Somewhere in New Zealand, 1990
The starry night was silent, or as silent as nights generally get, which is to say there were the sounds of wind, bugs, sleepy sheep noises, and, in this case, cursing and pleading.
"Turn around, just fucking turn around, you stupid bloody sheep, I--"
Glory streamed from the sky. Golden light pulsed, trumpets sounded, choral music swelled. An angel descended, white wings spread, arms held out, their face concealed by radiance too great to look at. "BE NOT AFRAID."
"Fuck fuck fuck--" The shepherd, if that was what it was, scrambled back in panic, utterly failing to be not afraid. "Look, don't get mad, can see you're busy, I'll be getting along now, popping back to Hell, no need for a fight."
The glorious angel tittered. Distinctly tittered, as the radiance faded and they took a more ordinary, if immaculate, human form.
"*Aziraphale." Crowley hesitated, torn between relief, fury, joy and amusement, and settled on the last one. He flung his head back and laughed and laughed. "Oh, you bastard. Come here." He lunged forward and threw his arms around the angel, and it was only when Aziraphale stopped giggling and stood suddenly stock still that Crowley realised he had never embraced him before. He stumbled back for the second time this evening, and they stared at each other. For lack of anything else not too revealing to say, Crowley repeated "You bastard."
Eventually they found themselves sitting side and side on a log, staring at the sheep. "You really are a bastard," Crowley said. "I thought you were Gabriel, coming to announce the next messiah. Or Sandalphon announcing the first. Did you ever get a firm confirmation from Headquarters on that one?"
Aziraphale pursed his lips, wrinkled his brow and looked unhappy, which Crowley knew well enough to read as She doesn't talk to us about things anymore. He felt slight compunction over his urge to keep prodding, keep encouraging Aziraphale to question, keep--keep what? He didn't really want his angel to fall. Just to keep him company. That would be more evil than even a demon could contemplate.
He wanted to apologise and couldn't. Instead he rambled on. "Or Michael. You have no idea how terrifying that would be."
"Why Michael?" Aziraphale, looking curiously at him, sidelong under perfect long lashes. Crowley wished he wouldn't, and wished he would, and couldn't sort it out at all. "You always seem to have it in for her. She's a bit strict, but she's not so bad, really."
"You imagine sitting in a paddock full of sheep and your Dad shows up. Especially when she's a straight-laced wanker."
"Oh." Those pretty lashes blinked. "I don't know why that surprises me. You had to be Created somehow. Born from tears, eh?"
Crowley would do anything to stop Aziraphale looking at him in that tender, compassionate way. "So what are you doing here, angel? I thought you hated this neck of the woods." Aziraphale hummed under his breath and didn't answer. "On assignment?" Aziraphale stared at his plump fingers, twining and entwining, and still said nothing. Crowley was very good at seeing in the dark, and he was almost sure there was pink creeping up from Aziraphale's neck.
Is it me? Did you come see me? Oh, angel, it's been twenty-three years. Tell me you missed me. Tell me that was slow enough. Tell me you came looking. To New Zealand, of all places.
"What are you doing? You seemed to be yelling at some sheep."
"Oh, yeah. Well, it was a great idea." Crowley beamed. "This was practice. Do you know there's thirty-nine million sheep in this place? Imagine how much terror and chaos it will cause if one morning the humans wake up and every sheep is facing in the other direction." 1
"Brilliant, my dear," Aziraphale said politely.
"Yeah. Only they're stubborn, sheep. And apparently have no terror of demons. Or at least of me." Crowley sighed, resisted with practiced skill the impulse to take Aziraphale's hand, and leaned back, staring at the sky.
"I'm sure you're very intimidating."
"Oh, shut up." Crowley felt ridiculously happy. Here, under the stars, the baaing and bleating of sleep, the warm presence of his angel by his side. He felt a surge of courage.
"Let's have a picnic tomorrow," he said casually. Aziraphale tensed by his side, and he rushed on. "The cheese here, it's amazing, you need to try it." Every time he had tasted some, he had thought of Aziraphale, what he would look and sound like taking the salty creaminess into his mouth. "And they have these coffees--flat whites. Ristrettos with the glossiest, most velvety textured milk. They think they invented them."
"The Australians think they invented them." Crowley grinned to himself. "Simultaneously. But each thinks they are first and the other country tried to steal the credit. You have no idea the amount of bickering and bad feeling between the nations it causes."
"And who invented them, or do I really need to ask?" sighed Aziraphale.
"I always did like coffee." Crowley grinned. "And pointless hostility and resentment between otherwise friendly nations. Ask me about pavlova some time."
Aziraphale gave him a suspicious look. "No flavoured syrups in flat whites?"
"Who do you think I am? I'm not that evil."
"I think you are someone who has four sugars in your tea. Pure chaotic wickedness."
Crowley laughed, tried not to hug him. "Come on." He couldn't manage puppy-dog eyes, not with these yellow snake-like things, but he was good at pleading eyebrows. "A picnic. You promised."
Aziraphale's mouth and brow were worried, but his eyes were very soft and liquid. "All right. See you tomorrow night. Here, at the same time."
And he was gone, leaving enough time for Crowley to panic thoroughly and over-cater. Even if you could over-cater for Aziraphale.
Aziraphale oohed and aahed satisfactorily over the local cheeses Crowley produced. Buffalo mozzarella,, camembert, burrata, maasdam, washed-rind, ash-coated goat's cheese, ricotta, haloumi.
"I wasn't sure what you'd like, so I bought them all," he said nonchalantly, pulling out some old gouda and blue cheese. Bread, crisp around the edges and fluffy white inside. Manuka-smoked cultured butter. Local honey. Crayfish salad. A pavlova, creamy oand miraculously unsquashed, adorned with berries and kiwi fruit. Flat white coffees, miraculously still hot and velvety. And in pride of place--
Pan-fried pāua, nestled back in their shimmering blue shells.
Do you remember Rome, angel? The first time you approached me, rather than the other way around. The first time you asked me to spend time with you and seemed eager for me to agree. I was so sad, so sickened, on the point of giving up on the humans and going back to Hell--and then you. Luminous, kind, and taking such joy in those damned oysters, so much pleasure, so that I kept forgetting to eat and just kept watching you. My light, hope to a demon. Look at these, Aziraphale. Pretty oysters--well, pretty snails, I guess. Gleaming like you. Remember, remember.
He has no idea if oysters in Rome even meant anything to Aziraphale.
"Oh, it looks all delightful," cooed Aziraphale, spreading gooey camembert on a stick of bread, and Crowley tried not to smirk bashfully. He leaned back to watch the show.
It should be daylight. He should be watching his angel lit up by sunshine, playing in the pale curls, warm and golden on the soft curves of his cheeks and neck. But if moonlight and starlight was what he got, he would take it. Aziraphale unselfconsciously gathered up some cambermbet on his finger and licked it off, and Crowley shivered. Yes, he would take it.
He watched in fascination as Aziraphale tried everything, chewed and tasted and made small sounds of appreciation. He wondered if the angel had any idea how enrapturing he was in his unabashed enjoyment.
"Won't you eat too, dear?" Aziraphale asked softly. "You went to all this trouble."
Crowley cut a slice of aged cheese, popped it in his mouth, savoured the umameiand salt as he chewed slowly and swallowed, but the real pleasure was in Aziraphale's increased joy, the gentle lifting of his thin expressive lips.
"Are you happy, Crowley?"
Crowley blinked. He had never, in his entire existence, been asked that except in angry, blaming tones. Now he was here with Aziraphale, looking at him kindly, looking as if his happiness was important. He wasn't sure how to handle it.
"Demons aren't supposed to be happy. Pleasure and enjoyment, yeah. Happiness, no." Aziraphale's face fell, the wrinkles in his forehead deeper, and Crowley reached out, clutched his hand. "Yeah." He passed a thumb across the back of Aziraphale's hand, and told the truth. "I'm happy."
"I'm so glad." Aziraphale was actually glowing in the dark. "Do try this honey, it's amazing." He dipped a spoon in the honey and held it out to Crowley. Honey. RIch and golden and sweet and--oh, it felt like Aziraphale was offering himself, and that was a ridiculous, insane, dangerous thought. Crowley parted his lips, and let the honey pass into his mouth, held it there, let it dissolve.
"It's beautiful." His voice was thick.
"Try the butter." Aziraphale's voice was strange too, his movements quick and jerky as he spread butter on bread. "Here." He broke off a piece, and held it to Crowley's lips.
Crowley had imagined, so many times, hand-feeding Aziraphale. Dreamily imagined it, as they shared meals together. Meltingly, when he saw something his angel would like. Desperately, frantically, ashamedly, alone and consumed with craving, carried away with the thought of doing something, anything, that would mean he was causing the angel pleasure, admitting to himself that he would rather make Aziraphale made a pleased sound with than any carnal pleaure with anyone else, admitting to himself that desire was fiery and demonic and, yes, carnal.
Crowley had never imagined Aziraphale hand-feeding him. He felt vulnerable and exposed, and saw the same expression in Aziraphale's face. Eating--eating was special to Aziraphale. A special pleasure. And he was sharing it... Aziraphale's hands were trembling, which was only fair, because Crowley was trembling from head to toe.
He took the bread into his mouth. The cultured and smoked butter was tangy, nutty. Sweet from the honey, creamy. And the salty, burned taste of the smoking, a whiff of Hell in all the heaven. Not ruining it. Making it better.
"I've missed you," breathed Aziraphale, and Crowley surged forward and kissed him.
Too much, too fast, he warned himself, but Aziraphale's shoulders were rounded and warm under his clasping hands and Azirphale's lips, sweet and salty with cheese and honey, were returning the kiss, warm solid arms coming up around him as if helpless to do anything else. He was kissing the angel, and the angel wasn't kissing him away, he was returning the kiss so sweetly, so tenderly, so longingly. Crowley didn't dare deepen it, didn't dare risk losing this miracle, the lips against his, the arms around his back in the quiet night.
Just let me have this moment, he prayed, to--God? Satan? Aziraphale? I can live in this moment forever, whatever else happens. I love him so desperately.
Aziraphale pulled away eventually, and Crowley stared into his face, so pale in the moonlight, his eyes looking dark for once--night time or desire? He didn't know, could only hope. "Aziraphale," he whispered. "Please."
Aziraphale shook his head violently, the moment passing, fear coming back. He dropped his arms. "Not here. Anyone--anyone could see."
I want to kiss you here, Crowley thought rebelliously. Kiss you and kiss you and claim you, right under heaven, so they can see you belong to me, see you choose me, see you are mine.
And then what? his conscience asked. And why did he even have a bloody conscience? The pathetic angelic remnant was just a disadvantage to a demon. You want to take being an angel away from him?
"Come back to my hotel, then," he said, anyway. He was a demon. Selfish. "We can be alone--angel. Please." He was pleading without hope.
Aziraphale shook his head. It was inevitable, but it still hurt. "Don't make this harder. We are enemies--with an Arrangement."
Crowley wouldn't cry. Wouldn't manipulate Aziraphale that way. "Then let me buy you coffee tomorrow. You haven't drunk yours."
He thought Aziraphale would refuse. The angel was chewing his lip and looking down as if he was going to say no and flee.
"Yes. You worked so hard on flat whites. I owe it to you to taste them."
Aziraphale's mouth twisted, as if Crowley wasn't the only one trying not to weep. "Don't thank me." He took a breath. "Anyway, I should thank you. This picnic, it was marvellous."
"Don't thank me," Crowley echoed, bitterly.
Aziraphale stood, fussily brushed crumbs off his neat trousers--and what was wrong with Crowley that watching those pampered hands brush Aziraphale's wonderfully thick thighs still sent fire lancing through him?--and looked down at him.
"Well. At least let me show my gratitude." Aziraphale flicked his fingers in the air, and there was a disturbed bleating.
All the sheep in the paddock were facing in the other direction.
"Angel." Despite all his mixed emotions, Crowley felt a grin creep over his face. "Just here?"
"All over New Zealand, I'm afraid." Aziraphale paused, then a glimmer of a smirk crept across his face. "And Australia."
"Angel," Crowley repeated, adoringly.
Aziraphale's smirk increased, then Crowley was alone in the silent night.
Something like thirty years later, when there had been many kisses, and many picnics, and much much more, when they could walk openly together hand in hand under the sky, and kiss there, Crowley stopped at a coffee stall and bought a flat white.
Aziraphale made a face. "They don't make them properly in England, you know that."
"Don't care. " Crowley looked at the slimy mess that was supposed to be milk microfoam, and sipped it dubiously. They had used a long shot of espresso, not ristretto, and burned it to boot. "It's a good memory."
"Yes, it is. The first time my husband kissed me."
"My glorious, terrifying angel."
Aziraphale pouted. "Oh, you make have quaked a bit, but you've never been afraid of me."
"No. No, somehow I never have been." Crowley snapped his fingers to dispose of the awful excuse for coffee, and went for Aziraphale's mouth, which was much sweeter instead. "But don't pretend to be Gabriel again."
Aziraphale shuddered. "Never." He smiled up at Crowley, whose heart turned over and over. "Shall we have another picnic today, my beloved?"
"Only if you promise to hand feed me," he said, and Aziraphale laughed happily, and, oh.
All was calm, and all was bright.
1 Inexplicable phenomena were not in themselves unusual on the Discworld. Rains of fish, for example, were so common in the little landlocked village of Pine Dressers that it had a flourishing smoking, canning and kipper-filleting industry. And in the mountain regions of Syrrit many sheep, left out in the fields all night, would be found in the morning to be facing the other way, without the apparent intervention of any human agency. --Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man.↩