dogs home says she might be a Rottweiler. A name shouldn’t have any power over her, anyway.”
“Hmm.” Crowley sighs and reaches out a hand to the dog, which steps forward carefully and pushes its head into his hand. “Stinky,” he says eventually, scratching her behind the ears.
Aziraphale splutters. “We’re not calling our dog Stinky, don’t be silly. How about Rosie?”
Crowley tries to squash the little bubble of joy he feels in his stomach at the phrase “our dog”, and puts it down to gas. He must have eaten something earlier, that must be it.
“Nope, definitely a Stinky.” He gives the dog a bit of orange peel off his chopping board and she takes it in a careful manner for her size, before chewing once and spitting it back out. “Or Smelly, if you’d prefer.”
“I do rather like Rosie.”
The dog, thereafter christened Stinky-Rosie, turns out to be a big softie who never outgrew her puppy phase of jumping up to knock visitors over, but still hid in dark corners whenever there were fireworks nearby. The marmalade lies forgotten as Aziraphale explains the assortment of collars, leads and dog treats he’d bought for her, and Crowley indulges this new fascination by giving the occasional hmm and yes, angel.
By evening, they still haven’t moved from the kitchen floor, with Crowley propped up against the cupboards with one hand on the dog and another on his phone, and Aziraphale petting any part of Stinky-Rosie he can reach. He can’t keep his hands off the dog, and Crowley remembers white walls and open spaces, to long distances between any form of contact, and wonders whether they had anything as simple as dogs in Heaven. Crowley can’t recall any, but surely Aziraphale must have had some sort of pet over the last few thousand years on Earth?
“Want to go out for dinner tonight?” Crowley stops distractedly surfing Instagram long enough to venture the question, and Aziraphale looks up from running a comb through Stinky-Rosie’s black fur.
“Oh, go on then. To celebrate. Where should we go? I hear there’s a new place in Soho that’s meant to do great gallettes.”
“Was thinking a bit more local. Could check out the nearby pub?”
Aziraphale pulls a face. “Pub grub. I know that was one of yours, because no one else would think that chicken curry from a can constituted as high cuisine. Pure torture, if you ask me.”
“Oh fine. How about I drive us to Oxford? Could go investigate Cowley? It’s only a letter away from perfection, after all.”
“Why not?” Aziraphale looks delighted, and gives Stinky-Rosie one last pat before standing up. “Be a good girl darling, we’ll be back in an hour or so.”
They end up on Cowley Road at a Spanish bar with enough tapas for five people, and no one questions how the leftovers miraculously end up in their fridge at home. They consider staying the night in Oxford, then remember that they are dog owners now, and Stinky-Rosie is not capable of taking herself for a walk. She shouldn’t have really been left alone in the kitchen for the evening, but Aziraphale claimed she was a well-adjusted lady, and luckily she didn't eat the whole house while they were away. They fall asleep on the sofa, with the dog sandwiched between them, hands occasionally meeting as they run fingers through her thick fur. Later on, Crowley grudgingly admitted to himself that she made a fine hot water bottle, but made sure Aziraphale never knew that she was sometimes sneaked upstairs when the angel wasn’t around.
On the following morning they stop by the Spar to pick up milk for Aziraphale’s tea, and wander around the shelves for lack of anything more interesting to do in the village. Nodding occasionally to people they’d passed previously in the streets, Crowley wondered why it was so impossible to find anything in such a tiny place.
“Ah, Mr. Fell!” Aziraphale turns around to find Mrs Young making her way over to them while lightly cuffing a running Adam around the ear. “Behave! Anyway, lovely to see you, how are you getting on? Everything alright?”
“Perfect, Mrs. Young.” Aziraphale gives her his trademarked vaguely-interested smile and eyes the Anti-Christ as he and the Them squabble over which penny sweets to get for maximum value. “Thank you for asking, how is Mr. Young?”
“Oh, same old, same old.” Mrs Young shrugs. “It’s Adam that’s driving me round the bend, as always. Pre-teens, huh? Got any of your own?” Crowley doesn’t miss the interested gleam in Mrs Young’s eye and the pointed question.
“Oh no, we wouldn’t be so lucky. And oh, have you met my husband Crowley?” Aziraphale gestures behind him to where Crowley is hiding. “He’s a florist from London, but we’re thinking of retiring here permanently.”
“Husband?” he coughs out between splutters, and Aziraphale steps back hard onto Crowley’s toes. “Yes, husband. I am husband. Pleasure to meet you.”
Mrs Young frowns a little but quickly smiles. “I see, nice to meet you, hope you’re settling in well. It would be nice to see you round the village hall sometime? And we’re always looking for more people to do the church flowers, if you’re interested in that?”
“Ah, that’s uh, that’s um, an option?” Crowley coughs. “I could come by the hall. Yeah. Could do that.”
“Lovely.” Mrs Young smiles and calls to the Them to put their sweets on the counter. “Well, I expect I’ll be seeing you both around, let me know about next Saturday Mr. Fell? And of course, your husband is welcome too.”
“Husbands?” Crowley hisses between smiling, clenched teeth as Mrs Young shepherds the Them back out onto the street.
Aziraphale breaths out as they pay for the milk and leave to walk back to the cottage. “I thought it would be much easier to introduce us like that,” he says. “It does take all the fuss out of it. Anyway, what would you rather I said? Sworn mortal enemies? Life partners? Eternal beings forced to watch over humanity until the next Armageddon?”
“Some warning would have been nice.” Crowley’s brain is definitely fried by this point, but there’s too many unanswered questions to ignore. “And how does Mrs Young know us?”
“Oh, Adam invited us around for dinner next weekend, didn’t I tell you?”
Crowley’s damned if they’re going to have their first domestic fight in the middle of Tadfield square, but this could not wait until they got home. “You what? No, of course you didn’t tell me, I think I’d remember being asked around for high tea with the son of Satan himself!”
Aziraphale rolls his eyes. “Oh, don’t be so dramatic. Adam told them we’re friends of Anathema, and they’re having a friends and family get-together summer party, so we’re welcome to attend. Her words, not mine.”
“Would have been nice to know before being accosted in Londis. And husband, really?” Crowley asks with a shake of his head. “I know we look middle aged, but next time they’ll ask us about kids, and you’ll probably tell them we’ve got three at the local primary. And then where would we be?”
“We could always adopt, you know.” Aziraphale looks thoughtful.
“That’s not the point! You need to tell me these things before I find out from other people.” Crowley huffs. “I might have plans next Saturday.” He didn’t, but that wasn’t the point.
“It must have slipped my mind, what with the dog and everything,” Aziraphale says. “I’m sorry dear, I’ll know for next time.” He offers Crowley the milk, giving him some puppy dog eyes that were better than Stinky-Rosie’s and Crowley shakes his head again.
“Look at us, being domesticated.” Taking the milk from Aziraphale, Crowley skips ahead, flinging his arms out to the side of him in a gesture to the whole village. “It’s almost cute, love,” he shouts back over his shoulder. “If we’re going to be married, we might as well act like it.”
Aziraphale smiles. “Maybe I should force you to sleep on the couch?”
“If you weren’t sat there all night with a book, then sure, I could be delegated to the couch.”
“Oh please. You’re welcome to join me anytime.” Aziraphale bumps his shoulders to Crowley’s, then steps back as if expecting retribution, but Crowley just gently shoves him in response and they continue to walk to the cottage. Small steps, he reminds himself as he watches Aziraphale make a pot of tea with Stinky-Rosie sitting at his heels. Small steps.
Apparently, every small cottage in the countryside with a backyard needs chickens. Within a few days of their awkward-but-not-terrible dinner date with the Youngs and Anathema, they are inundated with offers of chickens, chicks and eggs to rear, and a small coop is quickly set up by the goat shed with a group of Rhode Island Reds bought from a local poultry market. They’d been given Crowley’s evil eye since moving in, just in case they decided his spinach was a suitable snack, but instead they’d decimated the flower beds by scratching the earth away from the plants. Since then he’d come to the conclusion that chickens were the spawn of Hell even more so than himself, and should not be trifled with.
“Get me some eggs, he said. How hard can it be, I said,” Crowley mutters under his breath as he stares into a nest box which was currently occupied by a large, angry hen. Whoever had first called maternally inclined women “broody” had obviously never met a broody hen. Nursing several peck marks on the back of his hand, Crowley tries once more to reach under the hen to grab the eggs, and gives way to a sharp beak drawing blood. It doesn’t seem to be retreating from its nest, and Crowley waves a hand in front of him, watching as its beady eyes tracked his movement.
He creeps closer, and the hen clucks a warning at him.
The chicken moves.
Crowley acquiesce to the chicken, and quickly retreats. Neither of them are happy about the situation, and they eyeball each other furiously. He wonders whether he can tempt it out the nest box with some food or if he should force it out with a shovel, and then remembers seeing one of them eating half a rat the day before. The descendants of the dinosaurs would probably eat half of him in order to get some more corn, he doesn’t particularly want to give them a taste for human flesh by rewarding bad behaviour.
Thirty minutes, bloodshed and a mild corn sacrifice later, Crowley triumphantly declares his victory over the hen through the back door.
“Eggs!” Putting aside the thick leather gardening gloves he’d used as armour, he wanders through to the kitchen clutching two hard-won eggs. “You wanted eggs, I have brought you eggs.”
Aziraphale stands up from getting something out of the oven and squints over the table at him. “An hour ago, Crowley. An hour ago.”
“Well, they’re here now.”
“I had to resort to pre-packaged cake mix, I’m afraid. Even Stinky-Rosie prefers home-made cake.” Aziraphale looks pointedly down at his feet where Stinky-Rosie pants enthusiastically, seemingly even fatter than before they’d adopted her. Crowley still can’t actually believe the words “Stinky-Rosie” leave Aziraphale’s mouth on a daily basis, but ever since she’d stopped responding to Rosie alone, it had become a little bit of a problem.
“Angel, are you feeding our dog cake?”
“She deserves a treat. Look, she sat all by herself.”
“Yes, but you need to tell her to sit first.” Crowley raises his eyebrows as Stinky-Rosie snuffles around at their feet looking for crumbs.
“She’s been a good dog.”
“She’s a fat dog.”
“No! She’s a good dog, very good dog.” Aziraphale glances down and bends to brush her head gently. “Don’t listen to him, darling, you’re lovely just the way you are.”
“Fat and stinky.” Stinky-Rosie cocks her head at her name and whines at them. “Very fat and very stinky.”
“No cake for you if you’re just going to insult our child,” Aziraphale says with raised eyebrows. He holds up the two plates, laden with wonky cake and a brown squidgy mess which looks like a delicious heart attack on a plate. “Brownie or vanilla sponge?”
“Cake. Cake sounds good.” Rinsing the chicken muck and blood off his poor pecked hands, Crowley finally notices what Aziraphale’s wearing and chuckles.
“It might not be as good as your rhubarb crumble but I think it worked out okay.” Aziraphale crosses the room and proudly offers the cake to Crowley, who can’t quite tear himself away from the sight of the angel of the eastern gate in a pink apron with flour all over his nose.
“Looks amazing,” Crowley says, not looking at the sponge. He raises a hand and brushes off the flour with the black sleeve of his shirt, watching as the flour flutters downwards.
“Oh, thank you,” Aziraphale says with a smile, and Crowley suddenly doesn’t like this. Not one bit. He can feel his heart growing faster in his chest and his pulse races as if something’s chasing him but he can’t quite see what it is. He can’t bring himself to break away, hand still two inches away from Aziraphale’s face and sleeve dusty white. His stomach turns and Crowley panics. Maybe he’d eaten something funny earlier. It seemed to be happening an awful lot lately.
“Gotta go. Better, uh, check on the goats. Looks like it’s going to rain, you know.” He’s proud that his voice doesn’t break in the middle of speaking, and he sidles around the table.
Aziraphale nods sagely and sets the cooling sponge carefully on the sideboard. “Yes, dear. I’m sure they’ve seen rain before. It is England, after all.”
“Yes. Well.” Backing out the door he’d just come through, Crowley attempts to gain at least some of his dignity back and fails drastically. “Goats.” Oh lardy buns , he thinks, save me now .
The rain starts falling heavily after he provisionally checks on Gertie and the others, happily curled up and half buried in the straw. He sighs and watches them from the doorway, which is probably a mistake as the roof tiles don’t extend as far as he’s standing. He can’t bring himself to move though, even as the rain becomes stronger and turns into a downpour.
His jacket starts to stick to his back and his jeans steadily change colour as they soak up the water. It’s spring rain, wet and heavy, soaking the grass and running across the small yard to creep through the ditches by the side of the hedge. Crowley stands and watches it, wondering if a bit of flour was going to be his downfall. It wasn’t his fault he’d fallen this far. Angels were meant to be pious, judgemental and sexless, cruel and unforgiving, not… Not soft and warm, a little bit snarky and practically preening for attention, which Crowley was only too happy to give. They weren’t meant to tempt your heart and then complain you were the one going too fast. They weren’t meant to make you feel comfortable .
And yet Crowley can see them here in ten, twenty, two hundred years, with a herd of goats, some bitchy hens and yet another very fat dog. Time will pass and maybe this time they will be left alone for good. They’ll look after the goats together, Crowley will shout at his plants, Aziraphale will pout at the slightest inconvenience, and Crowley will roll his eyes and fix it for him. He knows this well, and he wouldn’t change any of it, Crowley’s just happy to do it with him. And if they have to face the next apocalypse, then they’ll face it together.
He shakes himself out of his dreaming and realises the sky has grown dark and his bones are chilled. Trudging back to the cottage he resolves to at least try to say something tomorrow, even if it’s just, hey, I’d happily spend the rest of my existence with you . The rain has caused a small puddle to build up at the edge of the yard, and he spends a minute prodding with his foot at a drain before he gives up and snaps his fingers. By this point he’s thoroughly soaked and he can’t feel his hands.
“Urgh.” Fumbling for the door, he finally turns the handle open and hears a voice from the living room.
“In here, Crowley.”
“’s raining.” Crowley dumps his boots in the kitchen and trudges towards the sitting room.
“Come sit down and get warm.” Aziraphale doesn’t take his eyes off the book in his hand but pats the sofa cushion beside him where he’s curled up.
“Urgh.” Stumbling, Crowley collapses belly first on the sofa, the top of his head an inch away from Aziraphale’s thigh.
“Oh dear, oh dear.” Setting his book down, Aziraphale gently brushes the rain off Crowley’s shoulders and it evaporates with a slight hiss. “You’re looking quite miserable, my darling.”
“And wet,” Crowley mumbles into the cushion. “And cold.” He’s still grumbling when he feels a hand slide beneath him and with surprising strength hoist him further up the sofa, pressing him closer to Aziraphale’s warm form. There’s a strange purring sound as Aziraphale wrangles Crowley’s limbs up next to him and Crowley realises it’s coming from the back of his throat. He doesn’t snuggle, because fallen angels do not snuggle , but he certainly squeezes himself in tighter to the body next to him.
“There we go. Hold on.”
“’s nice,” Crowley tries to say but ends up hissing instead. Aziraphale chuckles to himself.
“Ah, the lizard body. Built for sunbathing and looking sleek, but not for rain I’m afraid.” Aziraphale draws a blanket down from the back of the sofa and slides it over them both, a hand hesitantly patting Crowley’s exposed arm before tucking the blanket around them. Crowley almost keens beneath him and closes his eyes, the coldness slowly draining away as he basks in Aziraphale’s warmth.
Wanting attention, Stinky-Rosie waddles into the sitting room and stuffs her snout underneath the blanket. Yelping as a cold nose finds its way to his ankles, Crowley shivers and shuffles himself down the sofa. Aziraphale gently strokes both him and the dog with a hand and keeps his book open with the other. The fire occasionally splutters down to an ember or two, but a gentle nudge of encouragement from Aziraphale keeps it going. Crowley can feel his limbs growing heavier and he reaches up to tug off his glasses. After pawing ineffectively at them for a bit with a hand wrapped in a blanket, Aziraphale gently pulls them off for him, and Crowley lets him put them aside.
“The goats…” Crowley tries to remember something that he meant to say before sitting down, but right now all his concentration is going on Aziraphale and the heat of him. The fire is warm, Aziraphale is warmer, and Crowley yawns.
“Shh.” Aziraphale strokes his hands up and down Crowley’s shoulder blades where his wings once spread. “Go to sleep, love.”
He falls asleep to the feel of Aziraphale’s fingers running gently over the nape of his neck and curling around his hair. The last thing he hears is a whispered apology in the dark, and he’s half sure he’s already dreaming.
He wakes to an empty living room and the sound of cursing coming from the kitchen. Crowley sighs and drags himself off the sofa, stretching up to brush his fingertips against the low ceiling. Sleep was good, but waking up was universally agreed to be a bad decision, unless it came right before breakfast. He leaves his sunglasses in the living room and wanders towards the sound of Aziraphale’s voice, watching from the doorway as he wrestled with Stinky-Rosie.
“Bad dog! Drop! Bad dog.” Although the words were harsh, his voice sounded anything but. “He’s not going to like it if you eat his slippers, and you’ve already chewed holes through all of mine, so that’s no fun.” Aziraphale almost giggles, and Crowley wonders why they didn’t get a dog centuries ago if it would put that look on his face.
He crosses the room in three steps and slides his arms slowly around Aziraphale’s waist. “Good morning, angel. Leave the dog.”
“But your slippers, I-”
“I really don’t care.” Crowley can’t help it, he kisses the nape of Aziraphale’s neck and pulls him closer. Aziraphale makes a startled sound and twists in his arms, leaning forward to press their lips softly together. Crowley can feel the pulse of his measly human body’s heart, and it had never felt more precious. It’s not shocking nor electric, but Aziraphale’s lips feel like heaven, like coming home to a warm bed and a full belly, or like the sky on a warm summer’s night. They break apart slowly, faces two inches apart and fingers intertwined. It’s like they’ve been doing this for the last thousand years, and merely closed the last distance between them.
“Well.” Aziraphale breathes out slowly, eyes never leaving Crowley’s face. “Took you long enough, darling.” He reaches up to cup Crowley’s jaw as their foreheads touch gently. Crowley feels Aziraphale’s pulse in his wrist race beneath his fingertips, and then feels it quieten. They stay there, breathing in the same air as the other, and oh, in that moment he’d never Fallen.
“Waiting for idiots to catch up takes time, you know.” He hopes his nerves don’t show in his voice as Aziraphale’s fingers flutter over the snake near his hairline.
“Wait.” Crowley’s eye twitches and he thinks that the shock of the last few days and Aziraphale’s newfound enthusiasm for romance might be the end for his poor heart. “Didn’t we only just have a conversation about going too fast for you?”
“The car, Crowley. The car. Your driving leaves much to be desired.”
“Oh.” Crowley sighs, leaning into Aziraphale’s touch. “I…” He trails off, unsure of what to say.
“It’s okay, darling. I know you.” Aziraphale leans back and looks at him. “I’m sorry, Crowley. I’m so sorry.”
“s’okay.” He can’t think of much else at the moment, his brain filled with warm hands and soft curls.
“No, it’s not. I hurt you. I hurt us, by trying to make things right. I didn’t listen to you, and I’m sorry. Forgive me.”
“You had faith in the wrong people,” Crowley says simply. “It’s not your fault you only see the best in somebody.”
“Well, I should have had faith in you. I thought they could be better, that we could do better, but I was wrong. And I’m glad you didn’t run away to another galaxy,” he adds.
Crowley’s stomach twists at the thought. “There’s no you up there, is there.” It’s not quite a question nor a proclamation of love, but it’s as close as it gets.
“It’s not like I didn’t want to come with you. You’re…” Aziraphale starts to frown in thought and Crowley finishes his sentence for him.
“The best. The greatest. The most amazing demon you’ve ever-”
“Yes, yes, all right.” Aziraphale laughs and curls his hand around the nape of Crowley’s neck to pull him down to press their lips together once more. There’s no fireworks yet, but a warmth spreads through Crowley’s spine and runs down his back, flaming where Aziraphale’s fingers have touched him. He loses himself in the angel’s lips, his hands and the scent of him standing oh so close but so far away. They break apart slowly, and Aziraphale considers him.
“How was that?”
“Hnn.” Crowley blinks a few times and struggles to think.
“Thought so.” Aziraphale leans his head against Crowley’s shoulder, turning his face into his neck. “This is nice.”
They stand like that for minutes, each content in the others presence. The wind in the trees outside picks up speed, and they listen to the branches rustling next to the kitchen window as they stand chest to chest next to the sink. Stinky-Rosie is gumming away on one of Crowley’s shoes, but he honestly couldn’t care less.
“I think,” Crowley grudgingly acknowledges, drawing back from Azirahale slightly, “that I may have caught, what the kids call these days, feels.”
Aziraphale’s face splits into a wide smile. “Oh good. Was starting to think I may have broken you.”
“It’ll take more than you to break me, angel.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Smirking, Aziraphale bites his lower lip and appears delighted as Crowley’s eyes move downwards automatically. “Seems like I’ve got the upper hand.”
Sometimes Crowley forgets how devious Aziraphale can be, but he swiftly remembers now as hands slide lower down his back. They stop under his rib cage, holding him close as Crowley resists nuzzling Aziraphale’s hair.
Brow furrowing as if he’s about to frown, Aziraphale pauses. “How much of this,” he gestures between them, “do you want?”
“Hm?” Crowley doesn’t want to put words to what he thinks Aziraphale is suggesting.
“I mean sex,” Aziraphale says frankly. “Obviously it’s a bodily pleasure and all, very human, and I’d be interested in trying it out. Perhaps once. Maybe never. I don’t know if it’s really, well, my “thing” I’m afraid,” he continues, making air quotes in the air with a free hand.
“Oh.” Crowley’s brain short circuits a little. It hadn’t thought much further than hand-holding in the sunset and was now struggling to catch up. He could feel the blood rise in his cheeks, betrayed by his traitorous human body. “Huh. There’s more to life than sex, angel, I’d have thought we’d have known that by now, after 6,000 years or so.”
“Maybe. But wouldn’t you be, you know, missing it?” Aziraphale’s thumb traces a pattern over his wrist, and he avoids Crowley’s eyes.
Crowley doesn’t miss the unsaid implication of a relationship here, and almost laughs. “Me? Oh love, you haven’t a clue, have you? There’s no one else for me.”
This time Aziraphale does frown. “You mean, you…” He trails off and Crowley smiles, leaning in to touch the tip of his nose to Aziraphale’s in reply.
“Ah. Right. Well.” Aziraphale’s frown disappears and the edges of his mouth turn up. “I wouldn’t want to think I was rushing you then.”
“Angel, I’d climb you like that sacred apple tree if you wanted that. But there’sss a thousand and one other things I want to do more. Like teach you something other than the gavotte. Go to the coast and return with half the beach in our shoes. Or bicker over milk in Tesco, and argue whether we should get another dog.” He can’t seem to keep the words in now, and Crowley squeezes Aziraphale’s hand, watching as he breathes in at the movement. “We’ve got eternity, after all. You know me.”
Aziraphale smiles back at him, gazing at Crowley as if memorising his face, and perhaps he was. “Yes, I do. And I do love you Crowley, very much.”
“Well. Yes. And that.” Crowley tries not to splutter too much as his heart tries to escape his chest, and watches as Aziraphale raises a hand.
“So you’re… Not fussed?” Aziraphale asks, brushing over Crowley’s cheekbones curiously.
“Not at all. We can do this old school. May I?” Crowley offers his hand palm up, and watches as Aziraphale hesitantly slides his hand into his, interlocking their fingers.
“You may,” Aziraphale says simply. “Oh, you should get me a parasol so we can go walking in the garden!”
He seems delighted at the thought, and Crowley laughs. “No offence, but neither you or the dog are walking anywhere near my garden. At least, not until the courgettes start to come in. Then we can talk about it.”
“I look forward to it.”
A stray thought crosses Crowley’s mind and he sighs.
“Have we fed the goats yet?”
Aziraphale huffs a laugh and tugs Crowley tighter with his free hand, the other clasped between them. “They can wait.”
“Yeah, I suppose they can.”
They stand there in the kitchen for a while, each content in the other’s presence. It feels like hours but it could have been a second, the moment stretching on like it would never stop, but Stinky-Rosie starts to whine and the day has to continue.
“Do you think we’ll be okay here?”
“Oh yeah.” Crowley nods. “From everything that’s happened, we’ve earnt a holiday, love. Sure, we could still go to a beach somewhere if you fancied it, but I think this’ll do us just fine, don’t you? A few hundred years here and we’ll have it about perfect.”
“Not too boring for you?”
“Certainly not. I’ve still got to train the roses and finish the raised beds, and I’m pretty sure the village is clamouring for some sort of second-hand book or antique place in the square. Fence the fields, get some bees, plant some trees, educate the vines on how to grow properly, maybe adopt a few puppies.” Crowley’s already got plans in mind for a small polytunnel, and he’s sure Aziraphale can refuse to sell books anywhere he pleases. “Yeah, I don’t think we’ll get too bored.”
“And the goat shed needs repainting,” Aziraphale suggests with a nod. Crowley smiles and kisses the top of Aziraphale’s head, watching in amusement as the blush spreads from his ears down.
“And the goat shed needs repainting.” They smile at each other, and it’s not like Heaven with a capital H, but it’s pretty close because it’s their heaven.
Thank you for reading! <3