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Purposeful

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Adam never did get a birthday party. This wasn't unusual. Mr. Young couldn't seem to remember what they'd done for Adam's birthday, other than let him keep Dog; something about it made his head fuzzy when he tried to think of it, so he just didn't try. But it had been several months, and Adam's lack of a birthday party was just now becoming relevant again, because Adam wanted to throw a Halloween party.

Mr. Young thought Bonfire Night was the real holiday that should happen at the beginning of November, but he was open to other suggestions, especially when they involved the eating of toffee apples. The fact that it drove Mr. Tyler mad was only a side benefit. So when Adam wanted to have a party, Deidre took his side, and Mr. Young frowned a bit just to keep up appearances and then agreed.

Adam and Deidre made it quite cheerful and acceptably spooky, even though it was a small affair. Mr. Young knew why it was small, but he'd never accuse his own son of being a bit weird, even though he was. He himself was also a bit weird as a child, and having it pointed out never helped anyone.

But Mr. Young just couldn't fathom why his son had invited the American who lived in Jasmine Cottage, her boyfriend, and some flashy gays from London to his party. Then again, Adam had been pensive lately, and none of them seemed to be pedophiles, so Mr. Young was inclined to let them stay.

It, strangely enough, was quite a good party. The weather was perfect, and the apples bobbed exactly was they should, and nobody caught Crowley tipping bourbon into Anathema's drink- except Anathema, who just sipped it slowly and made sure none of the kids got into her cup.

"Ah, Newt," Mr. Fell said, catching Newt alone at the edge of the party, which was Newt's natural habitat. "May I speak to you for a moment?"

"Yeah, of course, Mister Fell," Newt said.

"Do call me Aziraphale," he said with a warm smile.

Anathema turned just then and gave Newt a look, which he returned with a little wave, but he went off with Aziraphale anyway.

"You and Anathema are quite serious about each other, I see," Mr. Fell said, when they were a little ways away from the lights of the party.

"She kind of snatched me up," Newt said, because something about Aziraphale made him feel honest; this was potentially related to the fact he'd accidentally had a few sips of Anathema's beverage. "It's been great."

"Glad to hear it, glad to hear it," Aziraphale said. "And I suspect she already has you doing things."

Newt frowned. "I do a lot of things for Anathema."

"Things you've never done for anyone else, if I might be so bold?" Aziraphale said, and somehow he sounded polite and suggestive at the same time.

"How did you know?" Newt said, like he didn't have a huge invisible sign over him that said VIRGIN even now that he wasn't one.

Aziraphale smiled, and it was bright even though they were in half-darkness. "People like you and I know each other."

"We do?" Newt said. Aziraphale might have seemed as untouched as Newt if Crowley didn't look at him like he was going to ravish him basically all the time, but the mental gymnastics involved in even noticing that were too much for Newt.

"You'll get better at recognizing over time," Aziraphale said, which added this whole perplexing layer onto it, and Newt decided right there that he had no idea what was going on. "I just wanted to say that you're doing an admirable job and that I'm prepared to help you, should you need it."

"That's very kind of you," Newt said.

Aziraphale actually took his hand and patted it, like that was a thing people did. "I know it's all a bit daunting, but one really has no reason to be afraid."

"I'm not afraid," Newt said, which was a bit of a lie. Newt was afraid of a lot of things. It was just generally better not to admit them.

"Splendid," Aziraphale said, with a bright smile.

"Angel, what are you doing?" Crowley called.

"Duty calls," Aziraphale said, dropping Newt's hand. "It was lovely to chat with you, dear boy. When you need me, you know where to find me."

Aziraphale went off to rejoin Crowley, who seemed kind of perplexed. That was fair, because Newt was too.

The party broke up at a reasonable hour, and Newt walked Anathema home. The bourbon had mostly worn off, but things still felt comfortable, accustomed. Newt didn't know how much longer they had; in a broader sense, nobody knew how much longer they had, but for Newt, the question was more immediate. Soon Anathema was going to want to leave and go back to America, Newt just knew it. And she wasn't going to want him to go with her; she was going to leave him, and he was going to go back to his previous, disastrous life.

The idea that she might not, the idea that she might just keep him, here or in America, was so unbearably attractive that he couldn't even think about it for too long without feeling funny in his everything.

But they went back to the cottage, and they went up to bed; it was still too early to sleep, but too late to do anything else, though Newt could think of one thing he was always interested in doing.

"Aziraphale is an odd duck," he said, watching her undress, both out of curiosity and so that he wouldn't seem too overeager.

Anathema shrugged. "We're all a little odd."

"He was on about this whole thing about him and me being similar?" Newt said. "I haven't a clue what he was talking about."

"Oh," Anathema said, after a pause.

"You sound like you know," he prompted, when she didn't continue.

"He was probably talking about the whole submissive thing," she said, clipping her skirt onto a hanger.

"The what?" he said, eyebrows raising to his hairline.

"Yeah," Anathema said. She looked at him, frowning. "You didn't realize? I thought it was pretty obvious."

"Obvious?" Newt said.

"Yeah," she said, like it was, which was ridiculous. "I can see how it would throw people off, how much Crowley is head over heels for him, but that's really overstated as a-"

"Stop, stop, stop," he said, actually waving his hands. "That's more information than I need to have and I don't understand what it has to do with me."

She gave him a look. "It has everything to do with you."

"But how?" he insisted.

Anathema seemed like she didn't follow his line of reasoning. "Aziraphale is Crowley's submissive, and..."

"And?" Newt said, when she didn't continue.

"Oh, shit," she said, her eyes going wide. "You don't know." She put her hand to her forehead. "Shit, I thought you knew."

"I am so confused," he said, his shoulders slumping.

"I don't know how to break this to you," she said delicately, "but you're very submissive."

"I am?!" he said, alarmed.

"Yeah," she said. She looked a little frustrated and a little bewildered. "It's written all over you, and you've always let me do anything I wanted in bed."

"I let you do anything you wanted because I was overjoyed to be having sex with you," Newt said, maybe a little snippily; it wasn't a very good reflection on him, but it was true.

"And I thank you for that," Anathema said. "It's very flattering. But you'd still let me do it the hundredth time, and that's a little different."

Newt was bowled over by the idea that he might get to have sex with Anathema a hundred times. "But I like it when you do whatever you want to me."

"You're not helping your case," she said. She walked over, taking his hands. "Nobody's accusing you of anything or saying you're weak or a bad person or whatever. You're just submissive, and I like that about you."

"I would have liked to have been informed," he grumbled.

"You're being informed now," she said. "Look, I don't feel guilty at all for not saying anything, because I haven't overstepped. I've never done anything to you I wouldn't do to anyone I slept with."

"What haven't you been doing?" Newt asked warily.

"Oh, a lot of things," Anathema said vaguely.

"Do you want to do them?" he asked.

"Do you want to be my sub?" she countered.

"I don't know," he said, shoulders slumping.

"Then I don't either," she said. "We'll need to negotiate."

"Okay," he said, even though he didn't know what that meant. There was a pause. "Can we have sex first?"

"Yeah, why not," she said. "It'll take the edge off."

In point of fact, it did, but it didn't stop Anathema from plunking down a sheaf of papers in front of Newt the next morning over coffee. He had flashbacks to his brief stint as a witchfinder, but by the first page, he realized this was quite a different kind of reading material.

"Usually people go on the internet," Anathema said, by way of explanation. She had said in no certain terms that Newt was not to use her phone or her tablet, though he was better with both of those things than actual computers; he even had his own phone.

"And you want me to read all this?" Newt said, flipping through it.

"Read what you find useful," she said. "I have some things to take care of this morning."

They were both on an extended vacation, presently; Newt had been diffidently applying for jobs, not that there was much in Tadfield. Anathema seemed to have some kind of plan that she hadn't filled him in on, something that involved a lot of drying herbs and going out sporadically. So she left, and he took the papers and sat down on the sofa to read.

There was a lot of information in the papers.

He'd heard things, in the way that everyone heard things, leaking out from scandalous books and risque television programs. He did not, as he learned quickly, understand what was actually happening. A lot of it seemed contradictory, but he was getting the shape of it, he felt like. He also, despite himself, definitely saw why people, apparently multiple ones, thought he was on the bottom. He couldn't hurt someone if you paid him, and it sounded sort of sweet to get taken care of by someone else.

Newt was riveted all morning, and he knew that, yes, Aziraphale had been saying exactly what Anathema suggested he was. That just left him with a whole other raft of questions, but Aziraphale had offered some answers, after all.

He finally looked up from the papers, blinking. It was already past noon and Anathema wasn't back, so Newt got in his car and did something dumb, which was often what he did when Anathema wasn't around to stop him.

Aziraphale's shop wasn't hard to find; parking was very hard to find, but there was Crowley's Bentley just sitting outside Aziraphale's bookshop, as boldly as you please. Newt just knew he'd get towed instantly if he tried it, so consequently it was a walk from his car to the bookshop.

Newt hesitantly opened the door, feeling like he should maybe knock; the hours on it said they were open, but it was hard to tell. The smell of old books hit him immediately, followed closely on by the visual assault of so very many volumes, floor to ceiling, choking the small space.

"May I-" Aziraphale's voice said from around a bookshelf, and he popped his head out and saw Newt. He smiled, in a way that made Newt feel warm. "Why, Newt, how lovely to see you."

"Hi," Newt said, feeling a bit silly that he'd driven all the way here just to have a quick conversation with someone he only sort of knew because they'd sort of saved the world together; it didn't make it any better that he had an invitation.

"Fancy meeting you here," Crowley said, and Newt could swear he wasn't there a moment before, though now he was draped over a couch like he owned the place.

"Sorry to bother you," Newt said, which was how he began a lot of conversations. "I- what we had talked about at the party, I wondered if- that is, if you did genuinely offer to speak to me-"

"Crowley, if you wouldn't mind, I need you to make yourself scarce," Aziraphale said cheerfully.

"That's not very nice," Crowley said, though he didn't seem bothered.

"Young Newt and I need to have a conversation," Aziraphale said.

Crowley raised an eyebrow. "You do, do you?" He raised himself from his chair, and Newt had no idea how someone could slouch their way to standing up. "Yeah, alright. We're almost out of half-decent wine. I'll go and stock up."

"You're such a dear," Aziraphale said.

Crowley pecked Aziraphale on the cheek. "Don't fill the boy's head with too many ideas."

"I wouldn't," Aziraphale protested.

"You would," Crowley said, and Newt would have sworn that he didn't touch the front doors as he left.

Aziraphale motioned him to the same couch Crowley had vacated, taking his own seat in the chair beside his desk. "Now, then," he said, when they were situated. "What precisely would you like to talk about?"

"When we talked before, at the party," Newt said. "I didn't know anybody thought I was-" it's a little hard to get the word out. "Submissive."

"That must have been a very odd conversation for you," Aziraphale said, frowning.

"It really was," Newt said. "But Anathema thought I knew too."

"Ah yes," Aziraphale said, nodding. "Everyone else knowing long before you do is common in these types of situations."

"How long have you known?" Newt asked. "About yourself, I mean."

"Oh, for quite some time," Aziraphale said, with a little chuckle. "I've had a while to get used to the idea, shall we say."

"And you don't mind it?" Newt said.

"Why would I mind it?" Aziraphale said, raising an eyebrow. "I find it quite enjoyable."

"So he makes you do things?" Newt said, not sure if he wanted clarification on what things those were but also not asking for it.

"That he does," Aziraphale said. "Sometimes he's mean, sometimes he's nice, but I do them because, deep down, I want to, even when I don't want to on the surface."

"Huh," Newt said.

"I need to make it clear that I love Crowley," Aziraphale said, with a frankness that Newt wasn't expecting. "I love him to the core of my being, in a way that I have never loved anybody else. Without him, I wouldn't want to live." The corner of his mouth ticked up. "I also have him eating out of the palm of my hand. He is tightly wrapped around my little finger, and both of us know it."

"So shouldn't you be the dominant one?" Newt asked.

"Not unless I wanted to be, and I don't," Aziraphale said. "I love being on a pedestal. But you and Anathema are, very clearly, not like that."

Newt sighed. "I'm the one wrapped around her finger."

"I know," Aziraphale said. "But doesn't it feel nice?"

"Yeah," Newt admitted.

"Don't you hang on every word?" Aziraphale asked.

"Yes," Newt said.

"Don't you want to do every little thing she says?" Aziraphale said.

"Yes," Newt said.

"Isn't she a sublime creation?" Aziraphale said. "Doesn't she deserve your worship?" He leaned forward. "Isn't she better than you?"

"Yes," Newt answered, feeling like he was in a trance.

"Then why wouldn't you be hers?" Aziraphale said.

"Oh," Newt breathed. "Is that how you feel about Crowley?"

"No," Aziraphale said. "He thinks I am sublime, so he wants to possess me, and I think he is a spectacular creature who's worthy of having me." He sighed. "It's wonderful."

"Anathema said she liked it," Newt said, suddenly interested in the toe of his shoe. "When, you know, I was, well, I mean."

"If she likes it, and you like it, you really ought to be doing it," Aziraphale said. "Why don't you try it a little? If you hate it, you'll make other plans."

"What if I hate it and she decides not to bother with me anymore?" Newt said.

"She's bothering with you now and you haven't agreed to do anything yet," Aziraphale pointed out. "Does it seem like she's going to leave if you don't say yes?"

"I am completely unqualified to answer that question," Newt said.

"My advice to you is not to let yourself get tied into knots," Aziraphale said. "I am no stranger to that exercise, and your life will be better when you give it up. Trust me on this one. If it appeals to you, do it. I think you'd like it, but my opinion isn't the important one."

"I-" Newt started, but he didn't know what came after it. "Thank you. You've been very helpful, even though you didn't have to help at all."

"I go out of my way for people I like," Aziraphale said confidentially, and Newt was shocked, as he was always shocked, that someone liked him and would admit it. "Give Miss Device my warmest wishes, and do try to calm down."

"I'll see what I can do," Newt said.

"Now, if I were you, I would pop around to the cafe next door before you go back," Aziraphale said. "Gentlemen bearing gifts always get far, and they've just decided to have a sale in the bakery."

"That's not a bad idea at all," Newt said. He started to get up, but he hesitated. "Can I ask a question?"

"Of course," Aziraphale said.

"What on Earth is a predicament?" Newt asked.

"Oh, now there's a question," Aziraphale said, and Newt didn't get up for a while.

Eventually, Newt procured maybe too many pastries and started the drive back to Tadfield; Anathema was simply mystified by the idea that anyone considered the drive a drive at all, but Newt suspected he wouldn't be able to explain to her satisfaction. Either way, it was largely uneventful- Dick Turpin mostly behaved himself- and he came home to find Anathema sitting at the kitchen table, reading a book that qualified as a tome.

"Where'd you go?" Anathema said.

"Um," Newt said. "London." He held out the box. "I brought pastries."

She looked a little puzzled but accepted the box, opening it up. "Ooh, orejas," she said, pulling out one of the ones that looked like an ear and taking a bite.

"Are you going to tell me what you're doing with-" he gestured vaguely at the herbs and mushrooms that were beginning to fill the house- "all this?"

"Not yet," she said, delicately swallowing before speaking.

"Oh, alright," Newt said, frowning. He'd thought it was a pretty simple question, but he wasn't going to press it.

"Did you read those papers I gave you?" she asked.

"I put a dent in them," he said. "You did give me a lot."

"Do you feel like you understand any better now?" she said.

"You know, I think I do," he said. "I feel a little better, anyway."

Anathema looked worried. "I hope you weren't scared or anything like that."

"I'm used to being scared," Newt said dismissively. "But you must admit that some of this is scary."

"Let's have dinner," she said, even though she was actively eating a pastry. "We'll get into it afterwards."

Newt didn't actually say much during dinner, because he was too busy thinking about the conversation they were supposed to have afterwards. Anathema was either in the same boat or just enjoying her soup, but either way, dinner was a sedate affair. He picked up their plates and set them aside to be washed, but they stayed seated at the table, across from each other, which gave it the air of a business meeting, or maybe an interview.

"I have a lot of questions," Newt said. "I don't know how to organize them all, and I don't think we'll get anywhere if I just harry you with them."

"Maybe you could ask me some big ones," Anathema said.

"Is this going to be public?" he asked.

"That's a very big question," she said, looking a little taken aback.

"I'm not very good at this," he said, cringing.

"You say that too much," she said. "Do I put it on my business cards? No. Would I say something suggestive in a booth in a restaurant, or do something indicative in front of people who know the score? Yes."

"That's a relief," he said. He felt hesitant about his next question, but he had to ask it. "Do you want to hurt me? Because there's a lot of references to it, but it seems like you didn't really give me much about, um, masochism."

"I couldn't ever hurt you," Anathema said, putting her hand on his. "You're so sweet. I can't stand to think about the look on your face."

"Oh, good, because I wasn't excited about that," Newt said. "But you could, you know." He shifted in his chair. "You, you could bite me, and that would be okay."

"I'll put it on the list," she said knowingly. "Should I tell you what I think about? That might make this more focused."

"Yes, please, that would be very helpful," he said, nodding.

"I think about a lot of things," she said. "Some are in the bedroom, and some of them are not."

"Perhaps let's start with not," he said, because he was likely to get so distracted by thoughts of doing things in the bedroom that they'd never get outside of it.

"I like to be taken care of," she said. "I think about you making coffee for me and fixing it for me exactly like I want it."

"I'll make you all the coffee you want," he said. He didn't even like coffee; he only made it in the first place because Anathema did.

"And you could cook for me, or pick up my books when I leave them everywhere-" this was always, Newt didn't say- "or help me with my clothes in the morning or at night." She sounded a little dreamy, like it was satisfying just to imagine. "I like to think about you waiting at my side for whatever I want you to do." Newt felt unable to speak, and Anathema's face crumpled. "Shit, I scared you, I'm sorry-"

"You really didn't," he said. "Actually, that sounds very nice."

"Thank god," Anathema said, putting her hand to her forehead.

"You mentioned there was a bedroom part," he said, trying not to sound too excited about it even though he was.

"There is definitely a bedroom part," she told him. "You already, you know, put my needs first."

"It's only polite," he said, like it was just fair play to ensure she finished first and not something he did because her face when she came was the most magnificent thing he'd ever seen.

"I think about having you whenever I want," she said. "I want you to be ready to give me what I need at all times." She looked at him over her glasses. "That might mean denying you, or you denying yourself. You need to be able to get hard when I need it, not tire yourself out."

Conveniently, Newt was already hard. This all sounded so unbelievably alluring that he didn't know what to do with himself. He thought perhaps he should feel insulted or emasculated, but he couldn't figure out why. Instead he felt something electric, like his whole body was charged with energy.

"Keep going," he said.

"I want to see you on your knees for me, as long as I want to keep you there," she said, and he could see how her breathing had sped up, her breasts rising and falling with it. "I want to tie you to the bed and leave you for hours, spread out for me to take. And you'd be such a good boy for me, so eager and sweet, and you'd do everything I said and let me do anything I wanted."

There was stillness for a moment, a coiled, tense pause.

It was good that the table had already been cleared, because as the nearest flat surface, it got conscripted immediately. Anathema pushed him across it, Newt doing his best to get his trousers open as quickly as possible, and crawled onto the table and on top of him. She hiked her skirt up; she didn't even take her panties off, pulling them to one side so that she could sink down onto his cock.

There was no outward change- she didn't even have her shirt off- but Newt felt like he was looking at something completely new. It was out now, and it was never going back in its box, which suited him. He wanted so badly to be what made her happy, but his interest was selfish, too, wanting to experience this thing that made him tingle in a way he still didn't fully understand.

Anathema rode him hard, her mouth open, one hand braced on his chest, and he couldn't think to do anything but push up against her and gasp. It was fast and it was hard and when she came, Newt couldn't look away from her for even an instant, so caught by her that he forgot everything else, even his own body. She ground down against him, and his own orgasm took him by surprise, left him shaking and clutching at her thighs.

After it was finished, neither of them thought to move for a long moment. The table was not a comfortable place to lie, but being separated seemed untenable. Very gradually Anathema extracted herself, climbing off the table and giving Newt a hand up.

"That wasn't what I was expecting," she said.

"I didn't know what to expect," he said honestly.

"It won't all be sex on tables," she told him.

"I would hope not," he said, getting himself situated and zipping his trousers up. "We have to eat there."

"It's not like we were naked on it," she said dismissively. "So, um, I guess you're pretty okay with all of this."

"So far, so good," he said.

And it wasn't instantaneous, and it wasn't a linear progression, but they worked on it. Newt expected it to be much more formalized, possibly with contracts and things, but they found the edges of it together. Something about it gave him so much peace, in a way he'd never experienced before. He didn't feel like a fuck up, even when he fucked up; for the first time in his life, a thing that he was devoting himself to was going correctly, at least seveny-five percent of the time. Anathema knew what it looked like when Newt tried his best but suffered an improbable setback, and he knew she wouldn't ever hold his bad luck against him.

It was possible he was cursed. He was considering asking if she knew how to perform some sort of curse breaking, especially because it was probably her ancestor who cursed him.

Even with how well things were going, Newt knew she was still holding something back. The cottage was filling with more things, bags of what looked like spices but he wasn't allowed to cook with, bottles of oil, small stones with things etched on them. Anathema didn't talk about it, and Newt didn't know how to ask. Every day it felt like she was farther from leaving, farther from asking him to leave, but every day took him closer to the day that one of those things would happen.

A few weeks into this peaceful arrangement, they had visitors. There was no way in which Tadfield was on the way to Aziraphale and Crowley's new place; it wasn't exactly in the opposite direction, but you needed to swing in a wide arc to hit Jasmine Cottage. No one mentioned this. They were almost like war buddies; they'd had a very weird week that very few other people remembered. Newt sometimes forgot it was real. By tacit understanding, they didn't speak about it to outsiders; it was too weird to be understood anyway.

But that didn't mean they didn't speak to each other about it. He knew Anathema and Crowley texted each other like fiends, and there was the time Newt went to see Aziraphale, got drunk at 2 PM- Crowley's fault- and ended up passing a night on the sofa in the bookshop. Newt had very few friends, and in knowing that about himself, he could see it in other people; none of the four of them had much in the way of friendship, and they were all just weird enough to get along.

So Aziraphale and Crowley showed up and were ensconced in the spare room. They both had the look of people in the middle of a move, wired and tired at the same time. It eased a little as the day wore on; perhaps they'd stopped by because they knew they'd need it.

That evening, they sat in the cottage's sitting room, as that was its purpose. Aziraphale perched on the arm of Crowley's chair, sitting in what struck Newt as a prim manner. Crowley put a hand on the small of his back, and even though they were barely even touching, Crowley radiated a kind of effortless possession, like Aziraphale was not just his but definitely not anybody else's. Crowley looked like he was dangling him just out of reach, and it was intimidating and tantalizing at the same time.

Newt didn't even like men and he was getting a little flustered.

He wondered if anybody would look at him and Anathema like that. The thought was devastatingly exciting, that everyone would know where they stood, that they would see her power over him. He wanted acutely for everyone to see, or maybe just present company; he wanted to be understood, in a way he had never wanted it before.

Newt stood up, feeling emboldened. "Can I bring you anything?" he asked, putting a hand on Anathema's shoulder.

"Why don't you make some coffee?" she told him, in a voice that made it not a question.

"Of course," he said, and she smiled. He looked up. "Can I offer anyone else some?"

"I take mine black and copious," Crowley said.

"None for me, thank you," Aziraphale said politely.

"Back in a moment," Newt said.

Behind both Newt and Aziraphale's backs, Crowley winked at Anathema.

Newt floated into the kitchen. He looked at the coffeemaker and sighed deeply. He'd just done that, in front of people who knew, who understood that coffee wasn't just coffee.

He hid in the kitchen while the coffee brewed, trying to get his jangle of emotions in order in the time afforded to him by the process. When it finished, he poured out two cups, putting cream and honey in Anathema's. He took a breath, then returned to the sitting room.

"Here we are," Newt said, carefully carrying the two cups.

"Cheers," Crowley said, taking his mug.

"Thank you, dear," Anathema said. Newt didn't sit on the arm of the couch, but he did sit next to her, where their knees would be touching if she turned to say something to him.

Aziraphale and Crowley eventually retired to bed, leaving Newt and Anathema on the couch. She scooted to one side, away from him, and Newt gave her a quizzical look.

"Put your head in my lap," she said, and she must have heard his next question coming. "Face up." He was only a shade disappointed, but he did as she said, stretched out on the sofa. She ran her fingers through his hair, down to his temples to rub soothingly. "You did so well, dear."

"Thank you, ma'am," he said, melting against her.

"You made me so proud," she said. "You showed initiative, and you showed you care about me."

"I do care about you," he said, voice thick. "So much."

She bent down, kissing his forehead, then his lips, fleeting touches. "I know," she said. "You prove it to me all the time."

"Do you?" he said hesitantly. "Do you care about me, I mean, you don't have to answer if I'm-"

"Of course I care about you, love," she said. She looked thoughtful, in a way he couldn't quite figure out. It gave him pause, but he tried to focus just on what they had, what he'd gained with her, how much he needed her to need him.

That was what was important, anyway.

Crowley and Aziraphale didn't stay long, and Newt was sorry to watch them go and glad to see the back of them; the latter was only because Anathema considered it rude to have sex with guests in the house. This was despite the fact Newt was almost certain he'd heard noises of a suggestive nature coming from the guest room, but he chose to let that slide.

In a rare display of dominance, Newt pinned her to the bed and ate her out until she screamed. It was telling that that was the most dominant he got, but Anathema wasn't complaining, which was the key thing.

But something, something inexplicable, had changed since that night on the sofa. Newt was even more aware of the fact she was holding something back from him, and he didn't have the guts to demand what it was, not that he would ever do something like that.

The dam broke on a completely normal Thursday afternoon. Anathema had just come home with a bolt of black material and a nervous expression on her face.

"Making a new skirt?" Newt said pleasantly; it seemed a little restrained for Anathema, but it was always good to have clothing that went with anything.

"I bought the cottage," Anathema blurted out. "I'm going to become a wise woman."

"What?" he said, caught off guard.

"I'm going to set up here and help people with magic," she said. "I'm going to offer my services for healing and advice, and maybe some hexing and house blessing on the side." She seemed to be picking up steam as she explained. "I already know a lot about foraging and growing herbs and stuff, and next month I'm starting classes to become a doula."

"Is there any money in that?" he said, like the bland Englishman that he was.

She shrugged. "No, but I'm a millionaire."

"Are you?" he said, his voice going a little high.

"Agnes took care of her own," she said.

"Do you need an assistant?" he asked gingerly. "Maybe not a wise man, but maybe a-" he looked for a word- "sharp fellow?"

"I have always done things according to Agnes, but I have also always done things with my family," she said seriously. "I could never teach you anything as long as you were an outsider."

"And I'm going to be an outsider forever," Newt said, feeling miserable.

"Don't put words in my mouth," she said sharply.

"Then why are you telling me this?" he challenged.

"I'm trying to tell you I want to bring you in, you dolt," she said, rolling her eyes.

"Oh," he said.

"If you belonged to me, that would make you part of me," she said. "You would be the opposite of an outsider. I needed to know whether you would want that and whether I could handle it."

"Can you handle it?" he asked, not because he wanted to, but because he had to know.

"Yes," Anathema said, sounding absolutely sure. "Listen, you're really special, even though you don't think so. But right now, this moment, you have to tell me whether you're in my life or out of it."

There was silence for a time.

Newt walked over carefully, barely trusting his own legs to carry him, and slipped down to his knees, landing at Anathema's feet.

"I'm no good," he said. "At anything. Whatever part I had in saving the world was through ineptitude. I am a disaster of a human being. Being with you makes me feel like that's not true. I'll work as hard for you as I possibly can. I can't do anything else. I don't want to do anything else." He shut his eyes tight. "I feel so useful when I'm with you, and I never want to stop."

"Why me?" Anathema asked softly.

"Because you're perfect and I love you," he said, which seemed like it should have been obvious. "And I'm pretty sure you love me."

"Agnes knew you were the one for me," Anathema said, putting a hand on the side of his face. "I stopped following her, but she was never wrong. You and me were just in the second volume."

"Does that mean you'll have me?" he asked.

"Of course," she said, with a warm smile that Newt could feel in his chest. "I'm going to put you through your paces, but you're staying right here with me."

"There is literally nothing else in the world I would rather do," he said, pressing his forehead to her hip, and neither of them left.

--

The sign outside said

Anathema Device, Wise Woman and Witch
Advice Given
Treatments Dispensed

Cartomancy Performed Daily
Runes Read Tuesdays and Saturdays

because Anathema had insisted it be practical, while Newt thought they'd get farther with at least a little spookiness.

Newt was the one who actually read the runes, and he'd read them whenever someone wanted him to. He discovered he had a knack for it early on. The tarot presented far too many opportunities for interpretation, but a set of twenty-odd stones that could only be read one or two ways was much more his speed.

It was early in the afternoon, and Anathema was attending to a man who wanted to book a house cleansing; Newt had learned that a lot of people who wanted that sort of thing just wanted to be listened to. That didn't mean they hadn't chased out any dark forces, a process that usually involved Newt doing a lot of sweeping while Anathema recited things sternly, but mostly people just wanted peace of mind. He liked that about their work.

At length Anathema finished, and as she was writing it up in their calendar, a woman appeared at the door. Newt thought he might recognize her; he recognized her in the way of "I think perhaps we do our shopping on the same day", so he didn't attempt to greet her by name. "How can we help you?" Anathema asked, opening the door wider so the woman could step inside.

"Sorry to bother you," she said, looking a bit nervous, but most first-timers to the shop looked that way. "It's just I've had a hard time getting any rest, and my wife says she'll let me go if I try to leave the house on sleeping pills again."

"That's no trouble at all," Anathema assured her. She looked over at Newt, giving him a smile. "My assistant can help you."

"We have a very good blend for a good night's sleep, ma'am," Newt said, escorting her over to the hutch where Anathema kept pre-made items.

"I could do with one," she said. "It's getting to be so much."

"Use this tea nightly about thirty minutes before you want to fall asleep, and put this sachet underneath your pillow," he said, handing her two bags. "Please don't mix them up."

"Will I die?" she said trepidatiously.

"It won't do any harm," he assured her. "It just tastes terrible and gets chamomile flowers all over your sheets. You can also try limiting screen time before bed or listening to a guided meditation- there are plenty for free. If you're still having trouble after about two weeks, you should call your GP."

"What do I owe you?" she asked.

"That'll be ten for the items," he said. "We charge no fees for consultation or advice, but we do accept honorariums," he said added politely, which had been his idea but one he'd been fairly firm about.

The woman reached into her purse and put a twenty pound note in his hand. "Thank you so much. Keep the change."

"We're always here when you need us," he said, and the woman saw herself out.

Anathema was stretching her neck this way and that, wincing, and Newt winced in sympathy. "Do you need to take a break?" he asked.

"I just slept on my shoulder funny," she said. "Besides, you've got an appointment in ten minutes."

"I do?" he said.

"Yep, last minute runes," she said, tilting her cheek up. "They just called this morning, so I slotted them in."

"I can handle a bit of that," he said, kissing it. "Would you show them in when they get here?"

"Of course," she said, and he went to prepare.

The reading went well; as was sometimes the case, personal revelations were had, and Newt was getting better with those, especially when they'd made this person so happy. That took him to the end of the day and a little over, and after he'd seen his querent out, he turned off the spotlight on their sign outside and shut the door.

"Sorry," he told Anathema, who was leaning against the kitchen table, sipping a glass of water.

"Don't apologize," she said. "You're getting really good at that."

"I'm trying," he said, and she smiled.

Dinner came together quickly, and he served Anathema before taking his own portion. They talked about the business over their food; they were not seeing a profit, but they were keeping afloat. Newt was aware that their solvency was only interesting to him, since Anathema's mother just loved what her daughter was up to and was happy to bankroll it, which is why he looked the other way when Anathema took payments in things like freshly baked bread.

In fairness, the residents of Tadfield made some amazing homemade bread. It was almost supernaturally good.

After dinner, Anathema sat on the couch; Newt could see that she was still rolling her neck this way and that, so he stood behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. "May I?"

"Please do," Anathema said, and she sighed as Newt started to massage her neck and shoulders. He tried to avoid anything that made her hiss, taking it slowly to work out the tension.

Little by little she started relaxing under his hands, the tightness in her shoulders easing. She seemed much more comfortable than she had before, and it did him good to see it.

"Can I get you anything?" he asked.

"Gin and tonic," she said, and he gave her shoulders one more good rub before leaving for the kitchen. This was a fairly usual request of Anathema's, so there was tonic water in the fridge, along with a lime he'd already cut up. He poured the ingredients to her liking, bringing the finished drink to her.

Anathema took a sip and made a pleased noise. "On your knees," she said, pointing to the floor in front of her, and he went without even thinking about it. "You've done such a good job for me today." She stroked his hair behind his ear. "You really are something, you know that?"

"Thank you, ma'am," he said.

She stood up, turning, and he knew it was his cue to undo the zipper on her skirt and ease it downwards; she stepped out of it, and Newt laid it carefully over the arm of the couch, so that it wouldn't wrinkle. Her panties were next, set aside next to it, and then she sat down again. Now that she could spread her legs without fabric in the way, she did, rather shamelessly in fact, one foot on either side of Newt's body.

"You know what to do, love," she said, and Newt didn't hesitate for a moment.

Newt was never in his entire life going to get tired of this, which was good considering how often Anathema wanted it, which was a lot. She was hot and wet under his tongue, and he licked all the way up her slit, broad passes of his tongue, like he knew she liked. She moaned, her hand on the back of his head to guide him, and he went where he was wanted. His tongue found her clit, and he closed his mouth around it and sucked gently, making her hand tighten in his hair.

For all his faults, he was a quick study, and he tried to learn her as much as possible, exactly what made her shake, what made her claw at his hair or grind against his face. In the evenings like this, she wanted it slow and easy, and he settled in. He heard the clinking sound of the ice in her glass as she sipped her gin and tonic; it could have made him feel superfluous, but it made him feel warm instead, the idea that she was relaxing and that he'd helped do it. He wanted to make everything absolutely perfect for her, which was what she truly deserved.

She'd given him a purpose, one he could actually achieve, even excel at, and he was going to make sure he lived up to it every day.

She came easily the first time, her thighs falling open, her hand still firmly on the back of his head. "You're not done," she said breathlessly, but Newt already knew that much; he'd made no attempt to move away.

The house was warm and smelled of drying herbs, and Newt stayed as long as he was needed.

Chapter Text

Crowley returned some time later, carrying two full cases of good-enough-to-drink-on-a-Thursday wine; they had plenty of special occasion wine, of course, and moderately special occasion wine, but they just went through too many bottles to be pulling out the good stuff every time. "Is my competition gone?" he asked, shutting the doors behind him.

"Anyone would have to wake up very early in the morning to compete with you, my dear," Aziraphale said.

"My secret is sleeping until lunch," Crowley said.

While Crowley was still fussing with the wine, Aziraphale sighed. He'd tied himself into knots that were practically Gordian over Crowley, and while he'd made it seem such a simple process when talking to young Pulsifer, it had taken literal centuries to cut through them. Aziraphale liked to act like it was all a done thing, and maybe it was; it just took so very much doing, and that part wasn't helpful to bring up to someone so new and mortal as Newt.

"Having an intimate chat all by yourself with a younger man," Crowley said, after wrangling the wine to its proper location. "A person could get jealous."

Aziraphale laughed. "Newt could no more steal me away than call down lightning."

"Fair," Crowley said. "That doesn't mean I don't want to get my hands on you."

"Oh, please do," Aziraphale said. "I've missed your touch."

"Angel, I've been gone for forty-five minutes," Crowley said, looking at Aziraphale over his sunglasses. "I just fucked you not six hours ago."

"It's been seven hours," Aziraphale said.

"Well, we can't have that," Crowley said, putting his hands on Aziraphale's waist. "Imagine my poor angel having to wait seven whole hours for me to fuck him. It doesn't bear thinking about."

Crowley guided him backwards, against the solid end of a bookshelf. "Right here?" Aziraphale said. "But the door-"

Crowley snapped, and the door locked itself, the Closed sign flipping over. "If you had to wait seven hours and ten minutes, there's no telling what might happen."

"I might waste away," Aziraphale said. "Simply vanish into thin air."

"Good thing I got here in time," Crowley said, pinning him to the bookshelf with his hips as he pressed their lips together. His hands went to Aziraphale's coat first, pushing it off to puddle on the floor; the bowtie and waistcoat got the same treatment, along with his shirt.

Crowley pulled back long enough to sigh at Aziraphale's expression, then his clothes appeared across the room, hung up properly. These included Aziraphale's trousers, and Crowley ran a hand over Aziraphale's cock, making him gasp sharply.

"So responsive," he said. "You really are just begging for it, aren't you."

"Oh yes, Crowley, please," Aziraphale said shamelessly. "I need you ever so much."

Crowley's clothing was basically just made out of Crowley's will not to be naked, so it evaporated, leaving the two of them pressed together skin to skin. Aziraphale could feel the hot press of Crowley's cock against him, and he couldn't help pushing against it, needing to feel it.

"Show me how badly you need it," Crowley said, reaching his hand between Aziraphale's legs. Aziraphale did something shameless and miraculous, and Crowley's fingers just slid right into him. "Oh, I like that. There's the dirty angel I know."

"If you'll only hurry it up a bit, you can know me in the Biblical sense," Aziraphale said, feeling out of breath already.

Crowley laughed, but he hoisted Aziraphale up, holding him tight against the bookshelf and wrapping Aziraphale's legs around his waist. Aziraphale gasped as he pushed in; he felt so wet and open, and Crowley filling him up was everything he desperately wanted. Crowley didn't stop until he was all the way inside, and then he started rocking his hips immediately, clearly intending to made this quick. Aziraphale didn't mind how quick it was, just as long as he could have Crowley inside him.

"Yes," Aziraphale sighed. "Yes, my darling, harder, I can take it."

"You're a wonder, angel," Crowley said. "We've barely even started and you want more."

"I want everything," Aziraphale said.

"I know," Crowley said. "I like it when you're greedy." He pushed in harder, making Aziraphale groan. "So demanding. I should deny you some time just to see what you do."

"You wouldn't," Aziraphale said breathlessly, as Crowley fucked him faster.

"I wouldn't," Crowley said. "I'd rather spoil you."

Aziraphale moaned, but the conversation got cut off there, in preference to muttered encouragement and names gasped out. It wasn't meant to last long, and it didn't; Aziraphale could feel it boiling in him, how much he needed to come, Crowley inside him pushing him closer and closer to the edge.

"Darling," Aziraphale said. "I'm so close." He made a cut-off noise when Crowley got a hand around Aziraphale's cock, stroking it with his movements.

"Ask me for it," Crowley said. "Politely."

"Please, oh, my love, please," Aziraphale all but whined. "I'll do anything you want."

"You always do, don't you?" Crowley said. "Why?"

"Because I belong to you," Aziraphale said, and right now it was so easy to say it. "I'm yours, entirely."

"That's a good boy," Crowley said, moving his hand faster. "Come for me, angel."

Aziraphale came with a shout, white striping him and Crowley both; he hadn't even finished before Crowley followed him, pushing home one more time and coming inside of him, where Aziraphale could feel it, marking him.

It took both of them a moment to get back together, mentally speaking, and Crowley carefully lowered Aziraphale to the ground, helping him get his footing before letting him go. Now that they weren't having sex, being naked in the bookshop just felt awkward, so Aziraphale miracled himself back to rights, though he may have not exactly cleaned everything up.

"That was lovely," Aziraphale said, because positive feedback was important, and he was feeling pretty positive right about now.

"What were you talking to Newt about anyway?" Crowley asked, letting Aziraphale pull him down onto the sofa and leaning into it when Aziraphale ran his fingers through Crowley's hair.

"Oh, well," Aziraphale said. "While we were in Tadfield, I gave him assurances that if he wanted anyone to talk to about submission-"

Crowley groaned. "Angel, you didn't."

"I was just trying to be helpful-" Aziraphale protested.

"He didn't bloody know," Crowley said. "You could see it all over him. He was all sweet and confused. He wasn't going to come around to why for months."

"I don't see why that should have to be the case," Aziraphale said.

"That's how it works," Crowley said. "You're confused and you don't know why, then you stumble around wondering, then I guess these days you go on the internet-"

"Why should he have to go through all that?" Aziraphale challenged. "Miss Device already knew."

"Of course she did," Crowley said. "She's sharp. She saw what she wanted, and-" he snapped his fingers for emphasis- "snapped him right up."

"I won't apologize for being helpful," Aziraphale said.

"You never have before," Crowley said. He waved a finger at Aziraphale. "Don't let me catch you meddling again."

"Meddling is my sole purpose," Aziraphale said. "Yours too, you old hypocrite."

"Fair," Crowley said. "Less meddling with people we actually like."

"Oh, I do like them," Aziraphale said. "One doesn't often meet humans who are-"

"Actually interesting on a personal level, rather than en masse?" Crowley offered.

"I wasn't going to be quite so frank about it," Aziraphale said.

"You never are," Crowley said.

"The point is that I think they're perfectly lovely people," Aziraphale said. "I think we'd better keep an eye on them."

"Yeah, alright," Crowley said.

"Are you ever going to put your clothes back on?" Aziraphale asked, since Crowley was still naked on his sofa.

"I might in a bit," Crowley said, leaning back and putting his hands behind his head.

"You are ridiculous," Aziraphale said.

"You are closed," Crowley said, shutting his eyes. "Can't you read the sign?"