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Thou Knowest Us Happy

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"Let it suffice thee that thou knowest
Us happy, and without love no happiness."

Approximately two years after the Apocalypse-that-wasn’t, the Archangel Michael receives a call on the unofficial back channels that don’t exist. It concerns a certain angel and a certain demon and is couched in so many impenetrable dark insinuations and ‘just-giving-you-a-head’s-up’s that she never manages to uncover the central mystery of what the message actually is. She half-wonders where her regular contact has gone — Ligur was pleasantly straight-forward to deal with, and although one can’t miss a demon, she rather wishes his replacement were similarly plain-spoken.

She sits on the message for a while — there is no rush, and they are busy (it’s not just standing down all angelic cohorts; it’s how to plan for the future) — so when she finally decides to talk to Gabriel, a couple of years have slipped by without her really noticing.

Making sure that they are alone, she relays the message, or rather the fact that they’ve had a message about something — something unsettling enough to have rattled Hell. She has tried to work out what it might be but has come up blank. Plus, it might have been a hoax — you never know with Hell…

Gabriel ponders for a long while in silence, the cogs almost visibly turning.

“Would you like me to investigate?” Michael asks, but Gabriel shakes his head.

“No. I will go myself. Goodness knows what Aziraphale has been up to. And we need… closure of some kind.”

Reading between the lines, she hears ‘No Witnesses’ and nods. If their wayward angel used some kind of trick to escape his punishment, Gabriel will find out what it was, of that she is certain.

He smiles at her, and she smiles back, satisfied. He is very resolute; she likes that about him. You are never in any doubt as to what Gabriel is thinking, and he never hesitates once a course has been decided on.

An angel of action.

When the War comes — and it will come — he will be magnificent, she knows.

______________________________________________

Meanwhile on Earth

“I’ve been thinking,” Aziraphale says one day, out of the blue.

It’s been two years since Hastur turned up on the angel’s doorstep after attacking Crowley and burning down his flat, two years since the angel nursed Crowley back to health, two years since unexpected (although oft dreamt of) kisses and a surprisingly serious discussion about scarves — or rather, the symbolic significance of said scarves.

Since then their relationship has settled into a new and deeper Arrangement and, although it’s not been entirely plain sailing, things are good. And having been ‘retired’ for four years, they’d begun to look beyond the bookshop and London and nice-days-out and decided that a holiday was called for — America being their first port of call.

Today they’re in Yellowstone National Park watching ‘Old Faithful’ erupt. Aziraphale had been busy listening to their guide explaining the history, after which he went silent (except for the occasional ‘Gosh!’ as the geyser reaches towards the heavens).

“Mmhn?” Crowley replies, and Aziraphale continues, voice so quiet Crowley can barely hear him.

“About the holy water they made you drink. I don’t think it could have been actual holy water, what with the fact that you are still here — but I have a theory. If… you don’t mind me talking about it?”

He shoots Crowley a concerned look, and Crowley frowns.

“You want to talk about it… now?” he asks, gesturing to the gallery of tourists that surround them, and Aziraphale hesitates.

“It just popped into my head. What with all the water…”

“Maybe we can find a little café? After?” Crowley suggests, and Aziraphale smiles. He looks adorably ridiculous in a ‘new’ tartan jacket (‘new’ meaning barely forty years old) with an ancient camera that looks like it might be from the 1950s hanging around his neck, and Crowley has idly wondered how on earth they are supposed to get photos developed in this day and age. Aziraphale loves America though — everyone is so friendly, and he is more or less ready to forgive them that business with the tea back in 1773. It’s a little like travelling with a teddy bear, and Crowley would be annoyed at all the people fussing over ‘the sweet old English guy’ except he knows exactly how they feel.

“Yes of course — what a wonderful idea. I am a little peckish…”

Crowley turns back to the geyser, but he is distracted now… If not holy water, then what? It had certainly felt holy, his insides turning over just at the memory. (And, almost worse, Aziraphale trying to heal the cuts on his face, the heavenly powers like a brand on his skin — his innate demonic essence attacked from within and without.)

Trying to shake off the memory (they’re inherent opposites — matter and antimatter — that’s just how it is), he focusses on Old Faithful, shifting a little uncomfortably. How Aziraphale came to think of holy water is a mystery to him, since the smell of sulphur is so all-pervasive Crowley can’t help but be uncomfortably reminded of Hell, half expecting demons to come forth out of the water, dripping foulness over everything. However he’s never heard of this place being an entrance to Hell, and (surveying the area critically) it seems like a missed opportunity. The crust surrounding the geysers is so thin people could easily fall through (with a little demonic intervention the neat little boardwalks could be made nicely unstable), and if what’s below doesn’t get them, what’s above could — Crowley knows a thing or two about using animals in nefarious ways, and the bison, chewing their cud like so many demonic cattle, seem to him to be eyeing up the visitors like they're just waiting for the chance to gore them.

He glares at the placid bastards and makes sure they understand that today it’s a good idea to stay far away from people.

They don’t make it to the café, Crowley merely grasping Aziraphale’s hand as everyone leaves after the eruption, thus keeping them on the semi-circular boardwalk from which they have been watching the show.

“What do you mean not holy water?” he says, curiosity thoroughly piqued and knowing that if they go to a little café Aziraphale will spend a small eternity trying to make up his mind and asking the staff about all the different cakes — and then complain that no one knows how to make proper tea. If he’s really unlucky, the angel will try to explain proper tea making to some poor barista before Crowley can get him back on the subject at hand.

Aziraphale looks unhappy.

“Oh I knew it’d upset you…”

“I’m not upset; I’m impatient,” Crowley growls, trying to stomp down on his frustration, and the angel nods, reassured, before launching into his hypothesis.

“Well, it didn’t kill you, which is what made me wonder… Unless we really have become somehow impervious, but that’s a risky theory, and I’m not even sure how that would work. So, what could it have been? And then it struck me: Lourdes water!”

“Sorry… what?” Crowley replies, rather lost, but Aziraphale, clearly excited about his deduction, blithely carries on:

“You remember the miracle at Lourdes? Little Bernadette — such a sweet child, such awful poverty, and I couldn’t do anything of course, because it was to be A Major Thing and A Proper Big Miracle straight from Above, nothing fuzzy around the edges if you know what I mean, so I had to stay away and just observe. But… Our Lady told her to dig, in the grotto, and a well sprang up — first it was just the tiniest trickle, but it grew to be a proper stream, so… you see? That water is all over the world now what with pilgrims always bringing home bottles of the stuff. And you could walk into any presbytery and carry out armfuls of it. If Hastur and his lot wanted holy water, it’s entirely possible they grabbed the nearest bottles they could find, rather than risking dredging a baptismal font. So — my thinking was, that if it was Lourdes water they gave you to drink, that would explain why it hurt you so much-” the briefest of pauses as distress flickers across his face, “-but didn’t destroy you — and why it made you so sick. It has healing properties, but for a demon it’d be the opposite I presume. It would also explain why it… kept coming. It was designed to, um, just, carry on.”

“Huh,” Crowley says. It makes sense, he’ll give the angel that. A nice bit of deduction.

“Haven’t been to Lourdes in decades,” Aziraphale sighs wistfully, now lost to memories. “Such a wonderful place. All the pilgrims, and all the helpers, people from every corner of the globe, all together and such peace and joy everywhere — and oh, the torchlight procession as darkness falls, and the thousands upon thousands singing…”

“Sounds delightful,” Crowley observes, voice flat as he grips the rails. “Why don’t we go there next. You can run around and bless people, and I’ll grab some binoculars and watch from a distance. Like… a mountain top half a mile away where my feet won’t spontaneously combust.”

This is where love sometimes falls on its face. Thoughtless words causing hurt — sniping back, despite everything. Crowley often fails at being ‘the better man’ even though he really does try. Well some of the time at least. He is a demon after all.

Aziraphale’s face practically melts with contrition.

“Oh I am sorry dear boy, of course; I wasn’t thinking. Let’s go to…”

He is obviously concentrating hard, trying to come up with somewhere the opposite of Lourdes. Crowley could help by suggesting a place he would actually like to go, but he’s curious about what the angel will come up with.

“… Vegas?” he offers in the end, and Crowley smirks.

That’s the most evil place you can think of?”

(It’s a lie, and they both know it. They started their American sojourn in the South, going to see an old plantation which had been turned into a museum. Aziraphale had been insistent — he didn’t want to just ‘go gallivanting’, he wanted substance and history too. They soon realised their mistake. The angel had gone completely silent, listening to their guide with haunted eyes, and Crowley had tried to shut off all supernatural senses — he could feel the hate and the pain still, baked into the very soil, and remembered how pleased Beelzebub had been with ‘his work’… In times past he’d have yelled at the sky and then gotten shit faced, and Aziraphale would probably have gone home and rearranged his bookshop yet again, but neither option had been available to them. Instead they had found themselves in a small and ugly hotel room, unsure how to talk about the subject but feeling that they probably should; there were certain things that could very obviously not be solved with poetry or sex. ‘I’m just so… tired,’ Crowley had said eventually. ‘And She never…’ He gestured helplessly, and the angel had studied him for a long moment, looking like he was going to speak — but had then instead carefully drawn the curtains, put a ‘Do not disturb’ sign on the door, before silently sitting down beside him on the bed, taking his hand and gently unfurling his wings until they were hidden in a tiny tent of white feathers. ‘This is what I did after the flood,’ was all he said, and Crowley simply curled up to him, understanding without further explanation: there was nothing they could do, but at least now they were on the same side. It had not been an auspicious start to their holidays.)

And now, trying to walk a fine line between the minefield they unwittingly set up and quite simply being on holiday, Aziraphale clears his throat primly.

“Well, I’m sure there are plenty of, um, unfortunate souls in the casinos who could do with a blessing.”

“Angel…” Crowley sighs, because the excuse is pathetic, even for an angel. “We don’t have to go somewhere you’ll hate just because you’re worried you upset me. Besides, I don’t want to go to Vegas — to be honest I can think of few places I’d rather avoid.”

“Well, if you’re sure…” Aziraphale says, sounding almost disappointed, and Crowley’s eyes narrow.

“Do you want to go to Vegas?” he asks, and the angel tries to affect nonchalance.

“Well, it’s said to be one of those things one ought to experience…”

Charmed out of his annoyance by this ridiculous statement, Crowley shakes his head fondly. Aziraphale had pored over guide books for months before they set off, making sure they weren’t going to miss some obscure gem of a place and unwilling to consider Crowley’s offer of just renting the flashiest car they could find and simply going exploring.

“As you wish, angel. Although if you go adding a gambling addiction on top of all your other vices…”

The gentle teasing somehow makes Aziraphale look uncommonly stricken, and Crowley then has to spend ages reassuring him.

Relationships are a lot of work.

Not that he minds (he never minds, he could — and wants — to do this forever), but being responsible for another person’s happiness is difficult. Their lives have run in parallel for millennia, but knitting them together is complicated. They love each other’s patterns, but incorporating them into everyday life is something else.

He knows this was what was behind the angel’s fretting over scarves — the fear that living together, that moving from friendship to relationship would be too much. Goodness knows they’ve argued plenty over the years, but when sharing a bed and a home, everything gets more complex. In theory they could still walk away, but they are far more than friends now… and where would they go?

As he jumps into the rented Cadillac (twice the size of the Bentley, although only half the height), he smiles as he thinks that they’re like stars orbiting each other, unable to ever escape each other’s gravity.

Looking at his white dwarf star carefully getting in (the angel thinks the car is far too big but puts up with Crowley’s exuberant joy of flying along the road with pained smiles), Crowley pokes at an idea that the holy water talk brought up…

“So, next summer — we could go to France?”

Dearest-”

“Look, I am very keen on France in general. And we haven’t been since — well, since we became a couple, properly,” he adds. As expected, he can see the angel remember places outside of Lourdes, excitement abruptly growing.

“Oh, all the romantic little restaurants we could go to!”

Crowley’s smile sharpens, places other than restaurants foremost in his mind:

“Or a dungeon maybe? Go on, let me tempt you…”

Aziraphale’s eyes widen, and his cheeks start to go pink. Crowley lets his eyes drift back to the road, knowing when to let an idea just sit, allowing it to grow. He’s a wily old serpent, after all.

They have talked about it before. There is no hurry, and after the initial rush of excitement — the sheer joy of No Longer Holding Back, of being able to quite simply enjoy each other, of the exquisite sensations of touch and feel and the many possibilities available (humanity have six thousand years on them, but they’re quick learners) — they have tried to make sure they’re both on the same page going forward. Including tentative discussions about ‘What… other things could we try?’ and ‘Do you have any fantasies?’

A dungeon in Paris came up, and well. Crowley had been most intrigued at the ideas his angel had put forward.

In his mind, he pencils in France as their next destination.

______________________________________________

Some years later

Gabriel apparates into the bookshop early one afternoon. To his surprise the shop is empty of customers, and apparently locked. Which suits him fine, no matter how enjoyable it is to embarrass Aziraphale in public. He is unsure exactly how much time has passed — five years? More? He has deliberately left a long gap — but hopefully it will have lulled the renegade into a false sense of security, or possibly made him feel abandoned. Either way, Gabriel can make it work to his advantage, and he is good at playing it by ear. There are other ways to tame an errant angel than hellfire.

If he’s honest with himself, it feels good to be back. His interactions with Aziraphale prior to Armageddon were always diverting and entertaining, although maybe he should have foreseen that all the pressure would make the principality go off the rails completely? Well, today’s task is to bring the lost sheep back into the fold… one way or another. He doesn’t rub his hands together, but he feels a certain gleeful anticipation. This should be fun.

The shop is as cluttered as ever, and — Gabriel notices with distaste — there are a great number of empty wine bottles around the cosy sofa that he spies through the half-open door to the back room. But he can hear soft footsteps above and decides to just call out.

“Aziraphale!”

The footsteps stop.

Then, slowly, there is shuffling and other noises from upstairs as Gabriel grows more wary, but eventually he can discern soft, hesitant footsteps descending, and the angel (former angel? fallen angel?) appears from the recesses of the shop, hands clasped together and face cautious.

His hair is tufty and uncombed, and he is wearing a fluffy white garment that Gabriel (having researched clothes in the past) identifies as a ‘dressing gown’. It goes down to his knees and his legs are covered in fleecy tartan ‘pyjama trousers’, blue and pale yellow, and on his feet are tartan slippers in matching colours. It’s all rather puzzling — the clothing articles are all (as far as Gabriel is aware) associated with sleeping, but angels don’t sleep, and he has never seen Aziraphale dressed like this before. Apparently the lack of contact with Heaven has caused him to degenerate even further.

It seems utterly incongruous that this soft, wary-looking creature once breathed fire...

Gabriel smiles — the smile that is 90% intimidation, 10% ‘I’m doing this for your own good’. He has missed smiling that smile.

“Aziraphale. I have come to-”

“No.”

Gabriel is taken aback, unsure if he’s heard right. But Aziraphale is standing as calm and composed as he was in the column of hellfire, head held high.

“Last time we ‘met’, you kidnapped me, tied me up, dragged me to Heaven and told me — and I quote — ‘Shut your stupid mouth and die already’. I can’t imagine why you are here, but-”

He’s interrupted by a cup of tea being inserted in front of him by a long, slim hand.

They both turn to see that Crowley has also appeared, having apparently slunk down the stairs on bare, silent feet.

Taking in the sight in front of him, Gabriel balks. It is not just Crowley’s feet that are bare. He is wearing a kimono (a rather charming garment, Gabriel has always thought, very attractive and decorative — not his thing at all, but a few of the angels favour that style), except the word ‘wearing’ isn’t quite accurate. The kimono is black silk, knee-length, sleeves down only to the elbows, its sole decoration a red serpent snaking itself around the edges, and it hangs loosely around him, undone at the front and with no hint of a belt. Apart from the kimono the demon is wearing only some small, black, tight shorts, which Gabriel presumes must be some kind of underwear, and a ring which hangs from a simple chain around his neck. Otherwise he is naked, bare skin on display from chest to hip bone, arms and legs mostly uncovered. His hair is shoulder length and curls at the ends, lending him a feminine air, helped by the way he carries himself, a sort of loose-limbed grace as he leans towards Aziraphale, as if back in the garden and handing Eve that fateful apple.

The overall effect of the semi-nude creature in front of him is an image so utterly sinful and decadent that it’s only because Gabriel knows for a fact that he could never think up anything so… depraved that he is sure he’s not somehow imagining it.

The demon isn’t even wearing his glasses, the half-lidded snake-slit eyes degenerate and unsettling, and Gabriel does his best to stifle a shudder.

Aziraphale, however, isn’t put out in the slightest.

“Why thank you dearest,” he says, with a loving smile, and takes the cup from Crowley’s hand, their fingers touching for a great deal longer than necessary.

“Well you just left it,” the demon replies with a hint of reproach. “Didn’t want it to go cold, what with making it special and all.”

Aziraphale takes a sip, savours it, then looks back at the demon with a surprised and delighted smile.

“Is that a hint of Earl Grey?”

The demon looks pleased.

“Like it? Thought I’d try to mix it up a little…”

“It’s lovely,” Aziraphale replies, beaming, and Gabriel finally manages to find his voice. He’s not used to being ignored.

“What in Heaven’s name-?”

Crowley slowly turns his head — as if he’s only just noticed Gabriel’s presence — and lifts an eyebrow.

“Oh hi, Gabe. Long time no see. You know it’s polite to call ahead so people have a chance to get dressed…”

Fastening his eyes on Aziraphale, Gabriel says the only thing he can think of while he does his heavenly best to ignore the slinky demon who, still smirking at him, goes to lean against a pillar, louche and sensual, as if daring the Almighty to strike him down.

“You — you have that — that thing in your residence? It lives here?”

At his words there comes a look over Aziraphale’s face that Gabriel has never seen before. Something so cold and furious that he is suddenly glad that the other angel no longer has a flaming sword. His knuckles where he is holding the cup go white, and for one terrifying second Gabriel thinks he might breathe fire again.

Then Aziraphale speaks, voice almost crackling with anger:

“That ‘thing’ is my husband!”

Gabriel, slack-jawed, stares from one to the other, brain refusing to engage.

“You mean — You mean…”

“Holy matrimony, yes,” Aziraphale snaps back, holding up his left hand where Gabriel now notices an unadorned gold band. “Or did you think we were living in sin?”

The disapproval (on top of the fury) is clear, yet immediately undercut by the demon.

“Well to be fair, there was a good deal of pre-marital sinning going on,” Crowley offers, and Gabriel can feel a whole host of pieces slowly come together.

Gabriel is not stupid, but his role is mostly a practical one. He once heard of an Earth president who declared himself ‘the Decider’. He had liked that. ‘The Decider’. That’s what he is.

But now, his angelic intelligence — although not trained for deduction — nonetheless ‘puts two and two together’. The evidence in front of him, the insinuations… It’s absurd, it’s impossible, it can’t be. And yet...

“You mean you…” he swallows, unable to quite grasp what his mind is telling him must be the logical explanation, “... with each other… But wouldn’t — an angel and a — a demon — wouldn’t something… explode?”

Gabriel has never heard of Alice in Wonderland and does not know what a Cheshire cat looks like, nor its smile. However, he is now witnessing one spreading across Crowley’s face. He doesn’t like it.

“That is the general idea, yes,” the demon drawls, moving his eyes from Gabriel to studying Aziraphale with a look so indecent Gabriel almost makes a warding off sign.

A faint blush creeps up Aziraphale’s cheeks, and he tries to look stern, even as he can’t stop a small smile in the corner of his mouth whilst shooting Crowley a swift glance over the rim of the tea cup.

Crowley,” he admonishes half-heartedly. “Now really.”

“Just telling it like it is,” Crowley practically purrs.

Gabriel, the reality sinking in, feels sick. Having never experienced nausea before, this is very unwelcome, and he has to take several deep breaths to steady himself. And worst of all they think it’s funny. They’re laughing at him. Gabriel has never been laughed at and scrambles for some way of dealing with so many new unpleasant sensations.

“Oh G-” No, he can’t do it. Can’t take Her name in vain, not even now, but he’s closer than he’s ever been. The disgust sinks through him, layer by layer, the implications — how could anyone, how could an angel lower itself so deeply, how-

And then the final piece falls into place. The thud in his brain is almost audible.

“That’s how you did it! Survived the hellfire, because — you —”

They are looking at him, the two of them; Aziraphale fluffy, a bundle of white and pastel colours, the softest, most tawdry angel there ever was; and Crowley — silken and sultry and serpentine, as if coiled to strike. And the combination is so outrageous, so utterly preposterous that he just shakes his head, unable to carry on.

Aziraphale, gently sighing, carefully sets down the now empty mug on a nearby table (how there is room amongst all the books is a question Gabriel’s mind never bothers to consider) before walking up to the demon and deliberately taking his hand.

“Because we fell in love, yes,” he says, quietly dignified. “And our home is here, on Earth — we left Heaven a long time ago. Please leave, you’ve had far more explanations than you are entitled to, and also I will be opening the shop soon and need to get dressed.”

Gabriel can only stare, the words ‘we fell in love’ ringing in his ears. ‘We’. Not ‘I’. And ‘love’.

He wants to scream at them for the sheer blasphemy, to smite the traitors like they tried to before, to erase the abominations in front of him.

But. Gabriel is an angel. Love is what he was built for, the air that he moves through, the substance that he lives off.

Love to Gabriel is bright and clear: like a cold stream, or the fresh air at a mountain peak. Sharp like crystal, hard like diamond; unchangeable, uncompromising. Love inherently means war — eradicating evil by destroying it, down to the very last drop of sinfulness found in Hell.

But he also cannot deny what he feels here, in this shop, what he has felt since he first stepped inside.

There is Aziraphale’s angelic love, bright like angelic love should be, although sort of fuzzy — like the patina of the shop has worn off on him, smudged him around the edges. (And that’s been there for a long time, has made Gabriel wish he could pick him up and clean him, like you clean a sticky handprint off a window. He’d thought the hellfire would destroy it all — angel and smudge in one; problem solved.) But as he allows himself to extend his senses (unpleasant, but), he realises that around and behind Aziraphale’s devotion there is another love — not sharp or hard but warm, like embers glowing in the darkness and so strong. Could burn right through you if you held it too long.

Staring at Crowley, trying to see through the debauched exterior (and ignoring the snake underneath) he staggers. It can’t be. Demons don’t love; demons can’t love; that is A Fundamental Truth; it’s impossible… And yet — love is love; there is no way to fake it, and he knows what he can feel.

And then it hits him — the implications.

Because Heaven mustn’t know this. Although he has heard of Superman (rather taken with the face and general physique, if he’s honest), the word ‘Kryptonite’ has never crossed his radar, but he still instinctively grasps the concept. The whole thing raises entirely too many questions — can other demons love? Angels can fall and become demons, but what if demons can… become something different again? What if angels can too? What, exactly, is Crowley now? Or Aziraphale for that matter?

(The only word he can think of is ‘ineffable’, and it’s a word he has grown to hate.)

He almost staggers where he stands. Everything he has worked for, the War, everything he knows to be true, the fundamentals of Right and Wrong… It is all coming undone, here, in this cursed bookshop. Hands curling into fists, he makes a decision — this stops here. Now.

He impulsively wishes he’d brought Sandalphon with him to smite them both, but then — witnesses. The point was No Witnesses, and he is grateful for that decision. No one else can ever know about this.

But what this means (on a personal level) is that… They win. They are everything Gabriel knows to be Wrong and Unnatural, and yet they’ll walk away from this war undefeated and untouchable. And he can tell that Aziraphale knows too, judging by the smug little smile on his face. Bastard. Why couldn’t he have died in the hellfire like the defective little angel he is?

Maybe it’s only the two of them who have gone so wrong, the only two who could, but he can’t take the chance. He knows full well what a powerful weapon doubt is.

Grasping onto the one thing in the conversation that he feels able to respond to, he says:

“It’s past midday, isn’t that a little… late to open up?” and Aziraphale tilts his head.

“Have you never read the sign on the door?”

And Gabriel — Archangel, Guardian of Truth, Divine Messenger and Commander of Celestial Armies — retreats, beaten on all fronts.

______________________________________________

The door closes behind Gabriel, and they watch the wide, grey-clad back slowly walk around the corner and disappear, the footsteps eventually dissipating completely, blending in with the general melee of Soho of an afternoon.

Crowley isn’t quite sure what just happened. Aziraphale’s vice-like grip on his hand tells its own story, but the look on the angel’s face is something else again. He looks… almost transfigured, star-fire in his eyes and as if any second his wings will unfurl and he will ascend. And when he speaks it’s clearly mostly to himself, the words with the strange cadence and complete conviction of quoted scripture:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

The words tug at something that Crowley can’t put his finger on — like he’s heard them before, but…

All shall be well…

Familiar, but why?

And then he’s tumbling down the rabbit hole of memory, the past rising around him:

Winter evenings in front of the fireplace; Crowley curled up on the sofa under the stupidly wonderful, misshapen blanket that his angel had knitted for him and didn’t think good enough (he can feel the love in every stitch; he wants to keep it forever), his head in Aziraphale’s lap and Aziraphale’s hands gently running through his hair, poetry falling from the angel’s lips like autumn leaves, each finding its place and settling in. Crowley guesses at deeper meanings and connotations but is happy to let the words wash over him — the verses talk about eternity and the passing of time, reaching for the universe and the divine, of death and endings, the composition weaving imagery and allusions into a rich tapestry that Aziraphale can probably appreciate on about twenty-three different levels, most of which are wasted on Crowley. It's not unlike music, but then Crowley never cared to study music theory and will settle for just enjoying the sound.

All that said, he'd initially put his foot down hard when he saw Aziraphale eyeing up T.S. Eliot. “Not a chance in Hell,” he said determinedly. “Do you know how many people I’ve made miserable with The Waste Land? It’s supposed to be our…” (Special time? Quiet time? He'd not even known how to quantify it. The poetry readings have continued and he loves it beyond reason, but somehow talking about it isn’t really possible) — “Look, just no.”

(He'd almost added that he wouldn’t mind Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, but he knew from past experience how cross Aziraphale gets about Andrew Lloyd Webber — “Those delightful poems! That dreadful musical!” — and didn't want to unleash a new torrent of literary ire.)

“Oh I wouldn’t inflict The Waste Land on you, dearest,” Aziraphale replied mildly, “I was only thinking about the Four Quartets…” And something in his words, a barely there wistfulness, had made Crowley hesitate and then acquiesce. Listening, he realised that there was no particular meaning that Aziraphale had wanted to convey — he quite simply wished to share something that he held dear, to allow Crowley access to another part that he had not yet seen. It did strange things to Crowley’s insides, and he watched the fire slowly collapse down into embers in tranquil silence.

Except… occasionally he could hear his angel’s thoughts shining through and understood why these poems:

Do not let me hear / Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly, / Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession, / Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God. / The only wisdom we can hope to acquire / Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.

‘The folly of old men’, he thought wryly. And the angel’s fears laid bare: a belated apology in verse, so subtle it made him smile.

It was all warm, and cosy, and Crowley had been more-or-less lulled into a sense of security, when…

Who then devised the torment? Love. / Love is the unfamiliar Name / Behind the hands that wove / The intolerable shirt of flame / Which human power cannot remove. / We only live, only suspire / consumed by either fire or fire.

Aziraphale’s voice was as steady and calm as through all the rest, but Crowley felt the words piercing him to his core. Four Quartets’ worth of musings on life and death and time and then this at the end — it was like stealth warfare: the holy terror and the pain. ‘Intolerable shirt of flame’ — yes, he thought. Yes, that’s what it's like. And yet he held it close, having willingly fitted himself for the garment and worn it for millennia, never wanting to let go. Its absence would be the worst thing he could imagine.

Occasionally it strikes him as utterly ludicrous that they both spent so long holding back — and yet, and yet…

Aziraphale has poetry. Crowley has Madonna.

Leave it alone / Hold it all in / Better a bone / Don't even begin / With so much to win / There's too much to lose

He could have waited another six thousand years if he’d needed to. Because the fear of loss had always outweighed the hoped for happiness.

And now, looking at that dear, beloved face shining with such radiance it’s like looking at the sun, with bloody Eliot suddenly stuck in his head as the Archangel Fucking Gabriel slinks off down the street, he marvels at how it can possibly be real, how he is allowed this. How hasn’t he been burned to a crisp; how hasn’t the Almighty struck him down from above for daring to lay his hands on something so holy…

Because the fear of Aziraphale turning him down has now been replaced with a different kind of terror. He lost Heaven for reasons he doesn’t quite understand (and good riddance, all told), but — having now found something infinitely more precious — he is desperate not to somehow lose his new world to the machinations of Above or Below.

Crowley is intimately familiar with the kind of ‘justice’ they dole out in Hell, and has (twice, now) been on the receiving end of Heaven’s punishments himself — is still living with the scars. And once more Eliot is stealing through his mind, the words not pretty allusions but harsh reality:

The only hope, or else despair / Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre - / To be redeemed from fire by fire.

How many more fires do they need to go through? Or have they finally done enough? Are they free now?

“Angel — are we okay?” he asks, needing something more than cryptic quotes (the fear is bone-deep: that Aziraphale will be taken from him and he will be left in flames and ashes like before), and abruptly Aziraphale turns to him, all that joy and light surging towards Crowley, like a flood he might drown in if he’s not careful.

“Yes. Yes everything is wonderful!” the angel exclaims before grabbing hold of him, pulling him in for a kiss that is more about being unable to contain the sheer jubilation inside than anything else. Crowley merely clings on, feeling not unlike he is back in the heavens, newborn stars around him, the sheer explosive force of the love awe-inspiring in its intensity.

Once, now many centuries ago, he’d had a tiny glimpse — a darkened street in Paris, a broken bottle, a kiss that had seared him more deeply than he had ever dared to let on. He’d never known what to do with that memory, and it’s one (of many) surprises of living with Aziraphale that it had not been a fluke, or a mistake, but merely the dam overflowing for a brief moment.

The simple truth of his life is that the angel in his arms contains the world, and he smiles against Aziraphale’s mouth, quite simply basking — but it causes the angel to break the kiss and Crowley just looks at him, at this impossible creature wrapped in layers of tartan and down, an iron fist in a fluffy cotton glove. Crowley may yet drown in love, but he also has a keen sense of the absurd:

“What exactly just… happened,” Crowley asks, grinning and somewhat breathless. “Because that looked like Gabriel backing down…”

And Aziraphale shakes his head, the stars and fierceness replaced with dancing amusement.

“I don’t really know. But we won!”

“I hope I… helped,” Crowley offers. “I did think of channeling Dr. Frank-N-Furter, but figured something a little more low-key might be preferable…”

Miracle-ing an outrageous outfit in the blink of an eye — something strong enough to floor an angel, but not his particular angel — had been mostly instinct, but judging by the look on Gabriel’s face it had worked a treat.

And by the way Aziraphale bites his lip, a good call.

“Yes, it’s quite, quite perfect. Thank you. Not that I have anything against the alternative — it’s rather fetching — but for this occasion…”

“Couldn’t let you take on Heaven’s top psycho all by yourself, the way you had to face down Hastur and his cronies while I was bedridden,” Crowley says, superfluously, and brings up the angel’s hand to his lips and kisses it. He is too full of emotions — the sudden dread and alarm that Gabriel’s voice had evoked is still there at the back of his mind: the fact that their sanctum could be breached so easily, that for all they knew Gabriel had brought a host of angels to smite them, doing Sodom and Gomorrah, The Reprise. And he still remembers far too clearly the contempt on Gabriel’s face as he’d ordered ‘Aziraphale’ into the column of hellfire.

He doesn’t say it, but if Gabriel had tried to lay so much as a finger on his angel, the smug bastard would have discovered just how much wrath a simple snake can unleash. (Hell hath no fury like a demon whose angel husband has been threatened.)

“And I didn’t,” the angel replies, warmly. “Although I did get a little worried that… he might faint.” Mirth rises to the surface again, the relief setting in wholesale:

“Oh his face! What a den of iniquity he must have been imagining… Neither of us dressed at this time of day…”

“Well, if that’s the price to pay for an all-night Golden Girls marathon, then it’s worth paying,” Crowley sniffs, and Aziraphale beams back at him.

“It most certainly is.”

“Although…” Crowley says, pursing his lips speculatively and feeling like needling the angel a little more, now the danger is over. “Holy matrimony? Is it still holy when you got married in Vegas by an Elvis lookalike, and so drunk that when you tried to miracle a wedding cake it looked more like Eton mess?”

(They had hated Vegas just as much as Crowley had suspected they would and had ended up getting rather spectacularly drunk — and who had said what and dragged whom along to the Elvis chapel is forever lost to champagne, but he remembers telling Elvis just how long he had been in love with ‘his angel’ — there were a great many s’s in ‘six thousand years’, and he’d slurred them all — and Aziraphale talking about how Heaven would never forgive them and ‘good riddance to the bally lot of them!’, and the waitress who’d insisted on coming along crying her eyes out and saying what an inspiration they were. (She had, rather fittingly, been the spitting image of Eve, something they had made sure she knew, and they gave her a tip that would make sure that she’d never need to wait tables ever again.) The next morning they’d woken up in the bridal suite of the most garish hotel they’d ever seen, taken a moment to take on board their hazy memories and attendant shiny new rings, and then miracled some proper Twinings English Breakfast Tea to celebrate with before carrying on with their holiday. But Crowley finds a new pleasure in replying to the invariable questions with ‘Yes, that’s my husband.’ It is another step away from their past and towards a more earthly life. They’re married. Like humans do.)

“Well, what Gabriel doesn’t know…” Aziraphale replies primly, his smile deepening. “And it certainly worked a treat. Besides, what he said — what he called you-”

There comes that steel into his eyes again.

“I never understood the smiting thing before Hastur showed up, but this time I think I might actually have been able to do it…”

Crowley can feel all those emotions rising up again and does his best to quash them (hellfire dancing at the back of his mind — last time he’d missed; Gabriel wouldn’t have gotten lucky twice). But now is not the time for more drama. Instead he raises a sardonic eyebrow:

“I guess that’s one of the surprises of marriage — your other half becoming an actual avenging angel…”

“Oh shush,” Aziraphale replies, the anger fleeing once more as he fights giggles. “Before all this, did you say breakfast was on the menu?”

“Indeed. Although you’ll have to be quick about it if you want to open the shop…”

Aziraphale looks at him, so completely straight-faced it takes a second for Crowley to register the actual words:

“I didn’t say I was going to open it today…”

At this Crowley actually laughs out loud and slings an arm around the angel’s middle as they make their way up the stairs:

“You are incorrigible!”

“Dearest, I believe that’s why you love me,” Aziraphale replies and pinches Crowley’s bum.

Neither of them has noticed the archangel who doubled back in miracle time and has been silently observing them through the windows.

______________________________________________

Michael is waiting when he returns to Heaven.

Gabriel miracles a chair because he needs to sit.

Michael looks somewhat confused and waits for a while as he rests, elbows on knees and hands wrapped around each other, propping up his chin.

“Well?” she finally asks, and he shakes his head.

“I think… I think they were down there too long.”

He sees impatience flash in her eyes. An unusual sight, but this is an unusual situation.

Gabriel! Did you find out what Hell meant?”

He avoids her eyes, looking out over the beautiful vista before them.

“Yes,” he says finally. The earth and all its kingdoms — he can see them all. So ephemeral, so transient. Why would anyone make that choice?

(Gabriel has also never heard of Wings of Desire. Aziraphale, however, watched it almost daily in the cinema for as long as it was on, transported and enraptured, and even dragged Crowley along once: ‘It’s a film about us!’ he pleaded, forgetting to mention that it was in German with subtitles, black-and-white, and more than two hours long — and Crowley quickly discovered that Columbo’s name on the poster wildly exaggerated his presence, which appeared to be minimal to non-existent. Crowley had wanted to hiss that he had never in his life spent time just hanging around and listening to random people’s thoughts, that he was a demon, he did bad things, but one look at Aziraphale’s enchanted face and he’d simply adjusted his glasses and settled in for a good snooze. Aziraphale then went on to wear out four VHS cassettes before Crowley talked him into getting a DVD player. Having eventually caught most of the film in bits and pieces over the years, Crowley now knows that it’s about an angel who falls in love and chooses to become human — and that Aziraphale’s massive, enormous over-identification is quite poignant given their current domestic situation. But as previously stated, Gabriel knows nothing of this.)

“And? Can we do anything?” Michael asks.

“No,” Gabriel says with firm finality. “We leave them alone from now on. Completely. I’ll… I’ll do the paperwork: Official Banishment. They’ll be dealt with like any of the Earth-Natives — they are no longer our problem.”

Michael studies him, one eyebrow raised in obvious puzzlement.

“Explain?”

He closes his eyes, forehead falling onto his hands. He has never been a coward, but there is no way he can utter any of the words necessary. So he settles for the only explanation that will hopefully suffice.

“They got married.”

He slowly lifts his eyes to see the shifting expressions that flit across Michael’s face: she’s the tactician, the one thinking outside the box, and he knows this should be enough for her to work it out.

There is the initial confusion, then the automatic search for the traditional definition of marriage, and then, as the words sink in — ‘to have and to hold’ — the instinctive revulsion that he felt as well. He can see her trying to stifle the nausea as she looks at him, eyes wide and disbelieving, as she too brings forth a chair to sink into.

“No. No. Surely no one, but they’re… And he… with a demon?”

Gabriel nods in confirmation.

No,” she repeats, more firmly. “No, it must have been a ruse, a clever lie-”

“You didn’t see them!” Gabriel cuts her off. “It was afternoon, and they had clearly just… fallen out of bed because I showed up. Neither of them properly attired-” he drags a hand across his face as if somehow the motion will delete the image of the half-naked, lascivious Crowley, “and they had quite obviously been drinking extensively the night before. It all seemed very…” he searches for a word, “-hedonistic.”

Michael takes a moment to take it all on board, then straightens: prim, proper, resolute — reaching for the higher moral ground. Gabriel admires her very much.

“Well I pity them. We all know what misery such behaviour masks.”

Despite himself, Gabriel slowly shakes his head. He is concealing Secrets that he must keep silent for the rest of eternity, but he needs to convey something of the reality. In spite of everything, in spite of every fibre of his celestial being revolting at the very concept of what he has witnessed, he also knows the truth of what he saw (the kiss, the laughter, the indulgences, the sheer joy as observed through the windows). Like a final insult. How dare they?

“No. They were… happy.”

______________________________________________

When they’re at the breakfast table (it’s nearly one in the afternoon, but no one’s keeping track), Aziraphale tucking into his third croissant, Crowley casually tries to bring up the words that might not have been for him, but they’re bugging him now…

“So, that thing you were quoting, when Gabriel left — T.S. Eliot? No need for specifics, just a yes or no…”

“Well, yes and no,” Aziraphale begins, and Crowley tries not to groan. He should have left it. Now he’ll get all the footnotes, and he really does hate footnotes…

Then he notices the angel’s hesitation — how he’s not immediately a font of knowledge nor running off to fetch the volume in question. Which means they might have to talk about what just happened — beyond the fact that Crowley unsettled Gabriel himself with a well-placed flash of hipbone. (If he’d known it’d be so easy, he’d have tried it centuries ago…)

Setting down the half-eaten croissant on the plate, Aziraphale picks up his napkin and cleans off the crumbs still clinging to his hands and the corners of his mouth, and that in itself (he’s leaving the remainder?) is enough to propel Crowley into complete watchfulness.

“It was from ‘Little Gidding’, yes, but Eliot was quoting Julian of Norwich… I forget what she is now? Blessed Julian? I know they’re going to make her a Doctor of the Church, what with her being one of the great mystics. Centuries late of course, but there you are. Do you remember her?”

Crowley is lost. “Who?”

“Julian of Norwich? No bells?”

Crowley shakes his head. “When are we talking?”

“Fourteenth century,” Aziraphale replies, and Crowley does nothing to suppress the full-body shudder at the reminder.

“Let me guess,” he tries flippantly, “You did a miracle for her.”

Aziraphale almost laughs, but the amusement is tinged with something more profound, something like a strange melancholy. “Ah no, more like the other way around. She was an anchoress — you remember, those people who’d live walled into a tiny cell next to a church, and I — I went to see her.”

Crowley feels like there is something he is missing, something Aziraphale is trying to say, but the demon is not quite sure what it is. And, he has learned, just because you love someone to distraction doesn’t mean you always understand them. These days, however, he knows he can ask.

“I don’t follow,” he says, and the angel lowers his eyes, somehow very small all of a sudden. It seems incongruous that this is the same creature who saw off Gabriel not half an hour ago. When he speaks the vulnerability in his voice is clear.

“Well it was… the fourteenth century. Endless war, peasants’ revolt and first the Great Famine and then the Black Death — again, and again, and again… And I — I began to question things. How could She allow it all? Of course there is always suffering, but it was so relentless. So I, I went to see Mother Julian to ask for… insight, I suppose.”

His lips twist in a sad little wry smile.

“An angel going to seek help from a human, I know. It just — it was just so hard to keep faith, to keep believing that She really cares. I was supposed to be a beacon of hope, to help, but what miracles I performed felt like a drop in the ocean. One healed amongst the thousands upon thousands dead — what was the point of me?… I mean, I knew She would be testing them, but surely not to destruction?”

Crowley is stunned. He has railed against God many a time (and pleaded, and begged, and cried, and screamed), and now, these past few years, Aziraphale has been there, stalwart and solid, a rock he can crash against, an invariably calm presence, like his very own little Buddha — and yet, these are his own fears, his own desperation and pain, almost word for word.

You had doubts?” he asks (doubts about God, he means, not just Heaven), and Aziraphale nods: a tiny gesture, but it feels seismic.

“My ‘dark night of the soul’ should you want to be dramatic. Despair is a sin after all, and — as is abundantly clear — I am far too good at sinning. Despair was merely the latest in a long line.”

“And…?” Crowley prompts, hardly daring to breathe. They have known each other for six thousand years, but still there are so many things hidden: decades, even centuries when their paths barely crossed. Piece by piece the angel is slowly unfurling, allowing him deeper access, much like he himself is gradually trying to tear down the walls he has spent forever constructing.

Aziraphale looks into the distance for a long moment, and Crowley would give everything to know where he’s gone to.

“I wrote them all down. My sins. Or I tried — after all I was collecting them faster than you can say ‘Jack Robinson’. Some — most, I’d wager — you know, but others…”

He swallows, studies his hands. “I was… jealous of you.”

At this Crowley can only blink.

“Of me?”

“Oh yes. You had the strength of your convictions. You called things like you saw them. You walked away. I was too scared. Scared of Heaven, scared of… my own feelings.”

He looks up for the first time, fastens Crowley with a look that cuts him to the quick.

“And I wanted you. So much it choked me, and maybe that was the worst sin of all… I should have despised you, demon that you are, but I didn’t. Not at all. I’m sure you remember that kiss still?”

Crowley nods, mutely. Yes, he remembers.

“And I could have carried on forever, building barriers to hide behind, a fortress of imagined righteousness, as long as I knew that at least I was on the right side. That it was all for a greater cause. But the fourteenth century…”

He spreads his hands in a hopeless gesture.

“So I… went to see Mother Julian. After all she apparently had a direct line to the Almighty, which is more than I could ever claim. And I needed… something.”

Crowley’s inherent scepticism must be showing on his face (the number of humans throughout history who have claimed to hear God’s voice is… not inconsiderable, and most of them have been frauds or mentally unstable, or the voices have most decidedly not come from Above) because Aziraphale shoots him a look.

“I know what you’re thinking, but she was known for saying that we should think of God as our mother… And then, well, I met her.”

He stops for a moment, once more lost to the past as Crowley tries to adjust his cynicism. Aziraphale might always be thinking the best of others, but he’s not stupid, and he can smell out religious frauds as easily as Crowley. Then the angel continues, words slow and thoughtful.

“And there she was, in her tiny little cell, and yet at peace. And just… full of love. Trust me, there is no way to fake that. She had suffered, she’d almost died, she had seen the worst of the world. And she was grateful. Told me how without the suffering she’d never have had her visions, never gone so much further than most people can ever dream of, never seen into the heart of truth… Oh, I suppose I ought to mention that she knew exactly what I was. Very unsettling, to have someone look at you and just know.”

Crowley shifts, the idea deeply uncomfortable, but the angel doesn’t seem to notice.

“She explained that the way forward was through the fire and the pain. And once I was through, everything would be clear. It was all very… ineffable.”

A beat, then he meets Crowley’s eyes again and takes his hand across the table.

“Then she told me that all I would need were these words — which are now quite famous, but for a long time I felt like they were just mine: ‘Sin is behovely, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’”

He stops, clearly waiting for Crowley to take in the words. The ‘all shall be well’s is what the angel was whispering earlier on, but the bit about sin…

‘Behovely’, Crowley thinks, trying to recall language centuries gone, unearthing once familiar words not used for eons, and then-

“Sin is… necessary?” he asks, staring at Aziraphale, jaw slowly dropping.

The angel nods. “She believed that sin was necessary because it brings people to self-knowledge, which then leads to…” he hesitates, “…acceptance of God’s plan in their lives. Please don’t misunderstand: she thought sin was dreadful — worse than Hell — but through her revelations came to understand why it existed. I’ve been mulling it over many times these past few years, but I think I’m finally beginning to get my head around it. Well, as much as I ever will — I’ve never been much of a mystic I’m afraid. But our lives, what we have been through — it’s been wretched, and yet… And yet, I wouldn’t change it. Because here we are, dear heart.”

He lifts Crowley’s hand, presses a kiss to his palm.

“And I would do it all again, every bit of it, if I could be sure you would be there at the end, waiting for me.”

Crowley desperately wishes for his glasses because he can feel his eyes stinging.

“Angel-” he chokes out, helpless.

“Wait,” Aziraphale cuts him off. “There is another side. Because you see — all this, what we have, and you, wonderful you… It’s only possible because you fell, because of all the pain you have been through, and I — how can I say that is ‘well’? Sin is behovely — you are behovely, to be as you are. But how could I rejoice in so much pain for you, when I love you so very much? I have struggled so terribly… And yet — where would we be otherwise? If I were not such a very bad little angel, failing at my very first assignment and riddled with sins? If you were not… you, if you hadn’t fallen… Would we even be here, like this? And the thought of losing this — losing you-”

He grasps Crowley’s hand harder, eyes brimming with love and pain as he shakes his head.

“So all I can do is to trust those words. ‘Sin is behovely — sin was necessary — and all shall be well.’ And that is… how I understand our story.”

Crowley can feel his throat growing tight, almost unable to speak at this avalanche of unexpected angelic contemplation and turmoil, and although it doesn’t answer all of his questions, one thing stands out…

“Are you saying-” he wets his lips, feeling almost feverish. “Are you saying you love me because I’m a demon?”

It is a terrible question, one he doesn’t want to ask: it cuts to fundamentals that shouldn’t be touched, and yet — what else can Aziraphale mean? They’re here not ‘despite’, but because… Because he asks questions that he shouldn’t, because he wanted to be on their own side, because he would rather cause mischief in Hell than toe the party line in Heaven…

Thousands of years of ‘demon’ thrown in his face, the angel brandishing it like a weapon — Get Thee Behind Me — he’d never be good enough, never, never; he was Fallen and that was all he’d ever be. And despite everything, despite all the love, the reassurances of how wonderful Aziraphale thinks he is (the stupid scarves that were ‘not good enough’), those thousands of years still weigh on him. (A broken kiss and a terrified look like the world was ending…)

‘Unforgivable. That’s what I am.’

Because in order to be forgiven you need to repent, and he will never do that. But if the angel isn’t looking to forgive, if the fault is a virtue… (‘you are behovely, to be as you are’ — it is necessary for him to be who he is.)

Aziraphale’s lips part in surprise at the question. It’s clear the angel has never thought of it in those terms, and for a moment Crowley can see him turning it over in his head as the demon feels like his whole world hangs in the balance.

“Yes, I suppose I am,” Aziraphale eventually replies, studying him with wonder — and all of a sudden there is no space between them at all since the table abruptly realises it needs to get out of the way immediately or it’ll be in pieces and thus duly shifts itself to being elsewhere.

Aziraphale’s mouth opens under his lips as Crowley desperately tries to let his body say all the things that words can never convey, a need he can’t explain or give voice to but feels like a dam bursting…

Let me love you Let me love you Let me love you Let me love you Let me-

All the poems in the world are as nothing compared to the feel of his angel’s body beneath his hands: the ridiculous tartan he miracles away in a heartbeat, needing touch and feel and taste, desperate to somehow anchor himself in physical reality as he feels himself coming undone, the emotions inside too big to contain—

 

The angel is his, all his, and he belongs to his angel.

All of him.

From the tips of his black wings to the very depth of his damned soul.

 

He doesn’t know whether he is falling or flying; all he is sure of is that the two of them are always there to catch each other — and even more so in moments like this. It’s only when he realises that Aziraphale is trying to talk to him that he manages to pause.

“Crowley — Crowley dearest, my love, my darling; this is wonderful, but please-”

He takes a breath and pulls back a fraction, realising that they have somehow ended up in the bedroom (must have been the angel moving them):

“Yes…?” he manages, and Aziraphale looks at him with concern mixed with bewilderment:

“Dearest — are you okay?” the angel asks, and Crowley blinks. He is far, far beyond ‘okay’, somewhere entirely new…

Stop.

Breathe.

Breathe again.

Unable to speak further he merely nods and then forces himself to focus on his immediate surroundings, trying to tether himself to the world—

The angel: concerned, loving eyes; soft, plump, delicious body beneath him; a gentle hand against his face.

It’s overwhelming — that gaze, knowing what it contains, the sheer weight and joy of it too much to bear — and he looks further out.

The ancient bed frame that he has grown to love, the rumpled bedding, the drawn-back curtains framing the room and the myriad plants scattered around it…

Oh. Oh.

Green leaves throughout the room are shaking — not with fear (not that they have ever felt fear; they’re spoiled rotten) but as if the earthquake within him has set invisible waves slowly rippling through their private little Eden. The leaves of the Golden Pothos on the bedside table are almost tickling him where they are spilling over, Aziraphale’s Peace Lily is fluttering delicately, and the Sansevieria on the dresser is looking positively shocked. The rest of the greenery is equally disturbed — even the usually unflappable Aloe Vera and the tranquil Lavender on the windowsill seem disconcerted.

Taken aback, he closes his eyes, trying his best to parse his feelings. He can’t explain it, but it’s like something that has been off-centre for longer than he can articulate has shifted, like invisible cogs somewhere have moved a fraction and suddenly things have clicked into place, like doing a sum that would never work out and suddenly the answer is there, all the numbers lining up in neat rows.

Unexpectedly he finds himself beginning to laugh. It’s ridiculous, the whole thing: Aziraphale agonising about the state of his faith for the best part of seven centuries and that the solution has somehow freed Crowley too; the fact that they sent Gabriel packing, that they might actually be safe, that everything is right with the world…

The knowledge that the world is theirs — and they belong to the world. Six thousand years and counting and they have been home the whole time.

“But what did I say?” Aziraphale asks, and — looking at his by now thoroughly puzzled angel — Crowley simply laughs more, the flood of uncontainable joy dancing through him. He feels drunk with happiness.

When he can finally speak, it’s to utter a single word — exaggerating the pronunciation as much as possible, the syllables pompous and wonderful:

Behovely,” he says, grinning, and then dives back in before the angel can reply except with a delighted smile.

Their touches and movements are no longer hesitant; they have done this time and again, explored and discovered, found the endless paths to joy and ecstasy, and he knows exactly how to make love to his angel.

Kisses and caresses, intimate touches to stoke the fires that grow so readily, the feel of skin against skin, desire speeding up pulses and breathing: making love, creating love with nothing but their shared feelings and bodies, love blossoming through and between and around them in their garden of earthly delights. It’s a magic they will never tire of. Daring to be like humans, to reach from black & white into dazzling colour…

And in his mind Madonna is singing, triumphantly:

I hear you call my name
And it feels like
Home

______________________________________________

Later

It must be at least two in the afternoon, the sheets coiled about their knees, and they are smoking (“I’ll miracle the smell away, c’mon angel, you know this is what smoking was invented for — the post-coital fag… Besides, you just told me that sin was necessary”), and Crowley, with lazy indifference, notices an empty bottle of Nice Sancerre (a souvenir from their most recent trip to France) that has rolled under the chair in the corner. But he doesn’t move from where he is curled up on Aziraphale’s soft chest, perfect contentment surrounding them.

He won’t admit it out loud, but he too might actually be beginning to believe that all is well, and all is well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

~The End~