Actions

Work Header

each flower has wept and bowed towards the east

Work Text:

Once upon a time, the world almost ended.

That time was approximately two days ago, and the world was doing perfectly fine, thank you very much. Things had been mostly put back into order: rivers ran, cars ran, everything was running and attempting to keep up, lest they ended up behind on things. Almost everything had neatly clicked back into place.

Almost everything. 

There was a Bentley screeching up to an old bookstore, and inside were two man-shaped beings. They had been having an at-length conversation about Andrew Lloyd Webber (Aziraphale: hated everything but Phantom at the Opera. Crowley: hated everything but Starlight Express) that had lasted from dessert to the drive home. The conversation died down as they both looked at the bookshop, gleaming miraculously. 

"Right," said Aziraphale. "This is my stop, then." 

Crowley looked at the bookshop, and then at Aziraphale. "Right," he drawled distractedly. 

"Right," Aziraphale repeated. The air was beginning to grow thick. Things felt closer than they had been in a while, and he was becoming acutely aware of his own sentimentality. "I should--er." He moved to get out of the car.

"Actually, angel, there's--" He turned to see Crowley's mouth trying to find the right words. "There's something I wanted to ask you." 

Oh. That kind of sentence brought a sentimental ache to Aziraphale's chest, and settled back into the car, door still ajar. "Alright."

He watched as Crowley started to say something before abandoning it and and staring blankly. He did this for a second or two before asking, "Do you still have one of my notebooks from Leonardo? You know, the one with the wine stain?" 

That was not the sort of question Aziraphale had been expecting, and it took him a moment to respond. The thick air in the Bentley had disappeared, but he found his chest still ached. "I might. Do you want me to grab it for you?" 

"I--that's--" Crowley fumbled, hand not-very-nonchalantly gesturing. "No, no. I'll pick it up some other time."

Aziraphale wanted to press the issue, but he could see Crowley was straining enough as is. "I'll give you a call if I find it," he said, and stepped out of the Bentley. "Goodnight, my dear." 

Crowley sighed frustratedly, and Aziraphale couldn't help but take slight offense to that. "Night, Angel," Crowley said, and with that the door slammed shut and the Bentley screeched off in another direction. 

Inside the backroom of a dusty but rather unburnt bookshop, there was the sound of books being piled onto a desk. Byron, Keats, Donne, Herrick, the works. There was also the sound of sighing, and a faint tapping noise as fingers danced across the desk.

When love was inconvenient, it was in one's best interest to break one's own heart. Poetry, Aziraphale found, did the job well enough, and had done so for many years.

Not that Crowley was inconvenient. He was, in many areas including but not limited to: self-checkout machines in busy grocery stores, performance art pieces, many restaurants they were not allowed back into and, in one very memorable instance, Prague. But not this one. If anyone was inconvenient in this situation, it was Aziraphale his treacherously fragile heart. 

He thought about Crowley's question, his face. He thought about dinner at the Ritz. He thought about holy water. Something old and warm was curling at the pit of his stomach, and in the privacy of his own back room it felt a little more solid, a little more right than it usually did.

No, thought Aziraphale. Perhaps it would be best to avoid the poetry tonight.

He tried reading other novels, but found himself distracted. He booted up his ancient desktop computer to play solitaire but found himself losing. He rearranged the books on the shelves according to color, then author, then by how decrepit he could make the shop look as a whole.

To any normal person, this would have taken up most of the night. For Aziraphale, these all took place in about two hours time.

Patience is a virtue. He knew this. He reminded Crowley of this, many times a day.

Patience was also a bit of a bastard, when you got down to it.

Aziraphale looked at the books still sitting on his desk and sighed. He just needed something to take the edge off, was all. Drinking would devolve into melancholy, and he wasn't exactly in the mood to try anything new.

There was a ruckus outside. The youths were about, drunkenly colliding into each other making the air reek of skunk and cotton candy.

This gave Aziraphale an idea. A brilliant, terrible idea.

*

Inside the confines of sleek and rather unburnt Bentley, there was the sound of a forehead hitting itself against the steering wheel, swearing, then hitting itself again. The stereo was playing Tchaikovsky's "Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy", and then, with brute force, wasn't.

"Stupid, stupid!" Crowley hit the steering wheel one last time for effect. "Do you still have one of my notebooks from Leonardo?" he parroted mockingly. Of course he did. Crowley gave it to him as a gift ages ago. His forehead had already been far too abused, so he smacked the horn with his palm. "Stupid!"

He raced down the street, and a multitude of stop lights that would have remained green for another thirty seconds turned inconveniently red. 

He had thought, perhaps, that he had grown brave. He'd been saying a lot of things he would've otherwise kept shut about the past few days. But it always ended up like this. He'd say some things, do some things, and there would be a great well of confidence that would end up collapsing in on itself, Apocalypse stopped or not. 

Here lie Crowley, the Tempter, the original demon of seduction, floundering around an angel who when asked who is favorite Beatle was, replied with ladybirds. 

Ah, well. Nothing he could do about it now. This was old hat for Crowley. When you loved someone like this long enough, it felt more like a fickle tide. Sometimes it was on a distant shore, the sound of waves crashing to remind you that there was an ocean. And sometimes you were up to your neck in it. 

He turned a corner, and someone found their newly purchased smartphone slipping from their hands and shattering onto the pavement. 

His apartment seemed larger when he got back. Emptier. 

He supposed it was nice, hearing Aziraphale putter away making tea the other night. It was especially nice to have them sitting side by side, watching the History channel on the couch and checking for errors. He found himself passing out on the couch and woke to Aziraphale tending to his plants and re-alphabetizing his soul music collection. It felt domestic, it felt like nothing, it felt like everything.

It felt very nice indeed.

And now everything just looked a little too impersonal. A little too...not him. Not the him he was now, at any rate.

Crowley set down his keys, picked up the phone, and dialed.

*

"South Downs? Really?"

Crowley nodded, attempting to look casual. "New world, y'know. Thought I might like a change of scenery."

"I thought you loved London," said Aziraphale, who was absently throwing breadcrumbs into the duck pond.

Crowley frowned. "Isn't that bad for the ducks?"

Aziraphale blinked and turned to him. "What?" 

"Bread. 'S bad for ducks. You're supposed to do...oats, or something." 

"Well the ducks seem to like it perfectly fine." 

"They're ducks, they barely know anything." 

This was decidedly untrue, as the duck in front of them knew three things. One: he was here for a good time, not a long time. Two: the bread was three days stale. And three: the one in the shades was changing the subject. It quacked, convincing the blonde one to throw some more crumbs it's way, and went to find the American agent's homemade sourdough.

"I just don't understand why you would leave London, is all," Aziraphale continued petulantly. "It's your home." 

That was true. However, the garden had been his home, once. As had Babel, and Rome, and Paris. Home was a transient thing, forever moving, and Crowley had discovered long ago it usually followed one person in particular. "Too noisy," he replied. "Besides, there'd be a garden. We could plant begonias." 

Aziraphale smiled, so tentative and warm it made something twist in Crowley's chest. "We?" he asked. 

"Yeah," Crowley said. "If that's alright with you." 

Aziraphale frowned, looking conflicted. 

Oh. Big slip up. "I mean--" Crowley floundered. "I figured, why not? The economy what it is these days--"

"Crowley, we don't use money."

"Still. Small villages. Perfect for small bookshops where no one will come by, when you think about it."

Aziraphale nodded, eyes glazed over. "Yes. Yes, I suppose you're right."

He looked...Crowley wouldn't say concerned, because he knew Aziraphale's face well enough, but it was a close thing. He imagined that losing a place so dear to him would be worrying in some aspect. Aziraphale had always looked over the bit in the scripture that described coveting as a sin. He put his hand on the angel's leg and patted it. "How about we both go down this weekend, eh angel? Check out the scenery?" 

Aziraphale looked to Crowley. "I would like that very much." 

Crowley couldn't help but smile. Things were working out so well, he felt a bit giddy. Aziraphale smiled back at him, and they seemed to become increasingly aware of Crowley's hand on Aziraphale's leg. He pulled away, remiss to the lack of warmth, and both rose from the bench.

It was then that Crowley watched as Aziraphale pulled out a shiny box with a nozzle on the end, suck on it, and exhale what seemed to be inordinate amounts of smoke.

Crowley watched, blinked, and felt the same level of astonishment people felt watching celebrities shop for toilet paper.

"Is that--is that a vape? "

Aziraphale looked to him, eyebrows raised. "Hm? Oh, yes. You know how harmful for the environment cigarettes are, my dear."

"I thought you stopped smoking back in '93," Crowley said a bit dumbly. There were still bits of vapor in the air. 

"Yes, well. We're all inclined to our vices, dearest. You of all people should know that." He blinked, like he had realized he had left the stove on, and offered the vape. "Did you want some?" 

"I--no, no. I'll stick to cigarettes." 

Aziraphale frowned. "I thought you stopped smoking in '93 as well." 

"May have, yeah, but--" He found that while his throat continued as if he were talking, no sounds were coming out. Aziraphale shrugged, took another puff, and Crowley wondered how someone could look so angelic while inhaling what smelled like Peach Cobbler flavored nicotine. Perhaps it had something to do with the clouds.

Aziraphale pocketed the vape, looped his arm around Crowley's, and directed them towards the Bentley. "I was thinking of Thai for dinner tonight. Thoughts?"

Crowley let out a noncommittal grunt, and Aziraphale lead them onwards.

*

It wasn't that Aziraphale was addicted to smoking. It was just as well he wasn't addicted to eBay auctions or alcohol. He was an angel, and by nature couldn't really be addicted to anything. However, he could like something very much, especially if it spread joy and wellbeing and all of the other emotions associated with Just Feeling Very Good. He could like something to the point of compulsion, if he were so inclined.

Take, for instance, Crowley, who was currently moping about in the backroom of Aziraphale’s bookshop. They had two days before their little excursion to South Downs, and had just come back from their traditional Thursday foray to the cinema. They had seen something ridiculous this time, involving the end of the world, and ended up throwing bits of popcorn at the screen when things got too dramatic*. The mid-afternoon sun filtered through the window and hit Crowley’s face in a way that made Aziraphale falter at the sight of it.

*By the end of the film the entire front row was covered in popcorn.

He stared a bit, unable to help himself. There was a sort of warmth that always radiated from his chest in moments like these. He wanted to reach out and chase it.

Crowley’s head swiveled towards Aziraphale’s direction. Aziraphale allowed himself the moment for one, two more seconds before going back to his work. He could feel Crowley’s eyes on him, and found himself tasting custard on his tongue before he knew what he was doing.

"Would you stop with that?"

"With what?" Aziraphale asked, looking up from his desk.

"The...huffing and puffing." Aziraphale blinked. Crowley crossed his arms, assuming a lean against the wall. "Please. Makes me want a cigarette."

"Then have a cigarette."

"No, no. It's the...principle of the thing, or whatever."

Aziraphale held it out. "You could try it."

"No. Nope."

"I thought you'd be all for these things!"

"I am! I am! I just--" Aziraphale waited as Crowley tried to find a good reason. And waited. And waited some more.

He held the cartridge up again, and watched as Crowley took it, inhaled deeply, and proceeded to cough his lungs out.

Aziraphale got up and patted Crowley's back. Hopefully he doesn't retch on the carpet, he thought. The coughs began to subside, and Aziraphale found himself rubbing slow circles on Crowley’s back. “There, there,” he soothed. “It’s alright.”

Crowley continued to cough out a couple of garbled curses, and in Aziraphale’s free hand there was suddenly a bottle of Pinot Gris. He then thought better, set the bottle down, and a glass of water was nestled in his hand instead.

Crowley drank the glass dry. “Oh, you bastard,” he said, voice lined with gravel.

Aziraphale frowned. “What?”

“You--,” Crowley started, voice still rough. Oh, he did love it when his voice got like that. “You peer pressured me!”

Aziraphale considered this. “Perhaps I did,” he said. He smiled a bit to himself. “Perhaps you’re rubbing off on me.”

Crowley saw the Pinot Gris and uncorked it. “You’d know if I was rubbing off on you,” he said distractedly.

Aziraphale couldn't help but raise his eyebrows at that. “Oh? And how would I know?”

Crowley finished the long swig he had been taking. “Know what?”

“That you had been rubbing off on me.”

Crowley stared for a bit, and then some more. Aziraphale stared back.

"Well, um. Well." Crowley regarded the floor, regarded the ceiling, and finally settled on the bottle in his hand. "You'd get a better vintage than this, I'd wager."

Aziraphale hummed, and there were two bottles on the desk now. Crowley looked at them, looked at Aziraphale, and picked one up. "Oh," Crowley sighed. "Perhaps I have rubbed off on you."

"And I you," Aziraphale replied. The air felt a little too hot now. Crowley was staring at him now, and he felt almost exposed. "Would you pass me one of those? I'm a bit parched myself."

Crowley handed one over without a word, and they drank. 

The world had almost ended a week ago, and by the state of the countryside it was doing very well. Birds were singing, trees were swaying in the wind. Things seemed nearly right.

Crowley would have noticed this if he hadn't been going 90 miles per hour, and he hadn't been looking down at the item in his lap.

"What's this?" Crowley asked.

"The notebook," Aziraphale answered. "The one you asked about. Wine stain and all." Crowley was having a hard time understanding and keeping the car mostly on the road. "Didn't you want it?"

"Uh, yes, thank you," he said distantly. "But uh--not anymore. You can have it back." He held it in Aziraphale's direction.

"Are you sure?" Aziraphale asked as he took it back.

"Yeah, yeah. It was a gift anyways. Sorry for the trouble."

Aziraphale smiled. "It really was no trouble."

Something warm and tingly traveled down Crowley's spine. If everything went right, then it might always be like this. Car rides, shared newspapers, little walks on the beach.

Crowley could already see the fantasy playing out: waking up early (same bedroom or separate rooms? No matter. Aziraphale never slept anyways.), gardening, him spreading some low level resentment among the neighbors as Aziraphale attempted to do conflict resolution. They'd spend their days in town, maybe, or at the cottage. He could imagine a set of mismatched armchairs in the sitting room.

Crowley could imagine all of that, and he did, often. If asked to admit to it, however, he would rather wear weighted shoes in a chapel.

There was, of course, the possibility of it not working out. Crowley had also imagined that often, and found it gave him chest pains and a headache.

"Crowley!"

"Hm?" 

"The road!" 

"What? Oh, right." 

The Bentley managed to slide past a speed post by a fraction of an electron. He gave his most winning grin at the angel, who only seemed to give a fond if pained expression and once again pull out his massive e-cigarette. The car smelled like sherbet lemon now*. The angel sighed in relief, though Crowley could only imagine from what.

*When asked why he was in possession of so many flavors, Aziraphale had only responded that "variety was the spice of life". When asked how he had bought so many, he merely shrugged and said something about a miraculous sale.

Crowley, feeling a bit on edge himself, conjured up a lit cigarette in his mouth, only to start coughing again and miracle it away. 

He could feel the look Aziraphale was giving rather than see it. "Don't say it."

"I wasn't going to say anything." Crowley glanced over. The bastard was smiling. "Well, maybe one thing. But I won't say it."

"What?"

"It's nothing. Like I told you, I won't say it."

"Say something else, then."

Aziraphale looked out to the passing trees. "We should make sure the realtor knows we'll need an extra room for my books."

Crowley understood then in that moment why human beings often wanted to grab hold of one another. He had come to understand this many times, but every instance felt brand new.

"Already done," he said. Aziraphale beamed, and Crowley found himself having to look back towards the road. They lapsed into a comfortable silence for the next few minutes, before Crowley broke it. "Music?" he asked.

"Yes, please."

He turned on the stereo. Vivaldi's "Somebody to Love" started playing. Crowley wondered if, secretly, the Bentley was enacting revenge for the whole fireball thing, and moved to change the tape only to be stopped by warm, well manicured hand.

"Actually," said Aziraphale, "I quite like this one."

Crowley looked to Aziraphale, didn't say a word, and looked back out to the road. Not for lack of words, of course. But for lack of a reason for words.

Their hands relaxed down onto the center console, and neither made the move to pull away. They still had hour or so to go until they arrived at South Downs anyways. Might as well enjoy the ride.

*

The cottage being shown to them had previously had quite a long waiting list, but all of the previous interested parties had suddenly either found themselves sick, experiencing sudden minor bankruptcy*, or had developed a new fascination with the Welsh coastline. When the realtor had told them this, Aziraphale had looked over to Crowley, who smiled and gave his best imitation of a "how-unfortunate-whaddaya-gonna-do?" shrug.

*These were also the type of people to buy a cottage for the sake of having one, never using it, and bragging about it to their work colleagues.

The cottage in question was not a mile from the Seven Sisters, looking out onto the magnificent chalky coastline. Ivy was crawling up the chimney, and Aziraphale watched as Crowley gave it the kind of once over usually used by boot camp officers and tax auditors. The kitchen came with lovely antique tile, sleek modern appliances, and a breakfast nook. The large windows looked out over the sea in the sitting room, interrupted by a few stray trees Aziraphale was sure wouldn't mind some nudging, and down the hall was a bathroom and the bedrooms.

"Here's the master," the realtor told them. Her name was Patti, the "i" not so much told but assumed, and the entire upper half of her body was adorned in turquoise jewelry. "Lovely view of course, hardwood floors. The bath is meant to replicate the original one from the 1920s but has been updated with modern plumbing. Direct sunlight from the windows in the morning. Perfect for a little lie-in, if you ask me." She smiled, as she had done the last seven times she made such a comment, and was a half blink short of winking.

Crowley walked about the room, taking a peek inside the bathroom*, and then looking out the windows before turning back to Aziraphale. "What do you think, angel?"

*Not that they much needed it. Crowley only used baths for when he was in a mood, and Aziraphale only used them for the occasional Reading Soak when he felt he earned it.

"I think it has a wonderful view," he said, walking so he was next to the demon. It really was a beautiful view, accompanied by a little bench out in the garden to view it all from. The ocean twinkled in the reflecting sunlight. It was an unusually nice day today, and he suspected that if they stayed here things would continue that way. "You have excellent taste, my dear."

"I wish I could say the same to you," Crowley quipped, glancing at Aziraphale's jacket.

Aziraphale sighed, but there wasn't much feeling behind it. "Oh, really."

"What'd I do? What'd I do--look, look at that view. And the bench out there, isn't that marvelous?"

Crowley turned to Aziraphale, a corner of his lips turned up. It was the kind of smile of someone who was at ease, someone content. Aziraphale wanted so badly to snatch those silly little sunglasses off, to see his happiness in its full picture. He wondered absently, as Crowley turned back to the realtor, if Crowley knew how wonderful he looked when he let himself be happy.

"How's the other room?" Crowley asked. Patti invited them to take a look, and they journeyed across the hall.

It wasn't as large as his bookshop, perhaps, but it would do nicely. Aziraphale had already made plans to fill the living room and master bedroom with bookcases anyway, and he was sure any overflow would fit perfectly here.

"This room doesn't offer as well of a view, but it would do well for just about anything," said Patti. "Home office, spare bedroom." She did that look again, her eye twitching anxiously to wink. "A nursery."

"A-A nursery?" Aziraphale exclaimed. "I--no, no, I think not."

"Had enough of babies for one lifetime," Crowley agreed.

"Many lifetimes over, I'd say."

"Around 7 billion of them, give or take a few million."

Aziraphale snorted. Patti mostly looked confused, but was trying her best to look professional. "A library," Aziraphale told her. "We were thinking more of a library."

After the tour ended, Crowley went over to Patti to go over the more business end of things. Aziraphale retired to the garden, which he could already imagine blooming and shaking under Crowley's care. He could imagine many things.

It felt almost real, like they were almost...but no. No. Things had changed, yes, but they had always been like this. Close but not close enough. And Aziraphale was fine with this, content even. He enjoyed Crowley's company, and anything beyond that seemed nearly unimportant compared to seeing Crowley, being around him. Even if anything beyond that seemed particularly enticing. Tempting, even.

Oh, hell. Here he was, yearning by the sea like some lovelorn Victorian heroine. He couldn't say it didn't suit him.

He turned to watch Crowley back towards the house, in conversation with Patti and her clipboard. The briny wind attempted to navigate its way around his hair, and the sun made it look incredibly soft. Aziraphale had the most overwhelming impulse to run his hands through it. Crowley looked up, gave a little wave, and looked back at the clipboard before Aziraphale could return it.

Crowley was discussing a house. A house for them. Together. The thought hit Aziraphale as it had many times during the day, and he found himself itching for nicotine again. He inhaled, waited, and felt the ends of his physical body begin to unfurl a bit from their previous tensed position.

Maybe he did have a bit of a problem.

Crowley sauntered back over, hands in his pockets. "Heard there's a lovely little place that does Italian down the street," he said, unprompted. "Care for a bite?"

Aziraphale smiled. "There's nothing I wouldn't love more."

*

Italian dinner turned into Italian dessert, which turned into walking about town, which turned into minor acts of divine ecstasy and mayhem about town, which turned into a conversation about souls. This naturally turned into a conversation about brains, which quickly devolved to whales, then dolphins, then the suggestion of taking a quick drive to the beach. So here they were, 7:40PM, atop one of the smaller cliffs, looking out at the sea. The sun was disappearing over the horizon, and Rimsky-Korsakov's "Don't Stop Me Now" was fading into "Love of My Life" at the subdued hum of a volume knob set to 4.

A small voice in Crowley's head said it was all incredibly romantic. A larger voice told them to shut up and enjoy the scenery.

"I'm surprised that in the all places in the world you chose this one," said Aziraphale. He fiddled with hands in the passenger seat. "Seems a bit more..."

Crowley frowned. "What?"

"Sentimental," Aziraphale completed. "Quite sentimental."

Crowley swallowed something rising in his throat. "Well," he said. "I can be...a little sentimental at times, yeah. I s'pose."

The sun was beginning it's final descent. Crowley took off his glasses to get a full view as the sun burst into ripe color, one last hurrah before it settled in for the night. It took Crowley's breath away at the sight of it, and for a moment he let the softer parts of himself take the front, so to speak. He smiled at the sight of it. Here it was, the world they had wanted to save, in full technicolor. He felt more than a little proud.

He turned to find Aziraphale staring at him. "What?" he asked. "Something on my face?"

Aziraphale seems to shake himself from his reverie. "Nothing, nothing. I just so rarely see you without your glasses, my dear."

Crowley blinked and reached for the glasses on the dashboard. "Oh, well, I could--"

"Oh, don't go to all that trouble," pleaded Aziraphale. "There's no one to hide from. And they...they actually look quite lovely."

Crowley's softer parts had fully taken the reigns now, and he couldn't help the lump forming in his throat. "Oh. Yeah, alright."

They resumed watching the sunset. Eventually it faded, and everything around them turned blue in the wake of the new twilight, where everything smelled of fresh grass and the air felt a little more alive than it usually did. The stereo was playing the low grade static of a tape at the end of its journey.

"Have you ever been in love?" Aziraphale asked, apropos of nothing. "Or, thought about it, I guess. I know it's a frightfully human emotion, but--"

"Yes," Crowley answered. He hadn't really known where it had come from, but it was out there now.

Aziraphale blinked. "Oh," he breathed out. His hands fumbled with his jacket pocket, pulling out his e-cigarette, but then thought better and drifted back to his lap.

"Have you?" Crowley asked. "Ever been in love, I mean. And I only ask because. Well. Eye for an eye, and all that, of--"

"Yes," answered Aziraphale.

"Oh," Crowley sighed. He flipped through a catalog of people Aziraphale knew. Infinite booksellers, customers he actually let buy things sometimes, waiters, shop owners. "And how's--what I mean to say is, who--"

Aziraphale frowned. "Do you really not know?" Crowley blinked. "My darling, I thought it would have been obvious."

Imagine, for a second, a lightning bolt. Now imagine dissecting said lightning bolt, with a metal scalpel, in a heated room. Now imagine this heated room is your chest, perhaps, or your throat or your veins. Imagine there's a thousand of them, all inside you. This was as close to what Crowley was feeling as you could get.

He couldn't really think of much to say. His mind wasn't working very well, in this moment, so he sat there a bit like a dead fish. And sat. And sat some more.

"Crowley," Aziraphale said. "I'd very much like to kiss you."

Crowley, still at a loss for words, nodded fervently, and found Aziraphale's lips on his. A little noise Crowley didn't know he was holding found its way out, and he scrambled for a place for his hands to go, placing them on either side of the angel's face. He could feel something inside of him exploding a little bit, but he didn't mind it much. Little things came to the forefront. He felt Aziraphale's hands on his cheeks, then moving up to his hair, staying there for a bit. Crowley himself was doing a small catalogue of Aziraphale's skin, cheekbones, hair--it all felt very real, and very now, and very, very nice indeed.

Aziraphale himself was making little noises, and Crowley was doing his best to catalogue them while trying to make sure he didn't end up embarrassing himself sometime in the next few minutes. He lowered is hands down to the angel's neck, thumbs caressing the skin there, and the angel let out a small sigh. Moments later, Aziraphale was doing something very wonderful to Crowley's bottom lip, and Crowley found himself forgetting about embarrassing himself and melted a little bit into the car seat.

For angels and demons, breathing is as much of an option as buying petrol or being hooked up to the city electrical grid. Still, a whine crept up Crowley's throat as Aziraphale pulled away, their hands still on each other, the air still tinged blue with twilight.

"I've loved you for 6,000 years," said Crowley, finally.

Aziraphale smiled, swallowed. "I'm afraid my track record is a bit shorter than that."

Crowley shrugged noncommittally and huffed out a breath. "Just means you'll need to catch up is all." A smiled slowly wound it's way up his face, Aziraphale wearing a matching one.

"This isn't a competition, Crowley."

"Oh, it is. And I am definitely winning. That's how much I love you, angel."

Aziraphale ran a hand through Crowley's hair affectionately. "We'll just have to see about that." He sighed. "It's a shame we can't use the cottage now."

The implications that statement sent alarm bells through Crowley's head, along with some cheers, and a small parade. "Actually," he said, a bit sheepish. "About that."

Aziraphale's expression transformed into worry. "Crowley, what did you do?"

"Nothing, nothing! Just--" He shoved Aziraphale off of him lightly, just enough for some wiggle room, and pulled out a small ring of keys from his jacket pocket. "I kind of already bought the place."

Aziraphale looked at the keys, looked at Crowley, and kissed him again.

*

Once upon a time, the world almost ended.

That time was approximately a year ago, give or take a few hours, and there hadn't been a bang or a whimper. There was now, however, the sound of an alarm clock buzzing rather loudly. Aziraphale gave it a quick glance to shut it off, and carefully marked his page. A warm body was firmly nestled between his arm and his chest, and was refusing to move.

"Crowley," Aziraphale sighed. "Crowley, it's 7:30."

"Mmmand?" came a muffled voice.

"Well, if you want me to make breakfast, I'll need to get up."

"Mmm. I'm not stopping you." Crowley then proceeded to nuzzle further into Aziraphale. The morning sun was turning his hair the most amazing colors, and he had a hand grasping onto the fabric of the t-shirt that Aziraphale was slowly but surely getting used to.

"Well," said Aziraphale, giving Crowley's head a small kiss. "No Belgian waffles today, I suppose."

There was a pause. Crowley groaned, letting go of Aziraphale's shirt and rolling onto his back. "I hate you."

Aziraphale got up, smiled, and pecked Crowley on the cheek. "I love you too, darling."

The house wafted with the smell of freshly made waffles, the seabirds calling off in the distance. Sunlight filtered through a sitting room where two mismatched armchairs sat under the window. In a room in the far corner of the house, the walls were covered in books, and the whole place smelled of old parchment and, oddly enough, artificially flavored blueberry pie.

Outside, the begonias were blooming, as were the hydrangeas and rhododendrons and foxgloves. There were even a few rose bushes in the garden, though none of the neighbors could figure out how they had taken to the soil so well, and how they seemed to tremble whenever someone bent down to view them.

There was a breakfast nook, and inside it sat two man-shaped beings. One was looking out at the ocean. The other was reading a newspaper.

Once upon a time, the world almost ended. But it didn't, and had been doing very well in the meantime. Rivers ran, cars ran, everything was running in tip-top shape. And in a small corner of the world, an angel and a demon looked at each other, and with ease of those who have loved each other for so long, held hands without saying a word.

Everything had clicked back into place.