Actions

Work Header

How Roses Get Black

Chapter Text

Sometime after the death of Christ (Crowley hated keeping track of years. That was somebody else's job.)

It might have been the worst week of Crowley's inimitable existence.

During his last check-in Beelzebub had buzzed at him dubiously about his latest work, but didn’t question him too much, which should have been his first warning. Because Beelzebub always questioned him. His second should have been when they declared, “We’re sending you to Rome.”

“What for?” Crowley had asked. He hadn’t been to Rome in a while and he wasn’t fond of the place. Bad food, bad wine, too many people.

Beelzebub waved their hand dismissively. “You’ll know when you get there. Just get close to the emperor. You’ll figure it out.”

Crowley hadn’t liked that at all. His preference was to be left entirely to his own devices, forgotten by hell to do as he pleased. Whenever he got actual assignments, he liked the straightforward ones. In and out as it were. This sounded needlessly open-ended.

But before he could push back against his vague orders, he found himself popped into the streets of Rome—directly into a pile of horse droppings—and decided he didn’t have much choice but to get to work. 

The horseshit was an omen of what was to come. First, Crowley had been groped by no less than three politicians who tried their best to proposition him for sex. Which...gross. Sex with a human? Disgusting. Crowley hardly went in for the idea of sex at all. Seemed...messy. And with humans? They had all those feelings and they oozed.

Then he befriended the emperor easy enough but it turned out the emperor was an insane person who liked to kill anybody who looked at him sideways. 

“A cask of...whatever you’ve got,” he growled at the serving girl in the tavern he’d posted up in. He just wanted to get drunk. He wanted to forget the execution he’d witnessed about an hour ago and forget the fact that that was exactly why Hell had sent him here. To get a teenage boy executed.

Crowley normally liked his demonic work. A little tempting here, wiling there. A perfect outlet for his energy and his monumental creativity. The other demons didn’t understand what it took to really stir the pot on Earth. It was all about leaving the minutiae up to the humans, they’d figure it out, they always did. Mindlessly creative, humans. It’s what Crowley liked about them.

He peered into the already dwindling reserves in his cup and wondered if he could will the alcohol directly into his bloodstream. Make it faster so he could pass out and forget about the way the child’s eyes had gone wide while he begged for his life.

“Crowley?”

He knew that posh voice anywhere. The blasted angel. Always appearing when Crowley least expected it, defending Heaven’s awful behavior with a shaking voice but stalwart resolve. The guardian of the eastern gate, Crowley sneered in his mind. Aziraphale.

“Fancy seeing you here!” Aziraphale said as he sidled onto the stool next to Crowley. The angel sounded excited to see him. Crowley must be reading the situation wrong. No one was ever excited to see him, especially not his demon coworkers so why would an angel be excited about it. Crowley's heart did something strange in his chest like it was going simultaneously too fast and too slow. What the fuck?

Aziraphale looked unbearably bright compared to the dinginess of the tavern, white tunic clasped about his shoulders, impeccable and clean. How all the humans didn’t recognize his ethereal nature Crowley had no idea.

Crowley grunted and poured himself more wine. He wasn’t exactly in the mood for philosophical conversations about the nature of good and evil. Sure, he usually went in for that sort of thing. That’s why he tended to consider the angel worthwhile company. Good for needling and flustering and general entertainment.

“Still a demon then,” Aziraphale muttered but there was no reproach in it. Despite that Crowley couldn’t stop himself from snapping at him.

“What else would I be? An aardvark?” Crowley twisted his lips and took another swallow of wine. He wondered if he could use his powers to make it taste better.

Aziraphale’s hands fluttered in front of him and then settled into his lap. “Ah, yes. Silly question. What are you in Rome for then?”

“The usual,” Crowley grunted. Maybe if he was rude, Aziraphale would leave him to drown his sorrows alone. 

When he looked over at the angel, the uncomfortable look on his face made Crowley feel guilty—ridiculous—so he conceded, “You? A bit of heavenly business then?”

“No, actually,” Aziraphale said, relief clear in his voice. Why did he sound so relieved that Crowley was making small talk with him? “I’m here to try a new restaurant. I heard the oysters are remarkable.”

Crowley snorted. Oysters. The angel would be after food. He remembered that time in Phoenicia when Aziraphale appeared to try some spiced beans of all things. Crowley had no interest in beans. But the Phoenicians did have delicious wine, he thought fondly.

“You should come with me!” Aziraphale said, like it was the best idea he had ever had. 

Crowley looked at him from the corner of his eye and wondered for a moment if that was just the distraction he needed.

“Could I tempt you to a spot of lunch, then?” Aziraphale said and Crowley couldn’t disguise his glee at his choice of words. An angel trying to tempt him. Maybe he should write a report. Get a commendation.

Aziraphale gasped. “Oh no! I mean, that’s your job.”

Crowley chuckled and his heart lightened a bit.

“Phrasing aside,” Aziraphale continued with an awkward smile, “The offer stands.”

And, with nothing better to do, Crowley agreed.  

Chapter Text

Sometime after the turn of the century (20th? 21st? Who knew but there was internet now and Crowley liked that. Great capacity for chaos, the internet.)

 Crowley had learned his lesson.

Vulnerability = horrible idea

Not that he’d been vulnerable all that often but he’d tried, mostly around Aziraphale because Aziraphale liked when he was vulnerable, and then there was that one time when Aziraphale had gotten into his car and looked at him like it physically pained him to share the same air as Crowley and Crowley had missed him so much and—

That’s how Crowley fucked up.

And fucked his relationship with Aziraphale in the process.

He’d hardly done anything. If his emotions were a Victorian lady, he’d really only showed the barest hint of ankle.

So it had been going on something like a few decades with several long naps and intermittent sulks—burning people’s coffee beans and making trash about 10% stinkier—and Crowley started to settle in to the new way of things. The awful feeling in his chest when he thought of Aziraphale had nearly disappeared. When he occasionally had to call the angel it didn’t make his palms sweat and the sound of his voice didn’t make Crowley’s stomach flip all that much. It was pretty well handled and Crowley thought that maybe in a couple of centuries Aziraphale would come back around, forgive Crowley for putting his foot in it, and they’d be right as rain. Crowley was certainly not going to apologize. That fell into the realm of being vulnerable and well…

But of course the universe and maybe God of all things refused to let him stay settled. The “Great plan” and bugger all.

He got the baby—the antichrist —delivered because he assumed somebody was watching. But the minute he could pull off the road in the middle of nowhere, he slammed his hands into the steering wheel and felt as if his chest was being crushed.

Shit, shit, SHIT.

Crowley had known the apocalypse would happen eventually. That was the point of this whole existence deal apparently. But he’d sort of assumed it would be a few more thousand years before it was put into motion. 

Breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth, he knew what he needed to do. 

Remnants of feelings aside, he needed to talk to Aziraphale.

**

“Really? The antichrist?” Aziraphale said, eyebrows furrowed as he considered the hors d'oeuvre in front of him. Crowley wished he would just eat the damn thing. And then he did, making a happy little noise and Crowley regretted wishing anything at all because his stomach squirmed, happy that Aziraphale was happy. 

“Yes. Just delivered it. It’s happening, angel,” Crowley said, trying not to sound despondent. 

“Well, what are we going to do about it?” Aziraphale asked primly.

“Right now? Get drunk,” Crowley answered.

The angel was always good for a stiff drink.

**

The idea struck him when he was 2 bottles deep. If he was on Earth as a demonic influence to humans and Aziraphale was there as an angelic influence, couldn’t they just direct that influence at the antichrist?

And so he suggested it. It was a pretty damn good idea if he said so himself.

Aziraphale was obviously hesitant. Crowley was intimately acquainted with Aziraphale’s hesitance. It was what had ruined their relationship—friendship. Whatever. So he pressed and Aziraphale caved and that meant he needed to make a plan.

**

“And that’s why you should assign me to the antichrist,” Crowley said, folding up his pointer as he concluded his twenty slide presentation about infiltrating the Dowling household to “make sure” the antichrist was as evil as he could be.

Beelzebub exchanged a look with Dagon and then said, “How are you going to be in the house without them noticing you?”

“I was thinking about taking a job there. Something close to Warlock where I’d have ample opportunity to—”

“Like a Nanny?” Hastur asked, interrupting in that gravelly voice that made him sound much stupider than he was. Which was saying something

Ligur snorted. “Nanny. I like that.”

Soon Beelzebub and Dagon joined in the laughter and Crowley’s heart sank.

“You’ve got our approval,” Beelzebub said. “But only if you take the post of Nanny.”

“And send pictures of you and the baby,” Ligur said and Crowley had to resist the urge to throw his pointer at the lizard demon.

**

Hell could mock him all they wanted but Crowley wasn’t one to do things by halves. Of course he could go to the Dowlings’ in all his male presenting glory but it had been...oh, about a century (When had automobiles gotten popular? It was around then.) since he’d taken to female presentation, and he remembered how fun it was, the kicky skirts and the shoes and that particular brand of feminine wile that didn’t quite work when he was sauntering about in his skinny jeans. 

The major problem was that he didn’t know much about nannying. It was probably straightforward. Take care of the kid and make sure it doesn’t get injured. He could do that. 

Now he just had to figure out what Aziraphale would do at the estate.

After a bit of research, he watched some films. The Nanny Diaries and Uptown Girl were utterly useless but Mary Poppins? That bird had style.

He wondered if modern homes had chimney sweeps. He seriously doubted it. What was the modern equivalent of a chimney sweep? Maybe they would need a cleaner? Or a cook? Maybe a gardener or a groundskeeper?

Whatever it was, they would need an excuse to spend time together whenever they pleased. Crowley had tracked down the Dowling’s advertisement for a childcare professional and they expected whoever they hired to live at the estate. What sort of position lived at the estate as well?

And then the idea hit Crowley with all the force only his worst ideas did.

Aziraphale would hate it.

Therefore, Crowley was not going to tell him.

**

Crowley was not ready to leave. Not by a long shot. He should have told Aziraphale to come later in the day because now the angel was tapping his foot in irritation in Crowley’s living room while Crowley tried to remember the best way to counter his cheekbones.

“You know, I still don’t see how I’m going to find a way to counter your influence on the boy if you’re going to be his nanny. You’ll be with him all the time,” Aziraphale said from the living room, echoing Crowley’s own concerns.  He wasn’t exactly sure how to respond so he ignored him.

Wiping the lipstick from the edge of his mouth, Crowley decided he was as ready as he would ever be and went to join Aziraphale in the living room, only to find him frowning deeply and staring at him.

Crowley narrowed his eyes, feeling defensive. “Do you have a problem?”

Aziraphale blinked rapidly and shook his head. “Not at all. I just didn’t realize you’d be changing your presentation for the role.”

Crowley smoothed his hand down his jacket. He liked it very much. It made him feel pretty. “I thought something traditional would make the Dowlings more trusting. And besides, I like the look. It’s been ages since I’ve changed things up.”

Aziraphale smirked and said, “Very Mary Poppins of you.”

Nervous that Aziraphale somehow knew about all the movies Crowley watched, he resorted to his usual irritated mockery by parroting Aziraphale’s words back to him. “ Mary Poppins.”

Some of his nerves returned so he summoned a large mirror and checked his hose. No runs. His jacket didn’t have a thread out of place.

“What pronouns would you like me to use, my dear?” Aziraphale asked out of nowhere, startling Crowley. 

Oh he hadn’t even thought of that. He had used exclusively female pronouns in Paris for those handful of years when he lived there. But, clothes aside, he wasn’t particularly attached to his gender right then.

“He/him is fine,” he said and then he realized he couldn’t very well use male pronouns around the Dowlings who would surely be confused by such a thing. Humans had such a limited view of gender. “Though I suppose I’ll be using she/her with the family. Either works really.”

Summoning a red ribbon into his hand, he pulled it under his collar and tied it into a bow. The red really set his lipstick off to an advantage. How nice. When he turned back to Aziraphale, the angel looked pale, surely nervous for the endeavor to come.

Crowley could understand. The thought of spending the next several years inevitably intertwined with Aziraphale made him want to lie down and sleep for a very long time. But there were more important things than his stupid feelings. Namely the end of the world.

Frowning, Crowley gestured at Aziraphale’s body. “Best disguise yourself as well.”

Standing up, Aziraphale made a face as he miracled his body into a different form. Well, not all that different. Rounder and hairier with ruddier cheeks but…

Crowley suppressed a sigh. He didn’t think anything would stop how he felt about Aziraphale. Ugly teeth or no, that steady pull in his heart was there to stay. “Really?” he said, more to himself than anything.

“What? Do I look bad?” Aziraphale asked, clearly anxious as he shifted from foot to foot. 

Not wanting to say what he was thinking— you could never look bad —Crowley looked away, rolling his eyes for show and slipped on his shoes before donning his glasses. “Hop to it, angel.”

His nerves continued to mount as the taxi ride to the Dowlings’ stretched on in silence. Aziraphale was going to rip him a new one when he found out what Crowley had been planning. 

Slamming the car door, Crowley took a deep breath and marched up to the front door, resolved to get this over with before any of the guilt over lying—well, withholding information—got the best of him. He was good at lying but apparently not to Aziraphale. 

The door opened and with it, Crowley’s anxiety reached new heights. You have to do it. Don’t chicken out

“Hello,” Crowley said, affecting an accented feminine voice that he had practiced several times over the last week. “I’m here for the nanny position. Lilith Ashtoreth.”

The man who answered the door shook his hand politely.

Hearing Aziraphale’s huff and puff up next to him, the crunch of gravel under his boots heralding his arrival, Crowley dove in. “Ah yes,” Crowley said with a smile. “This is my husband…”—ah, fuck he hadn’t prepped a name— “Francis! He’s a, er, gardener by trade. We were hoping you might have an opening. An estate such as this.”

He could practically feel Aziraphale’s eyes boring into his skull. Imagining all the unique ways, Aziraphale would punish him for this little stroke of creative genius, Crowley smiled harder as he pushed through the butler’s mind, a small shift in reality to allow space for Francis on the estate. He’d known he would have to do this. The Dowlings had advertised for a nanny but unfortunately, all the other positions on the estate had been full so he’d come with metaphorical demonic power gun cocked.

“What a coincidence,” the butler said in a monotone. “Our gardener recently retired. You’ll have to discuss it with Mrs. Dowling of course.”

“Of course,” Crowley said, relieved that it had worked. He looked over at Aziraphale and hoped he could convey at least a margin of go along with it

The butler walked them through the foyer explaining the living situation. Crowley had sort of expected Aziraphale and him to have to live in whatever quarters the nanny would be afforded but apparently, the Dowlings expected the gardener to live onsite as well. He grimaced. Maybe the whole married thing hadn’t been entirely necessary then. 

“What is your name, dear fellow?” Aziraphale asked from behind them in the most ridiculous voice Crowley had ever heard.

What sort of accent was that? Crowley snorted and then tried to cover it up with a cough.

“Pearson,” the butler replied, looking between them with raised eyebrows.

“Lovely to meet you,” Aziraphale said and that was a glare that could kill. Crowley smiled at him but Aziraphale didn’t stop glaring.

Pearson opened a door to reveal a large dining room where a sharp-faced woman was sat at the far end of a long table, slowly eating melon as she read over a newspaper. She looked up when Pearson cleared his throat and her severe expression smoothed. “You must be Nanny Ashtoreth,” she said, friendly tone but clipped words.

Crowley liked her immediately.

“My apologies” she continued. “Thaddeus was called away on business.” She looked between Pearson and Aziraphale and asked, “Who’s this?”

Crowley took the opportunity to step forward. He was the best qualified to continue the charade and he absolutely did not want Aziraphale putting his foot in it as he tried to stumble through an answer. “This is my husband, Francis. We were hoping he might find employment here and Pearson said your gardener recently retired.”

“Oh, Mr. Smith!” she said and then her expression softened. “He was a miracle worker with the hydrangeas. Pearson—why don’t you get them set up in the cottage and when I get back this evening I can go through the expectations with Warlock.”

“Thank you very much, Ms. Dowling,” Crowley said with a deferent nod.

She smiled and waved her hand. “Call me Harriet.”

Harriet turned back to her paper and Pearson led them from the room.

Crowley had done enough research to know the Dowling had a garden. What he hadn’t realized was how truly vast it was. He hoped Aziraphale was up to the task.

Pearson showed them to a quaint cottage with a charming walk that Crowley was certain Aziraphale would be in a tizzy over. After handing over the key, Pearson took his leave and Crowley’s nerves immediately returned.

Crowley stepped over the threshold to the cottage he would share with Aziraphale for the next several years and tried to will away the clamminess of his palms. It was woefully ineffective.

He looked over at the angel whose frown had suddenly smoothed into excitement and awe. Crowley supposed a cottage that smelled like freshly tilled earth and well-kept roses was right up Aziraphale’s alley. Following the angel to the miniscule bedroom, Crowley was hardly surprised when Aziraphale threw his suitcase on the bed and turned on him, eyes blazing. 

“When were you going to tell me what you were planning?”

It was a tone Crowley was intimately familiar with, dismissive and angry in equal parts. Taking off his glasses, he reminded himself that he had to be the reasonable one in this scenario. Pretending they were married was for the best. Aziraphale would see that eventually.

“Look, I had a vague idea before we came but it was spur of the moment—I wasn’t sure it would work until I said it,” he said, trying to placate Aziraphale. 

“You said we were married!” Azipraphale protested and Crowley looked at him, his heart nearly giving up the ghost when he saw how honestly distressed the angel was. Of course this would happen. It’s why he hadn’t told Aziraphale. Still huffing, Aziraphale continued, “And I’m supposed to be a gardener! I’m terrible with plants, do you remember when I tried to grow those herbs and they all rotted? I didn’t know plants could rot—”

“First of all,” Crowley interrupted. He could do this. It might have been years but he used to be an expert in calming Aziraphale down. “I’ll help you with the plants. Second, appearing married will make this easier. What better excuse to spend time together in private, exchange notes on how things are going?”

Aziraphale sighed and something in Crowley relaxed. He was going to agree, Crowley knew it. 

“Fine,” Aziraphale said with a scowl. “But I want you to know I am very cross with you.”

His short huff was unbearably cute and Crowley suppressed an irritated groan. He wasn’t irritated with Aziraphale and it wouldn’t do to make him think it so he went for his usual smirk, hoping it would disperse the tension. “You could never stay mad at me, angel.”

Aziraphale pursed his lips and put his hands on his hips. “Don’t tempt me.”

It was so ridiculous that Crowley couldn’t help but laugh before flopping into the chair by the window and looking out over the garden. If he were honest with himself, he would admit that he was a little envious of Aziraphale who would get to spend all his time among those gorgeous plants, probably smiling to himself and humming and looking right at home, another gorgeous thing in the greenery—

“Wouldn’t you like to unpack?” Aziraphale said, interrupting his wandering thoughts.

Crowley blushed, scowling to cover up his embarrassment. It would be like this for awhile. Until he managed to push down his feelings. He used to be so good at it. From that time in Rome all the way to that disastrous conversation in the Bentley, the first real moment when he let his feelings creep out only to have them summarily thrown back in his face. If could suppress them for thousands of years, he could do it again. 

Crowley unpacked with a wave of his hand, watching as his clothes flew into the wardrobe, immediately settled, neat as ever. Aziraphale looked at him archly, clearly irritated at Crowley’s blase use of his powers.

“So should we talk about it?” 

Crowley’s heart stopped in his chest. Did Aziraphale want to talk about the holy water incident? Or worse, Crowley’s feelings

“Talk about what?” Crowley managed to ask, carefully calm. 

“Our relationship!” Aziraphale said like he was daft for even asking.  “If we’re going to be married, shouldn’t we know more about each other’s cover stories? What if someone asks me about you?”

Ah, thank fuck. It had been a trying month and talking was the last thing Crowley wanted to do. Closing his eyes, Crowley took a few even breaths. Acknowledging Aziraphale’s nerves, they discussed the history of their pretend marriage briefly. Hopefully, if Crowley let Aziraphale wear himself out with questions, he could have some time alone to plan and relax and figure out how he would handle this. 

They decided they’d been married 20 years with no children and that they had a house in the country but mostly moved around for Lilith’s assignments. Straightforward enough that even Aziraphale wouldn’t bungle it.

“Do you really think this is going to work?” Aziraphale asked when his questions about Francis and Lilith were firmly answered.

A really good question. But Crowley was an optimist, he had to be. “What else can we do?” 

**

That evening Crowley found, to his infinite dismay, that the antichrist was cute. He’d sort of ignored him in his panic of delivering him to the nuns but now it was clear. Cute and gurgly and adorable.

Ms. Dowling—”Please call me Harriet”—gave him a tour of the house and then introduced him to Warlock, who stared up at him with wide blue eyes and then made a noise that was even cuter

“What a precious angel,” Crowley replied in his newly created Nanny voice, doing his best to limit the sarcasm.

Harriet laughed and put a hand on his arm. “I’m glad we found you. I thought the nanny search would go on forever but you’re just perfect.”

“That’s very kind of you to say, ma’am,” he said, covering her hand. Sometimes humans found his skin too cold but if Harriet did, she didn’t react.

“I’m pleased there was an open position for your husband as well. What was his name again?”

“Francis,” Crowley volunteered. He wondered what Aziraphale was up to, all alone in the cottage. Probably reading. The blasted angel was always reading.

Harriet hummed and looked down at Warlock, pausing for a moment before smiling at her baby. “Why don’t I take you through some of what I’ve been doing and a few of my general expectations? I was thinking you could start half time, helping me out while I finish my maternity leave. It should help ease the transition.”

Crowley nodded. He’d expected to be thrown to the wolves—well, the baby—immediately so a slow transition sounded phenomenal.

It was an evening of shaking rattles and whispering dark things in Warlock’s ear when Harriet wasn’t around to hear. Not exactly thrilling, but it was something Crowley could handle. He’d done worse things for Hell. 

When Harriet finally dismissed him, his feet ached and he felt constrained in his form fitting clothes. It had been so long since he’d been a woman and he’d forgotten how awful heels could be. They made his legs look damn good though.

Making his way down the garden path to the cottage, he started to fantasize about lighting the fire, getting comfortable, warming his blood.

As expected, Aziraphale was sitting on the couch, reading a thick book that Crowley didn’t recognize. Not bothering to peer at the title, Crowley kicked off his shoes and tugged off his jacket, using his powers to light the fire before he even found his seat. Better already.

Closing his eyes, he heard the soft rustle of pages before Aziraphale said, “How did it go?”

Grunting in acknowledgement, Crowley didn’t open his eyes when answered, “You know, a baby is a baby with baby needs and baby wants. Very boring. Not much tempting to do at this age.”

“Should we have perhaps waited until he was a little older?” Aziraphale asked hesitantly.

It was a reasonable question that Crowley hadn’t thought of. Refusing to admit it, he dismissed Aziraphale’s concern, hoping he’d drop the subject. “I don’t know. I thought it would be best to integrate with the family early. Less questions later,” Crowley answered. Which he had thought. But it was maybe unnecessary. 

“I suppose you’re right.”

Crowley opened his eyes and looked at the angel, bathed in the glow of the fire and the way his insides warmed at the sight made him grimace. No, he told it firmly. I feel nothing.

Aziraphale cocked his head and his expression softened. “Can I do anything for you, my dear?” 

The stupid angel was not making this easy. It would be years like this. Needing to find a way to be alone for a few minutes, Crowley heaved himself out of the chair and said, “I want to take off this makeup. Is there anything to drink in this house?”

“I’ll see if I can track something down,” Aziraphale said, kind and beautiful and guh.

The tiny bathroom didn’t provide much respite from his thoughts, but he tried to enjoy the ritual of washing his face, watching his mascara smear and come away on the washcloth. Removing all the bobby pins from his hair, he looked at himself. Back to Crowley then. No more Nanny Ashtoreth.

Not quite wanting to let go of her, the safety of her persona, a woman who didn’t love an angel, Crowley shucked off his clothes but stayed in his slip, a soft satin thing that ran over his skin like water. It was soothing.

When he returned to the living room, Aziraphale stared at him for a moment before thrusting a drink into his hand. What was that look? Was Aziraphale blushing? “There was some gin,” he said hurriedly, the words crashing together and becoming semi-unintelligible.

Crowley sat in the chair by the fire and crossed his legs, watching as Aziraphale averted his gaze. Interesting. 

“What are you reading these days?” he asked over the rim of his cup, hoping that if he stared at Aziraphale hard enough he might be able to see into his head.

It was the wrong question if Crowley really wanted to decipher Aziraphale’s behavior because he quickly shifted into excitement and said, “Collected poems of Frank O’Hara. Wonderful reading!”

The name tickled something in Crowley’s mind. “The guys with the Lunch Poems? American?”

He felt so tired already. A long day, a lot of thoughts and feelings. He hated having thoughts and feelings. Wasn’t it enough to wreak some havoc, wile away a day? No. He had to go and get himself in a pickle the size of the apocalypse. Crowley took off his glasses and scrubbed at his eyes.

“Would you like me to read to you a while?” Aziraphale offered quietly. It had been so long since Aziraphale had read to him. Crowley liked the idea of books but he hated reading. His eyes weren’t accustomed to the tiny print and it was always so difficult to piece all the letters together. 

Of course he wanted Aziraphale to read to him. 

As his eyelids grew heavy he let Aziraphale’s voice lull him to sleep. Startled when he felt hands on his shoulders, he let himself be led to bed, collapsing on the covers and finding blissful rest.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale had a made a list.

Crowley shouldn’t have been surprised. Aziraphale loved bookkeeping. Leave it to the angel to turn something like gardening into an exercise in documentation. 

Despite his judgments, Crowley wasn’t able to resist Aziraphale’s wide-eyed pleading gaze. He’d never been able to really. 

He scribbled down care instructions alongside each listed plant as Aziraphale hovered over him nervously.

“I really am excited to get started. I’m thinking this can be my new hobby,” Aziraphale said, perky as ever. “If I can get the hang of it.”

Crowley snorted but Aziraphale ignored him.

Coming to the end of the list, Crowley frowned. “You said there was some topiary? Can you show me?” 

Topiary was a tricky bugger, part artistry part gardening. Crowley personally thought they were hideous and pretentious but to each their own. The Dowlings' topiary wasn’t too complex, a few animals and some geometric shapes. It didn’t stop him from frowning. He really had no idea how Aziraphale would take care of these.

“You might just have to miracle these,” Crowley said. “They’re a little intricate for someone untrained to maintain.”

When Aziraphale scowled at him, Crowley held up his hands. Touchy angel.  “Don’t even think I’d be able to, angel.”

The sound of footsteps interrupted Crowley’s attempts to placate Aziraphale and, on some buried instinct, Crowley reached out and grabbed Aziraphale’s hand. Why hadn’t they been in character? They were outside the cottage. Foolish.

Erring on the side of drama, Crowley used his Nanny Ashtoreth voice to say, “Oh my, what a lovely topiary. I do fancy the lion, Francis.”

The footsteps turned out to be Harriet, pushing Warlock’s pram. “Oh! Nanny Ashtoreth! Francis! I didn’t expect to run into you here. I was just taking Warlock for a walk.”

Crowley’s hand tightened around Aziraphale’s. His hands were so soft

Don’t think about it.

“We were exploring the grounds,” Crowley said. “We wanted to get some time alone before we’re too busy.”

“Nanny Ashtoreth,” Harriet said, a teasing hint to her voice. “You know you need only ask if you want some time off to, um, spend with your husband.”

Oh spend time. If the way Aziraphale gripped his hand hard enough to bruise was anything to go by then Aziraphale was distressed about that little implication. It was rude really, Aziraphale being so offended by the concept of showing Crowley affection.

“Of course, Ms. Dowling. That’s not necessary,” Crowley said, trying to wiggle his fingers and get Aziraphale to relax.

“We’ll keep that in mind for the future,” Aziraphale added, surprising Crowley. Maybe he could handle this better than he thought.

“Well, I’ll leave you two alone,” Harriet said with a cheerful wave before disappearing among the bushes.

A moment passed as they listened to the pram wheel away and then Aziraphale said, “She seems a rather nice lady.”

Aziraphale didn’t know the half of it. Harriet was always checking in on him at the house, making sure he felt prepared and supported, trying to push him back to the cottage make sure he got enough sleep. For some reason he’d thought the antichrist’s mother would be a stone cold bitch. Harriet might have had her sharp edges, but she was overwhelmingly kind. “Not what I expected if I’m being honest.”

Without warning, Aziraphale yanked his hand out of Crowley’s grasp, making Crowley feel like he was somehow dirty for even touching the angel. “So! The topiary!”  Aziraphale said in a high pitched voice.

“Right.” Crowley clenched his hands, once, twice and took a deep breath. “A miracle or two should do.”

“Right,” Aziraphale repeated in his ridiculous Francis voice. “The hydrangeas?”

What a bastard. 

Crowley would show him the hydrangeas. 

**

Aziraphale was in the shower and Crowley needed to wash his face. It had baby barf on it.

And it smelled.

He tried to whisk it away with his powers but the smell was so strong he couldn’t imagine it gone. And he needed it gone.

Easing open the door, steam and the smell of Aziraphale’s peppermint soap immediately diffused the smell. Thank Go—somebody. Resolved to scrub the baby barf and the makeup from his face as efficiently as possible, he scooted to the sink. The shower snicked off

Fuck.

Be cool,  Crowley said to himself over the sound of the curtain opening. Aziraphale is naked over there and you have to be cool. “Would you like to cover up?” he asked as tonelessly as possible, purposefully avoiding looking at the shower.

Aziraphale snapped the curtain shut and growled at him, “You know, you could wait until I’m out of the bathroom.”

Crowley was about to protest, saying he needed the sink when he realized he could have used the kitchen sink. Or the mud room. He was a fucking idiot.

Aziraphale ripped the curtain open, towel wrapped around his waist, curls plastered to his head and face contorted in rage.

“I’ve seen you in worse. I don’t mind,” Crowley croaked as he tried his best not to watch the water drip through Aziraphale’s chest hair. 

“Maybe I mind,” Aziraphale said, stepping out of the shower and pushing past Crowley, who flattened himself against the wall like, maybe, if he made himself small enough, he would disappear. Distantly, he heard the bedroom door hit the wall as it was opened roughly and he sighed.

Why couldn’t he just think ahead for two seconds?

Changing into his pajamas, Crowley hesitantly made his way into the kitchen, angry at himself for upsetting Aziraphale and angry at Aziraphale for making him feel bad. 

The angel was standing by the stove, facing away. The tight line of his shoulders made the guilt twist in Crowley’s stomach. Should he say something?

Aziraphale turned around, looking eerily calm. “I’m sorry. I think I’m very tired and I overreacted. We’ll be living in close quarters for a while and we really should get used to having each other underfoot.”  

It was the same thought Crowley had had multiple times but that didn't mean he liked hearing it come out of Aziraphale's mouth.

“Speaking of underfoot, I wanted to discuss the sleeping situation with you.”

Frown deepening at the non-sequitur, Crowley had no idea what Aziraphale was talking about. 

Aziraphale began to pour the hot water into the cups he had pulled out. “Don’t look like that. I know you sleep most days and that’s fine but I’m not used to this kind of physical labor, so I’ll also want to sleep occasionally. Since there’s only the one bed and not exactly room to bring in another, I was hoping we could take turns? You sleep one night, I sleep the next or some such.”

Feeling like a child being talked down to, Crowley’s hackles rose. There was no need for Aziraphale to be so condescending. “Whatever you want,” he said, drawing out the words so Aziraphale would know he was angry and so that Aziraphale would feel as bad as Crowley felt.

It must have worked because suddenly Aziraphale was slamming the kettle into the stove with a loud clang. Crowley flinched as Aziraphale turned, pinning him in place with those awfully perceptive eyes.

“Listen, I know we’ve had a difficult century and we haven’t exactly spent much time together in the last few decades but if we are going to make this work, which we have to if we want to get anything done, then I need you to listen to me and to spend at least five seconds thinking about someone other than yourself.”

Looking satisfied at Crowley’s stricken expression, Aziraphale humphed. “I’m going to bed. Sleep wherever you want. I made you tea. You don’t have to drink it.”

Crowley heard the bedroom door slam and in Aziraphale’s absence the kitchen felt unbearably cold. 

**

After a fitful night of sleeping in the chair in Warlock's room, Crowley's guilt continued to eat at him.

Perhaps Aziraphale could have been kinder but Crowley knew he was at fault. It was just that...Crowley was no good at apologizing. Usually, when he pissed off Aziraphale, he would come around with chocolates or some old trinket and Aziraphale would look at him with that beautifully soft expression and Crowley would melt, brush off any thanks and then they would be right as rain.

It had been about a century since that had worked. Well, it had been a century since Crowley had tried. 

When he put Warlock down for his afternoon nap, he went downstairs to seek out the kitchen. He had an idea. An idea entirely inspired by the green things in the garden, the idyllic nature of the cottage. Not that he would ever admit that to Aziraphale who would surely tease him mercilessly for his romantic nature.

It wasn’t romantic. An evening picnic in a garden just sounded like something Aziraphale would like. Therefore it was a good apology.

“Excuse me,” he said as he tapped on the door frame. 

A burly Asian man looked up from his cookbook and raised an eyebrow. “Can I help you?”

“Yes,” Crowley said, playing up his Nanny vibe. “I’m Lilith Ashtoreth. The new nanny.”

“Right,” the man said. “Name’s Hiro.”

“Nice to meet you Hiro,” Crowley said politely. “I was hoping, perhaps, that you might help me put together a picnic for my husband. If you can just point me to the ingredients, I’m sure I can get along fine.”

Hiro gestured at a door on the far side of the kitchen. “Pantry’s there.”

Crowley made his way through the pantry, steadily selecting everything he needed to make a good chocolate cake. He could follow instructions—and use a few demonic miracles—to make it good. 

He got to work on the far side of the kitchen, leaving Hiro his space, while he played the events of the night before over in his mind. He needed to be better about thinking ahead, finding ways to keep Aziraphale happy so they could manage this. 

Ages ago, Aziraphale had gotten into his car and handed him holy water and Crowley had tried to make something of it but that had been a mistake because Aziraphale had said that he was too fast. Which Crowley had spent the better part of the next several decades convincing himself had been Aziraphale's attempt to let him down. Not a no, not a yes, but a stop pushing.

And as the years clicked by, Crowley became more and more certain that it had been more of a no than anything because Aziraphale never reached out and they fell out of touch almost entirely. If Aziraphale felt anything like he did then the angel shouldn't have been able to stand the distance between them.

But lately—and maybe Crowley was fantasizing a bit too much—sometimes he almost felt like Aziraphale felt something too. The way the angel’s eyes tracked him when he wore that black slip. The look on Aziraphale’s face when he came home from the main house, like he was so happy Crowley was back.

It had to mean something.

And maybe that something was that the no from all those years ago was not a no at all.

Crowley focused. He couldn’t think about it too much. This was an apology cake. Not a romantic declaration cake.

“A picnic for your husband, huh?” Hiro asked from behind him, drawing Crowley’s attention.

“Er, yes. He’s very fond of food. And the outdoors. The new gardener, you see.”

“Ah, that’s nice. That you get to work together here,” Hiro added as he began to chop carrots.

“What are you making?” Crowley asked, pausing in his own work.

“Stew.”

A man of few words. Crowley allowed himself a small smile as he turned back to mixing the cake. In the end it was easy enough. Crowley knew the cake would be a hit. 

And, in a flash of some sort of kindness, Hiro cobbled together some sandwiches and fruit, helping Crowley pack into a basket.

“Lucky man, the gardener,” Hiro commented and Crowley found himself blushing.

If only Aziraphale thought as much.

Making his way to the cottage, basket in hand, Crowley gathered his resolve. He didn’t need to be nervous. This was an apology. Between friends. 

Squaring his shoulders, he knocked on the bedroom door and was surprised when it swung open to reveal Aziraphale, back in his normal form, clad in tartan pajamas. The angel’s eyes widened as he looked over Crowley.

“I asked the cook,” Crowley began—ah shit, he was still being Nanny—“to make us a picnic. I thought we could…”

Something contorted on Aziraphale’s face, a dark cloud passing over his expression and Crowley tried to figure out what he had said to make him look like that. He gave the angel a wan smile.

“Of course,” Aziraphale said on a sigh. “Yes. Let me just change.”

Crowley nodded. Was Aziraphale still upset? Maybe this whole picnic thing was overkill. He walked away, back into the living room and waited patiently for Aziraphale to join him. When he did, Crowley scowled.

“You’ll need to look like Francis if we are going to go outside,” Crowley pointed out. He needed to have a conversation with Aziraphale about changing forms inside the cottage. It wouldn’t be good if anybody saw them. 

Aziraphale at least had enough sense to look embarrassed. “Oh, right.”

After he switched back to Francis, Crowley led him out into the garden near the rose bushes where he had sat that first day overlooking the trees. The sun was setting and casting the whole place in a reddish-purple glow. It was so romantic that it made Crowley’s palms sweat. Would Aziraphale call him on it? Throw a fit and say I told you no. Stop pushing me.

No, that was just his own worries. Aziraphale would never say anything like that. He was too...too Aziraphale.

Smoothing out the blanket he had tucked into the basket, Crowley gestured for Aziraphale to sit down, trying his best not to stare too much at Aziraphale’s brilliant smile. He looked gorgeous in the purple light, his perpetual vibrance making something feel like it was fizzing inside Crowley, effervescent and overflowing.

Handing Aziraphale one of the bottles of wine, he asked, “Would you open this?”

He heard the sound of the bottle being uncorked as he continued to lay out the spread. When he turned back to Aziraphale, Crowley saw that look like he might eat his own arm if food didn’t get in his mouth immediately, ridiculous and endearing.

“A very nice spread, my dear,” Aziraphale said, picking up a sandwich and biting into it as his cheeks turned pink in excitement. Or embarrassment? Crowley didn’t know.

He picked at his own sandwich, suddenly not hungry. “I thought that was the key to a good apology. Putting in the effort.”

A grape dropped onto Crowley’s knee and he looked over at Aziraphale who was staring at him, hand halfway to his mouth, frozen in shock and Crowley’s heart lurched. He looked so adorable.

“Are you actually apologizing?” the angel asked incredulously and Crowley felt something he hadn’t felt in nearly two hundred years (he’d gotten very good at compartmentalizing)—he wanted to kiss Aziraphale.

Oh no. It was too much. Too much. Maybe if he didn’t look at the angel the feeling would go away. Focusing on retrieving the rest of the items from the basket, he tried to sound casual when he said, “What does it look like I’m doing?”

“It’s just you never—you’ve never done that before.”

That got Crowley’s attention. “Excuse me! Yes I have.”

“When?” Aziraphale said, poking him in the arm and smiling like he was teasing him. 

Crowley’s higher processing seemed to seize up. He wanted to blame it on the wine but he hadn’t even had a sip. “Erm...ah...hmm...”

Aziraphale gave him a triumphant look. “Exactly.”

It felt soft and affectionate and Crowley was certain he couldn't handle it. Casting about for some way to diffuse the warmth gathering in his belly, Crowley rolled his eyes and said, “Fine. Well, I thought it would stop your huffing.”

Aziraphale smirked at him and that feeling from before—the kissing feeling—returned tenfold. He was thankful when Aziraphale interrupted his thoughts with a “Wine?” 

He thrust a glass into Aziraphale’s hand and said, “Absolutely.”

It wasn’t too long before he felt warm and content, as he laid back on his elbows and gazed up at the stars. “You ever think about going up there?”

“Hmm?” Aziraphale asked and Crowley could tell he was a bit past tipsy.

“Space? I reckon we could survive out there.”

“Why would I want to go to space?” Aziraphale asked like Crowley was being particularly ridiculous. “All the good stuff is on Earth.”

“The good stuff?” Crowley asked. Aziraphale was losing his patented vocabulary which meant he was drunk. 

Aziraphale scoffed. “You know. Food, wine, you...” he paused and Crowley’s heart caught in his throat. “You know. The good stuff.”

Ah. Of course Crowley wasn’t part of the good stuff.

Eventually, they ended up laughing about something ridiculous—it was hard not to laugh around Aziraphale and then the angel was looking down at him with an expression full of a feeling Crowley thought he recognized because he'd felt it so often himself.

Was Aziraphale—

“Thank you for this,” Aziraphale said, turning away. “Apology or no. It was enjoyable.”

That's when he realized he was leaning forward, pulled into the gravity of Aziraphale’s existence as he so often was. If only he could show Aziraphale how important he was. Wait! Crowley’s drunken mind gave him a poke. “I forgot!”

Scrabbling into a seated position, he ripped open the basket. “I got you cake!”

Aziraphale didn’t need to know that he made it himself. That felt far too much like a confession.

There was that expression was again, soft and happy and Crowley’s stomach twisted with fear and hope.

“Let’s share it.” 

The angel offered him the fork but Crowley waved it off. “It’s for you.”

Aziraphale hummed around his first bite and Crowley was too drunk to stop himself from staring at him while he ate. 

On the blanket under the stars, Crowley felt for a moment like he had actually taken the time to make this romantic. That Aziraphale knew how he felt and felt the same way and that they could go back to the cottage and fall asleep holding each other.

But that wasn’t bound to happen any time soon.

Returning to the cottage, Crowley claimed the bathroom first. It had been such a nice night and he was loathe for it to end, but he couldn’t exactly ask for Aziraphale to stay up all night with him. They hadn’t done that since the middle ages when they were both at their loneliest and humans were at their worst.

He undid his hair and scrubbed off his make-up. Someday soon he’d get tired of the ritual and resort to using his powers to undo his appearance, but it felt good right then, grounding.

What did that expression out in the rose garden mean? Aziraphale had looked captivated. Perhaps it had just been the general romance of the moment, the stars, the picnic. Aziraphale was fond of aesthetics. It could have been gratitude. 

Crowley needed to sober up. He needed to sleep.

Feeling rather nervous about the whole sleeping location thing given their fight the night before, he stopped in the doorway to the living room and found Aziraphale staring at the book in his hands. Frank O’Hara. “Bathroom’s yours.”

Aziraphale stood up absentmindedly and Crowley trailed behind him. “Can I have the bed tonight?” he asked, hoping beyond hope that the answer was yes. He was exhausted from the night before and had used a small miracle to keep Warlock asleep through the night just so he could really rest. And he desperately wanted it to be in a bed.

Smiling sadly at him, Aziraphale nodded. “Of course, my dear.”

Crowley moved to walk around Aziraphale and into the bedroom but was stopped by a hand brushing over his cheek, pushing the loose hair behind his ear. Heart stuttering, he looked at Aziraphale with wide eyes.

“I like your hair like this, you know,” the angel said simply.

Crowley stood in the hallway and stared after Aziraphale who nonchalantly shut the bathroom door as if he hadn't done anything out of the ordinary. 

Hope bloomed in Crowley’s chest. This was it, wasn't it?

Maybe if Crowley was smart about it, subtle, maybe slow, Crowley could move them forward and he wouldn’t have to spend another year pretending he wasn’t in love.

Chapter Text

Harriet stared at Crowley from the doorway to the nursery. "You know I'm glad to be going back to work but...it feels so soon.”

Crowley peered down at Warlock who was gurgling happily as he looked up at the mobile Crowley had bought for him. Dogs with red eyes and snarling teeth. Harriet hadn’t even noticed that it was little more demonic than the usual animal themed decorations and let Crowley hang it up himself. Easy as pie.

Once he was sure he wouldn’t have a screaming baby on his hands, he went to Harriet’s side and took her hand. “It’s always like this with the wee ones. Leaving them is hard. Every mother goes through it,” he said, trying to sound soft and supportive.

He remembered that mother and child he’d rescued during the Inquisition and the way the girl had looked at her daughter like she held the world in her eyes. And then with Ashanti and Penelope and Prathamesh...

Shit he’d taken care of a lot of kids. When had that happened?

“Thanks, Lilith,” Harriet said, squeezing her hand. “I’m just a phone call away.”

“Yes, dear,” Nanny said, though he was resolved not to call unless the house was on fire, which...who knew when you were babysitting the antichrist.

Harriet pressed a final kiss to Warlock’s forehead and left Crowley alone with the baby.

He grinned down into the crib and Warlock stopped gurgling and instead started to cry. Maybe he needed to tone down the demonic looks.

At least for a bit.

**

“Yes, my evil darling, you’ll take over the world,” Crowley sang tunelessly as he patted Warlock’s back, trying to get him to burp after eating.  

Warlock had been resisting his care all afternoon. He’d been finicky about the bottle, trying not to latch on no matter what Crowley did. Then he went into a fit halfway through eating, forcing Crowley to calm him down before he could finish his food. Now, instead of relaxing and burping up whatever needed to be burped, he was trying to grasp at Crowley’s hair, yanking strands out between the bobby pins and pinching him. 

“Naughty, Warlock,” he said, trying not to sound too frustrated. After all, wasn’t he supposed to be encouraging bad behavior? There was a fine line though. And maybe that line was when it irritated Crowley.

Finally, Warlock burped, a minor spit up situation and Crowley cleaned him up before settling him against his shoulder, rocking slowly in the chair in hopes of soothing the antichrist to sleep. His irritable squirming eventually disappeared and just as Crowley was about to move him to the crib, Aziraphale opened the door and stomped inside.

Shushing him, Crowley put Warlock in his crib and herded the angel out the door where they wouldn’t disturb Warlock’s sleep.  

“What do you need?” Crowley asked. He tried his best to tuck away what were surely wild strands of his hair standing on end from where Warlock had been yanking on them. 

Aziraphale opened his mouth. And then closed it. And then said, “I wanted to thank you.”

Well, that was bloody weird. Things had been better between them after their fight and Crowley still caught Aziraphale giving him those soft looks but Crowley was trying to stay strong and not launch himself at the angel, bowling over whatever delicate framework he hoped was being laid. Crowley had a tendency to do that, smash through whatever was around him just to get to the good bit. But Aziraphale was slow and methodical and Crowley had to let him be if the good bit was ever going to actually happen.

“For?”

“The picnic,” Aziraphale practically squeaked.

And things could only get weirder. “Yes, you thanked me when it happened. A month ago...” 

“Well I wanted to thank you again. And say that we should do it again. If the weather holds?”

Realization hit and Crowley blinked. This was it! Aziraphale taking a step forward. Finally. It was always Crowley inviting and welcoming and asking but this, this was Aziraphale wanting, not just Crowley.

Stuffing down his rather jubilant response, he tried to be nonchalant as he said, “If you’d like.”

Aziraphale started to blush, his ruddy cheeks turning even darker as he fiddled with his hands like he wanted to say something else. Crowley tried to wait him out but when nothing was forthcoming he said,  “I’m going back to the baby then.”

Stopping him from returning to the nursery with a hand on his arm, Aziraphale said quickly, “You should bring him out to the garden some time. It would be good to give me some time with him. Even things out.”

Still riding the elation of the fact that Aziraphale wanted to spend more time with him, Crowley had to take a moment to process what Aziraphale had said. And when he did, he realized the angel was right. “I suppose I could take him for more walks. Say I wanted to see my husband.”

Aziraphale shifted on his feet and started in on what surely would be a lecture. “If we want to give him as much exposure to good as to evil, we will need to—” 

And then Aziraphale was crowding into his space, nearly pushing him against the door, pressing his lips against Crowley’s cheek and— guh.  

“Goodbye, sweetheart. I’ll see you this evening,” Aziraphale said with a very convincing besotted grin.

Crowley made an unintelligible noise. That was quite unlike Aziraphale, going from tentative invitation to physical displays of affection. Not that Crowley was complaining. Before he could figure out what to say, he saw the butler walking down the hall. Trying to push down the rush of disappointment as he realized that that little kiss had only been for show, Crowley put on his best impression of a loving wife. “Goodbye, dearie.”

**

Crowley spent the night thinking about the kiss. Could they do that now? Would Aziraphale like it?

It was just a kiss on the cheek, you sap, he said to himself as he stared out the window of the dining room. 

The rose Aziraphale had cut was looking worse for wear. That wouldn’t do at all. With a brief burst of power, he willed it back to it’s prime and smiled. Good. That ought to please the angel. 

Yes but it was a kiss on the cheek when you know Aziraphale is interested, the more optimistic part of him whispered back.

When I think Aziraphale is interested, Crowley was fast to correct.

“Good morning, my dear,” Aziraphale said with his usual morning joy as he popped into the kitchen and set the kettle on. “You’re up early.”

“It was your night in the bed,” Crowley said shortly and then chastised himself. If he wanted Aziraphale to like him, he couldn’t be a prick.

Though he supposed that wasn’t true. He’d been a prick for millennia and Aziraphale had liked him before. At least platonically. 

“So I stayed up,” he amended in lighter tones. “S’nice here.”

Aziraphale grumbled as he put together two cups of tea. “Some of the decorations...leave something to be desired.”

“Just because they’re not all ancient doesn’t mean they’re not good.”

Rolling his eyes dramatically, Aziraphale handed him his cup of tea and took the seat opposite him. “I like modern things.”

“Of course you do,” Crowley said. Just because he wasn’t going to be a prick didn’t mean he wasn’t going to be sarcastic. That was practically asking him not to have a personality. And Aziraphale liked his personality!

He was pretty sure anyway.

**

When Crowley finally did bring Warlock to the garden, seeing Aziraphale with the baby did something awful in Crowley’s chest, like his heart was too big and his chest was far too small. Aziraphale was always beautiful but with Warlock in his arms, he looked radiant.

Far too distracted to remember to take Warlock back in for his nap, he ruined the baby’s entire schedule for the day and ended up having to stay late. Harriet came into the nursery in the evening and practically forced Crowley to have dinner with her. She'd been gone a lot since she started work and with Mr. Dowling's necessary travel, Crowley could tell she was getting lonely.

He took the invitation since he was fairly certain he would do something boneheaded if he went back to the cottage and saw Aziraphale after their little rendezvous in the garden. It would be better this way. Slowly.

Picking at the green beans on his plate, Crowley tried to make conversation. “How has work been, Harriet?”

Taking a sip of her wine, Harriet paused for a moment. “Oh, it’s alright. I'm very glad to be back at it. I love Warlock but babies are boring.”

Pursing his lips, Crowley reminded himself that he wasn't there to judge Harriet's parenting skills, and she wasn’t exactly wrong.

“And you? How are you and Francis doing?”

Crowley was secretly proud of Aziraphale for how well he was adjusting. He’d managed pretty well with the grounds despite their size and while Crowley was certain some of it was due to well-placed miracles, it certainly wasn’t only miracles. “Francis is happiest when he has things to care for.”

Harriet hummed. “You love him very much, don’t you?” she remarked.

Crowley tried not to choke on his green beans. Yes, they were supposed to seem that way. Harriet wasn’t some clairvoyant American who could see in his heart. Hopefully. “Yes, well, I can’t imagine not loving him. He’s the kindest person I’ve ever known. Even when I don’t deserve it.”

Harriet smiled, a little sadly. “That’s very sweet.”

Disgustingly so.

**

Aziraphale was still awake when he returned to the cottage around 10 PM, reading in the living room. That blasted O’Hara.

“You were out late,” Aziraphale said, the question implied.

“Harriet wanted to have dinner. I think she’s lonely when her husband is gone.”

Aziraphale hummed and turned back to his book.

“How’s the reading?” Crowley asked, hesitating before going to bed. He wanted to spend time with Aziraphale but it made him nervous. If he was around the angel too much, he’d definitely say something stupid like Why do you keep looking at me like you miss me even though I’m right here?

“Just lovely,” Aziraphale said, smiling. “You really should read it.”

Crowley filed that away even though he knew it was unlikely he’d ever want to.

**

Warlock was being a demon. Some days Crowley forgot he was caring for the antichrist but this was not one of those days.

“Stop vomiting,” he hissed at the baby as he changed his onesie for the third time. The baby was clearly not sick but he must have taken in too much air while eating because he kept burping and every time a little more milk came up. 

Crowley kept having to scrub it off his jacket with his powers but it was getting harder and harder each time, the knowledge that it was there and would soon be there again making his powers less and less useful.

Finally, Harriet came home and relieved him. He gave her a warning about the puke fountain and she looked at Warlock warily before squaring her shoulders in determination. “I can handle it. Go get some rest, Nanny.”

Dragging himself to the cottage, Crowley had his spit up covered jacket half off before he even opened the door. All he wanted was a shower and some sleep.

“Disgusting,” Crowley groaned as he pushed into the bedroom, startling Aziraphale where he was relaxing against the headboard. “Spit up, so much spit up.” 

Finally getting his jacket it off, he hurled it across the room and started to unbutton his shirt. Maybe if the clothes were further away from him, he’d smell it less. Scrambling to sit up, Aziraphale asked,  “Did you use your powers to—”

“Of course I did!” he snapped, resolutions to be less of a prick falling away in his distress. Shaking out his arms, he shivered. “I feel like it’s still on me.”

“Calm down, my dear. Let me help,” Aziraphale said, and then his hands were running down Crowley’s back, hot through the thin fabric of his blouse. 

He felt Aziraphale pause on his shoulder blade, thumb rubbing back and forth once, twice and then stopping. Crowley’s heart hammered in his chest as he tried to breathe normally.

Those warm hands were tugging at the sleeves of his blouse and Aziraphale’s nails scraped over the bare skin of Crowley’s collar bone as his palm ran over his shoulder, tugging the gauzy fabric down and away, giving him goosebumps. He was still wearing his slip but he felt unimaginably naked with his shirt discarded on the floor and Aziraphale’s gaze raking over his exposed torso.

“There,” Aziraphale said, voice low. “One down. Let’s take care of your hair.”

Feeling like his knees might give out at any moment, Crowley sank down on the edge of the bed and closed his eyes. If he looked at Aziraphale right then, he knew he’d have that kissing feeling and in that moment with Aziraphale touching him, he didn’t think he’d be able to resist the urge. 

He felt a tug in his hair, and then the slip of a bobby pin as one of Aziraphale’s hands cupped the side of his jaw, holding him in place while the other steadily worked through Crowley’s curls. He felt each tendril of his hair uncoil, the ends kissing the bare skin of his neck. It was...it was perfect.

After every bobby pin, Aziraphale would run his fingers through the now loose hair, nails scraping over Crowley’s scalp and he bit his lip, trying not to make any noise, nothing to break the moment, nothing that might make Aziraphale skitter away like he always did. 

Once all the bobby pins were gone, Aziraphale ran his fingers through his hair, a makeshift brush and it was only then that a sigh escaped Crowley’s lips. He hoped Aziraphale wouldn’t notice.

Hand falling away from Crowley’s face, Aziraphale said, “All done. Now why don’t you go shower.”

It was with great effort that Crowley managed to peel himself from the bed and totter into the shower. His stomach felt hot and tight and even though he knew what that meant, he refused to do anything about it, even in the privacy of the shower. Aziraphale was right there

That didn’t stop him from replaying the moment in his mind the entire time he was in the shower.

He stared at the pile of his clothes on the ground as he dried himself in the fluffiest towel he could conjure. He remembered the way Aziraphale had looked at him in the living room that first night, when he had come into the living room just in his slip. Crowley had been waiting to see that expression for centuries, proof that this wasn't as one-sided as he had always thought, and he wanted to see that expression again.

Decision made, he summoned a new one and tugged it over his head. Seducing Aziraphale notwithstanding, it was soft against his skin and he liked that a great deal. 

Stepping out of the bathroom, he saw Aziraphale on the bed still in his tartan pajamas looking radiant and warm and...Crowley lost his nerve. It would be too fast if he slipped into bed and kissed the angel, tried to touch him. 

But he could still move forward. 

Pulling back the covers, Crowley tucked himself into bed and tried to relax. He could feel Aziraphale’s gaze on him. The angel was probably freaking out.  “What are you staring at?” he asked, redirecting to hide his own nerves.

Crowley heard a sharp exhale. “Well, I was hoping I could have the bed tonight.”

“We can share," Crowley said, heart kicking in his chest.

A book slammed shut. “What was that?”

Oh he must have mumbled. Bad habits and all. “We can share.”

The bed was so comfortable and he was so tired. Aziraphale would be better off if he stopped worrying. Aziraphale was always better off when he stopped worrying. He was silly. All that worrying...

He heard Aziraphale stammer behind him but before he could really respond—not that he had anything to say—he drifted off.

When he woke in the morning Aziraphale was gone.

Expecting to find the angel still in the house, he wandered into the kitchen and saw the note on the table. His heart gave a little pulse in his chest, blood turning thick and icy.

Crowley — I have to pop to London for a little work. I’ll be back in a few days. Can you make my excuses if the Dowlings ask after me?

Yours, 

Aziraphale

Crowley ignited the paper in his hand, watching it burn to ash and trying to hold on to his anger instead of mourning the death of the hope he had been stupid enough to entertain.

Of course Aziraphale would run. He didn’t feel the same way Crowley did. And Crowley had known that. 

Turning away from the falling ash, Crowley left the house. He had to go to work.

**

“You’re my little hellspawn, yes you are,” Crowley sang to the tune of Frere Jacques as he tickled Warlock’s belly.

The baby giggled and tried to wriggle away from Crowley’s hand. Taking pity on the antichrist, Crowley pulled away. It was time for his nap anyway.

Pulling up the blanket Crowley had summoned especially for the antichrist—it had skeletons hidden in the animal pattern—Crowley tucked it around the baby and watched as his eyes eventually slid shut and his breathing turned even.

In the silence, Crowley could no longer avoid thinking about Aziraphale. It made his stomach hurt with shame when he realized how wrong he’d had the situation. Of course, Aziraphale didn’t have romantic feelings for him. Hadn’t it been enough for him to say that they couldn’t fraternize or that Crowley was too fast? He had been an idiot.

Sniffling a little—he was not crying—Crowley left the baby’s room, monitor in hand and went down to the kitchen to clean Warlock’s bottles. 

Hiro looked up at the sound of Nanny Ashtoreth’s heels and nodded at him in acknowledgement before continuing to whisk something in a bowl.

In silence, Crowley went to the sink and began washing up. He did his best to focus on the task at hand but kept slipping into memories of the night before Aziraphale left, the way his hands had felt in his hair. Aziraphale had looked at him. Or maybe Crowley was just desperate to see what he wanted to see.

“You alright?” Crowley heard from the other side of the kitchen.

He realized he’d been grumbling to himself and nodded his head. “Yes, Hiro. Thank you for asking.”

Silence again.

“You know, baking bread is very cathartic. If you’d like to learn.”

Crowley turned to Hiro as he finished drying the bottles. “It never hurts to try something new.”

**

Crowley felt sore in a way that he hadn’t in a very long time, the muscles in his arms tired from kneading. Hiro had been right, baking had been cathartic. Beating the shit out of the dough had been particularly nice. 

When evening finally came, he returned to the cottage and froze by the souzu fountain. The lights in the cottage were on. 

Aziraphale was back.

The fountain plinked it’s steady rhythm and Crowley thought through all the possible ways he could confront the angel. Was it worth the fight? Should he just let it go and pretend he believed Aziraphale’s excuses?

He opened the door and was greeted by the sound of Billie Holiday. Strange. Coming to a stop in the living room doorway, he saw Aziraphale puffing his way through rolling up the rug. The whole place was different, redecorated. It looked like a neater version of Aziraphale’s bookshop. Less books, more lamps. 

Aziraphale smiled up at him and Crowley couldn’t stop the traitorous skip of his heart. 

“Record player?” Crowley asked, nodding his head to the corner where he saw the device spinning away.

Aziraphale kept smiling but it was starting to look pained. “I’m trying to spruce things up a bit.” 

So that’s what he got now? Pained smiles? Turning on his heel, he left the angel to his redecorating and went to the bedroom, flopping down on the bed and doing his best to sleep.

It was a pathetic enterprise. He couldn’t stop thinking about Aziraphale. He hated it. All he wanted was to sleep, forget for a bit.

A knock at the door interrupted his sulking. “Crowley? I brought back a couple of very nice bottles of wine. I thought we could crack one open.”

A peace offering. To smooth things over maybe. Aziraphale always wanted to smooth things over. Well alright then, Crowley would bite. “What kind?”

“A grenache,” Aziraphale replied, gesturing with the bottle in his hand.

That sounded alright. Maybe, with a few drinks in him, Crowley would be able to stand looking at Aziraphale and maybe, with a few more drinks, Crowley would be able to pack away the stupid, useless feelings that plagued him and boot them down the Nile for good measure. “You’ve convinced me.”

“I rearranged the living room. It’s a little more cozy if I do say so myself,” Aziraphale said, leading Crowley back to the main room of the house.

It was nice, even Crowley had to admit that. Much cozier, more Aziraphale, which was better and worse. 

Using his powers to light the fire, he said, “‘S’nice.”

Shifting awkwardly for a moment, Aziraphale held out the wine and asked, “Would you pour the wine? I’d like to change.”

Crowley took the bottle and used his powers to uncork it, turning his back as he heard Aziraphale putter back to the bedroom. He’d poured them both glasses before Aziraphale returned looking ridiculous in an oversized, lumpy sweater. It was adorable and Crowley hated the way it made him want to pull Aziraphale into his arms.

The silence was so tense that Crowley couldn’t help but break it. “So...how was London?” 

“The same,” Aziraphale asked, looking anywhere but at him. Anger flared in Crowley.

“What was your assignment?” he asked, his determination to let sleeping dogs lie burned away by the frustration sparking inside him.

Aziraphale’s eyes widened and now he was looking at Crowley. “Erm...well, it was less of an assignment and more—”

“I bloody knew it!” Crowley slammed his cup down on the table with enough force to crack it. “‘Sorry Crowley duty calls.’ You lied.”

“Yes, alright! I just needed a little space!” 

Aziraphale openly acknowledging his desire to be away from Crowley made him feel like something cold was dripping down his scalp. Maybe rage, maybe fear. Maybe both. So he did what he knew best and lashed out with a sneer. “Oh? Space? Was fifty years not enough space?”

Aziraphale put down his cup, calm as ever, and leaned forward, hands out and open. How dare he look so calm?   “Look, Crowley, this is as difficult for me as it is for you. Given our, erm, difference of feeling about this relationship.”

Difference of…? Fuck.

It was everything Crowley had known for years but refused to believe because Aziraphale had never said it outright. It had been so fucking easy to pretend that Aziraphale could want him back when they didn’t talk about it. Why had he—the slip, the bed— fuck. Why had he done that?

Sucking in a breath, he fell into the boiling emotions inside him, anger and shame turning sticky and awful—

Aziraphale’s eyes tightened in pity. “I suppose I should give you the opportunity to think about what we’ve gotten ourselves into. That’s what I needed. Just a little time to figure out if I could handle this. And I’ve decided I can. The mission is more important than our...different feelings.” 

Crowley rolled his neck, letting it pop, before turning to stare into the fire. He felt cold.  After draining his wine glass, he said, words coming more venomous than he meant them, “I’ve been handling our difference of feeling for years. Why would it matter now?”

When he looked back at Aziraphale—hoping for a reaction, something— he at least had the bitter satisfaction of seeing the angel pale before stuttering, “Ri-right, well...that’s settled then.”

Throat tight, a mixture of shame and anger threatening to choke him, Crowley said, “You can have the bed. I won’t be sleeping tonight.”

He probably wouldn’t be sleeping for a while. Aziraphale made some pathetic protest so Crowley repeated, quiet and dark, “Go to bed, Aziraphale.”

And for once in his stupid existence, Aziraphale listened to him.

Chapter Text

If Aziraphale wanted to keep Crowley at arm's length then good. Crowley was good at keeping his distance.

He wore only his Nanny Ashtoreth clothes in the house. Spoke only in Nanny’s voice. Didn’t initiate any friendly conversation and left Aziraphale to his own devices. 

Professionalism aside, Crowley wasn’t too big to admit he was also enjoying irritating the fuck out of the angel. He had summoned his favorite albums from his flat and played them late into the evening when Aziraphale was in the bedroom at a volume he knew would grate on Aziraphale’s nerves.

Drinking a glass of whiskey next to the fire, he flipped on Nobody Puts Baby in A Corner and smirked in satisfaction when he heard something smash in the kitchen. 

Keep quiet

Nothing comes as easy as you

Can I lay in your bed all day?

Crowley liked Fall Out Boy. Very soothing. 

Aziraphale came to a stop in the doorway, shoulders nearly at his ears as he grated out, “Can you turn that awful music down?”

“Of course, dearie,” Nanny Ashtoreth said condescendingly, snapping her fingers so the dial turned down to a reasonable 6 instead of a 10.

Aziraphale groaned and rolled his eyes. “Really. Such a child.”

Crowley let the comment go but not before turning the music back up to an 8.

**

The only time they spent together was in the evenings when they would both sit in the living room. Aziraphale would read and Crowley would watch TV or listen to music and do his nails. 

But that night, Aziraphale was reading too loudly. Crowley could hear every turn of the page and it was pissing him off.

He turn on his record. Aziraphale snapped his book shut and threw it down on the couch, his boots echoing against the kitchen tile before Crowley heard the slam of the mudroom. He turned the music back up.

Loaded god complex, cock it and pull it

If Aziraphale was going to call him childish, then he would be childish and relish in it because Aziraphale said “different feelings” in that hoity toity voice and didn't seem to care at all that he'd essentially curb-stomped Crowley's heart.

Crowley stood and picked up Aziraphale’s book, ripping it in half just to feel the satisfaction of the page tearing. 

He immediately felt guilty and put it back together.

Staring at the cover in consideration, he turned off the record and opened the book. 

**

One of the convenient things about Crowley’s nanny duties was that it was a good excuse to stay at the Dowling house until late in the evening. As late as possible really, just so she could avoid spending any time in the cottage she didn’t have to.

Unfortunately, Harriet started to notice.

“You know, you should take some time off,” Harriet said as she looked across the living room towards Warlock’s playpen.

It was 8 PM and Lilith had refused to leave, following Harriet to the sitting room stating that Warlock had had a fussy day and that she was loathe to leave him before knowing he was truly settled.

“It’s quite alright, dearie,” Crowley said with a tight smile. 

Warlock started to make a whining noise that both Crowley and Harriet recognized as the beginnings of a hungry wail. Gesturing for Nanny to remain seated, Harriet stood and retrieved the baby before returning to her seat. “Do you mind if I…”

Nanny shook her head. “Of course not.”

Harriet began the difficult looking process of breast feeding. Human bodies were astouding.

“You know, I’ve noticed that you haven’t been spending as much time with Francis,” Harriet said nonchalantly, fiddling with one of Warlock’s hands.

Crowley stiffened. “Ah, yes. Well, I’ve been busy.”

“Sometimes,” Harriet said, giving him a sharp look, “I worry that Tad is avoiding me. Being on all these business trips just after Warlock is born. It’s hard to ask him about it though. It feels very vulnerable to ask something what’s essentially ‘do you still love me?’”

“Do you ask him?” Crowley said, hands fisted together where they are resting in her lap.

“Never,” Harriet said with a sad smile.

They’re silent for a moment as Warlock finishes eating and Harriet puts herself back together. “I’m glad you and Francis will get to meet Tad next Friday. It’ll be nice to have dinner together.”

Crowley smiled but it felt more like a baring of teeth. 

**

Staring down at the angel, Crowley waited while Aziraphale slowly removed his reading glasses and then looked up at him expectantly. “Yes?”

His nonchalant tone pissed Crowley off. Everything about the angel pissed Crowley off. “Dinner? With the Dowlings?”

It was expressly against everything Crowley had said at the beginning. Socializing was bad. He already had to spend a lot of time with Harriet because he was always at the house. This was overkill.

Aziraphale pursed his lips and said in his holier-than-thou tone, “Harriet asked and I saw no reason to refuse.”

“No reason?” Crowley asked, higher pitched than usual.

Gesturing at the seat across from him, Aziraphale sighed. “Why don’t you sit down, my dear? All your looming is making me uncomfortable.”

Sitting before he really thought about it, Crowley groaned. Why couldn’t he refuse Aziraphale? Stupid, stupid, stupid. 

“I did my best in the situation I was in,” Aziraphale began in that irritatingly calm voice. “I want you to trust me in this. Do you think you can do that?”

Aziraphale was pinning him in place with those soft gray eyes, hands folded atop his book of poetry. All of Crowley's anger drained out of him. “Yes, Aziraphale, I can do that.”

“You’ll see, we’ll be fine,” Aziraphale said with certainty before returning to his book.

**

When they arrived for the dinner, Pearson took them to the sitting room. As expected Aziraphale gravitated to the wall of bookshelves like a moth to a flame and before Crowley could snag him back, the Dowlings greeted them

Crowley knew what Thaddeus looked like, he’d seen pictures, but pictures hadn’t prepared him for the very thick, very American man in front of him.

Nanny Ashtoreth took the ambassador’s hand and Crowley felt very delicate as Thaddeus’s sausage fingers wrapped around his. It gave him the willies. “I’m glad to finally meet you, sir.”

“Call me Tad,” he said in his booming voice. It was friendly but in a false way, not at all in that no-nonsense way that Crowley liked so much about Harriet.

Tad surveyed Francis and his mouth turned down. “You two make an...interesting couple.”

Crowley’s neck prickled. How dare he insinuate that Aziraphale was anything but perfect?

Before Crowley could say anything biting, Aziraphale stepped in, using that ridiculous Francis voice. “I’m lucky a woman like Lilith was ever interested in me. Gorgeous thing she is.”

Looking down at his husband, Crowley’s heart clenched when he saw the look on Francis’s face like Nanny Ashtoreth was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

Stuffing his ridiculously emotional response back into the dark pit from which it came, Crowley responded with as much false cheer as he could muster. He tapped his finger against Francis’s nose affectionately. “You’re such a charmer, Francis.”

Aziraphale’s eyes widened and that loving look increased in intensity, making Crowley break first as he turned back to the Dowlings.

“She’s a wily one,” Francis said and Tad coughed.

“How long have you two been married?” Tad asked, clearly uncomfortable.

“Twenty years,” Aziraphale answered and Crowley heard a thread of pride in his voice. If he weren’t so angry with the angel, he would have been impressed. Before Crowley could add anything to Aziraphale’s answer, he felt the brush of lips across his cheek and had to stop himself from pushing the angel away. 

“You two are adorable,” Harriet said and she gave Crowley a pointed look.

With Warlock down for a nap and four capable adults in the house, Crowley felt it was reasonable to partake in a drink and still be able to take care of the baby. Tad apparently liked bourbon which only cemented Crowley’s negative opinion. Why drink bourbon when you could drink scotch?

The baby monitor went off and on instinct Crowley was out of the room before the cry even finished.

Warlock didn’t actually need anything when Crowley arrived. It was one of those cries of distress that he sometimes gave off when he woke up alone. Very emotionally sensitive for the antichrist.

“Can I see him?” Aziraphale asked from the doorway, startling Crowley. 

Reluctantly acknowledging that he’d have to let Aziraphale take care of the baby sometimes, he handed off the antichrist and watched as Aziraphale sat in the rocking chair and began to whisper sweet words to him. 

Aziraphale rocked back and forth as Warlock’s cries changed in tone.  “What do you need, sweetheart?” the angel said softly and Crowley’s heart twisted.

Fuck fuck fuck. 

“He’s hungry,” Crowley choked out.

Before Aziraphale even asked, he was retrieving a bottle and warming it with a short burst of power. Holding out the bottle, he offered it to Aziraphale so he could feed Warlock.

Crowley watched as Aziraphale began to feed him, the angel staring enraptured by the sight before giggling. “He’s cute.”

“He is,” Crowley agreed, realizing he was standing absurdly close to Aziraphale when the angel looked up at him through his dusky blonde lashes. 

“I miss you,” Aziraphale said out of nowhere. 

Crowley stepped back as he tried to file that information in with all the other things Aziraphale had said. Different feelings. Needing space. Their feelings were different. Aziraphale didn’t want to be anything but friends. How could he miss him when they were always together.

As if reading Crowley’s rambling thoughts, Aziraphale said, “No, I just mean. We were friends, weren’t we? Well, almost friends. I miss that.”

Crowley closed his eyes as a familiar guilt took up residence in his stomach. He was bad at this. Being friends. He’d been selfish in a way even his demonic nature couldn’t justify and Aziraphale was trying to be patient. Just because Aziraphale didn’t feel the same way he did, didn’t mean they couldn’t be friends.

He’d been an idiot.

“We’re still friends, angel,” he said, trying not to sound as overwhelmed as he felt.

Aziraphale smiled up at him, practically glowing in the dim light of the nursery. Crowley supposed he would just have to get used to the pain in his chest.

“Then can we try again? All other feelings aside?” Aziraphale asked. 

“Of course. Whatever you want,” Crowley said even though he knew it was a bad idea. What he should do is tender his resignation and transport himself to some place in the Urals to get his head on straight. Kazakhstan was nice in the fall.

Still smiling, Aziraphale handed off the bottle and together they put Warlock back to bed.

Breaking the silence, Aziraphale whispered, “You know, Harriet thinks we have marital problems.”

“What?” Crowley asked, surprised by that little tidbit.

“Well, with all your recent behavior, apparently she thought we were on the rocks,” Aziraphale said in that I-told-you-so voice Crowley hated.

That explained Harriet’s prying the other week. All that talk about marital happiness. Employer or no, she needed to mind her own business. “It’s not good that she’s asking so many questions.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Aziraphale said and he was starting to get too excited and therefore too loud. “It might be wise to, erm, act a bit more like a couple.”

That decidedly did not sound good. Pulling Aziraphale from the room, he shut the door behind them before asking, “What did you have in mind?”

Aziraphale gave him a look that Crowley recognized and absolutely dreaded. It meant Aziraphale was going to pay him back for all his shitty behavior. And he was going to do it slowly, and creatively. 

“I think it would be better if I surprised you, don’t you sweetpea?” Aziraphale said, sweet as anything. “More authentic.”

Crowley could swear Aziraphale winked at him before he turned on his heel to return to the Dowlings.

**

Aziraphale was eating his food like he hadn’t eaten in months. Crowley supposed the angel was particularly pleased to be eating something so fancy. 

And, unsurprisingly, Harriet asked them how they met. Crowley hoped she would eventually lay off their relationship.

He and Aziraphale hadn’t really discussed how they’d met so Crowley tossed out the vague truth. “In a garden.”

Feeling vengeful after Aziraphale's veiled threat upstairs, Crowley reached out and squeezed the angel’s knee and gave him the mooniest eyes he could manage. Authentic indeed.

“Really?” Harriet asked, looking between him and Aziraphale. “That sounds romantic.”

“It was quite the opposite,” Aziraphale insisted, turning to Nanny Ashtoreth and giving her just as besotted a look. “I’d misplaced my trowel and was so worried, covered in mud and looking a fright. Lilith here saw me and asked to help and well, I knew I was in love.”

Tad scoffed as he sawed an asparagus in half. “I hate to break it to you. But that sounds pretty romantic.”

Crowley had spent many hours during his sulks and moods thinking the same things but he wasn’t going to say that now because Aziraphale didn’t need to know just how closely Crowley held the memory of their first meeting to his heart.

“Tad’s right you know,” Harriet pointed out with a girlish giggle.

Aziraphale managed to cut through Crowley’s little foray into his rose-colored memories by saying, “There’s nothing romantic about that much mud.”

Forcing himself to agree, Crowley said, “It was less romantic than you think. He was so utterly obtuse”—which was absolutely true— “he had no idea I was interested. I had to go back to that garden every day for a week before I finally decided I would have to make the first move.”

And then if Nanny and Francis really were them, Francis would have shot her down summarily at the first chance and she would have trailed after like a kicked puppy for centuries.

Crowley sipped his water.

“Oh Tad was just the same,” Harriet said, looking at her husband like he was the best thing since sliced bread. Which he decidedly wasn’t, Crowley thought bitterly. Harriet could do better.

Tad snorted indignantly and that was when Crowley stopped paying attention. He hummed along and asked polite questions but he didn’t give a hoot about the answers.

It all turned out for the best because Harriet ended the night very pleased and Crowley knew the best thing was to keep their employers happy. Happy employers meant longer employment which meant not fucking up his assignment.

Shit, he needed to send his report—with pictures—down to hell.

Caught up in his to-do list while Aziraphale distracted him with inane conversation, he mistepped in the mud on the walk to the cottage and felt his ankle roll. He would have fallen flat on his face if Aziraphale hadn’t been there to keep him upright.

Hissing in pain, Crowley hopped back up, cursing as he tried to regain his balance on one foot. Aziraphale dutifully retrieved his shoe so that Crowley could put it back on which ended up not being very helpful because it fucking hurt.

“Are you all right?” Aziraphale asked, sounding concerned as he hovered at Crowley’s elbow.

Crowley tentatively tried to move his ankle and hissed at the sharp pain that lanced up his leg. “Sprain.”

Aziraphale wiggled his fingers at the ankle and asked, “Can’t you…”

If only.

“Demonic powers don’t work like that. Doom and destruction and all that—you know the party line. I heal fast but I can’t heal my self,” Crowley explained between clenched teeth. 

Aziraphale’s hands went to his hips and that cute little wrinkle of consternation appeared on his forehead.  “That seems counterproductive.”

Trying his best to start on his way to the cottage, Crowley couldn’t help but agree.

“Trust me, I’ve lodged about a dozen complaints and nothing doing. The first time I fell off a horse and broke my leg Beelzebub said, and I quote, ‘Serves you right for being clumsy.’”

Noticing Crowley’s half-hearted hobble, Aziraphale rushed to help him inside. “Let’s get you inside and figure something out.”

As soon as he could, Crowley fell onto the couch and looked down at his ankle feeling very glum. How long would it take to heal? A few days? A week at most. Argh, it was going to be awful nannying like this. 

Aziraphale was still hovering nearby, staring at him so Crowley raised his eyebrows expectantly, hoping Aziraphale would say his piece and be off with it.

“Do you think I can heal it?” 

Alarm bells rang in Crowley’s head as he imagined becoming a mote of dust on the couch cushion, exploded by Aziraphale’s well-intentioned but very heavenly powers. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea. What’s holy power going to do to a demon?”

“Let me try,” Aziraphale pleaded with a pout. Crowley glowered.

The pout disappeared. “Don’t be so dramatic, my dear.”

Crowley wrinkled his nose but held out his foot so Aziraphale could do his worst. Shaking out his hands like he was about to play some grand concerto, Aziraphale approached him and then laid his hands on Crowley’s ankle, delicate as anything. At first it was fine, the telltale prickle of excitement at Aziraphale’s nearness the only sensation Crowley could note and then—well Crowley could only liken it to what he imagined having your bones ripped out through the base of your foot would feel like. 

Then Crowley was blinking while splurts of cold water hit his cheeks. Aziraphale was flicking water at him? “What the hell are you doing?”

Freezing like a child with his hand in the cookie jar, Aziraphale dripped onto the couch cushion. “Erm, waking you up?”

“Please stop,” Crowley said before wiping at his face. It wasn’t enough so he took off his sunglasses and dried them on the fabric of his jacket.

“Did it work?” Aziraphale asked 

When Crowley looked at him blankly Aziraphale pointed down at his ankle. 

Tilting his head, Crowley gave his foot a glare and rotated it. “Good.”

Aziraphale beamed at him.

Not wanting to hear him preen, Crowley slipped back on his glasses and rolled his eyes. “But please, in the name of everything, never try to heal me again.”

Biting his lip, Aziraphale nodded. “It wasn’t my intention to hurt—”

“Well it felt like a thousand needles being stabbed into my foot so no thank you.” Crowley lifted up his foot into his lap and rubbed at the ankle bone. “Put a record on would you?”

When Aziraphale glared at him, he added a plaintive please which had Aziraphale shuffling over to the record player with no comment.

And then Aziraphale needled him about his music taste which only meant Crowley was going to needle him back and for about five seconds things were normal between them. It made Crowley feel hopeful. He tried to wrangle the sunny emotion, stuff it away like he’d been practicing, but it was too much so he let himself languish in it.

The sounds of Ella Fitzgerald filled the room and Crowley wondered if Aziraphale had any notion of how romantic that was. 

“Did you ever see her perform?” Crowley asked while Aziraphale took a seat by the fire.

“I’ve avoided America for the most part,” Aziraphale replied simply. Crowley hadn’t known that but he supposed he wouldn’t have. They hadn’t been speaking when America had really gotten into full swing.

Idly entertaining an old memory of seeing her sing at the Savoy, Crowley said, “She was magical. A lot of good music coming out of America. These days. Well, those days. The entire century really.”

He’d loved all the punk music from a handful of years ago. It didn’t have anything on British rock but it was very good.

Aziraphale sniffed, the prim idiot, and said, “You know I prefer the classics. Ella included.”

This was nice, Crowley admitted to himself. Yeah, so his feelings for Aziraphale weren’t going anywhere. He liked the angel. Spending time with him had been one of his favorite things for a long while and now the opportunity was there, whenever he wanted. Aziraphale was literally within spitting distance. Not that Crowley would spit on him.

“You can have the bed tonight, my dear.”

He realized quickly that he didn't want to go to bed. Not if Aziraphale was willing to try to be friends again. Worried some of his distress showed on his face, he looked over at the record player and said nonchalantly, “I think I feel like staying up.”

Aziraphale smirked—oh maybe he had noticed—and said, “We could get in to that second bottle I brought back from London.”

And yes, maybe Aziraphale would never feel that same thrill of excitement at the possibility of spending an entire night discussing anything and everything like Crowley did. Maybe he would never want to curl up in Crowley’s lap or want Crowley to be the first person he saw every morning and every evening. But Aziraphale did want to spend time with him. And Crowley knew their relationship was important to Aziraphale.

It was enough. It had to be.

**

Crowley did not like the way his mouth tasted after he pushed the alcohol out of his bloodstream. 

Pressing a cold glass of water into Crowley’s hand, Aziraphale looked down at him with an affectionate smile and Crowley had the strange urge to button his blouse—when had that gotten unbuttoned.

Standing up and rubbing at his forehead, Crowley resolved himself to having to go to work. 

“Have you been replacing the rose in the kitchen?” Aziraphale asked.

Rose? What? It was too early for Aziraphale’s weird questions.

“The rose?” Aziraphale repeated, “On the table? It’s still alive but I cut it months ago.”

Oh that rose. The one Aziraphale cut and smiled at and that Crowley had spent most days nourishing with his power. Aziraphale couldn’t know that though. He’d say something soft and embarrassing and Crowley would need to go die somewhere. “I dunno. I liked the way it looked. Wasn’t too much trouble to keep it alive.”

Sure enough, Aziraphale’s grey eyes crinkled at the edges.  “That was nice of you.”

No. No. No.

No feelings. 

“I’m not nice.”

He stomped out of the room and refused to look at Aziraphale.

Chapter Text

Crowley hated reading to the baby. However he knew he had to read to the baby so it wouldn’t stunt the Prince of Darkness’s development. Hell would have his head if they got an antichrist who didn’t know his alphabet.

Education was very important to Satan.

“The...dark...forest...was full of demons,” Crowley said, squinting at the page so that the letters lined up better.  Warlock stared at him from his carrier and made no noises. Crowley showed him the picture and he reached for the page and giggled. A positive sign. The antichrist should enjoy demonic iconography.

Crowley had decided to take their morning outside. He'd been feeling rather cooped up in the main house and he could read to the baby outside as well as inside so he'd set up a blanket on the lawn and set Warlock up the same way he would have inside.

"Their hooves and...scales were—" Aw fuckit. Crowley’d just make it up and use the pictures for reference. He was very good at being imaginative when he needed to be.

He heard the crunch of boots on leaves and looked up. Aziraphale, wobbling in all his Francis glory, approached with a flower in his hand and a silly smile on his face.  “Hallo, sweet pea. I heard you were outside. I brought you a flower.”\

Francis kneeled down next to her and presented her with...a marigold. Ugh, Crowley hated marigolds. They smelled awful. Crowley could always taste them on the back of his tongue for what felt like ages. “That’s lovely, Francis,” Nanny Ashtoreth sneered.

Something flickered in Francis’s eyes—ah, Aziraphale was disappointed—before he reached out, saying, “Here, let me.”

Crowley tensed as Francis tucked the flower behind her ear. His fingers trailed over her cheekbone and the only thing that stopped her from shivering was the rotting smell of the flower.

“You’re beautiful,” Francis said earnestly.

Oh no, Aziraphale wasn’t going to get her with frivolous compliments or lovesick eyes. Crowley was going to kill him. Touching the blooms with a sickly sweet expression, Crowley said, “What’s gotten into you? You’re being positively romantic?”

It was everything she could do not to gag as the smell of the bloom wormed its way down her throat. Snatching Aziraphale’s hand, she rubbed her thumb over the back of his hairy knuckles, scraping her nail over the sensitive skin. A threat.

“The flower reminded me of you,” Francis said. Aha, he sounded nervous. Perfect. 

In for the kill.

“That’s very sweet,” she said, leaning in and brushing her lips over his cheek. Well, a small skip of her heart was a decent sacrifice to smear lipstick all over Francis’s face and hiss, “If you ever put a marigold in my hair again, I will strangle you in your sleep.”

Pulling away, Francis looked at her with wide eyes and Crowley smiled demurely, tapping her cheek. “You’ve got lipstick, dearie.”

Aziraphale wiped at his face, making the smear of lipstick worse and Crowley stifled a laugh. 

Affecting an overly innocent smile—wily angel—Aziraphale said, “All clean.”

Crowley sneered.

Waving at him, dopey smile still intact, Francis walked away with a brief “See you at the cottage.”

Oh Francis could leave but Crowley would get him back.

**

Crowley spent the whole day with the blessed—damned—UGH—marigold tucked into his hair. Tracking in through the kitchen and getting a knowing smile from Hiro before marching upstairs to put Warlock down for his nap, he resigned himself to getting a headache.

When Harriet finally returned, she paused in the doorway of the nursery and touched her ear in a mirror of where the flower was in Nanny’s hair. 

“Francis gave it to me,” Crowley said, trying his best to force a blush. Could he even do that? His face didn't get warm so he'd probably failed.

Harriet gave him a look like that was the cutest thing she had ever heard. And it would have been if it weren’t a marigold. 

“Oh that’s so sweet,” Harriet said before going up to the crib to check on Warlock. “Does he do things like that often?”

Crowley thought back to Rome and being asked to share a meal for the first time in his demonic existence. How Aziraphale had pushed a cake onto his plate and demanded he eat. The letters Aziraphale used to send to him because he wanted to check in.

Even the holy water. Aziraphale even came through then.

“He used to,” he said before he thought better of it. He was supposed to be convincing Harriet that their marriage was fine not seeding more worries in her pretty little head.

“Well if he’s doing it again, then I’m sure he’s back on track,” Harriet said. Crowley nodded, trying to look moony, and then she asked, “How was Warlock?”

“An absolute prince,” Crowley said, silently adding the ‘of darkness.’

Harriet laughed and said, “Oh I like that. My little prince.”

She picked up her soon, bouncing him a bit which only made him cry. Dutifully ignoring the tears, Harriet said, “Oh right I wanted to let you know that Warlock and I will be going to visit Tad’s family in America. We’re leaving the 20th of November and will be back after the New Year. You and Francis are welcome to stay of course.”

Crowley blinked. What were he and Aziraphale going to do while the Dowlings were gone?

An image of the cottage, covered in snow, while Aziraphale read aloud from the Frank O’Hara flitted through his mind.

Haven’t you ever fallen down at Christmas and didn’t it move everyone who saw you? 

Was he thinking in poetry now? That’s what he got for taking Aziraphale’s reading advice. 

Though he had to admit O’Hara was very good. It was even worth the eye strain.

“So up until then”—oh Harriet was still talking— “I’ll be working more and won’t have time to put together a Halloween costume for Warlock. Your resume said you had sewing skills? Could you put something together? I’ve already got a lot on my hands planning the party.”

Crowley blinked. Halloween party. He supposed Harriet would throw one. She did seem very American about that sort of thing. “Yes, of course.”

He’d obviously miracle something. Sewing. Bah.

Warlock had finally quieted in his mother’s arms, giving Crowley a look over Harriet’s shoulder that he read vaguely as when I’m older I’ll eviscerate you for this humiliation.

But who knew what went on in the antichrist’s head.

“Did you want to stay for dinner or were you headed home?” Harriet asked.

“It’s probably best for me to go home. Spend some time with Francis,” Crowley said nonchalantly, trying to really hammer home the bit about being in a happy marriage. Or at least trying to be.

Harriet gave him a meaningful wag of her eyebrows. “Ah, right. Spend some time. Properly thank him. You know.”

Fuck, his head hurt.

**

Embarrassed at Harriet’s insinuations and angry at Aziraphale, he slammed through the cottage door and ripped the flower out of his hair so he could chuck it at Aziraphale’s face. His aim was off so it just landed forlornly in his lap. “A marigold?” he snapped, immediately regretting the volume of his voice when it made his head throb.

Aziraphale sat up straighter. “I don’t see a problem.”

Self-righteous bastard.

He glared at Aziraphale. “Did you smell it?”

“What?”

“Have you ever smelled a marigold? Put your nose right up in it?”

Aziraphale shook his head and Crowley threw his hands up in disgust.

“Worst smelling flower in existence. And I had to leave it in my hair for hours.” He tried to run his fingers through his hair unsuccessfully as they snagged in the pins and curls and he grunted in frustration.

Seeming to shrink into the cushions, Aziraphale said, “Look I’m sorry. What would you prefer?”

Yanking his hand from his hair—and a few strands with it—he rolled his eyes. “I don’t know, Aziraphale. Any one of the dozens of flowers in the garden maybe?”

Aziraphale sucked in a breath. “No need to get snippy.”

Crowley ignored him and went to warm his hands by the fire.

“Did Harriet at least see you with it?” Aziraphale asked, sounding like he was desperate for some form of approval.

Keeping his back to Aziraphale, he acknowledged that at the very least Harriet had seen it. Azirpahale didn’t need to know how mushy that conversation had gotten.

Suitably thawed, Crowley deposited himself in the chair, hiking up his skirt and kicking one leg over the arm. The thin sheen of his pantyhose began to heat. Hmmm. 

When he turned a lazy gaze on Aziraphale he saw that look, the one Aziraphale always had when Crowley walked around the house in that slip. Hungry.

Licking his lips, Crowley decided that maybe he’d take another risk.

Yeah yeah, Aziraphale had said he didn’t feel the same way but that look...

It wasn’t vulnerability if he didn’t ask for anything. It was just...suggesting.

“Harriet said the Dowlings are going to America in November. For the holidays and apparently,” Crowley began. His heart started to kick up a defense. Don't say it, you know how this ends. “We’re welcome to stay here. Celebrate however we like.”

Aziraphale hummed in consideration. “Ah, perhaps it would be a good time to take a break. Get back to the city. Do some actual work.”

Right. That was fine. 

“Of course, yeah,” Crowley said quickly, trying to cover any potential disappointment that Aziraphale could read on his face.

Clearly lost in thought, Aziraphale said nothing, returning to his book with a happy-looking wiggle. He was probably thrilled at the idea of Christmas.

Crowley stared into the fire and thought about everything he could do on the month long break. Sleep probably. Wish he were with Aziraphale.

Though it was fun to make sure that all the toys had dead batteries before they were whisked off the shelf and stuffed into some poor unsuspecting stocking.

Growing irritated in the grating silence of the living room as he stewed in yet another minor rejection, Crowley blurted. “What should Warlock be for Halloween?”

Aziraphale fumbled with his book as he looked up. “Halloween? You know the heavenly host doesn’t go in for that sort of thing. Too demonic.”

Halloween was pagan but he didn’t think Aziraphale would appreciate the distinction.

“Yes, well, Americans do and Harriet asked me to put a costume together for Warlock so I’m asking you. Halloween costumes? Ideas?”

“Shouldn’t you be the expert?” Aziraphale said, sounding prickly.  

Crowley bared his teeth in a moment of drama, trying to look every bit the serpent he was. “What? Because I’m a demon?”

“Yes because you’re a demon!” 

“That’s stereotyping,” he pointed out. 

“Do something traditional then. A witch or a pumpkin. Or even a cat,” Aziraphale said dismissively.

Crowley scrunched up his face at the image that conjured. No thank you.

“A little cute for the antichrist don’t you think?” 

Aziraphale sniffed. “You asked for my opinion and I’m giving it.”

The fire flickered shifting the light over Aziraphale like he had a halo and...oh, now that was a good idea for a costume.

**

“I’m off to get ready,” Crowley announced in a loud voice so Aziraphale could hear him through the bathroom door.

Coming out dressed as a very shoddy pirate, Aziraphale gave him a confused look. “Why are you going early?”

“I have to get Warlock dressed and ready. He’s only three months old. It’s not as if he can put on the costume himself,” Crowley said. He also wanted to change at the house.

See, he had a plan.

Crowley was very good at plans. Always had been. Sure they didn’t always work but he was very good at the planning bit. 

This particular plan centered around that expression Aziraphale made when he came out of the bathroom in his slip or shirtless or that night when Aziraphale had undone his hair.

The plan was this: wear something that makes Aziraphale look at you like that. Like you’re beautiful. Like he wants you.

The best part of the plan was that Aziraphale knew Crowley liked the way he looked, that he went in for all the pomp and circumstance of fashion. So, if the angel didn’t feel anything then his plan would go undetected.

A very good plan.

If didn't work, whatever. It wouldn't hurt or anything. Crowley was only after a reaction. He knew nothing was going to happen and it wouldn't change Aziraphale's feelings. Of course not. It was just to rile the angel up. No other reason.

Going to the house, he settled into the bathroom upstairs nearest the nursery and went through the very satisfying process of slipping into something that made him look good.

First, he let his hair down, the curls going every which way as they were released from their pins. Then he removed his hose, replacing them with red fishnets before shimmying out of his clothes. The red satin dress fit him like a glove and while he hadn’t transformed his body to include the traditionally feminine curves of hips or breasts, the way the fabric laid made him look sultry. 

If Aziraphale liked that slip, he’d absolutely lose it over this.

With a few well-placed uses of power, Crowley had his hair done, horns in place and lipstick immaculate. Pursing his lips he took off his glasses and blew his reflection a kiss. Mmm, yes. This would work very nicely.

Now for Warlock.

**

When Aziraphale finally arrived, Crowley couldn’t help smirking at him. First, the angel’s eyes took in Warlock where Crowley had him tucked into a seat. The white plushy wings had been a stroke of genius really. 

Second, Aziraphale’s eyes raked over Crowley and sure enough there it was. The look. The pink cheeks and glassy eyes. Crowley’s smile grew. 

And it was not a nice smile at all.

“Very funny, Crowley,” Aziraphale said, looking away as his blush deepened.

Too pleased to even call him out on his use of the wrong name, Crowley waved Warlock’s little hand at Aziraphale and said, “Say hello to Francis, angel.”

Aziraphale finally looked back at him, his frustrated expression contorting as his gaze settled somewhere around Crowley’s hips.

Crowley’s heart cheered. Pleased as punch, he wiggled his eyebrows. “Like what you see, Francis?”

“Very sexy,” Aziraphale replied somehow making his ridiculous costume look dashing as he smirked and reached out to pluck the tail attached to the back of Crowley’s dress. His hand brushed over the curve of Crowley’s arse making him jump.

“What are you doing?” Crowley squeaked. Yes, he had planned for Aziraphale to like his outfit but not like this. He'd miscalculated and Aziraphale had ruined his ability to be cool about it.

“Flirting with my wife,” Aziraphale said innocently and the way his eyelashes fluttered as he took a sip of his drink made Crowley want to kiss him.  

“I’ll flirt with your wife,” Crowley grumbled which was a terrible comeback and entirely indicative of how little function he had left in his brain.

Aziraphale ignored him. Which was probably for the best.

Harriet eventually made her way over, swaying slightly on her feet. She had confided in Nanny that she firmly planned to “pump and dump” because she wanted to get a bit wild.

Crowley laughed quietly and Harriet’s eyes narrowed as she turned to him. “Are you laughing at me Nanny? I should be laughing at you. I saw your husband grab your ass,” she said, her words running together only slightly. “Hell, I’d grab your ass. It’s looks good.”

Leave it to Harriet to break the tension coiling inside Crowley. She really was fantastic. “Francis, I think our employer is trying to make a pass at me,” Crowley whispered loudly to Francis to rib her a little.

Crowley hadn’t enjoyed the company of a human this much since...da Vinci? Maybe. 

“I would never!” Harriet said, looking mortified. “I’m just saying that you—”

Still laughing at her, Crowley waved away her concern. “Don’t worry Harriet. I know my ass looks fantastic.”

Harriet’s eyes went wide and then started to laugh. When Harriet laughed it always started out as a girlish giggle but when something really pleased her she always snorted. Crowley got a snort this time. “Lilith, I am so glad we hired you. You’re the best.”

Then she turned abruptly to Francis. “And you! Francis! It’s sooo great to see you and Nanny doing so well. I knew you two just needed to have sex. It’s the sex that really makes a relationship last, you know.”

Crowley looked at Aziraphale out of the corner of his eye and saw the angel turn even more red. Good. That was more in line with his plan to fluster the angel. Crowley sent a telepathic thank you to Harriet but he was pretty sure she didn’t hear it.

Aziraphale, in normal angelic fashion, ushered Harriet away to get her something to sober up and Crowley watched the steady shuffle of his booted feet as he crossed the room. 

Different feelings or no, it felt fucking good to know he could make Aziraphale lose his footing. Maybe it was lust, maybe it was sheer discomfort but Crowley didn’t give a shit.

He wanted a reaction and he got one.

Warlock started to fuss in his seat and Crowley turned his attention to him, shaking his snake rattle to distract him. It barely worked as the antichrist’s face scrunched up, heralding what was most likely going to magnificent wail.

Aziraphale reappeared at his shoulder looking composed again. Which was too bad. The blushes had been very satisfying. Well, Crowley would get it back before he took Warlock to bed.

Picking up Warlock’s carriage, he leaned over and whispered, “Goodnight, dearie,” before licking up Aziraphale’s sideburn leaving a smear of lipstick and saliva behind.

It wasn’t particularly sexy but Aziraphale’s blushing bluster made it worth it.

Wiping at his cheek, Aziraphale looked offended. “Really, Cr-Lilith. Don’t be childish.”

That was Aziraphale’s favorite accusation these days. Childish. Well, Crowley wasn’t the only one being a child.

“Oh ho ho, the pot calls the kettle,” Crowley said with a sneer before heading to the stairs. And maybe those embarrassed looks weren’t lust or interest but that didn’t stop him from adding some extra swing to his hips as he walked away.

All the excitement made it nearly impossible to put Warlock down for bed. Crowley sang a short murder lullaby and then one about hell. Neither soothed him. Eventually conceding that baby was going to be awake forever, Crowley took him into his arms so they could sit in the rocking chair together. Warlock liked the rocking chair.

It was around 1 AM when the baby finally went to sleep. Crowley lingered for a while to see if he would stir but he was out like a light and when the clock finally rolled to 2 AM, Crowley left.

The cottage was warm when he got inside, the fire lit and the living room occupied by one very not-Francis shaped angel who blushed something awful when Crowley walked in the room.

That was strange. But very good.

“How was your evening?” Aziraphale asked, stuttering as he fiddled with the pages of his book.

Too tired to needle him and try to keep up that blush, Crowley answered, “Once I got Warlock down, he did pretty well. ‘M glad to be home.”

He sank into the chair and stretched, fuck that was nice. Finally relaxed, he raised his eyebrows at Aziraphale and gestured at his changed body. “What’s with the…” 

It was nice to see the old Aziraphale. It was sort of like coming home.

The angel looked down at himself as if he had forgotten he’d even changed. “Oh yes, I needed a bit of a break from Francis. Seemed a good night to do it. What with the revelry.”

Crowley rolled his eyes and Aziraphale’s old fashioned speech. “Revelry. Welcome to the 21st century. No one says that anymore.”

Wanting to stay up, maybe spend some time admiring the angel, Crowley knew it was a losing battle. “I’m going to bed, angel. I won’t be going in until late. Keep the noise down, would you?”

Aziraphale gave him an unimpressed look. “I will endeavor not to clang around the way certain demons I know do.”

Crowley supposed he deserved that given the months he spent purposefully being loud with the sole purpose of irritatating Aziraphale.

“Very kind of you,” he said magnanimously. 

He didn’t realize how awkward the room had been until he left it. 

**

And then it was the holidays and the Dowlings left, Harriet insisting on leaving Nanny with her phone number so they could stay in touch.

Not wanting to make a fool out of himself by asking the angel to dinner or something stupid that would undoubtedly make Aziraphale smile before he rejected him, Crowley left without saying anything. He was tired and he needed a break from the feelings he couldn’t seem to escape.

After Halloween, Aziraphale’s Looks had stopped completely. Crowley had walked around the cottage in various states of undress but the most he got was Aziraphale looking at him in concern and asking if he was cold.

The nerve!

So Crowley returned to his flat and glumly put together his presentation for Hell. Annual reviews were coming up and he knew Beelzebub would ask about his progress since this was his major assignment.

The worst part of it was that he missed Aziraphale every fucking day of the blasted two months they were apart. He’d wake up in his bed and wish that his room had that ugly peony patterned wallpaper, that his black sheets were cream with pink flowers, that the pillows smelled like his lavender perfume and Aziraphale’s peppermint soap.

Like the disgusting sentimental monster he was, he’d squirreled away one of Aziraphale’s shirts and tucked it around the second pillow in his bed. It was practically useless but he liked the way the linen felt under his fingers as he fell asleep.

His review went swimmingly. Beelzebub had told him he was doing the Devil’s work and that Satan had been particularly impressed with his gumption and initiative.

It didn’t give Crowley the same thrill of pride it usually did. Maybe he was depressed, he thought as he sat on the edge of the office building he’d been periodically disconnecting the wifi in all day. He looked out over the city and took a drag from his cigarette, an awful habit that he only picked up when he was feeling particularly dramatic.

He’d thought a break would be nice. A break from the cottage, from Aziraphale. But he missed it. With every passing day he missed it more. Sure, it was painful to be so close to something he wanted to badly and not be able to have it.

And yet…

Stubbing out the cigarette, he pulled out another and lit it with a thought. Stupid angel and his stupid different feelings.

Why couldn’t Crowley feel different?

You’ve tried that. Doesn’t work.

Right. 2000 some odd years and it never worked. It was that damned smile and those bright gray eyes and the constant thrum of kindness and love and the surprises when Aziraphale did something like disappear customers he didn't like or do so well on one of Crowley’s demonic assignments that Crowley got a message from Dagon or Beelzebub congratulating him. 

Crowley had always loved puzzles and Aziraphale was the best one ever. And the worst thing about it was that Crowley couldn’t kill the constant hope inside him that someday Aziraphale would meet him where he was. That he only had to let enough time pass for Aziraphale to fall in love with him back.

But he shouldn’t hope for that.

“Gah,” Crowley said, more angry grunt than anything as he hucked the cigarette butt over the edge.

If he couldn’t have what he wanted then whatever. He never got what he wanted anyway.

Christmas eve came and went with only the barest of dull shivers down Crowley’s spine and, tired of his empty apartment, Crowley returned home. Not home—the cottage. It only felt like home when Aziraphale was there.

He revived the nearly dead rose in the kitchen because he was a sentimental fool who couldn’t help remembering how happy Aziraphale had been when he’d kept it alive before.

Aziraphale had left his O’Hara in the living room and on New Year’s Eve, lonely and two glasses of whiskey in, Crowley picked it up and read it, small print and all.

Why should I share you? Why don’t you get rid of someone else for a change?

          I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.

          Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too, don’t I? I’m just like a pile of leaves.

He squinted at the page and read that bit again, feeling very seen. 

I am always looking away. Or again at something after it has given me up. It makes me restless and that makes me unhappy, but I cannot keep them still. If only I had grey, green, black, brown, yellow eyes; I would stay at home and do something. It’s not that I am curious. On the contrary, I am bored

He ended up reading for several days.

And then he cleaned the house.

When Aziraphale returned, he felt like he had lost all of his words, they were on pages somewhere, trapped in ink and pulled from the hands of a man who had died fifty years ago. 

So he made Aziraphale a drink and sat across from him in silence, glad for the way his sunglasses hid his eyes, because, serpentine coldness or no, he thought they would give too much away.

in a world where you are possible

my love

nothing can go wrong for us

Chapter Text

When Harriet asked Crowley to accompany them to Japan for the Dowling's much needed holiday, Crowley almost said no. He didn't want to travel halfway across the world the human way. Then he thought about it. Aziraphale would like a trip. He'd like Japan. And it would be a good opportunity to give Aziraphale more time with him. 

So he said yes.

If breaking the news to Aziraphale garnered less enthusiasm than he'd like, no one had to know.

**

Japan was...Japan. Crowley had been there before a handful of times—once for work and few times for fun—and the only thing he was really looking forward to was Aziraphale’s reaction to it all. 

Now that Warlock was six months old he was much more playful and honestly, he tried to eat everything. He particularly enjoyed shoving handfuls of Crowley’s hair into his mouth. Crowley tried to be patient, praising his bad behavior, but it was extremely irritating and frequently painful. So he had a lovely few weeks of extra time with the antichrist where he could let Aziraphale handle things more often.

Just see how the angel handled Warlock tugging on his sideburns. That would probably try even Aziraphale’s patience.

Clambering out of the taxi from the airport, Crowley was feeling extremely worse for wear. His hair was flying out of its pins and his lipstick had worn off hours ago. He followed the Dowlings obediently up to the hotel suite and happily dropped his suitcase in the bedroom he and Aziraphale would share before disappearing into the bathroom to fix what felt like his entire appearance.

Not that it mattered very much. He’d probably be up all night with Warlock while the baby screamed his way through an adjustment between timezones.

When he announced his plans to stay up with the baby, Aziraphale replied in a choked voice, “Well, I’ll be here.”

Warlock was a good distraction. He’d been a good distraction for nearly a month now.

Crowley had come back from the holidays and Aziraphale had still been everything he wanted but he did his best to redirect his focus to his assignment. Sure, sometimes Aziraphale would brush the back of his hand when he gave him a drink, or hold his hand when they were at the main house where Harriet could see. And it still did all sorts of evil things to Crowley’s stomach, but he tried to remind himself why they were there and it wasn’t for Crowley to spend years pining after an angel he shouldn't even love in the first place.

Shockingly, Warlock went down easy despite the potential for jet lag. But, not wanting to intrude on the bedroom, Crowley stayed up, watching a television program on low as he waited for Warlock to stir or cry or anything as an excuse to stay up longer.

Eventually, he checked on the antichrist to make sure he wasn’t dead. Nope, just sleeping.

Harriet came out of the bedroom to get some water and told him to go to bed and that if he was really worried, he could take the baby monitor. Not wanting to arouse further suspicion about his relationship with his ‘husband,’ Crowley went to the bedroom as quietly as possible, hoping he wouldn’t wake up Aziraphale.

After he brushed his teeth, he stood at the edge of the bed, staring down at Aziraphale where he was curled around a pillow facing away from him. Should he get in bed? It would be weirder if he didn’t.

Hesitantly, he peeled back the covers and slipped under them, suppressing a sigh as the warmth of the bed surrounded him. 

Last time you slept next to Aziraphale, he disappeared and then came back to break your heart.

**

He woke up when something jabbed him in the ribs. He slapped at it. No. It was sleeping time.

“Crowley!” said a hissing whisper. What? Was that Aziraphale?

“What?” Crowley said, arms tightening around the pillow he must have grabbed as he nuzzled deeper into sleep.

Ow! Sharp thing again!

Then he was unceremoniously dumped onto his back, his head thwacking against the headboard. “Oi! What was that for?” he said when he opened his eyes and saw Aziraphale looking at him angrily.

“I needed to get up and you weren’t letting me,” Aziraphale said, still scowling as he climbed out of bed.

Oh. Well maybe that pillow had been more Aziraphale-shaped than Crowley had thought.

Whatever, his sleepy brain provided. Aziraphale could deal with this freak out on his own.

“Well, go on then. I’m going back to sleep.” He was already closing his eyes when a pillow hit him in the face.

“What the fuck?” he yelled, throwing the pillow at Aziraphale’s retreating back. 

Fully awake, Crowley miracled himself into some semblance of Nanny Ashtoreth and went into the living room where Warlock was lying on his back on a blanket under a portable mobile. Crowley would need to make the shapes more evil. There was nothing evil about squares. Triangles though...

After Aziraphale finally joined them, Harriet extended an invitation to see some of the city. Crowley had no idea why Aziraphale tried to refuse, it was right up his alley.

Finally, the angel relented and they set out for the day.

**

Asakusa was...nice. Which was hard for Crowley to admit because he usually hated nice things but with Warlock strapped to his chest, warm and comforting, and Aziraphale his side, bright and beautiful, it was the only word he could think of. 

And maybe Aziraphale was laughing at him because yes, he did look ridiculous in the Babybjorn but whatever, the angel could laugh all he wanted.

It was the crepes that did him in. The fucking crepes with Aziraphale slipping up and speaking Japanese when he ordered from a stand on the walk up to the temple, leaving the Dowlings to wonder at why their dopey gardener knew Japanese of all things and then it was Aziraphale sucking and licking at whipped cream which…

Fuck.

Stupid disguise or no, that was Aziraphale’s pink tongue darting out to catch a strawberry as it slipped down the side of the crepe. That was Aziraphale sucking the sweetness off his own fingers and looking downright sinful while he did it.

Crowley thought he might choke if he had to watch it any longer.

Clearly misreading Crowley’s distress as something lingering over his slip-up with his languages, Aziraphale said,  “Look, I’m sorry, let’s go up to the temple. Do you want anything? I hear ringo-ame is very good.”

Crowley looked over at the booth he pointed at and his mouth dropped open. Candied apples. “Are you offering me an apple?”

“Perhaps. I thought you liked apples—though I could be misremembering. It was an awfully long time ago,” Aziraphale said, sticking out his lips thoughtfully and playing innocent. He could really be a bastard and Crowley loved him for it.

Not able to come up with a suitable reply, Crowley led them through the tents full of souvenirs and pointed out all the weapons and violent iconography to Warlock. Unfortunately, Aziraphale kept redirecting the antichrists attention to more wholesome things.

“You know you can’t always do that.”

“What?’ Aziraphale said, still sounding innocent. But then he licked a stripe of sugar off the side of his hand, swirling his tongue around the tip of his finger and Crowley was pretty sure he had an embolism. 

“You can’t—you can’t always say something to contradict me.”

“I can, and will,” Aziraphale said primly, tossing the paper from the crepe into a bin they passed. “I don’t get as much time with Warlock, you know.”

It was true but that didn’t mean Crowley had to like it.

When they reached the temple, Crowley could admit that it was beautiful. But it had nothing on the excitement on Aziraphale’s face as he pointed everything out to Crowley, trying to share his joy with him.

Harriet and Thaddeus joined them, reclaiming Warlock for a family picture and then forcing Aziraphale and Crowley into one. Tugging the angel close to him, Crowley felt a prickle of excitement at the feeling of Aziraphale pressed against him, the softness of his body and his warmth so entirely consuming that for a moment he forgot where they were.

The sound of the camera shuttering broke through and Crowley pulled away as fast as he could. He couldn’t let his feelings get away like that. 

Focusing on Warlock, Crowley said, proud of how steady his voice was, “I think the wee one needs to go down for a nap. Would it be all right if we went back to the hotel?”

Harriet and Tad hurried them into a taxi and Crowley steadfastly ignored Aziraphale, staring out the window the entire way back to the hotel as he quietly shushed Warlock’s tears.

**

When Harriet and Tad came back from shopping they shooed Crowley and Aziraphale off, convincing them to go to a nice lunch while they looked after Warlock. 

Knowing Aziraphale would like to try something traditional, Crowley lead him across town to Kenichi’s place. He’d only been once before...a handful of years ago. Just to visit. Kenichi was an old friend of sorts. Someone he'd helped out once upon a time and who seemed to think it meant he owed Crowley a life debt. And Crowley wasn't one to pass on loyalty.

He didn’t want to confuse Kenichi so he switched into his normal clothes as he walked down the deserted hallway and then felt Aziraphale shift next to him into his more typical shape as well. 

As expected, Kenichi was excited to see him and also as expected he served them a delicious meal. And he and Aziraphale got to talking over their food, teasing and reminiscing and it felt like old times and for a split second  Crowley wondered what Aziraphale would do if he launched himself over the low table and tackled him against the cushions to kiss him.

Probably slap him or throw water at him like in all those films when the gross, pushy man makes a move on the leading lady. 

They relieved Harriet when they returned and Crowley settled into the far end of the couch, just to be safe. This recurring kissing feeling was starting to feel dangerous.

Aziraphale must have noticed his distraction because he looked up from his book and said, “I can read aloud if you like.”

Crowley glanced at the cover of the book. O’Hara still. Warlock was dead to the world so he nodded, not so secretly desperate to hear those words in Aziraphale’s quiet voice.

“I suppose that would help pass the time,” he said like he couldn’t care less.

“For Janice and Kenneth to Voyage,” Aziraphale said.

Oh, this one. Crowley closed his eyes.

Love, love, love 

honeymoon isn’t used so much in poetry these days 

And if I give you a bar 

of Palmolive soap 

it would be rather cracker-barrel 

of me, wouldn’t it?

Crowley felt cracker-barrel, loving where he shouldn’t love. Aziraphale paused in his reading and when Crowley looked over to him, he saw an expression on his face that he couldn’t understand. Crowley had always been bad at reading expressions and one of the things he liked about Aziraphale was that they were always clearly written on his face, but this...it was like softness and pain and confusion all at once. Maybe the poem was affecting him like it affected Crowley the first time he read it.

The winds will wash out your hair, my dears. 

Passions will become turrets, to you.

I’ll be so afraid 

without you. 

The penalty of the Big Town 

is the Big Stick,

Yet when you were laughing nearby

the monsters ignored me like a record player  

And I felt brilliant

Warlock cried out and Crowley was on his feet, crossing to the playpen before Aziraphale finished the poem. It didn’t matter very much. Crowley already knew how it ended.

Then Aziraphale was by his side, lifting the baby into his arms and quietly singing some hymn that burned at Crowley’s ears.

Crowley fed the baby and then Aziraphale burped him. Together, they sat on the ground on a spread out blanket and played with him, Crowley shaking a snake toy with a bell that he had bought specially, and Aziraphale dancing that stuffed penguin that Warlock loved to death. The baby laughed and slapped at his toys and when Crowley looked up to see how the angel was getting on, Aziraphale smiled at him softly and Crowley’s heart gave out a little more.

Without Aziraphale already in the bed, the threat of sleeping side by side became almost unbearable. He could hear the water running in the bathroom while he stared down at the white duvet and tried to figure out if he could make some excuse to the Dowlings for staying up all night.

Ok, he could do this. He laid down on the pillows and tried to relax.

Aziraphale came out of the bathroom looking serene as ever before pulling out his nightclothes and starting to change. In the bedroom. In front of Crowley.

What was this? Was Aziraphale playing some game of wills? Trying to shame him into leaving?

Fuck that. He threw himself out of bed and stomped into the bathroom collapsing onto the toilet and putting his head into his hands.

Francis’s body was a different shape than Aziraphale’s, wider and rounder and so soft looking that it made the snake in Crowley want to curl around it and feel its warmth. It made the human in Crowley want to reach out and knead the flesh at Aziraphale’s hips while they tasted each other’s mouths.

He was angry and he was aroused and there was nothing he could do about either of those things.

He took several deep breaths.

He splashed water on his face.

Then he changed into that slip that used to make Aziraphale look at him like he was some sort of dessert he wanted to taste just because...well. 

Just because.

Slipping back into the bedroom, he crossed to the bed and then hesitated at the edge. Aziraphale looked pretty as a painting, peaceful, eyes closed, buttoned up in his ugly tartan pajamas and for some reason Crowley felt like getting into that bed would ruin it.

The angel stirred. “Crowley?” he said, muzzy like he hadn’t yet shaken off sleep.

Startled, Crowley snapped, “Who else could it be?”

Aziraphale’s eyes drifted shut again. “Are you just going to stand there or are you going to come to bed?”

When Crowley didn’t move—he felt like he couldn’t—Aziraphale heaved a sigh and flipped back the covers. “Stop being silly. If I can get over it so can you, now get in.”

Get over it .

It was the closest Aziraphale had come to acknowledging Crowley’s feelings since their conversation in October and the cold weight in Crowley’s belly was as awful now as it had been then. Part of him wanted to say something biting. I’m over it. Why aren’t you.  

But he couldn’t. He couldn’t lie about it. So he dug his nails into his hand and then slipped into bed.

“I had a lovely time today,” Aziraphale said into the dark silence. Maybe he was trying to soothe the sting of the wound. Friends and all.

Whatever.

**

Crowley woke up in the middle of the night, confused about where he was because he was warmer than normal and everything smelled like peppermint and his pillow was moving. Blinking his eyes open, he realized he’d wrapped himself around Aziraphale. Not very surprising since he’d done it the night before and it’s not the first time he’d slept near a warm body (the army had very close quarters) and found himself wrapped around it. Snake instincts he supposed.

However, in those instances his pillow rarely cuddled back, not like Aziraphle was doing right then, arm tucked around him, pulling him even closer. The angel’s hand had found its way under his slip, the black satin tugged up above Crowley’s waist so Aziraphale’s hand could grasp at his lower back, his fingers brushing the top of Crowley’s knickers and that’s when Crowley realized he was hard.

And that hardness was pressed into Aziraphale’s hip.

Crowley almost never had erections. Occasionally, something would happen and he’d feel a heat low in his belly and stirring between his legs. But that always had the same source. And it was about a 100% Aziraphale hit rate. 

Attraction was a finicky thing for Crowley. He’d first felt it for Aziraphale after he’d known him for nearly 4000 years. It had taken him about another hundred years to figure out what it was. And for a very long time he wrestled with how gross it was. He knew what humans did in the dark. The sweat slicked skin and open mouths. The fluids. But for some reason, when he thought of Aziraphale, the disgust fell away only to be replaced by a warmth and a desire to be closer to the angel. To have Aziraphale inside him, against him, around him. 

Embarrassed and terrified, Crowley tried to extract himself from the bed but Aziraphale grumbled, pulled him closer, and said, “Shh,” before brushing a kiss over Crowley’s temple. He rubbed his hand up and down Crowley’s back, sending goose pimples all over Crowley’s body as his heart threatened to choke him.

“You’re alright,” Aziraphale said, surely still asleep.

Crowley was not alright and he needed to leave the bedroom immediately. With no regard for waking up Aziraphale, he threw himself out of bed and with an egregious use of his powers to make sure he was put together, stumbled into the living room.

When Aziraphale woke up several hours later and joined him for breakfast, it was as if nothing had ever happened.

**

The idiot angel had said their anniversary was in February which was now and which meant Harriet, in all her well-meaning glory, forced them to celebrate.

Which was fine.

Crowley had been sleeping in the same bed as Aziraphale for nearly a week, both dreading and hoping Aziraphale would do something like that second night. But he hadn’t. Instead, Aziraphale never mentioned it when they woke up with Crowley sprawled over him, or his head on the angel’s shoulder, or his arms wrapped tight about Francis’s barrel chest.

It was nice in some ways, nerve-wracking in others. Crowley tried to focus on the nice bits.

And maybe an anniversary celebration could be a nice bit, an excuse to get away for a while and relax in a way they didn’t get to at the Dowling's.

Unfortunately, Harriet demanded to take Lilith shopping for her anniversary dress.

When Crowley had tried to get out of it, Harriet had said, “Nonsense. I dragged you out here when you should have been celebrating at home. The least I can do is make sure you do it with style.”

Crowley did like doing things with style.

They went from shop to shop in Ginza where Crowley found a lot of the clothes too short for him. Harriet tried to get him to try on some pink gauzy thing that would have had Aziraphale in stitches and when Crowley had looked at her in horror, he saw she was laughing at him. “The black dresses are over here,” she said conspiratorially after discarding the pink monstrosity.

Crowley tried on a slinky black velveteen dress that’s neckline was cut so low that it revealed his sternum. When Harriet demanded he come out and show her, confusion flashed over her eyes and Crowley realized it was at his lack of breasts, the dress revealing how truly flat chested he was.

“Nanny, are you—” she broke off and looked away. “I’m sorry. It’s none of my business.”

Taking pity on the woman, she was being much more polite about it than most of the people Crowley had encountered in the past. Tucking up his hair into a bun, his turned his head to see how the dress made his neck look, oh very good. “Do you know what genderfluid means?” he asked, using the human term for it. Even "genderfluid" was ridiculously constraining in his opinion.

Harriet wrinkled her nose in confusion. “No. Is that like, um, transgender? Or something like that?”

Lilith smiled at her. “Yes. Something like that.”

Crowley tentatively explained that sometimes he was a woman and sometimes he was a man and sometimes he was neither. See, constrained.

Harriet hummed in consideration and then said, “Well if you don’t have breasts would you like to get some?”

“Erm…” Crowley said. "What?"

“No, not like...surgery—it’s I think there’s this kind that you can sort of strap on? I had a friend in college...”

Crowley looked back in the mirror and considered it for a moment. He sort of liked the way the dress swept over his chest. “I like it this way. Though maybe I’ll try a few more dresses. It doesn’t feel quite right”

Harriet gave her a very excited smile. “I’ll go pick out a few more.”

She paused as she left the dressing area and turned back with an apologetic look. “Thanks for explaining it to me and I—maybe don’t tell Tad? He can be...less open-minded than he should be.”

Crowley blinked as he watched her leave the room. He thought he might like her more than da Vinci.

**

In the end, Crowley chose a different dress that draped over his torso into a drop waist with delicate sequins patterned all the way down. He liked the way they winked in the light.

He’d almost finished getting ready in the spare bathroom while Aziraphale used the bedroom when Harriet knocked and opened the door slowly. “I got you something,” she said, handing over a small box.

“Oh, you didn’t have to,” Crowley said, putting a hand to his chest. Harriet was far too nice sometimes. Crowley should have hated it. Instead, he hated how much he didn't hate it.

“I saw it at the store and I knew you’d love it,” Harriet said, pushing the box further into Crowley’s hands.

He opened it hesitantly and found a hairclip in the shape of a black spider. Pulling it out, he looked up at Harriet, shocked that she’d found something so...perfect.

“Do you like it?” Harriet asked, tucking her prim bob behind her ears and grinning.

“It’s gorgeous. Could you…” Crowley said, handing her the pin and gesturing to his hair where he thought the pin would look best.

“For sure,” Harriet said, taking the pin and slipping it into place. It glittered among Crowley’s red curls. 

**

The warmth Crowley felt at the gift quickly dissipated as he was reminded why he had to go through all the trouble of getting dolled up and the embarrassment of openly celebrating a fake anniversary. The angel was an idiot and a bad liar and Crowley hated him.

When Crowley left the bathroom, he had trouble smoothing the scowl from his face even as Aziraphale stood up and looked at him like Francis was the luckiest man in the world.

“Oh, my beautiful peach,” Aziraphale said, tugging at Crowley’s hips so he could pull the demon close.

Stomach twisting, Crowley returned the compliment. But Aziraphale always looked good so it didn’t really matter.

Aziraphale looked up at him with those big liquid gray eyes and said, “I love you, my dear.”

My dear was Aziraphale’s normal endearment. Not Francis’s. Probably a slip of the tongue, Crowley reminded himself before his imagination could run away from him. 

Kissing Aziraphale cheek—oh shit that was too close to his mouth oh shit oh shit—Crowley tried to stay in character. “Love you too, dearie.”

He was Lilith Ashtoreth. Not Crowley. And Lilith Ashtoreth was allowed to love her husband Francis.

Caught up in the moment, Crowley reached out and swiped his thumb over Aziraphale’s lower lip, catching the smear of lipstick on his finger. “Lipstick,” he said.

Ah fuck, that was Crowley’s heart racing, not Lilith’s.

“Quite alright,” Aziraphale said coolly before turning away. “Best get a move on.”

In what Crowley could only call a moment of inspiration, he’d suggested they go to Yokohama Chinatown, a place known for its food and for its atmosphere, knowing for certain Aziraphale would love it.

Sure enough, they’d only been there half an hour before Aziraphale was making his happy noises and trying food after food, all while Crowley got to sit back and watching. “Enjoying yourself?” Crowley asked. He was certainly enjoying the show.

Aziraphale made a noise of affirmation around the bite of steamed bun in his mouth.  “Oh my dear boy, you have to try this red bean bun.”

Not able to resist Aziraphale’s very infectious excitement, Crowley took a bite of the proffered food. It was alright. Earthy but a bit too sweet but when he said as much, Aziraphale rolled his eyes and got a second one.

They stayed for maybe an hour, Aziraphale chattering all the while, before the angel finally declared himself done and Crowley miracled them back to the hotel room Harriet had reserved for them. She’d been rather insistent about the whole thing, making sure Nanny knew that it was all going to be paid for. Crowley knew how rich the Dowlings were—he’d checked their bank account ages ago—so he didn’t protest too much.

Crowley lounged on the bed, closing his eyes so he could relax in the lowlight of the room. 

“I got you something,” Aziraphale said, shattering Crowley’s peaceful moment.

Crowley sat up and frowned. “It’s not really our anniversary you know.”

“I know that,” Aziraphale snapped. Well that was rude.

Sighing, the angel started again, “I thought it would be good to have something to show for it. Keep up appearances.”

Aziraphale would do something like that. Stretching out his hand for whatever gift Aziraphale had deemed worthy—probably a book or some other silly bauble—Crowley said, “Fine. Give it here.”

Aziraphale placed a small box in his hand. A ring box. Crowley’s breath caught in his throat when he opened it.

A burnished silver snake wound its way out of the black interior, a ruby set in it’s tail just large enough to be seen without being ostentatious. 

First Harriet with the spider and now Aziraphale. It was too much. It felt meaningful and beautiful.

Aziraphale started to ramble but the blood was roaring in Crowley’s ears so he couldn’t hear anything he said. He snapped the box shut.

“I—I didn’t get you anything.”

He should have thought of it. He should have been more like Aziraphale, thinking ahead and being kind—

Aziraphale waved his hands in front of him like he was trying to dispel Crowley’s worries.“That’s fine I—”

What could Crowley do? What did he have on hand? What did the angel like? He needed five seconds to think without the angel’s eyes on him.

“Wait here.”

Going into the bathroom, he stared at himself in the mirror. Lilith stared back. He took off his sunglasses.

He felt like breaking something. Hurting something. Why did it have to feel like this? Wanting so much and not being able to do anything about it. It was suffocating. 

Gripping the edge of the counter, he hunched over as he breathed in through his nose and out through his mouth. Maybe some water would—

Reaching out for the sink, he knocked over the bottle of soap and then the mouthwash. Fuck. he was a mess.

What could he do that was nice but would keep Aziraphale occupied and away and somewhere that would let Crowley breathe? He looked at the bathtub. 

Aziraphale liked baths. Crowley knew that. He used a brief spat of power to increase the size of the tub and make it generally better—cleaner, some jets, etc.— before turning on the water and watching it run. Conjuring bubble bath he watched the goopy substance float in the water before transforming into bubbles, scenting the air with sandalwood and vanilla. 

Several candles were added to the mix and then he conjured roses which he deemed far too romantic so those were sent away without ceremony. 

Feeling very nervous and hardly settled at all, he returned to the bedroom and said, “I drew you a bath. You like those, right?”

“A bath?”

“Yes,” Crowley said again. Fuck if the angel asked him another question he’s pretty sure the next words out of his mouth would be Can I kiss you?

Thankfully all Aziraphale did was go off into the bathroom with a mutter.

“I’ll let you know when the champagne gets here,” Crowley said to Aziraphale as the bathroom door shut.

He fell back onto the bed and picked up the little box. Slipping the ring onto his finger, he wanted, more than anything, to go into that bathroom and kiss Aziraphale. Thank him in all the ways he could.

Stupid. Aziraphale didn’t want that.

The champagne and strawberries arrived so, as promised, Crowley brought Aziraphale a glass, doing his best not to stare at Aziraphale's bare chest in the water or imagine getting into the tub with him while their hands brushed.

Guh.

When Aziraphale finally came to join him in bed, he was wrapped in the fluffiest robe Crowley had ever seen and it was adorable. The angel looked relaxed and happy and his cheeks were glowing with the heat of the bath and the warmth of the champagne so Crowley tried to be happy too.

When Aziraphale tipped over into sleep, Crowley stayed up, watching him rest and letting him tilt over into his lap, snuffling and smiling. 

It was perfect.

Well, it was perfect until Aziraphale woke up and scuttled away in horror.

“Sleep well, angel?” he asked, trying to be cool about it. If he was cool than maybe Aziraphale wouldn’t freak out and then the illusion of the moment wouldn’t be ruined.

So much for that.

“You could have woken me up, you know,” Aziraphale said, sounding angry and disappointed in Crowley. Crowley hated when Aziraphale did that.

“Time to go,” Crowley said, hefting himself out of bed and ignoring the sting of hurt at Aziraphale’s dismissal.

He used a quick miracle to dewrinkle his dress when Aziraphale said, “Thank you. For wearing it.”

Crowley felt a hot pulse of embarrassment. He’d put on the ring the night before, caught up in the moment, and had forgotten to remove it. “Not a problem,” he said. He didn’t care that Aziraphale noticed. It wasn’t embarrassing. It was fine. “You were right. It’ll be good to show Harriet. Loving couple and all.”

Aziraphale grunted and together they returned to the Dowlings and to Warlock.

Chapter Text

The minute they got back from Japan, Crowley ripped the ring off his finger and stuffed it as far back in the bedside drawer as he could manage. He needed to forget about it. He hated how looking at it made the spark of hope he could never extinguish reignite.

But it was fine. He stopped wearing his slip around the house because if Aziraphale even looked at him wrong he thought he might scream.

At first he thought that response was just to protect himself, stop from getting any hopes up, but then the irritation grew like a sandpaper itch under his skin.

Aziraphale was sitting quietly in the living room, reading or thinking or doing whatever the blasted angel did to pass the time and Crowley wanted to rip out his hair.

He groaned, long and loud and when the angel ignored him, threw a piece of popcorn at his head. He’d conjured the popcorn because he knew it would piss off Aziraphale when he smacked while he chewed.

The angel looked up when it landed in his hair and raised his eyebrows. “Can I help you?”

“Read to me,” he demanded and Aziraphale rolled his eyes.

“I’m not your servant, you know,” he said huffily.

“You love reading aloud. Don’t complain,” Crowley groused. Why wouldn’t the angel just do as he said?

Aziraphale shifted in his seat and sighed. “Fine I’ll read to you. But don’t consider this a reward for your awful behavior.”

Pressing back into the cushions of the chair, Crowley shimmied and had to suppress a moan as the friction relieved some of the awful tension under his skin. Realization hit him slowly as he nestled into the delightfully scratchy fabric.

No. No no no.

It might have been a century but he knew what this was. He needed to shed. 

Aziraphale started to read and even as much as Crowley loved listening to his voice, it was barely a distraction.

This was bad. Awful. He wondered if he could suppress it for a few years. Sometime, nearly a millennia ago, he’d been caught up in some demonic doings in India and he’d had to avoid shedding for...it had to have been at least three years.

Three years was not enough. But at the very least he might be able to postpone it until the holidays when he could be alone. How many months was that? 8? 9? He did not want Aziraphale around for this embarrassing quirk he had.

Snake biology was a bitch.

Aziraphale looked up from his book and frowned. “You demand I read to you and then you don’t even listen.”

Crowley grunted. Aziraphale was awful, an asshole, a user. He only kept Crowley around to entertain himself—

Ok, Crowley was cranky and he needed to calm down.

He must have given off a telling twitch because Aziraphale softened and said, “Are you alright? You’re not normally this…”

“What, Aziraphale? What am I not normally?”

Aziraphale’s jerked back and then closed his book. “Why don’t we go on a walk? Get some fresh air. That’ll set you right.”

Putting his book aside, Aziraphale stood and summoned his coat. “Crowley,” he said, voice full of warning as he looked down at him where he was curled his chair. 

Heaving himself out of the chair, Crowley grumbled nonsensically before trailing Aziraphale out of the house and into the garden.

The cool spring air did alleviate some of the coiled tension inside him, but Aziraphale, steady by his side, was an unwelcome reminder of every little stress he couldn’t handle any more.

He stayed at the main house that night, telling Aziraphale he was trying to avoid using miracles to help the antichrist sleep through the night in case it had a bad effect on his development, but it was more that he wanted to be out of the house he shared with Aziraphale. That he didn’t want to feel the angel anywhere near him. Another irritation under his skin.


“Where’s the bloody alcohol in this house?” Crowley growled, slamming another cupboard shut. He picked up the empty glass on the counter and tried to will alcohol into existence.

It didn’t work.

Warlock had been fussy all day and Crowley had had to touch him so much and every time it had felt like his skin was being slowly torn asunder. This was bad. Very bad.

Aziraphale came up beside him, warm as ever, his lips pursed as he stepped into Crowley’s space.

“Calm down, my dear. I don’t see why you are acting this way,” Aziraphale said, trying to take his hand, presumably to remove the glass but Crowley wouldn’t have it.

Aziraphale was touching him and Crowley hated it because he liked it too much.

He ripped his hand away and threw the glass onto the counter where it made a satisfying smash, the shards of glass flying over his feet. It should have cut his hand and wouldn’t that have been nice. Some sensation other than the perpetual itch.

Aziraphale gasped and then snapped his fingers to get rid of the detritus with a disapproving look. “That was absolutely unnecessary.”

Fuck Aziraphale was right. Maybe he would understand if Crowley could figure out how to explain it. “I haven’t been feeling very well,” he admitted, trying to push away his embarrassment. Aziraphale knew about his snake form so he should understand.

Eyebrows drawing together, Aziraphale immediately began to question him. “Are you sick? Can demons even get sick? Angels can’t but—”

With his hands flapping in front of him, the angel looked more distraught than necessary. Crowley caught one of his wrists in his hand to stop the distracting movement, regretting it as the contact sent tingles through his palm. “I’m not sick.”

“Stress then?” Aziraphale pressed, moving his hand so that their fingers brushed as he pulled away. Crowley realized there was no way he could tell him. It was too vulnerable. No, it wasn’t a problem. He didn’t need Aziraphale’s help. He could handle it. He had to handle it.

Aziraphale ran a comforting hand over his back and Crowley had to stop himself from arching into it. “Go get comfortable. I’ll make you a drink.”

Dragging himself from the room, he felt itchy all over when he landed in the chair by the fire. He didn’t even have the energy to light it with his power so he dragged himself to his feet once more and took the blankets from the couch, wrapping them around himself as tightly as he could.

He didn’t feel much warmer but it was better than nothing.

“Here you go, my dear,” Aziraphale said before handing him the drink. It was cold in his fingers.

Aziraphale hovered in front of him. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Why did the angel have to be so bloody considerate? Why couldn’t he fuck off and do...whatever he normally did?

His condescending silence must have triggered something in Aziraphale because then he was snapping, “Really, Anthony, I know you have your moods but this is absolutely ridiculous.”

Oh. Aziraphale was calling him Anthony. That meant he was actually angry. Not just peeved. Angry.

“I’m fine, Aziraphale,” he said finally. Even if he’d wanted to, he didn’t think he could say more.

Still scowling, Aziraphale said, “That doesn’t—”

“Leave it,” Crowley hissed, needing Aziraphale to fuck right off.

What he didn’t expect was Aziraphale’s: “Fine. Suffer then.” which hurt more than it should have.


Crowley was with Warlock when it happened. 

The baby was playing with his snake rattle when Crowley reached out and saw his hands were turning mottled gray at the edges. He took off his sunglasses and saw that things were blurrier than normal.

Picking up the baby and discarding his concern about overuse of his powers out the window, he miracled him to sleep and put him in the crib. He hoped he had enough time to get out of the house. He felt like each hair on his body was slowly becoming a scale as his joints grew stiffer and stiffer and his skin drier and drier until finally he stumbled through the door of the cottage and stumbled into the back room.

Tearing the hat off his head, he collapsed onto the bed and let go, his form shifting itself bone by bone and inch by inch back into the snake he’d once been.

Over the centuries, he’d grown a bit. Just a couple feet. But a couple feet was quite a lot in a ten by ten room with a double bed occupying most of the space.

He curled in on himself, feeling miserable. Maybe if he wriggled against the sheets enough, the skin would loosen on its own. He knew it was worse than usual because his vision was grayed out, likely from stuck skin and when he tried to move too much it felt like being snapped by a rubber band.

The sound of china hitting the floor. “C-crowley?” Aziraphale stuttered from the door.

Crowley tried to reply. Who the fuck else would it be but it came out as a sort of half chirp-hiss that caught in his throat.

“What on Earth is going on?” Aziraphale demanded, stepping over the cracked china and approaching the bed.

Crowley’s snake instincts made him want to lash out in his vulnerable state, but he quelled the urge. Shedding, he managed to say, projecting with a thread of his tenuous power. It felt like he had no control over it whatsoever.

Aziraphale stepped even closer and then frowned, crossing his arms over his chest. “Well you look ghastly.”

Oh how very nice. What a kind angel.

Well then go away.

He tried for a margin of his normal sarcasm but it garbled the message.

Aziraphale rolled his eyes and held out a hand to stay Crowley’s senseless wriggling. “Stop talking.”

A book appeared in Aziraphale’s hand and the angel started flipping through it, a rustling blur, before he turned that accusatory expression back to him. Not that Crowley could see his expression but he could very well imagine it, the line between Aziraphale's eyebrows and the creases at the corners of his mouth making Crowley feel the desire to curl up, try to make himself small.

Well, he was a seven foot snake so that wasn’t going to work.

“You should have told me this was happening,” Aziraphale said, reprimand clear. “We could have planned for it.”

It wasn't Crowley’s fault he was a seven foot snake.

Thought I had...a bit...more time.

Aziraphale shook his head before turning on his heel. “I’m running a bath, which, according to the book, is supposed to help. Then I’m calling Harriet to tell her you’re sick,” Aziraphale said before Crowley heard the snick of the faucet turning on. “For goodness sake Crowley,” he added, sounding very irritated.

Crowley watched the Aziraphale-shaped smudge leave the bedroom and went back to wriggling against the blankets. This was the worst shed he’d had in millennia. The quilt was too smooth and gave him no relief. In desperation, he tried to slither into the bathroom because Aziraphale was right, water would help.

He had his whole front half on the wooden floor before the texture of his skin, and the tightness of his scales, prevented him from moving forward any more.

“What are you doing? Stay still.”

Ah, Aziraphale was back. That was...embarrassing.

Bathroom. Was getting in the bath… 

Aziraphale stomped up to him and before Crowley could protest he said, “I’ll take you there, you stubborn thing.” Then he bent down and tried to lift him. Aziraphale was strong underneath all that pudge but Crowley was a very large snake. It was no surprise when Aziraphale dropped him. No surprise but painful all the same.

“Perhaps we can work together,” Aziraphale said, sounding apologetic. When Crowley looked at him through his bleary eyes, Aziraphale sighed and explained, “I’ll pick you up but you’ll need to wrap around me.”

What a ridiculous picture that would make.

To strangle you, he said. He’d laugh if it was worth the burst of power to do so.

Aziraphale booped his noise. Crowley couldn't tell if it was affectionate or condescending, but that was par for the course with Aziraphale. “The more you joke, the longer you’ll be uncomfortable.”

Aziraphale had a point.

“Now up you get,” the angel said, once again lifting him, this time less of him so Crowley could gain traction and slither around his arms and torso. It was difficult going but easier with Aziraphale’s help.

Aziraphale grunted as he lowered him into the bath and the first touch of the warm water on his skin would have made Crowley moan if he had the vocal cords to do it. He was too big for the bath but he did his best to fit inside it. He looked up at Aziraphale and even through his blurry vision he could see the angel had his hands on his hips in what was probably a very cute pose of consternation. 

“Comfortable?” Aziraphale asked with no small amount of biting sarcasm. 

Crowley was very comfortable but he wasn’t going to engage with Aziraphale’s behavior so he coiled deeper into the water and stopped focusing on anything in particular so his eyes could rest

“Crowley—are you awake?” Aziraphale asked, drawing Crowley’s attention to where the angel had perched on the edge of the tub.

Crowley hissed his affirmation, not wanting to waste any effort on more than that.

“I’m sorry, my dear. I read some about the shedding process. It said, warm water, warm environment, and shedding aids. Does this count?” Aziraphale asked and, for the first time since he'd stepped into the bedroom and discovered Crowley, he sounded genuinely concerned.

Crowley directed his gaze to the angel and saw—

Is that a back scratcher?

“I thought it would work,” Aziraphale huffed.

Crowley had not personally used a back scratcher for shedding but he supposed it was better than nothing. The shedding was really taking it’s toll on his energy and the warmth of the bath made him want to close his eyes and rest. If only snakes had eyelids.

Then Aziraphale’s hand was on his head, fingers running over the divot between his eyes and coming to rest under his mouth. Without thought, Crowley pushed into it. The friction felt delicious and he hissed. 

Aziraphale pulled his hand away and then there was a slight ripple in the water when he swung his feet into the tub to hold Crowley still as he ran the back scratcher over various parts of his body. It felt so good that Crowley knew he’d be replaying the sensation in his mind for at least a few years. Maybe he should ask Aziraphale to help with his shedding all the time.

Crowley hardly noticed when the water went cool, only roused from his half-sleep by Aziraphale tugging on him. 

“It’s getting too cold. I want you to go into the living room so I can light a fire. Do you think you can move on your own now?” Aziraphale said, still holding on to him.

Worth a try.

Tentatively, he tried to slither from the bathtub and managed to get into the bedroom before he started to struggle. He felt Aziraphale huff a sigh behind him and then Crowley was wrapping himself around the angel once more. It was damp and slightly uncomfortable but it was warm so Crowley wasn’t going to complain. 

Aziraphale wrestled him into some sort of thick blanket on the living room rug and while Crowley felt somewhat infantile, the texture tugged just right on his skin and he accidentally project a low moan. Whoops. He should probably get that under control.

“Does it hurt?” Aziraphale asked from somewhere to his right.

Crowley grunted. It felt so good. 

“Do you want me to turn on one of your programs?” Aziraphale said, coming in front of him and half-heartedly gesturing at the TV.

Crowley tried to say yes but nnnngggg.

Aziraphale switched on the TV and, out of habit, turned it to the sci-fi channel. Which happened to be Crowley’s favorite.

It was playing an old Star Trek episode and Crowley had to tilt his head up to see it. 

“What is this?” Aziraphale asked from the couch behind him.

Ugh, Aziraphale was woefully behind the times.

Star Trek, you heathen.

Aziraphale must have noticed the awkward angle of his head because he grasped Crowley’s head and then placed a pillow beneath his chin, once more scratching over his skull. Some of the skin pulled off his eyes and the world became significantly less blurry.

Distracted by the television, Crowley barely noticed when Aziraphale left the room.

The episode wrapped up and then some stupid more modern show came on. It had terrible effects and Crowley knew that it was time for the trivia show he liked. With a careful test of his movement, he realized he had much more mobility now and went to slither up the chair and switch the channel. He could probably do it with his nose.

Vastly misjudging the ratio of nose-size to button, Crowley knocked the television off its stand. Aziraphale was going to make fun of him.

He tried to wriggle back down to the floor—maybe he could blame it on—

“What are you doing?” Aziraphale asked, accusatory.

If he were human, he would have grimaced. Changing the channel , he replied, trying to sound innocent. 

Aziraphale groaned and probably rolled his eyes. “Don’t try that tone with me. You might be in pain but you don’t need to be so impatient.”

Swinging his head around to look at the angel, he lost the plot when he saw the expression on the angel’s face. Frustrated and affectionate all at once.

I love you so much, he thought and for a second he was terrified that he’d projected that too. But, judging by Aziraphale’s lack of horrified response, he must have kept that one to himself.

Walking to the TV, Aziraphale asked, “What did you so desperately want to watch?”

Jeopardy, he admitted which would have been embarrassing if Aziraphale didn't like the show just as much as he did. 

Aziraphale fixed the TV with a miracle and switched the channel before returning to Crowley and forcing him back into the blankets. “You need to stay here to work the skin off.”

Work the skin off, Crowley said, mocking Aziraphale’s words. 

“Stop that. I’m trying to help you,” Aziraphale admonished, poking him again.

The angel left the room and Crowley spent several hours coiling and uncoiling, working the skin off his body as Alex Trebek condescendingly corrected the Jeopardy contestants.

Finally, sometimes around 1 AM, the last of it was gone. With Aziraphale’s help, the shedding had been relatively quick, but Crowley knew he had at least a day or two before he could return to human form. 

Staring back through the hall to the bedroom where he knew Aziraphale was sleeping, Crowley gave in to an impulse he hoped Aziraphale would attribute to the stress of the last few days, he slithered his way through the door and up on the bed, surrounding Aziraphale with his body, snake instincts screaming warm, protect.

He was half finished surrounding the angel when Aziraphale woke up and cried out.

Crowley shushed him. Quiet down.

“What’s happening?” Aziraphale asked blearily.

It’s done.

“The shedding?”

Mmm, Crowley replied, mostly in contentment.

“That was faster than I thought,” Aziraphale said, sounding nervous and Crowley finished wrapping around him, slipping part of himself under Aziraphale’s head to make sure he was comfortable. 

S’cuz you helped, usually it takes days. It was as close to a thank you as Crowley thought he could manage in his exhausted state.

Aziraphale tried to get up but Crowley would have none of it, pulling him back down with his tail. “If you wanted the bed, you could have just asked.”

I get too cold. True but mostly an excuse to be so close to Aziraphale. 

Snorting in disbelief and probably irritation, Aziraphale wiggled and fell silent. 

With bated breath, Crowley waited. Would Aziraphale kick him out? Go running?

“Fine,” Aziraphale said finally. “But know that I do not like this.”

That was fine. Crowley liked it a great deal.


Crowley woke the next day to small hands grasping at the end of his tail. He looked over the side of the bed and saw Warlock trying to clamber up onto the bed, using his tail as leverage.

Aziraphale ran into the room.

What did you do, Crowley hissed. He couldn't believe Aziraphale's carelessness. Why the fuck was Warlock even in the cottage?

“I’m taking care of the baby!” Aziraphale said, sounding harried as he stared at the situation by the bed.

Not very well, clearly. Aziraphale was hopeless.

“He was crying and I couldn’t figure out what he wanted and I needed a place to set him down—”

Crowley sighed and directed his attention to the antichrist. He recognized that devious gleam in his eyes. He’s just bored. You should read to him. He likes that.

Aziraphale finally came to the bed and hefted Warlock into his arms. The angel's eyes were wide as he stared down at the bed, making Crowley feel nakefor some reason. 

Get him out of here. He shouldn’t see me like this.

“It’s not like he’s going to remember," Aziraphale said dismissively. 

Out.

Aziraphale hurried away, leaving Crowley to finish resting. 

It was around 2 PM when Crowley finally managed to return to his human form. He took a shower and tugged his hair into a low bun, pleased by how good his skin looked now that the shedding was over. He hadn't realized how sick he'd looked. 

Feeling very calm, he went into the living room and fiddled with Aziraphale's books, wondering at the pressure in his chest. He felt grateful. And he wanted to do something about it.

What could he do that wouldn't be too much? What could he do that Aziraphale would accept and not give him a pitying look like I know you love me but I don't feel the same way?

Putting on a record, he laid on the couch and considered.

He thought about the ring burning a hole in the back of the nightstand. He thought about Aziraphale's hands in his hair, helping him calm down after a hard day. He thought about the feeling of Aziraphale's hands on his scales, helping him. Always helping him.

They were friends and they could do things for each other and it didn't have to mean what Crowley wanted it to mean. Just because Crowley was always jumping to conclusions didn't mean Aziraphale would.

He heard the creak of the door and saw Aziraphale shuffle in looking worse for wear. 

“Rough day?” he asked, trying to sound casual. 

“I will admit it was more difficult than I expected,” Aziraphale said, very tired as he trudged back to the bedroom. 

Deciding he had to do something about the warm thankful feeling squatting on his chest, Crowley went into the kitchen and started cooking. Aziraphale liked food. And something simple would just be a kindness. No declaration.

He saw Aziraphale enter the kitchen from the corner of his eye and he bit his lip, shoring up his defenses. “Eggs and toast?”

“That sounds lovely,” Aziraphale said, the words heavy as he slumped into the dining room chair. 

“I had a craving,” Crowley said, remnants of his anxiety driving him to make excuses.

He slid the plate in front of Aziraphale and watched as he cut into the eggs, slow and steady.

“I didn’t know you shed," Aziraphale said finally. 

Right, yeah. Aziraphale would have questions about that. He was always poking at Crowley's vulnerabilities. Probably not on purpose. “Every century or so. Was trying to hold off until we finished the job but…”

“There are certain things even we can’t control,” Aziraphale said, turning the full attention of his kind gray eyes onto Crowley, overwhelming him until he was forced to look away, chest tight.

He needed to change the subject. This was too...too close. Too intimate. So he asked after Aziraphale's reading, usually the angel's favorite subject. And they chattered into the night, easy as anything.

Friends, Crowley thought. We can be friends.

Chapter Text

With the shedding over, Crowley was much more capable of focusing on his work with Warlock. The baby was nearing one year old and had started crawling which had caused a great deal of stress in Crowley’s day to day. First, he was trying to fiddle with the outlets which forced Crowley to perform a brief demonic miracle to baby proof every single one in the house.

Then he was trying to crawl down the stairs which meant Crowley had to install a baby gate in the hallway. At that point, Crowley thought the world might never end because the antichrist would accidentally kill himself before it even could. And if allowed that to happen, Hell would certainly find a way to kill him as well.

On a day in early August, Crowley was trying to herd Warlock back into the nursery when he heard shouting from the Dowlings’ bedroom.

“Again?” Harriet yelled and Crowley heard the thunk of something heavy hitting the ground.

“Harriet, I’ve got responsibilities at work,” Thaddeus said and Crowley thought he sounded terribly condescending.

“What about Warlock?” Harriet said, voice tight.

“You’re around. And we’ve got that nanny. Look, I’ve got to go. We can talk about this later,” Thaddeus said.

“No,we’re going to talk about this now. Is this about Kate?”

“For the last time, Harriet, I am not cheating on you. I don’t know why you keep harping -”

“I keep harping because you’re never home!”

“You knew what my life was like when you married me!”

Scooping up Warlock before he could push his way into his parents’ bedroom, Crowley retreated to the nursery where he told Warlock his favorite story about the Prince who took power and burned the world in brimstone.

He tried not to think about how upset Harriet sounded because he didn’t care. Obviously.


The next day, Warlock said his first word. Well it wasn’t really a word but it was a real noise which happened to be “bye.” Which wasn’t very evilCrowley was a bit disappointedbut was exciting so when Harriet came home, he sought her out to tell her the news.

He found her in her room, a half-packed suitcase open on her bed while she did her make-up in the bathroom.

“What is it, Nanny?” Harriet asked, the usual warmth in her voice gone.

“Are you leaving?” he asked, forgetting what he was going to tell her in favor of his surprise at the lack of warning for the trip. 

“I’ve got a business trip, Lilith,” Harriet said in exasperation. “It happens sometimes. It’s why I hired you.”

Her rudeness was like a slap to the face. Crowley really had started to think of her as a friend. “What if Warlock

“You can see to it,” Harriet said, dismissively as she peered at herself in the mirror, brushing her straight black hair off her forehead.

“Does this have to do with Mr. Dow

Harriet looked at him with sharp eyes. “This has nothing to do with Thaddeus.”

Crowley did a very poor job of hiding his shock and Harriet slumped against the bathroom counter, arms coming up to hug herself. "I'm sorry," she said looking down at the tiles. "I shouldn't take this out on you."

Having no idea what he could possibly say to her, Crowley went to her side and put a tentative hand on her arm. Harriet took a deep shuddering breath and then pasted on a smile. "What did you need, Nanny?"

"It's not important," Crowley said lamely. “Will you be back for Warlock’s birthday?”

“Of course,” Harriet said, pulling away from Crowley, her tone colder and distant. “I’ll just be gone a week.”

Crowley nodded and took his leave.


Newly one year old, Warlock was steadily finding more words (noises really) and he’d starting teething. Crowley had started using powers more often than he should to sooth Warlock’s pained noises it was just thatthe noises tugged at a place in his heart that usually only reacted when he was around Aziraphale which didn’t bode well for Crowley's position as caretaker for the Destroyer of Worlds. 

Warlock’s birthday came on the warmest day of August, with Crowley regretfully staying inside to care for him while the party was set up. The sun made him want to be outside where he'd feel less cooped up and anxious. The Dowling house was large and sprawling but its windows did little to let the real light in.

As the afternoon stretched out, Harriet finally called Crowley out to the garden where he pushed Warlock out in his stroller only to have him summarily taken away by his mother to be shown off to the gathering crowds. 

He took up post by the topiary, watching the guests arrive and sometimes using his powers to trip the haughtier looking people who could probably use a little more shame in their lives.

Appearing on the steps to the garden, Aziraphale came up to Crowley’s side. Distracted, Crowley turned to kiss his cheek—it had become their normal greeting at this point, and it didn’t make Crowley’s stomach hurt quite as much anymore—but apparently Aziraphale had had the same plan so instead of brushing lips across cheeks it was lips across lips and Crowley’s heart stopped.

Stomach knotting, he reeled back before he did something stupid like sink his hand into Francis’s hair, pushing him back into the topiary where they could be somewhere private and kiss him, kiss him, kiss him—

“Sorry about that,” Aziraphale said, and he must have been just as thrown off as Crowley because he wasn’t using Francis’s normal voice.

“What are you apologizing for, dearie?” he asked, doing his best to keep up his Nanny Ashtoreth impression. He did pretty well given the fact that he felt like he’d been kicked in the stomach. 

It was an accident, he reminded himself, pursing his lips.

Aziraphale blinked and then shook his head. “Nothing dear.”

Crowley heard Harriet’s telltale giggle-snort and looked over to the tent where Warlock had jammed his hand into the cake and smeared it over her chin and chest. She smiled down at the baby, not even reprimanding him for ruining what was surely an expensive dress. It warmed Crowley’s heart even though he wished it didn’t.

Distracted by his own thoughts, he blinked in surprised when a handsome blonde man strode up to them. He was wearing a crisp white suit that set Crowley's teeth on edge before he'd even stuck out his hand in greeting. “You must be the nanny,” he said, accent broad and happy.

Raising an eyebrow at the sudden introduction, Crowley shook his hand. “One and the same.”

“I’m Kurt. An old friend of Tad’s. I hear you’re a miracle worker,” he said and, oh, Crowley knew that voice. He’d been on the receiving end of lust a number of times. He’d never indulged. The whole thing was rather distasteful really.

“Something like that,” Crowley said, trying to sound dismissive. 

“I’d love to hear about some of your techniques,” Kurt said, not releasing his hand. Crowley slipped it away. 

“This is my husband, Francis,” he said. Usually spouses could dispel this sort of interest. “He says it’s my demeanor that keeps the children in line. I’m very firm. Isn’t that right, Francis?”

“Husband?” Disappointed but polite. Good.

“Yes, my dear Lilith’s firm as they come,” Aziraphale said sharply. He was very talented at playing up the protective husband act. Though Crowley presumed protection came naturally to him, principality and all. “So good with children. She’s really found her calling.”  

“If you’ll excuse me,” Crowley said with a brief nod, he worked his way over to Harriet who handed him the messy baby to be cleaned up.

Crowley was happy for an excuse to be alone after that stupid mistake of a kiss. It was probably the only time he would ever get to kiss Aziraphale and it had been a brief awkward thing that Crowley knew he would still hold close to his heart.

After wiping cake off Warlock's pudgy cheeks and making sure he was changed and dry, Crowley put the baby to sleep in his carrier before wandering through the party, listening in on ridiculous human conversations and wishing he could be with Aziraphale again. He spied the rather large remnants of cake and took some onto a plate before seeking out the angel. Food was always the best way to start a conversation with Aziraphale. 

Crowley sidled up to him and held out the plate. “You try the cake yet?”

Aziraphale jumped. “No. I’ve been busy. People watching, I suppose you’d call it.”

Looking up at him with a ridiculously soppy expression—it was just cake for fuck’s sake—Aziraphale said, “How delightful.”

Crowley shrugged, pushing away the squirming warmth inside him. “Can’t say I tried it but I hear Harriet spent a fortune at a bakery so it can’t be too terrible.”

Aziraphale made one of his happy food noises and it made Crowley’s stomach squirm even more. “Good?” Crowley asked hoarsely.

“The very best. I’ll have to compliment Harriet on her tastes,” Aziraphale said, already digging in for a second bite.

Crowley wanted to say something else, maybe let’s get out of here but was taken aback by the sudden appearance of a little girl grasping at his skirt. 

“Who are you?” the girl asked, looking up at him with wide brown eyes.

While he should want to dismiss the girl with a thought, he felt another one of those little tugs in his heart—he was becoming dreadfully soft—and kneeled to answer. “I’m Warlock’s nanny. Do you know Warlock? The birthday boy?”

“Mummy said he’s a baby,” the girl announced. “I don’t like babies.”

Crowley ended up taking her back to her parents—one of them being that creepy fellow from before—and was summarily sent to care for Warlock for the evening, as expected.

He left Aziraphale without their requisite kiss on the cheek, afraid he would linger too long if he managed it.


Warlock was tuckered out by the excitement of the day but Crowley stayed late both because Harriet asked and because he knew that he needed a little space from Aziraphale. It had been nearly a year since that awful conversation about their feelings and nothing had changed. Not for Crowley and not for Aziraphale. Crowley felt certain that if Aziraphale changed his mind, the angel would let him know. He wasn't exactly the subtle type.

Crowley chastised himself. He needed to stop hoping for things to change. How many times did he have to be rejected before he learned his lesson?

After he heard Harriet toddle in to bed, he checked on Warlock for a final time and retreated to the cottage.

The lights were all on when he approached and—was that Fall Out Boy coming from the speakers? Going in to the kitchen, he found Aziraphale moving his hips around to the offbeat while he fiddled with the burners.

Confused, Crowley came up next to him. “What is going on, angel? Why’re all the lights on?” 

Aziraphale looked at him blearily. “Crowley!” he cried, looking overjoyed and pink-cheeked. “Have you ever smoked marijuana?”

Oh. Well that was very funny. Then Aziraphale’s hand was on his forearm, warm and distracting. Crowley pulled away. “I take it that you just did.”

Aziraphale hummed and got a dreamy look in his eyes as he said, “Harriet shared with me. She said she was celebrating the end of breastmilk. Which I suppose one would want to celebrate. No more of the pumping.”

Aziraphale gestured at his chest like he was squeezing two balls and then looked down, aghast at his semi-crude gesture before looking back up at Crowley and giggling. He was bloody adorable like this. Tilting his head, Aziraphale licked his lips, expression going distant as if he was lost in some thought and Crowley gripped the edges of his jacket sleeves to keep himself from reaching out to touch.

The kettle whistled and Aziraphale popped up in excitement. “I would murder for a good snack right about now.”

Grasping at the kettle with hid pudgy hands, Aziraphale nearly knocked the kettle off the stove. In a surge of protectiveness, Crowley took it from him. “I don’t think you mean that,” he said, pushing Aziraphale from the room. “How about instead of murdering you let me make you something and go sit down?”

Aziraphale smiled mildly and wandered away. 

Crowley heard the strains of Fall Out Boy coming into the kitchen and sighed. Last years wishes are this years apologies every last time I come home.

Fuck, he wanted to lay down and rest and forget and not feel so bloody much.

The record abruptly shut off.

Using his powers, Crowley summoned Aziraphale’s favorite biscuits—yeah he knew Aziraphales’ favorite brand, so what?—and went to hand them off to him in the living room.

Aziraphale was lounging on the couch, gaze fixed in the middle distance before snapping to Crowley drew his attention with the rattle of the biscuit package. Looking at the package like it held the secrets of the universe, Aziraphale took it and mumbled something Crowley couldn’t hear while he ripped it open.

Crowley tugged off his jacket and lit the fire. He supposed he could stay up a bit, watch Aziraphale be ridiculous.

“Do you remember smoking hookah in Persia?” Aziraphale asked out of nowhere around a mouthful of chocolate biscuit.

Did he remember? He rifled through his memories—there were so many—and said, “I think so. Was that the time the Shah tried to seduce you? Or the time you met a wasp who liked baklava as much as you?”

“They were the same time,” Aziraphale said, mouth full. It wasn’t something he would ever do sober and Crowley was delighted at the absolute brutishness of it all.

Riiight,” Crowley said nodding and stifling a smile. “When was that? 17th century?”

That had been hilarious. Crowley had been in the Shah’s palace taking up post as his wife’s handmaiden and Aziraphale had been there because...he had no idea why Aziraphale had been there.

He did remember the shah desperately wanting to fuck Aziraphale even though the angel had been woefully ignorant. It was a habit of his really. And he wouldn’t let Aziraphale forget something as embarrassing as that.

Aziraphale blustered as Crowley teased him about the Shah wanting to stick his tongue down Aziraphale's throat. Halfway through a biscuit, Aziraphale grew distracted and  seemed to lose whatever energy was keeping him upright as he collapsed into the couch cushions with a groan.

Chuckling, Crowley went to him and took the package of biscuits away. “You really are a mess sometimes.”

Aziraphale grumbled something into the cushions that Crowley couldn’t hear. Trying to get the angel into some position that would guarantee he didn't suffocate in the couch cushions, Crowley grasped his arms and lifted him until he sitting upright again.

Their eyes locked and Aziraphale had that soft look on his face that Crowley had mistaken for interest what felt like ages ago and he couldn’t tear his eyes away because they kissed earlier and maybe...

Aziraphale slapped at his hands and screwed up his face in consternation so Crowley pulled away. 

Hefting himself to his feet, Crowley said, “Should go to bed. Shower at least.”

He began tugging the bobby pins out of his hair, refusing to look at Aziraphale as he did it. Would this ever get easier?

Ugh he was being dramatic. Sometimes it was easy and Crowley remembered why they were friends and how good that was but other times Crowley wanted. He wanted so much. 

“It’s been nice. Being here,” Aziraphale said into the silence.

Crowley stopped undoing his hair.  Aziraphale couldn’t possibly mean it the way Crowley hoped. Because it had been nice. But that was because he was with Aziraphale and not because he spent his days wiping down a baby and singing lullabies. “You say that now, but just wait until Warlock is walking and talking. That little girl tonight was only the half of it. Imagine the antichrist with that much energy.” 

Crowley left the room and once in the quiet of the shower, he played back the feeling of Aziraphale’s mouth, the expression on his face not fifteen minutes ago. Why did he feel so close to breaking?

Chapter Text

On a sunny Tuesday in the spring after Warlock’s first birthday, Crowley took his little hand in his and they went on a walk outside together. The ground was muddy and Warlock was ecstatic. Throwing himself onto the ground, he rolled onto his back, looked up at Crowley and cried, “Na!”

This was what Warlock had taken to calling him. Sometimes it even came out as a full “nan” but mostly it was “na.”

It was decidedly not cute. Crowley put his hands on his hips and said, in his primmest voice, “Yes, Warlock?”

Warlock threw a handful of mud and grass at him. Sighing, and giving up on the cleanliness of his skirt, Crowley kneeled in the mud next to Warlock and took hold of his hands, looking him square in the eye. “Warlock,” he said firmly.

Wriggling deeper into the mud, Warlock babbled something incomprehensible.

“Look at me,” he said in the same firm voice until Warlock’s eyes fixed on his. “You do not belong in the mud like other humans. You are the son of Satan, destined to rise up, and crush all men beneath you. You will send them into the mud.”

Warlock’s eyes were wide and blue and for a moment Crowley thought he saw something old and dark flicker behind them, but then Warlock smacked his cheek with a muddy fist and knocked his glasses into the wet grass.

Slapping a second, somehow muddier, hand against Crowley’s cheek, Warlock announced, “Na! Kee.”

Crowley scowled. Kee was what Warlock called the baby barn cats Aziraphale had brought in from the rain in January. He bared his teeth.

“Warlock—”

“I think he means kitty,” Aziraphale said from behind him, hands on his hips and jolly Santa Claus smile plastered on his face. 

The angel plucked the glasses from the grass and offered Crowley his hand to help him up. At some point in the last year, Aziraphale's soft manicured hands had become roughened with work and—Somebody do something—Crowley immediately wondered what they would feel like on his bare skin.

“Here you are, nanny,” Francis said, cupping Crowley’s chin and sliding his glasses back on. Crowley clenched his jaw and looked down at his mud-streaked black boots as Francis tucked a stray lock of his hair behind Nanny's ear. "There, there. All put together. Pretty as a picture, nanny is. Isn’t that right my boy?” Francis asked, turning his attention to Warlock who dragged himself to his feet and grabbed at Francis’s legs, smearing mud there too.

Putting down his bag of gardening supplies, Aziraphale leaned over and picked Warlock up, balancing him on one hip. “Where’s your mother these days?” Aziraphale asked, crinkling up his nose at Warlock who giggled at the silly face.

“Another trip,” Crowley said, trying to brush the grass off his skirt. He considered miracling it but it wasn’t worth the risk of Warlock finally deciding to take notice of his powers. He’d just have to be dirty for the rest of the day. 

“Ah,” Aziraphale said, turning those soft gray eyes onto him. “She’s been gone an awful lot.”

“There's been some trouble with Thad—" Crowley broke off, realizing he probably shouldn't air Harriet's dirty laundry in front of her son. No matter how much he could really comprehend at this age. Aziraphale gave him a considering look but didn't press.

Warlock started to wriggle in Aziraphale’s arms, pushing off his chest in an effort to get away. “Na!”

“That’s you, I suppose,” Aziraphale said, reluctantly handing off the toddler.

Crowley took Warlock into his arms and relished the warm weight of him. It was getting more and more difficult to separate caring for Warlock from caring for Warlock. Crowley tried not to think about it.

“Will you be home for dinner?” Aziraphale asked, drawing Crowley's attention from Warlock's happy babbling.

Crowley brushed the hair back from Warlock’s face and kissed his forehead. Poor kid needed a bath to get off all that mud.

“I won't be back until I've put Warlock down for the night. Will you be alright on your own?” Crowley said because it seemed the sort of thing a wife would say to her husband.

“Quite alright. Til then, sugar plum,” Aziraphale said, rising up to kiss him on the cheek. Crowley so badly wanted to turn and catch his mouth like he had at Warlock’s birthday party. This time on purpose so he could swipe his tongue over Aziraphale’s bottom lip, maybe flick it inside to taste…

Aziraphale stepped away and Crowley had to will away the fluttering in his stomach.

“Come on, dearie, time for a bath and then maybe some stories about snakes. Did you know their eyes look like cat eyes but are not cat eyes and should not be mistaken for them ever again?”


Life at the Dowling's began to feel like a marathon, the steady click of the days passing with Crowley awake at all hours either for Warlock or Aziraphale and sometimes for Harriet who seemed to be making a concerted effort to travel less. She'd taken to occasionally inviting Lilith to stay for drinks in the evening and even invited Francis for dinner.

The first time it had happened, Crowley informed Aziraphale and the angel had burst out laughing, one hand grasping the arm of the couch and the other limply holding a book. Crowley had glared at him.

"What happened to not socializing, hm?" Aziraphale asked through his giggles.

"I'm being polite," Crowley pointed out, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Right, right," Aziraphale said, pulling his book back in front of him. "No such thing as friends. That's below you."

"Friends?" Crowley sneered. "I'm not friends with humans. I'm barely friends with you!"

"Of course not," Aziraphale said with an exaggerated nod.

Crowley groaned and snapped on the record player, making sure it was loud enough to be irritating. Aziraphale was having none of it however. "Oh I was thinking of putting on some music," he said, "Thank you, my dear."

Slumping into his chair with a grumble, Crowley closed his eyes and listened to Billie croon her way through The Very Thought of You as Aziraphale ruffled through the pages of his book.


When Warlock's second birthday finally came, Crowley was thankful that Harriet gave him the day off—"You've been around so much lately and really it will be me and a bunch of other moms so you should take some time for yourself. Maybe go somewhere with Francis?" Harriet had said the night before the party.

Crowley had wanted to object, knowing that Mr. Dowling would be in town for the party and that sometimes his presence could make things difficult in the household, but when Crowley had voiced his concerns, Harriet's eyes had gone tight and that was the end of that conversation. 

The actual day of Warlock's party was sunny and warm. Perfect August weather and it made Crowley feel like laying out in the sun and warming his belly, which he obviously could not do, so he settled for a walk in the garden where he could sit on one of the benches and tilt his head up to the sky. 

“Crowley?”

Crowley snapped his head down and saw Aziraphale wandering out of the greenhouse, giving him a goofy Francis smile.

“Lilith,” Crowley corrected automatically. His hand wrapped reflexively around the wrought iron arm of the bench and he had to force himself to relax again, wanting to go back to that languid feeling in his muscles that had disappeared upon Aziraphale's approach.

“Of course, sweet pea,” Francis said, dropping a kiss to his cheek even though there was no one around.

“Shouldn’t you be inside for the birthday party?” Francis asked as he wiped his dirty hands over his smock and took a seat next to Crowley. 

“Harriet had it handled,” Crowley said carelessly.

"It's a nice afternoon to have off," Aziraphale commented, patting Crowley's knee. "Warm and sunny. Your favorite kind."

"Yeah. My favorite," Crowley said quietly as Aziraphale stared off over the hydrangeas.


The displays of affection continued to escalate. Aziraphale as Francis came around more often, bringing flowers and treats for Warlock, always a trinket for Nanny in his other hand. He’d run his calloused hands over Crowley’s cheekbone, put a hand to his lower back, press a kiss to his temple or hair.

The moments of affection came so easy to the angel that Crowley felt woefully unprepared. He supposed this was his bed and he had to lie in it.

The stress of it all started to weigh on him so, shortly after Warlock turned three, he took to yelling at the plants. Sometimes, he’d sneak out in the middle of the night and scream at the azaleas. They’d never looked better.

But no matter what he did, the roses wouldn’t listen. Aziraphale must have been spoiling them. They just needed some good harsh criticism. 

“You’re pathetic,” he hissed at them one afternoon when Aziraphale had taken Warlock for some Heavenly influencing. “Ugliest I’ve ever seen. You call that red? It’s hideous,” he said, dragging out the sss as the words started to make him feel better. There was no stress relief like yelling at plants.  “Ungrateful, disgusting, greedy little—how dare you grow like this when Francis takes such good care of you?”

Oh. This wasn’t about the roses was it.

Crowley heard the sound of a boot scuffing gravel and stood up straight. Aziraphale had crossed into the garden walk, holding Warlock’s hand. The little boy looked at Crowley, wide-eyed and edging on tearful, and Crowley felt the impulse to rush to him, to press a kiss to Aziraphale’s cheek and tug the boy into his arms to comfort and to hold. 

“Are you angry, Nanny?” Warlock asked, words wet and pitiful.

“Not with you, sweetling,” Crowley said, moving to duck down in front of Warlock. “The plants are just very disappointing. And sometimes, when we want something, we have to be mean to get it.”

Aziraphale glared at him and drew Warlock’s attention. “If you are mean, you always have to apologize.”

“Ok!” Warlock said, clearly dismissing Aziraphale, which boded well for the whole antichrist business.  It wouldn't do, having the Prince of Darkness apologizing. “Nanny! Up!”

Suppressing a smile, Crowley gave a dramatic groan as he lifted Warlock onto his hip. “You’re getting too big, Warlock.”

He ignored Aziraphale’s puzzled expression and together, they walked with the antichrist through the garden. 


Crowley was doing his best to help Warlock learn his letters. Aziraphale usually took the responsibility of teaching Warlock the alphabet and reading together because Crowley, loathe as he was to admit it, was a terrible reader and it always gave him a headache to try. However, on a rainy day in the October following his third birthday, Warlock had pushed the Very Hungry Caterpillar into his hands and with a brief miracle he’d turned it into the Very Evil Caterpillar and did his best to read it with the child. Together they muddled through.

The caterpillar was terrorizing the other bugs when Crowley felt a strange pain in the base of his skull. He didn't get headaches very often but he supposed he could rest that evening. He and Aziraphale had been doing very well for the last six months or so. They had fallen back into the habit of easily teasing each other when they weren't sitting together quietly wiling away the time until the apocalypse. So saying he needed an evening to himself shouldn't cause any undue strain.

Ignoring the pain, Crowley got through the book, Warlock helping Crowley read as much as Crowley helped Warlock, and then they played with his stuffed animals. Warlock's favorite game was King Penguin eats all the land mammals. Very violent.  And when Warlock was safely in bed, the pain in Crowley's head had been thoroughly forgotten.

It was when he entered the cottage that he realized something was wrong. Aziraphale wasn't there. It was nearly 8 o'clock and Aziraphale wasn't there. Aziraphale rarely stayed out past six and when he did, he usually left a note saying where he'd be. Crowley searched the house with a sense of steadily growing dread. By 8:30, he started to feel panicked so he went out in the garden, checked the greenhouse, the topiary. 

Returning to the cottage he went back into the bedroom and stared at the little double bed with its floral quilt as his thoughts raced. There was a hole in the corner of the duvet. Should he fix it? He sat on the edge of the bed and fiddled with the ripped fabric. Pushing down his fear, Crowley closed his eyes and focused on Aziraphale's aura. He didn't do this very often because focusing on all that holy energy it was like touching an electric fence. So when he found the place where he should sense Aziraphale and felt nothing, he gasped. Aziraphale wasn't—Aziraphale wasn't on Earth at all.

Fuck. He stood and rushed to the wardrobe to open it, overwhelmed by the impulse to pack and run before he realized there was no point. Where would he go? He couldn't find Aziraphale if he wasn't on Earth. Had he been discorporated? Killed?

Crowley's blood went cold at the thought.

The door to the bedroom creaked open and Crowley whipped around. Aziraphale.

Aziraphale was right there.

Without thinking, Crowley rushed the angel, crowding him against the wall and trying to touch him, reassure himself that Aziraphale was real and there and not discorporated for who knew how long.

“You’re alright,” Crowley breathed. He closed his eyes in relief, letting his hands rest on either side of Aziraphale, fingers pressed into the fading wallpaper.

Aziraphale went limp between his arms and when Crowley realized how close they really were, he tried to pull away but then Aziraphale said, “Yes?” like Crowley was being the ridiculous one.

Snarling, fear replaced by well-deserved rage, Crowley said,  “How dare you disappear like that? Without leaving a note? You absolute dunce. Buffoon! I thought you’d been discorporated. I thought—”

Aziraphale’s eyes widened as his hands came up in an effort to touch Crowley, perhaps comfort him. Perhaps push him away. “I’m alright—Crowley. I’m alright.”

“You’re not listening to me. You never listen,” Crowley said and the anger was rising, red and strong like—

“I am listening,” Aziraphale said softly, gray eyes wide and Crowley felt swallowed by them. “Please...”

“Shut up,” Crowley growled, fisting his hands in Aziraphale’s smock and pushing him against the wall. Aziraphale’s mouth dropped open in surprise and the look was so stupid and Crowley was so angry and he’d wanted to kiss Aziraphale for years because he loved him even when he was an idiot and Crowley needed him to know

So Crowley kissed him.

And immediately knew he shouldn’t have.

He released Aziraphale instantly and tried to step away but in his haste he’d forgotten how small the room was and knocked into the metal footboard of the bed, falling back against the thin quilt as fear turned his stomach cold and heavy. He held out a hand, desperate for Aziraphale to forgive him. “I shouldn’t have done that. It wasn’t—I know you don’t—”

But there was a new look in Aziraphale’s eye, wild and shocked and hungry.

And then Aziraphale was yanking him up by the lapels of his brocade coat and Aziraphale’s tongue was in his mouth which meant—which meant—

Every ounce of stress and longing that had compounded in the last three years, rushed out of Crowley as he realized Aziraphale was finally taking what he had to offer. That Aziraphale wanted him too. 

Aziraphale pushed him onto his back and straddled him, only breaking contact for a moment before falling into the kiss again. Crowley moaned into his mouth, letting their tongues meet in a messy impression of a kiss that Crowley hoped made Aziraphale as thrilled as it made him.

He sank his hands into the angel’s hair and tugged him closer but then Aziraphale was pulling back which was no good but it was just to take off Crowley's sunglasses and push the flyaway hairs from his face with a look like Crowley was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen and Crowley could not stand it anymore.

Gripping Aziraphale’s arms, he pushed him over and onto his back, crawling between his legs and feeling more powerful than he had in a long time. Aziraphale had been making him lose his footing for centuries and Crowley felt like he finally had found it again in the angel’s pink cheeks and between his plush thighs.

“Fuck,” Crowley breathed, dropping his face to Aziraphale’s shoulder as he tugged on the tie of his smock and pressed a long open-mouthed kiss to the place where his jaw met his neck. The angel smelled like peppermint and freshly cut grass and it made Crowley want to taste him everywhere. “I’ve wanted this so much. Wanted you,” he whispered, kissing down his neck and over the sliver of his collarbone. “I had no idea that you could even—would ever —”

Aziraphale pulled him back into a desperate kiss, groaning like something was breaking inside him.  Crowley wanted to hear that noise again so he slipped his hand between their bodies and into the loose fabric of Aziraphale’s trousers where he could graze his fingers over—

Touching him like this made Crowley’s blood thud in his ears. How long had he wanted this? He couldn't quantify it at this point. Forever felt like the right answer.

“You like that?” Crowley asked, rising up to meet Aziraphale’s gaze, those gray eyes tight with some leashed emotion that thrilled Crowley, sending another thrum of excitement between his legs.

That urge from before, to taste, returned so he sank down between Aziraphale’s thighs and snapped his fingers to remove Aziraphale’s clothes—he should have done that sooner—and took him into his mouth. Aziraphale sighed as Crowley sank down on his cock, far enough to let it bump against the back of his throat. He'd never done this before, never really thought of the mechanics, but even if he had it would never have prepared him for the way Aziraphale's hips jerked under his hands, the way his thighs shook, the way Aziraphale breathed his name when Crowley swirled his tongue just right. 

When Aziraphale came, Crowley swallowed around it, savoring not so much the taste but the knowledge that Aziraphale finally let him do that. He looked up at Aziraphale and waited while the angel caught his breath. It was beautiful, the way he looked torn asunder. 

Aziraphale reached down and for a horrifying moment Crowley feared he was about to push him off, say something like thank you my dear, but that’s enough don’t you think. Instead, his hands were an insistent tug, pulling Crowley up his body like Crowley was the only thing he wanted to touch. The neediness of it made Crowley’s stomach pulse with want. 

When Crowley's knees came up on either side of Aziraphale's chest and he settled back so the swell of Aziraphale's belly rubbed against his arse, Aziraphale’s hands scrabbled at the shiny black buttons of his coat but, in his distraction, found no purchase so Crowley tugged it off himself and unzipped his skirt so he could ruck it up around his waist and discard it too. 

Hand coming up to fist in Crowley’s satin slip, Aziraphale looked up at him in awe and said, “Leave it on.”

He’d been right. All those times when Aziraphale looked at him. Oh he'd been so fantastically right that he couldn’t stop his smirk.

Azirphale must have been pretty far gone because it didn’t even earn him a glare. Crowley rolled off the bed to tug off his lace panties before returning to his place atop Aziraphale. Fuck he was so warm and Crowley was so turned on, he felt tight with arousal, skin prickling with it. 

Before Crowley could even settle in, maybe bring Aziraphale’s hand up beneath the slip to get a little stimulation, the angel yanked on his hips until Crowley followed, shuffling forward so Aziraphale could wrap his hands around Crowley’s back and push him into his mouth.

Fuck fuck fuck.

Aziraphale was warm but his mouth was hot and the sight of his cock being swallowed by that mouth—it was...

His hands dropped to the head board when he felt like his back might give out with the pleasure of it all. “Fuck,” he breathed, a sharp exhale.

One of Aziraphale’s hands gripped his arse and urged him forward, moving his hips for him so that Crowley would fuck into his mouth. It didn't take long for the steady pull in Crowley to snap. Gasping around his orgasm, he fell forward and, as he caught his breath, he slithered down to clamp onto Aziraphale’s chest like a limpet.

When Crowley finally rolled out of bed, he went to the bathroom and caught sight of himself in the mirror. He hadn’t noticed how dirty Francis’s hands had been but they had smudged mud on his forehead and their kisses had smeared his lipstick around his mouth and trailed it over his cheeks where Aziraphale had pressed even more kisses. Crowley's stomach skipped. It had happened. He took a deep breath. It wouldn't do for him to smile like a loon.

“Ugh, my lipstick’s a mess,” he said casually, wetting a cloth to wipe it away. 

Aziraphale mumbled something from the bed that Crowley couldn’t quite catch. Turning to look at him, the urge to smile won out when he saw Aziraphale looking at him. “What’s that, angel?”

“Nothing,” Aziraphale said casually. “Just something I remembered from my reading.”

Crowley hummed. Of course. Aziraphale was always thinking about his reading. Leave it to him to have an orgasm and then think about bloody books.  “Are you reading something new?” 

“No, old stuff. Remember O’Hara?”

Crowley remembered O’Hara. All those words that felt like his own splayed across a page. The bits that reminded him of Aziraphale.

“I wouldn't want to be faster or greener than now if you were with me,” he quoted and when Aziraphale looked at him in awe, he was fast to add, “Or something like that.”

“Did you read it?” Aziraphale asked. Crowley tossed him a washcloth so he could clean himself up too, mud and lipstick smeared over parts of him as well.

“No,” Crowley said hurriedly, embarrassed to be caught out in his sentimentality. Aziraphale couldn't know that Crowley read a book that he'd suggested. He would never shut up about it. “Pretty sure you read that one to me.”

When Aziraphale went into the bathroom, he shut the door and Crowley heard the shower turn on. For a brief moment, Crowley considered slipping inside and joining him, but Aziraphale seemed a little shaken so he supposed it wouldn’t hurt to give him time to process what had happened. It was quite a shift in their relationship.

He summoned Aziraphale’s collected works of O’Hara and flipped through it. He said that part of the poem he’d been thinking of but there had been a line he’d liked that was just on the tip of his tongue.

Aziraphale came out of the bathroom, all buttoned up—what a shame—and stopped when he saw Crowley in the bed.

“Have you forgotten what we were like then / when we were still first rate / and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth,” Crowley read, using an American accent to tease Aziraphale, who looked quite stricken.

Aziraphale snapped his fingers and miracled the dirt from the bed—oh Crowley should have done that.

“It's no use worrying about Time / but we did have a few tricks—” this was definitely the right poem but not the right line. Maybe Aziraphale would know. He was good at that memorizing thing. “No, that’s not the bit I’m looking for.” 

The bed dipped with added weight and he turned his attention to the angel who, sure enough, knew the rest of the poem.

"The whole pasture looked like our meal / we didn't need speedometers / we could manage cocktails out of ice and water."

Crowley’s heart picked up speed to hear it all in Aziraphale’s voice. He could listen to him for ages.

“I like that part about speedometers, but no again,” Crowley said. He wanted to kiss Aziraphale again. He probably could now, he realized as he shut the book.

“You said the last line earlier,” Aziraphale said and then he licked his lips before finishing the poem. “I wouldn't want to be faster / or greener than now if you were with me O you / were the best of all my days.”

“The best of all my days," he said, hoping Aziraphale knew what he meant. He had to. “That’s it. What I was looking for.”

Crowley stared at his angel, waiting for anything that might be forthcoming, but Aziraphale still looked like someone had hit him over the head with something heavy so Crowley sighed and tugged him back against the pillow, thrilling in the fact that he could hold Aziraphale the way he’d always wanted to.

And for once, Aziraphale dropped off to sleep before Crowley. In fact, Crowley felt like he couldn’t sleep at all. He kept replaying that awed look on Aziraphale’s face, the feeling of Aziraphale’s lips on his. It was such a relief to know he wasn’t alone in this.

Idly wondering what had changed—had there been a moment? Something he’d done to change Aziraphale’s mind?—he crawled out of bed and pulled open the nightstand, staring at the ring that Aziraphale had given him nearly three years ago. It was just as beautiful as he remembered and it made his heart just as full. 

Slipping it back onto his finger, he hoped Aziraphale would understand what it meant without Crowley having to say. Crowley was bad with his words, always fucking those up. Aziraphale was the one who said things, Crowley was the one who did them.

Chapter Text

Harriet had given him the day off and oh what a day off it would be. Well, it would be if Crowley had anything to say about it. Aziraphale seemed determined to get his work done so Crowley trailed him through the garden as he huffed his way through his work even though what he wanted was to be in bed with Aziraphale on top of him and preferably inside of him for at least several hours. Not that watching Aziraphale turn pink under Crowley's stare wasn't delightful in it's own right. 

"Where'd you disappear to yesterday?" Crowley asked as he perched on the low stone wall that line the rose garden and picked a smidgen of nail polish off his pinky nail. He needed to paint them soon..

The shears clacked together and Crowley watched as a perfectly serviceable rose plopped onto the ground. He sighed. Aziraphale really was hopeless sometimes.

"It was my performance review. With Heaven," Aziraphale mumbled as he knelt down, stuffing his hands into the dirt under the rose bushes to pluck out a few recalcitrant weeds.

"Ah," Crowley said, watching Aziraphale's bum sway as he pulled a withered dandelion from the ground. He looked good enough to eat. Crowley spent a few seconds thinking about that and then forced himself to focus. This was a waste of time. Aziraphale should just miracle the blasted bushes and be done with it.

“You know you have to prune more than that,” Crowley said casually, hoping the threat of extra work would push Aziraphale to cave and use his powers.

Aziraphale let out a snuffling snort that should have been disgusting but Crowley found very cute.

“They seem to be doing fine," Aziraphale said without looking at him. Crowley didn't like that. He was out here so Aziraphale would look at him with that hungry expression Crowley loved so much. He leaned back on his hands and let his head tilt to the side lazily, enjoying the sight of Aziraphale buzzing around the rose bushes like a nervous bee.

“They could be doing better,” Crowley said. Tired of waiting for Aziraphale to get the hint, he hopped off the wall and came up behind Aziraphale, pressing himself flush against his back. “Why don’t you miracle them right and we can go back inside?”

Aziraphale stiffened. “There’s something to be said for good old-fashioned manual labor.”

He sounded so deliciously shy that Crowley took the opportunity to tease him. Putting on his Nanny Ashtoreth voice, he leaned in and whispered in Aziraphale's ear. “You know, Francis, I could take this opportunity to kiss you silly in the rose garden, but I think you’d prefer some privacy for what I have in mind.”

Aziraphale sucked in a breath and Crowley smiled into the curve of his neck. It was a heady thing, to have this effect on him. Turning Aziraphale in his arms, Crowley kissed him, a soft press of lips that had Aziraphale relaxing against him, his mouth going slack so Crowley could slip his tongue inside.

 Aziraphale groaned and Crowley pressed kisses across his cheek and down his neck, Aziraphale tilting his head back to expose the sensitive skin. Crowley found himself growing painfully hard under his skirt. “What do you say, angel?” 

Hands catching in the fabric of Crowley's jacket, Aziraphale stammered out a half answer. “Right, yes. I—”

The pink rising in Aziraphale's cheeks and the shine in his eyes had Crowley desperate to touch him and he was tugging off Aziraphale's smock the second they made it through the mudroom. Once they were in the kitchen, Crowley knew the bed would have to wait. They were inside the cottage and that was good enough. Pushing Aziraphale against the nearest counter, Crowley dropped to his knees and undid his trousers, letting them fall about Aziraphale's ankles and pressing kisses along his thighs. Fuck, Aziraphale smelled so good.

He looked up at Aziraphale and said, "I want you inside me."

I want you inside me right now.

Making a split second decision, Crowley used a twist of his powers, switching out his genitals with a thought. It would make it so much easier for Aziraphale to slip inside him when he was wet and ready and—

Crowley couldn't stand waiting any longer. He leaned forward and took Aziraphale's soft cock in his mouth, sucking on the head and laving it with his tongue as he felt it grow hard in his mouth. Losing himself in the sound of Aziraphale's groans as the angel's hands slammed into the edge of the counter to hold himself up, Crowley hummed. Crowley knew he wasn't good at this. He was messy and probably used too much teeth but having Aziraphale completely at his mercy made heat pool in his belly as he felt himself go slick between his legs. He hadn't had a cunt for a very long time and he'd forgotten how good that felt.

Feeling light-headed with want, Crowley pulled away. “Are you ready?”

“Are you? Don’t I need to…” Aziraphale asked, sounding breathless as he waved his hands in front of him awkwardly. Crowley grinned.

“Nah, I switched things up for fun," Crowley said as he stood. He'd let Aziraphale explore all the facets of his body later but right now, he wanted to be fucked. "I fancied the multiple orgasms bit.”

He tugged up his skirt so that it settled around his waist and hopped up on the counter, pulling Aziraphale between his legs. "See," he said, grabbing Aziraphale's hand and pressing it against his knickers.

Aziraphale sucked in a breath and stared down at his hand in awe. Crowley squirmed under the look not expecting Aziraphale to slip his fingers under the black satin and rub his thumb over his clit. Delightful as it was, Crowley had a goal in mind and that was to have Aziraphale inside him immediately.

Taking a steadying breath, Crowley grasped Aziraphale's cock, shoving his own panties to the side so he could press it inside. He felt stretched and possessed and fuck. Grasping at Aziraphale's back, Crowley shifted his hips, wanting to get the show on the road. Aziraphale's chest was heaving and everything around them seemed to slow down as the angel let his forehead come to rest on Crowley's shoulder, taking two deep breaths before slamming inside him hard enough that Crowley gasped. He felt the slick pull of Aziraphale withdrawing and then an acute drag of pleasure as he buried himself again.

After those two experimental thrusts, Aziraphale seemed to figure out the rhythm of what he wanted, hands tight on Crowley's hips, the swell of his stomach pressed against' Crowley's belly as he continued to move. This was what Crowley wanted but now that it was happening he felt entirely lost, caught up in sensation and the reality that this was Aziraphale and that they were finally—

Aziraphale pushed in again, striking something in Crowley that made his spine tingle. "Oh, holy—damn—Like that," he gasped as he arched up into the new feeling. 

It was—it was...

He needed more, so he reached up and threaded his hands in Aziraphale's hair, yanking him down into a kiss that was more tongue than anything, and Crowley felt something crest inside him, a steady pulse starting in his belly and rushing through him. He shuddered through his orgasm, trying to breathe as he felt Aziraphale's movements stutter and slow.

They leaned into each other in silence. Crowley hesitantly reached out and wrapped his arms loosely around Aziraphale, not wanting to sacrifice their closeness but feeling so overstimulated that he couldn't handle much more.

Aziraphale pulled away and the sensation of his cock sliding out of him made Crowley keen. Staring at him for a moment, Aziraphale bit his lip and Crowley felt the urge to cross his legs and say something snide, something to alleviate the intensity in Aziraphale's eyes. But before he could, the angel went to his knees and hooked his thumb under the waistband of Crowley's surely ruined knickers, tugging them down, over his knees, a delicate press of his thumb against the arch of Crowley's foot as Aziraphale slid the black fabric off and dropped it to the ground.

Anxiety curled in Crowley's belly and he tried not to shift away as Aziraphale looked between his legs, eyes dark. He reached out and traced one finger over his slit, making Crowley twitch. Then Aziraphale had a soft cloth—a handkerchief?—and was wiping his own come from the sensitive skin, the scrape of the fabric just enough to make Crowley's toes curl. Thinking that was it, he was clean, Crowley opened his mouth to suggest they go to the bedroom when Aziraphale leaned forward and buried his face in Crowley's cunt.

Crowley's head slammed back against the cupboards, a sharp pain that quickly faded as he lost himself to the feel of Aziraphale's tongue thrusting inside him and twisting. He clutched at Aziraphale's head, oversensitive as the angel licked over him, an enthusiastic drag of his tongue. He felt his muscles tense again, the waves of pleasure rising and then breaking as he sucked in a shocked breath. He vaguely noticed Aziraphale standing and he felt like the angel was too far away. Blindly reaching out, he tugged Aziraphale closer and clashed their mouths together.

Aziraphale tasted like sex and Crowley's heart felt like it was about to break out of his ribs as they kissed. How did he feel like he wanted to be even closer?

Finally, needing to breathe, Crowley pulled back, letting himself lean back against the cupboard as he stuffed away the awful needy feeling in his chest. His eyes fluttered shut. That had been—it had been—

"Have you ever done that before?” he asked, still not believing Aziraphale had fucked him and then licked his own come out of Crowley like that was normal.

Aziraphale slumped against the counter next to him and when Crowley tilted his head to look at him, he blushed. “Why? Was it bad?” 

“I don’t really have anything to compare it to," he said frankly, coming down off the counter—oh good, his legs still worked. "Felt downright sinful though...” 

He tugged on his clothes to right them and tried to put his hair back up. A losing battle. Especially when he felt Aziraphale's hand sink back into the messy strands. “Oi! I just—”

Then he was being kissed once more and he couldn't exactly resist that because Aziraphale was kissing him. And Crowley liked that. Aziraphale initiating things. It made him feel wanted.

Hand still gripping his hair, Aziraphale broke the kiss and said, voice hoarse, “You said something about multiple orgasms? Want to try for another then?”

Oh fuck that was hot. Crowley nodded numbly and followed Aziraphale to the bedroom, their journey slowed by roaming hands and needy.


Aziraphale was on top of him, inside him, pushing him down into the bed with his steady weight and huffing against his ear while they moved together and Crowley never wanted it to end. Centuries of thinking on human mating rituals as base and disgusting but Crowley thought he finally understood. It wasn’t the actions, it was the intimacy. The pleasure was a byproduct of feeling and oh—

Aziraphale tucked his face into Crowley’s neck and gasped his orgasm against the kiss-bitten skin of his throat. 

Running his hands down Aziraphale’s back, Crowley savored the weight of him between his thighs until Aziraphale pulled away, looking embarrassed. It was funny to Crowley, this angel, who not so long ago had dropped to his knees in the kitchen and ate Crowley out until he was trembling, looking embarrassed about having an orgasm.

“None of that,” Crowley said, not without affection, as he surged up to kiss Aziraphale again. Fuck, he could do this now. Whenever he wanted.

Aziraphale groaned around his tongue and his hand crept up between Crowley’s thighs, parting them so he could slip a finger inside. Crowley gasped and fell back against the pillow. 

Crowley tossed an arm over his face so he could bite the flesh of his wrist and keep from whimpering, but Aziraphale said, low and focused, “I want to see you.”

Hesitantly, Crowley lowered his arm and met Aziraphale’s eyes, they were a dark gray, flickering with heavy emotion as he worked his hand against Crowley, one finger inside and the other tentatively circling his clit which was, which was—

“That’s remarkable,” Aziraphale said, awestruck and wide-eyed as Crowley felt his muscles spasm. What was that? Six?

First on the counter when Aziraphale was inside him, then with his mouth, then his hands, then his mouth again, and oh, a second time with his mouth, and now. Vaginas were amazing. 

Pulling his hand away, Aziraphale fell back on the bed next to Crowley who turned on his side to stare at him. He traced a finger down his arm and tangled their hands together. He wanted to say something. Say it . But the words felt stuck in his throat. Perhaps it was too cliche, saying I love you in bed.

Crowley would work up to it. 

Well, for now he could do something to show Aziraphale how he felt. Get him a gift or something. Aziraphale loved that. Even when they weren’t...like this, the angel would always light up and take Crowley’s gift in his manicured hands like it was some precious thing. 

Struck by an idea, he kissed Aziraphale’s shoulder and rolled out of bed. If he was going to travel across the world he should probably have a less semen on him.

“I’ve got to pop out for a bit, but I’ll be back later,” Crowley said from the bathroom after he'd gotten out of the shower. “Just a little business. Need anything?”

When Crowley looked back at the bed, Aziraphale was shaking his head, looking bewildered. Crowley grinned. He’d put that look on Aziraphale’s face. 

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he teased before leaving the cottage. With a snap and perhaps an egregious use of power, he found himself in Yokohama. He’d have to do some work to make sure Hell didn’t ask questions but Crowley was very creative when he put his mind to it. 


When Crowley gave him the red bean buns, Aziraphale looked like he might cry. His lip quivered as his whole body relaxed against the pillows of their bed. “My dear boy…”

Crowley panicked. His feelings felt too big for his chest to contain. Deflecting, he looked away and said, “Don’t get all sappy over it.”

“Really.” Aziraphale tilted his head in that way he did when he was disapproving. But also affectionate. Crowley’s heart swelled. “You had to go all the way to Japan!”

Feeling embarrassed, Crowley shrugged and crossed his arms over his chest. “I was in Tokyo on other business. Just enjoy the bloody things.”

“Share with me?” Aziraphale asked, holding out one of the warm buns and Crowley clenched his hands at his sides to remind himself that he should let Aziraphale enjoy the stupid things instead of tackling him back onto the pillows and kissing him until he couldn’t see straight.

Even if ravishing Aziraphale well into the night was probably not the best idea, Crowley couldn’t stop himself from feeling the warmth of happiness that seeped through him. He so rarely felt like this. Content.  So Crowley caved—like he always did—to Aziraphale’s request. “Oh alright, but I still think they’re too sweet.”

They shared their snack and teased each other and it was blissfully normal. Crowley had always wanted this. What they had before, but also the freedom to lean in, to put his hand on Aziraphale’s thigh, to kiss that sunshine smile and say I love you whenever he wanted.

 “Why don’t we go on a walk? The weather is lovely today,” Aziraphale said thoughtfully, looking out the window into the orange sunset with a wistful expression.

Crowley protested because he still felt something of a mess both from the night before and all that jumping about the world, but Aziraphale turned his lambent eyes on him and he said,  “I think you look lovely the way you are.”

And then Crowley really had to restrain himself from tackling Aziraphale back against the pillows. 

It was easy on the garden path, talking about inconsequential things; what Aziraphale wanted to grow next year, Warlock’s progress. The sun was a glowing ember and it lit Crowley from the inside despite the settling autumn chill.

They found a bench and looked out over the well-kept garden—Crowley really should give Aziraphale his compliments on how well most of the plants were doing. It was silent and for a brief moment Crowley’s ever-present rattling thoughts quieted to a low hum.

“I enjoyed today, you know,” Aziraphale said, the words soft in the twilight. Crowley’s heart thumped.

It happened. It will happen again. He’s letting you love him.

Not wanting to be separated from the angel by even the meager foot between them, Crowley hooked one of his legs over Aziraphale’s and curled his fingers around his jaw, tugging him against Crowley’s mouth so he could lick inside. Crowley’s spine tingled when Aziraphale tangled one hand in his hair and tugged, the sharp pull shooting through Crowley and making him gasp. 

“Angel,” Crowley said against Aziraphale’s mouth when he pulled back, barely an inch between them as their breath mingled. Aziraphale’s eyes were closed and it was all Crowley could manage not to beg him to look a him. Delicately, he kissed Aziraphale’s upper lip, then his lower one, barely dipping his tongue inside. A tease.

The sound of a throat clearing behind them had Aziraphale scrambling away and Crowley suppressed a sigh. Skittish angel. 

It was just Harriet, out with Warlock and blushing. She was probably embarrassed, catching them out like that. Crowley smirked. She’d never think they had marital problems again. Not if Crowley had anything to say about it. He’d snog Aziraphale on the front lawn every day for the next 8 years and do it proudly. 

 “Sorry! So sorry! I was—well, Warlock and I were on a walk.”

Crowley waved off her concern when Warlock called out to him and toddled over the bench, patting his legs in that way he did when he wanted to be held.

“Why hello, dearie,” Crowley said, picking up Warlock and settling him on his legs. “How was your day?”

Eyebrows scrunched up, Warlock pouted. “Where were you?”

“I had the day off,” Crowley said. He had tried to explain his occasional absences to Warlock before but it never worked. He seemed to think he had Crowley at his beck and call. Which was very evil of him. “Did you have fun with your mum?” he asked to redirect Warlock’s questions.

It worked because Warlock hopped off his lap and stood up on the bench to wave his mother over. “Mummy!”

“Yes, Warlock?” Harriet asked politely, tucking her hair behind her ears.

“We read a book,” Warlock announced, looking between his two favorite people very proudly.

Harriet shared a private amused look with Crowley who pressed a hand to his mouth to hide a small smile.  “We did,” she said indulgently. “Do you want to ask Nanny and Francis what we talked about?”

“Nanny!” Warlock practically shrieked, whipping around to face Nanny and Francis. “Want to go to the zoo with us?”

The zoo. Well, Crowley should have known his little holiday with Aziraphale would end abruptly. They couldn’t exactly stay in the cottage and shag all the time.

“We were thinking of going tomorrow,” Harriet explained. “And Warlock kept asking if you’d be there.”

“We’d love to come,” Aziraphale answered quickly, looking away from Crowley’s searching gaze. That was strange. Why was he so nervous?

Warlock cheered, the shriek sounding in Crowley’s ear and making him grimace.  Coming around the bench, Harriet helped him back to the ground and said, “Let’s meet at the house at 10?”

Well, Crowley guessed they were going to the zoo whether he liked it or not.


When they got back to the cottage, Crowley wanted to tug Aziraphale back to bed and wring those delightful noises from him over and over again until sunrise, but Aziraphale was already in the living room opening a book before Crowley could even start anything.

That could work too.

Crowley couldn’t count the number of times he’d thought about curling up against Aziraphale on this couch. He would be sitting in his chair by the fire and his eyes would drift to Aziraphale and he’d think oh he looks warm and I wish…

He didn’t have to wish anymore.

Flopping down next to Aziraphale, he scooched up until he could put his head in the angel’s lap, his soft thigh a perfect pillow. A perfect pillow after Crowley fidgeted a bit and found the right angle. “Turn on the TV would you.”

Aziraphale made an irritated noise and flipped on Jeopardy. Crowley put his hand on Aziraphale’s knee and snuggled deeper. He almost jumped when Aziraphale’s hand dropped to his hair but then Aziraphale was delicately running his fingers through it. Crowley hummed in encouragement. He loved when Aziraphale touched his hair.

They spent the night like that. Aziraphale reading and sometimes playing with his hair as he dozed, head in the angel’s lap.


Harriet ended up being unable to go to the zoo which disappointed Warlock. But the side benefit of her absence was that Crowley was able to better appreciate Francis in this newfound light.

When Aziraphale had first taken on the disguise, Crowley had thought it ridiculous. He’d also found himself ridiculous for still being attracted to him despite the awful, cartoonish appearance. Now, when he looked at Francis, he felt warmth and kindness and that same radiating brightness that followed Aziraphale everywhere. Sometimes he wondered how someone could find him anything but beautiful. 

Warlock had a delightful time, running about the zoo and declaring his favorite animals. It gave Crowley ample opportunity to encourage his appreciation of the predators and their hunting prowess. Warlock also had a ridiculous love of penguins. It was difficult to twist penguins into something evil. So...point to Aziraphale.

He’d need to put together another report for Hell soon. He’d leave out the penguins.


After an entire day with the angel, Crowley couldn’t wait to get him back to the cottage. He’d spent nearly ten hours looking at him and wanting to touch him, wanting Aziraphale to hold him. He hurried through dropping Warlock off with Harriet, gave her a brief overview of the day while Aziraphale stood to the side smiling dopily. Crowley wanted to kiss the smile off his face.

The minute the cottage door was shut behind them Crowley pressed Aziraphale against the wall in the entryway and captured his mouth. Immediately, heat started to gather in Crowley’s belly as he fisted his hands in Aziraphale’s smock, wanting to get it off, to be closer. Kissing down Aziraphale’s neck, Crowley murmured, “So pretty. Beautiful. Everything I've ever…”

Aziraphale pushed him away. Crowley swallowed, confused by Aziraphale's continued shyness. 

“How about a drink?” Aziraphale said, straightening his clothes before walking down the hall toward the kitchen. 

What? Why was Aziraphale deflecting? Had Crowley made him uncomfortable? Whatever. A drink could be nice. “Sure...are you in the mood for anything in particular?”

That made Aziraphale smile. “How about a nice cabernet?”

Maybe Aziraphale needed some time to readjust after a long day with the antichrist. Warlock could be tiring. Crowley would put a record on and then they could settle into the living room and relax. Aziraphale liked that. 

Feeling nostalgic, he put on Fleetwood Mac. He used to listen to it after Aziraphale had left him in the Bentley that night in Soho. He’d listen and feel bad for himself because he was a pathetic excuse for a demon, letting his heart be trampled like that. 

After Crowley took his seat, Aziraphale handed him an extremely full glass of wine. Crowley snorted. “Trying to get me drunk, angel?”

“We both know I wouldn’t have to try,” Aziraphale pointed out with a flirtatious grin. Crowley couldn’t stand the fact that Aziraphale was standing over him, so close but so far away so he grabbed him by the hips and tugged him into his lap.

Aziraphale squawked and tried to wriggled away. “Really, I’m far too heavy for this.”

“Let me be the judge.” He began to tug at the tie of Aziraphale’s smock. He wanted to taste the hair he knew dusted under the angel’s collarbone, lick over his sternum—

“Hands to yourself, my dear,” Aziraphale said primly.

Crowley sighed and let Aziraphale pull away. He wasn’t going to force it, but he also wasn’t going to let Aziraphale sit on the far end of the sofa with nearly two feet between them. He slid to the floor and tucked himself between Aziraphale’s knees. His legs were warm.

It was easy after that, falling into old habits, getting drunk and teasing each other about old memories. After his third glass of wine, Crowley returned to the sofa and tried to cuddle up against Aziraphale who seemed to want none of it. Weird, prickly angel. Huffing, Crowley stuck his feet in Aziraphale’s lap and called it good. Eventually, the angel’s hands dropped to his shins and sometimes he would brush his thumb over the sensitive skin of Crowley’s ankle bone which was very good.

“I just think that the 1970s were a very meaningful time in history. All that change. The protests! I’d think you’d like those,” Aziraphale said with a significant look. Fuck, Crowley loved him.

Crowley shook his head and spoke through the buzzing in his head. “The music was the best part of the seventies!”

“The music in the seventies was abominable.”

He did not just say that! “What about this? Fleetwood Mac?”

Aziraphale cocked his head and listened for a moment, clearly not as intoxicated as Crowley as he was able to focus much more successfully. “Not as bad as Fall Out Boy,” he declared.

Ridiculous.“You know I love you but you truly have the most questionable tastes,” he said in exasperation.

Aziraphale’s eyes went wide and his hand froze on Crowley’s ankle. And then Crowley realized what he said.

Oh shit, oh shit.

“What?” Aziraphale croaked.

Crowley cast about for an excuse. Slip of the tongue? No. Maybe he should own up to it. It was true. But it felt so stupid. Letting it slip out over drinks while they were bickering. Or perhaps that was fitting? How did Aziraphale feel?

Then Crowley’s racing thoughts were silenced because Aziraphale was pressing him back into the sofa and his mouth was on his. Shocked at the sudden display of affection when Aziraphale had been distant all night, Crowley dropped his wine glass. He’d have to miracle away the stain but it didn’t matter at all because Aziraphale was kissing him and if Crowley thought their kisses over the last few days had been heated then he had been sorely mistaken. 

He felt the tug of a miracle as the bobby pins disappeared from his hair and Aziraphale sank his hands into it with an appreciative groan that sent a thrill of arousal through him. Aziraphale clearly loved his hair. And Crowley loved when he touched it so that worked out for both of them.

The feel of Aziraphale's tongue in his mouth made him melt. He felt like one of the couch cushions and it was perfect.

Aziraphale dropped a kiss to the corner of his mouth, then his jaw, then his forehead and Crowley squirmed under the attention. He felt like he couldn’t breathe. “Aziraphale,” he gasped and Aziraphale smiled against his skin. 

Part of Crowley wanted it to escalate, for their clothes to fall away so he could make Aziraphale feel good. But this? It made Crowley feel loved and he thought that might be better so he let Aziraphale kiss him and he did his best to kiss back.


They must have fallen asleep at some point because Crowley woke up on top of Aziraphale when the angel shook his shoulder.

Crowley smiled at him and he knew he looked like a dolt but he couldn’t help it. He felt happy. “Morning, angel.”

“You should get to work, my dear,” Aziraphale said, helping him sit up as they untangled.

Crowley looked out the window and scowled. If he hadn’t fallen asleep they could have had more time together. “It’s morning.”

“Very observant of you,” Aziraphale said and it was clear he wanted to get ready and get to work. Very dedicated, his angel.

“Ah yes, the flowers never rest,” Crowley said, raising his eyebrows and poking out his tongue to tease.

“They don’t do they.” The words sounded mechanical and a thread of worry wormed its way into Crowley’s thoughts. 

He tried to dismiss it. He needed to get to work. They could talk about whatever was bothering Aziraphale later. He leaned down and kissed Aziraphale a final time before putting himself together.

“See you tonight, angel,” Crowley said, trying to make it sound like a promise.

“Tonight,” Aziraphale said distantly, distracted and not looking him in the eye.

Scowling, Crowley forced himself to leave. They'd have to talk about it later.