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A Hand to Your Darkness

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After they left the Ritz, Crowley drove Aziraphale back to the bookshop, because there was a Bentley, and there was a bookshop, and they could. Crowley draped himself in his favorite chair, the one closest to the radiator, and sipped his Chateau Lafite as Aziraphale popped a record on the Victrola.

“Good wine,” Crowley said. “Eleven year old sommelier and all.”

“Oh, well, it’s not as if I can exactly begrudge him. I’m sure he did his best.” Aziraphale’s wine cellar, they’d discovered, had depreciated in value by some thousands of pounds somewhere during its resurrection, with many of the best vintages replaced with fizzy drinks. “Besides, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a little miracle.”

“True. No more worrying about getting scolded by home office for it, either.” Crowley grinned, but Aziraphale just gave a weak little laugh and dropped the needle on the record.

“Right,” he said. “Speaking of home office…”

Crowley waited, but Aziraphale didn’t finish the sentence. He did sit down in the opposite chair, but he didn’t pick up his own glass, and he didn’t lean back. He just sat, ramrod straight, staring fixedly at Crowley.

“...Yes?” Crowley said finally.

Aziraphale took a visible, unnecessary breath. “Crowley, dear,” he said, “do you think we should talk about it?”

Crowley had not spent the past six millennia cultivating an air of effortless cool to lose it now, so he didn’t tense up, even as alarm bells started ringing inside his head. “Talk about what?”

“Well,” Aziraphale said. “Now that we don’t have to report to Heaven and Hell anymore, we can do as we please.”

“Got big plans, angel?” Crowley asked. Airy tone, airy tone. “Go on, then, I won’t stop you.”

“Crowley.” The look on Aziraphale’s face, impatient and fond at once, was excruciating. “You know what I’m talking about.” He leaned forward. “You must know what you mean to me. I’ve been so very obvious.”

The alarm bells were deafening now. “Oh, I...I wouldn’t say obvious…

The center of Hell was an eternally frozen lake. Aziraphale’s expression would have melted it to bathwater. “Dearest…

Crowley shot to his feet. “Is that the time?” he asked, pointing to a spot behind Aziraphale where there was decidedly no clock. “I’ve got to see to my plants, they’ll be going all soft and lazy without me.”

Aziraphale stared at him. “You can’t be serious.”

“Course I can. Plant-husbandry is a serious business.” Crowley donned a hat and coat he hadn’t had before, forgetting momentarily that it was summer outside. “Thanks for the wine, angel. I’ll call you, yeah?”

“Crowley!”

“Caio!”

And with that he was out the door, so fast that the little bell over it didn’t even have time to jingle. Seconds later, the Bentley was tearing away down the street.

Stupid, he thought. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Shouldn’t have panicked like that.

But he knew perfectly well what Aziraphale had been about to say, and for all that Crowley had stood fast - eventually - against Satan and all the legions of Hell, he knew himself to be essentially weak. If he had let Aziraphale finish, well…

He would have said yes, that was all. And demon or no, he wasn’t about to do that to Aziraphale.

It was only after he’d made a few pedestrians leap back hastily onto the kerb and had a good shout at his plants that he felt calm enough to think about it. He flopped into the chair behind his desk - not nearly as comfortable as his chair at the bookshop, but far more stylish - and scowled at nothing in particular.

He knew, of course, that Aziraphale was fond of him. And for all Aziraphale’s softness, he wasn’t at all polite when he didn’t want to be. Crowley had seen him oust enough customers from the bookshop to be sure of that. No, if Aziraphale hadn’t enjoyed Crowley’s company, he’d have made that clear centuries ago.

And yes, he knew that Aziraphale was attracted to him, when he was of a mind to feel attraction, but that didn’t mean anything. Crowley was a demon. He was built to tempt; to pick up on lust like a dowsing rod and dig it free. Any physical desire Aziraphale might feel had less to do with who Crowley was and more to do with how he was made.

The problem was that Aziraphale was a soft touch, always had been. It was inevitable that he’d think that fondness and lust added up to something that mattered.

That Crowley deserved something that mattered.

If Crowley were a decent sort, he would have walked away from Aziraphale ages ago, before Aziraphale had gotten all confused about his own feelings. But then, if Crowley were a decent sort, he wouldn’t have been a demon, so he supposed it was a moot point.

No, he’d been lost long ago, bound as indelibly as a shadow to the soles of Aziraphale’s shoes. He wasn’t too proud to admit it to himself, even if he was proud enough not to say it out loud. But he’d be damned again if he let Aziraphale fool himself into thinking he felt the same.

He’d just have to keep his distance, that was all. At least until Aziraphale had got used to their newfound freedom, and could be sensible about how he wanted to use his. Then things could go back to normal.

And if normal was a bit sadder and more pathetic on Crowley’s part than he would have preferred, well...that was what came of falling, wasn’t it?

*

Crowley did not succeed in keeping his distance.

He tried, he really did. But Aziraphale had sounded so disappointed each time he called to invite Crowley out for lunch or a walk in the park and Crowley turned him down, and self-control was hardly a demonic skill.

And so hardly a week later found them strolling through St. James’s Park, chatting about nothing in particular. It was early fall now, and the air had a pleasant crispness to it; the leaves were just beginning to turn.

“It is funny how quickly humans change their minds about what’s proper,” Aziraphale said, nodding towards two young women walking past them and holding hands. “First you’re meant to walk arm in arm. Then you mustn’t touch. Then you’re back to holding on to one another. And so many rules for what it all means.”

“They do like making rules,” Crowley agreed.

“Do you remember when we used to walk arm in arm?” Aziraphale asked. “Must have been...oh, a hundred years ago at least. But it was the done thing.”

“Mm, vaguely,” Crowley said, as if the press of Aziraphale’s fingers against the crook of his elbow wasn’t burned into his memory.

“And now it’s this,” Aziraphale concluded, and slipped his hand into Crowley’s.

It was only momentum that kept Crowley walking. Aziraphale’s grip was firm and warm, his unnecessary pulse beating faintly against Crowley’s palm.

After a moment Crowley chanced a peek over to his right. Aziraphale looked as calm as he ever had, with the faintly beatific expression that was his normal resting face. His cheeks might have been a bit pinker than usual, but there was that nip in the air.

Walking hand-in-hand, it turned out, was entirely different than walking arm-in-arm.

“Funny, isn’t it,” Aziraphale said. “How silly humans are, I mean.”

“Yeah,” Crowley managed. “Funny.”

They didn’t let go the whole way round the park.

*

Crowley stood in the back room of the bookshop and frowned. “Angel,” he called. “Is there...a window here that didn’t used to be?”

“Mm?” Aziraphale didn’t look up from the tea leaves he was spooning into the strainer. “Oh, yes, well, I thought that since the days are getting shorter it might be nice to have a little more sunlight in here.”

Crowley tilted his head and paced out the rectangle of light the new window threw on the floor. It wasn’t as if he was astonished by windows, per se. It was more that Aziraphale hated change as a general rule, and also, the wall that the window was set in was not an exterior one.

“Shouldn’t we be able to see into the naughty shop next door?” he asked, squinting at the cheerful Soho street before him.

“Have a seat, tea won’t be a moment,” Aziraphale said distractedly.

Crowley shrugged and sat down. Physics was something that happened to other, mortal people, after all. Not his problem.

The new window, it turned out, let in the sun at the perfect angle for this time of day, that warm, lazy glow that made Crowley want to shed his limbs and curl up on a rock for a good snooze. He settled for sprawling in his chair, sunglasses dangling from his fingers, and closing his eyes. The sound of Aziraphale muttering to himself as he made their tea was as familiar as the tides, and the chair was so perfectly comfortable, and...and…

He awoke from his doze to find Aziraphale slipping the sunglasses out of his loosened grasp before they fell. “Don’t want these to break,” Aziraphale murmured, folding the glasses and tucking them into Crowley’s breast pocket with a little pat.

“Mm...sorry...I can…” Crowley started to sit up.

“Shh.” The hand on Crowley’s chest turned firm, holding him in place. “Have a nap if you want to. Did I get the sun right?”

Crowley squinted up at him. “The what?”

“Don’t worry about it.” Aziraphale smiled...and then ran a hand through Crowley’s hair, stroking it back off his forehead and letting his fingertips linger against Crowley’s cheek.

Crowley was fairly certain that hadn’t been a tradition a hundred years ago.

“Angel?”

“You deserve to rest a little,” Aziraphale said, still with that unbearably soft smile. “Sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

Crowley opened his mouth to protest, but Aziraphale stroked his hair again, and it felt too good to waste neurons on talking or keeping his eyes open. And after all, an overstuffed chair would do just as well as a rock in the sun for a nap. Just a quick one.

He slept.

*

It took Crowley a moment to process that the sound of the ringing doorbell was, in fact, his own doorbell. Ringing.

“That can’t be good,” he muttered. His last visitors had been Hastur and Ligur, and look how that had turned out. His visitors before that had been...he’d never had visitors before that.

He was out of holy water, so he picked up the closest weapon-ish thing at hand - a small gardening trowel - and slunk towards the intercom. “What do you want?”

The voice that came over the intercom was tinny and petulant, but no less familiar. “Well, that’s a pleasant way to be greeted, I must say.”

“Aziraphale?” Crowley blinked at the intercom, the grainy camera feed of Aziraphale in the hall. He was holding something and had umbrage radiating from his very posture. “What the Hell are you doing here?”

The feed wasn’t clear enough to show Aziraphale pursing his lips, but Crowley knew he was doing it. “Try again, if you please.”

“Sorry, hang on, I’ll buzz you in.”

Crowley held the buzzer down, then straightened up, raking his hands through his hair in a sudden panic. Aziraphale was here? He’d never come here, except for that first night after Armageddon when they hadn’t known the bookshop had been restored. He had looked around with a pained expression and said “Charming” in a tone that he probably thought was convincing, and Crowley had simultaneously resolved to completely redesign his flat in accordance with the angel’s tastes, and to change absolutely nothing except perhaps to make it more brutalist, because who did the angel think he was, anyway?

In the end laziness had won out and he’d changed nothing, and now Aziraphale was here, in this space that he hated, and that meant that something had to be very wrong indeed.

He was waiting in the open doorway when Aziraphale stepped out of the lift. “What is it? What’s happened?”

“And good afternoon to you too, dear boy,” Aziraphale said, squeezing past him into the flat - a slightly trickier stunt than usual given the cardboard box in his hands, about big enough to hold a football.

Oh, Crowley had no time for this. “Right, enough with the drawing room manners already, angel. What’s happened?

Aziraphale turned to look at him as Crowley shut the door, a puzzled frown creasing the bridge of his nose. “What do you mean, what’s happened?”

“I mean why are you here?” Crowley said. “Is it Heaven? Hell? Did they do something to the bookshop? What’s in the box?”

Oh.” Aziraphale’s frown smoothed out. “Oh, my dear, no, everything’s fine. I’m sorry to have worried you.”

Crowley took a step back, feeling rather flat-footed. “Oh,” he repeated. “Then, uh. What’s up?”

Aziraphale beamed at him. “Well, I just thought it would be nice for me to come to you for a change. It really isn’t fair of me to make you come all the way over to Soho every time.” He lifted the box slightly. “Besides, I’ve brought you a gift!”

“A gift.” Crowley was still rifling through his mental pockets for a scrap or two of his usual aplomb. “What’s the occasion?”

“Oh, I just saw it and thought of you.” Aziraphale beamed breezily at him and then, before Crowley could stop him, was carrying the box and its contents into the plant nursery.

The plants craned towards him as if he were made of sunlight - which, in a strictly literal sense, he was, once that sunlight was given consciousness and stuffed into a human form. “Lovely as ever. You do have a knack with them, dearest.”

Don’t spoil them,” Crowley started to protest before tripping over “dearest,” and then Aziraphale was taking something out of the box and Crowley forgot everything that had come before. “Is that…”

“A kadupul cactus,” Aziraphale said, setting it down among the other plants and stepping back with a proud, paternal expression on his face. “Most expensive flower in the world, but they die as soon as they’re cut, so I thought this would be an easier way of bringing you flowers.”

“You…” Bringing Crowley flowers. The most expensive flowers in the world. The most expensive flowers in the world, brought, for Crowley. “You just saw it? Where?

“Oh…” Aziraphale fluttered his fingers. “Around.”

“It’s indigenous to Mexico.”

“You’ve brought me tequila before.”

“It’s not the same thing!”

Aziraphale shrugged. “Well, if you don’t want it…”

Crowley was between Aziraphale and the plant before he quite realized he was moving. Aziraphale’s smile was small but extremely triumphant.

“I’d.” Crowley swallowed and tried again. “I’d better keep it. You’ve got no idea how to take care of plants, you’d probably feed it tea and leave it in the dark.”

“Probably.” Aziraphale’s eyes were very soft. It was hard to look at them. It was impossible to look away. “They say it only blooms at night. I can’t wait to see it.”

“You’re…you’re staying, then?” Crowley didn’t need a heart, what was it thumping like that for?

Aziraphale’s smile widened, and the plants - and Crowley - leaned in closer.

“As long as you’ll have me,” he said.

*

“We always have lunch,” Aziraphale had said over the phone that morning. “I thought we could have dinner for a change.”

“All right,” Crowley had agreed easily. The only thing on his plate that day - or any day - was shouting at the plants and spreading some light mischief around, just to keep his hand in, and that could be done any time.

“Wear something nice,” Aziraphale had said, and hung up.

Crowley hadn’t thought anything of it at the time. Oh, yes, there was a moment when he pulled the Bentley up in front of the bookshop and his mind skipped like a stone over water at the sight of Aziraphale looking more eighteenth century than he had in some time: a champagne satin coat cut close at the waist, snowy linen, excellent shoes. But that was a common enough experience when he looked at Aziraphale no matter what he was wearing. He hadn’t pulled out the breeches and stockings, at least, which saved Crowley from combusting right there in the driver’s seat.

But when they walked into the restaurant Aziraphale had chosen for dinner, Crowley took one look around, and discreetly miracled his own clothing into a higher quality fabric, and his loose neckcloth into a proper tie.

It was breathtaking. Intimate, white-shrouded tables for two were scattered beneath a glass ceiling that let in the titian glow of sunset. Under the glass was a sprawling, tangled canopy of cherry blossoms in bloom, woven through with fairy lights that twinkled softly among the petals. There was a fireplace lit at the far end of the room and candles flickering on every table, and somewhere someone was playing the violin.

Aziraphale clasped his hands together. “Oh, it’s marvelous. Just like it looked on the internet web site.” He beamed up at Crowley. “Do you like it, darling?”

Crowley’s mouth went dry at “darling” and he could only nod faintly.

By the time the maitre d had seated them at their table, tucked rather out of the way of the main traffic of the dining room, Crowley had gotten back a little of his equilibrium.

“You don’t have to call it an internet website,” he said. “All websites are on the internet. Also, ‘website’ is one word.” Aziraphale had distinctly used two.

“Now Crowley, I am perfectly capable of using modern human technology when I want to,” Aziraphale tutted. “No need to explain the information superhighway to me.”

Crowley opened his mouth to reply scathingly when he caught the angel twinkling at him. With a distinct feeling that he was being teased, he ducked behind his menu. “Yes, well. It’s a nice restaurant,” he said.

It was a nice restaurant. The wine rivaled the best Paris had had to offer during its most turbulent periods - always the tastiest periods for wine, for some reason. Aziraphale ordered the tasting menu for them both, coaxing Crowley into savoring the duck liver and stuffed courgette, and stealing bites off of Crowley’s plates when he didn’t finish his courses.

He was so effusive in his praise that the chef came out and greeted them. This happened frequently - chefs loved Aziraphale - but what happened next was new:

The chef put a hand on the back of Crowley’s chair. “And this is your...friend, Mr. Fell?”

“Yes,” Aziraphale said, smiling, and picked up Crowley’s hand in both of his. The candlelight brought out the green-gold highlights in his changeable eyes. “This is my Anthony.”

“Hng,” said Crowley.

The tasting menu came with a little morsel of a dessert, but the chef insisted on bringing them his specialty, some kind of ludicrously decadent chocolate thing for two. Aziraphale was nearly finished with both portions before Crowley regained his voice - a feat the angel’s satisfied little moans hadn’t helped with one bit.

“So you’re calling me Anthony now?” he managed in a voice like a rusty gate.

“Not unless you want me to,” Aziraphale said. “But after all, I couldn’t very well say ‘oh yes, this is my demon’ to a human, and ‘this is my Crowley’ just sounds off to them. Not quite intimate enough, you know.”

Crowley had to take a moment to figure out which part of that he was going to tackle first. “I’m my own demon,” he tried eventually - and, he suspected, rather unconvincingly.

Aziraphale smiled indulgently. “Of course you are, dear boy,” he said, and licked his spoon clean with a perfect pink tongue.

“Hng,” said Crowley again.

The streets of London seemed abnormally peaceful as Crowley drove Aziraphale home, and the pavement in front of the bookshop was completely deserted. Even the moon seemed to sigh in her orbit as she passed overhead. It was all rather disgusting.

Crowley wasn’t sure what made him get out of the car and walk Aziraphale to the door, but there it was. Aziraphale unlocked the door, then turned to Crowley with one of those unbearably tender expressions on his face. “Thank you for joining me tonight,” he said. “I had a marvelous time.”

He leaned forward and kissed Crowley on the cheek. Then he walked into the bookshop and shut the door behind him.

It was a long time before Crowley remembered to make his feet move.

*

Crowley knew what Aziraphale was doing, of course. He wasn’t completely thick.

He supposed he deserved it, after all those centuries of pushing forward and Aziraphale pulling back. But Aziraphale didn’t understand. Crowley had always known that nothing could come of his running after Aziraphale, because an angel would never turn and meet a demon halfway. It simply wouldn’t happen. And Aziraphale, soft as he seemed, was as stubborn as any force in the cosmos when he didn’t want to be moved.

But Crowley was as pliable as...well, a serpent, and had no willpower to speak of besides. If it was Aziraphale’s turn to pursue…

Well, Crowley would let himself be caught, that was all. Aziraphale had always thought too well of Crowley, and now he was overestimating Crowley’s strength. He couldn’t go so far and no farther, like Aziraphale had. He could only be submerged completely.

The safest thing to do was ignore it entirely. Give Aziraphale no encouragement. Pretend he saw nothing unusual in the angel’s behavior.

It was with this resolution in mind that he ambled into the bookshop for a typical afternoon of doing absolutely nothing...and came to an abrupt halt at an unexpected sound coming from the Victrola.

“The light on your door to show that you’re home…”

“What…Aziraphale?”

“Oh, hello, Crowley!” a voice called from the back room. “Come in, I’m just putting the kettle on.”

Crowley drifted, bewildered, into the back. Yes, that was the real Aziraphale puttering around in waistcoat and shirtsleeves, not a demonic impersonator. “What are you listening to?”

Aziraphale’s eyebrows knitted. “Don’t start. I know I’m not meant to call it bebop, so you needn’t remind me.”

“I find it hard to believe you don’t know the beauty you are...but if you don’t let me be your eyes…”

“I thought if you liked it enough to have it in your car, I should try listening to it,” Aziraphale said, gesturing to the Victrola. It was, Crowley noticed, playing a CD, but Aziraphale must have assumed that all round flat musical formats should play equally well on his antique gramophone, and so this one did. “It’s not all for me, I must admit, but this song is rather lovely.”

Crowley shook his head. “You don’t listen to new music. You never listen to new music.” He’d never heard Aziraphale play a record with words, his fondness for Stephen Sondheim notwithstanding.

“Well.” Aziraphale set the kettle down. “I thought it was high time I tried a lot of new things.”

“When you think the night has seen your mind...that inside you’re twisted and unkind...let me stand to show that you are blind…”

“Stop.” It came out a whisper. Crowley tried again. “Stop!”

The music stopped. A bird that had been singing outside the window stopped. Aziraphale stood watching him, his face very calm.

“No more,” Crowley said. “All right? No more darlings and Anthonys and rare plants and dinners and touching! I can’t bear it, angel.”

“Crowley…”

“No!” Crowley took a step back. “I know you think it’s all great fun, but I can’t do it. I can’t keep saying no to you.”

Aziraphale cocked his head. “Have you considered the possibility that I don’t want you to say no to me?”

“I have to!”

“Why?”

“Because you’re an angel and I’m a demon and you deserve better!” Crowley shouted. “Because if I don’t make you Fall outright I’ll taint you until you’re no better than the murdering bullies who run Heaven. I’ll stain you until God wouldn’t recognize you if you stood before Her. And I’m weak, Aziraphale. I’ll do it if you let me, so you have to stop letting me!

He found himself breathing hard, even though he didn’t really need to breathe to any degree of intensity at all. Aziraphale looked desperately sad, and Crowley bit his tongue to stop himself apologizing. If the angel threw him out, that would solve the problem.

“Darling,” Aziraphale said, and Crowley’s poor weak heart shattered further. “If that were going to happen, don’t you think it would have already?”

“What?” Crowley snapped.

“I’ve been friends with a demon for thousands of years,” Aziraphale said. “I’ve conspired with one for centuries. I walked into Hell wearing your face, and let you use mine to deceive Heaven. But the holy water didn’t hurt me. I still feel God’s grace.” His smile was still very sad - not for himself, Crowley realized, but for Crowley. “If loving you was going to make me Fall, it would have happened ages since.”

Loving him. “No,” Crowley said, because it was too much for better, cleverer words.

“You don’t…taint anything,” Aziraphale went on, and now he was moving forward, closer to Crowley, and Crowley knew he should back away but he couldn’t. “You didn’t make Warlock evil. You didn’t make Adam evil. They made their own choices, and I’ve made mine.” He gave a faint laugh. “I’ve been contemplating for some time now the possibility that you make me better. After all, I’d be one of those murdering bullies too if not for your friendship.”

“Never,” Crowley managed.

Aziraphale was close enough to touch now. “I know I held you at arm’s length for so long, and I’m sorry. I was so frightened of what they would do to me, and to you, if they knew I cared. But I was never frightened of you. Of how I felt, sometimes, maybe. But never you.”

He slipped his hands into Crowley’s. Crowley was aware, faintly, that he was trembling and that it was embarrassing. He couldn’t seem to stop it.

“It’s not right,” he said. “You shouldn’t...you don’t know I won’t corrupt you, just because I haven’t yet. Maybe it’s only me corrupting you that makes you think you’re okay now. Maybe you’re already lost!”

“Do you love me?” Aziraphale asked.

Crowley looked away. He had to. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Crowley.” Aziraphale let go of one of his hands, but only to reach up and gently turn his face back, forcing Crowley to look at him. “It’s the only thing that matters.”

Part of Crowley wanted Satan to open up the earth again and yank him down, away from this conversation and safe in eternal torment. The rest of him wanted to stay in this moment forever. “...You know I do,” he said finally.

Maybe before he had Fallen, he would have been able to withstand the blinding light of Aziraphale’s joy. Now he had no defenses.

“Will you kiss me?” Aziraphale asked.

The right thing to do would have been to run out the door. Crowley kissed his angel instead. He tasted like tea and sunshine.

When he pulled back, Aziraphale glanced down at himself. “Well,” he said, “still not Fallen.”

“Don’t tease me.”

“You love it when I tease you.”

“I don’t.” He did.

The look on Aziraphale’s face said very clearly that he knew Crowley was lying, but he had mercy on him anyway. Aziraphale was very good at mercy. “I can wait, you know, until you’re ready. Six thousand years, if I have to. It would only be fair.” He ignored Crowley’s murmured disagreement. “But you’re not beneath me, Crowley. We’re a pair. Our side, remember?”

If Crowley had to hide his face in the sweet curve of Aziraphale’s neck for a moment, well, there was no one around to see, and he knew his angel would never tell.

“I don’t want to wait another six thousand years,” he mumbled finally.

Aziraphale kissed the little snake tattoo beneath Crowley’s ear. “Then we shan’t.”

“I just...don’t want to ruin you.”

“If your execrable taste in clothes and disdain for literature hasn’t already done so by now…” Aziraphale laughed at Crowley’s annoyed snort. “You won’t. You can’t. You make me better, not worse.”

“That’s a bit much.”

“Well.” Aziraphale brushed a lock of hair off of Crowley’s forehead. “You make me more human, let’s say. And I’d rather be human than heavenly. Do you believe me?”

Crowley attempted to gather up the scattered remnants of his cool. “I suppose,” he said. “Just…”

“Yes?”

He dropped the cool again. “Remind me sometimes?”

There was nothing in this world or any other safer or warmer than being held in an angel’s arms. “As many times as you need to hear it.”

Crowley let himself soak in the comfort of Aziraphale’s embrace for a few moments longer, then straightened up and stepped back. He had a reputation to maintain, after all.

“Well,” he said. “That’s enough of that. Bit shabby in the hospitality department, angel, I must say. You ask me round for tea and all we do is blubber all over each other. Horrible. The kettle must have boiled by now, no?”

Aziraphale gave him one of those terribly fond smiles that had been reducing him to jelly since before jelly had been invented. “Why don’t you sit while I go check?”

Crowley draped himself in his usual chair, then thought it over again and miracled the chair into a sofa big enough for two. With a snap of his fingers the Velvet Underground resumed, under a strict injunction to play only pleasant, gentle songs Aziraphale would enjoy.

A moment later Aziraphale carried over two steaming cups. “I think you scared the kettle out of commission for the moment, but I’ve convinced the tea that it’s ready,” he said, handing Crowley a very dark cup with lots of lemon and settling down with his own sweet, milky cup. “It took a bit of coaxing. Tea can be such a stubborn, silly old thing.”

“Yeah, well, don’t know what you’re complaining about,” Crowley said, draping his free arm over the back of the sofa so that Aziraphale had to lean back against it. “You got it there in the end, didn’t you?”

Aziraphale sipped his tea and settled back. His plush thigh was pressed against Crowley’s lean one, his shoulders against Crowley’s arm, and after a moment, his free hand came to rest on Crowley’s knee.

“It was worth the wait,” he said.

Crowley couldn’t agree more.