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Ineffable Husbands - PG edit

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After the Apocalypse happened - or rather, didn’t - and Crowley and Aziraphale visited each other's respective Head Offices for a spot of not-actually-torture, they dined at the Ritz. Crowley drank coffee, and quite a lot of very good champagne. Aziraphale drank tea and several glasses of the same champagne - and ate somewhere in the vicinity of 72 courses. Or that’s how it seemed to Crowley, at least - it may have been 23, or 12, or perhaps only 7 - but however many courses it actually was, Aziraphale enjoyed a wide array of foods, and Crowley enjoyed his company while he ate them. *

Aziraphale finished his dessert, wiped his mouth delicately with the napkin, and leaned back in his seat with a smile Crowley knew indicated his appetite was finally sated. Crowley smiled in response, and asked “shall I get the bill?”.
“Oh, thank you dear, that would be lovely of you,” was the reply. Crowley paid the bill, and offered his arm to Aziraphale.
“Where to now, Angel?”
“Would you care to come back to the bookshop? We can see Adam’s new additions, share some wine…oh goodness, the wine! I wonder whether an 11-year-old Antichrist knows about wine collections?”
“I’m sure he knows people have them, Angel - though I can’t guarantee yours will have been restored exactly as it was. Let’s go and find out.”

They walked companionably, arm-in-arm - new for them, but very pleasant – to the bookshop. Upon their arrival Aziraphale opened the door, and said “after you, my dear.” Crowley, having already noticed that morning a few of the more obvious additions Adam had made to Aziraphale’s collection, heaved a sigh of relief at seeing the shop so almost-normal. He wasn’t entirely sure he’d ever get over seeing it burning, and was equally uncertain he’d ever be willing to leave Aziraphale’s side after the shock of (almost) losing him.

Aziraphale stepped into the shop behind Crowley, closed the door, and spun in a slow circle, taking it in. He hadn’t seen it aflame, but he knew from what Crowley had told him that everything short of Agnes’s book and Crowley himself had been burnt to cinders, so seeing it restored was comforting.
“Books first, or wine?” he asked, and had barely finished the question when Crowley answered “WINE!” They walked to the rear of the bookstore aiming for the back room, and discovered something Crowley HADN’T noticed that morning - a door signed “staff only”, behind which there was a staircase leading down, where previously no such door or staircase had existed. After exchanging curious looks they turned on the light, and headed slowly down the stairs.

If Aziraphale was surprised by some of Adam’s additions to his books, he was positively astonished at the addition of a basement cellar stocked floor to ceiling and wall to wall with wine racks, none of which had a vacancy. He recognised some of the bottles - including the Chateauneuf-du-Pape he and Crowley had shared the week before the world didn’t end - but many had CLEARLY been added by Adam, as there had simply never been this much wine in the building in the entire time Aziraphale had lived there.

Crowley let out a low whistle of appreciation, and said, “Angel, I think we can safely say that Adam is aware of wine collections.”
“Indeed! And look - some of these wines I’ve never tried before - there’s an incredible variety here. I wonder how he chose which bottles to add.”
They continued looking at rack after rack of wine, until Crowley remarked “I’m starting to notice a pattern here, Angel.”
“If you’ve noticed that the wines seem to be sorted by country, I’ve noticed the same pattern, dear. Adam was certainly thorough in his additions. I don’t even know where to start!”

“Alphabetically?” suggested Crowley.
“Alphabetically by what - country of origin?”
“By year then, Angel?”
“Goodness Crowley dear, we might never get to opening a bottle if we try it that way, when they’re not sorted by year.”
“Actually Angel, I think they are.”
“They are?”
“By country, then varietal, then year if I’m right - and I’m pretty sure I am.”
“Hmm…you know, I think you ARE right about that. I wonder if Adam did it on purpose, or the wine decided for itself?”
“Heaven knows, Angel, but at least there is method to this - well, not madness, but whatever you want to call it.”
Aziraphale looked at Crowley and smiled. “No, not madness, though I am still wondering how Adam chose all these wines. Obviously some were simply restored, but the others - how does an 11-year-old choose wine?”
“We could look them up online, see if they have anything in common?”
“We could do that I suppose, but you know my computer isn’t really up to that sort of thing. Though you are forever telling me ‘there’s an app for that’ whenever you’re holding that infernal mobile telephone of yours. I don’t suppose there’s an app for wine, is there?”

“Of course there are wine apps, Angel - how do you think I choose the ones I bring over?”
“I thought you just brought the ones you already knew we liked, dear.”
“Well, sometimes I do, but how many times have I brought a DIFFERENT wine to try over the years?”
“I never really thought about that. Alright, what does your wine app say about,” Aziraphale peered at an Australian wine he’d never heard of, “Brown Brothers Dolcetto & Syrah”.
“It’s a sweet red, Angel - though apparently it’s almost purple.”
“I haven’t had a sweet red in years - should we give it a go, do you think?”
“I think that’s the best thing you’ve said since we left the Ritz, so yes, let’s pop the cork.”
“It doesn’t have a cork, Crowley dear - it’s a screw cap.”
“Then let’s go upstairs and unscrew the cap - I need a drink before we continue looking at any more of Adam’s additions to the cellar OR the bookstore.”

They walked back upstairs, Aziraphale carrying the bottle of Dolcetto & Syrah, and went through to the old back room - which was also different from how they remembered it. For one thing, Aziraphale had never owned a TV, a Playstation, an Xbox, a Wii, or surround sound speakers. He’d also never owned a gramophone, though this was an addition he liked instantly, as Crowley let out another of his appreciative low whistles. Anything that got that sort of response from the demon was likely to be very good indeed, as Aziraphale had discovered repeatedly throughout their long acquaintance. Another look around the room showed further additions - a collection of DVDs, Blu-rays, and games, presumably to play on the large TV mounted to the wall - and an even larger collection of vinyl records, which Crowley immediately went to peruse.

“Say what you like about Adam’s taste in books Angel, but his taste in music is flawlessssssss...” the demon hissed to a halt.
“Are you quite all right Crowley dear?” asked Aziraphale.
“This is MY record collection! What is MY record collection doing in YOUR back room?”
“Perhaps Adam thought the acoustics are better here than in your flat?”
“They’re not though, I know they’re not, because I miracled that flat myself - the acoustics are perfect!”
“Then I really don’t know my dear, but I’m sure they’ll sound lovely on that beautiful old gramophone,” Aziraphale soothed. Crowley took a deep breath - a habit he’d picked up from living around humans for so long - and visibly tried to calm himself.

“Let me get you that glass of wine,” Aziraphale said, heading to the kitchenette. Crowley flipped through his records, finally choosing one, and gently sliding it from its slipcase. He put it on the turntable of the gramophone, and lowered the needle reverently. The sounds of Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz filled the room, and Crowley sighed with relief. It wasn’t quite the same as in his flat, but even without demonically perfected acoustics it sounded wonderful.

Aziraphale returned with their glasses of wine, and handed one to Crowley. “I always loved this one, you know,” he said.
“Me too, Angel.”
“I never learnt to waltz though, sadly.”
“You never learnt to waltz?” Crowley asked.
“No, I only ever learnt the Gavotte. I probably could have learnt other dances I suppose, but so many of them require a partner…” Aziraphale trailed off.
“I could teach you, if you’d like.”
“Would you, Crowley dear?”
“Sure, why not? ’S not difficult.”
“Well…alright then. If you would be so kind, please.”
“Kindness isn’t my strong suit Angel, you know that, but I can teach you to waltz regardless.”
“I wish you wouldn’t say things like that.”

“Things like what, Angel?” Crowley asked, narrowing his eyes behind his perpetually-in-place sunglasses.
“That you aren’t kind. You are. You may not like admitting it, having spent so long working for Hell, but you’re one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.” Crowley visibly blushed, and looked at the floor.
“’M not. Don’t say that, Angel, I can’t be.”
“You are, and I’m going to keep telling you so until you believe me, even if that takes another 6000 years. Now, are you going to teach me how to waltz, or am I going to have to find an app on your telephone that’s hardly ever used as a telephone?”

“I’ll teach you, ‘Ziraphale, and it’s just a phone, not a telephone. There are apps you could use though, if you’d prefer to learn that way.”
“I most certainly would not prefer it! I’d have to learn to use the t- the phone first, and I’d need you to teach me that. Which I DON’T want you to do. It may be very useful for finding out things about this lovely wine we’re drinking, but I have no desire whatsoever to learn how to dance by using an app. Especially when I have you right here to do it.”
“Alright Angel, come here then,” Crowley said, sounding only a little gruff and more than slightly amused.

They both put their wine glasses on nearby surfaces, and Aziraphale took the handful of steps to Crowley’s side, then stood there looking rather like a deer caught in the headlights. Crowley gave a half-smile, and said “Right Angel, which part do you want to learn?”.
“What do you mean, which part? I want to learn the whole dance.”
“Well traditionally in a waltz the gentleman leads and the lady follows, but as neither of us is a lady, I can teach you whichever you’d rather learn - I know both.”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. I suppose since you WILL be leading either way, you may as well teach me the lady’s part.”
“Right. Ok. Well. If you’re going to follow, then you should put your left hand on my right shoulder, and your right hand in my left hand.” Aziraphale did so, trembling slightly, and blinked rapidly when Crowley put his hand at his waist, and gently adjusted the way their hands were clasped.

“Breathe, Angel,” Crowley encouraged. Aziraphale was still looking quite startled, and Crowley worried he was going too fast for the angel, as he’d done in the past.
Aziraphale took a steadying breath and said “Well now I know what to do with my arms, what do I do with the rest of me?”
Crowley smiled, and gently explained the basic steps of the waltz - how he would lead, how Aziraphale should follow, and not to worry if he couldn’t get it right straight away - they had plenty of time, and nowhere else to be.

After an hour or so of waltzing around the lounge room Aziraphale no longer needed to look down to avoid stepping on Crowley’s toes, and had finally ceased apologising for getting it wrong. After two hours Crowley was quite proud of the progress they had made, and had been slowly reeling Aziraphale closer, so that their torsos were almost touching, and they were dancing cheek to cheek. Crowley tilted his head so that his lips were at Aziraphale’s ear, and whispered so quietly that even as close as they were, a human would not have heard it, “I love you, Angel.”

Aziraphale froze, then stepped back just enough to see Crowley’s face. He lifted his hands, gently removed Crowley’s sunglasses, and placed them next to his wine glass. He then put his hands on either side of Crowley’s face, and said “I know you do, my dear. I’ve known for a long time that you loved me. I’m so sorry it’s taken me until now to catch up.”
“Do you? Are you? Are you saying you love me too, Aziraphale?”
“Yes, Crowley dear, I’m saying I love you too. Would it be alright if I kiss you now?”
“That’s not an answer, my love.”
“Yes. Please. Please do.” Aziraphale smiled a little smile at the consecutive pleases, then drew closer, stretched a little, and kissed the love of his very long life for the first time.

It started off slowly, and gently, with small pauses between kisses, until gradually they melted together, with no space between them but their clothing - their hands in each other’s hair, cradling each other’s faces, holding each other close. They explored each other’s mouths with their tongues, and they discovered that despite never having kissed the other previously, they were both very good at it. After what may have been 2 hours or 3.5 weeks (neither of them knew, time could have sped up or stopped entirely and they wouldn’t have noticed), they broke apart, resting their foreheads together and smiling beatifically at each other.

Eventually Crowley broke the silence. “Angel?”
“Yes dear?”
“That wasn’t your first kiss, was it?”
“How many people have you kissed before me, Angel?”
“Just one, Crowley dear.”
“Did you love him?”
“Of course,” Aziraphale said innocently.
Damned angels, thought Crowley. LOVE had almost no meaning left, the way they threw it around.
“Loved how?”
“I loved him the way I’ve loved my other human friends throughout the years. He kissed me, just the once. I asked him to stop. It didn’t feel right, somehow. Not how it felt, kissing you just now.”
“Did he love you?”
“I think so. He never said as much, though.”
“I always thought…”
“What did you think?”
“I thought you were too good for him. Too good for everybody, really - me included. I…”
“I’m not too good for you, Crowley, dearest - if anything you’re too good for me.”
"I’m. I’m not. I’m not GOOD.”
“Hush. Yes, you are. I couldn’t possibly love you as I do if you weren’t.”

Aziraphale placed a gentle kiss on Crowley’s lips, then asked “It wasn’t your first kiss either, was it my love?”
“May I enquire?”
“You may.”
“Is that why the Bentley...?”
“Did you love him?”
“Not enough to be able to save him.”
“You wanted to save him?”
“Of course I wanted to save him, he wrote a bloody song asking me to.”
“You think he wrote Save Me for you?”
“I thought Brian May wrote Save Me?”
“I might be wrong, but I don’t think Freddie wrote it - sang it beautifully of course, but I’m pretty sure Brian wrote it.”
“Since when do you know so much about who wrote which Queen song?”
“I may not have a mobile phone with a thousand apps at my fingertips, but I do know how to find Queen’s discography, my dear…and I have heard those songs so very many times in your car, I couldn’t help but do a little research. I know they’re not be-bop.”
Crowley gave a half-hearted laugh and said “No, Angel, no matter who wrote Save Me, they’re definitely not be-bop.”

For a little while (or a long while, nobody was keeping track) they simply stood in Aziraphale's lounge room, holding each other close, and listening to the music still playing on the gramophone. Aziraphale was the first to shift, releasing his hold on Crowley's torso, taking his hand instead, and leading him to the couch. Crowley sprawled in his usual fashion, with one slender leg along the length of the lounge, and the other angled to the floor. Aziraphale, rather than sitting with his typically upright posture in the neighbouring armchair, sat instead between his thighs, and leaned in to kiss Crowley again.

It seemed to Crowley that Aziraphale couldn't get enough of kissing him, and frankly, he wasn't complaining. Aziraphale tasted like wine, and sunshine, and a lingering hint of the decadent mud cake he'd eaten for dessert however many hours ago at the Ritz. Had he enquired, Aziraphale would have told Crowley that he in turn tasted like wine, and moonlight, and the freshest of apples.

As their kisses deepened their hands began to explore, until Crowley paused the kissing to ask “Angel, would you object very strongly if I removed your bow-tie?”.
“Not so long as you treat it gently, my dear.”
“I promise I'll be gentle with everything, Angel.”
“Be gentle with my clothing, darling. I promise I won't break. I'm stronger than I look.”
“I know how strong you are, Aziraphale. I'm not afraid of breaking you - I'm afraid of breaking me.”
“Of breaking yourself? How so?”

“I thought I'd lost you. I thought I'd lost you and I hadn't told you how much you mean to me, how much you've always meant to me, how much you will ALWAYS mean to me. I love you more than I ever loved Her - and we were CREATED to love Her. I remember how it felt, before I fell - was pushed - was sent packing. I remember that love, and it doesn't come close to how I feel about you. I loved you, from the very first day we met. You treated me with kindness instead of cruelty, and I fell all over again, but instead of hurting like my fall from Grace, it felt wonderful to fall. And I've been falling ever since. More and more in love with you with each passing century, until this last one, when I fell more in love with you than I ever thought possible. I love you, Aziraphale, and losing you - even for a day - nearly destroyed me. So yes, I am absolutely terrified of breaking.”

“Oh, my darling. I…I…I'm so sorry I made you wait for such an incredibly long time. I've loved you, deep down, for many years, but I could never admit it to myself, let alone to you or anyone else, because I was terrified of what that might mean. To be in love with a demon - to have romantic feelings at all - it didn't seem angelic, it didn't seem Heavenly, it didn't seem right. But I see now that I was wrong, and a terrible coward, and I want to spend the rest of my life - however long that may be - with you by my side, and in my heart.”
“You mean that, Angel?”
“Of course I mean it, Crowley. I love you, and I will shout it from every rooftop in London if that's what it takes for you to believe me.”
Crowley wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him closer. “No need for that right now, Angel. Maybe later, if you really want to. Just kiss me some more, would you?”
“I think that can be arranged, dear.”

As they kissed this time, Crowley very carefully untied and removed Aziraphale's bow-tie (folding then tucking it into the breast pocket of Aziraphale's coat for safekeeping), then undid the top button of his collar. He kissed along Aziraphale's jawline, the skin soft against his lips, then down the side of his neck. Undoing another button, Crowley kissed further down Aziraphale's neck, to where he could feel his pulse, hammering away at a speed much like Crowley's own racing heart. He kissed his way across to Aziraphale's Adam's apple, then up the other side of his neck, making his way back to the mouth which eagerly greeted the return of his own.

Aziraphale then shifted his position slightly, and kissed the same path on Crowley - made all the simpler by the demon's much more exposed neck. Perhaps there was something positive to be said for modern clothing after all! Aziraphale gently removed the shimmering silver scarf that served as a tie for his beloved, draping it loosely about his own neck, and resumed kissing a now smirking Crowley.

“You know, I was hoping to reduce the number of layers you're wearing, Angel - not exchange your clothing for mine.”
“How many layers were you hoping to remove, my dear?”
“I hadn't thought of an exact number. How many layers are you wearing?”
“On my upper body? Not including your scarf? Four.”
“Then at least two...maybe all of them, if you'd like that. You can keep wearing my scarf if you really want to though.”
“Goodness. All of them?”
“I've seen most of it before remember - centuries ago, when fashions were different.”
“Well, yes, but under VERY different circumstances. And I wasn't quite so soft back then.”
“What's wrong with being soft, Angel?”
“Oh, well, Gabriel…”

“Don't even think about finishing that sentence, Aziraphale. Gabriel is a self-righteous prat, and has his head so far up his own backside he'd be able to see what he ate for breakfast, if he ever ate anything. His opinion on your body is worth less than what I paid for this nail polish. Which I stole.”

“Oh you didn't, did you?”
“Yes, but the store owner is doing a dodgy on his taxes, so he deserves to have a bottle of As Black As My Soul nail polish stolen every now and then, especially when he's buying it for a pittance from China and then charging £15 for the stuff. That's not the point. The point is, Angel, I love you as you are. Soft. Inside and out.”
“Really, Crowley?”
“Really really, Angel. Imagine if you were stick thin and bony like me! All sharp angles cutting into each other? No, I love your softness. Always have, always will.”
“Well then, let's get rid of a layer. Not your scarf though, I hadn't realised it was so soft, I want to keep wearing it for now. My coat. And perhaps our shoes and socks?”
“Oh, shoes and socks can definitely go, see y'later footwear!” Crowley snapped his fingers and they were gone - shoes safely tucked under Aziraphale's bed, though Aziraphale wouldn't know that until quite some time later - especially given that he didn't yet know he owned a bed. The old well-loved coat wasn't vanished though. Crowley gently took Aziraphale by the waist and indicated that he should stand - which he did, immediately followed by Crowley himself.

Crowley gently and oh-so-slowly slid the coat from Aziraphale's shoulders, softly caressing as his hands slid down Aziraphale's arms. Aziraphale shuddered slightly at the sensation, and closed his eyes. Crowley took the coat, draping it carefully over a nearby chair to ensure it would not be damaged, then returned to kiss his angel. And what a wonderful sensation kissing his angel was! He could quite happily do nothing else for the next several years, and not tire of it.

Aziraphale meanwhile had begun daydreaming about where all this kissing might lead. Crowley had already said he wanted to remove more of his clothing, but what might he do once it was gone? Would he still be so certain that he liked Aziraphale's soft belly once he could see it? Crowley had never lied to him about anything important - well, except for that “I won't even think about you!” nonsense, but that was such a blatant falsehood it hardly counted. He wanted to take Crowley at his word, but Gabriel - stupid, heartless Gabriel - had got into his head and made him doubt. And yet - what if Crowley truly was attracted to his curves?

“Everything alright, Angel?” Crowley asked.
“Oh, yes, very much so my dear. I just seem to have spaced out for a little while. It's perfectly alright though. I'm back now.”
“Where'd you go off to, if it's ok for me to ask?”
“Of course you can ask, my love. I'm not entirely sure what the answer is though. The future, perhaps.”
“A good future, I hope?”
“Oh yes, very good indeed.”

“Was I in it, Angel?”
“Yes, you were, my dear.”
“Well, that's alright then. If you're going to daydream while we're kissing, I'm glad I'm in it, at least.”
“Oh, darling, my mind was simply wandering ahead of my body. We were still right here in this room, a little further along than we are at this moment.”
“So you were daydreaming about me kissing you, while I was kissing you?”
"Um, yes, well, when you put it that way it does seem rather foolish. I should be focused on enjoying the kissing that's happening, rather than fantasising about the kissing that may happen.”
“Will happen, Angel. Not may happen. Will happen, if you want it to. Whenever you'd like.”
“In that case, I'd like it soon. Would you be a dear and help me out of my waistcoat, please?”
“It would be my pleasure Angel - but first, would you do your pocket watch? I don't want to damage it."

Crowley had wondered in the past what it might be like to have a more intimate relationship with Aziraphale. He never dared to truly think he might find out, but a small quiet part of him had hoped that someday - a very nebulous hypothetical someday - he might be graced with the opportunity to find out. Given that the furthest he'd gone with Freddie Mercury was some kissing more than 3 decades previous, Aziraphale should probably be made aware of his lack of experience, in case he expected Crowley to take the lead into unknown territory.

He was kissing Aziraphale as he worried over this, and a crease between his brows as he removed Aziraphale's waistcoat was the tell that showed something wasn't quite right - which the angel noticed as his eyes fluttered open between kisses. Aziraphale gently ended the kiss, cupping Crowley's cheek with one hand, and running the thumb of the other between his brows.

“What's the matter, my love?”
“I know you too well for that to work, it's not nothing. Please tell me.”
“I'mworriedI'mgoingtomessthingsup” Crowley mumbled, half under his breath. Aziraphale had excellent hearing though, (as all angels do,) and asked “Why are you worried about that?”
“Well, neither have I. We can figure it out together.”
“You don't mind?”
“Why on Earth would I mind, Crowley? I love you. I'm IN love with you, as humans say. As a matter of fact, I quite like the thought of us figuring it out as we go along.”
“You're not disappointed?”
“Heaven's no! A little surprised perhaps, given that your walk inspires lust wherever you go - but disappointed? Not at all!”

“Huh. Are you serious about my walk inspiring lust?”
“I thought that as a demon you could sense vices the way I can sense virtues?”
“I can. But humans are so full of lust all the time it never occurred to me that I was a factor.”
“Well you are, believe me. I've lost count of the number of people I've had to miracle to safety because they were too busy looking at your hips to pay attention to where they were walking or driving.”
“Really, Angel?”
“Really really, my love.”
“Does it inspire lust in you?”
“Of course it does, Crowley dear. It's just fortunate that MY lust for you is accompanied by copious amounts of love, or I'd have taken the million light-year free-fall…or sauntered vaguely downwards. Whichever analogy you prefer today.”

“So…should I continue removing layers, Angel?”
“Why don't we subtract one of yours this time? I do believe there's room on that chair for your jacket to accompany my coat and waistcoat.”
“That's still not an answer, you know.”
“Please Angel, would you help me with my jacket?”
“Such lovely manners. I'd be happy to oblige.”
“Don't patronise me.”
“I'm not patronising you dear, I'm complimenting you. Good manners are uncommon enough in Heaven and Humanity - I honestly thought Hell would freeze over before I found a polite demon, and yet you've been polite to me on almost every occasion we've seen each other, across 6000 years. It's one of the many things I love about you.”

As Aziraphale made this little speech, he circled behind Crowley, and gently drew his jacket off. He then placed it on the chair with his own previously shed layers, and went back to face Crowley, running his hands over Crowley's chest. Crowley put his hands on Aziraphale's waist to draw him closer, closed his eyes, and kissed him.
“So, what should we do now?” Aziraphale asked, wrapping his arms around Crowley once again.
“Anything, Aziraphale, anything you like. As long as it's with you.”
“Goodness. 'Anything' is very wide-ranging. Could you possibly narrow it down just a little, my dear?”
“Angel, there are so many things I'd like for us to do together, it's like the downstairs cellar all over again. I suddenly have so many options I never knew I could have, and I don't know how to choose. Why don't we move to the bedroom though?”
“Well, uh, for one thing I don't have a bed, in order to have a bedroom.”
“Yes you do. I saw it this morning.”
“I. What? Is that another addition of Adam's?”
“I suppose it must be, if it didn't exist before the fire.”
“It may have existed somewhere, but it definitely wasn't mine before the fire. Alright, let's see this new bed I apparently own.”

They walked down the short hallway to what had once been a small cluttered storeroom where Aziraphale kept things he never used but couldn't bear to part with, and was now a truly massive bedroom with the largest bed Aziraphale had ever seen, a rocking chair with a reading lamp and small table beside it, and a walk-in wardrobe filled with exquisitely tailored suits, in both Aziraphale creams and Crowley blacks. Clearly Adam had known something they hadn't…until they did--an unfortunate tendency of children. Aziraphale looked around the room, wondering what else they could possibly be surprised with today, and noticed his shoes under the bed. Well at least now he knew where Crowley had miracled them to. He supposed his socks were either in the laundry hamper, or clean and back in the drawer.

He finished the assessment of his - their? - new bedroom, and turned to Crowley. Crowley smiled at him, and extended a hand. Aziraphale stepped forward, took it, and put his other hand on Crowley's chest. “I love you, my dear.”
“I love you too, Angel.”
“So what now?”
“Now we do whatever we want, for as long as we like.”
“Ooh, golly, that sounds rather splendid.” Aziraphale grinned like a child set loose in a candy store.
“It does, doesn't it?”


* Crowley, like most demons - and angels too for that matter - has never been a big eater. Not needing sustenance in the way mortal beings do, this isn’t a problem unless an observant human makes the mistake of noticing, and passing comment. Aziraphale is practically a hedonist by comparison, enjoying food on a regular basis, and making that enjoyment known through a variety of facial expressions and sounds that indicate a state of rapture most people would never apply to anything as mundane as food - no matter how good the food might be. Crowley has wondered on many occasions throughout the past six millennia whether Aziraphale did this intentionally to provoke a response from him, or didn't actually realise what he was doing. [return to text]

Chapter Text

… “I love you, my dear.”
“I love you too, Angel.”
“So what now?”
“Now we do whatever we want, for as long as we like.”
“Ooh, golly, that sounds rather splendid.”
“It does, doesn't it?”...

Aziraphale thought fondly of the previous day, with all he and Crowley had done together. Lunch at the Ritz after the rousing success of their switcheroo. Discovering the new wine cellar under the bookshop. Crowley teaching him to waltz. Finally confessing their love for one another after so many years - and then expressing that love.

Crowley had gone back to his flat after breakfast to water his plants, and Aziraphale was trying to inventory his books - what with Adam having made additions in so many areas - but found he couldn't concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time before once again becoming distracted by thoughts of Crowley. Aziraphale suddenly had a new appreciation for the fact humanity got anything done at all, if being in love felt as good to them as it did to him.

He gave up on inventory, and decided to listen to some music instead. He'd long known that Crowley had broadly ranging tastes - despite the Bentley's proclivity for turning everything into The Best of Queen - but he'd never had such easy access to Crowley's entire record collection before. With no idea how it was sorted, or what half of it might be, he decided to select a record at random, and hope for the best.

As luck would have it, the album Aziraphale had plucked was The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Aziraphale had never been good at keeping up to date with popular music, but he'd at least heard of The Beatles, and recalled the "Beatlemania" that had swept the globe some decades ago - no doubt thanks to Crowley performing one of his large-scale inconvenient-rather-than-evil interventions. The Beatles were talented in their own right of course, but nothing said "Crowley was here" quite like hoards of screaming humans fighting to get close to a quartet of musicians.

As the needle of the gramophone # moved from the titular opening track, to "With a Little Help From My Friends", Aziraphale heard the tinkle of the bell at his shop door, and a moment later Crowley joined him in the newly expanded back room. "Listening to my records when I'm not even here, Angel?"
"I couldn't focus on inventory, my dear. I didn't think you'd mind."
"I don't mind in the slightest, I'm just surprised is all."
"It seems to be a week for surprises, doesn't it?"
"You can say that again. You should see my flat."
"Why, what's wrong with your flat?"
"Aside from my record collection being here, you mean?"
"Aside from the obvious, yes."

"My 'throne' as you've dubbed it, is now one of a complementary pair, and the second is clearly intended for you, given the colour scheme. EVERY plant has fresh shoots, every flowering plant is in bloom. The green room is now somehow an actual garden, and has more than quadrupled in size. It contains every rare plant that exists on Earth, regardless of what climate it would ordinarily thrive in. There are microclimates making that possible. My flat has microclimates, Aziraphale."

"It sounds like Eden."
"It looks like Eden. It feels like Eden. Adam has given me a scaled down version of Eden in my flat, Aziraphale. I… I… I…" Crowley stuttered to a stop, threw himself onto the sofa next to Aziraphale, and put his head in his hands.
Aziraphale put an arm around his shoulders, and said quietly "He's given us everything we would never have dared to ask for."
Crowley raised his head and looked at the angel. "He really has, hasn't he?"
"I don't think a letter will suffice. We need to thank him in person. Would you care to go for a drive, my dear?"
"It would be nice to go for a longer drive in the Bentley without it being on fire. Especially if you're with me this time."
"Of course I'll be with you my dear. I need to thank him for so many things, I may never finish thanking him."
"WE may never finish thanking him, Angel. If this is what he's done for us, imagine what he's done for his friends - his family - the world!"

As it happened, Adam hadn't done much for the world as a whole, beyond resetting it to more-or-less how it was before the almost-apocalypse, and saving some endangered species. His family and friends had already benefited from his presence in their lives for 11 years, and would continue to do so for many more. Aziraphale and Crowley were the two people Adam had used his powers to gift on an individual basis, for no other reason than they had been at his side when his demonic father came calling. He had given them what they needed in much the same way he'd given Tadfield perfect weather - with general intent rather than specificity. He hadn't thought "give Aziraphale books, wine, and a bed", or "give Crowley plants and move his records to the bookshop". His thoughts were much more along the lines of "Aziraphale and Crowley should have what makes them happy" - and given that having each other would make them happier than anything else, the universe responded accordingly.

As they drove through London - Crowley keeping to the speed limit for the first time since speed limits had been written into law - Aziraphale looked through the CDs in the glovebox. ~ Aziraphale theorised that maybe, since the Bentley and its contents could be considered brand new and therefore less than a fortnight old, the CDs might actually be what they said they were, instead of The Best of Queen. He'd enjoyed Sgt. Pepper, so when he found The Beatles' "Let It Be", he thought it worth a shot. Crowley smiled when "Two of Us" came through the speakers rather than "Bohemian Rhapsody", and sang along in a beautiful tenor. It was halfway through the tenth track that Aziraphale realised his companion had fallen silent, and looked over to find him silently weeping. Aziraphale himself was moved by the lyrics, which sadly matched all too well with the history between them. He reached over and took Crowley's hand in his own, tangling their fingers together, and squeezing gently. As "The Long and Winding Road" ended, he took a deep breath and said "My door is yours now, Crowley - like my heart. I may never forgive myself for keeping you waiting as long as I did."

Crowley pulled the car over, parking on the verge, then reached across to pull Aziraphale close, and held him so tightly that had they been human, he would have cracked ribs. After several minutes had passed Crowley stopped shaking, and relaxed his hold on Aziraphale, moving back enough to see his face. "I know forgiveness isn't supposed to be in my repertoire Angel, but I forgive you. You don't need to feel guilty. You loved me as much as you thought you could, without Heaven making your life Hell. That's more than any other angel would have done. You wanted to love me then as you do now, I know you did. Fear makes us do - or not do - so many things, and we can't go back and change them any more than humans can - but we can do things differently in the future, and it's the future I'd like us to focus on. To quote Jane Austen, 'think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure' - don't worry about 'if only', Angel. We’re together now - that’s what matters."

"Oh, Crowley. I love you so very much."
"I know you do Angel, and I love you, too. Now, should we keep going, or do you want to go home?"
"Keep going. We do still need to thank Adam. Though perhaps we could stop at a café and have a cup of tea and a bite to eat on the way?"
"I wouldn't say no to a good espresso - café then Tadfield it is."
"I'll choose another CD, shall I, dearest?"
"If you can find AC/DC's Back In Black, put it in and skip to track 7 for me, please."
"A particular song you want me to hear?"
"A song that will make both of us smile, I think."
"How interesting! Alright, let's see...what colour is it, do you know?"
"As black as my wings, Angel."
"Oh! Here it is… pop it in… skip… skip… skip… skip… skip… skip… track 7… here we are."

When it reached the chorus Crowley belted out "YOU shook me ALLLL NIIIIGHT LONG!", and Aziraphale laughed. By the third time they listened to it Crowley was changing the lyrics to the verses so that it fit the two of them. By the sixth time, Aziraphale had the new lyrics written down in the little notebook he kept in his coat pocket, and was drawing a sketch of the statue in Crowley's flat to accompany them.

"You never told me you could draw like that, Aziraphale!"
"I used to illuminate bibles - you know that, dear."
"Yeah but that's bibles. God probably would have helped you with that if you'd needed Her to. This"
"I KNEW that statue wasn't actually good vs evil!"
"Oh, it's definitely good vs evil, but it's us too, Angel."
"My dear, whilst I have always tried to be good, you've never really been evil."
"Try telling that to God, Aziraphale."
"You had a mind of your own and asked too many awkward questions - that's not evil, just inconvenient."
"Same difference, as far as She was concerned though."
"And She was WRONG, Crowley. There. I said it. GOD. WAS. WRONG. I don't care who hears me say it, She was wrong. You didn't deserve to Fall - or if you did, then I certainly deserve to join you!"

"I've done Hell's bidding for 6000 years, Angel. Pretty sure I qualify as evil now, even if I didn't back then."
"You did just enough of Hell's bidding to keep them off your back, and no more. You've done SO much good - and not just because of our arrangement. You're the least demonic demon who ever existed."
"And you're the least angelic angel."
"I consider that high praise, if I'm being honest. Most of them are awful prats."
Crowley laughed. "That's true. It's refreshing to hear YOU say it though."
"I never really fit in up there, and I think we BOTH know that. I'm much happier down here with you and humanity."
"I'm much happier UP here with you and humanity…most of them, anyway."
"I really do hope that Upstairs and Downstairs leave us - and humanity - alone. At least for a few millennia."
"Amen to THAT, Angel."

As Crowley said this he pulled the Bentley into a parking space outside a small café, and shut off the engine. They went inside, and took seats at a cosy table in one corner. A waitress came over with menus, and greeted them cheerfully. "Hello gents! Beautiful day, isn't it?" Aziraphale politely agreed, and after glancing at the menu decided on a pot of English Breakfast tea, and scones with jam and cream. Crowley ordered an espresso and a Melting Moment, which he knew Aziraphale was likely to eat the majority of, but he was in the mood to nibble something. As the waitress returned to the counter, Aziraphale reached across the table and took Crowley's hand. Crowley's face lit up, which made Aziraphale beam in response.

After several minutes of gazing at each other in adoring silence, Crowley said, "Have I mentioned recently that I love you, Angel?"
"You have my dear, but I don't think I'll ever tire of hearing it, so by all means say it again, if you'd like."
"I love you. I love you. I love you."
"And I love you, Crowley dear. It feels SO good to say that after holding it in for so long."
"It's the best feeling in the world - loving you, and knowing you love me back."

At that moment the waitress returned with their order, and seeing their radiant affection said, "It does my heart good to see two people so obviously and deeply in love. Have you been together long?"
"It feels like both forever and no time at all," answered Crowley.
"We've loved one another for a very long time, but I foolishly thought we couldn't actually be together until only recently," added Aziraphale.
"Love conquers all!" exclaimed the waitress, startling them both with her enthusiasm.
"It would seem so, yes," said Aziraphale, his gaze returning to Crowley.

"I'll leave you two lovebirds be. Let me know if there's anything else you need," said the waitress, and she headed back to the counter once more.
"I have everything I need right here in front of me," said Aziraphale, with a soft smile.
"Tea and scones?" teased Crowley.
"You, my dear."
"You don't need crêpes?"
"I've never NEEDED crêpes!"
"I seem to recall an incident involving the Bastille that would suggest otherwise, Angel."
"I didn't NEED crêpes, I WANTED crêpes, there's a difference!"
"You were willing to get discorporated for crêpes. I think that's more than just 'want', don't you?"
"Fine, I needed crêpes, but mostly because I couldn't have you, and I was eating my feelings."
"You've eaten your feelings for as long as I've known you, Angel - that's the only time they threatened to remove your head from your shoulders for it."
"Um. Actually, it isn't."

"Uh. Well. There was a tiny little misunderstanding in 1927. During your big nap, you see."
"What kind of misunderstanding, Angel?"
"Oh, it's embarrassing, Crowley. You'll laugh, I'm sure of it."
"I promise not to laugh. Please tell me?"
"Oh, very well then. There was an absolutely marvellous little boulangerie in Amboise that sold the most delectable croissants and pain-au-chocolat. I THOUGHT I was asking the proprietress if she could make tarte normande, but apparently my French wasn't quite up to snuff, and her husband was under the misapprehension that I was calling HER a tart. He threw me bodily out of the store, and threatened to slit my throat if I ever set foot in the town again."

For several moments Crowley sat blinking at Aziraphale, trying to school his features. Once he'd reined in the urge to burst out laughing, he said "Aziraphale. Love. I FORBID you to ever go to France again on anything but a full stomach, with me at your side. Is that understood?"
"What about an empty stomach, but with you by my side to keep me out of trouble while I fill it with scrumptious food?"
"Fine. But I'm holding your hand the entire time."
"Oh, how wonderful! When shall we go?"
"How about after we thank Adam?"

"Oh goodness, yes, we really should get to Tadfield. It'll be mid-afternoon by the time we get there now."
"Perfect timing. He'll be getting home from school just as we arrive."
"School! Of course! With everything that's happened I'd completely forgotten he'd have school today!"
"I hadn't, Angel. That's why I wasn't in any rush to get there."
"I'd wondered why you were obeying the speed limits!"
"There's a first time for everything, Angel. Might as well keep them rolling, since there have already been so many lately."
"And lots of them have been VERY enjoyable!"
Crowley chuckled, and said "They sure have, Angel. We could try a few more when we get home, if you like."
"Ooh, I think I'd like that very much, my dear!"
"Maybe even before we get home…"
"What did you have in mind, darling?"
"Let me surprise you?"
"Alright. Shall we go?"
"We should probably pay the bill first, Angel."
Aziraphale placed a crisp £100 note on the table and said "Done!". Crowley shook his head, dusted crumbs from Aziraphale's coat, and said "Come on, then."

Back in the Bentley Crowley ejected Back In Black and said, "OK Angel, we have about 20 minutes until we get to Tadfield. I challenge you to find a CD of actual be-bop in the glovebox."
"IS there any be-bop in there, my dear?"
"Yes, but I'm not telling you what it is. See if you can find it."
"Alright…" Aziraphale held up random CD after random CD, getting "nope" and "nah" and the odd chuckle indicating he was wildly off course, until he held up an album by Norah Jones, and Crowley smiled.

"Is this be-bop?!" Aziraphale asked excitedly.
"No Angel, but it is jazz, so you're on the right track at least. Pop it in, I have a feeling you'll like her."
🎶 I waited 'til I saw the sun. I don't know why I didn't come… 🎶
"Ooh, this is lovely, Crowley!"
"She has a beautiful voice. Her father worked with the Beatles, back in the 1960s, you know."
"Really? Was he a jazz singer too?"
"Not even close. He played Hindustani music, and was brilliant at the sitar. He taught George Harrison to play. That's one of the Beatles."
"Goodness. What a talented family!"
"It happens like that sometimes."

They listened to a few more tracks in companionable silence, clasping hands once again as Crowley drove them the remainder of the way to Tadfield. Arriving in Hogback Lane, Crowley parked the Bentley at the kerb outside Adam's family home, and they walked up the path to the front door. Aziraphale rang the bell, and when Deirdre Young answered the door, politely asked if Adam was at home.

Adam himself ran to the door at that moment, and bolted past them to the Bentley. "It looks much nicer when it's not on fire!" he exclaimed.
"I couldn't agree with you more," responded Crowley.
"That's why we're here, Adam," added Aziraphale.
"We wanted to thank you for all you've done for us. The Bentley. My bookstore. The extra books. Crowley's garden. The wine cellar. The bedroom. The throne. The gramophone. All the many changes you made. We…" Aziraphale had grown closer to tears as he went through his mental list, and with a tender glance at Crowley, broke down entirely.

"Oh, I didn't know I'd done all of that!" said Adam, "I just wanted you to be happy."
"You…didn't do all that on purpose?" asked Crowley.
"Not exactly, no. There was no list in my head, I just thought 'they should be happy together', and I guess that stuff is what will make you happy. You are happy, right?"
Aziraphale tearfully answered, "Yes we are, my dear boy. It's not really about the things though, it's about having each other, finally."

"Anathema said she could tell from your auras that you were in love, but something was stopping you from saying it to each other. She said there was a halo in your auras that told her that. I can't see auras, but I believe her."
"A halo…in our auras?" asked Crowley.
"Yep. She said your halo was red but so thin it was really hard to see, like you were trying to tell him you loved him without saying it out loud." Adam looked at Aziraphale and added "Yours was golden and thicker, but cracked, like the 'I love you' was leaking out no matter how much you tried to hold it in. I wonder if your auras still have halos?"
"I would be VERY interested to know that myself," said Crowley.
"As would I!" said Aziraphale.

"Anathema is probably home, if you want to go and ask her. I saw her in the garden on my way home from school," Adam told them. He turned to his mother, and asked "Is it alright if I walk with my Godfathers over to Jasmine Cottage, Mum?"
"Yes, just make sure you're back by tea time, darling," Deirde answered.
"I will! Thanks Mum. Come on, let's go find out what Anathema says!"

Adam bounded excitedly in the direction of the cottage Crowley and Aziraphale had delivered Anathema and her bicycle to only a few days previously, with the angel and demon following along more sedately. As they neared Jasmine Cottage, Adam yelled out "Anathema, look who's come to visit!". Anathema's head popped up over the fence, her face flushed and hands filthy from gardening. "Oh, you've told each other!" she said immediately.
"How did you know?" Aziraphale asked incredulously.
"Your auras! You're positively incandescent!"
"Is it really that obvious?" Crowley asked.
"Yes! I'd probably be able to tell even if I couldn't see your auras, but I can, and it's… wow!"

"Adam said our auras had halos on Saturday. We wondered if that was still the case," Aziraphale said.
"They do, but they've changed completely - it's like they've been swapped and strengthened," Anathema replied.
"Swapped AND strengthened?" Crowley asked.
"Yes. Yours was a thin red, now it's solid gold. Aziraphale's was leaky gold, now it's solid red. Have you…" Anathema paused to consider her phrasing, given Adam's rapt attention. "Have you expressed your love with… more than words?"

Crowley and Aziraphale looked at each other wide-eyed, then at Anathema. She smiled, then explained. "I've never seen auras with halos before, but they often have shadows. If a couple is deeply in love, sometimes a segment of their shadows are exchanged. It seems that's what your halos have done - but it's not just a segment, it's the whole thing. Part of your soul resides within the other person. It takes an incredibly strong bond for that to happen, and that bond must be at EVERY level. I assure you, I didn't mean to pry."

"We've exchanged parts of our souls?" Crowley asked, as though he wasn't sure he'd heard correctly.
Anathema looked at them thoughtfully for a moment. "Yes, I'm quite sure you have. Think of it like the Yin & Yang. You're mostly yourself with a small piece of Aziraphale, and Aziraphale is mostly himself with a small piece of you. You've exchanged more than most couples though, even amongst those whose auras trade shadows. You'd literally be incomplete without each other."

Aziraphale had been quietly taking all of this in, and when he spoke it was with a depth of feeling that surprised even Crowley. "I've ALWAYS felt incomplete. It's only NOW that I feel whole."
"Oh, Angel," Crowley choked back tears, then continued, "I feel exactly the same way." Crowley threw his arms around Aziraphale, and the angel responded by holding on to the demon as though his life depended on it.

Eleven-year-old boys generally have a fairly low tolerance for romance, and the former antichrist was no exception. Grown men crying went well beyond this threshold, and Adam felt he needed to lighten the mood before Anathema started talking about how she felt for Newt - it was obvious even to him that they'd fallen swiftly in love, and he REALLY didn't want to hear about it. Adam had been raised by the Youngs to be polite though, so he decided to change the subject only slightly.

"Hey Anathema, can you see MY aura now?" he asked.
Anathema looked at him intently, and said "Actually yes, I can! It's bigger than I would have expected for someone your age - they usually grow as you do. It's different from any other aura I've seen, too. It has layers, almost like Saturn's rings. Most of it is a coppery golden sort of colour, but then it has alternating rings of red and gold, almost like…" she trailed off, then looked at Aziraphale and Crowley, who had composed themselves and were now standing closely beside each other, fingers entwined.
"What is it?" asked Crowley.
"Adam's aura. It has multiple halos. Alternating with your EXACT shades of red and gold."
"Oh cool, I have halos like my Godfathers!" said Adam.
Anathema looked at each of them in turn, then said "I don't understand it. How? What? Why? HOW?"

"I assure YOU my dear, we have no more idea in that regard than you do," said Aziraphale. Turning, he added, "Isn't it almost your tea time, Adam? We don't want you getting in trouble on our account."
"Yeah, I should probably head home - don't want to be grounded again. Thanks for coming to visit!"
"Any time, Adam. Please do stay in touch. Your parents have the phone number for the bookshop. You'd be most welcome to visit if you're ever in London."
"I'll see if I can talk them into it on the school holidays!"
"That would be lovely. Thank you once again for everything - even though it wasn't specific."
"Yes, thank you so much, Adam," agreed Crowley.
"You're welcome. I'm just glad you're both happy now!"

Smiles on each of their faces, the three of them turned and chorused "good-night, Anathema" with such synchronisation that it seemed almost rehearsed. Anathema said good-night to each of them in turn, then went inside the cottage for dinner, which could be smelt wafting through the kitchen windows. Aziraphale and Crowley walked Adam home, wished him a good night also, and got in the Bentley to head home. Norah Jones began playing again when Crowley started the ignition, and they enjoyed her soothing voice for the remainder of the album.

When "The Nearness of You" ended Crowley said, "Alright Angel, surprise me with the next CD."
"Oh goodness, the pressure is on!"
"Not really, Angel. Anything that's not Queen will still be a bit of a surprise at the moment, after all."
"I suppose when you put it like that…ok. Hmm. Oh, here we are." Aziraphale carefully hid the case from Crowley as he put the new CD into the car stereo. When The Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go" played, Crowley grinned and said, "See Angel, I knew you could surprise me!".
"Is THIS be-bop?"
Crowley chucked. "No Angel, this is doo-wop."
"Oh, now you're just messing with me, Crowley. Honestly."
"I'm not messing with you, this really is doo-wop! It's a subgenre of soul and R&B music."
"What on Earth is Arand Bee music?!"
"Not Arand Bee, R-and-B. Rhythm and Blues."
"Oh. How many genres of music ARE there, exactly?"
"I've never counted, Angel - lots though!"

"Why haven't I ever heard half of them, do you think?"
"Well, partly because you don't try to keep up, partly because Heaven is full of prats with no taste, and partly because all the best musicians are either in Hell or headed there. I would have introduced you to more of it sooner if I'd known you'd enjoy it so much."
"I'm not sure I would have let myself enjoy it so much, before. Now though, I'm enjoying so many things. Being with you, most of all."
"I'm enjoying that too, Angel."

They drove along quietly for a while, listening to The Supremes and holding hands once again. Eventually Crowley took an exit off the motorway, and Aziraphale looked at him. "This isn't the way home, dear."
"I know Angel - it's just a little detour. I'm still supposed to surprise you, remember?"
"Oh, that's right! I'd completely forgotten."
"I almost had too, but I then I remembered something I wanted to show you."
"And that's made you take a detour?"
"Yep. You'll see why in a few minutes."

True to his word, it was only a handful of minutes later that Crowley pulled the Bentley off the road onto a narrow laneway, and only another minute or so after that, parked the car. With trees arching overhead from either side, the end of the laneway faced a small meadow of wildflowers. The moon came out from behind a cloud, gently illuminating the romantic spot.

"Oh, what a lovely surprise Crowley, thank you! Won't the owners be bothered by us being here though?"
"No, Angel. The owners are currently away on holidays."
"How very convenient of them!"
"It is, rather. This isn't really the surprise though. This is just pretty scenery."
"This isn't the surprise?"
"No, Angel. We need to get out of the car for that."
"Oh. Alright."

They got out of the Bentley, and met at the front of the car. Crowley took Aziraphale's hand and led him to the centre of the meadow, where there was a patch of soft grass without wildflowers. He pulled Aziraphale close and kissed him, then lay down on the grass. Aziraphale lay beside him, and intertwined their fingers. With no clouds or light pollution to interrupt their view they lay gazing at the stars, talking quietly about their favourite ones, before lapsing into contented silence. After a long moment of quiet peace, they turned and gazed at each other.

"You are so very beautiful, Crowley dear."
"So are you, Angel - the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."
"Have you never looked in a mirror, my love?"
"Course I have."
"Then I cannot possibly be the most beautiful thing you've ever seen."
"You absolutely are, Aziraphale. The most beautiful thing I've ever seen anywhere - and that includes the nebulae I made before The Fall."
"Oh Crowley! You cannot mean that!"
"I certainly do mean it, Angel. Have I ever lied to you?"
"Excluding the blatant falsehood of swearing to never think about me - no, you haven't."
"Let's never count that one. We both know that was a load of rubbish."
"We are FAR too entangled for that to ever be true."
"Especially now, if what Anathema said is accurate, and you have a piece of my soul."
"And you have a piece of mine."
"We're finally whole."
"It feels wonderful, being whole."
"It certainly does, Angel. Should we head home, do you think?"
"Yes, let's go home, have a lovely warm bath, and snuggle up in bed."
"That would be perfection."

# Aziraphale REALLY needed to pen a thank you letter to Adam - he'd been extraordinarily generous to the self-styled Godfathers he'd only met for 15 minutes. [return to text]

~ The average glovebox could never have held Crowley's CD collection, but then, the average Bentley didn't have a CD player. Crowley expected his CDs to fit in the glovebox, so they did. He had yet to be converted to Spotify and Android Auto, but it really was only a matter of time.[return to text]

Chapter Text

🎶 It's been seven hours and 15 days. Since you gave your love to me. 🎶
Crowley was listening to a compilation of sappy 90s pop music and mentally rewriting lyrics again. He’d been rewriting every song he’d heard for - oddly enough - 15 days, 7 hours, and around 12 or 13 minutes - give or take 30 seconds. He was IN LOVE (written in the largest font manageable, bold and italics essential) and miracle of miracles (angelic, demonic, or otherwise - Crowley really didn’t care), Aziraphale loved him back. The Principality Aziraphale, Guardian of the Eastern Gate of Eden, loved the demon Crowley. That right there should have been enough to discorporate Crowley on the spot, but somehow he was still breathing (he didn’t really need to, but it felt nice), his heart was still beating (also non-essential, but you get used to these things after 6 millennia), and he was still alive. Felt more alive than at any moment since Heaven had punted him off a cloud, in fact. Must have been something to do with that bit of Aziraphale’s soul residing within him.

Aziraphale was coming to his flat this afternoon. They’d spent an inordinate amount of time at the bookshop lately; drinking wine, listening to records, scaring away anyone foolish enough to think they could actually buy a book (what a ridiculous concept!). Crowley had visited his flat a handful of times to water and feed the plants, but there had been no thinly-veiled threats hissed at the greenery. No screaming, no shouting, no menacing. There had been whoops and cheers and delighted laughter instead - a change so abrupt that the plants didn’t know what to make of it. Those that Adam had added were buoyed by the cheerful presence so willing to give them the TLC they needed to thrive - whether knowing it or not. Those which remembered their Master’s former behaviour wondered whether this was a new scare tactic.

The doorbell rang - silly Angel, no need for that - and Crowley raced to the door like a child to the tree on Christmas morning. Aziraphale had arrived! (Santa couldn’t have delivered a better present.)
“About TIME, Angel!” he said, as his better half (or worse half, depending on who won the argument that day) crossed the threshold.
Aziraphale let out a little huff. “I’m sorry I’m late, my love. I had another visit from Mrs. Ryan, wanting to ‘borrow a cup of sugar’ - like she ever returns it!”
“Mrs. Ryan?”
“Yes, dear. From the other bookshop next door. I've half a mind to tell her I own more books than she does, but she’d probably want to borrow THEM, too!”
“How scandalous!”
“The only thing scandalous about Mrs. Ryan are the prices she charges. How she stays in business I’ll never know.”
“Maybe she’s like you - doesn’t actually care about making money, just loves the books?”
“Maybe, but she can’t miracle money to pay for things like I can, so I rather doubt it.”

Crowley frowned slightly then shrugged his shoulders. What did he care how Mrs. Ryan stayed in business? As long as she never wanted more from Aziraphale than a cup of sugar here, an egg there, it was of no consequence to him. Though perhaps he should take an interest in the neighbours, given how much time he was now spending at the bookshop. What if they were taking advantage of his angel? He gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head. Aziraphale was perfectly capable of looking after himself. Usually. Unless food was involved. Or Nazis. Who’d have thought THEY’D be a concern again in this day and age? Oh, it was simply no good. He’d just have to make sure Aziraphale was safe, and that was all there was to it.

Crowley took Aziraphale’s hand and towed him to the garden they’d dubbed Little Eden. “Come and see the new plants, Angel!”
Aziraphale looked around the garden that had been a room of Crowley’s Mayfair flat prior to Adam bestowing his gifts upon the two of them. “It’s lovely my dear, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to linger too long, if you want them to go on living.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Crowley dear, there’s a reason I was guarding the GATE of Eden, not tending the Garden itself.”
“You’ve never told me this before. What’s the reason?”
“I kill any plant I touch. I have the brownest thumb of any angel God ever made. She was most upset when I ‘murdered’ her night-blooming jasmine.”
“You ‘murdered’ jasmine?” Crowley asked, incredulous.
“Of course I didn’t murder it, I merely talked to it, and ran one finger over a petal. The poor thing wilted and died within seconds.”
“Jasmine is so hardy it’s practically a weed, Aziraphale. What on Earth did you say to it?”
“I told it how lovely it was.”
“And nothing. It shriveled up, turned brown, and practically fell out of the ground.”

Crowley looked at Aziraphale like he’d grown three extra heads. “It fell out of the ground? How do PLANTS fall out of the GROUND?”
Aziraphale scrunched up his face in thought for a moment, then said “well, you know how if there’s a very bad storm and a tree falls, with the roots coming up out of the ground, like it’s laying on its side? It was a bit like that, only without the storm.”
“So basically YOU were the storm?”
“I suppose so, yes. I felt absolutely wretched, so when God gave me the sword and told me to guard the gate instead it was quite a relief, really.”
“But you hate being a soldier!”
“I hated disappointing Her more.”
“Right, well, don’t talk to my plants, don’t touch my plants, don’t go near my plants. I don’t want the rare ones Adam gave me keeling over!”
“I’m sorry, my love. I know how much you wanted to share Little Eden with me.”
“It’s alright Angel, we can go and watch Gardening Australia on the TV instead.”

“I’ve been meaning to ask you about that, dear,” Aziraphale said.
“Ask me what?” Crowley queried.
“Why do you watch Gardening Australia?”
“I watch lots of gardening shows. They’re different all over the world - like the plants are - and Gardening Australia has been going for 30 years. It’s won awards, Angel - it’s one of the best gardening shows humanity’s ever made.”
“Well that’s good I suppose, but you don’t need gardening tips from a TV show.”
“No, but it’s nice to see some humans care about the plants as much as I do, Angel.”
“Careful dear, yours will hear you.”
“I hope they do. I’ve realised these past couple of weeks that I’ve been taking my bad moods out on them for years, and they’re actually terrified of me. I never wanted them to be terrified, I wanted them to make me I could never make Her proud.”

“Oh, Crowley. You really are a softy at heart, aren’t you?” said Aziraphale affectionately.
“That’s entirely your fault, you know,” Crowley teased.
“MY fault?! How is you being soft MY fault?”
“Loving you, you dope. Can’t be hard and mean all the way through when you’re in love. It’s just not possible. Believe me, I tried.”
“Well then I take full responsibility, and gladly!”
“Speaking of taking responsibility for things, are you absolutely certain it was your fault the jasmine died?”
“God seemed certain of it. I didn’t like to argue with Her when She was already so upset. Why do you ask?”
“I’m just thinking. When we were in the meadow, you touched a lot of plants with more than just your fingertip, and the only thing that suffered at all was the grass we flattened. What if I wasn’t the only demon in Eden? What if another demon killed the jasmine, and let you take the blame?”

“Do you really think that’s possible?” asked Aziraphale hopefully.
“It’s not a theory I’m willing to test on my own plants just yet, but we could go to St James’ Park and find out there,” said Crowley.
“We can feed the ducks, too!” Aziraphale said enthusiastically.
“Sure thing Angel. You want to go now?”
“Yes please. The sooner we test your theory, the sooner I can take a better look around Little Eden - if you’re right, of course.”
“Alright, just let me grab the bread.”
“Bread is bad for ducks though - remember what Anathema told us?”
“I’ve miracled the bread so it has the nutrients they need, Angel. I’ve been throwing bread to ducks this long, I’m not switching to oats now. Besides, the ducks EXPECT bread.”
“Love you.”
“I love you too.”

They strolled arm-in-arm to St James’ Park, where Aziraphale brushed his fingertips over each plant they walked past. None died, or wilted, or gained so much as a blemish. If anything they reached out to him as he continued on, hoping for another gentle caress from the loving being they’d encountered over so many years, but never made contact with until now. When the angel and demon reached the pond, the ducks came gliding over - eager for the feed they were certain to receive. Crowley handed a slice of bread to Aziraphale, then broke up his own into pieces that would minimise fights. When the bread ran out they continued their gentle amble through the park, Aziraphale once again touching each plant he passed, with the same positive results.

“OK Angel, we’ve established that you can touch plants without killing them, let’s try talking to them," Crowley suggested.
“Which plant do you think I should talk to?” Aziraphale asked hesitantly.
“Something small - we don’t want to risk an oak just yet.”
“Not jasmine!”
“No, Angel, we won’t try jasmine until we’re confident you won’t kill it. Though a creeper is a good idea. How about Spanish Flag?”
“Spanish Flag?”
“It’s also called Firecracker Vine. There’s some just over here.” Crowley pointed to a plant climbing on a decorative trellis, with flowers that clearly gave rise to the latter name.
“Do you think it will be OK?”
“Try touching it first, and if that goes over alright, then talk to it. If anything happens, I’m right here, I can miracle it better.”
“Alright…” Aziraphale reached out, and gently stroked a leaf of the vine.

The tendril attached to the leaf grew a few centimetres, and Aziraphale looked at Crowley with a gasp.
“Try talking to it,” he encouraged.
“You’re a lovely plant,” Aziraphale whispered, as he stroked the leaf again.
The tendril grew longer still, clearly reaching for Aziraphale’s outstretched hand.
Aziraphale’s eyes were wide as saucers. “Your flowers are such beautiful colours.”
More buds instantly grew on the vine, and the buds that were already there opened up.
“Do you like me talking to you?” Aziraphale asked the vine.
Several tendrils unhooked themselves from the trellis, reaching for the angel.
“Oh goodness, please don’t fall over!”
Some of the tendrils hooked back into the trellis, while the remainder grew and reached for Aziraphale.
Aziraphale looked at Crowley in shock. “It likes me!”
“It loves you, Angel. I knew you weren’t a brown thumb - nobody with as much love inside them as you could be.”
“I have to go home now, pretty Firecracker. You stay on your trellis and keep growing, OK?”
The tendrils waved as though saying farewell to their new friend.

Aziraphale grabbed Crowley’s hand and practically skipped all the way back to Mayfair. On arrival he ran up the stairs two at a time, more eager to visit Little Eden than he’d ever been in the big one. He twirled into the garden with a flourish, then stopped to inhale deeply. Aziraphale walked slowly from plant to plant, grinning ever more broadly as his gentle caresses were met with outstretched branches, and his loving words yielded growth and blooms. He paid special attention to Adam’s additions first, then went back to Crowley. Tangling their fingers together, Aziraphale visited each of Crowley’s older plants, towing the demon along with him. The angel gently persuaded the plants to give Crowley a chance to earn their forgiveness, and Crowley assured them he was never mad at them, he was mad at God and himself. One particularly feisty palm smacked Crowley on the cheek with a large green leaf, which he took with good grace.

“Well then, Angel, it seems I was right,” Crowley said, as they left the garden some time later.
“It seems God was wrong. AGAIN!” Aziraphale replied.
“Yes, again. She was wrong to expel you from Heaven, AND wrong about me being a brown thumb.”
“AZIRAPHALE!” came a voice neither of them had expected to hear, and a bright light neither of them had expected to see.
“God?” asked Aziraphale.
“ You really want to know?” Aziraphale asked, sounding scared of what the answer might be.
“What will happen to me if You don’t like what I have to say?”
Aziraphale shared a look with Crowley, then plunged into a tirade he’d clearly been thinking about for some time.

“Well, for starters I think You were wrong to tell Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge. I think You were wrong to kick them out of Eden. I think You were wrong to kick Crowley out of Heaven, obviously, and quite frankly it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the other demons didn’t deserve it either. I think You’re wrong to expect us to blindly follow orders without question. I think You were wrong to demote Michael and promote Gabriel. I think You’re wrong to trust Gabriel at all, honestly. I think You’re wrong to blame demons for all the bad things humans do…”


“No, I don’t think it will,” Aziraphale interrupted. “You were wrong about me being a brown thumb, You’re wrong to threaten me with eternity on Earth, and You’re wrong to come into Crowley’s home uninvited, and judge me for calling it like I see it. I’m done. I don’t want Heaven anymore! Quite frankly I’m much happier here on Earth with Crowley than I ever was up there with that lot of sanctimonious jerks, or You! I QUIT!” These last words thundered with the full force of an enraged angel tapping into his not insignificant power.

“YOU...WHAT?” God asked, either not understanding or believing what She was hearing.
“I quit,” Aziraphale repeated, much more calmly. “I quit Heaven, and You, and being a Principality. I will defend Earth and its people because I love THEM, not for Your sake. Not any longer. Strip me of my powers if you will - I would rather live as a free and ordinary Man than as the servant of a God who will not listen to constructive criticism. I only ask that if You choose to do so, You make Crowley human also.”

Crowley looked at Aziraphale with astonishment and wonder writ large across his face. He’d always known on some level that Aziraphale wasn’t merely meek and mild, and was perfectly capable of being terrifying when the occasion called for it, but the occasion had so rarely called for it over the years that seeing him like this - aimed at God Herself, no less - added a new layer of respect and awe to his feelings for the angel.

After a silence that was positively deafening, God responded.



“Excuse me, but I think WE should be the ones who choose a name for this ‘new rank’ you're drafting us into, given that WE are the ones who chose Earth over Heaven, Hell, and You!” Aziraphale interrupted again.


Crowley looked at Aziraphale wide-eyed. This assertive side of him was really quite inspiring. “Do you have a name in mind, Angel?” he asked.
“I’m not an angel anymore, Crowley - you’ll have to find a new term of endearment to use. But yes, I think I do have a name for us. How do you feel about ‘Caretakers’?”
“Caretakers,” Crowley repeated, trying it out for size. “I think ‘Caretakers’ sounds perfect.”
“That’s settled then. We’re Caretakers.”


“Yes, we do. Now if you’ll please excuse us, we’d like some peace and quiet. I believe we were about to watch Gardening Australia,” Aziraphale retorted.
There was a sound highly reminiscent of a mother sighing in exasperation, and the light vanished.

“Angel, that was…” Crowley began.
“Not an angel, remember? I’m a Caretaker now.” Aziraphale teased.
“Sorry, force of habit. Might take me a while to adjust, darling. Dearest? Sweetheart? Honey?”
“All good options.”
“Hang on a sec though. She said you were keeping your Angelic powers. That MY angelic powers had been restored. That means we’re BOTH Angels now. She created a new rank OF angel, she didn’t stop you being one. So I can still call you Angel, Angel.”
“Your Angelic powers were restored.”
“That’s what I just said, Angel.”
“Crowley, you’re an angel.”
“Yes, thank you Captain Obvious.”
“You’re not a demon, Crowley.”
“Again, I know this. I’m not concussed.”
“Can we go up to the roof?” Aziraphale asked.
“Uh, yeah, we can, but do you really want to go up there now? It’s not sunset for another couple of hours.”
“I don’t want to watch the sunset. I have another reason.”
“Alright then, let’s go up to the roof.”

They took the stairs to the top of Crowley’s building, and went out onto the roof.
“Open your wings, please dear,” Aziraphale said.
“What, why?” Crowley asked.
“Just humour me, please.”
“Fine, but I want you to know I think you’re being really weird.”
Crowley brought his wings out of the ether onto the mortal plain, opening them wide.
“Happy now, Angel?” he asked.
“Look at them, Crowley.”
“Seen my wings a thousand times, don’t really need to look at them again today.”
“Yes, you really do my love. Look!”
Crowley looked at his wings, and gasped. They were no longer pure black, but multihued - amethyst, sapphire, ruby, emerald, and onyx - rich gemstone colours, and glossy as they hadn’t been since his Fall.

Eyes wide, Crowley said, “OK, your turn.”
“My turn?” Aziraphale asked.
“Yep. Get ‘em out, Angel,” Crowley confirmed.
“Alright then, I will.”
Aziraphale brought his wings onto the mortal plain and spread them wide as Crowley had done, then turned his head to look, and smiled.
“You don’t seem surprised,” Crowley said.
“I’ve always liked pastels,” said Aziraphale.
Where Crowley’s wings were dark, Aziraphale’s were pale - topaz, turquoise, tanzanite, peridot and citrine.

God had granted Her new rank of angels - the Caretakers - fresh wings to signify Her renewed favour, and as a reminder of an earlier promise. She would test them repeatedly - but not to destruction. It caused Crowley to hope, as he had not hoped in 6000 years - that perhaps things just MIGHT be alright. Heaven and Hell couldn’t be trusted, that much he was sure of, but God might be on their side, when it came to the eventual Big One. Maybe. Possibly. Maybes and mights and possibilities were better than nothing though - especially where God was concerned - so there really was at least SOME hope to be had.

The two Caretakers stood gazing at each other’s wings, looking at the glorious riot of colour where there had been plain white and black only a fortnight earlier in Tadfield. Aziraphale was the first to stretch out a hand.
“May I stroke them?” he asked.
“If I can stroke yours,” Crowley answered.
Aziraphale nodded, smiling, and stepped closer. Crowley stretched out his hand, and also took a step closer, adjusting his wings as he did so. They each ran gentle fingers over the other’s wings, and both closed their eyes at the sensation. When they reopened them, Aziraphale’s widened in surprise, as Crowley’s glasses had slipped down his nose.

“What is it?” Crowley asked.
“Your eyes.” Aziraphale said.
“What about them?”
“They’ve changed too, my love.”
“What? Changed how?”
“They’re golden.”
“They’ve been yellow for millennia Angel, that’s not new.”
“No, Crowley, not yellow. Golden. Like my ring.”
Aziraphale held his hand up between them, indicating the ring on his pinkie.
“Are they still snake-eyes?” Crowley wondered aloud.
“Yes, but they’re even more beautiful than before,” Aziriphale told him, removing the sunglasses and tucking them carefully into a pocket.
“They weren’t beautiful before.”
“Yes they were - I've always thought so. Now though...they’re stunning, Crowley. Absolutely stunning.”

Crowley's forehead creased as he came to a rather dramatic realisation.
Aziraphale smiled, having drawn the same conclusion earlier. He hadn't yet given voice to it, not wanting to overwhelm the former demon.
"I'm an angel."
Aziraphale continued to smile serenely.
"I'm an angel, Angel. I can walk on sanctified ground. I can touch holy water safely. I can visit cathedrals without hopping around like a bloody kangaroo!" Crowley exclaimed excitedly.
"Yes, I imagine you can, my love."

"Let's go to France! We can visit Notre Dame, and the Louvre, and have crêpes for lunch - and I can take you to the Jules Verne restaurant at the Eiffel Tower for dinner!"
"And you can hold my hand the entire time, to keep me out of trouble," Aziraphale added.
"Well, naturally. I already promised to do that, after all."
"How would you like to get there, my darling?"
"Could we take the Bentley?" Crowley asked.
"Yes, if we take the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle train through the Chunnel."
"And how is it that you already know that, Angel?"
"I may have made enquiries last week."
"Is that so?"
"Well, we had already said we might go, after thanking Adam."
"So you made enquiries about taking the Bentley on a train?"
"Well, I know how attached you are, and I'm growing fond of it at last, so I figured we might take it with us," Aziraphale explained.

"I just hope God doesn't smite us for shirking our new responsibilities," Crowley worried.
"Ah, but one of those responsibilities is to take care of each other. I think a little getaway to Paris falls under that purview, don't you?"
"You would have made a fantastic demon, the way you find loopholes, and tempt people - especially me."
"Thank you, my dear. So, where shall we stay - the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, or the Ritz?"
"Been making hotel enquiries too, Angel?"
"No, Crowley dear - they're just my favourites."
"What about Le Meurice, or the Four Seasons George V?"
"Also stunning hotels. Honestly, I don't mind where we stay, as long as we're together."
"Let's stay at the Ritz then. Less of a mouthful than any of the others."
"The Ritz it is! Ooh, this is going to be wonderful, Crowley! Our first holiday as a proper couple."

"Is that what we are now, Angel? A 'proper couple'?" Crowley asked.
"Well…yes. I thought so. Are we…not?" Aziraphale's brows drew together in concern.
"We haven't really talked about it. We've declared our love, and expressed it repeatedly. We exchanged parts of our souls without even realising it until Anathema told us about our auras. But we haven't actually defined what our relationship IS now," Crowley said.

Aziraphale thought about this, then said, "Well, we're soul mates, evidently. We're lovers, in every sense of the word. We're…"
"Whatever comes out of your mouth next, do not say 'ineffable'," Crowley warned.
"Well that would be accurate, but no, I was going to say 'partners'...though that's been true for a long time."
"It has, Angel. Alright, think of it this way. If you were introducing me to an old friend of yours I'd never met before - your favourite baker, perhaps - how would you introduce me?"
"Hmm. I might say 'this is my beloved, Crowley' - though why I'd be introducing you to my favourite baker when you so rarely eat, I don't know. My tailor on the other hand…"
"Your beloved?" Crowley interrupted.
"Well, yes. You are beloved."
Crowley rolled the word around in his mouth a few times, like tasting a new wine. "Beloved."
"I think I like that. I like it a lot, actually."
"So we're…beloved?" Aziraphale asked.
"We are. I love you, Angel."
"As I love you, my beloved darling."

The sun began to set as they stood embracing, warm wings gently tucked around them to prevent the rising breeze from becoming uncomfortably cool. As the moon began its ascent their wings took on new hues not visible in daylight - Crowley’s edged with copper and bronze, Aziraphale’s with silver and gold. They marvelled at these changes, gazing at the gorgeous colouring each had in their feathers, looking with wonder at the gifts they had received along with their new burden of responsibility as Caretakers.

When the moon had climbed well into the sky, they miracled themselves to Crowley’s flat, so as to avoid the need for putting away their wings. They lay facing each other, legs tangled and arms wrapped around each other, blinking slowly with contented smiles on their faces.
“I love you, Angel,” said Crowley.
“I love you too,” said Aziraphale.
They drifted off to sleep together, feeling safe, and loved, and whole.

Chapter Text

They were on their way to Paris! Aziraphale was looking forward to the getaway with Crowley even more than he'd let on, largely because of the small box nestled in the inner breast pocket of his coat. They'd spent 3 weeks planning, making bookings, and arranging for Madame Tracy to take care of Crowley's plants while they were away. There were few people Crowley trusted, and it took no small amount of cajoling to convince the former demon that she was up to the task. Aziraphale had succeeded in the end though, and so they were now on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle train, with the Bentley nearby, ready to drive onwards to the Ritz once they arrived in Calais.

Aziraphale may have been even more excited had he been aware of the small box zipped safely into a side pocket of Crowley's hand luggage, but as yet he was unaware of the impending duality of his proposal. It said something about the two Caretakers (the implications of that new title still felt a little strange to both of them) that they were planning to propose to each other at almost exactly the same time, in exactly the same place (give or take 20cm), with almost identical rings - after having declared their love for each other only 6 weeks earlier. It probably helped that they'd known each other for 6 millennia, cared about each other for about 10 minutes less than that, and loved each other for somewhere between 78 and 6000 years, depending on how one did the maths.

Aziraphale snuggled closer to Crowley (who had a lanky arm draped over his shoulders) and continued reading Chocolat. His French still wasn't what it ought to be, so a novel set in France but written in English had seemed ideal for passing the time on the train. His love of chocolate had made the selection easier, as he'd decided Les Misérables was simply too heartbreaking for this trip...though his own experience of the French Revolution had been rather more pleasant, with Crowley saving him from the Bastille - and sharing those delectable crêpes afterwards.

Crowley meanwhile was fretting about his proposal. They'd made a booking for Le Jules Verne, on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. He had the ring. He'd chosen a song, and contacted the restaurant to organise having it played after dessert. He had words running through his head, but none of them sounded right. How was he supposed to propose if he couldn't get the words out?! He was planning to get down on one knee - he was sure Aziraphale would appreciate that human tradition - and open the ring box - that was easy enough - and say - say - SAY WHAT?! He couldn't just say "Aziraphale, will you marry me?" - that didn't express the depth of his feelings, it wasn't poetic in any way. It was dull. Trite. Pathetic.

It didn't help matters that Crowley was struggling somewhat with being an angel again. After 6000 years of being a demon he was extraordinarily out of practice at being an angel, though he had to admit the Agreement had made it less difficult than it otherwise might have been. He was used to performing blessings and benevolent miracles - that wasn't a problem for him - but sensing virtues instead of vices was doing his head in - and threatening to make his heart burst into the bargain. He thought he'd known how much Aziraphale loved him, but now he could feel it with every fibre of his being, and it was overwhelming. Which meant that Aziraphale could sense how much Crowley loved him in return - and must have known LONG before it was ever said aloud. Which was why he was determined to find the right words to propose with, and failing utterly.

No human words would ever be sufficient to express how Crowley felt about Aziraphale in any way even approaching adequate - and adequate simply wouldn't do for this moment. He'd finally figured out WHY he wanted to marry Aziraphale though, so maybe that was a good starting point. Marriage wasn't something angels did, ordinarily - but as Caretakers, and soul mates - beloved to each other - they weren't ordinary angels. They had a mandate to care for humanity, Earth, and each other. They would have done anyway, but having a mandate from God Herself was a big deal, and no mistake. So Crowley wanted to marry Aziraphale. He wanted them to be bound to each other in every conceivable way, and marriage was one of the enduring bonds humanity recognised. The vows would have to include "for as long as you both shall live" rather than "until death do you part" for obvious reasons, but he was fine with that. Ugh, why was it easier to choose wedding vows than to write marriage proposals? Can't have one without the other first, so it shouldn't be this difficult!

Aziraphale had written his proposal in 5 minutes flat. He knew exactly how he felt about Crowley, and exactly how he wanted to express it. He just had to wait for the right moment, and hope that all went to plan. They had a dinner booking for Le Jules Verne. He had a ring - ordered from a jeweller in Australia, and delivered discreetly by courier with books he'd ordered specifically to avert suspicion. He'd called the restaurant and asked them to play a specific song just before their dessert was served. He was certain of his feelings, and certain of Crowley's in return, thus confident of a response in the affirmative.

The train arrived at the Calais terminal only a minute or so behind schedule, and they disembarked with the Bentley, beginning the three hour drive to Paris. Crowley had become positively saintlike in his adherence to speed limits in recent weeks, discovering that he quite enjoyed the more sedate pace when Aziraphale was with him and the world wasn't threatening to end. He was also enjoying listening to something other than Queen in the Bentley, as Aziraphale had instituted a strict rotation policy - the only discs to remain in the vehicle for more than 10 days at a time were actual copies Queen's Greatest Hits Volumes 1-3 - and so everything else remained what it was supposed to be. Crowley had mentally kicked himself for not thinking of the tactic himself years earlier.

Crowley had been making an effort to introduce Aziraphale to a wider variety of music - though old habits dying hard as they so often do, he'd stuck predominantly to artists either residing in or destined for Hell - they tended to make better music, no matter what their other proclivities might have been whilst living. Upon arrival in Calais, Crowley had chosen Fleetwood Mac's Rumours - arguably their best album that wasn't a Best Of - and was currently singing along with Songbird.
🎶 And the songbirds are singing, like they know the score. And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before. 🎶

Aziraphale knew beyond any doubt that he wanted to dance with Crowley to this song at their wedding reception, and mentally added it to the already substantial playlist he'd been working on. He hadn't written the playlist down yet as he was worried Crowley might find it - and he SO wanted the proposal to be a surprise. Aziraphale had an excellent memory, so the biggest problem was finding out what songs were called in order to add them - without making the former demon suspicious.

"This is a beautiful song, Crowley," Aziraphale said.
"It sure is, Angel. Christine McVie may be Hell-bound, but she has a Heavenly voice, and Songbird is one of her best," Crowley replied.
"Christine McVie? I thought this album was by Fleetwood Mac?"
"It is. Fleetwood Mac are one of those bands where each individual member is excellent in their own right, but collectively are even more brilliant."

"Ah, I see. A bit like us, then."
"Like us?" Crowley scoffed.
"Certainly. We do our best work together, I believe. I know I do."
"You really think that, Angel?"
"You don't?" Aziraphale asked.
"Not exactly, no. I would have said I do my best work when it's FOR you."
"Like Hamlet."
"Not what I was thinking of, but sure, making Hamlet popular enough that kids are still forced to learn it at school more than 400 years later is a good example."
"What WERE you thinking of, my dear?"
"Rescuing you from the Bastille. Destroying a church to save you from Nazis. Driving to Tadfield in a burning vehicle with no actual plan for how to avert the apocalypse, because all I wanted was to find you and get the Hell out of there."
"Oh, Crowley."
"It's true Angel, and I'm not ashamed to say it. I'm glad the world didn't end, but the one thing I wanted to save more than anything else was you."

At this point Aziraphale almost threw his plans out the window and proposed on the spot. He didn't, but it was a very near thing. He knew - he could sense - how much Crowley loved him, but hearing it spelled out so plainly was still so new, and so wonderful, that he was overcome. He sat and listened to Fleetwood Mac, sometimes with Crowley joining in, and watched the French countryside go by.

When Rumours ended a little over 15 minutes later, Crowley turned to Aziraphale and said "OK Angel, your turn to choose a CD."
"Would you help me choose, my dear?" Aziraphale asked.
"What help do you need?"
"Well, I still don't really know who sings what sort of music, so if I describe something, maybe you can tell me what to look for…"
"Oh! Yeah, we can do it that way if you want something in particular instead of a random selection. What do you have in mind?"
"Well, I seem to like bands with talented drummers."
"OK…lots of bands have talented drummers though, so we need to narrow it down a bit more," Crowley said.

"I like bands that you can sing along with."
"You like my singing, Angel?"
"Yes I do, very much, but I meant the general you, not you specifically. Songs that are sung clearly enough to understand the words - or most of them at least."
"Ah, OK, so no notorious mumblers."
"Something gentle - I'm not in the mood for headbanging at the moment," Aziraphale added.
"The fact that you even know what headbanging is means I'm definitely succeeding at expanding your musical horizons, " Crowley chuckled.
"Maybe something with violins? Not classical. Just a little bit orchestral, with vocals."
"Their songs aren't what I'd call orchestral, but The Corrs fit the rest of that description fairly well."
"What genre would you say they are?"
"They go between genres a bit, depending on which album you listen to. Folk rock, soft rock, and pop, mostly."
"OK. What album should I look for?" Aziraphale asked.
"Either Forgiven Not Forgotten, or Talk On Corners - the first two albums are their best in my opinion."
"Alright. Let me see…"

Aziraphale found Forgiven Not Forgotten first, and put it into the Bentley's stereo system. Two songs in particular stood out to him. He added Runaway to his Wedding Reception Playlist because it reminded him of Crowley asking him to run off to Alpha Centauri together. The other was a beautiful instrumental track called The Minstrel Boy - Aziraphale had found the song he wanted to walk down the aisle to! He already had ideas about how he wanted the wedding to go. Outdoors - with a gazebo just in case of rain. Three aisles - one with white fabric at an angle to the left, one with black fabric at an angle to the right, and one with gold fabric going straight through the centre. He would walk down the white aisle, Crowley would walk down the black aisle, and once married, they would walk up the gold aisle together. Oh, how he longed to marry Crowley! Before the wedding could take place though, he needed to propose. Which meant getting to Paris - and holding it in until dinner the following night!

Sticking to the speed limit and being considerate of other motorists, it took just over 3 hours from the terminal at Calais to the Ritz Hôtel, during which time they listened to several more albums, held hands, and discussed their plans for the next few days. They'd booked the Suite Impériale - at 218m² (2347 sq. ft.) it was the largest suite in the hotel by a substantial margin. Crowley had been keen on the Appartement Ritz with its private access and seventh floor views, but Aziraphale had successfully argued in favour of the Impériale, as its sheer size would allow them to literally spread their wings. The opulent bathroom with luxurious round bathtub was another draw card - easily large enough for them to soak together, it offered an opportunity they hadn't experienced since before the fall of the Roman empire - during which time their relationship had been vastly different.

They were planning to have a relaxing evening in their suite, with dinner at one of the restaurants in the hotel, and a good night's sleep (or a good night reading) before visiting the Louvre the next day - followed by their 7 course dégustation at Le Jules Verne. The day after that they were intending to visit Notre-Dame, to see if there was anything they could do to speed up its repairs and renovations. Crowley had already decided that if money was the greatest issue, he'd simply create bank transfers for the wealthiest pledges who'd yet to follow through on actually donating funds. He was looking forward to seeing the gothic cathedral's interiors in person for the first time, as he strongly suspected that photos couldn't do it justice - no matter how skilled the photographer might be.

After successfully checking into their suite, the two angels removed their upper garments and spread their wings, stretching tightness out of their muscles, and enjoying the way the light played on the new colours of their feathers. It pleased Crowley greatly that Aziraphale was becoming less self-conscious about his body, and considered it one of his better achievements in recent years. He may be an angel himself again now, but he would NEVER forgive Gabriel for causing Aziraphale such anguish. Some things were simply unforgivable, and hurting Aziraphale was one of them in Crowley’s book. Besides which, it could be argued that God’s orders to “care for each other” condoned wanting to thump anyone who was nasty to his hopefully-future-husband. He didn’t want to discorporate Gabriel, just kick him hard in the shins while wearing heavy duty work boots and performing a small miracle to prevent Gabriel from instantly healing himself. Crowley knew from experience what bone-deep-bruising felt like, and Gabriel deserved the 12-15 weeks of aching lower limb as far as he was concerned.

When Crowley wrapped his arms around Aziraphale, the angel ran his fingers through the former demon’s short hair and asked "my love, would you consider growing your hair longer?"
"You want me to grow my hair, Angel?" Crowley asked.
"Not if you really don't want to, but I did so love it when it was long - I always wished I could brush and braid it for you, but I was too scared to ask."
"In that case, consider it growing."

Angels and demons (and one former-demon-returned-angel) differ from humanity in a number of ways, and the speed of hair growth - when they choose to grow it - is one of them. Whilst a mere mortal might take anywhere between 2 and 12 months to grow their hair out, Crowley’s grew before Aziraphale’s eyes, until it fell in loose waves to his shoulders. Aziraphale sighed contentedly, carding his fingers through the much longer locks, and smiled. “Thank you, darling.”
“You’re welcome, Angel. You know I never could say no to something you wanted, if I could give it to you.”
“Pssh. What about all those times I asked you not to drive at 90mph through London?”
“You liked going fast, you just never wanted to admit it!”
“I certainly did not!” Aziraphale exclaimed.
“If you hated it so much, why did you keep doing it then?”
“Because I wanted to spend time with YOU!” Aziraphale retorted - then soothingly added “I could have spent more time with you if you’d driven slower.”

They lapsed into silence for a few moments, then Crowley quietly asked “So you like me obeying the speed limit then?”
“I do. Though perhaps while we’re on the continent we could go for a drive on the Autobahn - give you a chance to go as fast as you like, somewhere that it’s fairly safe,” Aziraphale suggested.
“See, you DO like going fast!”
“I like not being discorporated more.”
“I never got you discorporated! Shadwell’s the one who did that - the great prat.”
Aziraphale chuckled. It was still a sore point for Crowley, that Shadwell had been the cause of Aziraphale’s discorporation, and he wasn’t likely to forgive the retired Witchfinder any time soon. Which was fine with him, because he hadn’t entirely forgiven the man yet either.

After another brief silence in which they simply held each other close, Crowley spoke again. "Angel, can I ask you something?"
"Of course, my dear."
"When did you start to love me?"
"Goodness. There are several ways I can answer that."
"What are they?"

Aziraphale smiled. "I loved you in the all-encompassing angelic way from the moment we met, naturally. I appreciated you reassuring me that giving the sword to Original Adam was the right thing to do. I liked you much more after the ark, when I realised you were disobedient rather than evil. More still after the crucifixion. And so on and so forth through the centuries, liking you more and more until I realised I loved you in a decidedly NON-angelic fashion - and how dangerous that was for both of us."

"When did you realise you loved me?" Crowley asked in a whisper.
"1941. The same moment I realised that it wasn't just general background love I was sensing - but that YOU loved ME."
Tears sprang into Crowley's eyes. "I thought - when you told me I went too fast for you - I thought that you LIKED me but didn't LOVE me."
"Oh, Crowley, no - I loved you, but I was terrified of what that meant - of what Heaven might do to me, and what Hell would surely do to you!"
"But now…"
"Now Heaven and Hell can both get bent, to borrow that lovely human expression. You're stuck with me, Crowley. Forever, if you'll have me."

"Stay here a moment, would you Angel?" Crowley said. Aziraphale watched him collect a small box from his luggage. He came back, and opening the box, knelt before Aziraphale.
"I will gladly have you forever. I was going to propose to you tomorrow night after dessert, but I can't wait another moment. Aziraphale, would you do me the greatest honour possible, and marry me, please?"
Wide-eyed, Aziraphale found his coat, and returned with an identical box. Kneeling before a bewildered Crowley, he opened the box and said "If you'll grant me the extraordinary honour of marrying me."

Crowley took a white gold ring patterned with a wheat design - which reminded both of them of feathers in their wings - and placed it on Aziraphale's left ring finger. Aziraphale then took the matching ring of rose gold, and placed it on Crowley's. Clasping both hands between them they kissed, faces aglow with joy and love.
Aziraphale then said "I was planning to ask you tomorrow night too - BEFORE dessert!"
"We bought matching rings!" Crowley added.
"Well we do have excellent taste. Though if you tell me you've requested the same song at Le Jules Verne, I may cry."
"I asked them to play Édith Piaf, La Vie En Rose - the English version, because your French is abysmal."
"I asked them to play the French version because yours is flawless!"
They laughed, kissed again, then stood and embraced, knowing they were finally on the same page, travelling at the same speed.

"You know, the poor staff are probably very confused," Aziraphale mused.
"Would you like me to give them a call and clear things up?" Crowley asked.
"Oh would you, my dear?"
"Sure thing, fiancé."
Aziraphale wriggled with delight at fiancé.
Grinning at Aziraphale, Crowley called Le Jules Verne and explained that he and his betrothed had planned near-identical proposals, but had jumped the gun and become engaged a day early. After receiving heartfelt congratulations from the staff member at the other end of the line, Crowley requested they play whichever version of La Vie En Rose they preferred - DURING dessert.

Call completed, Crowley took Aziraphale by the waist and pulled him close once more. The angel smiled, cupped Crowley's face in his hands, and kissed him tenderly.
"Would you like to go and have some dinner, Angel?" Crowley enquired.
"No, I am quite content here. Thank you though, love."
"We could order room service…"
"Oh, go on then, why not?"
They ordered champagne to accompany the food, which Crowley sipped as he sat contentedly watching Aziraphale eat - occasionally receiving small helpings to try. When the last morsel had been eaten Crowley climbed into Aziraphale's lap, and kissed him.

"Do you know, Crowley dear, that if I had to choose between food and you, I believe I'd choose you?"
"But you LOVE food! You've been into food for millennia!" Crowley exclaimed.
"Well, yes, I'd very much prefer to not have to choose, but if I were forced to…" Aziraphale trailed off.
"You'd choose ME over food. Now I really know how much you love me!" Crowley said, grinning.
"Oh, shut up and kiss me!" Aziraphale said, grinning in response.
Eager to please his beloved, Crowley kissed him thoroughly - before Aziraphale stood, scooping his fiancé into his arms as did so, and carried him to the lounge, where they could kiss more comfortably.

The following morning they rose from a good night’s sleep, breakfasted on pastries and fruit, then strolled arm-in-arm to the Louvre. Signs in the languages most common to guests indicated that the Mona Lisa - most visited off all artworks in the Musée (and arguably the world) - was temporarily housed in the Galerie Médicis (room 801) whist the Salle des États was being renovated. Crowley had visited the completed painting several times previously, and still preferred the sketch Leonardo had gifted to him some 5 centuries earlier. Aziraphale had also visited in years gone by, and was eager to visit her once more - for many of the same reasons the humans around them flocked to the Louvre, and a few which he was certain they did not.

When finally the enigmatic was smile before them, they stood gazing quietly at her, surrounded by others doing likewise - contemplating the subject, the artist, the technique, and (as one person nearby commented rather louder than anyone else) her size. At 77x53cm, many are surprised at how relatively small the Mona Lisa is - certainly when compared with The Last Supper she seems petite - but for all her diminutive stature, she holds her guests rapt attention like few other pieces of art have ever managed to do. Contentedly letting people flow around them, Crowley and Aziraphale stood leaning against one another with fingers interlaced, smiling almost as enigmatically as the lady herself, until they’d had their fill.

Continuing their tour of the Musée, Aziraphale finally spoke. “Leonardo was truly something special, wasn’t he my dear?”
“That he was,” Crowley said, musing on his old friend.
“Do you ever wonder what he’d make of the things people have invented based on his work?”
“I think he’d be delighted to have inspired others. He’d certainly enjoy seeing all the flighted devices people have made. He’d want to study the blueprints for them, to see where he went wrong. He’d be awed by the ingenuity, and heartbroken at the failures that claimed lives. Most of all though, I think he’d be pleased that others have followed in the grand tradition of inventing, and creativity generally.”
“You miss him, don’t you?”
“Anyone who ever had the privilege of meeting Leonardo would miss him - he was such an incredible person - there’s been nobody else like him before or since.”

“Should I be jealous?” Aziraphale asked.
“No, Angel, no need for jealousy. There aren’t many people I’ve liked enough to call a true friend, but he was one of them. Heaven didn’t deserve him, that’s my biggest gripe. Bunch of boring ninnies wouldn’t appreciate him properly the way Hell would, but he was too pure of heart to go there. It’s a shame you never got to meet him. You’d be the only angel who would have understood him at all. You could have answered some of his questions, probably. I think that’s what I liked about him more than anything else - his thirst for knowledge - it was insatiable!”
“Ah, so he reminded you of you, then?”
“I suppose he did a bit.”
“Incessant questions, creative beyond the scope most people can ever comprehend...definitely sounds like you. I think I would have liked him, too.”
Crowley blushed at the indirect praise, and they lapsed into silence once more.

When the Louvre closed to the public for the day, they walked back to the Ritz to change before dinner at Le Jules Verne. They had each brought with them one of the new suits Adam had gifted along with the many other changes he’d made, and were looking forward to wearing them for the special occasion - though it was now special in a different way than either of them had intended when packing their luggage for the trip. They drove to the Eiffel Tower in the Bentley, and parked nearby (thank Heaven there was a spot available). After taking the lift to the second floor, they were greeted by the maître d', and ushered to their seats. With a stunning view of Paris out the window, and the intimate setting within the restaurant, one would not have blamed them for hardly looking at each other - but in point of fact, they gazed into each other’s eyes more than at any of their surroundings, and it was plain to all who saw them that they were deeply in love. A few disgruntled conservatives were bothered by their open affection, and a few diners in less than exemplary relationships were rather jealous, but the overwhelming response was more along the lines of “how wonderful they’re so happy together”.

As the seventh and final course was served, La Vie En Rose began to play - the French version, as the staff had taken a vote, and it had won resoundingly over the English. Crowley took Aziraphale’s hand in his, and said “I had a whole speech prepared for this moment - but as we’re already engaged, most of it is moot. There is one part I still need to say though - a quote from a movie, of all things. I know how fond you are of romantic comedies, and I don’t mind one or two of them, so I thought…well…”
“What movie was clever enough to make it into your speech, my dear?” Aziraphale asked.
“It’s from When Harry Met Sally. You know, Harry’s speech at the end, when he runs to the New Year’s party, to tell Sally how he feels.”
“I remember it. Tell me anyway.”
“Alright.” Crowley cleared his throat, then began a surprisingly good imitation of Billy Crystal.

"Well, how about this way? I love that you get cold when it’s seventy one degrees out, I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich, I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts, I love that after I spend a day with you I can still smell your perfume on my clothes and I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

He continued in his normal voice, though slightly huskier than usual. “Now, I know you don’t get cold at 21.7°C, and I know it’s not New Year’s Eve, but I do love the way you order food, and I do love the way you look at me when you think I’m acting nuts. I love the way your cologne lingers on my clothes after holding you close, and you are absolutely the last person I want to talk to before I fall asleep. I’m not lonely now, but I was every time I was without you, and I cannot wait for us to spend the rest of our lives together. I’m so glad you love me as I love you, and when you counter-proposed to me last night you made me the happiest demon...angel...person...ever to have existed. I love you, Aziraphale. I love you, I love you, I love you. More than words can ever hope to express - I love you.” Crowley whispered this final iteration, then lapsed into silence.

With tears in his eyes, Aziraphale said “My darling, if we were not already engaged, I can promise you we now would be. I too love you more than I can say, and when you proposed you made ME the happiest person ever to exist - so we shall have to share that title.”
“I’m happy to share that title with you, along with everything else.” Crowley interrupted quietly.
Aziraphale continued, smiling. “I want us to share everything - including a home. How do you feel about a cottage in the South Downs - nearer to Tadfield than we are in London, so that it’s easier to visit our friends?”
“What about your bookshop?”

“I try pretty hard to never sell any of my books anyway, so why continue the pretense? We shall need to modify any cottage to fit them all, and Adam’s lovely wine cellar, and everything else we both own, but I don’t want to live apart anymore. I want your plants in a proper garden - or a proper greenhouse for those that wouldn’t thrive on the Downs - and I want my books in a private library where I never have to worry about grubby fingers touching them ever again. I want to spend my mornings in bed with you, sunny afternoons in the garden with you, and nights looking at the stars with you.”
“And what about meals? Villages in the South Downs won’t have all the different foods you eat in London.”
“I shall just have to learn to cook them myself. Maybe you can help me.” Aziraphale suggested.
“Maybe I can. You’ve already thought about this a lot, haven’t you Angel?” Crowley asked.
“I have. Every time you go to your flat to care for your plants, I think of how I want us to be together, not apart.”

“Angel. When I - when I thought I’d lost you, I - I didn’t know how to go on. And then you found me. Even when you didn’t have a body, you found me, and you gave me hope, and - and - and I want us to be together too. Every time I go to water my plants I worry that when I get back to the bookshop it will be on fire again, and you’ll be gone again, and this time it’ll be forever. I want us to do everything side by side so that I know you are safe - so that I know they can’t hurt you. I…” Crowley broke down, tears sliding down his cheeks, clasping Aziraphale’s hand so tightly that it would have hurt a human.

“My love, they will NEVER hurt us like that again. God Herself is on our side, and I don’t believe She would allow either Heaven or Hell to divide us - not anymore. Not when we are doing Her work. We will marry. We will move in together. And then we will begin working to save humanity and the Earth. Together.” Aziraphale’s passionate speech was low enough in volume to be heard only by Crowley, but the depth of his emotions could be felt throughout the restaurant. Everyone knew that something important had been said. Everyone knew that someone cared with such feeling that they would sacrifice themselves for their cause, if it came to that. Everyone knew they were loved.

Moments after Aziraphale finished speaking, the music changed to Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz, and he adjusted Crowley’s grip on his hand. “My dear, would you do me the honour of this dance?”
“I would love to,” Crowley answered, breathing a deep sigh of relief.
They danced as Crowley had taught Aziraphale - with Crowley leading, and his radiant angel following. Many of the other couples in the room stood to join them, and the staff had to restrain themselves from participating also. When the waltz ended they share a chaste kiss, then paid the bill, thanked the maître d', and rode the lift back down to ground level. They then drove back to the Ritz, where they spent the remainder of the night kissing and holding each other close, until first Crowley, then Aziraphale drifted off to sleep.

On the final full day of their stay they visited Notre-Dame, where despite the best efforts of all involved, the devastation of the fire was still plainly evident - most obviously in the lack of spire. They spoke with staff of the cathedral, confirming that some of the wealthiest pledges had yet to follow through with donations, and that work could not be completed - or even begun - without a guarantee that the funds would be forthcoming. Crowley followed through on his promise to himself - miracling bank transfers for each of the wealthiest pledges who had failed to fulfill their own promises, and contributing a substantial donation of his own. They toured the parts of the cathedral deemed safe for the public, marvelling at the craftsmanship of those who had built the edifice and decorated it with fine art. The stained glass particularly held their attention, and Aziraphale moved a cloud away from the sun so that the windows could be seen to their best advantage. Crowley kept a gentle hold of Aziraphale’s hand the entire time, and their love for each other was once again evident to all present. Known as a city of both love and light, Paris was no stranger to either, but it had not previously been graced with two angels so incandescent with love - and so even those most accustomed to love in their midst took notice.

After leaving the gothic cathedral they strolled alongside the Seine, crossing it to visit the Fontaine Saint-Michel.
“It looks nothing like her,” Aziraphale remarked.
“Well that’s hardly surprising, given that Michael has had a more-or-less female corporation for as long as we’ve known her, and the statue looks like a male,” Crowley replied.
“Well, there’s that of course, but it doesn’t capture her essence either.”
“Do you think any statue made by humans could?”
“Perhaps not. Do you think she’s ever visited it?”
“Nah, doesn’t seem likely. She spends as little time as possible down here - I doubt visiting fountains is high on her list of priorities, even if they are in tribute to her.”
“If I found out there was a fountain or a statue or anything in tribute to me, I’d be there in a flash!” Aziraphale said.
“Oh, I know YOU would, Angel, but you and Michael have as little in common as any two angels possibly could.”
“Thank Heaven for that!”

They continued their walk along the riverbank, eventually doubling back to retrieve the Bentley, then returning to the Ritz via the most circuitous route imaginable in order to see more sights of the city. After a divine dinner at L’Espadon they spent their final night making the most of their suite - taking a luxurious bath, and grooming each other’s wings. After settling the (quite astronomical) bill the following morning, they headed for Calais - there to make the return journey on the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle - and thence on to London.

They were halfway across the Channel when Aziraphale suddenly exclaimed “we didn’t go for a drive on the Autobahn!”
Crowley smiled and said “that’s alright, we have plenty of time. We could go back to the continent for our honeymoon, if you’d like. Maybe do the Sound of Music tour?”
Aziraphale burst out laughing. “As pretty as Austria is, I’d rather we can skip the Sound of Music tour, if that’s alright with you.”
“Don’t want to climb every mountain, ford every stream?”
“Not particularly, no. I’d be quite content to sit next to you in the Bentley and watch the scenery go by, though.”
“That sounds good to me too, Angel.”
“Calling you my husband will sound better.”
“I couldn’t agree more. We have a wedding to plan!”
“We do. I’ve already been working on a playlist.”
“In the last two days?” Crowley asked.
“Uh, no. The last two weeks, actually.”
“You were that confident I’d say yes?”
“I was.”
“Me too.”
“I love you, my dearest darling fiancé,” Aziraphale said.
“I love you too, fiancé,” Crowley replied.
They continued happily to London, planning their nuptials together, safe in the knowledge that whatever the future held, they would face it together.

Chapter Text

"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around."

Aziraphale and Crowley had been on a romantic comedy marathon for the last 35 hours, with no signs of stopping - at least, not for any longer than it took to get more wine from the cellar, or pop more corn in the little machine Adam and his parents had given them as an engagement present. They had just started on Love Actually - a long-time favourite of Aziraphale's, due to the different varieties of love it depicted. Aziraphale loved love, and Crowley loved picking movies apart - mocking ridiculous tropes, and pointing out all the implausibilities inherent to the genre.

"Did you know Angel, in cinematic terms, we're what they'd call a slow burn?" Crowley asked, starting yet another comparison of reality and fiction.
"A slow burn?" Aziraphale asked, sounding puzzled.
"Yup. The slowest of slow burns - 6000 years must be a record, surely!"
"How are we a slow burn, Crowley dear?"
"Hereditary enemies to acquaintances, acquaintances to friends, friends to best friends, and FINALLY best friends to lovers. Very slowly adding fuel to the fire, and very gradually fanning the flames…until here we are, planning our wedding."
"Has it been worth the wait, my love?"
"Worth every second - I'd have waited forever if I had to. I'm glad I didn't have to, though."
Aziraphale smiled, and kissed Crowley softly on the lips, cradling his face in his hands.
"I love you." Aziraphale said.
"I love you too, Angel." Crowley replied.

When they reached the scene where the new Prime Minister meets his staff, they clutched each other and simultaneously exclaimed "SISTER MARY LOQUACIOUS!!"
"You never told me she was in this, Angel!" Crowley accused.
"I never recognised her before dear. I didn't meet her until the week before the apocalypse, after all."
"Oh, of course. Though I suppose I can't talk - people mistake me for an actor all the time, too."
"Do they really?"
"Yeah, David Trident, or Tent, or something like that. He's played a bunch of slutty goths - has a bit of a reputation for that - and one of the doctors on Doctor Who. People are forever telling me I'm their favourite Doctor, and asking me to sign stuff."
"What do you do when that happens?" Aziraphale asked.
"Tell them ‘I’m very sorry but you've got the wrong person’, and keep walking."
"You never play along?"
"Nah. I figure the poor bastard gets hounded enough without me screwing with his reputation."
"How very considerate of you, my dear."
"I met him once, in 2011. Outside the theatre after he'd done Much Ado About Nothing. Seemed like a nice bloke. The redhead that played Beatrice was pretty shy, which surprised me, but they were both kind to their fans. I may have been a demon at the time, but I wasn't going to mess things up for him. If he'd been enough of a bastard, all bets would have been off though."

Aziraphale smiled and said, "You always were a softy."
"Nah, not soft. Just preferred widespread inconvenience to individual attacks, unless people really deserved them."
"Why do you think that is, Crowley dear?"
"Probably something to do with why I fell, I guess. My first temptation was directly related to it, after all. Asking too many questions, never being satisfied with the answers - that's pretty inconvenient. I never developed a taste for the sorts of things Hastur and Ligur were into, just wasn't my style. I'd rather give 1000 people a lousy afternoon than one person a lousy year. Just seemed fairer to spread it around, if I had to do it at all."
"Demons aren't supposed to be worried about fairness though." Aziraphale posited.
"Angels aren't supposed to question everything, and I did that, too. Not sure why anyone thought I'd be any better at being a demon than I was at being an angel - but at least God noticed in the end, I guess."
"Yes. She did. And now we get to spend eternity together. Thank you for being so thoroughly inept, my darling."
"Right back at you, Angel."
They grinned at each other, and kissed again.

Three movies later they were watching Groundhog Day, when Crowley decided to delve into the time loop trope. “Angel, have you ever wondered what would happen if either of us were stuck in a time loop?”
“I can’t say I have, no. Which of us do you think is more likely to be affected?” Aziraphale responded.
“Well, given that I’ve paused time myself in the past, I don’t know. Maybe that makes me more likely? Maybe that makes me immune? Do you think it could affect us though, being angels?”
“Well, you stopping time affected Satan, Beelzebub, and Gabriel, so it seems reasonable to assume it could.”
“That’s a fair point. OK, let’s assume for the sake of hypotheticals that you get stuck in a time loop. What do you do?”
“Wait for you to rescue me, probably.” Aziraphale grinned.
“Let’s also assume - for the sake of this discussion - that I can’t rescue you - that YOU have to rescue yourself somehow. What then?”
“Then I suppose I have to learn whatever it is that I’m stuck in the time loop to learn, and once I have, then time goes back to normal.”
“What if it’s not something you have to learn, but something you have to do?”
“Then I suppose I have to do it.”
“What if it’s letting me go?” Crowley asked.
“Then I’m stuck in the time loop forever, because that will never happen.”

Tears streaked both their cheeks as they held each other close. Crowley was thinking of the moment when he knelt in the burning bookshop, believing Aziraphale was gone. Aziraphale was thinking of standing in Heaven, trying to figure out how to get back to Crowley - for that was the moment he’d known beyond any and all doubt that he would choose Crowley over everything and everyone else, no matter the consequences. He had risked everything - including Falling - to get back to his love. Instead of Falling, he had LEAPT - heart first, hoping and praying that he would find Crowley - and beyond all hope, beyond all prayers, he had succeeded. Then they’d helped Adam avert the apocalypse, and the rest would eventually become history. Giving up Crowley didn’t bear thinking about. Just as giving up Aziraphale didn’t bear thinking about, for Crowley - he couldn’t do it - he was certain it would kill him.

Shuddering with the strength of their feelings and gasping for breath, they kissed again and again, as though trying to convince themselves that the other was both real and present.
“I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, Iloveyou, Iloveyou, IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouIloveyou…” became the litany between them until the words lost all meaning, flowing out in a torrent of fear and loss and love and hope. Their hands couldn’t stay still - Crowley running his fingers through Aziraphale’s short curls, grabbing at his lapels, holding his waist - Aziraphale twining his hands in Crowley’s shoulder-length waves, clutching his shirtfront, gripping his arms.

Spent from movies and stress, Aziraphale sat curled beside Crowley with his head on his shoulder, Crowley's arms about him, and chin resting against the top of Aziraphale's head.
"I love you, Crowley," he said, lifting his face just enough to be heard clearly.
"I love you too, Angel," Crowley said, then kissed Aziraphale's hair.
Aziraphale didn't often sleep, but on this occasion when they went to bed he drifted off, and Crowley followed shortly thereafter.
They awoke the next morning spooning, with Crowley curled around Aziraphale, holding him close. Aziraphale had one arm angled slightly behind himself, hand resting on Crowley's hip - the other resting over the arm around his waist.
Crowley nuzzled the back of Aziraphale's neck, then kissed it.
Aziraphale turned his head to see his fiancé, and smiled. "Good morning, my dear."
"Good morning to you, too." Crowley replied.

Aziraphale rolled over to face Crowley properly, and said “I sometimes wonder if we might need to seek counselling, though I don’t know who would be qualified to assist us. Last night has brought it home to me once again that we probably have what humans call PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder. Neither of us can bear to be without the other, and the thought of losing each other terrifies us far beyond what is probably healthy - at least if we use humans as a basis for comparison.”
“I’m not sure they’re a great basis for it though, are you, Angel?” Crowley asked.
“Well, the baseline may be less than ideal, but the basic principles would still apply, I think. It’s not healthy to be constantly paranoid, no matter the species.”
“It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you, though.”
“That’s true, but ARE they out to get us? Now that neither of us actually belongs to them?”

“Do you honestly think Gabriel is going to get over the fact that you took a swan dive to get back to me, ARGUED WITH GOD HERSELF, and became a new rank of angel because of it? Or that Beelz will get over the fact that I was such a pathetic demon that God made me an angel again? Because I don’t,” Crowley argued.
“I think God probably had conversations with them, actually - or informed them, at least. She didn’t just create a new rank of angel for our sakes - She gave us orders. I dived from Heaven, you climbed from Hell, and we met here to save Humanity. We’re angels, but we’re EARTHLY angels, Crowley. She wants us to succeed in our tasks, and we can’t do that if Gabriel and Beelzebub try to destroy us,” Aziraphale retorted.
“You trust Her a lot more than I do, even after all She’s done.”
“I do. She’s earned it. She may have ‘sentenced’ us to eternity on Earth, but she was also giving us exactly what we wanted, and I’m grateful.”
Crowley took a deep breath to steady himself, and said, “That’s true. She did. And I’m grateful too. I get to marry the love of my life.” The hint of a smile touched the corners of his lips.
“Yes, you do.” Aziraphale gave Crowley a brief peck on the lips then continued, “would you like to go and look at wedding things today, to get an idea of what we might like to have?”
“Yes please Angel. I need to focus on the good things today.”

After breakfast (toasted brioche smeared with avocado and cream cheese, drizzled with vinaigrette, and several cups of English Breakfast tea for Aziraphale - black coffee for Crowley) they walked to a nearby stationery store to select the cardstock for invitations, place cards, and so forth. They eventually settled on a golden champagne colour with a pearlescent finish that cost a small fortune and was probably terrible for the environment, but felt justified in this decision as they would only be getting married once, it had been 6000 years in the making, and the limited number of guests they intended to invite would likely keep them as mementos of the day.

Next on the list was cake - Aziraphale had assured Crowley that the cake needed to be one of their earliest priorities - not because he loved cake (though he does, as I'm sure you're all aware), but because the best wedding cakes take TIME. Crowley really didn't care what sort of cake they had as long it made Aziraphale happy on their special day, but seeing his childlike glee as he tasted option after option was a pleasant side effect of the selection process. Aziraphale concluded that a decadent mud cake was the winner, with individual miniature versions to be made for anyone with special dietary requirements. It was the sort of thing that never would have occurred to Crowley, but pleased him regardless. Aziraphale truly cared that others enjoy their day as much as he was intending to, and it made Crowley smile.

Once cake was ticked off Aziraphale's neatly handwritten list, it was on to the main meal. With an evening wedding this meant dinner, but they'd yet to agree on the number of courses. Crowley had successfully talked Aziraphale down from 12 (12!!!!) to 5, and was trying to bring it down to 4 - combining cake and dessert - with the argument that fresh fruit alongside the rich mud cake was QUITE enough sugar for most people. Aziraphale reluctantly agreed to this concession when Crowley pointed out that roughly a quarter of their guest list was made up of children, and he'd rather not face the prospect of their parents forcing them to choose between dessert and wedding cake. With that settled it was a simple matter of deciding what to have for the other 3 courses. Or rather, it would have been a simple matter if either groom wasn't Aziraphale, who wanted EVERYTHING, as usual.

Eventually it was decided they'd offer a few options for each course, preselected by guests as part of their RSVP. Crowley typically gave Aziraphale whatever he wanted, but had been determined to keep the reception as close to human-standard (or at least financially-very-comfortable-human-standard) as possible because several of the guests (the Them's parents) had no idea that there was anything out of the ordinary about either himself or Aziraphale, and wanted to keep it that way if he possibly could. Aziraphale meanwhile was enjoying Crowley providing input rather than his usual "whatever you'd like, Angel" - a novel sensation he wanted to cultivate into habit, if he could manage it. Crowley would often give a preference for wine to drink, and had opinions on music and movies, but largely deferred to Aziraphale on other matters - which was nice in its own way, but Aziraphale was a firm believer in the human concept of "variety is the spice of life", so an increase in variety was overwhelmingly considered a good thing.

Crowley had agreed to an outdoor wedding (with gazebo) on the condition that it was held in the evening - he wanted to dance under the stars with Aziraphale afterwards - and had liked the angel’s idea of three aisles. The playlist Aziraphale had been working on was a different matter, and had been the cause of more than one argument.
“I’ll walk down the aisle to The Minstrel Boy if you want me to Angel, but I am NOT having Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ at the reception - I don’t care how much it reminds you of us, or that day on the Wall,” Crowley had decreed on one particularly memorable occasion.
“No buts about it, the answer is no. And why on EARTH are there so many songs on this list referencing Heaven?!”
“No, I know your reasons - I’ve heard them before - it was a rhetorical question.” Crowley ticked them off on his fingers as he went down the list. “Dave Dobbyn - Slice of Heaven. Bruno Mars - Locked Out of Heaven. Belinda Carlisle - Heaven is a Place on Earth. Tavares - Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel. Are you TRYING to make the mundane humans cotton on to what we are, or have you lost your Godforsaken mind?”
“No, don’t answer that either Aziraphale, I know, I know. You just love those songs about love. Can’t help yourself, I know. But SERIOUSLY!”

Other songs he’d accepted with much less of a fight. Love is All Around - the normal version by Wet Wet Wet, not the tortured Christmas rendition from Love Actually. The Pointer Sisters - Jump (for My Love), from the same soundtrack. Forever Now by Michael Bublé. Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden. Bright Side of the Road - Van Morrison. The Way You Look Tonight - Frank Sinatra. Dream a Little Dream of Me - Doris Day. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You - Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. Iris - Goo Goo Dolls. Have I Told You Lately - Rod Stewart. And just because it was a bit fun, the Sister Act version of I Will Follow Him. He’d reluctantly agreed to The Bangles - Eternal Flame, and Natalie Cole - This Will Be (an Everlasting Love), primarily to take the sting out of rejecting all the Heavenly tracks. Crowley had insisted - thankfully without argument - that their first dance as a married couple would be to the same tune as their first dance ever, and their first dance as fiancés - Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz.

Crowley in turn had made some song suggestions that raised Aziraphale’s eyebrows.
“Why do you want Tina Turner - Nutbush City Limits, and The Village People - YMCA at our reception, dear?” he’d asked when he saw Crowley’s list of tunes.
“I saw online that people like to dance to them. It could be fun if everybody gets into it.”
“Alright, we can have those two, but not Los Del Rio’s Macarena - you do know that’s about a woman who cheats on her boyfriend with two of his friends, don’t you?”
“Of course I know that, I WAS a demon. I’ll trade you the Macarena for one of your songs that mentions Heaven?”
“Ohhhh fiiiine. Macarena for Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel, then.”
“See, we can compromise! We’ve got this marriage thing in the bag.” Crowley grinned.
“I thought we had it in the bag because we love each other?” Aziraphale teased.
“That too Angel, that too.” Crowley kissed his fiancé, effectively ending the discussion.

They had no need to organise suits, as Adam’s post-not-pocalypse additions to their wardrobes included a set of tails each, which they’d concluded were perfect. They’d agreed they didn’t need anyone to give either of them away, as the only person (for lack of a better word) with the authority to do so was God Herself, and though they intended to invite her, it was as a guest, not their Creator. They had no intention of inviting any angels or demons, though they were drafting announcement letters to inform both parties of the event - to be sent AFTER it had occurred. As long-term resident green thumb Crowley was in charge of the flowers - he figured it was only fair, since Aziraphale was taking lead on the food. He’d been quietly whispering endearments and encouragements to all the blooming plants in Little Eden, promising prime spots to those plants which performed best. Naturally they were all eager to please and had outdone themselves for weeks, trying to earn a coveted spot which they were all but guaranteed regardless.

They’d decided without fuss that neither of them wanted groomsmen, bridesmaids, flower girls, page boys, or attendants of any other label. They had however discussed at length who they wanted to solemnise their vows, and after debating the pros and cons of the various candidates, had chosen Anathema. Certain that this was a request they should make in person, they’d made a day trip to Jasmine Cottage, and asked the young occultist if she would consent to being their officiant. Anathema had been pleasantly surprised at the request, and agreed to do so - though she pointed out that she wasn’t qualified to make it legally binding. Aziraphale had prepared for this eventuality, and assured her they intended to visit the registry office the following day to take care of the official paperwork - her role was to perform the handfasting ceremony they’d chosen to share with their friends.

Having shoulder-length hair to contend with, Crowley had contemplated the various styles in which he might wear it for their wedding - eventually deciding on a simple mostly-down braided style that was elegant without being over-the-top. On the bouquet vs boutonnière debate they were tempted to say “why not both?” but thought this might be excessive, so decided on boutonnières with three buds rather than the more traditional one. Jewellery was a far simpler decision - they loved their engagement rings so much they’d decided to buy the same style in yellow gold for their wedding, and the white and rose gold again for their eternity rings - in opposing colours to their engagement, so that at their one year anniversary they would each have all three colours, worn in reverse order. Aziraphale would of course wear his vintage pocket watch, cleaned specially so that it shone. Crowley’s sunglasses were another topic which remained under heated discussion for some time - he argued that he couldn’t get around with bright yellow eyes with the Them’s parents in attendance, and Aziraphale argued that wearing his sunglasses at night would draw more attention, not less. In the end that particular debate was decided by Anathema, who flat out refused to marry anyone wearing eyewear not mandated with a prescription from a qualified eyecare professional - and as Crowley had never visited an optometrist or ophthalmologist, nor had any intention of doing so - he lost the argument.

With invitations sent, RSVPs inbound, and the details of the wedding itself finally settled, they started discussing their honeymoon, and plans for moving to the South Downs thereafter. The honeymoon - it was swiftly concluded - would be on the continental mainland so that Crowley could drive the Bentley as fast as he liked on the Autobahn, and would NOT include any Sound of Music related tours. Beyond that they were content to see where the mood took them, with no fixed plans beyond "enjoy ourselves". Moving to the South Downs was a different matter. They'd intended to move closer to Tadfield, but residing in the heart of London for so long had thoroughly scrambled the geography of the rest of the country within their brains - without either of them realising it until they finally looked at a map. They'd hardly be closer at all - and could actually be considerably further away, depending on which part of the Downs they chose. It would avoid London traffic though, so that was something. With fond memories of the old Kingdom of Wessex, they decided to settle in Winchester. Boasting both a university and one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, it was busy enough to not be dull, but quiet enough (compared to London) that they could slow down - together.

The day before the wedding they drove to Tadfield - they’d chosen the village as the location for their wedding so that the Them could stay at the reception for as long as possible - and with assistance from Adam’s parents Arthur and Deirdre (and a minor miracle or three) had gained permission from the Youngs’ neighbour Mr Tyler to use the section of his land nearest the apple trees for their wedding and reception. After setting up the gazebo, Crowley began sorting out his plants. Climbing vines and twinkle lights twined up the corner posts and along the edges of the gazebo roof. Red and white roses intermingled around the edges of the gazebo and either side of the gold aisle, with white roses lining the black aisle, and red roses lining the white aisle. Other plants were set around the designated area in pots of alternating black, white and gold, creating walls of shrubbery. Crowley talked kindly to each plant as he put them into position, asking them to please tolerate the change of scenery for a couple of days, and to do their best to impress Aziraphale. Having finally accepted this new side of their Master, and not wanting to disappoint the being he loved most, they took the challenge in their proverbial stride.

Despite neither of them being a bride, Aziraphale had insisted that they abide by the human superstition of spending the night before - and the morning of - their wedding apart. Aziraphale was staying with the Youngs, Crowley with Anathema and Newt at Jasmine Cottage. After dinner together at the cottage, Aziraphale thanked Anathema for taking care of his fiancé, kissed Crowley goodnight, and walked to the Young residence. Crowley immediately felt bereft, and it must have shown on his face or in his aura, as Anathema took his hand and said “You’ll see him tomorrow. He’ll be fine in the meantime. It’s alright.”
Crowley smiled weakly at her, but his forehead still showed his distress.
“You love him even more than he knows, don’t you?” she asked.
“More than he could ever know. More than I ever thought I could love anyone,” Crowley answered.
“He loves you just as much - I can see it in your auras. He may be a being of love, designed to love, but he loves you more than anything in the world - including the world. And this time tomorrow, you’ll be married.”
“More or less,” Crowley added.
“More or less, yes. I do wish the UK would allow regular citizens to officiate legally the way we can in other countries - you wouldn’t need to go to the registry office, and there’d be no ‘more or less’ about it.”
“Can’t have everything I suppose.”
“No, I suppose not. You have each other though. That has to count for something.”
“That counts for everything. Thanks Anathema,” Crowley said.
“You’re welcome,” she replied.

He continued chatting with the young couple until it was time for bed - they all needed sleep before the next day, and Crowley eventually drifted off, thinking of Aziraphale. The angel did NOT sleep, preferring to read through the night to calm his nerves. He was excited for the following day, but was starting to regret agreeing to an evening wedding - he wanted to marry Crowley over breakfast! For a being who’d lived through six millennia, any period of less than 24 hours should not feel like an eternity, but it did. Finally - FINALLY - it was their wedding day, and finally - FINALLY - it was time to get ready. Aziraphale dressed with care in his creamy new suit, different from his usual clothing and yet alike enough to be comfortable, and tucked the boutonnière - two white rosebuds and a red between them - into his lapel. At Jasmine Cottage Crowley was contrastingly attired in his new black suit, with a boutonnière of two red rosebuds and one white.

At last the moment had arrived! Crowley had arranged the plants to ensure he and Aziraphale wouldn’t see each other until they were walking up their respective aisles towards Anathema. He stood waiting at the end of his, hearing their guests quietly chatting amongst themselves. He suddenly wished he had someone to walk with him - his knees were shaking so much he wasn’t sure he’d be able to walk all the way to the gazebo without staggering. Aziraphale meanwhile was bouncing up and down on his toes, trying to dispel the nervous energy from his body, and failing utterly.

After what felt like twenty years, Anathema stood in the centre of the gazebo, and the strains of Sharon Corr’s violin began to play. They each stepped from the surrounding plantlife, and onto their aisles. Crowley couldn’t help glancing over to see Aziraphale, and was stunned by his beauty. Aziraphale had chanced a glance in Crowley’s direction at the same time, and the smile that broke across his face outshone the setting sun by several orders of magnitude. They both walked sedately up their aisles, holding back from breaking into a run with a miracle for almost every stride. At the end of their respective aisles they walked up the three steps of the gazebo, and stood either side of Anathema, grinning broadly at one another.

“Beloved friends, we are gathered here this evening to witness the union of Aziraphale and Crowley. They’ve asked me to keep this short and sweet, but the love of my own life insisted I should say a little something about them before proceeding to the vows.
Aziraphale and Crowley could have been a very Shakespearen tragedy, ending in ruin and destruction. Fortunately for all of us, but most especially for them, they endured the hardships life saw fit to throw at them - most often together - until at last life relented, and allowed them to be as they are now - content in one another’s love and companionship.
So, I ask you - Aziraphale - do you take Crowley to be your husband, to have and to hold, in good times and bad, through all the trials the future may hold, for as long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” Aziraphale said proudly, tears springing to his eyes.
“And do you - Crowley - take Aziraphale to be your husband, to have and to hold, in good times and bad, through all the trials the future may hold, for as long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” Crowley said, pushing past the planet-sized lump in his throat.
“Rings have long been a symbol of marriage vows, and I invite you now to exchange them.”
Aziraphale spoke first, tears gliding down his cheeks as he slid the ring onto Crowley’s finger. “Crowley, I give you this ring, as a symbol of my love, and the unending bond we share.”
Crowley cleared his throat, then spoke clearly whilst the matching ring slid onto Aziraphale’s finger. “Aziraphale, I give you this ring, as a symbol of my love, and the unending bond we share.”
They clasped hands, and using the silver scarf Crowley had provided, and the tartan tie Aziraphale had likewise given her, Anathema gently bound them together.
“The law here prevents me from legalising this blessed union, but by the power vested in me by the pair of you, I now pronounce you almost-married. You may kiss each other.”
Their guests laughed at the “almost-married”, then smiled indulgently as the newly-almost-weds kissed.

The reception was wonderful, with the food catered by professionals Aziraphale had vetted more thoroughly than the average government checks the credentials of its politicians. The cake was a masterpiece of pure white fondant with gold filigree leaves spiralling around it, and the guests mingled happily with each other. They ate, and drank, and danced, with the grooms never leaving each other’s side. When it was probably three hours past his bedtime, Adam picked up his water glass and tapped it gently with his dessert spoon. Everyone turned to look at him in surprise, but Adam being Adam, he went on regardless.

“I’ve seen in a few movies that people do that when they want to make a speech. I’d like to thank my Godfathers for inviting my family and friends to their wedding, and for having it here in Tadfield so our parents would say yes.” The guests (especially the parents) laughed, and Adam continued. “This is the first wedding I’ve ever been to, so I don’t actually have anything to compare it to yet, but I think this might be the best wedding ever. I hope you’re both really happy, and you can get properly married tomorrow. Now can you please cut the cake so we can eat some before we have to go home to bed?”

The guests laughed again, and the grooms happily obliged the former antichrist. After cake the Them and their parents went home, leaving Aziraphale and Crowley, Anathema and Newt, Madame Tracy and Shadwell, and one young lady who looked familiar and yet not at all so, sitting around a table drinking very fine champagne together. After seeing Shadwell stifle several large yawns Madame Tracy bid them farewell, and steered the retired Witchfinder to their accommodation for the night. When Newt began to yawn similarly, Anathema wisely bid them a good evening also, and took him home to the cottage. The final guest did not look tired at all, and was smiling serenely at the couple.

“I haven’t had the opportunity to thank you until now for My invitation. I was very pleased to receive it. Though I must ask, why was Anathema chosen as your officiant, not Me?”
Aziraphale and Crowley shared a glance, then Aziraphale answered. “We weren’t 100% sure You would come, if I’m being honest. We had to choose someone we knew would be here in a corporeal form, and Anathema is a lovely young lady.”
“She is a lovely young lady, you’re right about that. But I was always going to be here for this, My loves. I would not have missed it for all of creation.”
“We’re very glad You came,” Aziraphale said.
“Are you, Crowley?” She asked.
“Yes. Of course. You are our Creator,” Crowley answered.
“You still don’t trust Me though, do you?”
“I’d like to trust You. If that counts for anything.”
“It does. Would it help you to know that it was never Me who cast you out of Heaven?”
They both looked at Her, stunned. Aziraphale was the first to ask “If not You, then who?”
“It was a civil war. Michael was demoted for her actions, but I could not reverse them without causing further harm. Your averting Armageddon was what allowed Me to finally do something about it, though it did not occur to Me that I should until you gave Me that very thorough scolding, Aziraphale. I must thank you for that as well. I had grown complacent. You awoke a fire in Me that I had nearly forgotten I had.”
“You’re...welcome?” Aziraphale said hesitantly.

God smiled at them. “I should be off, and let you two lovebirds enjoy your wedding night. Don’t take too long before you get started on those other tasks I set you though. The humans are going to kill this poor planet if you put it off much longer.”
“We intend to start as soon as we’ve moved house,” Aziraphale assured Her.
“Good. Let Me know if you need help - though do not ask lightly.”
She placed Her hand over where theirs rested lightly clasped on the table. Standing, She said, “I bless this union, and you both, and the work you will soon do for Me. May you have joy in each other and love in your hearts - though I can see that you already do.”
Their eyes shone with unshed tears at this Most Holy of blessings. Smiling, She started to walk away, before half-turning to say, “Oh, and you don’t need to go to the registry office tomorrow. I’ve taken care of the paperwork for you. Consider it My wedding gift.”
At this they both broke down, and clutched at each other, weeping openly.

When they had got themselves in the right frame of mind they cleared away the tables, chairs, and decorations. Crowley sent his plants back to Little Eden. The caterers had already taken their equipment with them, so that was one less thing to deal with. They returned the gazebo to the party hire company, and gave the flattened grass a boost. Anathema had taken care of the top layer of the cake for them, promising to keep it frozen until their first anniversary, as was human tradition. When all was set to rights, they walked hand-in-hand to the closest apple tree, and Crowley picked one. They sat under the tree, trading the apple back and forth, enjoying each other’s company in the tranquil quiet of the peaceful night. When the sun began to rise they joined it, and walked to the Bentley, still parked outside Jasmine Cottage.

As Crowley drove them home to his flat (he wanted to check in on Little Eden before bed), they listened to the CD he’d burnt especially for this particular journey - all of the songs he’d rejected for the reception, whether they mentioned Heaven, or angels, or were deemed not quite right in some other way - even Umbrella by Rihanna, which they sang together.
🎶 When the sun shines, we shine together
Told you I'll be here forever
Said I'll always be your friend
Took an oath that I'm a stick it out 'til the end
Now that it's raining more than ever
Know that we still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella
You can stand under my umbrella... 🎶

When they arrived home they went straight to the garden, and checked on the plants. They both still thought of them as Crowley’s because he was the green thumb of the pair, but the plants were starting to think of themselves as belonging to Aziraphale too. When the two Caretakers had reassured themselves that all was well, they went to the bedroom, took off their shoes and suit coats, and collapsed in a heap on the bed. Adjusting themselves so that they lay face-to-face, one arm draped over each other and the other holding hands between themselves, they smiled contentedly at one another.
“I love you, husband,” said Aziraphale.
“As I love you, husband,” Crowley replied.
They kissed until the sun was high in the sky - short soft kisses, and long deep kisses - gentle tender kisses and heated passionate kisses - kisses on cheeks and eyes and foreheads, jaws and necks and ears - kisses that took their breath away and kisses that could have given life - worshipping each other as equals and partners, beloved and newly bound.

Chapter Text

They’d been married a month, and no matter which of them you asked, they’d say it had been the best month of their very long lives. Crowley had driven on the Autobahn at 300km/hr - letting his 1926 Bentley think it was a 2019 Continental GT for a brief while was a real joy - even with Aziraphale sitting in the passenger seat, eyes squeezed tightly shut and a scream pouring unbroken from his lips for a solid 5 minutes. He’d finally stopped when Crowley slowed down to 150km/hr - barely faster than most of the humans sharing the road. Aziraphale ate his way around Europe, dining on every new delicacy and old favourite imaginable, with Crowley drinking delicious wines, nibbling the odd morsel of whatever Aziraphale was having, and generally enjoying their time together.

Upon their return to London they started the process of moving to Winchester. Aziraphale placed a sign in the window of his bookshop, announcing its impending (and rather immediate) closure. Crowley talked to the plants, preparing them for the upcoming permanent change of scenery. They found a property they liked enough to buy, modified the house to fit their many possessions - and then miracled everything from their old homes to the new one because neither of them trusted human movers to do it right. Aziraphale completely reorganised his books under the Dewey Decimal system, finally comfortable with doing so now that discouraging customers from buying anything was no longer a concern. The wine cellar was reorganised using a system of their own devising - which would make no sense to anyone but those who shared it, and therefore defies explanation here. Some plants went into the ground for the first time. Others stayed in pots - residing in the new greenhouse, on the front verandah, or inside the house - depending on where Crowley thought they might thrive best.

Aziraphale spent hours reading, sitting on a swing chair on the verandah where the light was good and Crowley was nearby as he pottered around the garden. At night they often lay on the soft grass of their front lawn, holding hands and stargazing as they reminisced about their past and planned their future. When the weather was too cold and wet to stay outside they’d listen to Crowley’s records and dance around their living room, while a woodfire burned merrily in the grate. They curled up together on Aziraphale’s cosy old couch to watch movies, and kissed whenever the mood struck them - which was often. They were content and at peace, except in those moments when God’s words echoed in their minds - they needed to DO something to save both humanity and the Earth, and they needed to do it SOON.

They started to focus on movies and TV shows that dealt with averting apocalyptic events and major disasters, hoping to find inspiration for their very real dilemma in human fictional media. They were both struck by Peter Quill’s response to Rocket Racoon asking him why he wanted to save the galaxy - “because I’m one of the idiots who lives in it!” - and wondered if that might be a way to inspire assistance from the people they would inevitably need to approach. Crowley decided to get into some online discussions, and discovered that whilst many average everyday citizens were aware that they needed to DO SOMETHING to save the world, they either had no idea specifically what, or felt powerless to enact the changes needed. Some governments were working towards goals which would contribute positively, whilst others seemed to be working for the opposite result - enabling and encouraging practices which focussed on short-term economic gain to the detriment of long-term survivability.

After watching more movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they decided they needed to pull a Thor & Loki, and GET HELP - though not by one of them throwing the other. It was Crowley who suggested recruiting assistance from all three potential sources - Heaven, Hell, and Humanity. Aziraphale was hesitant to contact any angels, as he felt they could not be trusted so soon after trying to destroy him. Crowley thought they might have a potential ally in a demon known as Eric the Disposable - who despite being destroyed repeatedly, kept coming back. As the demon with the best hygiene and manners after Crowley himself, he seemed the most likely to join their side, and might be persuaded to do so in exchange for protection from Hastur - his most frequent source of destruction.

After a phone call to consult with Anathema regarding Humanity, they decided to target Bill Gates first. Formerly the wealthiest man on the planet, he had been a philanthropist for almost two decades, and seemed the best prospect - with fame, fortune, and a sense of fairness in one package. The biggest problem with recruiting humans was going to be figuring out what to tell them - at least with Eric they could simply tell the truth, or a mildly edited version thereof. They decided to contact Eric first, hoping he might have some ideas on how to approach Bill.

No longer being a demon meant that Crowley couldn’t go to Hell to speak with Eric, so it took some time before they were finally able to make contact. After eventually tracking him down, they explained their mission, and the demon came on board immediately - on the condition that they assist him with completing Hell’s assigned tasks so that he would have time to participate in their project. This seemed like such a reasonable request that both Aziraphale and Crowley wondered if it was too good to be true, but Eric explained that he quite admired their balance of good and evil, and hoped that God might eventually grant him the same Earthly Angelic nature they now enjoyed.

Eric had no more ideas on how to explain their mission to humans than they did, but suggested another potential ally in Hell with far more sway than he himself possessed - Dagon, Lord of the Files and Master of Torments. Crowley thought this was a spectacularly bad idea after hearing about Dagon’s “glorious revolution” sentiments regarding their Fall from Heaven, but with God recently informing them that the Fall was due to an Angelic Civil War more than a direct rebellion against God Herself, he was eventually persuaded that Eric should request an audience with Dagon. He insisted that the meeting take place in the middle of nowhere, to minimise the potential fallout should things go poorly. To his great surprise, Dagon agreed to the meeting, and listened patiently to the three of them as they explained their mission, and its source.

After hearing them out, Dagon said “It surprises me that She has deigned to intervene in this matter after leaving humanity to destroy so much for so long, but it pleases me to hear that something is to be done at last.”
“You are?” Crowley said, incredulously.
“I am. If they continue to destroy this planet for much longer they will go extinct. If they go extinct, I will only have my fellow demons to torment, and that will get boring in very little time at all. It is in my own interests that humanity survives, and if aiding you is the means to that end, then so be it.”
“That’s not QUITE the angle we were hoping for, but I am glad you want to assist us,” Aziraphale said.
“What is your role in this, Eric the Disposable?” Dagon asked.
“I don’t particularly like it in Hell, and I am not good enough for Heaven - nor do I want to be. I would like to join these two on Earth, if God will allow it. I would appreciate you not destroying me, so that I may work towards that goal in addition to saving the Earth and its people,” Eric replied.
“Very well. I swear not to destroy you while we work on this task together. If at the end of it God grants your request, you will no longer be under my jurisdiction. If She does not grant it, I will personally destroy you - and I am far more competent than Hastur in that regard, I can assure you.”
Eric visibly swallowed, then nodded. “Alright. I with that.”

“Excellent. Now, what is your plan for recruiting the Gates man?” Dagon asked.
Crowley, Aziraphale, and Eric looked at each other then at Dagon.
“We were hoping you might be able to help us with that, actually,” Aziraphale said.
“Why do you think I should know, any better than you?” Dagon enquired.
“Because as Lord of the Files, you have access to the full list of his sins, vices, weaknesses, and any means of exploiting either his better nature or his worse one,” Crowley answered.
“Ah. I see. You truly need my specific help. It was not merely a case of boosting your ranks. I am flattered.” Dagon said.
“Eric suggested you to us. He thought you would be a useful ally. We hope you will prove him right,” Aziaphale said.
“We may be allies in this task, but we are still enemies in all other regards. I will not hesitate to work against you if doing so does not run counter to the success of this mission,” Dagon said indignantly.
“We would expect nothing less,” Crowley assured the Under-Duke of Hell.

After another phone call with Anathema, it was concluded that Crowley (as the most tech-savvy of the group) should contact the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation via their website, and make an appointment to discuss the possibility of a collaborative partnership. If Crowley used a minor miracle to ensure a prompt response in the affirmative from Bill Gates himself, nobody was likely to call him out on it. Anathema asked if she might join them at the meeting, and allowing it proved to be one of the wisest decisions they’d made, as she brought copious notes on the various subjects they intended to discuss, and spoke in such a calmly passionate manner that Bill could not refuse her. In fact, he immediately recommended that they bring his wife Melinda and their fellow Foundation trustee Warren Buffet on board, and floated the possibility of recruiting other billionaires, including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Crowley was keen to include Elon Musk for his love of space and adventure alone - his financial wealth and skills in engineering were considered bonuses. Aziraphale had never heard of anyone they mentioned, and was astonished at the absurd amounts of money these people hoarded like the dragons of old folk tales - especially given the abject poverty so many others lived in around the world. Given the opportunity and ability, Aziraphale would have drained their accounts and redistributed the funds to those in need - but with no idea how money worked when you couldn’t miracle it from thin air, he was prevented from doing so. Anathema had much more of an idea how money worked, and lacked only the hacking skills to accomplish it - her conscience would not have stopped her. Eric really didn’t care which humans they worked with as long as they were on Team Save Earth. ^

Jeff Bezos turned out to be an even bigger bastard than the internet suggested he might be - rejecting their plea over the phone, saying he really didn’t give a (string of expletives Aziraphale refused to repeat) about the environment, and not to bother him again. Unfortunately for the CEO of Amazon, he made a trip to the UK only a matter of weeks later, and Crowley “accidentally” hit him with the Bentley as he crossed the road for overpriced coffee. Three days later he awoke from an induced coma to discover he’d donated 99% of his net worth to a new foundation he couldn’t remember joining but was suddenly extremely passionate about. This left him a very wealthy man by most people’s standards, silenced Anathema and Aziraphale’s calls for blood, and gave them a LOT of money to work with. They were however very careful not to tell Bill or Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, or Elon Musk about this particular method of wealth acquisition.

Elon - Crowley was thrilled to discover - was a joy to work with. He jumped on board as swiftly as the Gates couple had, and brought a childlike enthusiasm to the table which everyone found infectious. As the token “regular person” on the team, Anathema found the dynamics interesting, and often suggested others to join. World leaders had been ruled out as they didn’t want to cause political unrest between nations, but it was eventually agreed that they needed more “regular people”. Aziraphale took this on board with gusto - partially as a means of avoiding the inevitable selection of angels. His first (and only) recruits were the Them - because as Aziraphale argued “children are the future - it seems fitting that they have a say in how it goes!” - and Crowley found himself agreeing, purely so he could spend more time with Adam.

The dreaded day came when they could no longer afford to postpone contacting Heaven, and Aziraphale sent a message to Michael, asking for the opportunity to converse with her on a matter of unspecified but significant importance. Aziraphale did not trust Michael, but believed she would be more amenable to discussion than Gabriel, Uriel, or Sandalphon - and was fortunately proven correct. Michael took her seat at the round table of Team Save Earth, and listened attentively to all they had to say - including Dagon and Eric. She was not surprised by their selfish motivations, but was impressed with their willingness to cooperate, and agreed to work alongside them on the condition that they swear not to corrupt the souls of any human on the Team. Both Dagon and Eric looked at her disdainfully at this suggestion, as if it had not even occurred to them that they COULD corrupt any of the souls seated around the table with them.

Michael then suggested that they get all the Choirs of Angels on board, with the specific focus of saving endangered species, rejuvenating polar ice caps, and restoring rainforests. She believed that reporting God’s mandate to the Caretakers as Orders for all angels, she could convince them to come on board. Her greatest point of concern was Gabriel - still smarting from the averted apocalypse, and still not over Aziraphale’s survival of Hellfire, his “leadership” had become unbearable, and Heaven as a whole was close to deposing him - and would have done already if anyone had presented themselves as an alternative. Aziraphale was stunned by this revelation, but Crowley, Dagon and Eric were not - despite having no memory of the Civil War that had been the cause of their Fall, they immediately believed Heaven capable of repeating its past mistakes.

After listening intently to these discussions, Pepper boldly asked, “Why haven’t YOU put yourself forward as a candidate?”
Michael simply looked at her for a moment, then quietly answered. “The first war in history - the war that caused the Fall of 100,000 angels - was largely in response to my own failed leadership. I do not think it would be appropriate for me to present myself as an alternative to Gabriel now.”
“Well that’s just stupid!” Pepper exclaimed. “CLEARLY you’ve learnt from your mistakes, and you don’t want to repeat them, so I think you’d be better than Gabriel, if what you’ve told us about him is true.”
“It is true, child. I swear it in God’s name,” Michael said.
Aziraphale gasped. For an angel to swear anything in God’s name it must be true in every regard, or they could not utter the oath.
“Then you should depose him!” Pepper said, indignant.
“That would cause another Civil War. There are those who would support Gabriel no matter how bad his leadership. I cannot be the cause of another war. I must not.”

Crowley had been musing quietly for some time, and finally spoke. “We could ask God to remove him. She told us we could call for help if we needed it, though not to ask lightly. This is something only She can do in a way that prevents another war. I think we should ask Her. The worst She can say is ‘no’ - and we’re no worse off if that’s Her answer.”
Aziraphale looked at his husband thoughtfully before responding. “I agree with Crowley. Removing Gabriel from leadership of Heaven is something only She should do. Would you be willing to take up the mantle if She asks it of you, Michael?”
“If God Herself asks me, I will not refuse Her - but I will do it for nobody else,” she answered.
Anathema happened to be seated next to Michael, and placed her hand lightly over the angel’s. “I can’t imagine the difficulties you have faced throughout the years, but your aura tells me all I need to know. You are ready to take back the leadership of Heaven - whether you believe you are or not.”

“My...aura?” Michael asked.
“Yes. I see auras. Aziraphale and Crowley were the first I saw with halos, but Dagon, Eric and yourself have them also - it seems all ethereal and occult beings do. Your aura is a rich blue, and your halo is bright platinum,” Anathema told her.
“What do the others look like?”
“Everyone’s is different. Aziraphale and Crowley’s auras swapped halos when they became a couple. Dagon and Eric’s both include shades of red, as does Crowley’s, so I’m starting to wonder if that’s a common trait among demons - and former demon. Human auras don’t have halos - with the exception of Adam because he’s not an ordinary human.”
“And these auras tell you things about people?” Michael enquired.
“They do. Weak auras tell me a person is suffering - whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or a combination thereof. Particularly strong auras tell me a person has grown, and is ready for the next stage of their life to begin. Yours is one of the strongest I’ve seen, excluding Aziraphale and Crowley’s after they confessed their love for one another. You’re ready for something BIG. I think this might be it.”
Michael turned to Aziraphale and Crowley. “How do you intend to ask God to do this?”
“By asking nicely, obviously,” Aziraphale answered.

Looking skywards, Aziraphale spoke at slightly above normal conversational volume, “God? We need Your assistance, please.”
A young lady joined those seated at the table, recognised by Aziraphale, Crowley, Anathema and the Them. Pepper was the first to speak to Her - in an accusing tone.
“You were at the wedding! You told us Your name was Catherine Amelia Trousers, but that we should call You Kitty! You said You have a black cat named Merah because that’s Indonesian for red and You like irony! You said Your favourite food is Mississippi mud cake and that anyone who tells us chocolate is sinful is an idiot!”
Reminded of Aziraphale’s earlier accusations, God blinked at this tirade, then calmly replied. “I do have a black cat named Merah. I do enjoy irony. My favourite food IS Mississippi mud cake - it’s denser than sponge but lighter than Boston mud cake. Chocolate is no more sinful than any other food, as long as you eat it in moderation. And I DO go by the name Kitty Trousers on those rare occasions when I need to blend in with humanity.”

Aziraphale, Crowley, Michael, Dagon and Eric looked at each other as if to say “Kitty Trousers?!?!?!” - though none of them dared to verbalise it.
God looked at each of them in turn, then said “Aziraphale. You said you needed My assistance. What aid do you require of Me?”
Aziraphale cleared his throat, and began to explain - how they were working together, this little group, to try to save the Earth and its people - but that the assistance they needed from Heaven was unlikely to be forthcoming under Gabriel’s leadership. How Michael had refused to depose him, in order to preserve what little peace remained amongst the Choirs. How she had agreed to take up the mantle of leadership only if God Herself removed Gabriel, and asked it of her.

God sat in quiet contemplation of this information, then spoke to Anathema. “My love, I know you see auras. What is your opinion on this matter?”
Anathema had enjoyed their conversations at Aziraphale and Crowley’s wedding reception, and fell easily into the rapport they had developed. “Without having met any other contenders I cannot guarantee she’s the only one fit for the role, but I do believe Michael would make a conscientious effort to perform it admirably. She swore on Your name that what she told us of Gabriel was true, and I could tell from Aziraphale’s reaction that it was a significant thing to do. Ultimately the decision is of course Yours to make, but I would recommend replacing Gabriel with Michael - perhaps beginning with a trial period, to see how things go.”
“Thank you, My love. If only all leaders had such wise advisors, perhaps things would go more smoothly.”

With a flash of lightning, Gabriel joined the room, standing between God and Michael’s seats. “What is the meaning of this?” he demanded. “Why have you summoned me here? What is going on, Michael?”
“It is I who have summoned you here, Gabriel - and it is I you should be addressing,” God said, before Michael could answer.
“And just who the blazes are you, young lady?” Gabriel asked rudely.
“I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND YOU WILL SHOW PROPER REVERENCE!” She thundered, furious at his insubordination.
Realising his mistake, Gabriel bowed deeply before Her, and spluttered “God! Please forgive me! I did not recognise You!”
“Odd, that the most powerful Archangel and leader of the Choirs of Heaven should not recognise Me - when Crowley, a former demon of Hell - did.”
“I believe he had the advantage of meeting You in this form at his wedding, did he not?” Gabriel sneered - coming perilously close to once again forgetting exactly who he was talking to.


Gabriel disappeared with another flash of lightning, and God turned Her gaze on Michael.
“Will you lead the Choirs of Angels with dignity and justice?”
“I will,” Michael answered.
“Will you work alongside My Caretakers, and this group they have assembled, in their efforts to save the Earth and its people?”
“I will.”
“And will you help them to find a better name than ‘Team Save Earth’?”
“Then you are hereby restored to the leadership of Heaven. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m glad we’re finally there. Gabriel was only ever meant to be an interim leader, and I’ve wanted to punt him off a cloud more times than you know.”
The humans around the table laughed at this, and God smiled indulgently at them.
“Good luck, My loves. Call again if you need Me - this has been a surprisingly fun time!”
And with that, the young lady was gone.

At this point, observant readers may be asking themselves where these meetings are being held, and how the humans are getting there. With one deity, two Archangels, two demons, multiple famous billionaires, and five residents of Tadfield (4 of them very much underage) in attendance - in addition to their Caretaker hosts - these are reasonable questions. Some might suspect a locale in Tadfield - and with an airfield the billionaires could almost certainly pay the US military exorbitantly for private access to, this isn't a bad guess. It is however, an incorrect one. The actual location is Aziraphale and Crowley's house in Winchester, and how the humans get there is a lot better for the environment than private jets and public transport. The husbands have by now watched thousands of movies from across every genre - and Aziraphale has read many MANY novels besides - so they were inspired to develop portals for the instantaneous transportation of human members of Team Save Earth. Each billionaire has one in their primary residence, and Anathema has one at Jasmine Cottage for herself and the Them. One simply opens a specific door at their end while Aziraphale and Crowley have their corresponding portal door open, and steps through. If the door in Winchester is closed, the door opens onto an ordinary-looking linen cupboard.

Astute readers are probably also wondering what the billionaires were told when bringing them on board. The simple answer is - the truth. Bill and Melinda Gates assumed that Aziraphale and Crowley were joking about their nature, and were in fact eccentric billionaires themselves, trying to maintain their privacy. Warren Buffet made similar assumptions, and Jeff Bezos didn't stick around long enough to find out. Elon Musk however called them out on their claim of being angels, and insisted they prove it. Thus, the entire group were marched out to the garden, and both Aziraphale and Crowley spread their wings. Elon's response was a simple "huh - nice colouring!", and everyone marched back inside to continue their discussions.

Apologies - we digress. Back to the story.

After God had departed, Michael stood and said "I should probably get up there and sort things out. Let me know when the next gathering is going to be held, and I shall be here. Dagon, if I may make a suggestion - I believe you would be wise to bring Beelzebub into the fold. They will not like being on the sidelines now that I am part of this."
"I may be a demon, but I'm not an idiot. Bringing Beelzebub along is an obvious next step, if I want my existence to continue - which I do," Dagon retorted.
Michael sighed, bid everyone farewell, then departed with a flash of light.

Dagon then rose and said "I should get down there and talk to Beelz. Let me know when to be here and I'll bring them with me. This could get interesting though - I hope you've got insurance on this place." Dagon walked outside, and descended through the patch of dirt Crowley had cleared as their designated place to travel through without destroying the garden. The billionaires made their own farewells and used the portal to travel home, leaving Aziraphale, Crowley, Anathema and the Them in relative peace and quiet until Anathema glanced at the clock and said "I should get the four of you home." The Them began to mutiny, but Aziraphale quelled them, saying "we want you to be allowed to keep coming - best you go home in time for your dinner". After hugs all around, Adam, Pepper, Brian and Wensleydale followed Anathema through the portal to Jasmine Cottage.

Crowley closed the portal door, and the two Caretakers heaved a sigh of relief as they had their home to themselves for the first time in several hours. They were pleased with their progress, but dealing with people from such wildly different walks of life was exhausting. They collapsed side-by-side onto Aziraphale's old couch and twined their fingers together. After sitting in companionable silence for a while, Crowley half-turned his head and said "so, Michael's back in charge Upstairs. How do you feel about that?"
"I think she'll do a better job of it that Gabriel has, but I'm glad she's not my boss anymore," Aziraphale answered.

After a peaceful lull, Aziraphale said "I can't believe Pepper roused at God the way she did."
Crowley chuckled. "I can! She stood up to War without batting an eye - doesn't surprise me at all that she'd call out anyone who tries to bluff her."
"What a pseudonym to go by, though! Catherine Amelia Trousers - puts an interesting spin on the 'God spelled backwards is Dog' thing people are forever pointing out."
"I quite like it. It suits Her, especially in the human form She's using lately. She always was a lot more like a cat than a dog, after all. Loves being loved but isn't afraid to claw your eyes out if you do the wrong thing."
Aziraphale laughed and said "You know, I never would have drawn that comparison before today, but you're right. It suits Her very well indeed."

After another stretch of quiet, Crowley climbed into Aziraphale's lap, and kissed him. "I love you, Angel."
"I love you too, Crowley dear. What would you like to do tonight?"
"I would like to go to our bedroom, change into pyjamas, slide under the blankets, and curl myself around you for about 12 hours. At dawn, I would like to go out to the backyard and dance under the sprinkler with our wings out, like that sulphur-crested cockatoo we saw on YouTube."
"That sounds quite lovely, dear. Lead the way."

Once under the covers, Crowley wrapped himself around Aziraphale like the more-or-less-human embodiment of a snake, tucked his head into the curve of Aziraphale's neck and shoulder, and went to sleep. Aziraphale lay with his arms around his husband, thinking of all they had accomplished, and how much remained yet to do. He wasn’t particularly eager for Beelzebub and Michael to be in their home at the same time, but things had worked out well enough so far, and Dagon was sure to tell the Prince of Hell that God Herself had demoted Gabriel in their presence. There was no telling how this news might be received, given their history - but Aziraphale felt that God had made the right decision, no matter how Beelzebub took it.

They lay tangled together until the sun began to rise, when they changed into board shorts they’d originally bought for a day at the beach. Crowley turned on the sprinkler, and spreading their wings wide, they ran in and out of its spray, twirling and zigzagging, laughing like small children on a hot summer's day. This had become one of their small pleasures, and if their neighbours (who were not at all close by) thought it odd that grown men would play under the sprinkler at dawn, Aziraphale and Crowley were none the wiser. When they tired of their game, they sat on the verandah and gently preened each other's wings, realigning each feather with care until every primary, secondary, tertial and covert sat perfectly.

As Crowley smoothed the last feather into place, he enquired "breakfast, Angel?"
"Oh yes please, dear," Aziraphale answered.
"What would you like?"
"A ham and cheese croissant would go down a treat. And some tea, I think."
"Alright, you start the tea, I'll start the food."
"Thank you, my love."
In a strange twist of fate, Aziraphale enjoyed eating food but was an abysmal cook, whilst Crowley rarely ate much but excelled at preparing a wide variety of meals. They'd accepted it as one of those "isn't this odd - thank goodness we have each other" things that life so often throws at people, and fallen into a comfortable rhythm. In fact, Crowley had discovered that he enjoyed cooking almost as much as gardening - though he still hadn't figured out whether this was due to the cooking itself, or how enthusiastically Aziraphale showed his appreciation for the effort.

After breakfast they sent messages to each member of Team Save Earth (please SOMEBODY, think of a better name!) to begin the rather tedious process of finding a time for their next meeting that suited everybody. The Them preferred Saturdays and Sundays due to school. The billionaires preferred weekdays because they wanted to spend weekends with their families. The demons didn’t really care, their schedules were pretty flexible. Michael requested some time to settle back into the role of leading in Heaven, and dealing with Gabriel - which they thought was perfectly understandable. Anathema suggested a short weekday afternoon meeting so that the Them could attend after school - with the sole purpose of bringing Beelzebub up to speed. It was this compromise that settled the date, and a few weeks later they gathered once more in Winchester.

Anathema and the Them arrived promptly at 4pm, with the billionaires arriving only a few minutes later (time is money, as the saying goes). Michael arrived next with an angel none of them recognised in tow, and last were Eric, Dagon and Beelzebub. Everyone seated around the table was talking to their neighbour and the volume in the room became such that Azairaphale’s gentle calls to attention were ignored until Pepper noticed. Lacking no self-confidence of her own, and having recently been allowed to watch the Harry Potter movies, she channelled her inner Ginny Weasley, stood on her chair, and yelled “OI!!! SHUT IT!!!” At this everyone fell silent, and Beelzebub gaped at the audacity this young child was once again displaying.

Aziraphale nodded his thanks to Pepper, and she took her seat. He began by saying “Thank you all for coming. The purpose of this meeting is first and foremost to bring Lord Beelzebub up to speed, and to allow everyone not already acquainted with them to become so. Firstly though, I would ask you, Michael, to please introduce your guest.”
Michael and the unfamiliar angel stood, and Michael said “This is Haniel - God Herself has asked her to be my assistant, as I cannot trust Uriel or Sandalphon - they have sided with Gabriel, and the malcontents are seeding discord amongst the Choirs even as we speak. Haniel will be my representative here for any meeting which I am unable to attend - which sadly may be all of them, as I try to prevent another Civil War. I would ask you to extend her every courtesy you would show me, and to please keep her informed of all pertinent information.”

Beelzebub looked at Michael with surprise - they were one of very few demons with any memory of the first Civil War, and despite Dagon’s thorough recitation of the previous meeting, had not expected to find Michael so changed. The Prince of Hell was impressed, and thus spoke kindly to their archrival. “I know what it izzz to have the seedzzz of dizzzcord planted, watered, and nourished at all timezzz. If you truly wish to avoid another Civil War, you muzzzt find a way to unite all the Choirzzz. Thizzz tazzzk the traitorouzzz Caretakerzzz have brought uzzz into may be that unifying force, if you utilizzze it fully, azzz I intend to.”

All eyes turned to Beelzebub at this, and Crowley asked “What DO you intend to do, if I may ask?”
“I intend for every demon to work towardzzz saving the animalzzz they have an affinity with, and the habitatzzz thereof. I personally intend to save not only my preciouzzz fliezzz, but all buzzing insectzzz - most ezzzpecially the beezzz, azzz I cannot have honey for my fliezzz if they all die out.”
Michael blinked widely at Beelzebub’s justification for saving not only flies, but bees as well, and said “I don’t know whether to be disappointed or impressed. You have found a way to make saving God’s creatures a selfish act.”
“Of courzzze I have - they wouldn’t do it otherwizzze!”
“I meant no disrespect, Beelzebub. We are longtime adversaries, but in this we are united. If presenting it as a selfish act is what works best, then you will hear no argument from me on the matter. I was merely remarking that my nature tells me it’s a terrible idea, but the outcome we are striving for requires creative thinking, which you have always excelled at.”
Beelzebub calmed at this, and nodded. “Very well. If you need my ‘creative thinking’ for how to bezzzt prezzzent it to the Choirzzz, you may azzzk it of me.”

“Actually, we need your creative thinking to come up with a better name than Team Save Earth,” Adam piped up.
“Ah, young antichrizzzt. Who came up with that pathetic name?”
“I did,” said Aziraphale.
“I should have known. I am surprizzzed Crowley didn’t come up with something better. Azzz a star-shaper he had so much potential and creativity. Perhapzzz he is getting soft now that he izzz married to you.”
“That’s enough insulting my husband, thank you,” said Crowley.
“They insulted you too, my dear,” interjected Aziraphale.
“I know, but I’m used to it, I don’t actually care. Insulting you is a low blow.”
“I’m fine dear, thank you.”
“Ugh, enough with thizzz mushy nonsenzzze! Team Save Earth is a pathetic name, and none of you should stand for it.”
“Well then, what’s your suggestion?”
“Hogwarts!” Pepper exclaimed suddenly.

Anathema, Elon and the Them caught on almost immediately, but everyone else looked at her blankly. (Aziraphale and Crowley hadn’t got around to watching the Harry Potter movies yet.) Anathema brought up the Hogwarts crest on her phone and showed the older billionaires, angels, and demons. The billionaires realised what Pepper was suggesting, but angels and demons can be surprisingly thick at times, and needed it explained in simple terms.

Pepper pointed at the phone as she spoke. “Look at the big H in the middle. In the Harry Potter universe it stands for Hogwarts - the magic school they go to - but for us it could be Heaven, Hell, or Humanity - we all start with H. And we need magic if we’re going to succeed. Whether it’s angelic magic, demonic magic, or human magic - which you guys,” she pointed to the billionaires, “call money. And at the end, the houses have to work together to defeat Voldemort and his Death Eaters. That’s like us too - we have to work together if we’re going to save the Earth. So we’re Hogwarts.”

The Them started singing the Hogwarts school song. Anathema quickly joined in, followed by Elon, but they’d lost everyone else again, and Pepper had more explaining to do. “It’s the Hogwarts school song - it could be our theme song!”
“Do we need a theme song?” Michael asked.
“All good teams have a song!” Pepper argued.
“She’s not wrong,” Bill said.
“Alright young mizzz with the frizzz, teach uzzz thizzz song,” Beelzebub ordered.

The Them began to sing again:
🎶 “Hogwarts, Hogwarts
Hoggy warty Hogwarts
Teach us something please
Whether we be old and bald
Or young with scabby knees
Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff
For now they’re bare and full of air
Dead flies and bits of fluff
So teach us things worth knowing
Bring back what we’ve forgot
Just do you best, we’ll do the rest
And learn until our brains all rot!”🎶

“Dead fliezzz and bitzzz of fluff?!” Beelzebub asked, aghast.
“It’s just a song,” Pepper said, trying to soothe the demon.
“It’s not ACTUALLY about dead flies, it’s a metaphor,” said Wensleydale.
“Yeah!” said Brian, finally feeling confident enough to speak up now that he was the only Them who hadn’t yet, and only needed to agree with his friend.
“It’s also got the lines about old and bald or young with scabby knees - we’ve got scabby knees, and some of you are pretty old, so that’s another thing the song is good for - it unites us, just like the students and professors at Hogwarts,” said Adam.
“Some of us are older than Time itself,” Michael said.
“Even better then - you’re not bald, but you’re definitely what I call old, if you’re older than Time.”
“I do not feel so old right now, young antichrist. I could sing this Hogwarts song, I think. I do lead the Choirs, after all.”
“Should we try and all sing it together?” Pepper asked.
They all nodded, some more confidently than others, and Pepper led them in their new Team Song.
“It will require practice,” Michael said when they finished.
“Yezzz, it certainly will,” agreed Beelzebub.

After that things went quite smoothly. Michael attended as many meetings as she could, and Haniel attended all of them, along with the rest of Hogwarts! (Team Save Earth). Michael eventually quelled the attempted uprisings in Heaven, and convinced the Choirs to work towards her chosen goals. Where their efforts overlapped with that of Hell, she coordinated with Beelzebub, and both sides worked in conjunction with the billionaires to redirect humanity. It was slow going and hard work, with many setbacks (mostly caused by selfish humans), but things gradually improved as their work continued. At one particularly memorable meeting, Michael opened a communication channel to Heaven, and surprised the rest of the Team with a rousing rendition of the Hogwarts song, sung by all the Choirs of angels. Not to be outdone, Beelzebub opened a channel to Hell and had the demons do likewise. Their version was more like what one might expect from a gathering of death metal bands rather than celestial harmonies, but it was impressive nonetheless.

Aziraphale and Crowley slowly got used to working with their odd assortment of colleagues, and enjoyed their alone time together on the days in between. One quiet afternoon there was a knock at their front door, and they opened it to find Eric standing there. “Would you please help me? As you both know, I’d like to ask God if I may join you as Caretakers. I’m ready to ask, but I don’t know if She will answer my call.”
“Of course we will help you,” Aziraphale said.
“Please, come in,” added Crowley.
And so he did.

^ The team name needs work - they know this, we know this, it is what it is. [return to text]

Chapter Text

“Angel, get your butt down here, they’ll be arriving any minute!” Crowley shouted up the stairs at his husband, who was likely fussing over something ridiculous - like whether his tie was straight or not.
“I’ll be there in two shakes of a lamb’s tail!” Aziraphale called back.
“Make it one shake of a lamb’s tail or I’m coming up there to get you!”
“No need for that dear,” Aziraphale said, as he exited their bedroom and headed for the stairs, wearing an utterly ridiculous pair of glasses with the zeros of 2030 forming the lenses.
Crowley still couldn’t quite believe it had been a full decade since he and Aziraphale had helped to avert the apocalypse, become Caretakers, married each other, and founded a team of assorted angels, demons and humans to save the world on a more permanent basis. Yet here they were - happily married, still living in Winchester - about to celebrate the new year by hosting a party for their odd collection of friends.

Aziraphale had hand-written the invitations in his finest calligraphy and sent them out months earlier, and almost everyone had accepted immediately. The billionaires of Hogwarts! (Team Save Earth) + had very politely declined, but it was looking to be quite the gathering even without them. Michael and Haniel were coming from Heaven - Beelzebub and Dagon from Hell. Eric was coming from just next door - Madame Tracy and Sergeant Shadwell from the little bungalow they called Shangri-La. Anathema, Newt and the Them were all coming from Tadfield, and even Warlock was making the trip over from Canada to attend - with his girlfriend in tow!

Warlock had joined Hogwarts! (Team Save Earth) a few years earlier, after being forced to wait until his 18th birthday to get away from his obnoxious turd-stain of a father. His mother was still a kind woman and kept in touch, but he was much happier living on campus at his university in Ottawa - which is where he’d met Alicia. This would be their first time meeting her, and Crowley hoped she could handle the eclectic assortment of people she’d be shortly introduced to. He didn’t know what Warlock had told her about them, but that was up to Warlock - Crowley trusted the young man he’d become, and was proud of his former charge.

The Them had become admirable young adults also, with all four working through tertiary studies in their chosen fields. Adam was studying environmental science and driving his lecturers nuts with stories about the Kraken and other mythical creatures. Pepper was doing some long-winded thing about Women of History, and quite frankly was likely to join their ranks - she was a force of nature and nothing would stop her. Brian was studying engineering, with a focus on waste reclamation, and fully intended to revolutionise the industry after graduation. Wensleydale had decided on business law, and hoped to go into politics with the aim of drafting legislation that would force recalcitrant laggers into compliance with environmentally responsible practices.

Anathema and Newt had married a year or so after Aziraphale and Crowley, and now had two young children - who would be spending the evening with their grandparents, to give the couple a rare night out without them. Anathema’s mother had not reacted well to the burning of Agnes Nutter’s second collection of prophecies, but Newt had slowly won her over, and she adored little Deanna and Thomas. Newt’s parents had taken to Anathema immediately, were doting grandparents, and had invited Anathema’s mother to stay with them any time she cared to visit. They were a happy little family, and the children made Crowley smile whenever he saw them.

Madame Tracy and (retired) Sergeant Shadwell had also married, though thankfully NOT reproduced. It had taken several years of wedded bliss before Crowley had managed to forgive Shadwell for discorporating Aziraphale. He still wasn’t overly fond of the former Witchfinder, but as Aziraphale was very fond of Madame Tracy and the couple were a package deal, had agreed to his being invited to the party.

Eric (formerly the Disposable Demon) had become a Caretaker like Aziraphale and Crowley themselves. Crowley still thought fondly of the afternoon when Eric had come knocking on their door, asking for their help to get in touch with God so that he could make the request. Aziraphale had called for Her, and She had answered - undoubtedly already knowing what Eric was about to ask, but allowing him the opportunity to do so anyway. She had granted it immediately, giving him vibrant wings in shades that were a midway point between Crowley’s own dark gemstone tones and Aziraphale’s light ones. He often marched at Pride parades with his wings on full display, allowing humans to think they were an elaborate costume he’d created. He’d become the primary liaison between Heaven and Hell, and was hopeful that Dagon might join him as a Caretaker some day. They were certainly very fond of each other, but Dagon still prided themselves on their work as Lord of the Files and Master of Torments, and Crowley wasn’t sure they’d ever give that up - but stranger things had happened before and likely would again.

Crowley opened the portal door in readiness for the Tadfield contingent, and Aziraphale peeked out the front window to see if anyone else was arriving. This was spectacular timing on his part, as Warlock and Alicia had got out of their hire car, and were walking up the front path towards the house. Aziraphale threw the door wide open and called out "Hello! Welcome! Welcome! Please, do come in!” Aziraphale hugged each of them as they crossed the threshold, and Crowley followed suit as they came into the living room. Warlock beamed as he introduced them to Alicia, and it became clear very quickly that he’d hidden nothing from her. Warlock himself had demanded the truth from them years earlier, and prided himself on being honest to others - likely in response to the lies and half-truths he’d heard so often from his father. Alicia was a vibrant young woman, and Crowley suspected that she and Pepper would become fast friends when they met.

This moment occurred only a few minutes later when Adam, Pepper, Brian and Wensleydale came through the portal. Alicia turned to Warlock and asked “Why didn’t we come through that?”
“I wanted to treat you to a proper holiday you can actually tell your parents about, for one thing. Plus I kind of wanted to waste Dad’s frequent flyer points on first class airfares as punishment for forgetting my birthday. He may not remember when I was born, but he’ll notice the change in his points balance.” Warlock answered.
“Your adoptive Dad is almost as big a jerk as my biological one.” Adam said, poking Warlock in the arm.
“Yeah, well, my adoptive Dad will be joining your biological one in Hell some day, and serve him right. How are you doing, twin?” Warlock asked as he gave Adam one of those manly hugs with three thumps on the back.
“Yeah, not bad, twin. Drove another lecturer mad this week with my Kraken theory.”
“Nice! Twin, meet Alicia - Alicia, meet my birthday bud Adam - the literal antichrist who stopped Armageddon.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Alicia said, smiling.

Adam then introduced Alicia to Pepper, Brian and Wensleydale, saying “These awesome people are my mates Pepper - never just Pep, she’ll thump you - Brian - the one with the Ron Weasley smudge on his nose - and Wensleydale - who dresses like a lawyer because one day he’ll be one. We’re known as the Them, and have been since we were kids - but I’m sure Warlock’s told you about us.”
“He has,” Alicia said. “I’ve heard all about his twin-that’s-not-his-twin, the girl that kicked War’s ass, the boy who fought Pollution and is working on fighting it as a man too, and the “lawyeriest lawyer who’s not yet a lawyer” - that’s a direct quote Wensleydale, I’m so sorry.”
The Them laughed at these descriptions, and Pepper gave Alicia a hug. “It’s nice to finally meet the girl Warlock thinks is worth bringing across the pond to meet Nanny Ashtoreth and Brother Francis!”

In the three years since Warlock had joined the team, he’d shared stories of his childhood with the Them, and Aziraphale and Crowley had added their own perspectives, so everyone knew exactly who they were to each other. They’d kept these details from the billionaires, but Anathema and Newt knew as well - and the group felt like an extended family. To be able to welcome another member to it was a joy, and Crowley was suddenly very glad that Aziraphale had suggested this party.

Anathema and Newt came through the portal as they were all sitting down to cups of tea, plainly mid-conversation as they came into the room.
“It’s ONE NIGHT, Newt! They’re with our parents - they’ll watch the fireworks on TV and eat too much junk food, they’ll be tired and cranky tomorrow, and everything will go back to normal on the second. It will be FINE.” Anathema had obviously made this argument already and was rapidly reaching the end of her tether.
Aziraphale stood and took her gently by the elbow, saying “Come into the kitchen, my dear and I’ll make you a cuppa.”
Crowley stood also, and took Newt out to the garden with a gruff “I need your opinion on something.”

Once outside, Crowley turned on Newt and said “Look, I get it, being away from the kids is hard - I remember what it was like when Warlock was little and his father bothered to pay him any attention. It took him away from me, and it stung more than I ever would have admitted at the time. But you and Anathema need time away from them every now and then - it’s healthy, it’s normal, and they WILL be fine - because you trust your parents and Anathema’s mother, and because kids are always tougher than they look. They’re going to have a fun night driving their grandparents batty, and you are going to have fun here - OR ELSE!”
Looking abashed, Newt said “You know, sometimes I still can’t believe she married me. I definitely still can’t believe she agreed to have kids with me! I’m the luckiest man alive, and I pinch myself every day. They’re my whole world.”
“I know, Newt. Aziraphale has been my whole world for 6000 years, and it nearly killed me when I thought I’d lost him. But this isn’t the apocalypse, it’s a party. Unwind for a few hours. Relax! Enjoy spending some time with your wife without the kids snotting on your sleeve. Let her have some fun hanging out with actual grown-ups for a change. Alright?”
“Yeah, alright. Thanks, Crowley.”
“Right. Let’s go back inside.”

Meanwhile in the kitchen, Aziraphale had been braiding Anathema’s hair as she quietly sipped a cup of steaming chamomile. He’d had a lot of practice at braiding with Crowley keeping his hair long, and his deft fingers made intricate designs with her dark tresses, the gentle movements across her scalp soothing almost as much as the tea. Newt poked his head into the kitchen as Aziraphale was finishing up, and his face melted when he saw her. Aziraphale slipped silently out of the room as Newt sat opposite his wife, and gently took her hand not holding the cup. “I’m sorry. I know I need to let go a bit. I love you. More than words can say.”
“I love you too, Newt.”
“Your hair looks beautiful. Aziraphale should have been a stylist.”
“Aziraphale knew I just needed some quiet time. I haven’t had a chance to do more than wash and brush my hair in months. I think he miracled my split ends as he braided.”
“Maybe he could do your hair for you every so often? Crowley and I could take the kids to the park.”
“That sounds wonderful. Thank you, darling.”
They kissed, then stood and went to rejoin the others in the living room.

Madame Tracy and (retired) Sergeant Shadwell arrived as Anathema and Newt returned, and a few minutes later, Eric arrived with Dagon and Beelzebub. After becoming a Caretaker, Eric had bought the property next door to Aziraphale and Crowley - freeing them from possibly the worst neighbours imaginable in the process. Dagon and Beelzebub had also changed in the last decade, though not as much as Eric.

All the demons had changed to some extent, as they cared for the animals they had affinities with, and tended the environment. Many of their temptations now revolved around doing good things for selfish reasons rather than genuine evil, and it had made Hell a much more pleasant place to work. Souls doomed to eternal torment performed hard labour - cleaning first Hell itself and then the parts of Earth worst damaged by humanity. The foulest offenders worked in places such as Chernobyl, where the radioactive remnants were a torment even without a physical body.

Heaven was similarly changed under Michael’s second reign. Gone were the stark barrenness and false nicety - replaced instead with a lush paradise and genuine kindness. Angels tended the environment in ways demons could not, and cared for those animals that no demon had an affinity with. Haniel was particularly fond of the big cats, with cheetahs her favourite - the way they purred like oversized house cats had endeared them to her the moment Crowley had shown her a video on the internet. Hell had its hounds, so it seemed only fitting that Heaven be a haven for the sort of animal God Herself kept as a pet. Michael and Haniel arrived moments after the demons, completing the guest list at last.

As large as their living room was it had not been designed with accommodating 17 people simultaneously, so the party proper was to be held outside. Crowley had acquired several large outdoor heaters to keep the temperature comfortable for the humans, and Aziraphale had strung twinkle lights around the garden for lighting. Crowley had spent much of the last two days cooking, and the tables groaned with a wide variety of dishes - kept miraculously hot or cool as needed - with every guest’s favourite food included.

After dinner they cleared the tables and sat drinking their way through an assortment of Aziraphale’s best wines. With the legal drinking age in both Canada and the UK being 18, Warlock and Alicia were as familiar with wine as the Them were - though obviously far less so than Aziraphale and Crowley, who’d been drinking it since about a month after it was invented. They were sharing a bottle (or several) of Moscato and contemplating dessert when Gabriel appeared in the backyard with a flash of lighting that singed the grass, and everyone yelped as they spilled wine on themselves.

“Look what you made us do!” Crowley yelled.
“I didn’t ‘make’ you do anything,” Gabriel retorted.
“What are you doing here?” Aziraphale asked.
“Yes, Gabriel, I’d like to know that too, if you don’t mind,” said Michael.
“I was looking for you, and I was told you were here. I thought it was one of your meetings - I wasn’t aware you were attending a party,” Gabriel explained.
“And why were you looking for me?” Michael enquired.
“It’s about the polar ice caps. I wanted to let you know, it’s just been confirmed - they’ve stopped shrinking. In fact, it looks like they might be getting bigger again. We can’t be sure of that yet, but they’ve definitely stopped shrinking. I know you were waiting on the report, so I thought I’d give you the good news. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“The interruption is a welcome one, considering the tidings. Thank you, Gabriel.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll leave you to enjoy your party.”

Sharing a brief exchange of glances, Aziraphale and Crowley silently agreed, and Aziraphale said “this party is as much about celebrating our successes as it is about welcoming the new year. You’ve just given us another thing to celebrate. You’d be welcome to stay, if you’d like.”
“I wouldn’t want to impose.” Gabriel said.
“It’s no imposition. Please. Join us.”
“If you’re sure.”
“We’re sure,” Crowley said, miracling the wine out of everyone’s clothes, then pouring a glass for the angel.
“I. Uh. I don’t…”
“Yes you do,” Michael said. “Miracle the alcohol out of it if you want to stay sober, but tonight you will do as we do. When we drink, you drink. When we eat, you eat. When we dance, you dance. When we chat, you chat. It’s high time you learn to live a little, Gabriel. All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy - as the human saying goes.”

Gabriel hesitantly sniffed the wine Crowley had given him. It was light and fruity, and everyone seemed to be enjoying it - including Michael. He took the tiniest sip possible, and let it sit on his tongue. It was sweet. He wasn’t sure if he liked it or not, so he took a larger sip, and held it in his mouth for a moment before swallowing. It was...fine? It wasn’t bad, at least. He slowly drank the entire glass, trying to figure out how he felt about it. He still didn’t know. Everyone had gone back to their conversations as he drank, but Aziraphale had been watching this careful contemplation, and poured a glass of a deep red wine, handing it to Gabriel as he finished the moscato. “White wines aren’t everyone’s preference. Try this one next.”

Gabriel took an equally hesitant sniff of the new wine, and his eyes lit up. It had an aroma he couldn’t place but instantly liked. Taking a sip, he discovered this too was sweet, but very different to the moscato. He drank this glass more quickly than the first, and knew for certain that he liked it. Seeing the smile on Gabriel’s face, Aziraphale told him “that one is actually sacramental wine. Catholic churches use it all the time at Mass.”
Gabriel looked shocked, and Aziraphale reassured him. “Don’t worry, it’s fine - we haven’t blessed it, Beelzebub and Dagon couldn’t drink it if we had - it’s just a nice wine that churches happen to prefer.”

Beelzebub glanced over when they heard their name, and laughed. “I like that one. I like it even more, knowing I shouldn’t be allowed to drink it.”
Gabriel frowned, then actively chose to be kind (something he’d been practicing recently), and asked “what other wine do you like?”
Stunned by this polite response, Beelzebub blinked at him for a moment, then said “I prefer red to white, unlezzz it izzz sparkling - I like the bubblezzz.”
“We have champagne for the toasts later,” Aziraphale told him.
Seeing that Gabriel had no idea what this meant, Crowley added “champagne is a type of sparkling wine - it has bubbles, as Beelzebub said. And toasts are short speeches - things to celebrate, and things we hope to celebrate in the future.”

Aziraphale poured Gabriel another glass of wine - red again, but different from the first. Anathema noticed the bottle and encouraged the angel, saying “that one’s my favourite - give it a try.”
Gabriel sniffed the wine, less hesitantly this time, and then took a sip. It had a strong, bold flavour, and wasn’t sweet, but was somehow even better for it. He drank deeply, and Anathema put a hand up to slow him. “Careful, Gabriel. You don’t yet know how the alcohol will affect you. Just enjoy the flavours, there’s no rush.”
He smiled at this kindness, and nodded his understanding.

After that, he fell into the rhythm of the conversation, slowly relaxing and getting the hang of talking to everyone. He’d never spent much time with people beyond performing blessings, but everyone at the party was friendly - except perhaps Shadwell, who would better be described as civil. As the evening progressed the mood became ever more celebratory, and when Warlock decided it was time for dancing his Godfathers obliged - Aziraphale bringing out the new stereo system, and Crowley loading the playlist he’d organised in anticipation of the event.

“OK, team song first, let’s get it out of the way,” Crowley said, and they all sang the Hogwarts theme together - even Gabriel.
“Right, now that that’s done - dancing!”
Next up was Queen’s Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Gabriel was astounded at the ludicrous display this elicited, until Newt sidled up to him and said “we all became fans of a TV show called Doctor Who, because there was an actor in it who’s the spitting image of Crowley. One of the other people in it dances like that at a wedding. They know they look ridiculous, but it’s fun - and if you can’t be ridiculous around your friends, you probably need new friends.”
“I don’t know if I have friends,” Gabriel said quietly.
“Well, maybe after tonight you will. If not these guys, then find some people you like. Angels, or humans, or whoever. You can figure it out. You’re immortal, you have forever to figure it out - if it takes that long.”
“I... I hope it doesn’t take that long.”
Newt grabbed Gabriel’s arm and said “come on. Let’s go be ridiculous.”

It’s been established that angels don’t generally dance, and that whilst demons do, it’s not what we’d call good dancing. That however, was before angels and demons started to hang out socially with humans, and both sides started to unwind. Aziraphale still enjoyed the gavotte more than anything else, but with Crowley’s aid had of course learnt to waltz. Together they’d learnt the jive and cha-cha. Dagon and Eric had mastered the bump & grind - and looked positively sinful doing so. Michael and Haniel had learnt the waltz from Aziraphale and Crowley, and then taken lessons together - at an actual dance school - for other styles of ballroom dancing. Fortunately for Gabriel, neither Beelzebub nor the humans present danced in any of these styles, and they helped him muddle his way through “being ridiculous” as Newt had so fondly called it.

Some songs were more about singing along than dancing, and it seemed everyone but Gabriel knew The Beatles’ Revolution. He listened carefully to the lyrics, and as the song faded out, asked “why isn’t THAT the team song? It seems ideal.”
It was one of those moments when a newcomer is better placed to see the scope of a thing, and the entire team looked at each other, stunned.
“Why didn’t we think of that ten years ago?!” Crowley exclaimed.
“The Revolution would have been a good team name, too,” Aziraphale added.
Newt gave Gabriel a warm smile, and said “see. It didn’t take you long to figure it out.”
Gabriel looked at Newt with a puzzled little frown and asked “what do you mean?”
“That’s how you make friends. You have good ideas, you share them. You bounce ideas off each other - good, bad, weird, fun, whatever - and you listen when they’re saying something - whether it’s important or not. You - you feel good together. You feel good right now, don’t you?”
“Yes?” Gabriel said, sounding unsure of the fact.
“If you’re not used to it it can feel a bit odd. But you’re on the right track,” Newt said encouragingly.
“Thank you.” Gabriel said.

After dancing for some time, Aziraphale decided they needed dessert “for the energy boost”. With a variety of cakes and slices, pies and tarts, fresh fruit and cream, ice cream, chocolates and truffles, there was something for everyone - and Gabriel tried a small sample of everything. Aziraphale was impressed with his taster plate, and applauded his decision to give it a red-hot go and find out what he liked. As it turned out, what he liked best was the Death By Chocolate cake, and he went back immediately for a full slice.
Beelzebub sidled over and said “that’zzz how I want to go, if I ever die.”
“Sorry...what?” Gabriel asked.
“Dizzzcorporate, whatever. Death by chocolate seemzzz like the bezzzt way to go - at leazzzt you’d go happy. And not mezzzy like defenezzztration...though I do like throwing thingzzz out of windowzzz.”
“Throwing things out of windows can be...cathartic,” Gabriel agreed.
“Yeet! Azzz the young folk say.”
“We haven’t said ‘yeet!’ in about 10 years Beelz. Hate to break it to you,” Adam said as he headed back for more dessert.
Beelzebub poked their tongue at Adam’s back, and Gabriel laughed.

When Crowley played War by Edwin Starr, Pepper sang the entire thing - with Adam, Brian and Wensleydale doing back up vocals. They’d clearly sung it together many times, and the others all joined in on the bits they knew. Even Gabriel joined in, towards the end - having finally realised that he was glad Armaggeddon had been averted, as none of this would have been possible if The War To End All Wars had gone ahead. Warlock then scream-sang Angel’s Eye by Aerosmith, which Crowley chuckled at - he was pretty sure Aziraphale had put him up to it, with his penchant for songs with any mention of angels.

Anathema sang a lovely song called You Gotta Be, by Des’ree, and Madame Tracy surprised them all by singing the chorus with her. Crowley then played a song from the soundtrack of The Greatest Showman - one of the many movies they’d watched together. He knew Aziraphale loved This Is Me by Kesha, as he sometimes sang it in the shower even now - it had become his battle-cry, shouting to the universe that he wouldn’t change who he was - because who he was was glorious. To Crowley’s great wonder and joy, Anathema, Newt, the Them, Warlock, Alicia, and Madame Tracy all joined Aziraphale in belting it out. Aziraphale was in tears by the end, and when Crowley gathered him in for a hug, everyone else did too - a giant 18-person scrum of a group hug, arms tangling together and twining around each other in this shared moment that a little over 10 years prior never would have happened.

At 11:30pm they sat in a circle with glasses of champagne, making toasts. Aziraphale thanked Crowley for never giving up hope that they could be together, even when things had been their most bleak.
Crowley thanked Aziraphale for having the courage to love him in return, and for making their home his favourite place in the world to be.
Michael thanked Aziraphale and Crowley for refusing to back down, even in the face of God Herself, and for bringing all of them together - both as a team to save the world, and for this night to celebrate it.
Beelzebub echoed Michael’s sentiments, and then thanked Michael for being willing to put old grievances aside and work together.
Eric thanked Aziraphale and Crowley for their help in becoming a Caretaker, and Dagon for being his closest friend, even once he was no longer a demon.
Anathema thanked Newt for helping her to break free of being a professional descendant, and find out who she was in her own right.
Newt thanked her for choosing him over Agnes.
Adam thanked Pepper, Brian and Wensleydale for always standing by him.
Pepper, Brian and Wensleydale thanked Adam for loving Dog even when he was losing his mind as the literal antichrist, and for keeping them together as they’d grown up.
Shadwell thanked Madame Tracy for helping him to be less of a grumpy bastard, and Madame Tracy thanked him for becoming less of one.
Warlock thanked Aziraphale and Crowley for being his Godfathers, and Alicia for coming with him to meet all of these strange and wonderful people.
Finally, Gabriel thanked Adam for rejecting his Satanic father, enabling the past decade to happen - and Aziraphale and Crowley for making an inadvertent gatecrasher feel welcome at their party.

Then came the hopes and dreams and wishful thinking.
Michael began with, “I hope that the polar ice-caps really are getting bigger.”
Beelzebub countered, “I hope the reportzzz that beezzz are no longer in danger izzz right.”
“I hope that our successes continue,” added Haniel.
“I hope that we stay friends for the rest of our lives,” said Adam.
“Me too,” said Pepper.
“Me three,” added Brian.
“And me,” said Wensleydale.

“I hope that the children go to bed right after the fireworks and aren’t too cranky tomorrow,” said Newt - possibly the least realistic one so far.
“I hope that Deanna and Thomas grow up having friends as wonderful as the Them,” said Anathema, gently digging her husband in the ribs with her elbow.
Newt smiled at her and said, “alright, yeah, that’s a better one.”
“I hope that I remembered to turn off the stove,” said Shadwell.
Madame Tracy laughed and told him, “you didn’t, but I checked it before we left, so Shangri-La will still be there tomorrow. I hope that we have many more years together to share it.”

Eric went next, saying “I hope that one day Dagon will join me here on Earth as a Caretaker.” He’d told Aziraphale and Crowley of this hope previously, but never Dagon. The demon looked at him, and said “I hope that you’ll forgive me that I can’ least...not yet.”
“I do forgive you. I’m still going to hold onto my hope that one day you will, though.”
“I can’t promise I will, but I promise that if I do, you’ll be the first to know.”
“That’s good enough for me.”

“I hope that the love of my life will marry me,” said Warlock, turning to face Alicia with a ring looped over the top of one index finger. Alicia’s eyes had been half-closed as she listened to everyone else, but at this they flew wide open. She looked at the ring - a simple white-gold band with a small solitaire diamond, delicate and perfectly suited for her slender fingers.
“Yes! Of course I will!” she cried, grabbing Warlock’s face in her hands and kissing him. He slid the ring onto her finger, and kissed her right back.
Shadwell muttered something that sounded very much like “bit young”, but Madame Tracy shushed him and said “when you know, you know.”
“I know,” said Warlock confidently, gazing at his now-fiancée.

“I hope that you’ll let me join your team, and have more wonderful times like this,” said Gabriel quietly, looking at his own hands, clasped together in his lap.
“The more the merrier,” answered Aziraphale.
“You’ve changed for the better, Gabriel. You’re welcome to join us,” Crowley added.
“I agree,” said Michael.
“You’re not completely inzzzufferable now. I suppozzze I can work with you,” said Beelzebub, ever the diplomat.
“Maybe you could host the next party,” suggested Newt.
“I’m not sure I’m ready for that,” said Gabriel. “I think I need to go to a few more before I can host one.”

After a moment, Aziraphale said “I hope that in another ten years we can all come back here and say the world is definitely saved, and safe.”
“I hope that my husband doesn’t kill me when I tell him we’re going to be parents,” said Crowley.
All eyes swung to Aziraphale as he screeched, “WHAT?!”
“They’re snakes, Angel. The wildlife sanctuary was looking for someone to foster three baby snakes, and I said we would.”
“We’re going to foster three baby snakes until they’re big enough to live in a zoo, and then they’ll go live in a zoo. I was thinking if it goes well we could maybe do it again - make it a regular thing.”
“We’re having snake babies?”
“Well, I am the Serpent of Eden. It seemed fitting.”
Everyone laughed at this except Aziraphale, who looked like he might pass out.

It was now 11:55pm, so they all refilled their glasses with champagne, ready for the fireworks at midnight. Crowley held Aziraphale’s hand, twining their fingers, and pressing their foreheads together as he apologised for springing the news on him the way he had. Aziraphale forgave him of course, but called him a “wily old serpent” as he did so, falling back into the old descriptor he’d used when they were adversaries and friends.

At 11:58 Gabriel noticed that everyone was partnering up - Aziraphale with Crowley, Michael with Haniel, Eric with Dagon, Anathema and Newt, Shadwell and Madame Tracy, Warlock and Alicia - even Adam with Pepper, and Brian with Wensleydale. That just left himself and Beelzebub, so assuming the pairing off meant something but having no clue what, he stood next to them and waited.

At midnight they all cheered “HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!”, and each of the couples kissed. The married and engaged couples were all very passionate. Michael and Haniel were more modest, but clearly fond of one another - and equally clearly it wasn’t their first kiss. Dagon kissed Eric in a way which suggested that - even if they didn’t become a Caretaker - they very much wanted to be in a relationship with one. Pepper kissed Adam with enough fire to indicate they wouldn’t be staying “just friends” if she had any say in the matter, and Brian placed a gentle kiss on Wensleydale’s lips that hinted at feelings he hadn’t yet said aloud. Surrounded on all sides by kissing, Gabriel grabbed Beelzebub’s arm, pulled them close, and kissed them full on the lips.

The sky was lit with fireworks not made by human hands - Aziraphale had created a light show to remember, with all of the animals their efforts had saved racing each other across the stars - but the only stars Gabriel saw were the ones in his head as Beelzebub slapped him hard across the face, shouting “what the HEAVEN wazzz that?!”
“It seems to be a new year tradition, apparently,” he answered as he waved his hands to indicate what all the other couples had done.
“Well, do it properly then!” they demanded.
Gabriel attempted to kiss Beelzebub again, but only succeeded in bashing their noses together hard enough that he saw stars for the second time in less than a minute.
“Haven’t you ever kizzzed anyone before?” Beelzebub sneered.
Blushing furiously, Gabriel stammered, “uh, no...I..uh...I haven’t, actually.”
“You’re older than time itzzzelf, and you’ve never kizzzed anyone?”
“Not until I just attempted it then, no.”
“How ridiculouzzz! You need to learn!” they said loudly, then whispering into Gabriel’s ear, added “meet me under the willow tree at the bottom of the yard in five minutezzz,” and stormed off, heading for the opposite end of the yard as though they needed to get away from such incompetence.

Gabriel stood there, stunned. His first attempt at kissing someone had been an utter disaster, and now Beelzebub expected him to meet them under the willow - for what? Kissing lessons? Discorporation? He hoped it was kissing lessons, not some sort of torment. Newt came over and tried valiantly to comfort him.
“Gabriel, honestly, don’t worry about it. We’ve all had an awkward first kiss at some point in our lives, these things happen. Beelzebub was wrong about it being ridiculous, but right about you needing to learn. You just have to find someone you trust, and get some practice. I was hopeless when Anathema kissed me the first time.”
“Thank you, Newt. I think I need to get away for a few minutes. I might just go for a walk around the garden. I haven’t looked at any of it yet, and I know how proud Aziraphale is of Crowley’s efforts. Please excuse me.”

Gabriel walked away, leaving Newt to worry about the angel. He walked around the edge of the garden, looking at the various trees and shrubs growing there, and gradually made his way towards the willow tree - trying not to make it obvious that it was his destination. When he finally reached it, he parted the hanging branches with one hand, and ducked into the private space they created. He leaned against the trunk, looking around, wondering which direction Beelzebub might come from, and repeating their last words to him over and over in his head. "Meet me under the willow tree in five minutezzz…" Why was five minutes taking so long?

Newt looked at Gabriel as he walked away, and hoped he’d be alright. He’d already had one heck of a night - accidentally gatecrashing a party, trying wine, food, and dancing for the first time, then attempting a first kiss at midnight on New Year’s in front of 16 other people...he was braver than most, you had to give him credit for that. Anathema came over and stood where Gabriel had been moments earlier, and put her arms around him. He turned in her embrace, and kissed his wife, whose hair was still in the intricate braids Aziraphale had done for her hours earlier. “I love you,” he said.
“I love you too,” she replied. “Come back to the party with me?”
“Of course.”

They rejoined the rest of the group, and chatted easily once again about the successes they’d had, the tasks they were still working on, and their lives in general. After about half an hour, Newt grew worried again - they hadn’t seen either Beelzebub or Gabriel in quite a while, and he was concerned they might have come to blows over the kissing incident. He gave Anathema a kiss on the cheek and said he’d be right back, then walked down to the willow, where he’d last seen Gabriel. A few minutes later he returned and said he’d found them - they’d made their peace, and would be up shortly.

Sure enough, it was only a handful of minutes until they returned, and Newt was able to relax fully once more. Several hours later, as the barest hint of dawn started to pink the horizon, they made their farewells. Madame Tracy and Shadwell used the portal to return to Shangri-La, where Crowley had set up a temporary connection. Anathema and Newt went next to Jasmine Cottage, followed by Adam, Pepper, Brian and Wensleydale. Michael and Haniel left in a flash of light, whilst Eric and Dagon walked next door. Warlock and Alicia headed inside, as they were staying for a couple of days. Beelzebub was second last to go, and gave Gabriel a look that Aziraphale and Crowley recognised but pretended not to. Gabriel was the last to leave - he thanked them very much for making him feel so welcome despite a lack of invitation, and asked them to let him know when the next meeting of The Revolution was planned, before leaving in his usual flash of lightning.

Aziraphale and Crowley then miracled the yard back to normal, and went inside their home - at peace with the world, themselves, and each other. At least, until the baby snakes arrived - then it was chaos!

+ Crowley still hated the name, but it had stuck. [return to text]

Chapter Text

"Meet me under the willow tree in five minutezzz…"

Gabriel was standing under the sheltering canopy of the willow tree at the bottom of Aziraphale and Crowley's yard, waiting for Beelzebub. Willingly - one might even go so far as to say eagerly - awaiting kissing lessons from the Prince of Hell. Assuming that’s what they were intending. What was the world coming to? He'd gatecrashed this party under the pretense of delivering news, but actually wondering what was so special about it that Michael had insisted on attending, and then discovered that Michael and Haniel were far more than colleagues - more even than simply friends - they had kissed at midnight, and they had clearly known what they were doing!!!

Gabriel on the other hand had simply grabbed the only other person not already kissing someone, and planted his lips on theirs. The fact that the person in question had been Beelzebub should have horrified him, but it hadn't - until Their Lordship slapped him, and demanded to know what he thought he was doing. To then be forced to reveal that it was his first kiss had been humiliating beyond all belief, but the last thing Beelzebub had said - whispered directly into his ear - had been to meet them here. And so here he stood, nervously hoping to learn something that the young people at the party had mastered years earlier.

He heard a rustle of leaves, and turned to see Beelzebub, looking at him curiously as though he were an intriguing new species of fly.
"I wazzz not certain you would come. I am surprizzzed at you, Gabriel. You were alwayzzz such a know-it-all, yet now you admit you don’t know how to kizzz. And here you are, waiting for me. Are you planning on Falling?"
"No, no, not planning on Falling, just thought...well...there's a saying the humans have - you learn something new every day. And it seems like something I should learn. Since even Michael knows how, apparently."
"You're jealouzzz!"
"What? No. Not jealous. Just. I…"
"You forget, Gabriel. I can senzzze vizzzezzz. You are full of them. Pride. Envy. Luzzzzzzzt."
"Lust? I-- is this what lust feels like?"
"You WANT me!" Beelzebub crowed. "Oh how the mighty have fallen! Gabriel, former leader of the Choirzzz of Heaven, wantzzz me!" They laughed at the irony, and at the look on Gabriel's face as he realised the truth in their words.

"I had no idea. How do humans get anything DONE, if this is how they feel?" Gabriel asked.
"Practizzze, mostly. Delayed gratification, often. Sometimezzz they don't. Sometimezzz they sit gaaazzzing at nothing, thinking of what they would like to do. And sometimezzz they act on it. You know that!" Beelzebub answered.
"Well yes, in theory I know all of that, but the experience is rather different. Like kissing. I know the theory, but putting it into practice is apparently not the same thing."
"No, foolish angel, it izzz not the same. Kizzzing izzz not just lipzzz againzzzt lipzzz. It takezzz two whole bodiezzz to do it properly. You don't just mash your fazzze againzzzt a perzzzon. And you certainly don't mash without azzzking firzzzt, it izzz rude!"
"I can't believe what I’m hearing! Since when do you care about being RUDE?"

"Temptation izzz a subtle art! It izzz an exzzzacting scienzzze! The bezzzt temptation izzz one they WANT! We do not forzzze ourzzzelvezzz on people!"
"What about torments? They're part of your job description too!" Gabriel argued.
"Tormentzzz are for thozzze already IN Hell. Being in Hell izzz warning enough!"
"Alright, alright, calm down!"
"Do not tell me to calm down, fool. You think you underzzztand uzzz but you know nothing of what it meanzzz to be a demon, leazzzt of all me. Crowley focuzzzed on widezzzpread inconvenienzzzezzz, but that is not the way it should be done. It should be perzzzonal, it should be prezzzizzze. Crowley uzzzed bombzzz. I uzzze a delicate scalpel."
"You take pride in your work, then?"
"Of courzzze! Azzz we all should! Why do it at all if you refuzzze to do it well?"

"Which brings us back to kissing. Was I really that bad? The first time - not the nose bashing, I know that one was bad." Gabriel asked.
"I have kizzzed Popezzz who kizzzed better than you do," Beelzebub told him.
"You've never!"
"I have! Not for many yearzzz, but I have. The current one izzz too good. The lazzzt one wazzz too dull. But in yearzzz gone by, when Popezzz took what they wanted…" Beelzebub reminisced.
"Am I really so awful at it?"
"Yezzz. But by the time I'm finished, you will kizzz better than any other angel…exzzzept perhapzzz Azzziraphale - he izzz the only other angel trained by a demon, and hazzz had much practizzze."

Aziraphale would have blushed crimson had he heard this, but thankfully he was still at the party proper, at the top of the yard near the house. Gabriel did not particularly enjoy being compared to others - least of all when the comparison was to his own detriment - but was determined to become at least the best kisser amongst those angels still belonging to Heaven. If he could do this better than Michael, it would be worth the effort. Surely Michael was above lust for Haniel, but it seemed likely that Aziraphale lusted for Crowley, and Gabriel wondered if it was similar to how he currently felt about Beelzebub. Though Aziraphale and Crowley were married, so presumably any lust Aziraphale felt would be twinned with love, and therefore not a Falling sin. Gabriel would need to tread carefully, if what Beelzebub had told him was true. To have vices in sufficient quantities that a demon could sense them was far from a good sign for an angel.

Beelzebub began the lesson with a sneer. "Right, idiot. Come clozzzer."
Gabriel took a step closer to the demon, and looked at them expectantly.
Beelzebub rolled their eyes. "Clozzzer."
Gabriel took another small step, but was still a full arm's reach from Beelzebub.
"Stand right here in front of me, dumbazzzzzz."
Gabriel stood toe-to-toe with Beelzebub, arms at his sides and a frown on his face. He didn't particularly like being called "idiot" or "dumbass".
"Better. Now you dolt, put one hand on my shoulder, and the other on my waizzzt, azzz if we had been danzzzing."
Gabriel did as instructed, the crease between his eyes deepening. He didn't enjoy "dolt" either.
"OK dipzzztick, clozzze your eyezzz and wipe that frown off your forehead. You can't kizzz properly if you're squinting at me."
"Well stop calling me names then!" Gabriel retorted, finally losing his cool enough to respond.
"I'll stop calling you namezzz when you pazzz kizzzing school."
Realising that this was surprisingly fair by demonic standards, Gabriel decided to accept further taunting without comment - and to improve as rapidly as possible.

"Now let's see if someone azzz moronic azzz you can follow the rezzzt of my instructionzzz. Clozzze your eyezzz."
Gabriel closed them, asking "why?" as he did so.
"Becauzzze that izzz what humanzzz do. Juzzzt do azzz you're told!"
"OK, OK, I'm just trying to understand. Yeesh!"
"Underzzztand silently, dope."
Gabriel stood silently, awaiting the next insult. Instead, he felt lips pressed briefly to his own. He opened his eyes to check, and sure enough, Beelzebub had just kissed him.
"Eyezzz clozzzed! Do not open them until I tell you, nitwit!"
Gabriel closed his eyes again, and felt Beelzebub place their hands on his arms, holding him in place.
Again, lips pressed briefly to his, then a second and third time in quick succession.
"Eyezzz open, and pay attention. When I kizzz you, you need to kizzz back. Juzzzt azzz I do. Start slowly. Knocking teeth together izzz bad. Too much tongue or tongue too early izzz bad. No tongue at all izzz chazzzte - that’zzz for friendly kizzzing, or kizzzing in front of small children and old ladiezzz - it’zzz not luzzzty kizzzing. Clozzze eyezzz.”
Beelzebub kissed Gabriel once more, and this time Gabriel hesitantly kissed back.
“Eyezzz open. Shy izzz OK at the start, but if you stay shy the kizzzing will stop. Eyezzz clozzzed.”

Beelzebub kissed Gabriel again, and Gabriel kissed back a little more confidently. They continued - gradually warming up, mouths opening a little - and Gabriel moved the hand from Beelzebub’s shoulder to their neck. Beelzebub pressed up against Gabriel, removing the remaining space between them, and slid their tongue between Gabriel’s lips, licking the top one just slightly. With that barest hint of tongue, an instinct lying dormant within Gabriel’s more-or-less-human corporation awoke, and he found himself kissing properly at last. Beelzebub ran their hands up Gabriel’s arms, stroking his neck and mussing his perfectly coiffed hair. Gabriel moved the hand at Beelzebub’s waist to their lower back, holding them close, and stroked their jaw with the thumb of the other hand. They enjoyed this kissing, still tasting of the champagne they’d drunk whilst making toasts before the new year began.

After some time, Beelzebub broke the kiss.
“That izzz much better. Now I can stop calling you namezzz. Unlezzz calling you namezzz will make you kizzz me again - then I may never stop calling you namezzz, now that you know what you’re doing.”
“Call me names. Call me anything you want, as long as it means I can keep kissing you, Beelzebub. Please, call me names,” Gabriel pleaded.
Gabriel kissed Beelzebub briefly.
Gabriel kissed them a little longer.
Gabriel kissed them briefly again.
“Gormless twit.”
Gabriel groaned and kissed Beelzebub properly, cupping their face in his hands.

A noise from outside the privacy of the willow startled them and they broke the kiss suddenly, releasing each other and taking two steps apart. Both peeked out to see what had interrupted them, and Gabriel found a small white rabbit - no doubt trying to escape one of Aziraphale’s mundane magic tricks he’d heard so much about. With twin sighs of relief they rushed back together, and wrapped their arms around each other tightly.

When they next surfaced for air (which they didn’t really need), Gabriel rubbed his cheek against Beelzebub’s, and said “If there’s anything else you want to teach me, I’m all ears.”
“There are MANY thingzzz I could teach you, sinzzze you’re not such a dumbazzz after all,” they buzzed.
“Oh good. Good. Please. Teach me, Beelz. Teach me everything you know,” Gabriel said.
“I cannot teach you EVERYTHING I know, you are not a Prinzzze of Hell. But I can teach you more than thizzz.”
“Please, Beelz. I want...”
“I know exzzzactly what you want, idiot - I can feel the luzzzt coming off you in wavezzz. If you don’t tone it down a notch you’re going to attract Dagon’zzz attention.”
“Sorry, can’t help it. Never felt like this before. How do I ‘tone it down a notch’ exactly?”
“Satan help me, you’re going to need so many lezzzonzzz I’ll get no work done at all.”
“Is that such a bad thing?” Gabriel asked, nuzzling at Beelzebub’s neck.
“No. You’re a dezzzent student. And I am an EXZZZELLENT teacher.”

They continued kissing practice, stopping for breaks any time Gabriel got enthusiastic enough to make Beelzebub worry about Dagon interrupting. As luck would have it, it was during one of these rest breaks that Newt stuck his head through the branches of the willow, and found them sitting on neighbouring boughs talking. “Ah, there you are! I wondered where you two had got to, and hoped you hadn’t come to blows. That wouldn’t be a very auspicious way to start the new year, after all!”
“We have merely been talking. Azzziraphale and Crowley did so azzz adverzzzariezzz for millennia before they became friendzzz. Someday we might manage to be friendzzz alzzzo. We are going to try,” Beelzebub explained.
Trying to look like this wasn’t news to him, Gabriel agreed. “We’re trying to let bygones be bygones.”
“Well I bet the others will be very glad to hear that!” Newt said cheerfully, and started walking back up the yard.
“We should probably join them,” Beelzebub said quietly.
“We probably should,” Gabriel replied.
Standing up, he walked the few paces to where the demon sat, and kissed them gently. “Teach me other things another time?” he requested.
“Pick a time and a plazzze - I’ll be there to teach you. Now we need to straighten ourselvezzz up or everyone will know what we’ve been doing. Not everybody izzz azzz unobzzzervant azzz Newton Pulzzzifer.”

After smoothing their hair and clothing into place they walked up the yard to rejoin the party - but as Beelzebub had said, not everyone was as unobservant as Newt. Crowley immediately noticed their kiss-swollen lips. Aziraphale and Michael sensed their contentment. Dagon sensed their lust. The six youngest guests all recognised new love, or something like it. And Anathema saw their auras, which told a story she recognised, and hoped to see again and again and again - until one day, far in the future, the Caretakers of Earth would equal in number the Choirs of Heaven and the Torments of Hell.