The argument over who would take which position in the Dowling household was brief, mostly because Crowley said, “Right. I’ll answer the nanny advert.”
“Oh, are you sure?” Aziraphale said, with a degree of relief that one might think an angel would be ashamed of.
“Children are only slightly more complicated than houseplants,” Crowley said firmly. “I’m obviously best suited to the task. What’s that leave you with?”
“Gardener,” Aziraphale said without much enthusiasm.
“Too bad they don’t need a cook,” Crowley said absently, and Aziraphale’s face brightened and then fell, and he agreed that yes, it was too bad.
In retrospect: everything that followed, Crowley did to himself.
Crowley prepared for his interview by rewatching Mary Poppins and reading Dr. Spock, which seemed completely and entirely sufficient. Mrs. Dowling seemed to agree, or perhaps that was just the sleep-deprivation talking. He was shown a room on the third floor, with a good south-facing window that had room for some plants, and a narrow bed that he scowled at until the mattress thought better of all of its choices.
He was told he could start in the morning, and before he left, the strangest thing happened: the cook quit on the spot.
“Came into a bit of money, apparently,” Crowley told Aziraphale later.
Aziraphale stared at him. “Inherited, or embezzled?”
“I’m shocked at this line of questioning,” Crowley said, and when the corners of Aziraphale’s mouth threatened to turn down, he said, “All right, all right, she inherited it, are you happy?”
Aziraphale smiled at him in a way that made Crowley want to do something ridiculous like duck his head. “What a good bit of luck for her,” Aziraphale said.
“Right,” Crowley said, pursing his lips in feigned annoyance. “I’m starting tomorrow—I assume I’ll see you there once everything’s settled.”
“Yes, of course—oh, but wait, I don’t have a reference,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley looked at him. “Just—” he wiggled his fingers.
“It seems dishonest,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley sighed heavily. “Just bring them a cake, they can judge for themselves.”
Aziraphale had the complete nerve to bat his eyelashes in a way that had been prompting Crowley to do things not in his own self-interest for an uncomfortably long stretch of time, which might or might not have been to the tune of six thousand years.
“Fine, you can put me down,” Crowley groaned.
“Oh my dear, thank you,” Aziraphale said.
“I’m going to be honest with them if they ask about your passionfruit problem,” he threatened.
“I’d expect nothing less,” Aziraphale said, and patted him on the hand.
The Antichrist wasn’t any worse than an orchid, in Crowley’s estimation. It was all about setting expectations, watering as needed, and a bit of cleanup (which he used demonic miracles on constantly, because what was the point of not being in Hell if you still had to deal with shit).
He brought Warlock down to the kitchen to make up his mid-morning bottle, and sure enough, there was Aziraphale.
Oh Heaven, there was Aziraphale. In a cream-colored dress nipped in at the waist, probably actually from the last time he’d presented as a woman during a brief period in the late 1940’s. His hair was pulled back in a bun and wisps of golden hair framed his face in the heat of the kitchen.
His apron had ruffles and little embroidered bees on the bottom.
“Oh, hello,” Aziraphale said. There was a bit of flour on his cheek, which made sense, because he was currently doing something to dough that seemed less like kneading and more like gentle petting.
Crowley really needed to not think about Aziraphale and petting in the same sentence. “I just need to warm up some milk,” he managed to say.
“Did you know that they don’t use wet nurses very much anymore?” Aziraphale said.
“They have milk banks,” Crowley said absently, taking a bottle of breast milk out of the fridge and fitting it in the warmer. “People donate, they freeze it, you warm it up in one of these.”
“Oh, is that what that does?” Aziraphale asked, looking over Crowley’s shoulder as several lights on the machine turned on.
“I hesitate to ask what you even thought it was,” Crowley said, and rubbed Warlock’s back, who was starting to get a little fussy.
Aziraphale was making calf-eyes at the baby. “He’s precious.”
“He’s the Son of Satan and the Destroyer of Worlds,” Crowley reminded him.
“He’s so tiny,” Aziraphale gushed, reaching out one careful finger to gently stroke Warlock’s cheek.
“For the moment,” Crowley said, and then the warmer beeped, and Crowley settled in the chair in the corner of the kitchen to give Warlock his bottle. “Now,” he said to Warlock as he began to drink, “let me be perfectly clear. We have a feeding schedule, but I’ll never let you go hungry. So there’s no need to get worked up after you’ve let me know that you need to eat again, understood?”
Warlock blinked up at him, and continued drinking contentedly.
Crowley happened to look up, only to see Aziraphale looking at them with such soppy adoration that Crowley wanted to hiss.
But it would disturb Warlock, whose eyes had drifted closed, and his nursing had slowed. Crowley took the bottle out Warlock’s mouth and then shifted him against his shoulder and patted his back very precisely until he burped. And then he made a small little noise and went right to sleep.
He really was so tiny.
There was a clink of china; Aziraphale set down a cup of tea at his elbow. There were little biscuits in the shape of hearts on the saucer.
“Yours?” Crowley asked, picking up a biscuit.
Aziraphale nodded, and looked at him expectantly.
Crowley sniffed first; the green specks would be rosemary, and there was something citrus. When he tasted it, the lemon and rosemary together made it ride the edge of savory. It was delicious, and Aziraphale looked like he would burst if Crowley didn’t say something.
“Not too sweet,” he said.
Aziraphale took that for the compliment it was, and smiled at him. Crowley sipped his tea while Warlock slept in his arms, and he watched Aziraphale move around the kitchen as though it were already home.
Crowley saw Aziraphale again for staff lunch, since it coincided with needing to feed Warlock again, and also, Crowley knew there would be questions if he wasn’t seen to eat. Humans were funny about things like that.
In addition to Aziraphale and Crowley, there was a butler, housekeeper, and gardener on retainer. Crowley had sized them up upon meeting them; the butler, Mr. Jennings, was no-nonsense upstairs, but turned into soppy mush the moment he was around Warlock downstairs.
“I remember when mine were that little,” he said, and touched the fine hairs on Warlock’s crown. In Crowley’s estimation: not to be trusted, would let the Antichrist run roughshod all over the place if not kept in check.
The housekeeper, Mrs. Parker, had a permanently distrustful expression on her face, which Crowley liked about her. She was also very proper upstairs, but definitely had some feelings about being in the employ of Americans. She also hated the new gardener with a passion that was nearly breathtaking in its intensity; Crowley wanted to get drunk with her desperately.
“This is outstanding, Cook Fell,” Mrs. Parker said to Aziraphale, who really had gone a little overboard for a staff meal.
Aziraphale went pink in the cheeks. “You’re too kind,” he murmured, which was untrue. Mrs. Parker was perfectly correct in how delicious the meal was; that she’d also hated the former cook was just icing on this particular cake.
“It’s delicious,” said the gardener, a man by the name of Evans. He looked at Aziraphale as though he were the thing Evans would like to taste.
He was already on Crowley’s shitlist for the horrors he perpetrated on the grounds. If he tried anything with Aziraphale, well.
Mrs. Parker had also clearly noticed and made eye contact with Crowley, and he understood her perfectly: not to be trusted at all, that one, and she’d be the first one ready with a shovel and a spot to bury the bastard if needed.
“I believe you and Nanny Ashtoreth are previously acquainted?” Mr. Jennings said to Aziraphale.
“We worked in a different household together,” Crowley said, because they’d agreed on their cover story but Aziraphale was awful at remembering and flustered easily. Even if it was sort of true, if by ‘household’ one meant ‘Garden of Eden.’
“Small world, eh?” Mr. Jennings said. “Here you are together again, starting nearly at the same time.”
“What a coincidence,” Aziraphale said brightly, and then took a large bite of chicken and chewed very, very slowly.
Mrs. Parker gave Crowley another look, one that suggested she did not think it was a coincidence at all.
Crowley really wanted to get drunk with her.
But it was time to put Warlock down for a nap, so he contented himself with stirring a little bit of trouble by saying, “Thank you for lunch, Honoria,” to Aziraphale. Everyone at the table, Aziraphale included, looked at him with slightly scandalized eyes.
Crowley permitted himself a tiny smile as he swept out of the room. Chew on that, he thought.
Aziraphale’s room was right next to Crowley’s. Their narrow beds were pushed up against the same wall. Crowley had a few plants on his windowsill which soaked up the sunlight. Aziraphale’s room had one careful stack of books on the nightstand.
“Could ask for a bookshelf,” Crowley said when he saw it late that evening, after putting Warlock down for the night.
“Oh, I wouldn’t want to be a bother,” Aziraphale said. He looked about as tired as Crowley felt and winced when he shifted his weight.
“What’s wrong?” Crowley asked immediately.
Aziraphale looked a bit sheepish. “Would you believe that my feet hurt? Can’t remember the last time I stood all day.”
Crowley looked down at Aziraphale’s feet, which were in heels of only moderate height that were also likely vintage 1940’s. T-straps, cream and camel leather. They made his ankles look delicate.
“Soak in the bath will fix you right up,” he said.
“Oh, that sounds like just the ticket,” Aziraphale said, and then his face fell. “But there’s only the one bathroom on this floor. I shouldn’t like to monopolize it.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Crowley said, who was going to make damn well sure that nobody interrupted them. “I have some bath salts in my room. I’ll go get the water started.”
Crowley stopped him with a warning look.
“Antonia,” Aziraphale said, so sweetly. “Thank you.”
Crowley could give no response that would not embarrass himself, so he turned on his heel and stalked into his bedroom, to a cupboard where bath salts miraculously appeared.
So, too, did an excellent bottle of wine, as well as two glasses.
The bath was half full and he’d changed into a black silk nightgown and dressing gown by the time Aziraphale came in. Aziraphale had exchanged his shoes for slippers but was otherwise still dressed.
Crowley cleared his throat. “Glass of wine? Thought we might—compare notes. While you soak.”
Aziraphale looked so pathetically grateful. And then he began to strip out of his clothes, or rather, he tried.
“Oh, bother,” he said, apparently trying to reach the zip on the back of his dress without success. “Crowley—Antonia—”
“You’re a disaster,” Crowley chided him, more affectionately than he meant to. But Aziraphale turned around for him, and he found the tiny zipper and pulled it down slowly.
It felt like the only noise in the room, besides his own breathing.
“Thank you,” Aziraphale said, and let the dress pool on the floor before stepping out of it and hanging it up.
That was when Crowley’s mouth went dry, because Aziraphale, damn him—bless him—
His lingerie was all straight out of the 1940s, as well. And now Crowley had to live with the knowledge that everyday, under that dress, Aziraphale was wearing a garter belt to hold up his stockings, white lace against his soft thighs and full hips.
Crowley tore his gaze away and turned off the taps. And then as he busied himself with pouring the wine, he heard the rustle of Aziraphale presumably disrobing the rest of the way, before stepping into the tub. He gave Aziraphale a minute to get settled before he brought two glasses of wine over and handed one to Aziraphale and sat down with his back to the clawfoot tub.
Aziraphale made a pleased noise when he sipped his wine. “Oh my dear, you shouldn’t have.”
“We’re in for another eleven years of this, so yes, I absolutely should and will continue to do so,” Crowley retorted.
“Mm, speaking of—”
“The Antichrist?” Crowley said. He took a long swallow. “Hell if I know, angel. He just seems like a normal baby. He can’t see two inches past his face and doesn’t have object permanence yet, so maybe summoning the hordes of Hell is a little too advanced.”
“You have to admit it, though.”
“I really don’t,” Crowley said reflexively, despite not knowing what it was.
“He’s adorable,” Aziraphale said with a happy sigh.
“He’s the literal Spawn of Satan.”
“His little nose!” Aziraphale insisted.
Crowley heaved a sigh, feeling very put upon. “Top you off?” he asked, holding up the bottle.
“Oh, yes please,” Aziraphale said, and held out his glass.
Crowley endeavored not to look at Aziraphale as he poured the wine, but he caught a glimpse of skin flushed pink from the bathwater.
“How was the rest of your day?” he ventured to ask. He tried to remember if he’d ever asked Aziraphale that before. Usually it was, How have the last few decades been treating you? or Did you start drinking without me?
“Oh!” Aziraphale said, sounding very pleased, and then told Crowley all about only Mrs. Dowling being in for dinner that evening, and some kind of upcoming garden party she was planning.
It all felt very—domestic.
Crowley sipped his wine, and made sure that Aziraphale’s bathwater never went cold.
It was the beginning of a routine: they started the day together, and ended it together, too.
He heard Aziraphale rise early the next morning—hard not to, with the wall between their rooms not being enormously thick—and not long after, the baby monitor crackled to life and Warlock wailed once, sharp and insistent. Crowley dressed quickly and headed down to the nursery, where Warlock was waiting patiently for him.
“Good morning, hellspawn,” Crowley said softly. “Breakfast here, or in the kitchen?”
Warlock gurgled, and Crowley considered carefully.
“Kitchen it is,” he said, and scooped Warlock up into his arms. He sniffed once, and miracled the diaper clean before leaving the nursery.
The kitchen was full of the early dawn light, and Aziraphale was humming under his breath to the Debussy piano piece on the radio as he mixed something in a bowl. He slid out of Crowley’s way when he went to pop the bottle in the warmer, and said, “Go ahead and get settled, I’ll bring it over when it’s ready.” Aziraphale dropped a kiss on Warlock’s forehead, and for one stupid moment, Crowley half-expected a kiss for himself, as well.
And then it was just the warm, tiny weight of Warlock in the crook of his arm. Once Aziraphale brought the bottle over and Warlock began to drink, Crowley looked at his little nose, and for the life of him, he couldn’t fathom how this child might one day destroy their world.
“Let me fix you up something,” Aziraphale said, and bustled off to the stove, dress rustling and heels clicking on the floor.
“Just some tea,” Crowley said. “Have mercy, angel, you know I can’t eat early.”
“You are rather off your usual schedule, aren’t you,” Aziraphale said sympathetically. “Then again, if you didn’t insist on sleeping all the time—"
“You ought to give it another go,” Crowley said. “Something tells me we’re both going to need it.” He nodded down to Warlock, who was looking at Crowley as though he were fascinating.
Experimentally, Crowley let his sunglasses slide down his nose. He expected Warlock to begin crying, but instead, he just blinked, and continued to gaze up at Crowley with rapt attention.
Aziraphale set a cup of tea at his elbow. When he took a sip, it was just the way he liked it—splash of milk, no sugar.
It was such a small thing, but it made something in Crowley go treacherously soft, to be known like that.
Aziraphale kept up a quiet patter about his culinary plans for the day, which seemed very focused on his enjoyment of said food and very little concern about the rest of the household. And then Crowley rose, because Warlock was done feeding and they were expected upstairs. But before they could leave, Aziraphale said, “My dear, would you mind tasting this for me?” He held out a forkful of the quiche that had been cooling on the counter. “Don’t spare my feelings,” he said, in what he probably thought was a stern tone of voice.
Crowley’s hands were occupied by a baby and an empty bottle, so he leaned forward and took the bite directly off the fork while Aziraphale held it. He liked eggs to begin with, which might be a leftover snakey bit of himself, and the quiche itself was so delicate in texture. The pastry was ruinously good.
Aziraphale watched him with his wide blue eyes, waiting nervously on Crowley’s judgement. Crowley just licked his lips. “It’s deliciousss, angel,” he said.
That of course was when Mr. Jennings made his presence known with a delicate cough. “Cook, Mr. Dowling will be leaving earlier than planned this morning; could breakfast be made ready in twenty minutes?”
Aziraphale was still holding out the fork, and he blinked. “Oh,” he said. “Yes, of course.”
Crowley left the empty bottle on the counter, knowing Aziraphale would take care of it. As far as he knew, Aziraphale didn’t actually run the dishwasher; he just put the dishes in and expected them to be clean, and then they were, no water or detergent involved.
He swept past Mr. Jennings, who gave him the smallest raised eyebrow, as if he’d seen something vaguely untoward. Crowley just smiled at him, and Jennings went a bit pale.
It seemed not a bad start to the morning, as mornings went.
That evening, when Aziraphale was in the bath again and Crowley was in a puddle of black silk lying against the tub, Crowley asked, “When’s your afternoon off?”
“Mondays,” Aziraphale said. “Yours?”
“Thursdays,” Crowley said, and took a sip of his wine. “I was going to go check on the plants. Could pop by the bookshop, if you’d like, make sure it’s all in one piece.”
The water in the tub sloshed. “Oh, would you?” Aziraphale said, sounding so relieved. “I’m sure the books are all fine, but one worries. You know.”
The books were only part of it; Aziraphale’s shop was a carefully curated nest of things he liked best. That Aziraphale trusted him to go see what’s what made his heart do that unsettling flippy thing.
“Can I bring you anything from the shop?” Crowley asked, trying for very, very casual, as if he weren’t desperate to do Aziraphale any kind of favor.
“I’ll make a list,” Aziraphale said happily, that adorable bastard.
They made their way through a very nice bottle of wine, made much nicer through Crowley’s intervention. Crowley dipped his finger in the bathwater now and again, to nudge the temperature back up.
Eventually, Aziraphale cleared his throat. “Shall I go by your flat and check on your plants on my afternoon off?” he asked, unexpectedly hesitant, as if he wasn’t sure the offer would be welcome.
Truthfully, Crowley didn’t know if it was. He racked his brain and tried to remember if there was anything in the flat he didn’t want the angel to see. The holy water was still in the safe. The plants wouldn’t rat him out, not if they didn’t want to meet with the garbage disposal. He was completely over his phase of sketching Aziraphale’s likeness on any scrap of paper available to him. “You don’t have to,” Crowley said finally. He rubbed the back of his neck. “You still have the key?”
“Of course,” Aziraphale said. “And don’t talk rubbish, I’d be happy to look in on your darling plants.”
“Don’t call them darling—you start with that, they’ll think they can get away with just anything,” Crowley said, although he had no great hopes in that regard.
“They could do with a kind word now and then,” Aziraphale said. “Could you hand me the towel?”
Crowley did, and he heard Aziraphale pull the plug. He pulled himself up to standing and collected their wine glasses, because Aziraphale would fuss otherwise, and kept his gaze studiously averted as Aziraphale dried himself and put on his robe. Aziraphale might not actually care—they’d both lived through too many eras with too many different and contradictory approaches to bodily modesty—but Crowley didn’t want to assume. Assuming got him You go too fast, and that was an experience he didn’t care to repeat.
He followed Aziraphale out of the bathroom, down the hall to their bedrooms. He heard a creak from the other end of the hall, and smiled to himself; even without looking back, he was almost sure that Mrs. Parker had opened her door just to see who was wandering down the hallway.
He and Aziraphale stopped outside their bedroom doors. Aziraphale was still pink from the warm bathwater and holding his dress and bundle of underthings in his arms. His dressing gown was a golden charmeuse that almost glowed in the dim hallway light, and it made Crowley think of evenings in the Garden, when Aziraphale and the moon and stars were all that shone in the darkness.
“So,” Crowley said. “Good night, I suppose.”
“Good night,” Aziraphale said, and his eyes lingered on Crowley’s face for a moment, before he opened his door and disappeared into his room.
“All right, then,” Crowley said to himself, mystified, and let himself into his own room.
He could hear Aziraphale rustling about on his bed through their shared wall, and to the occasional sigh and murmur and turning of pages, Crowley dropped off to sleep.
Some nights later, the baby monitor crackled to life in the middle of the night, Warlock’s howl of distress sinking its claws into Crowley so sharply that he had shouldered on his dressing gown and was opening his bedroom door before he was even properly awake.
Aziraphale opened his door as well, a worried, inquiring look on his face.
“Go back to bed, angel, I have it,” he murmured, touching Aziraphale’s shoulder gently before striding off quickly toward the nursery.
Warlock was still in his crib where Crowley had laid him down for the night, but he was red-faced and sobbing. Crowley swooped him out of his crib and cradled him against his shoulder. “Hush, little hellspawn,” he said softly. “You’re all right, aren’t you?” He walked a careful circle of the nursery, rubbing Warlock’s back in steady circles. He miracled his diaper clean out of habit.
Warlock was still crying, and it tore at Crowley. “You’re not hungry, I know that one,” he said, puzzled. “You’re clean, you’re warm, so what is it?”
Warlock hiccuped, his tiny hands gripping the silk of Crowley’s dressing gown. But his crying petered out as Crowley continued to walk around the darkened room.
“Dr. Spock says it’s likely too early for nightmares,” Crowley murmured. “Did a noise startle you?” He liked that explanation better than Warlock having any of the nightmares that sometimes woke Crowley himself.
“You’re just fine, darling,” he said, and hummed a tune so old he couldn’t have said where or when it came from. And just like that, Warlock was asleep again.
Crowley laid him down in his crib, and gave a sharp look at all the dark corners of the room. “You know your job,” he said, quietly but sharply.
They quivered, but stretched long and protective over the room.
“And You,” he said, daring to look up. “He’s just a baby. You could take it easy on him, just for now, couldn’t You?”
She didn’t answer, but then again, She hadn’t been taking his calls for a very long time now.
The light from Aziraphale’s bedside lamp spilled into the hallway, and Crowley tapped on the door once before sticking his head in. Aziraphale had made something of a nest on his bed, bedclothes all curled around him, glasses perched on his nose and his hair still pinned up.
“Everything all right?” Aziraphale asked, marking his page with his finger.
“Near as I can tell,” Crowley said. It was very late, and he really had never done well with being startled awake. Maybe that was why he ventured to sit on the edge of Aziraphale’s bed. “I think he was frightened.”
“Poor little lamb,” Aziraphale said with dreadful sincerity.
“Are we really doing this?” Crowley asked suddenly. “Are we really—is this the right thing to do? What if we do it wrong?”
“Humans have been doing this for six thousand years,” Aziraphale said. “They seem to muddle through all right, for the most part.”
“Is that supposed to be reassuring?” Crowley muttered, and pulled up his knees to his chest and then just let himself tilt sideways onto Aziraphale’s nest of blankets, head not exactly in Aziraphale’s lap but close enough to make his throat ache a bit, for the comfort he wanted but didn’t dare ask for.
Aziraphale opened his book again. A moment later, Crowley felt Aziraphale’s careful fingers in his hair, stroking it gently.
“You did so well,” Aziraphale said, voice still honey-sweet and soothing. “He was so upset, and you made everything better.”
Crowley’s eyes snapped open. Oh shit, the baby monitor.
Aziraphale must have heard everything.
Crowley turned his face into Aziraphale’s lap and made a low noise of suffering.
“I’ve missed your singing,” Aziraphale had the gall to say.
“Shut up,” Crowley said into the blanket, mortified.
Aziraphale laughed lightly. “Go to sleep, if you like,” he suggested, and just this once, Crowley decided not to argue with him.
He woke up a bit the next morning when Aziraphale climbed out of bed at some heinous hour.
“Go back to sleep, my dear,” Aziraphale whispered.
Crowley obediently shut his eyes, and dozed as Aziraphale dressed. There was a faint murmur of satisfaction as he clipped his stockings to his garters, or at least that was what Crowley thought was happening; it was too early to be tormented by that mental image, and yet he was lying in the literal bed he’d made.
Warlock woke approximately on schedule, his good morning screech to Crowley short and to the point. Crowley was already dressed and just finishing up his lipstick. “I heard you, dear,” he said mildly. He examined his reflection in the mirror, and everything was to his satisfaction. His lipstick knew better than to smudge, after all.
Harriet Dowling came into the nursery to give Warlock his mid-morning bottle. She looked stressed; Crowley gathered from Aziraphale that her upcoming garden party was a big to-do, judging by all the frantic planning and obsessing over small details of the menu.
“You’re off this afternoon?” she asked, burping Warlock. She had draped a cloth over her shoulder, which Warlock promptly spit up on. Warlock did not spit up on Crowley; they had an understanding.
“Unless there is an emergency,” Crowley said.
“I really hope not,” she said. “You’ve been such a lifesaver, Nanny, honestly. I’m not sure what we’d do without you.”
Crowley inclined his head in acknowledgement. He wasn’t sure what the Dowlings would do without him, either—Thaddeus rarely saw the child except in the evenings, sometimes. Harriet spent what time with Warlock that she could, but a diplomat’s partner’s schedule was evidently very full.
Mrs. Parker had cornered Crowely just the day before and said, “Don’t go letting them persuade you into not taking your afternoon off. You do it once and then they’ll feel entitled to have you mind the child all day, every day.” She huffed. “Americans.”
“Americans,” Crowley agreed.
So he took his afternoon off. He stopped in at his flat first, changed out of his Nanny outfit and back into trousers and a jacket. He left the lipstick on; the color was particularly good that day, he thought. He watered and threatened his plants—“Don’t listen to the angel when he comes by,” he hissed—before heading over to Soho.
It was very strange to let himself into Aziraphale’s shop without Aziraphale being there. He left the post in a rough pile on Aziraphale’s desk in the back room—none of it looked important, as far as he could tell, but then, nothing was actually important unless it was a missive from one of their head offices. Aziraphale had pressed a folded note into his hand that morning; it contained a list of books, which Crowley expected, but there were other things, too—a particular pair of shoes, a bottle of perfume, a delicate hat of the style that was rarely worn by women outside of the royal family nowadays.
He hadn’t often been up in the flat on the second floor, but Aziraphale had specified that the non-book items were in the bedroom, so up he went. The bed itself was a confection of pillows and soft-looking blankets, as if Aziraphale were in the habit of curling there just as he did at the Dowling estate. There was an enormous wardrobe that he would bet was even bigger on the inside, and a dressing table covered in delicate glass bottles and ornamented boxes.
Magpie, Crowley thought affectionately.
He opened the wardrobe first, and the shoes were just where Aziraphale said they would be. They were lovely, a delicate blush pink. And then because he was there, he decided to take a gander through the rack of clothing. The suits Aziraphale had worn most recently were in front, but there was also another of the dresses he’d worn after the war—only once, to Crowley’s memory, to some kind of charitable event. Crowley had never wanted so badly to ask him to dance. He had contented himself by hovering near Aziraphale’s shoulder and glaring at all the gentlemen who thought about trying their luck.
He closed the wardrobe door carefully and then found the requested hat in its box, also just where Aziraphale said it would be.
The dressing table was another matter, entirely. There was so much, everywhere. Crowley would like to say that he quickly found the perfume Aziraphale had asked for, but instead he took his time, opening and sniffing each bottle, and there were some that he could not recall Aziraphale wearing, and others that brought forth a vivid memory. One in particular made him recall a night at a musical, where Aziraphale had been alternately transported and vexed, and uttered so many comments in Crowley’s ear that they had been the recipients of many disapproving looks from the people around them. Crowley had rested one arm on top of Aziraphale’s backrest, and earned himself a crick in his neck by leaning down all night long for Aziraphale to whisper, alternately rapturous and fuming, right in his ear, the scent of Aziraphale’s cologne filling his nose.
He had, he recalled, opened his mouth a bit to smell it even better.
He finally collected the right perfume, as well as a particular hand cream—Aziraphale had complained that his hands were dry from baking—and took himself back downstairs with the items on Aziraphale’s list.
He then felt rather at a loss. His duties in watching over the Antichrist superceded any other assignments. There was nothing he had to do, in particular. It was his afternoon off, after all—he could do as he liked. He could go see a film. Go back to his flat and watch The Golden Girls. Encourage hipsters to make tacky renovation choices in Shoreditch.
He could—go pay too much money for a vintage style apron and then tell Aziraphale he’d found it in a charity bin.
Cursing himself for a fool, he packed Aziraphale’s things in the Bentley, and resolutely took himself off to see Mamma Mia for the upteenth time.
He did, however, buy the apron on the way back to the estate.
When Crowley wasn’t minding Warlock, he tended to lurk in the kitchen.
“Ah, my dear, could you fetch me some basil from the garden?” Aziraphale asked, occupied with rolling out pasta by hand.
Evans had the nerve to look up. “Be happy to, Cook,” he said, and rose half-way from his seat.
“I meant Antonia,” Aziraphale said absently.
Crowley let a slow smirk spread across his face and watched Evans’ expression go dark with frustration. He then uncrossed his legs and rose. “How much?” he murmured to Aziraphale.
“Oh, you know,” Aziraphale said, making a vague gesture.
Crowley took a small basket and shears out to the herb garden just outside the kitchen door. He narrowed his eyes at the thyme. “Don’t even think about it,” he hissed. “And you,” he said, turning his attention to the requested basil. “You’re going to help me keep my angel happy or there will be hell to pay.”
Evans was blocking the kitchen doorway when Crowley rose to his feet with verdant basil leaves in his basket.
“It’s not right,” he said. “The grounds are my job. No call for the Nanny to stick her nose in.”
“The state of the peonies suggests otherwise,” Crowley said scathingly. “And anyway, Honoria asked me.”
Evans’ jaw clenched hard. “You ought to call her Cook, same as the rest of us. Isn’t proper. She’s a real lady, she deserves respect.”
“That she does. Which is why you’ll be staying out of the herb garden from now on.”
Evans sputtered. “I will not! Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Who the Hell do I think I am?” Crowley smiled viciously, and leaned in. “I’m the one who gives Honoria exactly what she wants.” He snipped the shears once in front of Evans’ face, and then pushed past him, to where Aziraphale was waiting.
Crowley actually did his best to stay out of the kitchen during the preparation for the long-awaited garden party. There were too many people in and out—additional hands brought on to help Aziraphale cater the event, even though Aziraphale had protested that he would be just fine by himself, and then there were waitstaff and a larger security detail. And yes, technically it should probably not have fallen to Aziraphale to orchestrate everything, but Aziraphale had once commanded a platoon of angels and it rather showed.
Crowley could have warned Harriet Dowling: never, ever, tell an angel you don’t have a management strategy. As a result, Aziraphale just swooped in, directing everyone and everything from his kitchen, the relatively calm eye of a storm.
When Crowley came down to the kitchen sans Warlock to ready his first bottle of the day, Aziraphale had already been in the kitchen for something like three hours. There was a cadre of catering staff around him, and one fellow was already moaning about the macarons.
“It’s too humid,” he told Aziraphale, like it was the height of tragedy. “They’ll never come out in this weather.”
“Nonsense,” Aziraphale said briskly. “I’ll handle those. You’ll take over the scones, won’t you?”
“Yes ma’am,” he said, with what Crowley thought was an appropriate amount of gratitude.
“Buck up, lad,” Aziraphale said, and patted him once on the shoulder. And then he saw Crowley, and he just—
He lit up. Like Crowley was the best thing he’d seen all morning.
Crowley stared at him, his heart clenching. He’d never been so thankful for his glasses before. And Aziraphale was wearing the apron Crowley had bought for him, with its tartan ruffles and sweetheart neckline, and he looked so annoyingly cute in it that Crowley wished for something to hide the rest of his face, as well.
Aziraphale wound his way through all the extra people in the kitchen to join Crowley in front of the bottle warmer. “Good morning,” he said. “Sorry about all of this. Tea?”
“You don’t have to worry about me, angel,” Crowley said.
“But I do,” Aziraphale said, stopping Crowley’s heart for the second time that morning. And the way he looked up at Crowley made it very clear they were not talking about tea.
And oh Heaven, was this really the time? Were they really going to do this now?
“Angel,” Crowley said softly, helplessly.
Then there was a crash, and someone bleated out, “Cook Fell!”
Aziraphale looked up at him for a beat longer, and then sighed. “One moment,” he called over his shoulder before turning back to Crowley. “I’ll bring a cup up to the nursery.”
“You don’t have to,” Crowley said, not exactly sure what he was protesting, but so caught up in Aziraphale’s steady, soft regard that he couldn’t look away.
“I know,” Aziraphale said simply, and then the bottle warmer beeped and there was more commotion behind them, and Aziraphale sighed again and turned away to go intercede, and Crowley fled for the nursery, bottle in hand.
Aziraphale did come up with a cup of tea sometime later, letting himself into the nursery quietly. He looked frazzled and he had even more fly away hairs haloing his face than usual. He set the cup at Crowley’s elbow on the small table next to the oversized armchair Crowley was sitting in. “May I hold the baby, please?” he asked in a rush.
Crowley raised his eyebrows, but before he could even say yes, Aziraphale was squeezing in next to him on the chair. He carefully transferred Warlock to Aziraphale’s arms, and Aziraphale immediately tucked his nose against Warlock’s crown and breathed deeply.
“Going that well?” Crowley asked, sympathetically.
“Please drink your tea,” Aziraphale said, huffing the baby some more.
Crowley tried not to smile and failed. Instead he picked up his cup and saucer, and took a sip. It bore none of the sharpness of an angelic miracle, which meant that in the middle of the madness downstairs, Aziraphale had brewed him a cup of tea and made time to bring it to him.
And now they were cuddled up together, Aziraphale warm and soft at his side, and Warlock looked at them both, fascinated, one tiny hand wrapped around Aziraphale’s finger.
“Can you stay long?” Crowley asked.
“No,” Aziraphale said grimly. “I’ve been—adjusting the temperature and humidity all morning.”
“It doesn’t even count as a miracle!” Aziraphale said defensively. “The chocolate won’t temper, otherwise.”
“You’re going to fall over if you’re not careful,” Crowley chided him.
“Nonsense,” Aziraphale said, but he already looked weary. Miracles were one thing—calling on Heaven’s power—but an angel’s own strength was not inexhaustible.
And then he rested his head on Crowley’s shoulder, and Crowley forgot to breathe. Slowly, so slowly, he dared to rest his head against Aziraphale’s, and all he wanted—all he’d ever wanted—was just this.
Too soon, Aziraphale sighed and shifted himself back upright.
“Do you have to go?” Crowley said, and then bit his lip, because that was too much, surely that was too much.
“You don’t even want to know what is happening in the kitchen right now,” Aziraphale said, but he looked like he didn’t want to go anymore than Crowley wished him to. He cuddled Warlock close for a moment, then reluctantly handed him back.
“You could have been the gardener,” Crowley reminded him as he squirmed his way out of the chair.
“Oh, hush,” Aziraphale said. He bent to kiss Warlock’s head, as he did every morning. And then he looked up at Crowley, as he did every morning, and this time, Crowley thought he might—he really might—
Aziraphale’s lips brushed his cheek, soft and honey-sweet and heart-stopping.
Then Aziraphale straightened up, and fussed with the skirt of his dress, looking just a trifle unsure. “You’ll be down for staff lunch?”
Crowley swallowed once, feeling the echo of Aziraphale’s lips on his skin still. “Wouldn’t miss it,” he said.
Aziraphale smiled, then slipped out the door.
“In case you were wondering,” Crowley said to Warlock, “Nanny is absolutely mad for that angel.”
Warlock smacked his lips, but otherwise offered no further commentary on that rather treasonous sentiment.
Aziraphale was actually swaying on his feet as he cleaned the counter when Crowley came to collect him from the kitchen that night.
“Leave it,” Crowley said sharply, and looked at the remaining catering staff. “You’ll finish up here,” he said, and it wasn’t a suggestion.
“Yes, ma’am,” one of them said smartly.
“Come along,” Crowley said, and put one steadying arm around Azriaphale’s waist and led him upstairs. “I told you not to do so much,” he said as Azriaphale nearly stumbled on the stairs.
“Do let’s not right now, please,” Aziraphale said, and Crowley bit back the rest of his fretting until he had delivered Aziraphale safely to his room. Aziraphale sat down heavily on the bed, and though he rarely slept, he looked to Crowley as though he might pass out right there.
“Let me just—” Crowley said, and he knelt at Aziraphale’s feet.
“You don’t have to—” Aziraphale said in half-hearted protest.
“Hush,” Crowley said, and took one of Aziraphale’s feet in his hands, and worked the buckle of the strap open before carefully sliding the shoe off.
“Ow,” Aziraphale said belatedly, flexing his foot in Crowley’s grasp.
“Wearing flats isn’t a sin, angel, no matter what the fashion industry would have you believe,” Crowley said, and pressed his thumbs into ball of Aziraphale’s foot, gliding over the silk of Aziraphale’s stockings.
Aziraphale made an indecent noise, and Crowley continued to rub his foot gently, unable to tear his gaze away from Aziraphale’s face. Aziraphale’s eyes were closed, and his expression was somewhere between pleasure and relief and all of it was at Crowley’s hands.
“Do the other one,” Aziraphale said, and nudged Crowley’s side with the foot still in its blush-pink shoe.
“Demanding,” Crowley said, but he obediently took up his other foot, and slid that shoe off as well, and when he dug his thumbs into the arch, Aziraphale let out a moan that would be enticing if it weren’t so exhausted.
“You should sleep,” Crowley made himself say. “You’ll feel better in the morning.”
Aziraphale yawned, and then looked irritated with himself. “I shouldn’t be so tired.”
“Should’s got nothing to do with it,” Crowley said. “Come on, out of these clothes, your dress will crease and then you’ll be in a strop.”
“I would never,” Aziraphale said, which was a bald-faced lie. The Silk Dress Incident of 1813 still smarted two centuries later. He yawned again. “Help me, I’m too done in for this.”
“I won’t say I told you so,” Crowley said, and he watched Aziraphale’s face carefully as he slid his hands up Aziraphale’s dress to find the clip of his garters, and undid them so that he could roll one stocking down, and then the other.
“Forgive me, but it rather seems like you are,” Aziraphale said tartly. He made a half-hearted attempt to unzip his dress.
“Here, I have it,” Crowley said, and stood up so he could put one knee on the bed and then eased the zip down. It was one of the so-called invisible ones, and had an annoying habit of getting caught on the fabric. It wasn’t actually one of Crowley’s inventions, strangely enough.
And then Aziraphale just leaned forward and rested his head against the center of Crowley’s chest and wrapped his arms around Crowley’s waist, as though it were a normal thing he did all the time. Crowley allowed himself to smooth one hand down the back of Aziraphale’s head, and his fingers trembled despite himself.
“I can’t think what I’d do without you,” Aziraphale whispered.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Crowley said, and then swallowed around the tightness in his throat. “That’s the whole point of this, isn’t it?”
Aziraphale held him tighter, and Crowley cupped the nape of his neck, one thumb brushing the soft skin there.
“I just—sometimes I think you don’t know—”
“Don’t go weepy on me,” Crowley said hoarsely. “You know I can’t stand that.”
Aziraphale sniffled anyway. “You’re just so nice to me, sometimes.”
Crowley used a demonic miracle to swap out the rest of Aziraphale’s clothing for his nightgown, and then coaxed him to lie down properly. “Don’t let it get around, yeah?”
Aziraphale’s eyes were already closed, and by the time Crowley switched off the light, he was well and truly asleep.
“Good night, angel,” Crowley whispered, and tucked the covers around him before closing the door on his way out.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Dowling left early the next morning for an extended trip.
“Call us if anything happens,” Harriet said, looking torn between fleeing out the door and holding her child close and not going anywhere. She pressed another kiss to Warlock’s forehead, before reluctantly handing him to Crowley.
“He’ll be fine,” Thaddeus said impatiently.
“I will take excellent care of him,” Crowley said.
“See?” Thaddeus said. “That’s why we have a nanny. Stop worrying.”
Harriet didn’t look like she was going to stop, but Thaddeus took her hand with an unexpected amount of tenderness, and the way they looked at each other—
Love was an everyday, human miracle, Crowley supposed.
Aziraphale had the afternoon off, and he likewise fussed over Warlock on his way out the door. And then he fussed over Crowley, too, for good measure.
“You’re quite sure you don’t need anything from your flat?” Aziraphale asked, after he’d covered Warlock’s face in kisses. He was standing very, very close.
Crowley swallowed. “There’s a pair of earrings,” he said haltingly, hardly able to believe he was willing inviting Aziraphale to rummage around his carefully hidden away personal effects. “Black pearls. In the drawer of the dressing table. If you have time. Don’t worry if you can’t find them, it’s not at all important—”
“Of course I’ll bring them to you,” Aziraphale interrupted. His expression was so soft. And then he went up on his toes and brushed a kiss against Crowley’s cheek.
“Angel!” Crowley hissed, looking around to see if any of the other staff were around. “Someone could have seen!”
“And?” Aziraphale said. He had the nerve to flutter his lashes.
“And if we’re going to get sacked for fraternizing, I’d much rather have actually done something to deserve it,” Crowley said, somewhere between furious and relieved and longing, which was unfortunately representative of how he’d felt about Aziraphale for quite some time.
“Oh,” Aziraphale breathed, eyes wide and lips parted.
And not for the first time, all Crowley wanted to do was press his lips to Aziraphale’s, to kiss him until he was pink and lovely and never going to walk away from Crowley ever again.
What in the Hell were they doing, anyway?
“You’ll be back tonight?” Crowley made himself ask.
Aziraphale wet his lips, which was enormously distracting. “Yes. Early. We could have dinner together?”
“It’s your afternoon off,” Crowley reminded him.
“I’ll bring you soup dumplings from that wonderful place,” Aziraphale said, which was absolutely dirty pool.
“Don’t go out of your way,” Crowley said. “We’ll see you when you get back.”
Aziraphale smiled, then, and kissed Warlock’s forehead once more. And then, because he really was a bastard, he went up on his toes to press a kiss to Crowley’s cheek again, rather closer to the corner of his mouth.
“Go on, get out of here,” Crowley said gruffly.
“I’ll be home soon,” Aziraphale said, and then flounced out the door.
But by the time Aziraphale was back at the estate, Crowley’s mind was occupied by something else entirely.
Warlock was increasingly fussy as the afternoon went on, and Crowley thumbed through Dr. Spock while trying to soothe him.
“Are your eyes glassy?” Crowley asked Warlock, peering at him with a mounting sense of desperation. “They look a little glassy. Are you warmer than usual?”
Warlock started crying again, clearly miserable, and Crowley had rarely felt so helpless.
That was when Aziraphale came into the nursery, a takeaway bag in tow, and he said, “Oh, poor thing,” in his most sympathetic voice.
“I think he has a fever?” Crowley said.
Aziraphale put down his bag and came over to gently touch Warlock’s forehead. “He definitely has a fever. Are you going to—” he wiggled the fingers of one hand.
Crowley gave him a look. “Kids need antibodies.” But he could feel his resolve weakening as Warlock continued to cry. “Why, do you want to—”
“That’s not a miracle either of us want Upstairs to audit, my dear,” Aziraphale said, his mouth making an unhappy line.
“Sure, just because he’s the Antichrist,” Crowley muttered. “Never mind, humans figure this out all the time.”
“They’ve gotten quite a bit better at it over the last century,” Aziraphale agreed.
They were both less sanguine about it as the night wore on.
“Perhaps we should call the doctor,” Aziraphale said worriedly, when Warlock showed absolutely no interest in drinking much needed fluids, to Crowley’s consternation.
“Is medical school one of mine or one of yours?” Crowley asked.
They looked at each other for a long moment.
“Do you have any better ideas?” Aziraphale asked, in his snippiest tone.
“Fine,” Crowley said shortly, because he didn’t and it was very annoying.
Crowley called and put the doctor on speakerphone. “First time on the job?” the doctor asked with a degree of condescension that was really unwise, given who he was talking to.
Aziraphale shook his head at Crowley in warning. “Oh, yes, rather, so if you could just tell us what to do, we’d be much obliged.”
Crowley rolled his eyes extravagantly, but Aziraphale wrote out the doctor’s instructions with penmanship of the sort that hadn’t been in use for a solid century.
“Great, thanks,” Crowley said, and then hung up and thought about throwing his phone across the room. “Bloody sexism. How do they come up with these things?”
“I really have no idea,” Aziraphale said with a moue of distaste.
Crowley was just filling Warlock’s basin with lukewarm water when Aziraphale returned with the bottle of medicine.
“Are we sure about this?” Aziraphale said. “Only the instructions say not to give it to infants under six months.”
“Pharmaceutical labeling is one of mine,” Crowley admitted. “And it’s half a dose. Barely anything.”
“I do hope this works,” Aziraphale said, and Crowley shifted Warlock in his arms so that Aziraphale could put the dropper in his mouth.
Warlock made a face, like he was about to object on principle and then didn’t have the energy for it.
“It’s all right,” Crowley said gently. “You’ll feel better soon. I promise you.”
Warlock blinked up at him, and it really hit Crowley—Warlock was utterly dependent on him to make this right. He trusted Crowley.
“He loves you,” Aziraphale said softly, with a gentle smile.
Crowley’s throat went tight. “How do you know?”
“I know,” Aziraphale said, so serene and sure.
Warlock just kept looking at him, and Crowley didn’t know what to do with himself, with the emotion burbling out of him. “I love him?” Crowley said, tears pricking the corners of his eyes.
“Yes, I think you do,” Aziraphale said, and he didn’t sound surprised at all.
Crowley sniffed once, and tried to pull himself together. “Right. Into the bath with you,” he said to Warlock. He stripped off the nappy and checked the water once more before easing Warlock into it.
Warlock looked surprised, but Crowley hummed a very old tune to him as he did when he bathed him every night. Some day he’d probably have to add some lyrics about Warlock crushing living things under his heel, just to keep management happy, but there was no need for that right now.
Crowley didn’t allow the bathwater to go even a sliver colder until he was lifting Warlock out. Aziraphale put down a very soft, very fluffy white towel that didn’t match any of the other linens, and Crowley dried Warlock carefully before putting a clean nappy on. And after drinking some milk, Warlock’s eyes slid shut, and Crowley carefully laid him down in his crib to sleep.
“What now?” Aziraphale whispered, nearly soundlessly.
“Going to kip here for the night,” Crowley whispered back, nodding his head at the oversized armchair.
Aziraphale bit his lip. “Should I—can I stay, too?”
Crowley looked at Aziraphale’s face, his dear face that had changed only slightly across the centuries and configurations of his earthly body.
And he realized, then, that Aziraphale trusted him, too. Against Heaven’s orders and maybe his own better judgment, but he trusted Crowley.
“Stay,” Crowley said hoarsely. “You love him too, don’t you?”
“Yes,” Aziraphale said. “And—and—” he looked at Crowley, his expression pleading for Crowley to make everything right.
So Crowley leaned in, and finally, finally, finally kissed him.
When he pulled back, Aziraphale looked so achingly vulnerable, and Crowley didn’t have to be a demon to know he could break him with a single word.
But he didn’t want to. He’d never wanted to. So he kissed Aziraphale once more, soft and sweet, and then took his hand and led him to the other side of the room. They curled up in the armchair together, and Crowley didn’t sleep a wink—he just held Aziraphale close for the few remaining hours until dawn, suffused with quiet, wondering joy.
Too soon, it felt like, Aziraphale sighed and shifted in his arms. “Time to put the dough together,” he said.
Crowley tightened his arms around him. “Household can live without fresh bread for a day, can’t they?”
Warlock chose that moment to make a soft gurgle, his usual prelude to his good morning screech.
“Duty calls,” Aziraphale said wryly. But before he could wiggle his way out of the chair, Crowley kissed his cheek. And again, for good measure. And then Aziraphale tilted his head in a most helpful direction and Crowley was hardly made out of stone.
He’d just deepened the kiss and Aziraphale had made a very devastating noise when Warlock evidently decided he was ready to be awake and screeched exactly once.
Aziraphale had the nerve to give a put-out sigh, as if Crowley were in any way responsible for the thwarting of his pleasure.
“Up,” Crowley said, mostly unsympathetic. “Warlock and I have a bargain and consistency is important.”
“I suppose,” Aziraphale said, and they extracted themselves from the armchair. “Oh, look at my dress,” he said. It was very, very creased.
Crowley was already lifting Warlock from his crib. This was early for Warlock to be awake, but then, last night hadn’t been typical. “You have time to change, don’t you?” he said as he miracled the nappy clean.
“Just about,” Aziraphale said. He touched Warlock’s forehead. “There, now,” he said gently to Warlock. “All better this morning, aren’t we?” He leaned over to press his good morning kiss to the crown of Warlock’s head.
And when he looked up, he looked very determined and a little nervous, but he pressed a kiss to Crowley’s lips, as though it were a thing that he’d done all along and intended to keep doing.
God, Crowley hoped so. And he wanted to say it, but instead what came out of his mouth was, “Wear the dress with the polka dots.”
Aziraphale blinked. “The white shirt dress with the mini beige dots?”
The only way out was through. “It looks nice on you.”
Aziraphale went a little pink in the cheeks. “Oh. I didn’t know you took any notice.”
“Believe me, angel, all I do is take notice,” Crowley said, pained.
There was that smile again, that flirty smile that promised trouble. Crowley probably wasn’t going to survive if Aziraphale started using it all the time.
“I’ll see you downstairs?” Aziraphale said, and lifted his face up for another kiss, which Crowley of course gave him.
“We’ll be down shortly,” Crowley said, and Aziraphale’s heels clicked across the nursery floor. He looked back once, and he looked so radiant with joy that all Crowley could do was smile back, helplessly.
When Crowley came downstairs with Warlock, Aziraphale was wearing the dress with the polka dots. And the apron Crowley had given him. And he was patting dough again, in a way that seemed entirely too gentle for developing gluten, but what did Crowley know, beyond the fact that he loved him and all he wanted to do was kiss him again.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Parker was up early and nursing a cup of tea at the table. “Cook was telling me you were both up all night with him,” she said, clearly not envying him one bit.
“Just a touch of fever,” Crowley said blandly, going through the now familiar motions of warming up Warlock’s milk.
“Won’t be the last time,” she said prosaically. And then, to Aziraphale, “Honestly, making such a fuss. I’m sure Nanny had it well in hand—no need for you to put yourself out, too.”
“Oh,” Aziraphale said, and looked flustered. “It’s not that—of course she doesn’t need my help. I was just—being silly, I suppose.”
“You were keeping me company,” Crowley said, and it came out sharply. As far as he was concerned, the only person allowed to call Aziraphale silly was Crowley, and that was only because Aziraphale knew he didn’t mean it.
Mrs. Parker raised one eyebrow at him, and he raised one right back before settling himself in his chair and giving Warlock his bottle.
Aziraphale put the dough to rise in a bowl, then washed his hands and fixed Crowley a cup of tea. It had the perfect amount of milk in it, as it did every morning.
“Thank you,” Crowley said, soft and sincere, willing Aziraphale to know that he wasn’t just talking about the tea.
Aziraphale’s hands twisted his apron a bit, and the set of his mouth was uncertain, and bless it, Crowley didn’t have a free hand to reach out to him. Aziraphale murmured something about needing thyme from the garden, and disappeared out the back door, without his customary shears and basket.
“You indulge her,” Mrs. Parker said.
“Is that an issue?” Crowley said, and he was irritated enough that it came out in a hiss.
Something complicated happened on Mrs. Parker’s face, and it settled into a bit of weariness. “It’s not like it used to be, you know,” she said, and there was a startling amount of empathy there. “You could marry her and then no one could object.”
“Oh, I think they could,” Crowley said dryly, and he wasn’t just talking about the Dowlings.
“Then to hell with them,” she said firmly. “Life’s too short to pussyfoot around. And at your age—what are you waiting for?”
Armageddon, Crowley wanted to say, but obviously didn’t. “I don’t know that she’s ever considered marriage.”
Mrs. Parker snorted. “That girl? Nanny, please.”
The back door opened again, and Aziraphale came back in, without thyme or any other herbs, his eyes a little reddened.
“I’ll be back for breakfast,” Mrs. Parker said diplomatically, and raised both eyebrows meaningfully at Crowley on her way out. He shifted Warlock up against his shoulder to burp him, and then laid him down carefully in his bouncer.
“Come here,” Crowley said, and Aziraphale obediently came closer. Crowley patted his lap, and Aziraphale hesitated for a long moment before he sat down. “What has you so upset?”
“I didn’t think how it would look,” Aziraphale said, looking miserable. “And you are the nanny, after all, and you said we should—we should take care not to get caught.”
Crowley couldn’t stand it. And Hell, what was he waiting for? What if these eleven years were all they had?
“Look,” he said, heart in his throat. “Slight change of plans.”
Aziraphale’s brow furrowed. “Oh?”
“Let’s get married,” Crowley said in a rush.
Aziraphale’s eyes went wide. “Crowley—Antonia—you—” His mouth hung open for a moment. “We can’t just—” He darted one fearful glance Heavenward.
It wasn’t, Crowley realized, a no or a too fast.
“You, me, the human way down at the register office. What’s anybody Upstairs or Downstairs going to say to that?” he said. “Bit of paperwork, makes the thwarting easier.”
“Paperwork?” Aziraphale said, sounding taken aback. “Is that—is that all it would—”
“No!” Crowley said, and then cleared his throat. “Not for me, anyway.”
“Well it wouldn’t be for me, either!” Aziraphale said heatedly.
“Are you saying yes?” Crowley said, scarcely daring to hope.
“You haven’t even asked, properly!” Aziraphale said, and then spared Crowley having to respond by kissing him passionately, and only broke it to ask breathlessly, “No ring?”
“Oh, you’ll get a ring, all right,” Crowley said, and kissed him until they heard Mrs. Parker say from outside the kitchen, “Oh, Mr. Jennings, I’m so glad you’re here, I have an urgent need for that cut-crystal bowl, and you know I just can’t quite reach it—”
“Up up up,” Crowley hissed.
Aziraphale scrambled off his lap and tried to set himself to rights, but it was hopeless—he was obviously well-kissed, and more of his hair had escaped its pins, and nobody would have any doubts as to what had been happening.
Mrs. Parker came into the kitchen, managing to scuff her shoes along the floor to give them as much warning as possible. She visibly restrained herself from commenting on their appearance, either one of them, and said instead, “What’s for breakfast this morning, Cook?”
Aziraphale drew himself up straight and started to expound upon what he had in store, and when his back was turned, Mrs. Parker tipped Crowley a wink.
He winked back solemnly, and thought: they really, really should get drunk together, at the next available opportunity.
That evening, Crowley ran Aziraphale’s bath as he did every night. He was in his robe and nightgown as he always was, sunglasses resting on the windowsill. But he had champagne waiting, and all right, some very expensive chocolates that he’d called in a favor to have delivered to the estate, and he’d tromped out to the rose bushes himself and stared Evans dead in the eye as he cut several roses that were minimally acceptable.
Aziraphale came in, still in the dress Crowley had asked him to wear, slippers on his feet. The door clicked shut behind him, and without taking his eyes away from Crowley, he locked it. In the candlelight, Aziraphale’s hair glowed.
“Will you—” Aziraphale paused, and licked his lips. “Will you help me out of my dress?”
This dress didn’t fasten in the back, and Aziraphale had never asked for his help with it before.
Crowley walked toward him slowly, his bare feet on the tile the only sound in the room aside from their breathing. He reached out for the top button, and willed his fingers not to tremble. Aziraphale’s chest rose and fell under his hands, and he undid one button, and then another, and then another, and there was the full curve of Aziraphale’s breasts in pale lace, and he wanted—he’d wanted for so long—
But he kept going, undoing more buttons, revealing more of Aziraphale’s soft skin, the curve of his stomach, the delicate lace and satin of his garter belt, until he came to the last button and forced himself to look into Aziraphale’s eyes again.
“Tell me what you want,” Crowley said, because he wouldn’t misstep here, not now. Too fast had haunted him for decades, and he’d only ever wanted to give Aziraphale everything, exactly as he desired.
Suddenly, Aziraphale’s brow furrowed, and Crowley’s heart sank, wondering what he’d done wrong, but Aziraphale said, “Are those rose petals in the bath?”
“And—is that champagne?”
“Are those my favorite handmade chocolates from that shop that sells out every morning by eight?”
Crowley fought the urge to squirm. “Too much?” he asked, wincing.
The look Aziraphale gave him made something in him flare hot. “I’m going to enjoy every moment of it,” Aziraphale said, and pulled his dress off his shoulders and let it drop to the floor in a puddle of cotton and crinoline. He looked up at Crowley through his eyelashes. “You’ll keep me company, won’t you, darling?”
“Yes,” Crowley said, and it came out in a hiss.
And then there was that look, that teasing, pleading look, and Aziraphale said, “Help me with the rest of this?”
“You’re killing me,” Crowley muttered, and had to kiss Aziraphale’s lips as he undid the clasp on his bra and slid the straps down Aziraphale’s arms before letting the bra drop on the floor. And because Aziraphale absolutely deserved as good as he gave, Crowley sank to his knees and held Aziraphale’s gaze as he undid the garter clasps and slowly rolled one stocking down Aziraphale’s leg, and then the other. Aziraphale’s breath was coming faster, and the noise he made when Crowley kissed his stomach just above the garter belt before undoing that clasp as well—it made Crowley ache with want.
Aziraphale was left in just his panties, and Crowley dared to nose along the waistband. “You want an appetizer, angel?” he asked, and he didn’t even know who was tempting who anymore.
“I—” Aziraphale swallowed with a dry click.
“Little amuse bouche?” He hooked his fingers under the waistband and began to slide the panties down slowly, still looking up at Aziraphale’s face, watching carefully.
“You’ve gone to all this effort,” Aziraphale said, waving a hand vaguely in the direction of the bath.
“I can go to more,” Crowley said, serious and so desperate to please.
“I like my courses in order,” Aziraphale said. “My bath first, if you please.”
Crowley closed his eyes briefly and tried to get himself together, tried to pretend he wasn’t so close to getting a taste that he could barely stand it.
“After, my darling,” Aziraphale said. “In a bed. I shudder to think how uncomfortable this tile is on your knees.”
“Right,” Crowley said. He pulled himself to standing with a hand on the locked bathroom doorknob. “Bath, champagne, chocolates first. Got it.”
He busied himself with pouring champagne and opening the box of chocolates, and heard Aziraphale step into the bath behind him, and then the sigh of pleasure as he sat down in the water. He handed a flute to Aziraphale, attempting to keep his gaze averted.
“My dear,” Aziraphale said. “You can look. I think—I’d like you to.”
Crowley looked at him. Aziraphale was already a little flushed from the heat of the bathwater, and when he took a sip of champagne and made that noise again, that satisfied hum of pleasure, all Crowley could think was that he wanted to drink from Aziraphale, and coax that noise and others from him, so that there could be no doubt that Crowley had done him very well, indeed.
“This is lovely,” Aziraphale said, taking another sip. “Pick a chocolate for me?”
The chocolates in the box were all Aziraphale’s favorites, because this wasn’t amateur hour. Crowley was confident when he selected one from the box and dared to hold it out to Aziraphale’s lips.
Aziraphale ate the chocolate, eyes half-lidded, and he chased it with more champagne. “Perfect,” he said. “Another?”
Crowley wasn’t going to survive this. He fed Aziraphale another, and Aziraphale sucked a bit of melted chocolate off Crowley’s finger, pink lips closing around it and his tongue tasting Crowley’s skin. Crowley was so wet his thighs felt slick, and quite honestly, he was perilously close to climbing into the tub and slopping water all over the bathroom floor, if only Aziraphale might be persuaded to move things along.
But he knew his angel, and knew what he liked, and Crowley was going to give it to him, come hell or high water or Armageddon itself.
So he refilled their glasses, and they killed the bottle, and all the while, Aziraphale looked at him like Crowley was the one on display.
When Aziraphale finally rose from the bath, Crowley wished that Leonardo might have seen it and rendered it on canvas so that he could look on it always, but also wanted no one else to see Aziraphale like this, not ever, so that it might be for him alone. He handed Aziraphale a warm towel, and when he finished drying off, Crowley held open his pale gold charmeuse robe so that Aziraphale could slide his arms into the sleeves. And then he couldn’t resist—Aziraphale’s neck was right there, skin pink from the bath, and Crowley embraced him from behind and placed a kiss just there, on the gentle slope of his neck. Aziraphale tilted his head to give Crowley more access, so Crowley kissed him again, and again, and made his way up Aziraphale’s neck to his ear, and held him close with one arm around his middle, and one hand resting low on Aziraphale’s stomach, fingertips just brushing the curls below.
And then Aziraphale turned in his arms and leaned back against the door. “I want—” he breathed out.
“Yesss?” Crowley nipped at his ear, and Aziraphale shivered in his arms.
“An amuse bouche? If that’s—still on offer.”
“Oh, now you can’t wait?” Crowley said, and thumbed one of Aziraphale’s nipples through his robe, and Aziraphale gasped, so Crowley did it again, and then drew one nail across it lightly, and Aziraphale clutched tight at his shoulders and his thighs fell even more open.
Crowley thought about teasing more, he really did, but if Aziraphale wanted a taste of what Crowley had in store for him, for what Crowley had imagined for too many years to count, Crowley certainly wasn’t going to disappoint him.
“You’ll tell me,” Crowley said, voice low. “If it’s too fast, or not what you want.”
“Right now it isn’t anything,” Aziraphale snapped.
Crowley slid his hand down Aziraphale’s body between the open robe, never taking his eyes off Aziraphale’s as he touched his warm, soft skin. And then he cupped Aziraphale between his legs and felt the heat of him under his palm, and Aziraphale sighed and opened his thighs a little wider. Crowley took that as an invitation to pet him gently, letting his fingers wander until Aziraphale pushed up into his touch, and oh, he was so wet, and Crowley wanted it to be because—
“Is that for me, angel?” he asked, and dipped one finger into Aziraphale’s cunt to gather some slick and bring it up to his clit.
“I—oh, yes, like that—who else do you imagine—”
“People have eyes,” Crowley said, rubbing Aziraphale’s clit in a gentle circle that had him panting deliciously in Crowley’s ear. He pressed Aziraphale harder against the door, and Aziraphale moaned. “They look at you, but you’re not for them, are you?”
“No,” Aziraphale gasped out, and clutched harder at Crowley’s shoulders. “Please, I need—”
“Harder?” Crowley asked, and bit gently at Aziraphale’s neck. “Faster?”
“Fuck me,” Aziraphale begged, and Crowley drew in an unsteady breath before he pressed two fingers into Aziraphale’s cunt, and fuck, the wet heat of him nearly drove Crowley out of his mind.
“Give you my tongue next,” Crowley said, and brushed Aziraphale’s clit with his thumb as he fucked him hard with his fingers. “Give you whatever you want.”
Aziraphale was shaking in his arms, but he took one hand from Crowley’s shoulder and wiggled it between where Crowley was pressed up against his thigh, and Crowley hissed and rubbed his clit against Aziraphale’s fingers, the slick-damp silk of his nightgown between them absolutely maddening. He fucked his hips forward against Aziraphale’s steady touch and crooked his fingers inside Aziraphale, and it was so much, it was Aziraphale gasping and moaning and saying, “I’m yours—I’m yours—”
And then Aziraphale clenched down hard on his fingers and his thighs went tense, and Crowley chased his own pleasure against Aziraphale’s fingers, and then came completely apart.
They panted in each other’s arms, still braced against the door.
“That’s your idea of an amuse bouche?” Aziraphale said, sounding suitably impressed but also still greedy for more, and fuck, Crowley loved him.
Crowley gently drew his fingers out, and Aziraphale shivered. And then Crowley put them in his mouth and licked them clean as Aziraphale watched, open-mouthed. “Did I spoil your appetite, angel?”
“No,” Aziraphale said faintly. “No, I think I’m quite ready for the—next course. As it were.”
“I’m going to wreck you,” Crowley promised him, and kissed him once more before they hurriedly gathered their things and unlocked the bathroom door.
Much later, Aziraphale was soft and come-drunk as he settled between Crowley’s legs.
“You don’t have to,” Crowley said. “I’m fine with your fingers again.”
“Oh hush,” Aziraphale said, and kissed Crowley’s thigh. “I do know a thing or two about this.”
“Well I didn’t think you were just drinking wine on Lesbos,” Crowley said, and then stopped talking, because Aziraphale was as good as his word.
Aziraphale insisted on no miracles for the paperwork, and Crowley agreed because he would have agreed to anything Aziraphale wanted, at this point. So they wrangled an afternoon off together, and filed the form to give notice at the local register office.
“Twenty-nine days!” Crowley muttered afterward, outraged. “If people want to get married, why make them wait?”
“They’ve been reading the banns for centuries, darling,” Aziraphale said. “I think it’s rather lovely.”
Crowley raised an eyebrow at him.
“Don’t give me that look. We just signed a piece of paper to say that we intend to get married.” Aziraphale was beaming, and looked a bit like he was walking on air, at least metaphorically speaking.
Crowley thought about it, and then decided to hell with it, and took Aziraphale’s hand. Out in public, on a sunny afternoon, where anyone could see. He could explain it away to Hell if he had to, and he’d carefully coached Aziraphale through his defense if Heaven got their knickers in a twist, but the reality was—
Nobody was watching. Nobody cared. As far as Heaven and Hell were concerned, the only thing worth paying attention to on earth was the forthcoming Armageddon.
And all the humans around them saw were two middle-aged women, hand-in-hand, and very much in love.
“Angel,” he said, and stopped them in the middle of a square and pulled them off the path onto the lawn under a large tree. For a moment, the world receded. “The thing is—the thing is. If these eleven years are all we get—” he stopped, and swallowed once.
Aziraphale was staring at him, eyes wide.
“I wouldn’t want to spend them with anyone but you,” Crowley said. And then he got down on both knees, his black skirt on the grass underneath him, and pulled the ring out of his pocket.
Aziraphale burst into tears, and then he was also kneeling on the grass in his pristine cream-colored dress, and had his arms around Crowley, and Crowley could barely make out what Aziraphale was saying in between his sobs, but he got the gist of it.
It was finally, finally, a yes.
Mrs. Parker was very touched when Crowley asked her to be their witness, but that left them one witness short.
“Who else can we ask?” Crowley said, drumming his nails along the rim of the bathtub that night.
“While we’re Nanny and Cook? Nobody that I can think of,” Aziraphale said, and took a brooding sip of his wine.
“I could ask Evans,” Crowley said. “Really rub his face in it.”
“My darling,” Aziraphale said reprovingly. Then he brightened. “There’s bound to be a kind person at the register office that we can ask. I think it will all work out.”
It nearly gave Crowley hives to let it come down to that, but it seemed the only reasonable solution, especially since they were trying very hard to get married without letting the rest of the household know about it first.
On the day of their appointment to the registry office, Crowley and Aziraphale dressed in their separate rooms, and Crowley went downstairs first to the back entrance to the estate, where a taxi and Mrs. Parker were waiting. Her mouth twitched when she saw Crowley.
“Goodness, Nanny,” she said. “It’s all a bit Stevie Nicks, isn’t it?”
“Excuse you,” Crowley said haughtily, and adjusted the black birdcage veil over his face.
“It suits you,” she said. And then she nodded up the stairs. “She’ll think you’re the most beautiful thing she’s ever set her eyes on.”
“You think?” Crowley said, a bundle of nerves. He tugged a bit at his untraditional but extremely fashion forward black wedding gown.
“Trust me,” she said.
And then Aziraphale came down the stairs, looking like what humans imagined angels were, in a white dress that looked like something straight out of Norman Hartnell’s sketches for Elizabeth’s wedding, and—hang on one blessed minute—
“She’s had that dress for years,” Crowley said, stunned to realize it. He’d seen it when he’d looked through Aziraphale’s clothes, but hadn’t clocked it, not properly, where it hung next to some more frou-frou Edwardian frocks.
“What did I tell you,” Mrs. Parker said, looking smug. “She’s been waiting for you.”
Aziraphale reached the bottom of the stairs, and he looked at Crowley as though he were seeing him for the first time. “Oh,” he said. “Oh, my dear.”
“I’ll be waiting out in the car,” Mrs. Parker said diplomatically.
“Uh-huh,” Crowley said absently, still staring at Aziraphale. Aziraphale reached out for his hands, and they spent some unknowable amount of time looking at each other.
Aziraphale took in a deep breath. “Whatever happens—”
“Don’t say it,” Crowley begged.
“Please let me finish,” Aziraphale said with quiet dignity. “I’d rather these eleven years with you than another six thousand without. That’s all.”
Crowley rubbed his thumb over Aziraphale’s knuckles. “Me too,” he said finally, choked up.
They went out to the car and sat in the backseat together. They held hands the entire way to the register office, and every few minutes, they caught one another’s eyes and smiled again, helplessly.
When they arrived, the office was devoid of obliging strangers to be pressed into service as their second witness.
“Is there anyone you can phone?” an older clerk asked them as they filled out yet another form. “Any family close by?”
“No family,” Crowley said, and the clerk looked so sad for them, and Crowley abruptly realized it was true and sad, because neither Heaven nor Hell would understand this, and if they weren’t torn apart by Armageddon, the chances of them being left in peace were slim.
“I have a friend I could call,” Mrs. Parker said, just as someone tapped Crowley on the shoulder.
“Excuse me,” said a woman who Crowley could have sworn wasn’t there a moment ago. “I’ll be your witness.”
“Oh, would you?” Aziraphale said, looking so relieved. “Thank you—thank you so much, that’s so kind.”
The ceremony itself passed in a blur. They made vows to one another, just as humans did, and placed rings on each other’s fingers, and Crowley’s mascara knew better than to run but he tested it sorely. At the end, when they were invited to kiss, he drew Aziraphale’s white veil over his head, and Aziraphale pushed his birdcage veil up and fumbled for the clip, and Crowley hiccuped out a laugh before he fixed it himself.
Their lips met, and Crowley doubted She was listening, but he thought, Thank You. If You had any hand in this—just, thank You.
When it was time to sign the marriage register, the registrar patted his pockets for a pen. “Oh dear,” he said. “I thought I just had it—”
“Here,” said their second witness.
“Very kind,” the registrar said, and signed with a flourish. Aziraphale went next, and there was something odd about the way “Honoria Fell” looked on the certificate in Aziraphale’s beautiful script. The ink seemed to shimmer.
It wasn’t until Crowley scrawled out “Antonia Ashtoreth” in his own sharp handwriting that he felt—something. Like a bass chord rippling up his spine, like he’d signed with time and space itself. He blinked, and the sensation faded. He handed the pen over to Mrs. Parker, who signed and then handed it over to their second witness.
And then it was done.
The registrar carefully wrote out the certificate as he and Aziraphale held each other’s hands tightly. “Thank you so much for being here,” Aziraphale said to Mrs. Parker and their second witness.
“Wouldn’t have missed it,” Mrs. Parker said, looking a little misty about the eyes.
Crowley squinted at the second witness’ signature on the upside down register but couldn’t make it out. “Thanks for, you know—witnessing, and the pen and all,” Crowley said to her, just as the registrar handed him the completed certificate in a protective folder.
He was surprised when she gave him a warm hug in response and said, “You’re welcome; for all of it.”
His arms came up around her belatedly and carefully, trying not to squash the certificate. Then she turned to hug Aziraphale too, before she slipped out the door.
“You’re sure you won’t join us for lunch?” Aziraphale asked Mrs. Parker.
“I have to go back,” she said regretfully. “Told them I was off to the dentist. Anyway, I’d hate to intrude.”
“Oh no, not at all,” Aziraphale said unconvincingly.
“All the same,” she said, and then she seized Aziraphale in a fierce hug of her own and whispered something to him.
Then she turned to Crowley. “Just this once?” she said, and opened her arms.
Crowley stepped into them, and wrapped his arms around her just as tightly.
“Be happy, dear,” Mrs. Parker whispered to him.
Crowley squeezed his arms around her a little tighter. Humans, he marvelled—unpredictable, amazing, wonderful humans. He caught Aziraphale’s eye, and Aziraphale was beaming at him, and Crowley thought: how could they be anything but, now that they were together?
In the end, it was all very much ado about nothing. Harriet Dowling took the news of their marriage in stride, and only asked if they would like to move into a larger room together, and if they would prefer to have the same afternoon off. Mr. Jennings looked somewhat taken aback for half a second, before his innate professionalism took over.
Crowley was even treated to a grudging apology from Evans. “Didn’t know she was going to be your wife,” he muttered out in the garden.
“We could hardly announce it,” Crowley said.
He nodded shortly. “This mean you’re going to lay off me about her herb garden?”
“Not a chance in Hell,” Crowley said.
Mrs. Parker was quite firmly in their corner; she was, Crowley thought, their friend. And very amenable to the occasional nightcap or three; if she wondered how a nanny and a cook were able to lay in such an excellent store of single malt scotch, she never asked.
And as for Warlock, he gained something of a second nanny out of the business, at least on a part-time basis. Crowley continued to spend time in the kitchen with Warlock and Aziraphale, and Aziraphale liked to help out with Warlock’s bedtime routine when he could. In particular, Aziraphale liked to read him stories, and on many evenings, Crowley held Warlock in his arms while he and Aziraphale snuggled up in the oversized armchair together, and Aziraphale read him all of the children’s books he loved best. The nursery library grew precipitously.
That being said, Warlock was most definitely Nanny’s boy—when he was fussy, he wanted Crowley. When he was ill, he wanted Crowley. When he woke sobbing in the middle of the night, he wanted Crowley—not his parents, not Aziraphale, just Crowley.
“You have excellent taste, little hellspawn,” Crowley murmured to him in the wee hours one night. “Just the same, I’d rather we didn’t make a habit out of these nightmares.”
Warlock just sighed and snuggled into Crowley’s very slight bosom and calmed down more or less immediately.
Crowley sent a memo to Hell on Warlock’s first birthday. It read:
He shows signs of a ferocious temper and a fascist personality. Vindictive when displeased and incredibly self-centered: in short, very encouraging.
“Is that laying it on a bit too thick?” Aziraphale wondered.
“Speaking as the person who has to deal with him when he refuses to nap: no, no it is not,” Crowley said acerbically.
They took their annual holiday together on their first wedding anniversary, as a sort of belated honeymoon.
“You’re really not going to tell me where we’re going?” Aziraphale said, in the middle of packing a suitcase.
“It’s a surprise,” Crowley said. And then, somewhat critically: “Do you really need all those books, angel?”
“Well,” Aziraphale said, looking up through his eyelashes. “Perhaps not if someone keeps me distracted.”
“Oh, I’ll keep you distracted, all right,” Crowley said, and he took great pleasure in sidetracking them thoroughly from packing, which to Crowley’s mind was absolutely unnecessary in any case.
The agency provided a fill-in nanny for while they were on holiday, and Crowley could admit that he didn’t handle it particularly gracefully.
“How old are you?” he asked suspiciously of the fresh-faced youth who followed him to the nursery.
“Twenty, ma’am,” she said politely.
He closed his eyes and inhaled sharply through his nose. “Twenty. All right. Your qualifications?”
She listed them out, and all right, maybe his questions were numerous and sharp, but while he could concede that she perhaps was adept at caring for children in general, that did not mean that he trusted her with his—his—
“He has a schedule,” he told her. “You’ll stick to it. He needs his blue blanket to sleep, and Mr. Porcupine. You have to read him two stories before bed. And if he has nightmares, you have to sing to him to settle him down—he likes Bowie’s ‘Sound and Vision’ but sometimes I switch it up—”
“I think I can handle it,” she said, a truly infuriating amount of empathy in her eyes.
Just the same, he shoved a list of instructions at her. “I’ve included my mobile number. You will text me a daily update.”
Her eyes went wide. “Aren’t you meant to be on holiday?”
He leaned in. “Daily updates,” he said, a hiss under his breath. “And at least two pictures. If he walks while we’re gone and you don’t get it on video—”
“Right!” she squeaked, and then scuttled off.
“Really, my love,” Aziraphale said later that night. “I’m sure everything will be just fine.”
“She’s an infant herself,” Crowley groused. “Twenty! What does any human know when they’re twenty?”
“They’ve been doing this for a very long time,” Aziraphale said, and patted his hand, apparently prepared to think no more on the matter.
They still both went to the nursery early the next morning to kiss Warlock goodbye. “Be a complete monster,” he whispered to Warlock. “Nanny will be home soon.”
“Really, my dear,” Aziraphale murmured to him. To Warlock, he simply said, “We love you, darling boy.”
And then they had to leave or miss their train, and Crowley had gone to a great deal of effort to plan this trip the human way, which was the only thing that allayed Aziraphale’s anxiety that Heaven might come looking for him, so he was forced to hand Warlock over to the infant of a nanny substitute.
“Say bye-bye,” the girl cooed and helped Warlock wave.
“Na!” Warlock said, and reached for Crowley.
Aziraphale caught Crowley’s elbow in a very firm grip. “Come along, darling,” he said.
Crowley only looked over his shoulder three times on the way out, which he considered to be very restrained of him.
Their train journey from London to Paris to Madrid passed quickly, aided by Aziraphale’s stash of snacks and wine from M&S. Aziraphale read some of the books he’d packed, and Crowley looked out the window and watched the world fly by faster than it ever had all of the centuries up until now.
He also flipped through a parenting magazine he’d bought at the station and steadfastly ignored Aziraphale’s knowing smile as he did so. Finally, he reached an article so stupid he couldn’t keep silent anymore.
“It’s complete rubbish, is what it is,” Crowley concluded after a lengthy rant.
Aziraphale had a very indulgent smile on his face. “I love you,” he said.
“I love you too,” Crowley said, still feeling a bit like he might combust every time he said it, even a year later. “Did you hear what I just said?”
“Maybe you should start a blog,” Aziraphale said, his lips twitching. “So you can tell the world how wrong they are.”
“Start a blog—I’m not going to start a blog, how do you even know what one of those is?”
“Julie & Julia.”
“That’s fair,” Crowley said. They’d seen every film Meryl Streep had ever starred in, which was quite a lot. That she’d won comparatively few Academy Awards relative to her number of nominations was one of the more infuriating illustrations of free will.
His phone buzzed then. He opened it to a picture of Warlock, with what looked like pureed carrot all over his face and the tray in front of him. He looked very pleased with himself.
“Adorable,” Aziraphale opined.
Crowley felt like his heart might melt, which was objectively a strange reaction to have to the presence of root vegetables on a baby’s face. And hard on the heels of that feeling was the realization that he wanted to be home with Warlock, with an intensity that nearly stole his breath.
“Angel,” he croaked out. “I think I miss the Antichrist.”
They got such a judgemental look from the couple eavesdropping on them across the aisle.
“It’s only a week,” Aziraphale said, all gentle reassurance. “We’ll be home soon enough.”
“Right,” Crowley said, and nodded decisively. “Only a week. We can do this.”
“I’ll do my best to keep you—occupied,” Aziraphale said.
“Why, angel,” Crowley said, looking at him over the top of his sunglasses. “Someone might think you have plans.”
“It is our honeymoon,” he said primly. The little wiggle he gave in his seat was very promising.
“So it is,” Crowley said, and lifted Aziraphale’s hand to his mouth to kiss.
They went on directly to Seville from Madrid. It was just as Crowley hoped—warm but not stifling, the scent of oranges in the air. It was late in the evening when they arrived at their hotel, and Aziraphale opened the window to let the warm breeze in.
“Ah,” he said, inhaling deeply. “Oh, my darling—do you remember?”
“Do I,” Crowley said, coming up behind him. He wrapped his arms around Aziraphale’s waist and rested his chin on his shoulder. “It was all I could think about for centuries afterward.”
They’d both been in Seville in the twelfth century under Moorish rule, and the Arrangement was still in its infancy. To call it an era of peace would be overstating it, but Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together in Seville in an uneasy truce that mirrored his relationship with Aziraphale.
Crowley in truth did very little work in those years—Hell was going through an internal audit and basically lost track of him for a bit, and he hadn’t been keen on reminding them he was topside, lest he be recalled for the audit himself.
He thought he was alone in the city until one evening, when a very particular shiver went down his spine. He looked up and saw Aziraphale on a balcony, nearly hidden from view by the boughs of orange trees.
The sun had long since set but the city was still awake, and so he took the chance to call up, “Angel!”
“Crowley?” he called back cautiously.
Crowley stared up at him, waiting expectantly. Finally, he said, “Are you just going to let me cool my heels down here or what?”
“I can’t invite you up!” Aziraphale hissed.
Crowley scratched the back of his neck. “You don’t have to,” he mumbled, abruptly a little embarrassed. If Aziraphale didn’t want his company, that was his prerogative, but it still smarted. “Be on my way, I suppose.”
“Wait!” Aziraphale said. And then he came closer to the balcony and Crowley could see him clearly.
And, well, Aziraphale was right—he couldn’t invite Crowley up, not as a well-to-do woman at this time of the evening.
“Climb up here,” Aziraphale said, gesturing at the conveniently placed orange tree.
Crowley muttered a few unflattering things under his breath but picked his way up the tree branches. It was, he felt, much easier as a snake. When he cleared the balcony railing, Aziraphale drew him inside.
“Honestly,” Aziraphale tutted. “You’ll get into trouble, calling up to ladies from the street.”
“Trouble is literally my job,” Crowley reminded him. “What are you up to, then?”
“Oh, this and that,” Aziraphale said vaguely. “Bit of divine inspiration and the like. Yourself?”
“I’m on holiday,” Crowley said.
Aziraphale looked intensely envious. “Well that does sound lovely. Would you like some wine?”
Crowley had been fascinated by Aziraphale before, but in Seville, he tumbled headlong into something more. The way he felt when Aziraphale beckoned him up to the balcony, the way he felt when Aziraphale smiled at him and welcomed him inside—it was a dangerous taste of what it might be like if they only had to answer to each other.
And here they were now, nearly a millennium later, and neither Heaven nor Hell apparently gave a damn, now that the Antichrist was on earth.
He murmured to Aziraphale, “Do you know how many splinters I had from climbing up that damn tree every night?”
“You brought me poetry,” Aziraphale said with an air of nostalgia, and he was smiling. “How many evenings did we spend, reading poetry and drinking wine by candlelight?”
“Not enough,” Crowley said, and kissed a line up the side of his neck.
“What would you have done? If I’d been—receptive. Back then.”
“I would have used the front door, for a start.”
“My dear, really.”
“I would have done something about how hot that poetry made you,” Crowley said, and went after the spot just under Aziraphale’s ear, the one that made him sigh in a way that sent a shiver down Crowley’s spine.
“I never—it was poetry dedicated to the divine—”
“And pretty racy, as I recall,” Crowley purred. “You made me bring you more by that one fellow—everything he’d written, and all of it made you squirm.”
“You were the one who read it out loud like you were going to—“
“Worship at your altar?” Crowley suggested, trailing one hand down the front of Aziraphale’s dress.
“Oh please,” Aziraphale breathed, and turned in Crowley’s arms to kiss him, and walk him back to the bed.
Mostly Crowley miracled his clothing into existence, but he yelped, “Watch it, that’s Versace—” when Aziraphale tried to help him out of the filmy tank he was wearing with a little too much force.
“It’s thin enough that I and everyone else can see your brassiere through it, how valuable can it be?” Aziraphale said, already working the button of Crowley’s trousers.
“It’s right off the runway,” Crowley muttered, aggrieved, tugging Aziraphale’s terribly sensible tweed skirt off his hips before attacking the buttons of his blouse.
“How did you get these on?” Aziraphale asked, pulling uselessly at his trousers, stuck around his thighs. Crowley was about to answer him when Aziraphale stuck his hand down the front of Crowley’s panties, fingertips pressed tight against him. The sudden pressure and friction on his clit made him suck in a breath, and he accidentally tore off the last two buttons of Aziraphale’s blouse.
“My dear!” Aziraphale protested, but didn’t stop rubbing gently at Crowley.
“I’ll buy you a new one,” Crowley said, and then miracled his trousers off and pulled Aziraphale down onto the bed.
Aziraphale landed on top of him with a small noise, all his soft curves pressed against Crowley’s. “In a hurry, darling? You realize there’s no child to interrupt us right now. We could take our time.”
“And we will,” Crowley said. “Promise. It’s just that my mouth has had an urgent date with your cunt here in Seville since about 1125, so you’ll forgive me if we move this along.”
“Vulgar,” Aziraphale, probably aiming for disapproval but instead landing in throaty appreciation. “We could—have that date at the same time—”
Crowley laughed, not meanly, and pulled him into a kiss even as he undid Aziraphale’s bra. “Oh, my very own pillow princess, no we cannot. You have always been single-minded in your own pleasure.”
“That makes me sound selfish,” Aziraphale groused, and then moaned when Crowley teased his nipple between thumb and forefinger.
“You are, and it’s glorious. Don’t you know what it does to me, when you can’t think of anything except how good you feel when I’m touching you?” Crowley murmured, and pushed his thigh up between Aziraphale’s legs to let him ride it a little.
Aziraphale ground down against him. “What’s the saying? Put your money where your mouth is?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Crowley said, and patted the mattress next to his head.
Aziraphale’s eyes went half-lidded and he bit his lip, and then shimmied out of his garter belt and panties, and carefully made his way up the bed and knelt over Crowley’s face. “You’re certain? You know this makes me, well—”
Crowley took Aziraphale’s hips in his hands. “Be as loud as you want, angel,” he said, and pulled Aziraphale down to his mouth.
It was really a shame they couldn’t do this more often—Aziraphale could shout the house down while riding Crowley’s face, which Crowley was all in favor of, but the reality was that short of miracles, they had to pick their moments carefully. And between a house full of other servants and a baby, those moments were few and far between.
But here, he could feel the soft give of Aziraphale’s thighs cradling his face, let the scent of Aziraphale fill his nose, and mouth at Aziraphale, kissing where he could reach before Aziraphale decided he was done teasing himself, and tilted his hips to get what he wanted.
What he wanted, no surprise, was Crowley’s tongue in his cunt. He’d want Crowley to suck on his clit soon, but on the warm up, he liked Crowley to lick in, just inside. Crowley let his eyes shut to focus on the taste of him, the shift of Aziraphale’s hips under his hands, the wet soft heat of him under his tongue. Aziraphale sighed above him, already letting out some of those noises that Crowley could only imagine way back when.
“Oh, you’re so—” Aziraphale said, and then moaned when he rocked his hips down against Crowley’s mouth.
Crowley moaned into his cunt in turn, because he couldn’t say anything, but Aziraphale was already making a mess of his face, and Crowley already felt desperate to get his fingers on his own clit.
He didn’t, though. The wait would be worth it.
Aziraphale tilted his hips again, and Crowley lipped at his hard clit, and then started to lick it the way Aziraphale liked best. When Aziraphale first informed him that humans just couldn’t do what Crowley could do with his tongue, Crowley felt extremely and justifiably proud of himself. Because Crowley could make his angel wail and he set about to do just that.
The headboard creaked under Aziraphale’s hands, and Crowley opened his eyes, looked up at Aziraphale’s soft belly and breasts and open mouth. And then he shut his eyes again, and Aziraphale pressed down harder against him, and Crowley closed his mouth around his clit and sucked, and Aziraphale cried out. Crowley would have smiled in satisfaction, but his mouth was extremely occupied.
It wasn’t long after that Aziraphale was close, and he demanded, “In me, I need—”
And Crowley knew exactly what he wanted, even without Aziraphale shoving his cunt against his mouth. Aziraphale rode his tongue, and Crowley worshipped him with everything he had, working his tongue inside in just the right spot, and Aziraphale’s thighs were trembling and he practically shrieked when he came, holding onto the headboard for dear life.
“Oh,” Aziraphale said, when he’d stopped shaking. Crowley just stroked his thighs, his hips, the curve of his bottom. He expected Aziraphale to carefully move down his body—he did not expect Aziraphale to merely turn around in place, urging Crowley just a bit further down the bed so he could kneel comfortably the other way. And then he plucked at Crowley’s panties and helped Crowley kick them off, before settling on top of him, his thighs once again spread over Crowley’s face.
“I’m quite certain I can pleasure you at least once before I get distracted,” Aziraphale said, and Crowley wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to prove him wrong, but either way, it was on.
It probably wasn’t a fair fight—Aziraphale slid two fingers into him, easy as anything with how turned on he was, and the noises of enjoyment that Aziraphale made while eating him out were absolutely incendiary. Still, he fucked Aziraphale with three fingers, to give him something to really clench down on, and Aziraphale did moan against his clit, and between that and the way he crooked his fingers just right, Crowley gasped and came hard.
As soon as he caught his breath, though, he fingered Aziraphale into another orgasm, and he might have gone down on him again, except that Aziraphale said, “You know, I could really go for some paella.”
“Paella,” Crowley repeated, and realized he was actually a little hungry, too.
“Oh, and tapas,” Aziraphale said dreamily. “Just not the same in London, I’m afraid.”
“Francisco will be crushed to hear it,” Crowley said dryly. They went to his tapas restaurant on a regular basis.
“Well don’t tell him,” Aziraphale said, and patted Crowley’s hip decisively. “Up, my dear. Rally.”
“I can’t feel my legs yet,” Crowley said.
“And to think I didn’t even make you climb a tree first,” Aziraphale said, the minx, and sashayed off to the bathroom, humming what Crowley was pretty sure was Ravel’s Bolero.
Crowley let his head fall back on the bed, and smiled stupidly up at the ceiling for a moment before he went to join Aziraphale in the shower.
The week passed in a haze of red wine, excellent food, a truly prodigious number of orgasms, and rambles around the city, where the ghost of the Seville they had once known could still be seen, overlaid with new. It was, in short, an excellent honeymoon.
Still, Crowley couldn’t deny that he was eager to return to London, and Aziraphale, in probably the clearest demonstration of his love to date, did not tease him about it.
“She would have sent video if he walked,” Aziraphale said reassuringly as they climbed into a taxi back to the Dowling estate.
“But what if she didn’t see,” Crowley fretted.
Aziraphale patted his hand, and Crowley texted the nanny substitute that they were on their way.
She was waiting for them as they came in the back entrance, and Warlock was clinging to her leg. He was becoming quite adept at pulling himself up and standing while holding on to something, but that was as far as it went.
“He was very good,” the nanny said. “A perfect angel.”
Crowley blinked. “Really?”
Her lips thinned. “Actually, no, he’s a demon. Thank god you’re back.”
Crowley narrowed his eyes at her dangerously, but knelt on the ground and held his arms out to Warlock. “Come here, darling boy,” he coaxed.
“Na!” Warlock said, stretching out one hand. There were perhaps four feet between them. Crowley held his breath.
And Warlock took one uncertain step forward. And then another. And another. And then he lost his balance and plopped down on his bottom, looking all kinds of surprised. Crowley swooped him up in his arms and held him close and said, “Well done, dear, well done,” and burst into tears.
He looked up at Aziraphale, who was—getting of this all on Crowley’s smartphone. Of course. Aziraphale didn’t always take to new technology, unless there was something in it for him, and then he was dogged in his determination to master it. “You can stop the video now,” Crowley said stiffly, and wiped at his cheeks and sniffed once.
“I told you he would wait for you,” Aziraphale cooed, because he really was completely insufferable sometimes. “Come here, let’s do the selfie.”
“I’ve done this to myself, I realize,” Crowley muttered, but he shifted Warlock in his arms and Aziraphale pressed close, and then held out the phone in front of them and took several pictures. They were none of them what Crowley would call good, but there was something there, anyway—Aziraphale’s beaming face, Warlock’s chubby-cheeked smile, and Crowley’s own expression, one of fierce, quiet joy.
“I would have taken the picture for you,” the nanny substitute said under her breath.
“It’s called the selfie, dear,” Aziraphale said.
“A selfie,” Crowley corrected for the dozenth time.
“It means you take it yourself,” Aziraphale said, as if he hadn’t heard. “Hadn’t you best be on your way?”
She muttered something impolite, but as long as she left and never came back, Crowley didn’t give a damn.
“We’re home, we missed you so much,” Aziraphale said, and kissed Warlock all over his face.
“We’re home,” Crowley said, and discovered that he meant it.
“Listen to me, hellspawn,” Crowley said. “You may someday rule the Bottomless Pit, but that does not mean you’re getting out of taking a bath.”
Warlock just giggled and ran down the hallway, completely naked. Crowley snapped his fingers and an invisible barrier blocked Warlock’s escape, long enough for Crowley to walk down the hallway and pick him up.
“You’re getting big,” Crowley said with a touch of melancholy. Hadn’t it been just a few weeks ago that he fit in the crook of Crowley’s arm? And now here he was, turning two.
Once in the bath, they were back in their routine. Crowley washed Warlock’s hair, which had been golden when he was an infant, but was now dark and had a bit of a curl to it. He wondered, not for the first time, just how Warlock had come into being, and also not for the first time, decided he really did not want to know at all.
Aziraphale came to the nursery for Warlock’s two allotted bedtime stories. There had been quite a lot of Winnie the Pooh recently, because Aziraphale loved A. A. Milne, and became Warlock delighted in Aziraphale’s voices, possibly because he was a toddler and had questionable taste.
Still, Winnie got into all kinds of scrapes because of gluttony, so Crowley supposed he could let this go for now.
Warlock was already asleep before Aziraphale finished the second story. He finished it just the same, in his normal reading voice, and then Crowley tucked Warlock into bed.
“He’s turning two years old tomorrow,” he said to Aziraphale in the middle of their own nightly routine.
Aziraphale shifted in the bath and took a sip of his wine. “I’m making him a cake. Shame his parents won’t be here.”
They rarely were, but Crowley didn’t say that. The look Aziraphale gave him over his wine glass suggested he heard it all the same.
“Does he seem evil to you?” Crowley asked. “I mean, you know. Inherently.”
“Not particularly,” Aziraphale said. “Does he seem good to you? Fundamentally.”
“Who can tell?” Crowley said, and took a large swallow of his wine.
“You did toilet train him in a single afternoon,” Aziraphale reminded him. “I’m given to understand that borders on some kind of miracle.”
“That’s good communication, follow through, and trust,” Crowley said. “Nothing miraculous, either occult or ethereal, about it.”
“Of course,” Aziraphale said. And then he sighed. “Nine years left, now.”
Crowley took his hand, and rubbed his thumb against Aziraphale’s wedding band. “We’re going to do this, angel. We’re going to love this kid so normal that he’d never raise his hand against the world.”
Against us, he didn’t say, but Aziraphale plainly heard him just the same, and he held onto Crowley’s hand just as tightly as Crowley held his.
“What kind of cake?” Crowley asked after a moment.
Aziraphale brightened. “Oh, well, I saw the recipe in one of your parenting magazines—”
“You bought the subscription,” Crowley reminded him.
“—and I thought it would be just the thing, with a few changes…”
Warlock started asking Why early, possibly because Crowley encouraged him relentlessly.
He followed Crowley around, asking why, why, why, why. His parents grew quickly exasperated, but Crowley never did. He tried his best to answer all of Warlock’s questions, and if one answer led to another question, he’d answer that too.
One night before bed, Warlock asked, “Why are there stars in the sky?”
Crowley thought about it for a moment, and then gave him an age-appropriate scientific response, which Warlock might not remember or understand entirely, but it was the best he could do.
Warlock then turned to Aziraphale, because even at three and a half, he’d learned that Cook was the soft touch. “Cook, why are there stars in the sky really.”
“Because the angels made them that way,” Aziraphale said with a beatific smile.
Crowley scowled at him. “Angel,” he hissed without thinking.
Warlock stared at Aziraphale, his eyes wide. “Cook made the stars?”
“No!” Crowley said, but it was too late, and no effort to insist on his perfectly good scientific explanation would persuade Warlock otherwise.
Aziraphale thought it was quite funny and laughed about it in bed later that night.
“Imagine me, a Principality, making the stars! Let me have this, dear, it’s adorable.”
“We’re meant to be in disguise! What if he really thinks you’re an angel?”
“Oh, darling, he doesn’t,” Aziraphale said. “And even if he told anyone, no one would listen.”
Crowley wrapped his arms around Aziraphale. “You could have,” Crowley mumbled into his shoulder.
“That’s very sweet, but I know who hung the stars in the sky,” Aziraphale said, and kissed him.
Annual memos to Hell sufficed until Warlock’s seventh birthday, and then Crowley was summoned to report in.
Aziraphale was not.
“They don’t seem to care at all,” Aziraphale told him, as Crowley wrestled the marjoram into submission. Warlock was playing nearby on the lawn, in a large box that Crowley had helped him decorate and turn into a pirate ship. Human imagination really was something.
It wasn’t anything Aziraphale hadn’t said before, but there was a sharp, distressed note in his voice that made Crowley look up, concerned.
“They asked you to keep an eye on the situation,” Crowley said, because he knew that much.
“But no orders aside from that. Why waste heavenly action on earth when you’re going let it be destroyed, I suppose,” Aziraphale said, and he was twisting his hands in his apron.
Crowley stood and stripped off his gardening gloves. “Angel,” he said, and laid a hand on Aziraphale’s shoulder, more hesitantly than he had in years.
“Why are they doing this?” Aziraphale said, his voice quavering.
“I don’t know,” Crowley said, and pulled Aziraphale into his arms, right there in the herb garden.
Warlock evidently noticed, and abandoned his career in piracy to come over and ask, “Is Cook all right?”
Aziraphale was in fact crying quietly into Crowley’s shoulder.
“She’s sad,” Crowley said, and reflected on that for a moment. Aziraphale was certainly that—and disappointed, angry, bewildered.
He was heartbroken, Crowley thought. Except Heaven didn’t think angels had hearts to break, not really. But Aziraphale did.
“It’s okay to be sad,” Warlock said, and wrapped his arms around their waists.
“He’s right,” Crowley murmured. “And who taught him that?”
“You,” Aziraphale said wetly.
“Do you need some cocoa?” Warlock asked, and Aziraphale hiccuped out a weak laugh.
“I think some cocoa wouldn’t go amiss,” Crowley said to Warlock, and then for Aziraphale’s ears alone, “You definitely taught him that.”
He and Warlock led Aziraphale to the kitchen, and Aziraphale allowed Warlock to help him put cocoa together at Warlock’s insistence, and then Warlock made a case for why Cook’s special biscuits would absolutely help him feel better.
“But it’s okay if you need to cry more,” Warlock said, darting a glance back at Crowley to confirm.
Crowley nodded approvingly, because no Antichrist of his was going to truck in toxic masculinity.
Aziraphale sniffed a bit and ruffled Warlock’s hair. “I think I’m done crying for now, dear. Now, would you like to help me put together those biscuits?”
He watched Aziraphale and Warlock make the dough, and then Warlock retrieved his reading assignment and read it aloud to the both of them, and they listened to him sound out words and ask questions when he came upon a word he did not know. It was the kind of ordinary afternoon that might fade from memory, except—
“Cook?” Warlock said, when he came to the end of his reading.
“Yes, darling,” Aziraphale said, occupied with beginning to roll the chilled dough out.
“I love you,” he said, and Aziraphale froze.
“I love you, too,” Aziraphale said, not at all reflexively or lightly. He said it with the whole of himself, and Crowley could hear the echo of the Divine, wrapped all around the core of Aziraphale. And far from his despair that afternoon at the callousness of Heaven, Aziraphale looked resolute, fiercely protective in his love. Crowley thought: Heaven and Hell better watch out.
“Okay,” Warlock said. “Nanny, can I go play outside?”
“Of course, dear,” Crowley said faintly.
When he was out the back door, Aziraphale said, “Antonia.”
“Yes, my love?”
“I hope you’ll pardon my language, but fuck the Great Plan.”
He stared at Aziraphale in shock. “Who are you, and what have you done with my angel?”
“I’m your wife, and the Great Plan is absolute rubbish.”
“Makes you wonder how the Almighty came up with it,” Crowley muttered.
A strange look crossed Aziraphale’s face. “Did She?”
“Look, She’s had some rubbish plans before—”
“But She didn’t write them down. Her Plan is—”
“Ineffable,” Crowley murmured.
They stared at each other for a long moment, and let that sit between them.
“So,” Crowley said eventually. “Fuck the Great Plan?”
“Fuck the Great Plan,” Aziraphale agreed.
And they did. Well. They had help. And all right, they may have allowed their 11-year-old godson to come with them to avert the Apocalypse, but that was a bit of an accident: they honestly hadn’t expected him to stow away in the Bentley, and then they were all a little occupied with finding the actual Antichrist and helping him face off against Heaven and Hell.
“That guy sucks,” Warlock said sympathetically to Adam after he repudiated Satan himself, in possibly the greatest understatement of all time.
“Language,” Aziraphale said automatically.
“Sorry,” Warlock said. Crowley reflexively handed him ten quid.
“Hey,” Adam said after a moment. He scratched the back of his neck. “So they’re like your parents, yeah?” He nodded at Crowley and Aziraphale.
Warlock went still. “Family is who’s there for you, you said.”
“If you want, I could—” Adam shrugged one shoulder. “You could be their son. Properly.”
Warlock looked back at them, and Somebody, Crowley could remember when he fit in the crook of his arm, and all the years in between.
“I already am,” Warlock said simply.
“Fair enough,” Adam said. “I reckon I’ve got to put everything back the way it was, now. But I’ll make sure they leave your parents alone.”
Warlock surprised all of them by throwing his arms around Adam’s neck and hugging him tight. And then the Antichrist-who-decided-against-the-whole-business hugged him right back.
Finally, Warlock stepped back and said, “Nanny, Cook, can we go home now?”
“Of course, dear,” Crowley said.
And they walked to the bus stop, Crowley holding one of Warlock’s hands and Aziraphale holding the other, and Warlock asked question after question after question.
“So when you said gender was whatever you wanted it to be, you really meant it, huh?” Warlock said, looking thoughtful. Aziraphale and Crowley both somehow wound up presenting as men again after Crowley stopped time, for whatever reason.
“I really meant it,” Crowley confirmed. “Does it bother you, when we’re like this?” he asked, curious.
“We don’t police other people’s bodies,” Warlock said with all the withering scorn of an almost adolescent. And then: “Those shades are sick, Nanny, can I borrow them?”
Crowley hesitated, and then took them off, revealing his eyes to Warlock on purpose for the first time since he was an infant. Warlock paid absolutely no attention—he just slid the sunglasses on immediately and took out his phone for a selfie of the three of them.
“You’re not putting this on Instagram,” Crowley said.
“Come on, Nanny—”
On the first day of the rest of their lives, Warlock went back to the bookshop with them.
“Oh, wow,” Warlock said, looking at the contents of the shop with hunger.
Warlock was still Nanny’s boy, but his taste in literature and pastry was entirely Aziraphale’s doing.
“You can read whatever you like,” Aziraphale said, in probably the purest demonstration of his love to date.
“Pick something for me?” Warlock asked, looking overwhelmed.
Aziraphale made a thoughtful noise and then disappeared into the stacks, his dress rustling and his heels clicking across the floor.
“Nanny,” Warlock said, then stopped. “Are you still going to be my nanny? Or are you going to go back to—” he waved a hand at the bookshop.
“Hellspawn, do you honestly think you’re going to be rid of me that easily?” Crowley asked.
“But I’m not really—you know. That was Adam.”
“You’ll always be my little monster,” Crowley said tenderly. “Always.” He pulled Warlock into a hug that he’d probably start saying he was too old for, soon.
“Nanny,” Warlock complained happily.
“Oh, here we are,” Aziraphale said, coming back with an entire armful of books.
“Leave them for now—what do you two say to a spot of lunch?” Crowley said.
Warlock looked genuinely torn, but his stomach growled right on schedule. He’d already eaten the emergency snacks Crowley packed in his handbag. “Can we get sushi?”
“Oh yes, let’s,” Aziraphale said enthusiastic, his smile so beautiful that Crowley had to lean over and kiss him.
“Will you ever let me drive your car?” Warlock asked as they piled into the Bentley.
“Not a chance,” Crowley said, and Aziraphale gave him a look. He relented. “When you’re older. Special occasions only.”
Warlock cheered from the backseat, and Aziraphale took Crowley’s hand, thumb stroking his wedding band.
Crowley peeled out into London traffic, Aziraphale gasping about pedestrians and Warlock laughing in delight, and said, “Should we do the Ritz instead?”
“Sushi!” Aziraphale and Warlock said in unison, and Crowley yielded to the whims of his family, feeling a smile tugging at the corner of his lips, and then gave himself over to the feeling of happiness, completely.