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Paradise by the Dashboard Light

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Any and all visits to Tadfield were to be undertaken with a glad heart and as little luggage as possible, for storage space in Anathema's cottage was limited. Aziraphale had been tempted—if he may have been so bold as to say—to arrange for a larger room at the inn, but didn’t dare cross his occasionally churlish hostess by implying her house was lacking in comfort. And, truly, it wasn’t—save for the small attic bedroom he was given for the duration of his stay.

Crowley wasn’t afforded anything more lavish. His room was a cupboard adjacent to the kitchen, furnished with only a narrow bed and a side table. He, who could sleep through an entire century, wasn’t bothered by the early morning whistling of the teakettle, and neither was his stomach made to rumble at the delicious smells emanating from the oven and stovetop when Mrs. Young arrived to start in on dinner. Anathema was a passable cook, but she wasn’t keen on feeding more than herself and Newt. With Aziraphale, Crowley, Adam, Mr. Young, Wensleydale, Pepper, and Brian spilling from the cottage into the sunlit garden, it was better to trust the cooking to Deidre.

That afternoon, the fifth since Crowley had brought the Bentley to a skidding halt on the gravel lane just out front of the cottage and deposited a flustered angel at the gate, Aziraphale was seated on the garden bench with a glass of lemonade in his right hand. His fingers left marks in the condensation on the sides, the ice cubes clinking pleasantly as he brought it up to take a sip. The children, always led by Adam, were lawn bowling while Newt and Arthur Young looked on, both of them holding sweating bottles of beer. It was high summer, and perhaps a touch too hot for the Prince-of-Wales check jacket Aziraphale wore.

Setting his lemonade down on the grass for a moment, Aziraphale unbuttoned the jacket and, sitting forward, shucked it from over his shoulders. He folded it neatly and lay it on the bench beside him, already feeling cooler. His sense of Crowley’s attention prickled as he began to roll the sleeves of his shirt up to his elbows. The demon stood by the bowling pins at the far end of the lawn, idly resetting them for the players. However, his interest had left the game and gone directly to Aziraphale the moment he’d started disrobing. Crowley had the usual dark sunglasses over his eyes, but Aziraphale knew when he was looking.

Aziraphale had spent six millennia convincing himself that Crowley’s intent focus had been nothing more than demonic distrust conveyed in too-long glances, but now he couldn’t imagine how he had been so laughably foolish. Crowley had paid him attention because he wanted to look. He thought Aziraphale was handsome, which still brought pink into Aziraphale’s full face when he was reminded of it. He was flushing just then, as he folded his sleeve up over the crook of his elbow—as Crowley watched him with considerable interest.

“Ouch!” the demon cried a few seconds later, when Pepper’s bowling ball struck him on the toe. He jumped back, turning such an irate glare on the ball that it steamed and blackened as if burned. Aziraphale stifled a laugh at Pepper’s affronted gasp.

“Crowley, no fair,” she called down to him. “Fix it.”

Crowley sucked his teeth, but stooped to pick up the ball, cradling it between his hands. It grew to its original size and regained its red luster. Good as new, he bowled it back toward Pepper. She grinned.

“Take over for me, will you, Newt, old man?” Crowley called, sidestepping the pins as Adam bowled again. Newt drank down the rest of his beer, pushed the empty bottle into Arthur’s hand, and then jogged to take Crowley’s place.

Crowley wasted no time in coming to Aziraphale’s side, picking up his abandoned jacket and sitting in its place. He stayed the agreed-upon few inches away, for propriety's sake. Despite Crowley’s eye-rolling, annoyed half-protests back in London, Aziraphale had suggested they keep up the appearance for Adam and company that they were no more than old friends, even if they had grown to be far more than that since averting the apocalypse. It was why they were still given separate rooms at Anathema’s and why they didn’t exchange the soft touches and sinful kisses Aziraphale had grown accustomed to.

However, Crowley was far too wicked to hold himself completely to the bargain, and just then stroked one long finger down Aziraphale’s exposed forearm. “Feeling warm, angel?” he asked.

Aziraphale drew his arm away, tucking his hands into his lap with the usual primness. “Yes, but it’s too fine a day to go inside. I don’t know how you can stand all that black, my dear.”

Crowley turned his eyes toward Aziraphale, a sly little grin on his face. He whispered for Aziraphale’s ears alone, “I’d rather be out of it.”

“Crowley,” Aziraphale said by way of warning, though it was too lightly said and tempered by his flush. “This isn’t the time.”

“When will it be?” said Crowley. “It’s been too long since I’ve tasted you, angel.”

There was certainly no way Aziraphale could avoid being affected, and he knew Crowley saw him shiver. The demon bared his teeth, biting the tip of his tongue between them. It was all human at that moment, but when he wanted to, he could make it as forked and clever as a snake’s. That had no small measure of appeal for those long hours spent with Crowley lying across him on the sofa, his hands in Aziraphale’s hair while he licked and sucked at his neck—a very sensitive place, as they’d discovered together.

The correct answer was: Not until we get back to town, when we have privacy. There was none to be had in the cottage, which was full to bursting.

Crowley gave Aziraphale no chance to reply, pressing on: “Come out with me tonight. A drive, perhaps? It’s a new moon—nice and dark—and the locals say there’s a perfect little spot to park under the boughs of an oak tree. The youth favor it, or so I’ve heard.”

“‘The youth,’” Aziraphale said, amused. He lowered his voice. “Are you suggesting we have a liaison in your car?”

“Only you would call it that,” Crowley grumbled. “But yes, that’s what I meant. We could watch the stars for a while, too. I’ve got your blanket in the boot, and a midnight snack...” He walked two fingers along Aziraphale’s thigh, yet another breach of conduct. “Sound tempting?”

Aziraphale kept his gaze on those two fingers as they reached his knee and made a playful circle over the linen of his trousers. “You’re a fiend,” he murmured.

Crowley chuckled. “I’ll never tire of enticing you to wickedness, angel. Come away with me after sunset. I promise it’ll be worth your while.”

“It always is,” said Aziraphale. He pushed his knee up into Crowley’s grip, earning him another smile.

“We’ll have to tell them all sometime, you know,” Crowley told him, somewhat more soberly. “I’m not going to hide for another six thousand years.” He lowered his face to peer at Aziraphale over the frames of his sunglasses, his eyes shining yellow. “Unless you’re ashamed of me.”

“Never!” Aziraphale said, too loudly. Adam shot a glance their way, his dark eyebrows drawn in curiosity. Quieter: “No, my dear. I’m very proud to have you.”

Crowley’s shoulders rounded, bringing him slightly closer to Aziraphale on the bench. His hand still rested on his knee. “I want them to know you’re mine. I want everyone to know.”

Aziraphale lit up from the inside out, love barely contained within the bounds of his human form. “Soon,” he said to Crowley. “Very soon.”

Crowley took his hand away then, if only to rest it on the back of the bench behind Aziraphale. It would appear casual enough to the onlookers, but it was plainly possessive to both of them. Aziraphale leaned back into it, even without a true touch.

 

*

 

It was long after sunset (in fact, long after everyone had gone to bed) that they actually crept out of the cottage and out to the Bentley—or at least Aziraphale crept. Crowley was already waiting for him by the car, a black-clad shadow in the moonless dark. He opened Aziraphale’s door for him, closing it behind him when he was settled in the front seat. Crowley joined him shortly thereafter, turning over the engine. He left the headlamps off even as he guided the car out onto the gravel lane, and with his left hand, he immediately took Aziraphale’s right, lifting it to his mouth to kiss the knuckles.

“Finally alone,” Crowley said. “Don’t know how I stood being in public with you for millennia. You arranged that, of course.”

“Yes,” said Aziraphale. “Goodness knows we would have come to something untoward long before that had I not.”

“‘Untoward.’ What we do is most definitely that, angel, and I’m very, very pleased about it.”

Aziraphale smiled, even if Crowley couldn’t see it, and said, “As am I.”

The appointed place was only a short drive away from the cottage and was indeed overhung by a towering oak. It lay off the road some twenty meters, behind a row of hedges: quite private. There was a small meadow down the hill, ideal for stargazing.

Crowley stopped the Bentley, though he left the radio on, allowing the rock music he favored to continue playing. A regular car would likely have run out of battery after a while of that, but Crowley had made arrangements for the Bentley; the music and the lights on the dashboard would remain on for as long as he desired.

“There’s a basket in the back,” he said. “Nothing fancy, but some fruit and cheese. Those butter crackers you favor. Wine.”

Aziraphale popped out and to the back seat, where a fully packed basket and his woolen picnic blanket waited. He’d won Crowley over when it came to lawn picnics, which they often enjoyed in London, when it wasn’t raining and no matter how incongruous they looked. It always earned them some measure of attention—two unlikely men sharing champagne in the spring sun—but Crowley could miracle the eyes away if he so chose. Sometimes he did, when he took Aziraphale by the cheek and kissed him there in the open.

Together, they went past the oak to the meadow. Aziraphale laid out the blanket while Crowley sat and began to unpack their midnight repast. He still didn’t eat much, but if Aziraphale didn’t sleep while Crowley did, Crowley was within his rights to turn down food his bestowed body didn’t require while Aziraphale tucked happily in.

Side by side they sat, Crowley offering grapes or tidbits of cheese on crackers while he sipped at a glass of pinot noir. The stars shone in the sky above, far more visible here than in brightly lit London. It was good to get out into the country from time to time, even if it kept them apart for days at a stretch. But, for now, there was no one to watch Aziraphale slide next to his demon and pluck the wine glass from his hand to drink some himself. Crowley clicked his tongue, but there was no real bite to it.

“You can have your own,” he said.

“I like yours,” Aziraphale told him, swirling the wine around in the bowl.

Crowley tipped his head to the side, his nose bumping Aziraphale’s shoulder. “I like you.”

Aziraphale laughed airily. “You don’t have to convince me of what I already know, my dear.”

“Oh, but I wouldn’t want you forgetting,” Crowley said. “So, I’ll tell you as often as I see fit.” He wrapped his fingers around the stem of the glass and took it back, drinking from the very spot where Aziraphale’s lips had been. “Not often we get to take in the cosmos, is it, angel? Easy to forget the bigger picture when you’re here on Earth.”

“I don’t think I often want to think of ‘the big picture,’” said Aziraphale. “The Ineffable Plan. We left that all behind.”

Crowley, still wearing his glasses despite the pitch black, glanced at him. “Thought you would be more reluctant to say that. You clung to our celestial overseers for centuries.”

Aziraphale nibbled at a cracker, not meeting his eyes. “I know, but… They tried to keep us apart, and there are just some things I won’t countenance.”

He acknowledged his own role in that: refusing to run with Crowley to Alpha Centauri, insisting they were not friends when, in fact, his feelings for the demon ran far deeper than that. He wouldn’t admit it then, but seeing Crowley drive away from him outside his bookshop had broken a tie upon which he had come to rely most powerfully, and left him bereft. Only their reunion and subsequent confession of affection had filled the emptiness in his breast carved out by his own stubbornness and fear.

“Angel,” said Crowley, “Hell’d freeze over before I let you go.” He wrapped an arm around Aziraphale’s shoulders and hugged him in. Aziraphale leaned against him, patently content.

For a while they kept quiet, just taking in the stars, but gradually, clouds began to move in and obscure the view. At the treeline in the distance, there came a flash of lightning.

“Was there supposed to be a storm tonight?” Aziraphale asked.

Crowley replied, “Dunno. Looks like there’s about to be one.”

On cue, thunder rumbled and a few drops of rain began to patter down on the blanket. One struck Aziraphale in the center of the forehead. He frowned up at the sky.

“Come on,” said Crowley, tugging Aziraphale’s elbow. “Let’s get somewhere dry before this breaks loose.”

Hastily, they packed up the picnic and tossed basket and blanket into the Bentley’s boot. Aziraphale made for the front passenger door of the car, but Crowley intercepted and steered him toward the back. Aziraphale didn’t object when the demon opened the door to usher him inside. As Crowley slid in after him and pulled the door shut, the rain began to fall in earnest. It drummed against the roof, accompanied by the strains of music still coming from the radio. Aziraphale didn’t recognize the artist.

There was no way to avoid being pressed close in the back seat of the car—not that either Crowley or Aziraphale would have taken issue with that in the first place—but as the music played and the rain fell, Crowley put his arms around Aziraphale’s middle, pulling him insistently close.

“Wait,” said Aziraphale. “These first.” He gently removed Crowley’s sunglasses, revealing the lovely reflective color of his eyes. Crowley hid them so as not to distress the humans, but Aziraphale found them beautiful and insisted he go without the glasses whenever they were alone for any length of time.

Taking the glasses from Aziraphale, Crowley tossed them in to the front of the car, where they were forgotten. The demon pressed himself in his sinuous way against Aziraphale again and kissed him with all the longing of five days’ feigned indifference.

Their initial efforts at this kind of thing had been a bit fumbling, as neither of them had any practical knowledge of the pleasures of the flesh when they began. Angels and demons were sexless by nature, but could shape themselves into human forms—with all the appropriate accoutrements—when the need arose. And arise it did. Both them had, after all, chosen human male forms. At least for the time being.

By now—months after the aborted end of the world—they were far better versed in the art of love. Therefore, Aziraphale knew that when he slid his hand down between Crowley’s legs, he’d get a very satisfied groan into their kiss. He rubbed Crowley there, bringing him up hard beneath the flies of his trousers. Crowley pushed his tongue into Aziraphale’s mouth, hungrily seeking. Aziraphale welcomed him with a low hum of pleasure, wrapping his other hand around the back of Crowley’s slender neck.

Aziraphale had left off his jacket and bowtie when he took his leave of the cottage, making it delightfully easy for Crowley to start unbuttoning his shirt. Nimble fingers slipped the buttons free from collar to tails, when they were pulled free of Aziraphale’s belt. Crowley parted the shirt to reveal the vest beneath, which was as thin as paper, if far softer. He felt his way up over Aziraphale’s belly to his chest, where he tweaked a nipple.

“Wicked thing,” Aziraphale admonished. A moment later: “Do it again.”

Crowley pinched him between his thumb and forefinger, but bent his head to the other nipple and covered it with his mouth. He sucked, dampening the cotton of the vest and bringing the peak up.

Aziraphale sighed, closing his eyes. “Oh, my dear boy.”

As always, the endearment only aroused Crowley further, and he sucked again, worrying the delicate skin and surely reddening it. Aziraphale would likely have a bruise there come morning.

“Can’t get enough of you, angel,” Crowley mumbled as he kissed up from Aziraphale’s chest to his exposed throat. “Take off your clothes.”

“You have to let me go first.”

Crowley gave an annoyed grunt, but moved far enough back for Aziraphale to remove his shirt and then the vest after it. His bare chest was ever-so-slightly dusted with hair as white as that on his head, though it stopped before it followed the curve of his stomach. The thatch at his groin he had done away with, even though it would have been truer to his human body to retain it. He liked the dark curls Crowley still had, though—neatly trimmed.

It wasn’t probable he’d get much of an eyeful of those tonight; the car was very small, and Aziraphale wasn’t sure he’d actually be able to get out of his trousers unless he miracled them away. Not that that was outside the realm of possibility, but there was something basely delicious about peeling the layers of clothing from each other without celestial intervention.

Crowley went for Aziraphale’s belt, sliding the tongue from the loops and unfastening it with a click of the buckle. He flicked open the button of his trousers and lowered the zipper, pushing his hand beneath the waistband and curling his fingers around Aziraphale’s cock, through his underwear. The sensitivity of that particular feature of his human body had stunned him the first time he’d felt Crowley’s hands on him. He’d been aware of all the talk of men being led around by and made slaves to their genitals, but he hadn’t quite understood it until then. That kind of pleasure was hard to find any other way, and it was very, very addictive.

Stroking him, Crowley went back to kissing his neck.

“And when are you going to take off your clothes?” Aziraphale asked, plucking at the back of Crowley’s sheer black t-shirt.

“Anytime you want me to,” Crowley replied with a light nip under Aziraphale’s ear. “I would have in the garden today, if you’d told me to.”

Aziraphale couldn’t imagine the scandalized looks they would have received. Not to mention there had been children present. “Gracious, no. And”—he paused to make sure he had courage enough to say it—“I don’t want anyone to see you bare but me.”

Crowley trembled in his arms. “Yes, angel,” he murmured.

“All mine,” Aziraphale said, bolder, as he put his hands under Crowley’s shirt and against the skin of his back. He could feel the pronounced knobs of his spine. “My dearest.”

Crowley kissed him desperately, free hand over his heart. “Aziraphale,” he said softly, and then he pulled his shirt over his head.

In the cramped back of the Bentley, they managed to get their trousers down to their ankles and press as much skin together as they could. Crowley burned hot, Aziraphale’s flesh somewhat cooler to the touch. Still, the air grew thick and humid with their heavy breath and prickling sweat, fogging the windows. The rain continued to fall.

Aziraphale lavished Crowley’s body with attention, kissing as much as he could reach, touching every other part he couldn’t brush with his lips. His sides were lean and taut, the narrowness enticing. Aziraphale nuzzled his shallow navel and mouthed at the flat plane leading to his cock. He purposefully avoided that, though he exhaled just over it. Crowley tensed, his erection jumping. The demon made the most endearing (and arousing) sounds when they made love, from high whines to deeper groans and pleas for more, harder, faster. Aziraphale yearned to pull the noises from him, and made sure he did that night, as they were tangled up in each other under the looming oak tree.

He didn’t have to ask for permission at all anymore, but still Crowley said in a ragged, lust-roughened voice, “Let me suck you?”

“Of course, of course,” said Aziraphale, pressing a kiss to Crowley’s damp temple.

Fingers, their nails painted black, curled around Aziraphale’s cock and began a slow and deliberate stroke that set Aziraphale to shaking. He leaned into Crowley, inhaling the brimstone scent of him, mussing his hair with his hands. With gentle insistence, he pushed Crowley’s head down toward his groin, until the demon parted his lips and took Aziraphale into his mouth.

Aziraphale could have cried to Heaven and Hell and Earth and everything in between each time he had Crowley like this—which was quite often these days. And yet it never lost the spark that drove him to wild abandon. All things in the universe faded but for Crowley in these moments. Nothing else was consequential, or even real. That their natures were diametrically opposed made no matter when they came together. Passion and affection unknown before Crowley set Aziraphale alight for need of him.

“Just like that,” Aziraphale said, petting Crowley’s back as he bobbed his head up and down on Aziraphale’s cock. He had learned just the right pressure to tease and just the right speed to bring Aziraphale to climax. He wasn’t rushing then; they had no time limits, no one waiting up for them. This escape had been a good idea.

As Crowley worked, he inched the fingers of his right hand up, even at the awkward angle, to Aziraphale’s mouth, pushing them against his lips. It was plain enough what he wanted. Aziraphale opened and lapped at the fingers, sucking hard on them and wetting them with his saliva. Crowley depressed his tongue until he gave a light sound of protest, and then he withdrew. By the scant light from the dashboard, Aziraphale watched him reach behind himself. His moan reverberated as he presumably pushed the fingers inside.

They had both come to appreciate the pleasure of being penetrated, but Crowley was particularly fond of it, his body more sensitive, it seemed, than Aziraphale’s. He was attentive to himself, moving his fingers in and out in steady, long strokes, but it never once distracted him from Aziraphale. He was utterly stunning as he was: spitted between his own fingers and Aziraphale’s cock. It hit Aziraphale deep, and sensation spread through his lower body.

“Touch yourself, my dear,” he told Crowley.

The demon was fast to obey, taking his free hand from Aziraphale’s hip and putting it around his own cock. It was a feat of balance to take care of himself while still serving Aziraphale, but he had miracled his gag reflex away weeks ago and had no problem with any of it. The Bentley rocked softly, and Meat Loaf played tinny over the radio.

To Aziraphale’s surprise, Crowley succumbed first. He made a strangled sound around Aziraphale’s cock, and hot spend struck the angel’s bare thighs. Aziraphale murmured, “Yes, love, that’s right,” as Crowley quaked through the climax. He paused to recover for only half a minute before his hands were back on Aziraphale, and he had Aziraphale’s cock deep down his throat. The angel cried out, lifting his hips to push himself further inside. Crowley swallowed around him, and he was lost.

In the aftermath, they were both breathless, hearts beating quick and loud and at the same rhythm. Crowley waved a hand over the mess he’d made in Aziraphale’s lap, and the spend disappeared, leaving them both clean and dry again. Aziraphale leaned heavily back against the door on his side of the car, and Crowley crawled up onto him, tucking his head under Aziraphale’s chin.

They were silent for a time, but then Crowley said, “Let’s tell everyone about us tomorrow. I can’t pretend anymore, angel. They should know.”

Aziraphale held him against his chest. “Yes, my dear. All right.” He allowed for a beat, and then: “I love you, Crowley.”

Crowley nestled as close as he could. “And I love you, angel. Always have, always will...come Armageddon or worse.”

With a long sigh, an angel embraced a demon, and all was right.

 

*

 

Aziraphale indulged in a catnap every once in a while, generally after he and Crowley had exhausted each other in one of their respective beds and the demon was already snoring, head resting on Aziraphale’s shoulder. Upon their return from the oak tree was one such occasion. They had run through the pelting rain from the Bentley to the cottage, keeping as quiet as possible and parting at the stairs with a lingering kiss. Aziraphale had gone to his room and, lying on the twin bed, had closed his eyes for a time. When he woke again, it was morning. The smell of frying sausages was drifting upstairs.

Anathema was in the kitchen when he arrived, Newt by her side stirring a pan of scrambled eggs. His free arm was around her waist, and she held a cup of steaming coffee.

“Good morning,” Aziraphale said brightly.

They turned smiles on him, Anathema pushing her glasses up where they had slipped down her nose. “Good morning,” she said. “You’re looking rested, considering.”

Aziraphale balked. “I’m not sure I know what you mean, my dear.” He had an inkling, but he didn’t want to dwell on it and give himself and Crowley away.

“It’s nothing,” she muttered, dismissive. “Coffee in the carafe and breakfast in short order. Is Crowley coming?”

“I’m here.”

The demon was leaning on the doorjamb. He was well-dressed and coiffed, but Aziraphale couldn’t avoid thinking of the mussed, post-coital disorder he had been in the night before. As if Crowley could read his thoughts, he lifted his sunglasses and shot him a wink. Aziraphale smiled at him, charmed.

They hadn’t discussed all the details of how they would reveal their association to Adam and the others, but it had been suggested that they ease them into it somewhat through proximity and simple gestures—before a more formal announcement. Aziraphale supposed a wink was as good a gesture as any.

“Did I hear something about coffee?” Crowley asked, sauntering across the kitchen. Aziraphale handed him the mug he had poured for himself. Before he could move away, Crowley leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

Well then.

“Good morning, my dear,” Aziraphale said. “You look very fetching today.”

Crowley preened, lifting his chin and tugging on the hem of his button-up shirt. He eyed Aziraphale’s bowtie. “Tartan, as always, angel.” A finger traced the edge of the bowtie.

“Oh, for goodness sake!” Anathema cried. They both turned, shocked. She was glaring at them with her hands on her hips, looking far from threatening in her ruffled nightgown and yellow apron.

“Whatever is the matter?” Aziraphale asked, still stunned.

“You two are infuriating,” she replied in her fit of pique. “Just come out with it, why don’t you? I’m really done with pretending you aren’t shagging.”

Aziraphale’s mouth dropped open, color rushing into his face. Crowley, beside him, was equally gobsmacked, but recovered more smoothly. His arm snaked around Aziraphale’s waist.

“That obvious, is it?” the demon said.

“Yes!” Anathema declared. “I have no earthly idea why you’ve gone around trying to hide it. We all knew from the moment we met you both—”

“I beg your pardon,” said Aziraphale. “We were not...doing that upon our first meeting.”

Both Anathema and Newt said: “You weren’t?”

Aziraphale sputtered, “N-No.”

“Could have fooled us,” Anathema muttered. She leveled them with a stern gaze. “But you are now, yes? Is it really that big a secret? What’s to hide? We all think you’re good together.”

“You do?” said Aziraphale, meek and relieved for the support Crowley was lending him with his arm.

Anathema sighed. “Yes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more well-suited couple. The way you look at each other, even… It’s sweet.”

Aziraphale, abashed, averted his eyes.

Crowley said, tightening his hold on him, “Demons aren’t sweet. Usually.”

“Oh, don’t bother with that nonsense, my dear,” said Aziraphale, swatting him lightly on the chest. “We all know you’re quite nice when you set your mind to it.”

Crowley pursed his lips, but didn’t fight him on it.

“There,” said Anathema. “How did you two honestly think we couldn’t see you were together when you talk like that?”

“Well,” said Aziraphale, “I am a being of love, and not particularly predisposed to hiding that part of my nature. Crowley is…not that, but—”

The demon caught Aziraphale’s hand and kissed his knuckles, as he had in the Bentley the night before. “My lot aren’t totally without love. Just takes something particularly nice to bring it out in us.”

Anathema was smiling toothily at them, fondness in her face. “Good. It’s finally out in the open. No more sneaking out in the middle of the night to shag, if you please.”

Aziraphale nearly choked, but Crowley laughed.

“Would you rather we shagged under your roof?” the demon asked, one eyebrow devilishly cocked.

She wrinkled her nose. “Hm, maybe not.”

“Both of you, please stop,” Aziraphale said, imploring. “This is not the appropriate conversation to have over breakfast. Or at any time, really.” He ran a hand down his front to regain his composure. “These matters are indeed very personal.”

“That’s fair enough,” said Anathema, “and I won’t go throwing ‘shag’ around when the others are here at dinner.”

Crowley spoke close to Aziraphale’s ear: “Good a time as any to tell them, I’d say.”

“If they don’t already know,” said Aziraphale.

Once again in unison, Anathema and Newt called: “They do!”

 

*

 

Dinner was a simple affair, and amiable as the Youngs, Anathema, Newt, Aziraphale, and Crowley sat around the cottage’s table together. Adam had a cup of apple juice, but everyone else was drinking the 1968 vintage Crowley had so graciously provided. They were on the fourth bottle, and the mood was a good one. Deidre and Arthur were regaling the group with the common but provincially romantic story of how they met and married. Aziraphale found it utterly charming, though Crowley was looking a bit bored.

“Dropping a pencil case and ending up with a husband and a son might not be the most thrilling story,” said Deirdre, “but it’s ours.” She patted Arthur’s hand and then Adam’s shoulder. The boy smiled at her.

“Well,” said Anathema, “not every romance starts in Eden.” Her eyes fell on Crowley. “Does it?” 

The demon sat up straighter, his interest returning to the conversation. Azirapahle’s nerves hummed; he was uncertain if he should rely on Crowley to take the lead or put the onus on himself. Fortunately, his dithering allowed Crowley to speak: “What better moment for it to begin than the very start of time?”

Deidre and Arthur glanced confusedly back and forth between them for a moment, but it was Adam who was their saving grace. The boy said, quite triumphant, “I knew it.”

Aziraphale found it less difficult than he might have imagined to smile. There was no embarrassment, even at being the center of attention. He lifted his left hand from his lap and held it out to Crowley. He said, “It’s not every first day of history that you meet such a lovely demon.”

Crowley slid his hand into Aziraphale’s. “You said you gave your bloody flaming sword away, angel, and I was gone for you.” To the others: “Took us some time to work up to this point, though.” To Adam: “Wouldn’t have ended up like it did if it wasn’t for you.”

Adam beamed. “I guess there are some perks to the end of the world.”

Everyone laughed.

“Remarkable things often happen when life looks its bleakest,” said Aziraphale. “Trust us, we’ve seen a great many bleak days in human history. But more bright ones.” He raised his wine glass. “Like today.”

“To today,” Anathema offered. “And to Crowley and Aziraphale.”

Glasses were raised and wine drunk.

In the end, nothing really changed in the wake of their admission; everyone had just assumed. And that was fine by Aziraphale, who might have realized far sooner what Crowley was to him, and would always be.