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(19. Sling) / An offer he will never refuse

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“Oh, for fuck's sake.” Aziraphale and Anathema could hear the exasperation in Crowley's voice from the nursery all the way to the living room.

“I was just trying- this is very new, okay?” Newt tried to protest (he'd learned to be a bit more forward with the two powerful entities Anathema called their friends, but a deathglare from Crowley was still enough to silence him).

“So's the baby, and you're gonna break her if you keep at it like that. And what you're doing is not new, we had those in Mesopotamia, you humans should know how to do it by now.”

Anathema gave Aziraphale a quizzing look, who could do nothing but shrug. Not a very re-assuring thing for a new mother to see (or hear) after leaving her baby alone with its father and a literal demon (even one she trusted without a doubt) for the first time.

“Here, let me do it. You have to pull it over this way, and then twist it.”

“That's what I tried to do!”

The voices from the nursery continued, and Anathema leant over for a whisper. “What exactly are they doing?”

“Oh, don't worry dear, I'm sure it's-”

“Tadah!” Newt came through the door with arms outstretched, a proud smile on his face. The baby swaddled in fabric across his chest gave a slight gurgling sound, as if to join in.

“Oh!” Anathema's worried face lifted. “You figured out how to use the sling!” They'd gotten it as a gift a week ago, and it had laid unopened next to the changing table ever since.

“There's not much to figure out, these things are old as anything.” Crowley came in after Newt. “You humans just forget some of the best basics and have to rediscover them all the time.”

“At least they're always willing to learn.” Aziraphale interjected as Anathema nodded.

“Exactly. That said, would you mind showing me how to do it too? In case Newt forgets again.”

 

 

“I'm a bit surprised, to be honest.” Anathema mumbled to Aziraphale as they were cleaning up the kitchen after tea. “I wouldn't have expected Crowley to be the one of you two to know about babies.”

They both looked back into the living room, where Crowley was swaying around with the baby in his arms while Newt was on the floor, trying his best to put together the crib Anathema's mum had sent over, and which they hadn't had time to built before the baby came (so far, she had been absolutely content to sleep in the large, flat, padded carrier his parents had gotten them).

“I mean, I know he's good with Adam and the others, but a baby is a whole different thing.”

“Oh, he's good with all ages, dear.” Aziraphale's smile was endlessly soft, and Anathema knew she would never see it on his face other than when he was talking about Crowley. “For as long as I can remember, Crowley's always had kids.”

A short pause, a questioning look, and Aziraphale was left stammering. “No- not like that, I mean, he hasn't had- only humans- I mean- he's always cared for children, is what I mean.” He cleared his throat. “I mean, I like children, too! But he's always been more, well, hands-on. Is that the right phrase?”

Anathema nodded. There was a lot to unpack here, but it was neither the time nor the place to ask her usual bout of questions about their past.

Their eyes went back to Crowley and the baby instead, who was currently busy covering Crowley's designer jacket with drool, and Aziraphale remembered Crowley in tunicas, in medieval gowns, in thick woollen cloth, in blazer and pencil skirt, always in the same pose, a quietly gurgling baby in his arms.

 

 

3 am, and the phone was buzzing. Aziraphale only grumbled as Crowley sat up to answer it.

“It's the witch, angel, I can't just ignore it.” He mumbled before tapping the green phone button (a sentence Aziraphale knew all too well by now, considering he heard it almost every other day, when Anathema called or messaged with questions, with worries, with anything she didn't dare bring up to anyone else). What followed was, as always, a series of hm's, aha's and okay's before he sighed and leaned back into bed.

“Is her belly really firm?”

Pause. An answer from the other end. Aziraphale could see a grin building on his face.

“Make her fart.”

“Crowley!” He could hear Anathema even through the phone.

“No, I'm serious. Get her to fart somehow. If that doesn't help, go to A&E, but I promise you it will.”

He hung up after a bit more from the other end of the connection Aziraphale couldn't make out, and snuggled back down into his angels side.

“Admit it,” Aziraphale smiled, even if being woken up at 3 am by a panicked mummy was not his idea of a good night. “You really like this.”

“What?”

“Anathema coming to you with all her questions.”

“Well, I am pretty smart.”

“And you love helping out with the little one.”

“Well, she's a kid.” Crowley buried his face in tartan pyjamas, but Aziraphale could tell he was smiling as well. “What's not to love?”

 

 

“I know this is very last minute, but would you mind babysitting Mory tonight?” Anathema's voice was almost apologetic as she stood in the bookshop, the baby in one arm, a bag of supplies in the other. Newt, next to her, held a few bags more. “Newt's mum said she'd take her, but she got sick, and we can't cancel-”

Crowley'd already lifted the baby out of her arms. “You wanna pick her up later, or in the morning?”

“Oh, we'll come pick her up later, don't worry. And thank you!”

Crowley grimaced as she put the bag down to place a peck on his cheek. Aziraphale got a smiling wink. “We'll bring some of those pastries as payment, okay? And maybe some wine?”

 

Aziraphale smiled over the edge of his book at the little scene unfolding on the sofa in front of him. The baby had been fed (by Crowley), bathed (by Crowley, with a little help from him), changed (by Crowley), and was now soundly sleeping and snorting (on Crowley, who was lying on the sofa in his usual sprawl, only now with a tiny human on his chest, and Aziraphale was surprised to notice it was not that unusual a sight for him). The demon shot him a glare that very clearly said what he was not willing to say out loud, lest he wake up the baby.

“Are you gonna be able to hand her back to Anathema, dear?”

Crowley snorted and sat up, carefully placing the baby in her carrier. “I always give them back, don't I? No baby stealing from this demon.”

“Of course.” Aziraphale tried to return to his book, but there was something still stuck in his mind. A wrong turn of phrase he'd used weeks ago, a thought that had crept in.

“Have you ever... I mean... did you ever want one you don't have to give back?”

Crowley stared at him, which didn't make the situation any less uncomfortable.

“You know what I mean.”

“You're asking me if I want to have a baby? Is that really your way of bringing this up?”

“I was just- I was thinking about it, well, not it, more about you-” the stammering was not helping him get his thoughts out, and Crowley's amused smirk wasn't either, “I just realised that as far back as I've known you, you were always a caretaker in some way. You love children. It's not such a leap of imagination, isn't it? That you might want to keep one?”

“Aziraphale.” Crowley sighed, a short pause looking at little Morrigan still snuffling and moving in her carrier. “I do love children.” Another pause, before he looked back up again, a smile on his face that was luckily far less sad than Aziraphale would've expected it, albeit not a happy one either. “But can you imagine the chaos- logistics not withstanding, just, the whole implication of us – and the morals of it? Really, no.” Crowley ended his sentence, which hadn't really said much at all, but more than enough for Aziraphale to understand. He nodded. “I'm perfectly happy being the nanny.”

Aziraphale looked at him, as he brushed over the whisps of black hair on Morrigan's head, and he could tell. He was perfectly happy.

 

--

 

“Okay, so I have a question.” Anathema was bouncing the pram up and down, much to Morrigan's squealing delight. She'd just woken up, which was pretty much the only reason why she wasn't already on Crowley's lap, where she usually ended up during any of their meetings. “And I trust you'll tell me if it's really inappropriate, or insulting.”

“Sure.” She'd bombarded Crowley with questions ever since Morrigan had been born, and both of them with very different questions long before that, and only about 20% of those had been inappropriate, so that wasn't anything new.

“And we can absolutely change the wording if you want, besides, Newt and I don't really believe in the- the original religious aspect of it anyway, we don't need the whole ceremony, but it's a tradition, and I think it's a good one, and he agrees-”

Aziraphale sneaked a smile in Crowley's direction as she blabbed on, and was not surprised to see it returned. They both knew where this was heading.

“Anyway.” Anathema interrupted herself long before either of them could and picked the baby up out of the pram, handing it over to Crowley almost immediately. “Newt and I wanted to ask you if you would be Morrigan's godfathers.”

“You mean that's not what we've been doing already?” Crowley's voice was mocking in a way Anathema knew all too well, and she answered it with a grimace.

“You are impossible.” The grimace turned into a smile as the baby began slobbering over Crowley's hand holding her upright. “But I suppose you're right. We would just like to make it official, then.”

“We'd be honoured, Anathema.” Aziraphale tried to give the situation a bit more gravitas, which was a fruitless endeavour with these two. Anathema was already rambling, only spurred on by Crowley's nodding replies.

“But you have to know, we don't want it to just be a title-”

“Yeah, I agree.”

“You're already babysitting a lot, and we might have to ask for more favours in the future-”

“As always.”

“And we'd want you there for birthdays, too, and first school days and graduations and-”

“Sure.”

“And she's going to bug you when she gets older, and she'll have a lot of questions-”

“Well, we're pretty used to that, she's your kid after all.”

A toothy smile, and Anathema finally stopped and sighed with a smile on her own.

“Alright. Don't know why I was so worried about all that.”

 

Later, as Aziraphale and Crowley were left standing in the door, waving after the pram rattling down the street, the angel couldn't help but smile as he took the demon's hand.

“Godparents. What a lovely surprise.”

“Not really a surprise, angel.”

“I know, but still.” He squeezed his hand, leant on his shoulder. “It's very sweet of her.”

“We'll get a chance to do it right this time, I guess.”

“Oh, dear. You've been doing it all perfectly well for centuries.”