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Come Set Me Free

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Aziraphale took a moment in the kitchen to calm his nervous pulse and wipe his sweating palms on a scrap of paper towel. Gabriel was busy in the sitting room, taking the Bradfords and the Coleson’s through a guided meditation on opening their hearts to one another and sharing their truth. 


Aziraphale always felt like something of a performing monkey when Gabriel had clients over for his weekend workshops/retreats. They’d wander around, wide eyed and unnecessarily impressed by their house ( Gabriel’s house really, if Aziraphale were being honest, for he’d had nothing to do with its acquisition). As if the walls themselves held the power to heal strained relationships. As if Gabriel radiated a beneficent energy that had saturated the carpets and subtle watercolor landscapes hanging on the walls with the ability to knit unraveling marriages back together.


These people, these couples who took the time to travel here from all over the country, and even from Europe, flying into Newark or JFK, or sometimes White Plains and making the two hour drive to their large, spralling Victorian style house for the weekend, were always in awe of Gabriel. Most people were. He was an imposing figure. Six feet six inches tall. Broad shouldered, square jawed and classically handsome, just like the American movie stars Aziraphale had grown up daydreaming about. His deep, self assured voice and confident mannerisms had a way of calming and centering those he spoke to. And those who disagreed with him, soon found themselves the target of a razor sharp wit that cut them to the bone and reminded them that Gabriel and Gabriel alone was the dominant one in the room. He rarely ever used his harsher words on clients, but others were not so lucky.


Aziraphale had been the target of such a wit many times, when he disagreed too stringently with Gabriel, or when he wasn’t impressed enough with Gabriel’s sometimes banal observations about interpersonal relationships. But mostly, Gabriel treated him with amiable friendliness, and a habitual sort of affection that had grown less warm and more practiced as the years had gone by. 


They’d met just as Aziraphale was entering his thirties. He’d bought the bookshop in Soho (with the help of his parents) as a way to fill his days and as an excuse to collect as many books as possible. It gave him a valid reason to spend the majority of his time lost in the pages of obscure first editions, and kept his head above the waters of unsettling eccentricity. At least the dangerous sort of eccentricity that drove people away and made them whisper about him behind his back, rather than the charming kind that endeared people to him. He luckily seemed to have landed firmly on the charming side of things, and many people had told him so. Oh Aziraphale, you are so sweet! You’re so charming! I just love your little bow ties!


People never seemed to understand that he didn’t make the choice to wear old fashioned waistcoats or tartan bow ties out of a desire to be charming. They simply suited his quiet, old fashioned sensibilities. Still, his antiquated wardrobe, combined with his wild head of white-blond curls and his naturally sunny and helpful disposition had people routinely calling him things like “adorable” and “darling” and “cute.” 


And when they saw him and Gabriel together? Well people were just endlessly charmed. Where they now lived, in a wealthy area of mid-state New York, an hour or so outside of Pougkeepsie, it was fashionable to be a happily married gay couple with impeccable taste in home decore, and matching coffee cups with inspirational sayings printed on them. They weren’t those scary gays, the kinky, promiscuous ones from the city that straight people found fascinating, but ultimately intimidating and unsettling. Aziraphale and Gabriel were Martha Stewart gays. Everyone gushed over what a beautiful couple they made. Tall, handsome Gabriel and sweet, plump Aziraphale. Oh my how adorable.


Only Aziraphale didn’t feel adorable. He felt hopelessly frumpy and outdated. Gabriel, ridiculously fit for a man of almost fifty, was always dressed to the nines in the latest fashions. Nothing too sexy. Just soft, angora sweaters and sharply tailored button down shirts and dark gray woolen blazers and shining, expensive leather shoes. He had an image and a reputation to upkeep. One where he was the dynamic, insightful author of several books on maintaining a happy marriage in the new age, and he’d carefully curated that image over the two decades that they’d been together. When Aziraphale met Gabriel, back in Soho, twenty years ago, the man been a good deal more casual, much more carefree. Not so aware of his image all the time. He’d been solicitous and charming too. Winking at Aziraphale over the top of a bookshelf while browsing through the store. Making sassy comments and dirty jokes to get Aziraphale blushing and laughing. 


Things had been different then. Now, Gabriel was polished and professional and extremely aware of the exact size and shape of the image he was meant to maintain, and all the little things that needed to be done in order to maintain it. Things like having Aziraphale bring his guests a tray of drinks and sit and chat with them so that they could see how sweet Aziraphale was, and how devoted he was as a husband. So that Gabriel’s clients could witness their warmth and obvious love for each other. Gabriel couched it in terms of Aziraphale “stopping in to say hello,” as if it were as simple as that. 


Regardless of what Gabriel said, Aziraphale knew that he was playing a role. Knew his little visits with lemonade or coffee or a charmingly antique silver tea pot and darling little china cups was a calculated move on Gabriel’s behalf. Still, even though the dancing monkey routine got tiresome after a while, he loved his husband, even now that their lives had become more stilted, less spontaneous and a lot less passionate. He owed everything he had to Gabriel, and he wanted to be supportive. 


In the beginning, when they’d moved here from London, in 2016 it had been easier to upkeep the image. Aziraphale had been proud of his husband for rocketing to the top of the New York Times best seller list with his sixth novel (Finding The Center Within: A Guide To Keeping Passion Alive Through Meditative Practice). He’d adored the three story, eight bedroom victorian style house they’d moved to. The house that Gabriel had inherited from his father upon his passing a year prior. He’d spent an enjoyable year or so in decorating and helping Gabriel with plans for renovation. He’d walked through the massive yet sadly neglected greenhouse that sat like a great glass beast, crouched on the side of the house, gleaming in the sunlight. The plants were half dead and the slate tiles of the walkway between the rows were covered with a variety of dried, fallen leaves, a veritable graveyard for plant detritus. 


It was Aziraphale’s idea to hire someone to rebuild the greenhouse to its former glory. 


“Just think dear, it will be resplendent when it’s back to how it was when your father owned the house. Your guests will be ever so impressed. And it would give me somewhere nice to spend my time. We could set up a little table and some chairs for me to have tea with Michael and Uriel.”


“Resplendent,” muttered Gabriel, unable to hide the irritation from his voice. Aziraphale knew that his antiquated vocabulary often got on Gabriel’s nerves, but his husband’s overt criticisms of it had worn away over the years of their marriage to mere sarcastic repetitions under his breath. “Babe, it’ll cost a fortune to upkeep that greenhouse.”


“Well, what are you, if not nouveau riche? You know you have the money,” Aziraphale, stung by the well worn passive aggression over his vocabulary, hadn’t given in, had snapped back a bit in a rare show of sass. There were very few things he had control over in his new life with his now famous husband, in this unfamiliar part of an unfamiliar country, and he longed to see the dying plants in that greenhouse brought back to their prime.


“Yeah. I guess so... maybe,” Gabriel seemed to partially relent. At least enough not to outright reject Aziraphale’s request. “Let me sleep on it,” he’d mumbled. 


A month later, when Aziraphale had gently brought the subject up again, Gabriel had grudgingly agreed that it was a good idea.  He’d even taken out an ad in a few local papers and had gone on to look at qualified groundskeepers. “We could really use a driver too,” he remarked while writing up the advert. “You don’t drive, and I feel like a total pleb using Uber after drinking too much at my writing events.”


Aziraphale had nodded in agreement, secretly very excited by the prospect of having a lovely greenhouse to spend time in, possibly to help learn about its upkeep? It would give him something new to do. He’d gotten frightfully unnecessary since they’d moved to Athena. At least back home in London, he’d had his bookshop, and a few dear friends. But he’d left all of that to support his husband’s new found success in the new age therapy business, and to support his decision to move back to the states to further pursue his career. How could Aziraphale use the excuse that he wanted to keep working at an old bookshop full of books he secretly didn’t even want to sell, when Gabriel was following his dreams and becoming a world renowned author and spiritual guru?


It just wasn’t enough of a reason for him to stay. Even though he loved that massive old bookshop, loved his friends from back home, he had to admit to himself that he was nothing without Gabriel. If Gabriel left him, he’d simply slip back into the life he’d lead before his husband had come along. Having drinks with Anathema and Deirdre a few times a month. Scaring customers away from his books. Sleeping alone every night, too put off by the flashing lights and pumping music to go out to the clubs and too insecure to actually ask a man out on a date. 


What’s more, there’d be no trips to the city for lavish weekend getaways. No massive private library that Gabriel had promised him he’d have in his new Victorian home. No more handsome man who supported him and loved him and made him feel special. No more sex. Aziraphale would be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy the sex. Gabriel had cooled off significantly in the past few years, but they still had what Aziraphale considered a relatively healthy sex life. Especially for a couple who’d been together almost two decades at this point. 


Aziraphale had been a virgin when he’d met Gabriel. A very late in life virgin. It was a fact he was ashamed of, and he’d gotten all sorts of tied up over why he’d never been able to ‘seal the deal’ as it were. Perhaps it was his damnable shyness. Or perhaps it was more that he’d always felt that sex wasn’t something he deserved. Or, more truthfully, a thing he’d been told he was evil and wrong to want too many times to count.


His parents, devout Catholics, felt that sex before marriage was a grave sin, and that homosexuality was an even graver one. They’d picked up early on that their child was different than other boys his age. He was softer, quieter, more shy. Completely uninterested in girls. They’d probably grown nervous at the more significant meaning that lay beneath these breadcrumbs of what they saw as dysfunctional behavior. Functional, would have involved Aziraphale meeting a nice woman and settling down to one day have a few kids in a nice suburb somewhere. Getting his nose out of a book for five minutes stitched together and going to a school dance or a party. 


But Aziraphale never went to any school dances and certainly not to any parties. Even the low-key dances with hawk eyed chaperones and pre-approved music (mostly consisting of sunshiny dance hits from the mid to late 70s). He avoided other secondary school children like the plague. They were a different species from him, and they had different motives and spoke an entirely different language, full of casually crafted slang words and special hairstyles and they smoked fags and drank liquor and generally hung about places like the cinema and the dance halls, looking effortlessly nonchalant. Aziraphale meanwhile was hunting down first editions of Mark Twain novels and watching I Claudius with his mother. To say he was alienated and sheltered was a vast understatement. 


He’d kept his longing looks at those glossy, handsome boys from his school oh so cleverly hidden, choosing to snatch glances at a shirtless torso or a firm backside in athletic shorts and then to turn bright pink and look away in an instant, mortified by how he felt. He supposed that he was so terrified of other boys at first, the attractive ones anyway, because they represented the downfall of his very soul. Or so his parents had implied, none too vaguely throughout the entirety of his childhood and young adulthood. They weren’t bad people really, Frederick and Myra Fell. They had good hearts, underneath the strict, religious dogma. His mother, a freckled pale woman with strawberry blond hair, now streaked with silver, loved to read, and she was the one who’d first opened Aziraphale’s eyes to the joys of literature, and the enticing call of the mysteries held within the pages of books. She’d been a writer herself, and an illustrator, and had published a fantastically well received series of children’s books that focused on religious teachings. 


His father, Frederick, a history professor, had been stern but fair with Aziraphale. Instilling in him a love for nature, for animals, large and small, and of course, a love of history. Aziraphale had inherited his quiet, soft spoken nature and his white-blond curls. He loved his parents dearly, but the fact that they would never accept him as a decent or moral person if they knew about his innermost feelings was a constant strain on the relationship. Aziraphale felt he could never truly be honest with them, that they were likely only as kind and patient with him as they were because they didn’t know his dark secret. That he loved men. He knew that they suspected that he was gay, but they refused to bring it up, and neither did he. 


Later, once he’d made a few friends, like Deirdre and Anathema, who co-ran a witchy shop down the street from Aziraphale’s bookshop, and Anathema’s aunt Tracy (who’d really opened his eyes about some things!) he’d been able to shuffle off some of the deeply entrenched self hatred and religious dread that had been troweled onto him as a child. Despite his mother and father’s repeated talk about the unforgivable sin of homosexuality, and how it led those who participated in such acts, or even those who simply felt such feelings down a one way path to Hell, he’d found he had the strength to crawl out from under the dark pall of their disapproval. There were still echoes of shame associated with his desires, but once he’d moved out of his parent’s house, it became easier and easier to process those feelings and move past them. He’d learned that if you had true friends who understood you and whom you could trust, then it was alright to tell them about your feelings for other men. He further learned that they would not mock him or deride him for it. Though, they did do a fair bit of good natured teasing. 


It was through these friendships, that lasted through his twenties, that he found a measure of freedom from his strict upbringing. Anathema and he would visit markets together and go to movies, where they’d giggle over the leading men, hands stuffed into buckets of popcorn. Deirdre and Anathema and he would go out to the pub every so often to get pissed and laugh themselves silly over a series of increasingly esoteric private jokes. Aziraphale was able to let himself open up and relax a little. To remind himself that he wasn’t under the yoke of his parent’s control any longer. 


The one thing that his parents were able to give him (aside from some very warped and hard to shake opinions on what constituted moral behavior) was money. They wanted him to have a chance to succeed in life and had promised him the purchase of a small house, were he to get married and settle down. They dug their heels in a bit when Aziraphale had asked instead that they go in on purchasing the vast, old brick house in Soho where he said he wanted to set up a bookshop. He mollified some of their concerns by assuring them that owning a bookshop would be the most chaste and godly venture possible. That the acquisition and sale of books was a highly respected profession. He’d already managed to make quite a name for himself as an amateur book dealer and finder of rare books, and this had resulted in him making a tidy income, along with his job as literature tutor to several students in the area. 


They’d relented after a few months of his gentle pestering. He hated to rely on them financially, but books and reading (and beginning to cautiously work on a few essays and poems of his own) were really all he’d ever wanted out of life (all he wanted that they’d approve of anyway), and so he reminded himself that as soon as he was able, he’d pay them back.  


And that’s exactly what he did. By the time he turned thirty, he’d been able to sell enough rare first editions and enough books in general to just break even and pay his parents back for the seed money they’d given him to start up the shop.


Never mind that he only made enough to pay property taxes and the mortgage, and to keep his refrigerator satisfyingly well stocked in the small apartment where he lived on the second floor. He didn’t go out much anyway, (with the exception of a night out at a new restaurant now and again, or drinks with the girls) rarely bought new clothes and never went on vacation. What use was spending thousands of pounds on a cruise or a trip to a far off land, when he had a thousand adventures at his fingertips on the shelves of his shop? And the shop was not a money making venture. More a labor of love. He had Anathema and Deirdre over to the shop quite often, to simply sit and chat, and still went out with them once a week for a few pints at the local pub. 


That’s how he’d met Gabriel. It had been a rainy night and chilly and he, with his two friends in tow, had sat themselves at a table in the corner of a local pub they frequented, away from the door. And so they’d had a good view when the two Americans; an impeccably coiffed blond woman wearing expensive looking heels and a posh rain slicker, and a tall, very handsome man in a nice, pale gray suit, walked in and ordered their drinks.


“Out of towners,” murmured Dierdre


“Obviously,” replied Anathema. “Americans,” she remarked after overhearing their accents at the bar. “Wonder where they’re from?” Anathema herself was a semi-recent transplant from across the pond. She was from northern California, a neo hippie of sorts, obsessed with tarot cards, chakras, auras, and a plethora of other similarly arkane, and (to Aziraphale) somewhat silly pursuits. She was always curious about other Americans when she ran into them on her travels and often marched up to them to ask where they were from and what they were doing in London. 


Tonight was no exception. When the couple had settled themselves with their glasses of wine, Anathema had sauntered over, appearing approachable, yet a little strange in her voluminous green and blue woolen frock. Her round glasses making her look a bit like an especially pretty owl, and with her crystals layered with bird feathers and a tiny dream catcher on thin silver chains around her neck and all, to say hello to them. A brief chat, too far away to be overheard ensued, and she returned to the table with a broad grin on her face.


“He’s an author, here with his publicist to talk to some people in the book industry here. Trying to get published overseas as he’s not having much luck in the US.”


“Doesn’t speak all that well of his skill as a writer,” said Aziraphale, having drunk just enough ale to get a bit cheeky. 


“Hey, don’t judge. I think he’s single.” This from Deirdre, leaning towards Anathema with a conspiratorial gleam in her eyes. “That is his publicist after all. It would be poor form for him to be shagging her right?” 


Each one of them were relentlessly trying to match the other two up with prospective dates. It was a game they played, half in jest and half out of wanting the best for their best mates. “Well,” Anathema replied, “we can find out for ourselves because he just invited us to join them for a drink.” 


“V’already got a drink,” Aziraphale slurred gently, halfway through his second pint at this point in the evening. Usually two pints was more than enough to give him a solid, comfortable buzz, the warm golden feel of which was currently just starting to vibrate pleasantly behind his eyes. But even as he said so, he rose from his chair, tempted by the opportunity to get closer to this tall, handsome American stranger. 


And my how handsome he was. When Aziraphale and his two friends had settled at their hosts’ table, shaking hands and making introductions, Aziraphale sitting across from the tall, dark haired man, he could clearly see that Gabriel (introducing himself with a distractingly warm handshake, his broad palm and thick fingers gripping firmly at Aziraphale’s slightly sweaty hand) was indeed very attractive. His dark blue eyes (bordering on an unusual violet color) and the sleek, angular line of his jaw, and the carefully neglected five o’clock shadow that dusted his lower face just so, drew Aziraphale’s eyes eagerly back to his face every few seconds. He was quite ‘shaggable’ as Deirdre was fond of saying. 


The five of them chatted pleasantly, about Gabriel’s book deal he was shopping around to a few publishing houses here and in Spain and Italy. It was a book on finding inner peace in a modern world through the aid of guided meditation and healthy living. Such books usually ran the gamut from the truly profound to nothing more than pop psychology and half-empty feel-good platitudes. Aziraphale couldn’t tell which type of author Gabriel was, and quite honestly, he didn’t really care. He wanted this man . Wanted those thick, strong arms around him. Wanted that arrogant mouth on his throat and on places significantly lower down. He felt himself flush with heat even though the air inside the pub was cool. 


Gabriel’s publisher, Michael, a woman so put together that it was frankly a little unnerving, was friendly enough, if a little cool and aloof. Her glossy, flawless manicure and perfectly waxed brows and make up that looked subtle, but had probably taken an hour to apply, were a bit alien and intimidating to the three local friends across the table from her and Gabriel. Aziraphale could see it in the way Deirdre and Anathema kept tugging at and fixing their hair, and how they’d both adopted their own versions of “too cool” behavior to compensate, probably for feeling provincial in comparison to this corporate shark of a woman. 


The conversation progressed amiably. Gabriel was from a small town in the Catskills, north of New York City, and he now lived in the city itself, in Manhattan. So did Michael, though it was quickly ascertained through polite conversation (and some gently probing questions from Deirdre) that they did not live together. Gabriel made some offhanded comment about how great the gay scene was in the East Village and Aziraphale felt his temperature spike and his heartbeat suddenly kick into a higher gear with the thought that Gabriel fancied men. 


And yes, it turned out that he did like men, as he was quick to extoll the virtues of several gay bars in Manhattan, and to ask bluntly if there were any gay bars and clubs in Soho that were worth visiting. 


“Oh!” stammered Anathema, so eager to speak that she came off almost urgent, like she was informing Gabriel that he was about to miss a flight, “Aziraphale can show you, can’t you Azi? He knows all the best spots in town.” 


This was a blatant lie. Aziraphale knew none of the places in town where gay men congregated, let alone all the best ones. But he smiled bravely and nodded, flushing with what he knew from experience was a deep pink color that would be swiftly making its way across his face. His blushes were always epic, being that they had the backdrop of his pale cheeks and almost white hair as a blank canvas upon which to paint themselves. Trying to hide his embarrassment or his arousal was pointless once one of those blushes made an appearance. It was like a neon sign, splashed across his face, reading I Am Now Either Quite Embarrassed Or Quite Randy Thank You Very Much.


Dierdre, probably halfway pissed at this juncture, leaned a companionable shoulder into Aziraphale’s and chipped in, sealing his fate completely. “Oh yeah! Zira knows all about the club scene. I’m sure he’d be happy to show you around.” 


“I.. I wouldn’t presume to-” Aziraphale began, spluttering in half-terror at his friends’ blatant attempts to hook him up with this insanely attractive stranger. Gabriel was clearly out of his league and he almost resented them for not respecting the boundaries of what was clearly a looks based pecking order in which Aziraphale sat comfortably around the lower middle, and Gabriel clearly occupied a hilltop spot. 


“That would be great,” cut in Gabriel, his bright white, perfect American, Hollywood smile gleaming out from a face that was altogether too handsome. 


Aziraphale’s mouth had dropped open in surprise, having fully readied himself for a polite rejection in the form of a change in conversation topics, or possibly a joke. He hadn’t been prepared for Gabriel to accept the offer. “Oh, well, if you’d like,” Aziraphale stammered. “I mean, there is a place down the way that I went to a few years back…” he let his words trail off as the three women locked eyes on either he or Gabriel (or flicked curious glances between them).


“Awesome!” Gabriel exclaimed, slapping the table with enough force to make his wine tremble in the glass in front of him. “Lets go check it out.” He turned briefly to Michael. “Hey Mike, you don’t mind right? I’ll make sure not to drink too much, and I’ll be there tomorrow, bright and early.” ‘Mike’ executed a casual wave of her hand that indicated that she was fine with him going. 


“I’ll just finish my pint and go back to the hotel. See you later.” She smiled knowingly at Gabriel in a way that made Aziraphale’s knees go a bit weak at what that smile might imply. 


Trying not to panic, he watched as Gabriel stood up from the table, towering over them ( my he was tall wasn’t he?) and went to go get his jacket from a hook by the door. Aziraphale scrambled up, grabbing his own antiquated, threadbare, cream colored suit jacket he’d been holding onto since he’d bought it at a vintage shop ten years prior. He used the fabric of the coat to surreptitiously dry his damp palms while he waited for Gabriel to return. His hands always sweated a bit when he was nervous, which, unfortunately, was quite often.


Gabriel sauntered back to the table and casually threw down a wad of bills. “I’m always really bad at the whole conversion thing, but this should cover our drinks and the tip, plus enough if you ladies want to stay and have a couple more,” he said. 


The confidence and surety in his voice was like something out of a movie. He was an American James Bond. Cocky, a touch arrogant. Aziraphale felt himself virtually vibrating with anticipation at the thought that this man might desire him back. He prayed silently that Gabriel wasn’t just looking for a mate to cruise with, that he wouldn’t be left alone at the end of the night, watching a taxi ferry Gabriel and some gorgeous conquest off into the night, leaving Aziraphale on the pavement, staring after them like an abandoned puppy. Dear lord, how humiliating that would be?


As it turned out, Gabriel was interested. The moment they’d settled themselves at the bar, (a place called “Charlie’s” a few blocks away) with their drinks, he’d placed one of those warm, broad hands on Aziraphale’s knee. Aziraphale jumped slightly, then hastily took what he hoped was a casual sip of his martini to cover for his misstep. Gabriel’s hand squeezed the top of his knee gently, sending lightning bolts of white hot desire up Aziraphale’s leg and directly into his groin. He turned his sip into a gulp, knowing he was already a bit too drunk for a martini, but that’s what Gabriel had ordered, and he hadn’t wanted to look like a lightweight. 


“You’re really cute, you know that,” Gabriel said, and Aziraphale froze, martini glass halfway on a return trip to his lips. It was embarrassing how affected he was by a simple compliment. It’s as if Gabriel’s words turned off the part of Aziraphale’s brain that was used for articulate speech.


“Um. Thank you,” he spat out. “So are you.” Shakespeare had nothing on Aziraphale tonight apparently. He’d kicked himself for such an uninspired comeback while he finished lifting his glass to his lips and took a sip 

Really cute,” Gabriel veritably purred as he slid his hand a little farther up Aziraphale’s leg, causing Aziraphale to swallow his gulp of vodka so loudly he swore it had been audible, even above the pumping techno music in the club. 


“You know,” continued Gabriel, “I only wanted you to show me around so I could get to be alone with you. Want to finish our drinks and come back to my hotel with me?”


Aziraphale nodded so swiftly that his head spun a little. He was drunk, and horny and about to go back to a total stranger’s hotel room. This was completely uncharted territory. Being a thirty year old, virginal bookshop owner with a background in strict catholicism, this was the first time a man had offered to take him home. And it was definitely the first time someone of Gabriel’s caliber of looks had done so. Aziraphale struggled with conflicting desires. His well worn guilt and shame over wanting sex with men, battling it out with his urgent desire to have Gabriel touch him all over his body.


“Great,” Gabriel’s smile was slick and victorious and made something tingling clutch deep inside Aziraphale’s belly at the sight of it. “Can I have a little kiss?” Gabriel asked, and Aziraphale again nodded, breath stuck in his throat, unable to force out anything close to a coherent verbal response. Gabriel had slid off of his bar stool and putting his drink down in a fluid motion, he’d leaned forward and pressed his lips to Aziraphale’s. This soon became a wet, slippery, intensely affecting kiss, as Gabriel hungrily licked his tongue into Azirpahale’s mouth while taking Aziraphale’s drink out of his hands and putting it on the bar next to his own. 


“You wanna get out of here?” Gabriel suggested, his breath, smelling of vermouth, ghosting against Aziraphale’s open, panting mouth. 


“Yes. Yes, let's.” He followed Gabriel out to hail a taxi in a daze, then lost himself in a very vigorous snog session in the back seat on the way to the hotel. The taxi driver kept giving them dirty looks, but knew enough to keep his mouth shut, as Gabriel’s hotel was across town and the fare would be a good one. Upon arrival, they somehow untangled themselves enough to get out of the taxi and for Gabriel to pay the cabbie, and then made it to the elevator before Gabriel roughly pushed Aziraphale up against the wall and more desperate kissing ensued. 


Azirpahale’s head was spinning with ale and vodka and arousal and the rest of the night was a highly enjoyable blur of silky smooth skin against his own, and the hot wetness of Gabriel’s mouth on all those places Aziraphale had wanted it. Gabriel had sucked him off with almost frightening precision, making Aziraphale arch and explode in a climax that rushed up and consumed him with surprising speed and force. Then, when Aziraphale had finally regained something close to normal respiration and heart rate, Gabriel had talked him through just the right ways to return the favor. And though Aziraphale had never had a cock in his mouth before, he’d certainly dreamed about it for long enough. It was awkward and a little uncomfortable, his jaw ached, and he was a little dismayed by all the drooling he was doing. Yet it was still so arousing that he found himself with another aching erection at the end of it. The surprising bitter taste of Gabriel’s semen coating his tongue and echoing sourly in the back of his throat felt like a triumph over a lifetime of virginity. 


He should have felt more shame over what he’d done. Over finally falling prey to the temptations his parents had warned him of for the entirety of his young life. But surprisingly, what he mostly felt was sexual satisfaction and a desire to do it again as soon as possible. He felt twinges of discomfort that he would have to hide this from his mother and father, but that was an issue for the future.


A surprisingly short time later, Gabriel had stroked himself to another erection while kissing Aziraphale, and they’d gotten each other off, with more very exacting instructions from Gabriel on how Aziraphale could use his hands to optimal effect. Aziraphale honestly appreciated the input. He felt hopelessly out of his depth, reeling with alcohol consumption and the pure, heady joy of losing his virginity to one of the sexiest men he’d ever laid eyes on. He thought perhaps he might be dreaming. 


The dream predictably ended the next morning. Gabriel had brusquely woken Aziraphale up, apologizing warmly but efficiently and urging him to get dressed and depart Gabriel’s room as Gabriel had a meeting with a potential publisher in just half an hour. Aziraphale had complied, feeling almost relieved with the clear signs that this had been a one time thing. That was the right way for it to turn out wasn’t it? Plump, unfashionable, virgin gay man is deflowered by glamorous, insanely attractive American tourist and never hears from him again. Aziraphale had been prepared for the rejection since he’d first started casting shy glances at his classmates as a teenager. He wasn’t even really heartened much when Gabriel had asked for his number as they said goodbye. Men often asked for telephone numbers and then didn’t call. It was a well known practice wasn’t it? 


What he hadn’t been prepared for was for Gabriel to call him that very same day. At half past four in the afternoon, he’d been intently discussing the previous night’s details with Anathema over a coffee at the back of the shop. Aziraphale had closed early in order to give Anathema and her rather probing questions his full attention for the rest of the afternoon. She’d been lit up with vicarious excitement for him when she’d heard how his evening had progressed, and peppered him with endless questions about it that made Azirapahle blush with the memory, still fresh in his mind. 


The ringing telephone had made them both jump a little. Aziraphale, assuming it was one of his book dealer contacts, or one in a long string of irritated potential customers asking about the shop’s hours, picked up swiftly.


“A.Z. Fell and Company. How may I be of assistance?” he rattled off his usual greeting, only to have his heart start pounding when he heard the warm, sexy, American accented voice on the other end. 


“Hey Aziraphale. It’s Gabriel. Are you.. Um…  busy tonight?”


“G-Gabriel,” Aziraphale stammered, sounding not at all smooth or confident in any possible way. “Oh, well, no, not particularly. Why do you ask?” He had to make the other man say it. Wouldn’t assume that he wanted a second date. 


“Wanna get some dinner?” had come the casual, friendly response. The man had sounded for all the world as if he knew that Aziraphale’s answer would be yes. Aziraphale had never dreamed of possessing that sort of confident surety.


“Alright,” Aziraphale agreed, insides combusting silently while he held the phone to the hot surface of his ear. Then they awkwardly negotiated which of the local restaurants to go to (something Aziraphale did know quite a bit about), and when to meet. Aziraphale rang off with his heart in his throat and a giant grin plastered across his face. 


“Oh my god! Was that him ?” Anathema, hands clenched under her chin as if in prayer,  was bouncing gently up and down in her seat with excitement. 


“Yes,” Aziraphale replied softly, feeling dazed. “He wants to go to dinner with me.”


Anathema shrieked excitedly and leapt up to hug him. “He likes you Zira! He wants more of that white chocolate sweetness!” She’d developed the somewhat irritating, irreverent and also just a little bit hilarious habit of referring to him simply as ‘white chocolate’. A nickname derived from the appearance of his platinum blond hair and pale skin. 


“Well, he certainly seems to like what I can do for him,” Aziraphale responded with a self effacing shrug. 


“Nonsense. He’s madly in love with you.” She paused for a moment, then her eyes widened and she clutched at her chest, gasping with a sharp intake of breath.


“What? What is it?” He was suddenly alert, afraid she’d choked on her coffee. Was she having a heretofore unknown allergic reaction to something?


“As you know, white chocolate, I can see into the fyuuuuuutuuuurreee,” she made her voice tremulous and wavering, like an overly dramatic stage magician. “I am in fact, as I’m sure you’re aware... a witch !” She exclaimed, hands flying outwards, palms open, fluttering her fingers as if casting a spell that very moment. 


Aziraphale rolled his eyes.


“I can see into the fyuuuuutuuurreee!” she said again, blinking rapidly, mouth propped open in a perpetual state of fake shocked awe, eyes squinting as she pretended to gaze into the mists of time. Aziraphale indulged her, because he always found himself helplessly charmed by her ridiculousness. Also, he was quite amenable to any excuse to continue talking about Gabriel. 


“I see a wedding!” she gasped, and Aziraphale’s eye roll grew more pronounced, though his heart leapt a little at the silly notion. That this dashing stranger who’d just taken his virginity in what was so laughably a two night stand at most, would one day be his husband. “A wedding I say!” She repeated for emphasis, squinting harder as she looked into the middle distance. “I see you, dressed in cream colored trousers and a beige jacket from 1941 and a tartan bow tie, standing at the ahhhhllllltttterrrrrr.”


“Well you don’t have to be a prognosticator to see that,” Aziraphale mumbled, “you need only open your eyes Anathema dear.”


“Shhh-shh-shh, do not interrupt me while I’m looking into the fyyuuuutuurrrre!”


Aziraphale dutifully shut his mouth.


“I see Gideon-”


“Gabriel,” corrected Aziraphale quietly.


Gabriel! Yes… I see Gabriel in a tuxedo, and the two of you are standing before a lesbian minister who was recently ordained onliiiiiinnnnneeee.”


This made Aziraphale giggle despite himself, as that was likely the situation under which he’d marry, if ever he did. 


“You are saying the words eeeyyyyeeee dooooooo!” She proclaimed, reaching up to the ceiling with quite a bit of dramatic flare. “And then….” she paused briefly. “You go home and shag each other silllllyyyyy!”


“Stop it now,” Aziraphale chided. “You’re being quite ridiculous. He just wants to have dinner. He lives in another country for heaven’s sake. He’s just looking for a bit of fun while he’s in town.”


“I don’t know…” Anathema had reclaimed her coffee mug and brought it to her lips to take a sip, looking at him significantly over its chipped, blue rim. 


“Well my dear, I certainly do know. So please just let me live in this moment, enjoying the idea that I’ll get some more sex with him before he disappears. Which will likely be very early tomorrow morning if not very late tonight.”


Anathema shrugged and changed the subject to some shop down the block from her that she suspected was a new competitor based on the fact that they sold the same kinds of incense. 


And so they’d gone to dinner that night, and despite Gabriel having a penchant for ordering for Aziraphale without asking him if he’d like the choices being made (he ended up liking them very much, and so immediately forgave Gabriel for his presumptuous behavior), the evening went surprisingly well. Gabriel listened while Aziraphale told him about his bookshop, his friends, his homophobic, religious upbringing.


There was an embarrassing moment during which Gabriel cleverly deduced that Aziraphale was a virgin, and that he’d divested Aziraphale of his virginity only just last night. But Gabriel seemed pleased by this fact rather than alarmed or put off. 


To Aziraphale’s delight and surprise, Gabriel called and asked him out the next evening, and the next. And when he left for the states a week later, he asked if it would be alright to come back to see Aziraphale again, once he could apply for another visitor visa. Aziraphale had agreed immediately, feeling equal amounts of joy and trepidation at Gabriel’s continued interest. It was a lot, to go from romantic and sexual obscurity to being ardently pursued by the type of man he’d only ever seen in the cinema. He was already utterly besotted with Gabriel, and the man could have asked him to do virtually anything and he’d happily have agreed. 


Two years, and several temporary visa visits later, Gabriel had proposed, and Aziraphale had gladly accepted. He’d told his parents about his relationship with Gabriel and the fact that they would marry, and it had predictably gone over horribly. His mother had sobbed, his father had yelled, calling him a sinner and a fallen one and saying he was sick. The worst part about it was that they so clearly blamed themselves for their son’s sinful ways. His mother had held his face in her hands, eyes filled with anguish and tears and asked ‘What did I do wrong? How could you have ended up this way?’. They’d told him he was no longer their son and not to speak to them again. It was torture, and Aziraphale had spent a few nights sobbing in Gabriel’s arms, wondering silently if he could take it all back If he could tell them he’d been saved and could promise to stop seeing Gabriel if only they’d call him their son again. But he knew it was pointless. He knew this was who he was now, and unfortunately, being who he truly felt he was inside, meant that he had to give up having a relationship with his parents.


After a small but lovely wedding with Aziraphale’s friends and the one or two family members that would actually attend, they flew to the US to have a much larger, grander and more expensive ceremony with all of Gabriel’s friends, author friends, publisher and editor friends, ex boyfriends and a smattering of family that agreed to attend. It was a lavish affair and Aziraphale had felt like a pigeon pretending to be a swan the entire time. But it had happened . Anathema’s prophecy had come true after all. He had a ring on his finger, and, when gay marriage actually became legal in 2011 in New York state, they’d officially married in a small, private ceremony. Gabriel hadn’t wanted to go to the expense of a big thing, had only wanted to make it legal, and at that point, they’d been together for over a decade, so it felt right.


Aziraphale had ended up handing over the operation of the bookshop to his parents. His younger brother Sandalphon (Sandy for short, as his parents had an unfortunate penchant for long, biblical names) took over the day to day operations, and he served as a go-between for Aziraphale and his mother and father. Though they no longer spoke to him, he knew they couldn’t bear to lose out on an investment, and so they’d agreed to help keep the bookshop in the family. 


Sandalphone was required to have weekly telephone and skype calls with Aziraphale to receive instructions on which books were not to be sold for any amount of money, and to help his brother figure out the ins and outs of the bookselling trade. Sandy hadn’t really made much of a start in life either. He’d become a bit of a recluse, never marrying and having no children, though this was probably due to his sexual repression and social anxiety rather than the internalized homophobia that terrorized Aziraphale, being that he was straight. It turns out, when you raise children to believe that the world is rife with sin and that their sexual urges are sent to them by the devil, they can end up living somewhat solitary lives. 


Sandy was only too grateful to have something important to do. And as a positive byproduct, it allowed Aziraphale to get to know his introverted brother a bit better through their discussions. 


And this was how he’d found himself, two decades after meeting Gabriel that one night in a pub, drying sweaty palms on a scrap of paper towel with little angel wings and little halos on it, in his large, newly renovated kitchen that he never used, in Athena New York, USA. 


He was well fed, financially supported, loved, and cared for. Even if Gabriel had grown more distant and more involved in his work, his weekend workshops and his television appearances, he was still a good husband. At least that’s what Aziraphale told himself on the long, lonely nights when Gabriel was spending the weekend in the city for an appearance on the Daily Show or Good Morning America. It’s what he told himself when he reached for Gabriel in the middle of the night, only to be brushed off and have his husband roll away and turn his back. Aziraphale had grown quite used to masturbating in the shower and wanking on the sly, and kept a few dirty magazines in the bottom shelf of his bedside table for just such occasions. 


It wasn’t that Gabriel never had sex with him anymore. It was that it had grown far less frequent, and had developed a bit of a perfunctory feel. Aziraphale longed for the early days, when they’d spend the entire day in bed, pulling pleasure from each other and cuddling and talking. It had been really good for quite a while. But, as Gabriel’s fame had increased, his attentiveness to his marriage had lessened. He’d begun spending more time on business trips, some of which made Aziraphale wonder if he’d gotten up to more than just business when he was away from home. 


He never complained though. How could he? He owed Gabriel so much. And Gabriel owed him too. He knew this without consciously confronting it too closely. Gabriel needed to show the world that he had a loving, caring husband. Otherwise, his advice would ring hollow. How could a self professed relationship guru and spiritual visionary have a strained marriage? Or get a divorce? And especially with the hard won rights of gay people to marry, a prominant gay celebrity divorcing wouldn’t look good on that front either. 


So Aziraphale knew that Gabriel needed him to be sweet and adorable, and to hold his hand in pictures for the endless photo ops. He’d even gone on a few talk shows with Gabriel, blushing intensely with stage fright and uttering a few responses to the host’s glib questions that he knew from experience would probably charm the audience. 


And what do you do while your husband is out there, fixing marriages?


Oh, I collect and refurbish first editions of classical literature. We have a massive library at the house.


Classic literature eh? How interesting! Is that why you look just like you've stepped out of a Dickens novel? 


*gently mocking laughter from the audience*


Not exactly. This particular type of waistcoat wasn’t invented until 1912, so Dickensian characters would never have worn something so anachronistic.


This last part was said with a warm grin and the audience (at least the bookish, more high brow members of the audience) would dutifully applaud and titter with delighted laughter at how very quaint Aziraphale was. Americans loved his posh sounding accent and his delicate mannerisms. He embodied the fussy, proper, gentlemanly stereotype of the typical Englishman that they all swooned over while watching period piece romances or Fawlty Towers on BBC America.


Aziraphale was tired of being quaint though. Tired of being cute and sweet and charming. He wanted to do something rash and exciting. He wanted to make his own way in the world without the constant, ever present safety net of Gabriel’s financial security and Gabriel’s fame always following him around like a suffocating shadow. 


This was probably why he’d begun thinking a bit too much about their relatively new chauffeur and gardener, Anthony J. Crowley. 


Or rather, just Crowley . That’s what the man had said when he’d come for an in person interview with Gabriel and Aziraphale. “Just Crowley. I haven’t gone by Anthony since primary school.” He was British, and told them that he’d come to the US to go to school for horticulture some ten years ago now, and had stayed on a work-visa so he could continue pursuing a career in that field. His last job had ended recently, and he needed a new one, and a place to stay, so this was a great opportunity for him.


Aziraphale had sat next to Gabriel, across a small kitchen table from Crowley during the interview and had struggled valiantly not to stare. He’d never seen anyone quite like Crowley, outside of teen heartthrob magazines and issues of Rolling Stone anyway. He looked like a rock star, with his tight black trousers and black silk shirt and red necktie, his messy shock of dark red hair that looked like he’d just rolled out of bed, but also hinted at what he might have been doing in it . He’d removed his sunglasses for the interview, and the sight of the man’s large, pale amber eyes had forced Aziraphale to look down at his teacup in order to hide the blatant expression of awe and lust he was sure was parading itself across his open, far-too-honest face. 


Crowley had smoothly answered their questions and had seemed like the perfect candidate. They’d gone through a few interviews with less qualified, socially unpleasant applicants. No one had seemed quite right until Crowley came along. His having actually gone to school for a degree in horticulture and having been a professional driver at one point in his past was extremely promising. They’d wanted to hire two different people as gardener and driver, but if they could kill two birds with one stone, hiring Crowley would be a cheaper bet.


It had seemed like a done deal, but Aziraphale belatedly realized that it wasn’t only Crowley’s skill and charm that would win him the position. It was the fact that he was straight


Gabriel, not being blind, and knowing his husband well, hadn’t failed to pick up on Aziraphale’s awkward stammering and blushing beside him. Aziraphale had watched while Gabriel’s mouth had grown thin and his features had arranged themselves into the now familiar expression of possessive jealousy that Aziraphale knew well. He’d hear about Crowley later for sure, when Gabriel made passive aggressive comments about Aziraphale ‘enjoying the view’, or some equally vague accusation. 


Fueled by jealousy, Gabriel had done a little polite probing and had asked if Crowley would need to bring a wife or any children with him to live in the guest quarters, and Crowley had shaken his head in response, saying that he’d never married and didn’t want children. That hadn’t quite gotten the response Gabriel wanted, so he’d asked if Crowley was currently single, under the guise of bringing up their guidelines for sleepover guests (allowed, if kept discreet and respectful). 


Crowley had said he was single, and laughing gently, had said that ironically, his not wanting children was the reason his last girlfriend had left. 




There it was. Confirmation that Crowley was straight, and therefore not of any real threat to Gabriel’s marriage or his position of Most Attractive Gay Man in New York State. Gabriel wanted (and would continue to get) adoration from different groups than Crowley did, and their new driver could be trusted to keep his hands to himself where Aziraphale was concerned (much to Aziraphale’s disappointment). 


Not that Aziraphale would ever seriously contemplate cheating on Gabriel, and Gabriel knew it. Knew his husband was devoted and faithful. Aziraphale could be trusted not to fool around outside the marriage, could be trusted not to bring the legions of magazine reporters and columnists flocking to their door with rumors of inappropriate behavior. And he’d been raised that way too, to believe that marriage was a sacred bond. Even if his own parents refused to acknowledge his marriage, they’d made sure to raise him to be a man of his word. A not so small part of him also wanted to show them that he could stay married for life, just as long as any straight couple who’d made a good go of it.


Regardless, Crowley liked women, and so he could be as dashing and sexy around the house as he wanted, but he wouldn’t think of laying a hand on Aziraphale, and so, Gabriel could go on his business trips with an easy mind. 


Aziraphale wasn’t naive enough to think that his husband’s possessiveness had anything to do with Gabriel being ardently in love with him. Two decades into a marriage that still worked, but mostly out of convenience, and Aziraphale knew that Gabriel had grown tired of him. He knew that Gabriel’s affection and attraction had waned considerably, but he also knew that Gabriel liked the things he considered his to stay his. His house. His wealth. His reputation. His husband. If Crowley had been gay, well, that would have been too much of a wild card to invite into Gabriel’s personal kingdom. 


Aziraphale had tried to smother the unexpected stab of disappointment at hearing that Crowley was straight. It didn’t matter anyway. The man was his employee, and Aziraphale was married. And for some reason, it usually killed Aziraphale’s fantasies when the object of his desire was incapable of desiring him back. In real life anyway. He’d certainly fancied his fair share of straight celebrities. But when it came to real, flesh and blood people in his social circles, he kept his fantasies confined to other gay men. His self esteem hadn’t ever had the chance to build itself up to the point where crushing on his straight chauffeur and horticulturist would end in anything other than depression. 


Crowley had moved in, and in less than 9 months, he’d proven his skills by getting the greenhouse back to its former glory. Under his tender care, and with the help of bags and bags of fertilizer, truck loads of fresh plants and trays of new seedlings, a new irrigation system and specialized heat lamps, the plants and flowers were bursting with life, and the greenhouse was gleaming with emerald fecundity. 


Gabriel was pleased, for his greenhouse (another thing he could possess that added value to his reputation) was the talk of the town. Already, several home and garden magazines had asked him for photoshoots and interviews. He allowed the photoshoots, for those would gain him notoriety, but turned down the interviews, saying only that they had a “talented staff” that had breathed new life into the old glass structure that housed what had once been a sorry group of half dead weeds. Now, the greenhouse got regular mentions in a wide array of magazine articles and talk show interviews. 


Gabriel didn’t want anyone talking to Crowley, interviewing Crowley, for that would take attention away from himself. And the man was simply too attractive for Gabriel to allow him to step into the public eye in connection to Gabriel. He’d take too much attention away from where Gabriel wanted it. Squarely on his own accomplishments and endeavors.


Aziraphale understood and respected all that. He’d known Gabriel was arrogant and vain when he’d met him. It had been a big part of his sex appeal. That he was so effortlessly confident. That he knew what he wanted and went out and got it. It was the reason Aziraphale now lived in a veritable mansion of a house, with all the resources he needed to acquire and sell and refurbish old books, and to do as he pleased with the rest of his free time. 


It was a side of Gabriel that only Aziraphale saw, for Gabriel had a very carefully constructed image to uphold. One where he displayed a serene calmness and strength from his deep connection with inner peace. The outside world didn’t see Gabriel getting snappish when one of his tailored suits got wrinkled at the dry cleaners, or how Gabriel nagged at Aziraphale to put down the pastries and made comments about his weight (which Aziraphale tolerated most of the time because it was for his own good after all). The rest of the world didn’t hear Gabriel when he confided in his husband late at night, in the privacy of their bedroom, that he was afraid of obscurity. That he’d been a scrawny teenager and how he’d gotten mediocre grades in college. How he’d struggled for years to get published, until one of his books (and then several follow up sequels,) had miraculously taken off. Aziraphale knew this side of Gabriel, and it made him feel special. Made him feel like he was the only person in the world who knew the real man under the public persona of an enlightened relationship guru. 


And, at the bottom of it all, Aziraphale supposed he was glad that Crowley was straight. Due to the fact that Crowley regularly drove Aziraphale places, (to book club meetings and art gallery openings or to fetch Gabriel from the airport or drive him to the city for weekends away). As a result, they’d spent a lot of time in each other’s company, even if it was only with Aziraphale in the back seat while Crowley drove. The man was insanely attractive, with his angular face and sharp cheekbones, his charming little underbite and his full lower lip and those long, lanky legs encased in tight dark trousers or even tighter jeans. Oh and his hair . Over the course of his employment, he’d grown it out from the messy bedhead look he’d started with, to auburn waves just past his chin that he sometimes tied half up, and Aziraphale’s fingers itched with the urge to touch it. 


Aziraphale was dismayed to realize that his usually rational mind, which prevented him from fancying straight men, had failed spectacularly to keep him from fantasizing about Crowley. He found his breath catching slightly and his mind filling with impure thoughts whenever he looked at the man for heaven's sake. 


The fact that Crowley liked women instead of men was a blessing. A godsend really. It had been far too long since Aziraphale had enjoyed a regular sex life, and as a result, having a gay man this attractive around, with his sharp, black chauffeur jacket accenting his angular shoulders and narrow waist… well, it would have been torture. Torture to give Aziraphale the hope that one day, Crowley might hit him up for sex. Because Crowley was horny, or lonely out there in the guest house, out here in a small town in the Catskills. Yes, Aziraphale would still have to turn him down, even if such a miraculous event were to occur, but a man could dream couldn’t he?


In a twist of cruel irony, Aziraphale found that lusting after a straight man didn’t even kill that sort of fantasy for him. It merely had him making a few mental adjustments so that the fantasy felt realistic enough for him to indulge in it. 


Crowley, getting lonely and bored and sauntering over to Aziraphale one day when Gabriel was out of town, to ask if he’d like to come to his apartment for a drink. How Crowley would complain that he hadn’t gotten laid in a really long time, and how he wished there was some way to get some relief, and how he’d grown tired of wanking. And then Aziraphale would suggest that a blow job from another man was just the same as one from a woman… that Crowley would only have to close his eyes and imagine someone else, and then Crowley would agree to it… and then… Well. Aziraphale had to stop himself at that point. Or mostly he stopped himself. Some evenings he didn’t, and ended up stroking himself to thoughts of getting down on his knees to suck Crowley’s cock. Thoughts of reverently undoing the button at the top of those tight trousers and peeling them down. Thoughts of placing gentle kisses to Crowley’s lower belly before heading southward to slip his cock into Aziraphale’s greedy mouth. 


And so, what he’d hoped to avoid by Crowley being straight hadn’t worked in the slightest. He ended up tortured anyway. Luckily though, Crowley wasn’t much of a talker. They’d developed a pleasant, employee/employer acquaintanceship over the past year, but the man wasn’t a chatterbox. So Aziraphale could tell himself that he was probably dumb as a box of rocks and that he likely spent his off evenings chasing women at local bars, much like most other extremely attractive straight men he’d known in his lifetime. Their looks gained them attention from a plethora of women, and so they hadn’t bothered to develop their personalities as a result. This was probably the case with Crowley. For all he knew, Crowley was into the local football teams and talked about cars and enjoyed action films. That was the extent of the very narrow, very uninformed opinions Aziraphale held about straight men. 


Regardless, Aziraphale learned to view Crowley as a helpful employee, as a talented horticulturist and an agreeable acquaintance, someone he could trust to not bother him with idle chatter on long drives. And someone he could wank to when he felt particularly randy and lonely when Gabriel was away. That wasn’t so bad was it? In fact, it was a tradition for bored, rich housewives that was so deeply entrenched in American culture as to have become an oft used trope. Lonely Housewife Lusts After Sexy Chauffeur (or sexy pool boy, depending on the narrative, though he and Gabriel’s “pool boy” was a short, round Portuguese man in his sixties named Octavio), and Aziraphale knew if he was anything, he was a bored, lonely housewife.


It was fine. Crowley probably hadn’t even noticed that his presence caused Aziraphale physical discomfort in the form of flushed cheeks and distracting fantasies. The man was a blank page. He chose to keep to himself, rarely spoke to Gabriel and only spoke sparingly to Aziraphale. It helped that Crowley didn’t display a stellar personality to go with his incredible looks. Aziraphale would probably have been forced to avoid him if that were the case. He could stay as a tempting but unattainable distraction. Something for Aziraphale to look forward to every day, just like he looked forward to home baked croissants from his trips into Athena proper to that lovely little bakery on the corner of Cornelius and Whitefarer streets. Or how he looked forward to the smell of the pages of an old book, cracked open and spread out under his reverent fingertips like the body of a lover. He wanted to crack Crowley open and spread him out too, but he could be satisfied with keeping those desires to himself indefinitely.