The image of Aziraphale — his bowtie undone and his coat long abandoned, his shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows — with a newborn tucked snugly in the crook of his arm like some sort of overworked, angelic nanny will stay with Crowley long after this world is nothing but a smoking crater. Whatever Aziraphale says about having no experience with children, he’s a bloody natural. Even bounces the babe a bit as he moves, doing his best to soothe the Destroyer of Worlds’ whimpers as he scolds the movers for not being careful enough with his Oscar Wilde collection.
When he’d shown up at the bookshop with the Prince of Darkness in a basket, Crowley hadn’t been sure what to expect aside from Aziraphale’s panicked demands of take that creature back where it came from right this moment. Possibly to be thrown out of the shop on his arse. Definitely to be told absolutely not if he managed to get Aziraphale to listen to his outlandish plan. He certainly hadn’t expected to find himself absconding with the spawn of Satan and fleeing London to hide in the South Downs and raise him with an angel.
Which is exactly why he refuses to give up this awful, marvelous world. It’s full of surprises.
“Hello there! You must be the new neighbors, then?”
Reluctantly tearing his attention away from Aziraphale’s ever-so-sweet attempts at being stern while holding a suspiciously cute Great Beast, Crowley turns on his heel. A young woman in yoga pants and a sports bra stands before him, beaming at him like she doesn’t notice the toddler strapped to her back and yanking on her ponytail. She jogs in place and it’s so obnoxious Crowley contemplates using up a bit of power to make her fall flat on her face.
“That’s us,” he says, deciding against it. Aziraphale is already in a scolding mood and he doesn’t want to risk it. Adjusting his sunglasses, he eyes the kid over her shoulder dubiously. If that’s what he has to look forward to, he’s definitely not growing his hair out again any time soon. He sighs and gestures over his shoulder. “Oi, Azir-” Sod it all, it’s the first day and he’s already cocking it up. “Ezra, we’ve got company. Sweetheart.”
Aziraphale whirls to stare at him. Crowley bares his teeth in an approximation of a smile. If it’s a little too sharp to be human, their neighbor doesn’t notice. Finally remembering himself, Aziraphale’s expression of mild alarm melts instantly into a pleasant, albeit nervous smile of his own.
“Hello,” he says, striding across the yard to stand beside Crowley. In his arms, the Bringer of the End of Lunches With Aziraphale coos happily. “Lovely to meet you…”
“Tessa,” the girl supplies, her eyes drawn instantly to the wriggling Father of Lies. “And who is this?”
“Oh, this is our son,” Aziraphale says, somehow managing to look the part of a proud father despite his last interaction with children likely being sometime just after the turn of the 19th century. He’d liberated scads of them from a workhouse and used his divine power to scare the bejesus out of the abusive warden — who had henceforth taken to a life of devout poverty. “Say hello to the nice lady, my dear.”
It had taken them nearly three days to agree on a name for the kid. Aziraphale had met all of Crowley’s suggestions — Damien, Faustus, and Cain — with disdainful sniffs and Crowley had blown increasingly insulting raspberries at Abraham and Jonah. It had been sometime after the Hellspawn had finally dropped off to sleep after another eventful day of screaming and spitting up all over Crowley’s favorite jacket but before they’d finished their second bottle of the good booze when they’d finally landed on something they could both agree on.
They’d had to go all the way back to the beginning — to the very first human and the very first name. Traditional enough to satisfy Aziraphale and clever enough to soothe Crowley’s need for irony. Adam.
It was Aziraphale who had peered into his dwindling fourth glass of brandy and said, “He should have your last name, don’t you think?”
Adam Crowley. It had a certain ring to it, in all fairness. But the longer Crowley sat there, sprawled on the sofa and staring at the baby sleeping on the cushion beside him, the less he liked it. He turned the name over and over in his mind, lips pursed and brow furrowed. It was a good name. Strong, slightly menacing. It was missing something.
Finally, he’d looked up and met Aziraphale’s curious gaze through the dark lenses of his glasses. “Fell-Crowley,” he’d muttered, watching Aziraphale’s blue eyes widen and his lashes flutter. “S’only fair, angel. This’ll only work if he’s half you anyway.”
And Aziraphale had smiled, glancing at the sleeping baby that had just become their responsibility for the next eleven years. He’d lifted his glass in a toast and murmured, “To our new Arrangement, then.”
Oblivious to the imminent ruin of all she holds dear, Tessa coos at the Dark Lord’s little bundle of misery. “Oh, isn’t he just precious?”
“Adorable,” Crowley mutters dryly, scowling when Aziraphale elbows him in the ribs.
“Thank you,” Aziraphale says, beaming to distract the girl. And it works, of course. Everyone in viewing distance is always briefly dazzled by the radiance of that wide, sweet grin. Present company included. “We certainly like to think so. Don’t we, Anthony?”
“Of course.” Crowley draws in a breath and musters up another dry smile from the depths of his weary, damned soul. “Takes after his father, doesn’t he?”
Aziraphale sighs, as though despairing of him. Feeling both brave and obnoxious, Crowley sidles closer and slips an arm around Aziraphale’s waist, subtly tugging him closer when the angel stiffens in his grasp. He squeezes Aziraphale’s hip in warning, turning his head to nuzzle at his cheek for good measure. With a sharply drawn breath and a shudder, Aziraphale leans heavily into Crowley’s side like a husband should.
When Crowley risks a glance at him, wondering if maybe he’d gone too far, Aziraphale is blushing. And not in that flushed, angry way he gets when Heaven calls him up for another team retreat. It’s the sweet flush that always colors his cheeks when he’s savoring a particularly good cup of tea or that time Crowley had kissed his hand at a ball in the 17th century.
Satisfied, Crowley rests his chin on his shoulder and drawls, “Can’t you see the resemblance?”
“Nonsense, my dear,” Aziraphale says through gritted teeth. “He’s the spitting image of you.”
Crowley scoffs and strokes a fingertip over the blonde fuzz covering the top of Adam’s head. “Not with that hair, he isn’t.”
“I think he’s the perfect combination of both of you. Such a sweet little guy.” Tessa glances at Crowley with a smile, clearly trying to peer past the dark lenses of his sunglasses. “Maybe he’ll have your eyes?”
Barely stifling a snort and unsuccessfully dodging Aziraphale’s elbow again, Crowley pastes on another grin and says, “Let’s hope not.”
It takes Crowley less than twenty-four hours after they’ve unpacked the last box and finally settled in for their official first night in the cottage before he realizes he has potentially made the worst mistake of his endless life. Not because he has kidnapped the Antichrist and legged it to the South Downs to raise him with his hereditary enemy. Not because if Hell finds out about his betrayal then he can expect millennia of torments under Dagon’s expert hand before subsequently being destroyed forever with a splash of holy water. Not because if they fail to make this kid normal enough to see ending the world as a bad thing then this planet Crowley has grown to know and love will cease to exist.
No, none of that.
The horrible mistake is simply this: He had, in a moment of heretofore unseen stupidity, convinced Aziraphale that they had to share a bedroom. Aziraphale had balked at first but Crowley expected that and quickly launched into an argument he’d laid out the night before like a battle plan.
We have to keep up appearances for Adam’s sake, he’d said. Once he grows up a bit, it’ll be weird if his parents don’t share a room. Aziraphale had hesitated, biting his lip. Crowley had stalked a circle around him, leaning in close. We have to look like a happy couple, angel, he’d pressed. We don’t want him growing up with issues about relationships, do we? Product of an unhappy marriage and the like. Perfect conditions for creating an Antichrist, that is.
Aziraphale, as Crowley had known he would, had caved.
And now, as always seems to happen, Crowley is dealing with the inconvenient fruits of his labor. Dressed in silk pajamas and huddled on his side of the bed, his heart thudding away in his chest, Crowley listens to the sounds of Aziraphale changing in the adjoining bathroom. He’s using every ounce of demonic willpower not to picture the angel half-dressed and fussing with his shirt cuffs. Leaning over the sink to fluff his hair in the mirror. His bare feet and his broad, sturdy chest Crowley has been itching to drape himself over since bloody Rome.
Nope, not thinking about any of that.
Stifling a groan, Crowley sprawls across his side of the bed and stares helplessly at the ceiling. “This is Your doing, isn’t it,” he mutters, glaring. “Pits of sulphur not punishment enough then, you old bag?”
He doesn’t expect a reply but there isn’t even time to complain about it just for good measure before the bathroom door opens and Aziraphale steps out smelling of vanilla and sandalwood, wearing tartan flannel pajamas beneath a dressing gown. He clutches the robe closed around his chest like he’s half-naked and trying to preserve his modesty under Crowley’s gaze. His cheeks grow pink as he approaches the bed, settling onto the edge of it and stepping neatly out of his slippers.
Crowley makes a show of pretending he’s still staring at the ceiling, all the while watching Aziraphale out of the corner of his eye. “Thought you didn’t sleep.”
“Well, no.” Aziraphale clears his throat, back straight and shoulders stiff as he stares at the wall opposite. “I thought I might pass the time reading, if you don’t mind.” He hesitates and though Crowley cannot see his face, he just knows the angel is worrying that plump bottom lip between his teeth. “Unless the light will bother you, of course. I could always read in the lounge or-”
“No,” Crowley says, sitting up quickly. Aziraphale starts at the sudden movement and Crowley curses his own eagerness, gritting his teeth. He slouches again, dropping back onto the bed and trying to look and sound casual. “I just mean, I can sleep through just about anything. Read here if you want, angel.”
“Oh. If you insist.” Aziraphale glances over his shoulder with a shy smile, lashes fluttering in the soft lamplight. Crowley has the very undemonic feeling of butterflies in his stomach. “Goodnight then, Crowley.”
Crowley mutters his own goodnight, still mortified over the whole business, and settles in to surreptitiously watch the angel read until sleep takes him. Except God truly does hate him something awful because the moment his head touches the pillow, a piercing wail from down the hallway shatters the quiet.
Aziraphale flinches and presses a protective hand to the cover of his book, like the noise might harm it. “Oh my,” he murmurs, tilting his head to listen. “He sounds rather angry, doesn’t he?”
“He’s the Antichrist,” Crowley grumbles, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “Course he’s angry.”
A soft, warm hand settles lightly in the middle of Crowley’s back and he freezes just before his bare feet hit the floor. His breath stutters in his lungs. Slowly, he turns his head, hair brushing his shoulder, and stares in bewilderment at Aziraphale.
“Oh — I do apologize. I only meant to-” Aziraphale flushes, his hand fluttering back to his side. Crowley swallows the urge to whine at the loss. “I’ll get the baby. It seems only sensible, considering I’ve no intention of sleeping and you’re rather… tetchy without it.”
Crowley clears his throat, the place in the middle of his back where the angel had touched him still warm and tingling. “Erm, right. Thanks.”
Watching Aziraphale pad softly out of the bedroom in his slippers, already cooing soothingly before he even reaches Adam’s nursery, Crowley growls through his teeth and drops his head back to his pillow. For Hell’s sake, get it together. Never before has Crowley lived in such close quarters with the angel and he’s fairly certain that without a bit of distance between them, his complete devotion to pining for Aziraphale in silence for six thousand years and counting will be a bit harder for either of them to ignore. He’s just going to have to try harder. He has eleven years of this to endure — he can’t crack up in the first sodding week.
He lays there a moment longer, stewing in his own weakness, before it occurs to him that the crying hasn’t stopped. With a groan, he rolls out of bed and onto his feet. The floorboards are chilly but he doesn’t bother with slippers, padding barefoot down the corridor. Before he even reaches Adam’s nursery, he can hear Aziraphale’s gentle voice pitched slightly higher than usual in what sounds like panic. Crowley almost runs the last few steps, pausing in the doorway to Adam’s nursery to stare.
Standing beside the crib and bouncing Adam in his arms, Aziraphale murmurs soothing nonsense to the boy. Usually appeased by the angel’s warm voice, Adam doesn’t even appear to hear him now. Tiny face scrunched up and turning red, he cries and cries like he’ll never do anything else.
“Satan’s balls, angel, what did you do? Pinch him?”
Aziraphale doesn’t even bother with his usual withering glance for Crowley’s vocabulary. Instead, his face crumples in relief. He moves quickly across the nursery and all but shoves the screaming Antichrist right into Crowley’s arms. The moment his hands are free, he wrings them anxiously and says, “I can’t get him to stop! I tried milk, he doesn’t need a clean nappy, and there doesn’t appear to be anything at all wrong with him!”
Crowley tucks Adam’s tiny head beneath his chin and rubs soothing circles over his back. “Hush now, little Hellspawn,” he croons, swaying with him a bit. “Crowley’s here to make it all better, hmm?” He shuts his eyes, extending his powers and feeling for anything that might be out of sorts with the wee demon. And finds absolutely nothing at all.
He snaps open his eyes and stares into Aziraphale’s pale, helpless face — feeling a pit of dread yawn wide in his stomach. Not even a week and they’ve already fucked up this kid so badly they can’t even fix it. Adam wails and his tears soak hot and salty into Crowley’s pajama shirt. Crowley looks pleadingly at Azirpahale and hisses, “What do we do?”
The nearby A&E is just as crowded at two am on a Wednesday than Crowley’s favorite nightclub in London at eleven o’clock on a Friday night. Surrounded by humans who are either coughing, vomiting into the nearest bin, or bleeding all over themselves, Crowley struggles with the urge to turn around and walk out again. The sickness in the room and the scent of antiseptic is so heavy in the air he can smell it on his tongue. It reminds him viscerally of the 14th century. He swallows his human corporation’s desire to gag, following Aziraphale to the front desk.
The angel explains the situation quietly to the receptionist but even standing behind him and with Adam whimpering in his ear, Crowley can still hear the worry lacing every word Aziraphale says. He can’t really recall a time Aziraphale was fretting about something that Crowley couldn’t fix with a snap of his fingers or a bottle of wine to share. Feeling helpless, Crowley glares at the waiting room at large. There isn’t even any havoc to cause in a place like this to soothe him. Everyone is already so sodding miserable he can’t bring himself to add to it.
The baby curls a tiny fist into the collar of his shirt and Crowley sighs. Adam needs his attention more anyway. He isn’t screeching to shake the heavens like he’d been at the cottage, thank Somebody. Walking about with him seems to help for some reason, so Crowley cradles the tiny human in hands that feel too big and too inept for something so fragile, and he paces the length of the waiting room. In the corner, Aziraphale patiently fills out all the necessary medical forms for Fell-Crowley, Adam J.
All that just to see a doctor who examines the kid for five minutes and tells them, “Just a case of colic, I’m afraid. He’ll grow out of it.”
Crowley stares. “That’s it? That’s your expert medical opinion? He’ll grow out of it?”
Aziraphale curls a gentle hand around his arm. “Surely there must be some cause. You should have heard him screaming-”
The doctor nods, perusing Adam’s sparse medical files absently. “I understand it must have been alarming but I promise you, some babies just develop this condition and there is nothing that could have been done to prevent it. By the time he’s three months or so, he should be perfectly fine.”
Eyes narrowed, Aziraphale asks, “Are you telling me there is nothing we can do for him in the meantime?”
The doctor glances at Crowley, still bouncing Adam in his arms and glowering. “Just what you’re doing right now. Don’t worry, you’re both great dads.”
Crowley grimaces but out of the corner of his eye, he sees Aziraphale smile.
The next night is a repeat performance. So is the following night. And the one after that. Crowley doesn’t know whether to curse the little Hellspawn or thank him for saving him from another night of watching Aziraphale climb shyly into bed and look at him through his pale lashes like he expects Crowley to leap across the pillows separating them and ravish him. A demon can only handle so much.
They take turns pacing the floor all night. Crowley hums Queen songs as lullabies and when Aziraphale takes over for him, he walks the nursery singing Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. If Crowley lingers outside the nursery instead of going to bed just to listen to the angel’s sweet voice for a while, Aziraphale doesn’t appear to notice.
On the fourth morning since Adam began his career as the Antichrist by torturing them with sleep deprivation, Crowley wakes to a sight that sends his heart lurching from his chest, up his throat, and into his mouth. He feels certain that if he parts his lips even a little, the traitorous organ will spill out all over the sheets.
In all the years they’ve known each other, Crowley has never once seen the angel sleep. But Aziraphale is asleep beside him now, sprawled on his back with tiny Adam resting soundly on his chest. Aziraphale’s gentle hands rest on the baby’s back, keeping him close. The two of them seem to be breathing in time with each other, content smiles on their faces. The morning light bathes the unlikely pair in soft yellow, making Aziraphale’s blond hair glow. Sunbeams catch in his pale eyelashes. Even Adam looks suspiciously innocent right now.
Crowley swallows hard, doing his best to shove his heart back into his chest where it belongs. He curls his hands into fists to keep from reaching out to touch either of them, reluctant to intrude. Instead, he curls up on his side and pillows his cheek on his open palm, watching them unblinkingly until Aziraphale finally starts to stir.
He stifles a yawn and Crowley stares in fascination as his whole face softens when he glances down and sees the baby still asleep on his chest. Blue eyes lift to meet Crowley’s gaze and he smiles. “Good morning, my dear.”
Crowley grins, sure his heart must be showing in his eyes. “Morning, angel. Crepes?”
“Are those spots? Seriously?”
The primroses quiver.
“Oh, don’t start apologizing now, you little shits-”
From inside the cottage, he hears Aziraphale clear his throat in pointed warning. “Oh come on, angel,” he groans, scowling. “He can’t even understand me yet-”
“He will do one day,” Aziraphale replies patiently. “You may as well start practicing, Crowley.”
Crowley bites back another, more colorful swear and glowers at the primroses just in case they get any ideas about him going soft. The effect is ruined when sweat starts dripping into his eyes and makes him flinch. Though the morning had been mild when Crowley had started weeding the garden, the afternoon has grown unusually hot for so early in the summer. His snake form would love nothing more than to curl up on a rock and sun itself for hours but this blessed human corporation is so prone to overheating.
He lifts the neck of his t-shirt to wipe at his eyes and forehead but the sun beating down on him mercilessly offers no respite. Crowley lifts his head and squints hopefully at the sky. Not a cloud in sight. His t-shirt clings to his skin and sweat trickles down his spine. He sticks out his tongue in a grimace. Oh, fuck it.
Lifting the whole shirt over his head, Crowley uses it to scrub irritably at his sweat-damp hair and then tosses it aside. The warmth of the sun’s rays prickle at his back as he bends to work again but it’s a relief not to have a layer of cotton between him and any breeze that might happen to come along. He yanks out a handful of weeds and hisses a threat between his teeth.
“Hello there. I don’t believe we’ve met yet.”
Crowley lifts his head at the sound of an unfamiliar voice, turning to glance over his shoulder. A dark-haired man in running shorts and a sleeveless shirt waves at him from over the garden gate. Stifling a sigh, Crowley rises to his feet and wipes his dirty hands on his jeans before Aziraphale comes out and accuses him of bad manners again. “Hey,” he says, wandering reluctantly over. “Anthony Crowley.”
The man holds out a hand the moment Crowley is close enough, smiling brightly. “Noah Taylor. I’ve just moved in.”
Eyeing him for a moment over the rims of his sunglasses, Crowley finally shakes his hand. “Knew another Noah once.”
Noah grips his hand a moment longer before letting it go. “Oh? Did you like him?”
Crowley shrugs. “God certainly did.”
Noah laughs, like Crowley has made some clever joke. He leans his hip against the garden gate and crosses his arms over his chest, still smiling. And Crowley, whose sole purpose had been temptation once, realizes the idiot is flirting with him. Hell’s sake, surely he saw the hyphenated surnames on the mailbox and the baby toys scattered on a quilt beneath that shade tree. He has to know Crowley — or rather, Crowley’s human persona — has a family. What a knob.
Just enough of a knob, in fact, to deserve whatever Crowley dishes out. Oh, this could be fun. He hasn’t done a proper temptation in months. Tugging a hand through his fire-bright hair, Crowley smirks and drawls, “How are you liking the neighborhood so far, Noah?”
Poor Noah takes a moment longer to respond than he should, blinking helplessly. “I-it’s alright, I suppose. Been a bit boring.” He flushes and amends, “Until now, anyway.”
“Flatterer,” Crowley murmurs, winking. He wipes at his brow again with his forearm, making sure to stretch just enough to draw attention to his chest and plant all sorts of lustful thoughts about a married man sure to cause frustration and very poor decisions later tonight at the local pub. As planned, Noah’s gaze lingers. Crowley grins.
Noah licks his lips. “Maybe we can go for a drink sometime.”
Before Crowley can decide whether to lead him on further or mention his husband just to see the look on his face, he hears a door open behind him. He turns, watching Aziraphale step out of the house with the baby clutched in one arm and a glass of lemonade in hand. Crowley does his best not to look guilty.
Aziraphale stops right in front of him and completely ignores their new neighbor, pressing the cool glass into Crowley’s hand with a sweet smile. “I thought you might be thirsty, darling.”
Crowley almost chokes at the endearment, hiding it in a quick sip of lemonade. “I, uh, yeah.” He swallows, still staring. “Thanks, angel.”
“Oh, my pleasure. You’ve been working so hard, after all.”
He leans in and presses a warm, chaste kiss against Crowley’s cheek. Crowley draws in a sharp breath at the unexpected contact, eyes fluttering shut. He can’t help but lean into the innocent kiss, especially since Aziraphale’s soft mouth lingers a moment longer than necessary. He even hums and wriggles a little, like he does when he eats sushi. Crowley wonders briefly if he might discorporate on the spot.
Only the sound of Adam cooing breaks the moment. Aziraphale pulls away, pink-cheeked and bright eyed. Hotter now than when he’d discarded his shirt minutes ago, Crowley struggles to regain use of his tongue. “You — uh — have you met, uh, neighbor? Noah, I mean.”
“No,” Aziraphale says, finally looking at the man. His gaze cools distinctly. “I don’t believe I’ve been so fortunate.”
Understanding finally dawns and Crowley grins broadly. He presses a hand to the small of Aziraphale’s back and turns to Noah. “This is my husband, Ezra.” Saying it out loud always makes him a bit dizzy. Some serpent of temptation he is. “And our son, Adam.”
Noah musters a friendly smile and says, “Lovely to meet you all. Perhaps we’ll get together soon?”
Absently unlatching Adam’s little fist from his bowtie, Aziraphale says with a voice as chilly as the fucking tundra, “Oh yes, that sounds delightful.”
It’s as impolite as the angel ever gets. Crowley loves it.
As Noah Taylor scarpers off, likely to never darken their garden gate again, Crowley watches Aziraphale glare after him and snorts out a laugh. “No need to be jealous, angel. I’m a married man, after all.”
Aziraphale stiffens, nose upturned. “I don’t know what you’re talking of.” He hesitates, still glowering down the street. “But that man was clearly flirting with you.”
Crowley reaches for Adam, who is leaning out of Aziraphale’s arms and holding out little hands for him. The moment Crowley settles him on his hip, Adam reaches for his sunglasses. Crowley bats his hands away patiently. “Well, to be fair I was tempting him… a bit.”
Aziraphale makes a scandalized noise in his throat. “You what?”
“Don’t do that disappointed voice with me,” Crowley snaps, bristling. “I was bored, angel. There’s nothing to do in this sodding village and ruining someone’s day seemed like it might be fun. Was just going to lead him on a little.”
Aziraphale huffs. “That’s awful, Crowley. But it certainly doesn’t excuse his indecent behavior either.” He turns to really look at Crowley finally, likely gearing up for a proper scolding, and then stops altogether. His eyes widen, fixed quite obviously on Crowley’s bare chest. He blushes, looking quickly away. “Oh, good Lord.”
Crowley glances down at himself. “What?”
“Nothing.” Aziraphale sniffs. “Just…speak of indecency and he shall appear.”
Crowley frowns. “It’s hot!”
“Yes, it certainly is, isn’t it?” Aziraphale raises an eyebrow at him, plucks Adam from his arms, and turns to march back into the house.
Crowley grips his glass of lemonade and gapes after him.
They’re having breakfast when it happens.
Crowley sits slouched over a cup of coffee, glaring into the middle distance and wishing someone had told him kidnapping the Antichrist would mean losing countless hours of sleep until the kid reached puberty. Aziraphale, who has never seen the point of sleep and thus never allowed his earthly body to grow used to the idea, suffers no such dilemma. He hums contentedly to himself as he finishes the last of his breakfast, idly perusing the morning paper.
Sitting in his high-chair and poking experimentally at the tiny bits of strawberry Aziraphale had cut up for him, Adam finally grows tired of being ignored and huffs. His endless babbling ceases as he draws in a breath and slaps a tiny palm against the tray with a whine. “Da-da.”
Aziraphale’s head snaps up, his eyes going wide. Crowley chokes on a sip of coffee. In unison, they turn slowly and stare at the blond-haired, chubby boy kicking his legs and smiling at them — gratified to finally have their undivided attention.
“Da-da,” he repeats.
“Yes,” Aziraphale says faintly, finally locating his voice. He reaches out a hand to stroke Adam’s rounded cheek fondly. “That’s right, my sweet. Da-da. That’s very good. You’re so clever!”
Adam grasps Aziraphale’s hand and tries to shove his fingers in his mouth, squealing excitedly. Crowley forces his gaze away from the bright, genuine grin starting to curl Aziraphale’s mouth and clears his throat, silently willing a bit of whiskey into his coffee. In six thousand years, no one has ever called him dad before. He can’t say he ever wanted them to. Never even crossed his mind to want it, really. But hearing it just now? Well.
He doesn’t hate it.
And somehow, that just makes it worse. Because as easy as it is to slip into the fantasy they’re creating for Adam and all their neighbors, this isn’t a normal family. It’s a demon, an angel, and the Antichrist. He isn’t this kid’s dad. Lucifer is this kid’s dad and some day soon, Hell is going to come looking for him. Getting attached is just about the worst idea anyone has ever had since the sodding Flood.
So Crowley does what he always does when he starts to panic — about eternity, about the shitty things humans are capable of, anything really. He looks to Aziraphale to distract him. Coffee mug cradled in his palm, he glances across the table and says, “He was talking to me, you know.” At Aziraphale’s puzzled glance, he explains, “I’m clearly Dad. You’re more of a…” He scrunches up his face, shrugging. “Father.”
Aziraphale makes a wounded noise that seems to mean he’s been insulted. He feeds Adam another bite of strawberry and asks, “What exactly are you trying to imply, Crowley?”
“Nothing,” he says, leaning back in his chair. As he readies for a good bicker with Aziraphale, he feels some of the panic abate. “Just that I’m definitely cooler than you.”
Someone looking for evidence of this need look no further than Adam’s nursery. They’d disagreed about how to decorate it for days but Crowley had finally relented to the cutesy wall mural on the solemn promise that Aziraphale would leave Adam’s wardrobe to him. As a result, the room itself is all pastels and nauseatingly adorable stuffed animals — though he had drawn the line at the Noah’s Ark mobile and Aziraphale had eventually chosen a mobile of stars with a fond glance at Crowley as he hung it. But the closet is filled with black onesies, a leather jacket from Baby Gap, tiny baby jeans, snakeskin booties and converse, and a t-shirt that has I Love My Daddies emblazoned across the front.
Aziraphale sniffs. “I can be…cool.”
Just the word from Aziraphale’s mouth sounds ridiculous but Crowley purses his lips to hide a smile and nods. “Course you can.”
He arches an eyebrow, watching Adam grasp a strawberry slice in his chubby fist. He launches it across the breakfast table and it lands in Aziraphale’s tea with a tiny splash. Crowley hides a smirk in his coffee, feeling just a bit proud. He’d taught the kid how to throw things just yesterday and look at him — a natural.
“Nice one,” he mutters, and Adam blows a gleeful raspberry at him.
With a sigh of dismay, Aziraphale produces a handkerchief out of thin air and begins to mop up the mess. “Oh now look what you’ve done,” he says, scrubbing at a spot on his waistcoat. “That will never come out without a miracle.”
“Yeah, I see what you mean.” Crowley rests his chin in his open palm and eyes Aziraphale fondly. “Very cool, you.”
Aziraphale wipes Adam’s strawberry speckled cheeks before he vanishes the handkerchief back into the ether. There’s a small crease between his brows and a frown tugging at his lips as he returns his gaze back to the newspaper with a muttered, “I suppose you have a point. I’ve never been very good with humans. Children especially.”
Crowley stills, coffee mug halfway to his mouth. “What are you talking about? You love humans — ‘cept when they’re trying to buy books, anyway.”
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean I’m actually good with them.” Aziraphale bites his lip and his eyes are wide and guileless, the way they always are right before Crowley ends up doing something stupid to make him happy. “That’s much more your area.”
He hadn’t meant to actually upset Aziraphale — just distract himself from things he’d rather not think about. Aziraphale might not be the usual definition of cool but there’s no one else Crowley would rather hang out with for six thousand years in a row. Squirming guiltily in his chair, Crowley watches Aziraphale fiddle with his shirt cuff glumly and sighs. “Oh, don’t do that,” he groans. “I was just — you know, having you on. He seems to like you just fine.”
“Well, he’s a baby.” Aziraphale purses his lips, watching wearily as Adam makes the strawberries into jam with his pudgy fists. “He’s hardly discerning about the company he keeps.”
Crowley shrugs, unable to argue with that. “Great practice though, isn’t he? For the rest of the humans. None of them can be worse than the sodding Antichrist.”
“Language, Crowley.” Aziraphale chides him, looking like he’d quite like to cover Adam’s ears to shield him. “He’ll be learning to speak before you know it. And he isn’t practice, he’s our-” He stops suddenly, and Crowley watches in bewildered silence as his cheeks grow just a bit pink. Aziraphale clears his throat, fiddling with his bowtie. “He’s our only hope of saving humanity. We won’t get another chance to do this right.”
Scrubbing a hand over his face and through his hair, Crowley sighs. “Just stop worrying, all right? You’re already doing your part with him. Yesterday I saw him try to share his cheerios with a bloody stuffed bear.” He waves away Aziraphale’s protest about language, scowling. “Humans love you, Aziraphale. They bloody well flock to you like they can sense your goodness.” He sticks out his tongue in a grimace. “Look, Adam may want me when he wants to play games or toddle round the garden but when he wants a cuddle, he goes to you. When he gets cranky or hungry, he wants you. He looks to you for comfort, angel. He wouldn’t do that if you were bad at it.”
For a long moment, Aziraphale doesn’t say a single word but when Crowley risks a quick glance across the table at him, he’s beaming widely and the pink in his cheeks has only deepened. Crowley flinches away from the sight, staring resolutely into his coffee and ignoring the traitorous skip of his human heart. “Crowley, that’s-”
“Don’t you dare.” He glares in Aziraphale’s general direction, studiously avoiding eye contact. “Just didn’t want you moping about it.”
Aziraphale clears his throat. “Of course. Still, I appreciate it.”
In his high-chair, Adam holds out a fistful of crushed strawberries and glances between them. “Da-da?”
Crowley only looks down at his mobile for a second. Starting wars on Twitter is the most demonic activity available to him these days and occasionally monitoring the escalating subtweets is essential to keeping the vitriol flying. When he glances back up again, Adam, who had been stacking blocks right in front of him a moment ago, is gone.
Swearing, Crowley pockets his phone and slithers off the arm of the sofa he’d been draped over. Not wanting to alert Aziraphale that he has lost the kid already, he ventures quietly, “Hellspawn?”
With a grimace, Crowley tries again louder, “Adam?”
His only reply is the splashing of water from the bathroom where Aziraphale had retreated to have a bath after this morning’s painting activity with Adam. Unfortunately for him, the fun ended with more paint on the angel than on the canvas. Adam had found the whole thing endlessly amusing and even Crowley had to hide a smile at the sight of Aziraphale’s cheek smeared with blue paint and yellow flecks spattered over his favorite jumper. He’d looked infuriatingly adorable, even pouting as he’d been.
Crowley stalks through the house, checking under armchairs, beneath tables, behind cabinets, and even inside the refrigerator as he hunts for the missing Antichrist. His heart pounds harder in his chest with every potential hiding spot that comes up empty, his throat tightening as he contemplates shouting for Aziraphale and confessing to losing their —
“Crowley! Come quickly!”
At the sound of Aziraphale’s panicked plea, Crowley moves so fast he stumbles over his own long legs. He flies through the kitchen, up the stairs, and down the corridor — screeching to a halt just inside the open bathroom door. “Angel?” He asks, wild-eyed. “What is it, what’s-” He stops, rendered momentarily speechless by the sight of Aziraphale sitting completely naked in the bathtub. Even with all the bubbles, it’s more of his skin than Crowley has seen since the days of Old Rome.
And that’s when he realizes Aziraphale is grinning and there are far more bubbles than a simple bath could ever need. There are bubbles everywhere, filling up the room and floating through the air. Bouncing against the ceiling and sparkling in the afternoon light streaming in through the window. Crowley bats them away from his face and finally sees a pint-sized Antichrist standing in the middle of it all, giggling and staring cross-eyed at a bubble on the tip of his nose.
Crowley does indeed look. His lips part in shock. “Is this — Aziraphale, is this him?”
He knows even without having to ask. There’s a definite scent of power in the room but it isn’t the bright, holy magic he usually associates with Aziraphale. The kind that burns his nostrils just to breathe in. But it isn’t dark like his either, that aftertaste of brimstone and sulfur. This is something else. Something new.
“The first manifestation of his powers, Crowley.” Aziraphale beams at him, palm upturned to catch a floating bubble. “And he used it to make something beautiful.”
Crowley stares. The Antichrist has discovered a bit of his power and the very first thing he’d done with it was create a room full of bubbles for his Papa’s bath. Nothing dark or scary, nothing meant to hurt anyone or to get what he wants. Just something fun. And best of all, the kid doesn’t even seem to realize he’d done it.
With a short laugh of disbelief, Crowley breathes, “Angel… this is working.”
“I do believe it is, you sly old serpent.” Aziraphale laughs, wiggling his shoulders. Crowley cannot help but stare a moment longer than he should. He’s so god-blessed pretty, submerged in his bath with bubbles in his hair and his eyes sparkling.
Aziraphale seems to realize at the same moment Crowley does that they’re both just staring soft-eyed at one another from across the room. He blushes and looks away, leaving Crowley to clear his throat and try to pull himself together like a proper sodding demon of hell rather than a smitten human with no subtly.
Crouching down in front of Adam, who sits on the floor poking at the bubbles skimming the bathmat, he taps the boy gently on the knee to catch his attention, smirking when he looks up. “Not bad, hellspawn.” He inclines his head. “Gonna have to clean up though.”
Adam pouts, similar enough to the angel to make Crowley pause. “But aren’t they pretty, Daddy?”
Nodding, Crowley admits, “Yeah, course.” He glances cautiously at Aziraphale, still huddled in the tub all damp and pink-cheeked, and feels his stomach turn over. “Very pretty.”
Aziraphale looks away again, swallowing back a smile.
Deciding not to press his luck, Crowley snaps his fingers to disappear the bubbles, making sure to leave the ones in the tub with Aziraphale lest he see more of the angel than he can handle. He keeps his eyes averted anyway, just in case.
Quickly, he picks up Adam and drapes him upside down over his shoulder. Adam shrieks and giggles, kicking his feet uselessly. “Enjoy your bath, angel.” He flees the bathroom with all the dignity he can muster, taking Adam with him.
Despite his fondness for sleep — naps in the middle of the afternoon, in particular, he finds deliciously decadent — Crowley has always been easily roused. A habit he most likely picked up in Hell somewhere along the way. Letting your guard down in a place like that is just asking for trouble — and not the good kind. So he wakes up the moment the bedroom door creaks open, peering blearily through the darkness to find Adam toddling into the room rubbing his eyes.
Crowley sits up and swings his legs over the side of the bed but Aziraphale has already put his book aside, standing from his armchair in the corner of the room. He spends most of his nights there, whiling away the hours until Crowley and Adam wake up.
For the first few months of Adam’s life, he did sleep a few times. A colicky Antichrist had been enough to wear out even an ethereal being who had no need for sleep. But as Adam’s sleep schedule became routine, Aziraphale grew out of the habit once more. Most nights, Crowley curls into his pillow and tries not to miss those mornings when he used to wake with a baby dozing on his chest and Aziraphale curled into his side, snoring quietly into his shoulder.
Across the room, Aziraphale bends to scoop Adam into his arms. “What’s the trouble, my boy? Can’t you sleep?”
Adam shakes his head, drooping trustingly against Aziraphale’s chest as he carries him toward Crowley. “Bad dream,” he says, tucking his thumb into his mouth. “You ’n Daddy left me.”
“Oh my. How ghastly.” Aziraphale tuts, shaking his head solemnly. “Well, I can assure you we’re not going anywhere without you. Are we, Crowley?”
Crowley scrubs a hand over his face, eyeing Aziraphale incredulously through his fingers. “Sure,” he mutters. “Lie to the son of Satan. He’ll look on that kindly when he remembers later.”
“Hush.” Aziraphale glares mildly, depositing Adam onto his lap. “How about some cocoa, hmm?”
Adam nods, sniffling. He latches onto the neck of Crowley’s t-shirt and clings on for dear life, snuggling further into him rather like a reptile seeking warmth. “Can I have extra mallows?”
Aziraphale taps him fondly on the nose. “As you wish.”
Still half-asleep, Crowley watches him disappear out of the bedroom and down the hallway towards the kitchen. Adam is a slight weight against him, thumb still in his mouth and his blond hair ruffled from sleep. “So,” Crowley says, pressing a hand against Adam’s back as he lowers them both back onto the plush pillows behind him. “Want to know how to scare off bad dreams?”
Adam lifts his head, eyes shining with curiosity.
Crowley grins. “S’better than cocoa. Promise.”
So while they listen to the sounds of Aziraphale puttering about in the kitchen, Crowley teaches the Antichrist how to hiss properly. He shows him how to bare his teeth to show his fangs, how to summon a snarl from the back of his throat and let it trip off his tongue and through his teeth. They practice together, reclining against the pillows, Adam giggling into his chest, as the scent of hot chocolate fills the house.
“Not bad,” Crowley tells him, watching Adam toss his hair and growl. Granted, the effect is more disarmingly adorable on a toddler than terrifying but Crowley figures he’ll grow into it. Point is, he isn’t sniffling anymore and by the time Aziraphale comes padding back down the hallway balancing three mugs of cocoa, Adam is smiling.
Aziraphale looks relieved, his face softening. “Feeling better?”
Adam hisses at him, then dissolves into giggles when Aziraphale gapes at him.
With a sigh and a pointed glance at Crowley, Aziraphale says, “Lovely. I’m sure that won’t be an issue when he’s old enough to cause damage.”
“Relax, angel.” Crowley accepts his mug of cocoa from Aziraphale and their fingers brush. He looks away, wrapping his hands around warm ceramic, and pointedly doesn’t wish to be holding something — someone — else. “It’s just for nightmares.”
With a skeptical hum, Aziraphale settles onto the bed beside him rather than returning to his armchair. Crowley tries not to look too pleased as he slips beneath the blankets and scoots closer. He just stares into his cocoa and watches out of the corner of his eye as Aziraphale helps Adam navigate his own mug heaped with marshmallows. “Careful now, my boy. It’s very hot.”
Adam sips cautiously, melted marshmallow sticking to the tip of his nose as he drinks. When he finally lifts his head, his eyes are sleepy and he has a chocolate mustache lining his upper lip. He leans back into Crowley’s chest and watches Aziraphale hopefully. “Sleep here, Papa?”
Over his head, Crowley and Aziraphale exchange a glance. Aziraphale bites his lip and Crowley shrugs, carefully keeping his expression entirely neutral. Hoping he doesn’t look as eager as he feels, hoping he looks exasperated and slightly scolding instead because really, Aziraphale is entirely too soft with the kid. “Up to you,” he says, holding his breath.
Aziraphale strokes Adam’s silky hair from his forehead and says, “Just this once.”
It’s probably terrible to be grateful a small child had a nightmare but Crowley decides being terrible is in his job description and promptly loses all feelings of guilt. It’s difficult to feel anything but content anyway, when the bed is so warm and the only beings in this world he gives a damn about are snuggled up close. With a yawn, he stretches out his arm across the pillows, ostensibly to pull Adam close but managing to get away with touching his fingertips to the soft down of Aziraphale’s blond hair at the same time.
“Ducks tomorrow?” Adam asks, already drowsing lightly against Crowley’s chest.
They’d decided to take the kid to feed the ducks in the village park and while it’s certainly no St. James, Adam has talked of little else ever since. On the other side of the boy, Aziraphale settles comfortably into his feather pillow and hums his agreement, looking awfully tired for someone who doesn’t sleep. “Yes, sweetling. But only if you close your eyes and sleep right this moment.”
Adam shuts his eyes obediently, feigning sleep until at last his breathing evens out and he slips into a slumber that Crowley knows Aziraphale has already made certain will be filled with all the boy’s favorite things. He swallows, watching Adam smile in his sleep. “You could go back to your book, if you want. I’ve got him.”
Aziraphale watches him quietly for a long moment, and then finally shakes his head. “I think I’ll sleep tonight,” he whispers, and Crowley could melt into the mattress in relief. “Goodnight, dear.”
And so the three of them curl up beneath the blankets together, an angel and a demon watching each other in the dark with a tiny Antichrist who still smells faintly of cocoa and marshmallows tucked snugly between them.
Eventually, Adam starts going through that human phase all children go through of asking an endless stream of questions usually along the lines of but why? At which point, he damn near attaches himself permanently to Crowley. Being someone who delights in questions and the natural curiosity of humans — he had been the one to encourage it in them in the first place, after all — Crowley never fails to answer any of the little hallspawn’s incessant questions.
Why is the sky blue?
Where did the dinosaurs go?
How come you and Papa share one bed?
What are stars made of?
Are there more leaves in the world or blades of grass?
How do planes stay in the air?
If I jump off the roof, will I die?
And most importantly — why? Why? Why? Why?
Why is Adam’s favorite question of all and Crowley is only too happy to answer him. His patience remains unwavering even when poor Aziraphale’s begins to wane. Of course, Crowley doesn’t always know the answer but he isn’t afraid to say not sure, let’s find out. And Adam thrills in discovering the answer along with Crowley perhaps most of all.
And then comes the question Crowley has been expecting since Adam learned to talk. They’re sitting in the garden on an old quilt, Aziraphale laying out their picnic spread while Crowley allows Adam to stand balanced on his thighs, holding his hands to keep him from toppling over. Adam leans in close, giggling, and peers past the dark lenses of Crowley’s sunglasses.
“Daddy, why do your eyes look different?”
Across the blanket, Aziraphale stills.
“Genetic disorder,” Crowley says with a shrug, letting his glasses slide down his nose to allow the boy to see them properly. He’s seen them plenty of times before, of course. As a baby, he’d delighted in stealing Crowley’s sunglasses and hiding them beneath the sofa cushions.
“What’s a-” Adam wrinkles up his nose, struggling to pronounce the new phrase. “Germ-gen-”
“Genetic disorder,” Crowley repeats, slower this time. “Means I’ve always had it. Remember when we talked about DNA?” At Adam’s nod, he explains, “S’like that. Only mine got a bit…mutated.”
Adam lights up in recognition. “Like the X-Men?”
Crowley arches an eyebrow, mouth twisting into a smirk despite Aziraphale’s delicate snort of amusement nearby. “Bit like that, yeah.”
“Cool,” the boy breathes, awestruck. “Do you have magic powers too?”
“Nope,” Crowley lies. “Just weird eyes. Lucky for you, you got your Papa’s eyes instead.”
Adam shrugs his little shoulders and sinks down onto Crowley’s lap, his head tucked into the crook of the demon’s neck. “They’re neat. Aren’t they, Papa?”
Aziraphale glances up from fussing with the dessert tray, his smile dimpled and his eyes mischievous. “Oh, lovely. I’ve always thought so.”
“Ngk.” Fighting a blush, Crowley rests his chin on Adam’s head and glares.
Crowley had discovered fairly quickly that if he and Aziraphale were going to be occupying the same space for the next eleven years, it would be up to him to keep the clutter from overtaking the cottage. Aziraphale has a habit of forgetting to put away his books when he’s through with them and leaving cups of cocoa sitting on a windowsill until the milk starts to congeal. Crowley frequently finds a stray bowtie between sofa cushions or a pair of reading glasses in the fridge next to the orange juice.
Neat to the point of obsessive — an ignoble trait in a demon, to be sure — Crowley has gotten into the habit of wandering the house at the end of the day and tidying up the trail of clutter Aziraphale always leaves in his wake. It keeps the angel from waking him up in the middle of the night because he can’t find his favorite edition of Leaves of Grass while also helping Crowley to maintain his sanity.
He’s in the middle of carrying Aziraphale’s slippers from where he’d found them wedged between Adam’s rubber ducks on a shelf in the bathroom, when he hears the sound of Aziraphale’s voice followed by Adam’s unmistakable, boyish giggle. He pauses, his eyes drawn instantly to the warm light spilling out from the crack in Adam’s bedroom door. A quick glance at his watch tells him it’s the kid’s bedtime — or more importantly, story time.
It’s been a nightly ritual between the two of them since long before Adam could even understand a word Aziraphale was saying. The angel had insisted that all normal young boys had bedtime stories and that perhaps if he filled Adam’s head with fanciful fairytales and grand adventures then he would be loathe to destroy the very same planet that contained Anne Shirley, Harry Potter, and Meg Murry. Crowley’s pretty sure Adam just likes to hear all the voices.
Aziraphale reads a bedtime story unlike anyone else — full of fire and conviction, a preacher behind a pulpit. He has a different voice for every character and frequently sends Adam into fits of giggling whether he actually intends to or not. And Crowley, loathe as he would be to admit it even under threat of holy water, often finds himself lurking in the corridor some nights, leaning against the wall and closing his eyes; letting Aziraphale’s voice, breathless with the wonder of a new story, wash over him like a warm tide.
Sometimes, Crowley gets so caught up in the story he winds up sitting on the floor outside Adam’s door, his back pressed against the wall and his legs stretched out in front of him as he listens to Adam laugh at Aziraphale making a spectacle of himself for the boy’s amusement. And when the story is over, he climbs to his feet and slips silently away before he can be discovered lurking. Tonight likely would have passed in much the same manner if Crowley hadn’t dropped one of Aziraphale’s slippers right outside of Adam’s bedroom.
He grimaces, cursing under his breath as the voices on the other side of the door fall quiet. From inside comes an amused, “Crowley? Would you like to come in tonight, dear?”
Gritting his teeth, Crowley drops the other slipper and pushes open the door, ducking his head in. Aziraphale sits on the edge of Adam’s bed, a book open on his lap, and the soft light of Adam’s bedside lamp makes him look damn near glowing. A quiet, sly smile curls his stupidly tempting mouth. Crowley sniffs. “I wasn’t listening. I was cleaning up after you.”
“Of course,” Aziraphale says easily, allowing him the lie. “Still, you may as well join us. We’re finishing up The Princess Bride tonight.”
Huddled beneath the blankets in his Avengers pajamas, Adam claps his hands and grins. “Daddy, come read!”
Far more comfortable lurking out in the hallway, Crowley pushes off the doorframe and inches slowly across the room. He sprawls himself across the foot of Adam’s bed, fingers laced over his stomach as he stares at the plastic, glow-in-the-dark stars stuck to the ceiling. “Suppose I could listen for a while,” he concedes, and closes his eyes.
There’s a smile in Aziraphale’s voice as he begins to read again. He only makes it through half a sentence, however, before Adam pipes up with a distressed, “No. Not like that.” Crowley peeks open one eye to find the kid sitting up with his arms crossed and an impressive scowl on his weirdly cherubic face. Funny, you’d think the spawn of Satan would be a bit less adorable. “Daddy has to be Westley.”
Crowley blinks. “What?”
Aziraphale hides a smirk behind the pages of the book, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “I do believe you’ve been cast, my dear.”
With a glare, Crowley sits up and moves closer to Aziraphale, who tilts the book to share the page with him. When Aziraphale points out the section where they’ve left off, Crowley sighs and reluctantly begins to read the part of Westley with as little intonation as he can manage. Adam doesn’t seem to mind his lack of enthusiasm, just pleased to have him participating. Aziraphale more than makes up for it anyway, reading for Buttercup in a high-pitched, feminine voice that makes Crowley’s mouth twitch. Adam muffles a giggle in his blanket.
Aziraphale turns to the final page, his voice soft and so seeped in Buttercup’s love for Westley that it ties Crowley’s stomach into confused knots. “Don’t we sort of have to die sometime?”
Crowley peers over his shoulder, trying not to breathe in the familiar scent of him. “Not if we promise to outlive each other,” he reads, and the words wrap tight around his heart, squeezing until he can scarcely breathe. He feels Aziraphale’s soft gaze on him and swallows, lifting his eyes. “And I make that promise now.”
“Oh, my Westley” Aziraphale breathes, and the funny Buttercup voice is gone now, leaving only himself. “So do I.”
Huddled under his blankets and watching them like they’re a particularly good program on telly, Adam demands, “Kiss now.”
Aziraphale stills, his fingers tightening briefly around the book. His cheeks grow pink under Crowley’s amused stare, and he looks at Adam imploringly. “I’m terribly sorry, my boy, but the book doesn’t say anything about a kiss.”
While to Adam, they’ve presented themselves as married for the sake of his normal upbringing, they’ve never felt the need to be openly affectionate in front of him before. He’s still too young to notice there’s something off about that — or at least, so they’d thought. But now he’s watching them with that stubborn tilt to his mouth and his eyes hard, reminding Crowley that this is no ordinary brat. If he wants a kiss, he’s damn well going to get one. Crowley doesn’t know whether to curse the kid or thank him.
Aziraphale doesn’t move, darting a shy glance at Crowley and then away again. Hands folded over the book in his lap as he waits for Crowley to lean in. He’s always doing that; waiting for Crowley to be the one to bridge that divide so he can claim himself blameless later if he must. Such a bastard, his angel, Crowley thinks fondly.
He clenches his trembling hands into fists and leans forward, hardly daring to even breathe as he brushes his mouth softly across Aziraphale’s. The angel sighs, as though relieved, and presses closer to kiss him back. It’s chaste and sweet and warmth personified. Everything Crowley had ever imagined it would be. It’s over far too soon.
They part to the sound of Adam clapping his hands and proclaiming The Princess Bride his favorite bedtime story yet, surpassing even Peter Pan. Aziraphale’s cheeks are still faintly flushed and when he licks his lips, Crowley looks away before he does something stupid like kiss him again. He clears his throat, rubbing a hand across the back of his neck. When did it get so sodding hot in here?
“Right then,” he says, standing from the edge of the bed on wobbly legs. “I’m off.”
“Wait!” Adam latches onto his sleeve to keep him near, his eyes wide and his mouth forming a pout so reminiscent of Aziraphale that for a moment, Crowley forgets the boy doesn’t actually belong to them. “Sing first? Please?”
Crowley nods, still too rattled to refuse. “Just a quick one.”
“I’ll leave you to it then.” Aziraphale leans in and pecks the top of Adam’s head, tugging the blankets snugly around him with a weak smile. “Goodnight, my sweet.”
He doesn’t look at Crowley as he turns and slips from the room, leaving Crowley to wonder if a simple kiss for the sake of a child has ruined six thousand years of carefully toeing the line between what he wants and what he can’t have. He sings to Adam with a lump in his throat, turning out the light only when he’s sure the boy has fallen asleep.
While he means to go looking for Aziraphale and suss out just how badly he’s fucked things up, he doesn’t need to go far. Aziraphale is waiting for him right on the other side of the door, smiling weakly at having been caught listening. “Apologies for lurking,” he says, darting a glance away. “I like to hear you sing.”
“S’alright.” Crowley shrugs, leaning against Adam’s closed bedroom door. “Like to hear you read.”
“Yes, I know.” Aziraphale watches fondly as Crowley frowns, a more genuine smile tugging at his mouth. “You’re not as sneaky as you think you are, my dear.”
Crowley huffs out a breath, shoving his hands into his pockets. It’s best to just clear the air now before things get truly awkward. The last thing Crowley wants is to tiptoe around the cottage for days, waiting for Aziraphale to be able to look at him again. Besides, Adam is old enough to notice now and Crowley refuses to subject himself to questions like Why are you and Papa mad at each other?
“Someone in town yesterday asked me how my husband and son were doing.” Aziraphale wrings his hands together and Crowley watches in a mixture of horror and fascination as his eyes begin to well up with tears. “I was halfway through telling them about Adam’s newest drawing and your herb garden before I remembered.”
“None of it is real.” Aziraphale swallows tightly, lifting his head from staring at his clasped hands to look right at Crowley. And Crowley feels his breath catch. There’s something so tender and so brave in his expression, as though he’s terrified of the things he’s saying but willing to say them anyway. “Sometimes I’m so indecently happy that I forget.”
Crowley stills, feeling his heart try to climb its way up his throat. He can’t breathe, can’t speak, can only stare at Aziraphale and wonder if he has started to hear things. Finally, the pressure of raising the Antichrist and hiding it from his superiors along with trying to live with Aziraphale and not give away how stupidly in love he is has actually caught up with him and driven him completely round the bend.
But Aziraphale keeps looking at him in that peculiar way, equals parts fear and adoration, and Crowley slowly begins to realize that he hadn’t misheard him at all. He’d actually said — Crowley makes a bewildered noise in the back of his throat. Aziraphale wants this. He wants Crowley. And Crowley can only gape at him and try to form the words that will get him everything he’s wanted since the beginning of the world. “It could be real,” he says faintly, still distantly suspicious that he might be hallucinating. “If you wanted.”
Aziraphale lifts a trembling hand to his cheek. “And you, Crowley? What do you want?”
‘Haven’t you figured that out yet, angel?” Crowley scoffs, turning his head to press a lingering kiss in the middle of Aziraphale’s palm. “You, you idiot. Any way I can get you.”
Gazing at him with wide, wet eyes, Aziraphale sways toward him there in the dark hallway of their little cottage, the sleeping Antichrist only a room away. His hands settle on Crowley’s chest, two points of radiant warmth so divine Crowley wonders how it doesn’t burn. “You can have me,” he whispers. “Any way you want me.”
With a bitten off cry, Crowley dips his head and for the first time, Aziraphale doesn’t just sit there and wait for him. He meets Crowley halfway. Their hands tangle together and their mouths collide like a star collision. It is not chaste and it is not sweet but it is soft and desperate and entirely worth the wait.
They stumble together down the hallway and into their bedroom, their journey punctuated by wandering hands undressing each other and grinning, open mouthed kisses. Neither of them bothers to look away long enough to navigate and they bump into walls, the dresser, and their bedside table. They shush each other with breathless laughter and stifled moans, clinging on like they’ll lose each other if they let go.
When they finally fall onto their bed, they’re already tangled up together.
And when Adam comes running into their bedroom in the morning, he’ll be met with a sight he has never walked in on before. Instead of his Dad asleep alone on the bed and his Papa already up and dressed for the day, reading in a nearby chair, he’ll find both of his parents fast asleep and curled around one another in their bed — still holding each other.
Being a six-thousand year old demon stuck in a quaint South Downs cottage for eleven years can be trying for Crowley at times. Tempting is his purpose — is in his very blood — and there are only so many instances of petty theft in the supermarket and drunken fisticuffs down the local pub that can soothe the itch under his skin. Some days he longs for a big, crowded, noisy city to lose himself in. Some days he wants to grab the kid and the angel and leg it to Alpha Centauri just for a change of fucking scenery. Most days, however, are so perfect it scares the unholy hell right out of him.
It’s a warm night in early autumn and all the windows in the cottage have been throw open to let in the sweet smell of wisteria in the garden and the scent of changing leaves in the air. Crowley lounges, decadently bare, against soft sheets and even softer angel skin. The light breeze drifting in through their open windows dries the sweat on his skin. He stares at the ceiling in a daze, loose-limbed and bleary-eyed, wishing distantly for a cigarette.
Aziraphale, damn him, refuses to let Crowley smoke in the house despite Crowley’s protests that a little smoke inhalation is hardly going to damage the lungs of Satan’s bloody offspring. The angel had refused to be budged on the subject and Crowley had relented, as he always does. Not getting a cigarette is a small price to pay to keep the angel happy. Especially with results like this.
Crowley twists in the sheets, draping an arm over Aziraphale’s pale thighs. He presses his mouth to a particularly vivid bite mark, soothing the redness with his tongue. Above him, Aziraphale makes a soft noise of renewed interest and he grins wickedly.
The angel holds a book in one hand, using the other to card absently through Crowley’s hair. Still a bit flushed with exertion, he shudders adorably every time Crowley’s hands wander. He still can’t quite believe he’s allowed to touch at all. He walks around most days half certain he’s dreaming.
Someone help him but Aziraphale is the perfect bed partner. Warm and soft enough to curl up against; broad chested so Crowley can drape himself over the angel in a boneless pile after a thorough shag; strong but pliant, amenable to whatever Crowley desires of him. Keeping his hands and his mouth to himself has become something of an impossibility.
Crowley continues his efforts at distracting his angel from his book, tracing his fingertips over his surprisingly sensitive knees and pressing kisses over enticing hips. Every time he sneaks a glance, he can tell Aziraphale isn’t really reading any longer but he hides a smile and waits for the angel to admit it. When Aziraphale finally speaks up, it isn’t at all what Crowley had expected.
“Are you ever…afraid?”
Lifting his head with a frown, Crowley stares. Aziraphale isn’t looking at him, gripping his book in white-knuckled hands, his brow furrowed as he gazes sightlessly into the middle distance. “Of what, angel?”
Aziraphale licks his lips. “What will happen when this is all over.” His eyes flick briefly in Crowley’s direction before skittering away again, bright blue and frightened. “This is all a dream, Crowley. A wonderful dream, of course, but… it can’t last forever. And I’m terrified.”
Admitting out loud that he thinks about it every day — that it fucking terrifies him to think of all this ending, their perfect little oasis, their very own Eden — is not what Aziraphale needs from him. So Crowley doesn’t say it. After six thousand years, he knows by now when Aziraphale needs him to be sure and confident, to swagger in like always just when he needs rescuing. So he swallows back his own fears and rests his cheek on Aziraphale’s thigh.
“Who says it can’t last?”
“Because when Adam turns eleven-”
“He could save the world instead of destroy it,” Crowley reminds him gently. “That’s the whole point of this little project, angel.”
“Well, yes, but-”
“Come on,” Crowley drawls, stroking a finger-shaped bruise on Aziraphale’s hip. “Close your eyes and concentrate.”
Angels, as beings of love, can sense it in the air around them like a dog can suss out a bone. Considering Aziraphale has been on earth for millennia and never once seemed to realize how utterly fucking gone on him Crowley was, Crowley is pretty confident the angel had just started tuning it out as the population grew. Probably had to if he wanted to keep from going mad with it. All that love constantly washing over him like an angry sea. He’d have drowned in it if he didn’t.
He watches as Aziraphale’s blond lashes flutter as he shuts his eyes. A little furrow appears between his brows as he focuses. Crowley keeps his voice soft so as not to disturb his concentration as he orders, “Tell me what you feel.”
“Love,” is the angel’s instant reply. He swallows audibly. “Yours. Oh. Crowley, it’s-”
“Shh. I know.” Crowley kisses his knee, perfectly aware that there’s enough love for Aziraphale in this fragile human corporation to fell a herd of elephant. “What else?”
It takes Aziraphale a moment to see past the dense fog of Crowley’s affections, fumbling blindly until, “More love.” He clears his throat. “Mine.”
Crowley feels his throat tighten. He’d known, of course. But to hear it — He presses another kiss to Aziraphale’s knee, this one lingering and overwhelmingly grateful. Voice roughened, he coaxes, “And?”
“His.” Aziraphale breathes in deeply, like he’s standing in a fragrant garden. His whole face relaxes, the furrow in his brow disappearing only to be replaced by a soft, wondrous smile. “He loves this place. This town. Our cottage.” His breathing hitches and his voice wobbles as he says, “Us. Crowley, he loves us so much. It-” He stops suddenly, choking on a laugh. “And he loves that silly stuffed snake you bought him at the zoo last month. He’s brimming with it.”
Aziraphale opens his eyes suddenly, tears clinging to his lashes. His smile is so bright it nearly hurts Crowley to look at it. He scrambles to sit up, opening his arms, and Aziraphale burrows himself willingly into Crowley’s embrace. His fingertips grip Crowley’s bare shoulders and he buries his face in Crowley’s neck with a relieved shudder.
Crowley wraps him up tight, dropping a kiss into his hair. “He may be the Antichrist, angel, but Satan hasn’t raised him. We have.” He swallows, hoping to Someone that he isn’t lying when he says, “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Crowley lets Aziraphale get away with quite a bit when it comes to Adam, considering Hell would happily eviscerate him if they found out Crowley was allowing the Antichrist to be coddled with bedtime stories, trips to the park to feed the ducks, and hot cocoa after bad dreams. He has no ulterior motive for letting Aziraphale do these things, aside from the fact that the angel and the boy are so happy while doing them. It does, however, come in handy when Crowley wants to teach Adam a few things of his own.
When he declares his intention to take the boy out into the garden under the guise of teaching him how to care for the plants, Aziraphale eyes him sternly over the rim of his teacup as though he knows exactly what Crowley will actually be doing. But instead of trying to dissuade him, he only sighs and sends them off with an exasperated, “Do try not to get carried away.”
Crowley presses a lingering kiss to the corner of his mouth and when Aziraphale cups a gentle hand to the back of his neck to hold him close, he feels his heart flutter in his chest like it’s their first kiss all over again. Nosing tenderly at his cheek when they part, Crowley mutters breathlessly, “No promises, angel.”
He stalks out to the garden with Adam trotting along behind him with a spade. When they reach the peonies — Aziraphale’s favorite — Crowley kneels down so that he can look into bright blue eyes over the top of his sunglasses. “The first thing we need to do,” he says, keeping his voice soft, “is to look for imperfections. Drooping, leaf spots, dry soil, that sort of thing. Can you look very carefully for me?”
Adam nods solemnly, apparently understanding that he’s been given a very important job.
Crowley clenches his hands to keep from ruffling his hair. “Good lad. Go on then.” He sits back on his heels, watching Adam wander off to inspect the peonies thoroughly. He peers and hums and mutters to himself all the while, looking uncannily like Aziraphale examining a new book for flaws. Crowley hides a smile behind his palm, entertained despite himself as Adam stomps through the garden in his wellies.
And then the kid looks up, his eyes wide. “Daddy,” he says, and points. All the makings of a great snitch, this one. Definitely a demonic trait. “This one has a yellow leaf. Is that an imp-” He scrunches up his nose. “Impuf-”
“Imperfection,” Crowley says, rising slowly back to his feet and still struggling not to grin at him. He strides toward the boy and then crouches beside him to inspect the leaf for himself. “Oh yes, that’s a sign of weakness if I ever saw one. Well done, you.”
“Now, do you know what we do to make weak plants stronger?” He asks, stroking a fingertip over a few pink flower petals. When Adam shakes his head, clearly hanging on his every word, Crowley reveals, “We talk to them.”
With a frown, Adam glances between him and the peonies. “Y’mean tell it stories?”
Oh for Hell’s sake, Aziraphale.
Crowley manages a thin smile, deciding to save his exasperation for his angel. “Not stories, no. You’ve got to threaten them. Fear is the only thing these little buggers understand.” Adam looks uncertain, a furrow in his little brow. “Watch, I’ll show you.”
Adam nods, leaning in eagerly.
Turning to the peonies, Crowley curls his mouth into a sneer. “What the f-” No, no cursing. Aziraphale will make him sleep on the sofa. “What do you think you’re doing? A yellow leaf? Have you lost your tiny little mind, you pathetic excuse for a shrub?” He hisses, baring his teeth. The peonies cower, trembling violently as if tossed about by some imaginary breeze. “I will not tolerate anything less than perfection. If I see one more discolored leaf — if I see one petal out of place — I will dig you up and replant you in a dog park, do you understand me?”
As the peonies shudder and quake, Crowley glances at Adam to make sure he’s getting the right idea, and finds the boy watching him with wide, frightened eyes. And he realizes it’s possibly the first time Adam has ever heard him raise his voice. Fuck, maybe Aziraphale isn’t the only one being too soft on the hellspawn. He holds out a hand, dropping the scowl from his face instantly.
“S’alright,” he says, tugging Adam gently to his side. “Can I tell you a secret?”
Adam nods and leans into his side, tucking himself under Crowley’s arm as if seeking reassurance that Crowley isn’t angry with him. Not for the first time, Crowley wonders how this gentle boy could ever be the one fated to destroy everything. With a sigh, he wraps an arm around his little protégé and confides in a low voice, “I’m not actually going to dig them up. The leaves are probably turning yellow because I’ve overwatered them or the soil composition isn’t right.”
With a frown, Adam asks, “Then why-”
For that, Crowley really has no answer. At least not one that doesn’t involve quite a lot of self-exploration he isn’t actually comfortable with and that Adam is too young to understand anyway. With a sigh, Crowley shrugs. “Dunno. Read an article somewhere.”
Cuddling further into his side, Adam turns his face into Crowley’s neck and admonishes, “Papa says not everything you read is true.”
Crowley huffs out a dry laugh. “Yeah. S’pose he has a point.” He finally gives in to the urge to ruffle Adam’s hair until it sticks up in soft blond tufts. Giggling, Adam swats him away. The relief Crowley feels the moment the last traces of fear leave those innocent blue eyes is…troubling. He clears his throat, pasting on a smirk. “Wanna learn how to drive the Bentley instead?”
Adam stares at him, his eyes widening this time with delight. “Please.”
Crowley slides his sunglasses off and carefully puts them on Adam. The boy grins crookedly, bouncing on his toes as he peers at Crowley over the rims of them. “Come on then.” He rises to his feet and swings Adam up into his arms. He throws the boy over his shoulder, stifling laughter when Adam yelps with delight. “Now, the first rule of driving is…there are no rules.”
Hours later, long after Adam nearly drove the Bentley into R.P. Tyler’s garden and Aziraphale had fretted himself into a state the likes of which Crowley hasn’t seen since the fourteenth century, their little hellspawn has been tucked snugly into bed. Having been soothed by Crowley’s promises to make sure Adam knows where the brake is before letting him behind the wheel again, Aziraphale sits reading by the light of the bedside lamp. His glasses are perched on the tip of his nose as he turns the page one-handed, the other stroking Crowley’s hair from his forehead.
Sprawled across his lap, Crowley shuts his eyes and revels in Aziraphale’s absent-minded, gentle touch. “You should have seen him, angel. He wasn’t even scared.” He grins suddenly. “Think old Mr. Tyler nearly wet himself though.”
Aziraphale makes a noise that’s half agreement and half scolding, twisting a lock of Crowley’s fire-bright hair around his finger.
Stifling a yawn, Crowley turns his face into Aziraphale’s thigh and nuzzles him. “He’ll be a natural behind the wheel when it’s time.”
“Hmm.” Aziraphale turns another page and says, “If the world doesn’t end when he’s eleven.”
Aziraphale stills, drawing in a sharp breath. His cautious glance down at Crowley is apologetic. They’re both very aware it won’t always be like this — tucking a little boy into bed every night, teaching him right and wrong, watching him grow. Soon enough, this idyllic countryside existence will shatter. Neither of them is willing to talk about it.
“You’re right, my dear.” Aziraphale brushes soft knuckles across Crowley’s cheek and his voice is soft and contrite. “I know he’s young yet but perhaps you should start looking into a vintage model. I’m sure he’ll want something like yours.” Aziraphale smiles, fond and pained all at once. “He does look up to you so.”
“Yeah.” Crowley swallows the uneasy lump in his throat. “He does.” Curling his fingers tightly into the fabric of Aziraphale’s tartan pajama bottoms, he closes his eyes and tries desperately not to think about the future.
Adam’s very first day of school arrives and Crowley paces the garden like a caged animal. While he wouldn’t admit it even to Satan himself, he’s more than a bit worried about the boy going off on his own. Since the night Hastur and Ligur handed him a basket full of Antichrist, Adam has never been out of his or Aziraphale’s sight. Always underfoot, asking why or begging for a ride in the Bentley. Helping Crowley gather herbs from the garden or curling up on Aziraphale’s lap for a story. And now they’re supposed to just…let him wander off on his own?
What if his teacher is a grumpy old hag? What if the other children are little shits? Of course, he should probably be more worried about the safety of everyone else. Nothing will happen to Adam — he happens to everything. He could lose his temper and turn his teacher into a bug. At least Aziraphale has been teaching him to respect all living things so Crowley can be fairly confident he won’t crunch his teacher under his shoe.
As much as he tries to tell himself Satan’s offspring can certainly take care of himself, it does nothing for his anxious pacing or his twitching hands in need of a cigarette. Which is exactly why Crowley has retreated to the garden to brood and smoke unseen and in peace. Aziraphale worries enough for both of them — he doesn’t need Crowley hovering around, fidgeting and scowling.
In the quiet of the garden, he can hear Aziraphale inside the cottage, dealing with his own anxieties the only way he can; fussing over Adam’s clothes and hair and book bag, making sure he eats enough breakfast, and trilling on about what a lovely time he’ll have with the other children. Adam endures it all with his usual quiet forbearance, tolerating Aziraphale worrying over him like a mother hen without complaint. As though he senses that Aziraphale needs to fret far more than Adam needs fretting over.
It’s only when Crowley hears wouldn’t you rather wear a bit of tartan, my dear? that he finally decides to take pity on the boy and intervene. With a glance at his watch, he sighs and takes one last drag of his cigarette before he vanishes it with a finger snap. Blowing out the last of the smoke through his nostrils, he squares his shoulders and strolls out of the garden and into the house.
Coming upon the sight of Aziraphale kneeling in front of Adam in the kitchen, looking harried as he tries to surreptitiously smooth out a wrinkle in the boy’s trousers with a subtle miracle, Crowley clears his throat pointedly. “Enough, angel,” he says, eyeing Aziraphale over the rim of his sunglasses. Adam glances up, looking relieved to see him. Crowley winks at him. “He’s fine. Now say goodbye to Papa, Adam.”
Slipping out of Aziraphale’s grasp, Adam darts in quickly to peck his cheek. “Bye, Papa!”
As Adam runs to Crowley’s side like a fugitive seeking asylum from the law, Aziraphale climbs to his feet with a frown. “But I’m going with you-”
Crowley smirks. “You’re really not.”
“In the car, Adam.” Crowley jerks a thumb over his shoulder. Then, as Adam rushes outside, he calls after him, “Not the driver’s seat, young man!”
Adam’s steps slow and he grumbles to himself as he slips out the door and to the car.
Aziraphale stands stiffly, hands balled into fists. “Crowley, if you think for one moment that I’m going to sit here alone while you-”
Striding up to him, Crowley lays gentle, soothing hands on Aziraphale’s shoulders. Beneath his palms, he feels the angel grudgingly relax. Sunglasses sliding down the bridge of his nose, Crowley studies Aziraphale’s well-practiced pout and steels himself. “Angel, having you there fussing over him and getting emotional will only make things worse. He’ll be nervous enough on his own.” Crowley brushes his thumb over Aziraphale’s collarbone. “This’ll be better — like ripping off a plaster. Quick and painless. Let me take him.”
Aziraphale bites his lip, clearly wavering.
Latching onto his softening resolve, Crowley keeps stroking his thumb over Aziraphale’s collarbone and leans in for a lingering kiss. Aziraphale sways into him with a sigh that sounds like surrender, his hands lax on Crowley’s chest. When they part, he blinks open his eyes and smiles weakly, pressing his forehead against Crowley’s in silence acquiescence.
“Thank you, angel.” Crowley reluctantly lets his arms fall away from Aziraphale’s shoulders and jerks a thumb toward the door. “Should go before he tries to drive himself there.”
Nodding, Aziraphale murmurs, “Mind how you go.”
Crowley takes a step toward the door, backwards because he can’t bring himself to look away from Aziraphale just yet. He eyes the dressing gown wrapped around his frame, one he’d nicked from Crowley’s side of the closet. It fits a little snug on him, stretched tight across his broad shoulders instead of the way it drapes over Crowley’s lanky frame. Crowley licks his lips, a grin curling his mouth. “Don’t you dare get dressed while I’m gone.”
Aziraphale beams, flushing, and sketches a ridiculous little bow, twirling the sash of his dressing gown shyly. “Yes, darling.”
And so Crowley drives Adam to his first day of school.
The boy bounces in his seat on the drive, giggling as Crowley pushes the Bentley well past the legal limits through the quiet country lanes. When Aziraphale is in the car with them, Crowley usually tries to somewhat behave himself but when it’s just him and Adam out for a drive, he doesn’t bother. Adam is a little speed demon, egging Crowley on and cheering as they fly over the roads.
Crowley listens to his happy shouts and grips the steering wheel, telling himself he absolutely isn’t going to miss their afternoon drives now that Adam will spend most of his days in class. It’s just nice to have a passenger who doesn’t shriek about pedestrians who really shouldn’t be on the street anyway. That’s all.
They screech to a halt outside the school but Crowley doesn’t unlock the doors immediately. Instead, he turns in his seat and stares at the boy sitting beside him, gripping his backpack tightly on his lap. He looks a little nervous now that they’re actually here, glancing uneasily out the window at the other children. Crowley resists the urge to start the car again and bring him home — let him play in the garden for another year until he’s ready. Some days, it isn’t only Aziraphale who needs reminding the Antichrist shouldn’t be coddled.
“Remember what your Papa and I told you?” He asks, unable to keep the softness out of his voice. Adam may be Lucifer’s child but he’s still just that — a child, for the moment. “About your behavior today?”
Adam nods solemnly. “You said to be good.”
Crowley arches an eyebrow and prompts, “But?”
With a tiny smile, Adam supplies, “But not too good.”
“That’s a lad,” Crowley says, fondly. “Out with you then, hellspawn.”
When Adam tumbles out of the car still a bit windblown, he’s immediately surrounded by a group of fascinated schoolchildren all clamoring to ask about his unconventional school transportation. Is that car yours? How fast can it go? Can I have a ride? Is that your dad? He’s so cool! Adam beams at the attention, proudly telling everyone about the Bentley and his dad with all the relish Aziraphale uses to tell bedtime stories.
Crowley lounges against the Bentley and tries not to feel terribly smug. As a few schoolteachers begin to shuttle all the kids inside in tidy little rows, Adam pauses only long enough to turn back and wave to Crowley before he disappears through the doors still chatting with his new friends. Crowley remains leaning against the car for a long moment, unable to bring himself to move just yet.
Adam might change his mind about wanting to go to school this year and beg to be taken home. Or maybe he’ll realize he’d run off without his customary hug around Crowley’s knees. Or maybe Crowley has become a pathetic sap who needs to get back into the car and stop fretting over the sodding Antichrist. With a growl, Crowley pushes off the Bentley and yanks open the door, sliding inside. He speeds back to the cottage, hands white-knuckled around the steering wheel, and pointedly doesn’t glance at his empty passenger seat.
Aziraphale hasn’t calmed at all when he arrives home, but has instead taken to pacing the garden and wringing his hands. He smiles when he sees Crowley, his tense face going soft with relief. “Well?” He asks, eyes hopeful. “How was it? Was he frightened? Did he want to come home? Were the other children nice?”
“He was fine, angel.” He pointedly does not mention that Adam had been eager to strike out on his own for a bit and Crowley had been the one wrestling with the urge to yank the boy back to the car and take him home. “How many times do I have to tell you he’s the Antichrist and everything should be frightened of him instead of the other way round?”
With a frown, Aziraphale looks away and stares at a patch of lavender by the garden gate. “I just want him safe, Crowley.”
Crowley sighs, his terseness slipping away the moment he hears the quiet distress in Aziraphale’s voice and takes one look at his face, sweetly cherubic features creased with worry. “I know you do. But he’s fine, I promise. When I left, he’d made friends already.”
He takes the angel’s soft hands in his, squeezing them tight. Aziraphale looks up, blue eyes trusting and mouth trembling. And oh bless it, there’s really no other option but for Crowley to wrap his arms around him and gather the angel against his chest. He ducks his head and leans in, determined to kiss Aziraphale and keep kissing him until he smiles again.
Only when he feels Aziraphale’s soft lips curl up beneath his questing mouth does Crowley finally pull away and rest their foreheads together. “You can come with me to pick him up and see for yourself. Sound good?”
Smiling properly now, Aziraphale nods. “That sounds lovely.” He peeks up at Crowley through his lashes, biting his lip enticingly. “Now…I seem to recall you said something about not getting dressed.”
Crowley smirks, eyeing the dressing gown still wrapped snugly around him. “And look at you, taking orders from a demon.”
Aziraphale arches an eyebrow. “Hardly the first time, my dear. You do enjoy it so.”
“Can I help it you obey so beautifully?” Crowley nuzzles his nose against Aziraphale’s cheek, breathing in the soft sweet scent of him. “Come on, angel. To bed with you.”
They stumble into the cottage clinging to each other and laughing but Crowley is halfway down the hallway with Aziraphale wrapped around him when it dawns on him just how quiet it is. The air is still, every room is tidy, and there is no little boy laughter or shouts from the garden. And for just a moment, the stark melancholy of an empty nest settles over him before he chides himself for being ridiculous and tugs Aziraphale into bed.
When they pick Adam up that afternoon, he climbs into the Bentley already babbling excitedly about his day and the new friends he had made. “I told them all about my dads,” he says, shoving a crayon drawing at Aziraphale, who coos over it like it’s a blessed Da Vinci. “And guess what? My friend Pepper has two mums.”
Crowley eyes the drawing — a stick figure in black and a stick figure in white standing on either side of a smaller figure clearly meant to be Adam. Underneath it, haphazard letters spell out My Family. He looks away and clears his throat, pushing his foot harder against the gas pedal and ignoring Aziraphale’s disapproving glance. “Not bad,” he says, when he trusts himself to speak. “Like the sunglasses.”
Adam beams at him. “And I told them you make the best triple chocolate brownies in the world, Papa, so now they want to come over.” He tugs on Aziraphale’s sleeve, employing the pout he had learned directly from the angel. “Can they? Please?”
As Aziraphale relents, blushing at the praise, he meets Crowley’s gaze over the boy’s blond head. Crowley can read the relief plainly in Aziraphale’s expression and he’s grateful for the glasses that cover his eyes, lest the angel see the very same in his own.
It’s rare for both Crowley and Aziraphale to find themselves at Adam’s school at the same time. For the most part, they tend to share the duties that go along with being a human parent. Crowley had volunteered for the PTA meetings because he enjoys the chaos he can create, sowing havoc and tension among parents and teachers. Aziraphale likes the field trips to museums and is always the one to cook when Adam’s class requires food. The school’s bake sales have become something of a legend under Aziraphale’s leadership.
When they are seen together on school grounds, it’s usually at Adam’s footie matches. Aziraphale, who had read up extensively on the sport before Adam’s first game, is usually the one standing up and shouting encouragement while Crowley buries his face in his hands and pretends not to know him. But they’ve never, not even once, been forced to sit side by side in the headmistress’ office like naughty schoolchildren.
Crowley can’t help wondering what sort of picture they must make. Adam’s human fathers, for all intents and purposes: one dressed in beige slacks and a soft jumper, wringing his hands as he apologizes profusely; the other all in black and refusing to take off his sunglasses indoors, slouched in his chair and failing to hide a smug grin. They must look like a bizarre pair. Crowley can tell just by looking at the headmistress’s bewildered expression as she glances between them that she’s wondering how Ezra Fell and Anthony Crowley ever managed to be in the same room long enough to meet, let alone fall in love.
Crowley bites the inside of his cheek, wishing he could tell her it had taken both one minute and six thousand fucking years. Instead, he tilts his head and listens as Aziraphale trips all over himself to apologize for the nth time since they arrived. “I can assure you, we do not condone this sort of violence at home. I just don’t understand what could have gotten into him. Adam usually wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Literally. He actually refuses to swat at them because Papa says all living things have purpose and I should respect that. Crowley has been trying for years to undo that particular lesson but Adam seems determined to cling to it.
Beside him, Aziraphale continues to fret. Crowley reaches out a hand and places it on his thigh, squeezing gently. “Enough, angel. Let me.” Aziraphale quiets at once, turning his head to look at him with a small, grateful smile. Crowley levels the headmistress with a sneering glance. “Two sides to every story, right? So what’d the other kid do?”
The headmistress blinks at him. “Excuse me?”
“Y’know, the brat sitting outside with the broken nose.” Crowley waves an impatient hand, peering at her from over the rims of his sunglasses. “What’d he do to deserve it?”
“Anthony,” Aziraphale hisses out of the corner of his mouth. And then he pauses, mulling it over for a moment. Crowley hides a smile when his brow furrows. “You know, my husband does have a point. I don’t suppose you know why our Adam hit the other boy?”
Crowley might have looked triumphant if he could manage it but hearing Aziraphale refer to him as his husband always renders him completely useless for at least a full sixty seconds afterwards. Luckily for him, the headmistress has no such difficulties. She offers them both a cool look and says stiffly, “I don’t see how that’s relevant.”
“Could be.” Crowley shrugs, forcing himself to stop staring moonily at Aziraphale and focus. “What if he had a good reason?”
The headmistress frowns, nails tapping impatiently against her desk. “There’s never a good reason to hit another person, Mr. Crowley.”
Aziraphale stiffens, drawing himself up even straighter in his chair than he had been. He looks down his prim nose at the headmistress and oh Crowley has never loved him more. “My son doesn’t have a violent bone in his body. If he raised his hand to a peer, I must believe he thought it was the right thing to do. And he must have given you a reason when you called him in here. I demand you tell me what it was at once.”
And so she tells him. The headmistress relays the whole incident to them, starting from the moment the child in question began picking on Adam’s little friend Pepper for having two mothers. Adam had apparently tried to intervene calmly before he was dragged into the argument himself when the wee bully began to goad Adam about his fathers. Adam had grown angry and punched him.
Crowley stares, incredulous. Beside him, he can sense Aziraphale’s quiet fury without even turning to look at him. It radiates from him the same way his divinity does, mingling together to create a heady cocktail Crowley could get drunk on. He clears his throat again, determined to focus.
“So…” Crowley drawls, arching an eyebrow. “He rightfully decked a little homophobe and you want us to what, exactly? Punish him?”
Hands folded atop her desk, the headmistress sighs. “The situation is regrettable but I think we can all agree there are better methods to dealing with these kinds of issues-”
“My dear lady,” Aziraphale interrupts with a sweet smile. He’s all angelic warmth and kindness at the moment but Crowley grimaces, sucking in a breath through his teeth. “There is certainly a time and place for peaceful discussion but if you truly believe I’m going to march out of this room and punish my child for standing up against bigotry, you are…” He trails off, brow furrowed. Crowley settles his chin in his palm, watching him fondly. “What’s the word I’m looking for, darling?” He brightens. “Oh yes. Cancelled.”
Adam is waiting for them outside the office when they finally emerge, his shoulders slumped and the toe of his trainer scuffing at the floor dejectedly. He tenses when the door opens but doesn’t look up, clearly expecting to be scolded. Crowley and Aziraphale exchange a wordless glance and when Crowley nods, Aziraphale crosses the room and crouches down in front of their little hellspawn.
Slowly, Adam lifts his head with a grimace. Out of the two of them, disappointing Aziraphale always seems to upset him most. Crowley knows the feeling. There’s nothing quite like knowing you’ve let down the nicest bastard in the whole of Creation. “Papa, I’m-”
Aziraphale shakes his head, smiling. “Don’t you dare apologize, dear boy.” He lifts a hand to cradles Adam’s cheek, whispering, “We’re so terribly proud of you.”
With a relieved, shaky sigh, Adam throws himself into Aziraphale’s arms and slumps there like a weight has been lifted. Aziraphale hums softly, cradling the boy close and murmuring soothing nonsense. When Aziraphale glances over his shoulder at him, Crowley finally forces his feet to move. He approaches slowly but the moment Adam hears his boots against the floor, he lifts his head.
Crowley feels his throat tighten, at both the undeserved title and the hope in that small voice — seeking approval, as always. He swallows past the sudden lump in his throat and crouches beside them. His husband and son. His family. “Heard it took a whole box of tissues before the bleeding stopped,” he offers, grinning. “Well done, you.”
Adam smiles, broad and mischievous. “Just did what you taught me.”
“Course you did.” Reaching out a hand to ruffle his hair, Crowley rises slowly back to his feet and peers down at him with an arched brow. “So…who wants ice cream?”
From their place still huddled together on the floor, Adam and Aziraphale both look up with identical expressions of delight. Crowley stifles a smile.
The night before Adam’s eleventh birthday, Crowley and Aziraphale do not sleep.
Once they’ve tucked an excited little boy into bed, they retire to the back garden. Aziraphale huddles on the stone steps, his bowtie drooping and his soft hands clasping at a bottle of wine. Crowley can feel his worried eyes on him while he paces, cigarette dangling between his lips and his jaw aching from clenching it all day.
Above them, twilight has faded into an inky blackness sprinkled with millions of stars. They’re far easier to see out here in the country than they’d ever been in London but tonight, Crowley cannot enjoy it. The stars seem brighter than usual and he wonders uneasily if maybe that isn’t just all in his head.
Tomorrow is it, after all.
Crowley exhales a cloud of smoke and glares at the sky, feeling helpless and small and very much not in control. On a normal day, such a feeling would make his skin crawl but with Adam and the fate of the whole world at stake? He feels like abandoning his human corporation altogether and slithering off into a hole somewhere to wait it out.
Pausing with the bottle halfway to his lips, Aziraphale sighs. “We’ve done our best, my dear. There’s nothing to do but wait.”
“I hate waiting,” Crowley hisses. “I can’t — what — we’re just supposed to sit here and wait for some bloody big dog to pop round tomorrow? Watch Satan crawl out of the ground and claim our son for himself? Let the entire blessed world just end?”
Aziraphale stares at him and to Crowley’s complete exasperation, starts to smile. “Our son,” he says, soft and wondrous. Crowley goes still, cold all over. “Do you know, I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you say that.”
With a half-hearted snarl, Crowley opens his mouth to deny the whole thing — call it a slip of the tongue, blame Aziraphale for luring him into this fantasy where they’ve played happy families for eleven years, anything at all but face the truth — and then he stops. For better or worse, tomorrow changes everything. And Crowley has been silently trying and failing not to unconditionally love a pint-sized Antichrist since the first moment he glanced at the passenger seat of the Bentley at a stop light and saw sleepy bright eyes peering out at him from inside a basket.
Every day since has been a struggle. Watching Aziraphale murmur lullabies to a colicky infant; hearing daddy from a high-pitched little voice; tiny footsteps racing toward him and a little boy expecting to be lifted into the air; childish laughter at bedtime; small hands curled around the wheel of the Bentley and a wide, daring grin when Crowley revved the engine; those curls that remind him of Aziraphale and the sly smile he could only have gotten from watching Crowley for years.
Crowley feels his knees buckle. He staggers, barely making it to the steps and sinking down beside Aziraphale before his legs give out. “Fuck,” he rasps, eyes stinging. “I love him, don’t I?”
Beside him, Aziraphale reaches out a comforting hand to pat his thigh and murmurs, “Yes, darling. Since the beginning.”
Crowley stares at the cigarette still dangling between his numb fingers and tries to will away the lump in his throat. “That, uh, that wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“No,” Aziraphale agrees mildly.
Crowley squeezes his eyes shut and pinches the bridge of his nose between his fingertips. “This was supposed to be a job.” He lifts his head, gesturing vaguely around them with a scowl. “Look after the Antichrist until his eleventh birthday. Hope your influence could cancel out mine and make him normal. Avert the apocalypse. That’s it.”
Nodding, Aziraphale watches him patiently. “I believe that sums matters up rather well.” He raises his brows expectantly. “And now?”
Slumping forward with a growl, Crowley takes another drag of his cigarette and braces his elbows on his knees. “We can’t lose him, angel.”
“Oh, I don’t intend to.”
Surprised, Crowley lifts his head again and peers at the angel warily. Straight-backed and solemn-faced but with that familiar twinkle in his eyes, his innocent pink mouth settled into a firm line, Aziraphale looks every inch the warrior he used to be. Crowley shudders and licks his lips. “What do we do?”
Aziraphale smiles suddenly, handing Crowley the bottle of wine. “Whatever we must.”
It isn’t exactly a solid plan but Crowley finds himself comforted by it anyway. It’s a warm summer night and Aziraphale has abandoned his coat and rolled up his shirt sleeves to be more comfortable. Despite the years of domesticity and having the angel in his bed every night, the sight of his forearms still renders Crowley a bit weak-kneed. A light breeze ruffles his cotton fluff curls and under Crowley’s watchful gaze, the angel smiles and tips his face up into the wind like he hasn’t a care in the world. Like somehow, despite everything, he still has faith in Her.
Crowley would never begrudge him that but he does wonder how it’s possible to feel so close to Her even while technically defying Her. This whole eleven-year venture has been about defying Heaven and Hell, and Her Plan, to keep things just as they are. Aziraphale, the wonderful bastard, is the perfect example of ineffability. Fondness — oh fuck it, complete and utter adoration — wells up within Crowley like a fountain. He feels full to overflowing with it as he leans in and dusts his knuckles down the side of Aziraphale’s soft cheek. It doesn’t really matter what or who Aziraphale has faith in. Crowley has faith in Aziraphale. And the angel has never let him down yet.
Aziraphale tilts his head into Crowley’s touch, blond lashes fluttering that way he has when he wants Crowley to kiss him but doesn’t want to have to ask. Crowley bites back a smirk, vanishing his cigarette before slipping his fingers into the angel’s hair to tug him gently closer. Aziraphale follows willingly, his warm hand falling to Crowley’s knee and squeezing as their mouths brush softly once, twice. Crowley groans quietly, lips parting to taste him properly —
They startle apart, flushed and a little breathless. Adam stands in the doorway, yawning and rubbing at his eyes. Crowley can’t help but stare at him, the lump returning to his throat as he takes in this boy he has watched grow and raised with his angel for eleven years, helping him with his homework and scaring away all his fears. He loves him, with his tousled blond hair and curious blue eyes, his mismatched pajamas and his bare feet. This boy who is always asking questions like his Dad and forever trying to do the right thing like his Papa.
He loves the little family they’ve become: Crowley curious and reckless, Aziraphale cautious but always willing and indeed waiting to be tempted, and their little Hellspawn balanced right between them. The perfect combination of them both, just as they’d always hoped he would be. Crowley will protect this family — his family — until this corporation’s last breath. And he’ll destroy anything that tries to take it away from him. Even Satan himself.
“Adam, what are you doing up?” Aziraphale beckons him closer and Adam smiles, padding down the steps to sit between them. “I tucked you in hours ago, young man.”
He shrugs, his hand latching onto Aziraphale’s waistcoat even as his head drops to Crowley’s shoulder. “I couldn’t sleep.”
Under the weight of his new realization of just how far he is willing to go to protect what belongs to him, Crowley struggles to keep his voice normal and even as he asks, “Too excited about tomorrow?” At Adam’s eager nod, he ducks his head and buries his nose in the boy’s soft hair, clean and smelling of fresh cotton. “Think you’ll get everything you want?”
“I think so,” Adam muses, scrunching up his face as he thinks. “I mean, I mostly just want a new bike and comics. But… there is one thing I haven’t mentioned that I really want.”
“Oh?” Crowley arches an eyebrow and exchanges a glance with Aziraphale over Adam’s head, bracing himself to be dragged out to the shops at some ungodly hour of the morning so Adam can have absolutely everything he wants. “What’s that?”
Adam tips his face up to look into his eyes and Crowley fights the urge to look away. The only person besides Adam to see him without his sunglasses is Aziraphale. While the boy had been curious about his eyes when he was small, he’s long gotten used to them and stopped asking incessant questions about their unusual color. There is none of the fear Crowley usually sees in others when he shows his eyes, only the same implicit trust as ever.
“I’d really like a dog,” Adam confesses, and Crowley freezes.
On the other side of him, Aziraphale goes utterly still and stares at Crowley with wide eyes. Crowley clears his throat and prods hesitantly, “What, like a big vicious thing? Throat ripper, maybe?”
“No way.” Adam wrinkles his nose. “I want a dog I can have fun with, not a big old Rottweiler. He’s got to be brilliantly intelligent so he can go down rabbit holes and I can teach him tricks. I’ll teach him to fetch the paper for Papa in the morning.” Aziraphale smiles at him fondly, forgetting his terror long enough to dote on the boy with an affectionate pat. Worrying his bottom lip between his teeth, Adam muses, “And I’ll call him…”
Crowley draws in a sharp breath. This is it. Naming the Hellhound will give it its purpose. Its function. Its identity. This is the moment that sets Armageddon into motion. He feels as though he’s standing somewhere high up and looking down. Distantly, he feels Aziraphale’s hand cover his own, squeezing tightly. He holds his breath, gaze unwavering as he watches Adam open his mouth to speak.
“I think I’ll just call him Dog.”
Crowley blinks. “You…what?”
“Dog,” the boy says again, with more confidence this time. “That’s what I’m gonna call him.”
Slowly, Crowley asks, “You’re — you’re, uh, going to call your dog… Dog.”
Adam shrugs, curled into Crowley’s side like he’s still a wee boy looking for a cuddle. “Seems easier that way, don’t you think?”
On the other side of their son, Aziraphale hides a smile behind his fingertips and says, “Well, it’s certainly easy to remember. How clever you are, my boy.”
Crowley pulls a face. “Not very imaginative if you ask me.”
Aziraphale gives him a pointed look and says with false cheer, “Nonsense, darling. It’s Adam’s choice. Tomorrow is his eleventh birthday, after all.”
With a grimace, Crowley slouches and mutters, “Yeah, point.” He sniffs. “All right then. Dog. I like it. Good, solid name. S’got potential.”
Brightening, Adam uncurls from Crowley’s side and sits up straight to glance excitedly between them. “Really? You’ll get me a dog?”
Crowley sucks in a breath, mouth twisting into a dry smile. “I’d say there’s a definite possibility one’ll turn up.”
Adam whoops, throwing his arms around both of them and tugging until the three of them are all huddled together on the steps and embracing. Of course the kid loves group hugs. He is partly Aziraphale’s after all, Crowley thinks wryly.
With Adam squished securely between them, Crowley glances over the boy’s head and exchanges a soft glance with Aziraphale. He feels marginally less anxious than he had only a few minutes ago. Somehow, deep down in his ancient, brimstone soaked bones, Crowley has the strangest feeling things are going to be all right.
The drive home from the airbase is silent, save for Freddie Mercury crooning We Are The Champions from the Bentley’s anachronistic sound system. Though the air still smells faintly of brimstone and his heart still thunders in panicked fits and starts against his ribcage, the danger has passed. They did it. They actually did it. Stopped Armageddon and saved their son. Defied the Devil himself to do it.
Crowley stifles a noise of disbelief and presses his foot harder against the gas pedal. It says quite a lot about the day they’ve had that Aziraphale makes not even a whimper of complaint from the passenger seat. Instead, he sits straight-backed and silent, his hands clutched together in his lap and his usually sweet face settled into a grim expression of bewilderment. Crowley knows the feeling intimately. He grips the steering wheel in white-knuckled fists and glances in the rearview mirror every few seconds, just to make sure the kid is really still there.
Slouched in the backseat, Dog curled up on his lap, Adam's eyes shifting back and forth between Aziraphale and Crowley like he has never seen them before. He hasn’t said a word since Satan fucked off back to Hell, defeated by a small boy in faded jeans and dirty trainers, but the last words Adam had said have been ringing in Crowley’s ears ever since.
Bright-eyed and stubborn as Aziraphale in his best moments, Adam had tipped his chin up in defiance and stared the Devil right in the eye. “You’re not my dad,” he’d said, and the unwavering confidence in his voice had been enough to make Crowley’s knees tremble. “Where’ve you been all this time? When I had nightmares and Papa made me cocoa? When Dad taught me how to drive the car? When I wanted lullabies and bedtime stories? Where were you when I started school? Or got sick?” His bright gaze had narrowed, his mouth twisting into a pint-sized sneer. “Where were you on all my other birthdays? I’ve had ten of them before this one, you know.”
Crowley could only stare, gripping Aziraphale’s hand so hard he had to have been grinding bones together. Aziraphale hadn’t complained, gripping back just as hard as they’d watched Satan tilt his head and stare at Adam with growing fury.
“You’re not my dad and you never were.” Adam had looked away then, his eyes softening briefly when he’d spotted Crowley and Aziraphale standing just behind him hand-in-hand. “They are.”
And that was that.
Somehow, inexplicably, they’d saved the world just by loving their son.
Despite all the rumors about demons being incapable of it, Crowley is no stranger to love. Loving Aziraphale has always come easy, as second nature to him as breathing from the very first. He’d never had to think about it; never questioned it or stopped to doubt it. Crowley had been devoted since the moment Aziraphale confessed to giving away his sword and he’d never once looked back.
His love for Adam has been a totally different experience. It has grown day by day, strengthened with every hug around his knees, every tug of a small hand in his, every Dad ever spoken. Every day, he’d loved just a little more. A little more. Until even he could not ignore it any longer; could not overlook it and pretend it didn’t exist just because it scared the Heaven out of him.
And he’s still scared even now.
That love he’d never really earned could be taken away. Whatever Adam had said in the heat of the moment at the airbase, he might not want anything to do with Crowley or Aziraphale ever again. They’ve lied to him his whole life. After spending eleven years believing them to be just his dads — warm, silly Papa who reads to him every night and his cool Dad who throws the best birthday parties and always lets him ride in the front seat — it turns out they’re not just Dad and Papa after all. They’re eternal, occult beings who had kidnaped him to save the world.
Crowley grimaces, grateful his sunglasses hide his expression as he glances in the rearview mirror again to check on the boy. Despite what Adam had said back there to Crowley’s ex-boss, he isn’t so sure he deserves the title of Dad after all. He sneaks another peek at Aziraphale, who looks pale and tired as he wrings his hands together in his lap, and Crowley knows he must feel the same nauseating mixture of guilt and terror.
By the time they arrive at the cottage, none of them have spoken a word.
Crowley turns off the ignition and the music stops, plunging them into uncomfortable, ringing silence. He opens his mouth to say something but nothing at all comes to mind. Thankfully, Aziraphale seems to have spent the ride home plotting rather than panicking like Crowley. He straightens his bowtie and smoothes out a wrinkle in his trousers before he says, “I think we should talk.”
He speaks softly, with a nervous wobble in his voice, but in the strained quiet that has fallen over the car, it makes them all flinch. Crowley nods, clearing his throat. “I — yeah. Might be good.”
Aziraphale steps out of the Bentley first but he doesn’t go inside. Instead, Crowley watches through the windshield as he goes round the back and strides through the garden gate, disappearing behind the hedges. In the rearview mirror, he exchanges a puzzled glance with Adam. The boy shrugs and climbs out, following in Aziraphale’s footsteps. Dog trots along beside him, panting happily.
With no other choice, Crowley trails uneasily behind.
Dog abandons them to explore the garden once they reach their destination, sniffing curiously at Crowley's prized roses. The fading daylight has turned everything a soft orange around them as they join Aziraphale at a table beneath the wisteria-covered arbor. As Crowley sprawls back in his chair, his eyes are drawn helplessly to Aziraphale beside him. He looks more ethereal than usual, nearly glowing as he folds his hands primly on the table and watches their son with equal parts love and trepidation. “I believe the first thing we should do is apologize to you, Adam.”
Adam glances up from his careful study of the wrought iron table, startled. “…Yeah?”
“We lied to you, my dear boy.” Aziraphale swallows, looking overwhelmed for a moment. He blinks rapidly, tears in his eyes. “About so many things. Who we were. Your origins and your true purpose. What was at stake in all this. The strange ways your powers manifested over the years that we always tried to explain away.”
“Why did you?” Adam ducks his head. “Were you afraid if I knew who I was, I’d turn bad?”
“Certainly not.” Aziraphale reaches out, like he wants to touch Adam in reassurance, but then hesitates as though he isn’t sure it would be welcome. He drops his hand back to the table and Crowley’s chest aches for him. “We were never afraid of you, Adam. Not even once.”
Adam doesn’t look up. “Then why not tell me?”
Aziraphale glances helplessly at Crowley, who leans forward and curls a hand over his knee beneath the table. “”S’alright, angel,” he murmurs. “Let me.”
With a weak nod, Aziraphale presses his hand over Crowley’s, squeezing gratefully.
Crowley lifts his sunglasses from his eyes, tossing them on the table. It catches Adam’s attention, whose gaze drops to stare at them. “I’m sure you know by now this started off as a job, kid. Telling you the truth was never in the cards. And then…once it wasn’t a job anymore, we weren’t sure where to begin.”
Still gazing at Crowley’s sunglasses, Adam frowns. His voice wavers as he asks, “So… I’m not still just a job then?”
“No.” Aziraphale says at once, adamant in a way Crowley hasn’t heard since the early days of their acquaintance, when he was trying to resist the temptation to befriend a demon. The soft features and sweet glow Crowley has grown so used to seeing has all but disappeared, replaced by a steely gaze and stern brow more reminiscent of the soldier he was created to be. Adam looks up, eyes wet and lower lip wobbling, and Aziraphale’s expression crumples in reply. “Oh, my darling boy. Being your Papa hasn’t been a job for a frightfully long time. We’ve come to love you so very much.”
“S’right,” Crowley rasps, forcing the words past the lump in his throat. “We’re your dads, hellspawn, and we’re not going anywhere.” He squirms, hating how utterly vulnerable he feels as he amends, “I mean, if you’ll still have us, that is.”
With a cautious glance between them, Adam furrows his brow. “Of course I’ll still-” He shakes his head, looking puzzled. “You wouldn’t just abandon me because I turned out to be different than you thought, would you?”
Crowley raises an eyebrow. “Course not.”
“Then why would I leave you?” Adam shrugs, like he doesn’t hold their stupidly fragile human hearts in his small hands. “We’re family, aren’t we?”
Aziraphale blinks rapidly, looking like he might cry. Crowley tightens his grip on him beneath the table, smoothing his thumb over his knee as the angel whispers, “Yes, my boy. We certainly are.”
“So,” Crowley ventures, leaning back to sprawl in his chair like he hadn’t just spilled his heart out at a little boy’s feet. He does his best not to sound too pathetically hopeful as he prods, “We’re still your dads then?”
Adam rolls his eyes, like Crowley is being thick. “Duh.”
Aziraphale laughs brightly, his eyes crinkling at the corners and his whole expression softening into something so beautiful and luminous that Crowley feels seconds from floating away. He looks away before he can embarrass himself any more than he already has, stifling a smirk as he reaches out to ruffle Adam’s hair roughly. “Smartarse,” he mutters.
Adam laughs, ducking away, and Aziraphale catches him before he can get far — wrapping the boy in a tight embrace. Adam nestles into his arms easily, tucking his head in the crook of Aziraphale’s neck like he’s been longing for a cuddle for hours. He doesn’t let Crowley go far either, yanking insistently on his sleeve until the demon leans forward with a put-upon sigh.
And suddenly the three of them are huddled together in the dusk of the day, holding onto each other for a long moment. Crowley ducks his head, breathing them in. His family. His eyes slide shut briefly to savor it and when he opens them again, the world looks remade. Brand new. The sky is a brilliant orange overhead. He can hear a nightingale singing in a nearby tree and Dog barking at it. He can smell the soil in the garden and the wisteria hanging over them. It feels like a fresh start.
He allows himself one last moment to breathe in the sweet boy smell of Adam and the soft scent of cinnamon lingering in Aziraphale’s hair before he relinquishes his hold on them both and leans back. He reaches for his glasses, stretches languidly, and sniffs the air. “Don’t suppose I could tempt either of you to lunch?”
Adam and Aziraphale look up in unison, both of them beaming at him like he’d hung the bloody moon. And to be fair, he’d certainly helped. Crowley grins and climbs to his feet, holding out a hand to each of them.
And they leave the garden — together.