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Frost and Sunlight

Chapter Text

Crowley woke up to the sound of soft humming.  He was warm and comfortable under the embrace of the blankets, and it was with some effort that he pried one eye open.  

The source of the humming was Aziraphale, who was standing in front of the bedroom window to tie the curtains back, singing a Christmas carol under his breath.  

Crowley shuffled on the bed to get a better look at him, and the movement dislodged his blankets.  He made a soft, unhappy sound as an arm was exposed to the cold air.

Aziraphale looked up at his grumbling, and as he turned, the morning light caught in his curls, painting them a frosted gold.  

“Good morning, dear,” he said.  

He was smiling beatifically, and Crowley shrugged one arm out from his nest of blankets to reach towards him.  The angel laughed and crossed back over to the bed. Once his knees had brushed the edge, Crowley caught him by the collar of his terrycloth robe to reel him down for a kiss.

“Morning, Aziraphale,” he mumbled sleepily as the angel pulled away with a soft bump of noses. 

“It’s cold.

“It is,” Aziraphale agreed cheerfully.  “It’s snowing.”

“Really?” Crowley said, and scrambled slightly, shoving himself upright.  The blankets pooled in a heavy lump around his waist.  

“That’d make this the first snow of the year!”

“Mhm,” said Aziraphale, turning to snag Crowley’s robe off of the back of an armchair.  He handed it to him, and Crowley wrapped it about his shoulders and slid out of bed, stuffing his feet into a pair of slippers. They made their way over to the window together.

Outside, beyond the frosted glass, the rolling downs were covered in a crystalline layer of white.  The early December light was pale and bright, and set the long brown grass and trees to sparkling. Heavy flakes twirled lightly through the air, and Crowley grinned. His breath misted on the window as he peered out of it.

“It’s beautiful here,” he said, leaning into the warmth of the angel’s side.  Aziraphale laced their fingers together.

“It is,” he agreed, and pressed a soft kiss to Crowley’s cheek.  “I’m glad you convinced me to move out here. Every day has been more wonderful than the last.”

Crowley looked at him, a fond grin across his lips.

“I’m glad you let me convince you, too,” he said.  The cottage in the South Downs was probably the best idea he’d had in centuries. 

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this!” Crowley yelped, his arms pinwheeling as he fought to stay upright on the ice.

From where he stood at the edge of the frozen lake, Aziraphale was laughing.

“Don’t blame me, dear!” the angel called back, rubbing his mittens together and ducking his chin down into his scarf, “You’re the one who told the children that we’d spend the afternoon with them.  Anything I did after that was simply encouraging you to keep your promise!”

On the other side of the lake, Adam Young let out a whoop, and then Pepper and Wensleydale went spinning by with linked arms, laughing wildly.  They spun right off of the ice and landed in a tangle in a snowbank, and within seconds, the other half of the Them had followed. Adam and Brian let go of each others’ hands just in time, and ended up spinning away before they landed on top of their friends.  

“Hey, Crowley!” Adam called, “I thought you were going to play with us!  Stop goofing about, and line up—we’re racing!”

Crowley muttered something too low for the children to hear, and made his way to the edge of the lake with slightly more grace than he’d begun with.

“Guess that makes you the judge, angel!” he called, and the children all clamored in agreement.

“Very well!” Aziraphale shouted back, pulling his woolen cap down lower over his ears. “On my mark—one, two, and go!”

There was a chorus of shrill, piercing screams of excitement, as the Them and Crowley darted off over the ice.

They were halfway across when disaster struck in the form of a small dog bounding across the lake.

“Dog, no!” Adam exclaimed as he saw him coming, but it was too late—the lot of them went down in a tangle of limbs and shouts and groans.  Crowley looked pathetically up at Aziraphale from under Brian’s knee. The angel sniggered into his mitten.

“Oi,” said Crowley, as they clambered to their feet, “I think Aziraphale is feeling left out.  Why don’t you lot go and convince him to stop being so uptight and join us?”  

Aziraphale shot him a betrayed look, and Crowley grinned, wiping a smattering of snowflakes off his glasses.   He knew the angel would enjoy it, really. As loud and wild as they were, the Them were good kids, and Adam was very talented at edging the line between mild terror and good, genuine fun.

Chapter Text

“There you are, dear.” 

Crowley looked up to see Aziraphale leaning over the back of his armchair.  He flashed a smile.  

“What’s up?” 

Aziraphale raised one of the steaming mugs of cocoa he held, and Crowley took it. He settled back into the chair with a soft hum of thanks.  

After a moment, Aziraphale came around to perch on the arm of Crowley’s chair.  Neither of them spoke, but Aziraphale rested his shoulder against Crowley’s and followed the demon’s gaze towards the window.

Outside, snow was falling in blustery swirls that caught the light and glowed against the nighttime sky.  It was nearing nine o’clock, now, and it had been snowing since the night before.  

A wind whistled against the house.  They remained in silence for a time, warming their hands on the mugs and sipping slowly.   

“You’re quiet tonight,” the angel said at length.  He had cradled his cup of cocoa to his chest and was watching Crowley from the corner of his eye.

“Suppose I am,” agreed the demon.  “I’m just thinking.”

“About what?”

“Not much; only old memories.”

“Oh?” said the angel, “anything I might recall?”

“I should hope so,” Crowley said.  “Eden was rather important. And not just for humanity.”  He trailed off for a beat.

“I was only thinking, when we first met?  I never would have dreamed I’d end up here.”

“Oh,” said Aziraphale.  He traced the rim of his mug with a finger, and a soft expression gathered on his face.

“Yeah,” said Crowley.  “See, it’s nothing deep.  It’s just...sometimes I think it’s really something, how it all turned out.”

Aziraphale shifted slightly on the armrest.  Outside, a breeze kicked up again, sending feathery motes of snow spiraling through the air. 

He looked down at Crowley until the other met his gaze.

“Well,” the angel said, and bent to drop a kiss onto the demon’s head, “I, for one, am terribly glad that things turned out the way they did.”

“Me too,” said Crowley, resting his head against the angel’s arm and looking up at him.

“There’s no better outcome at all.”

Chapter Text

Crowley was whistling.  It was a familiar tune, the sort that Aziraphale often found himself singing along to without noticing.  The sound preceded the demon’s arrival on the doorstep, and Aziraphale watched the door as he waited for Crowley to enter; instead, the cheery whistling continued from outside.  

Aziraphale turned a page of his book, and waited.  Then he stood up, crossed the room, and opened the door himself.

Crowley’s whistling cut of with a surprised squeak as he rocked back on his heels.

“What are you doing?” Aziraphale asked, and the demon grinned.

“Look behind you.” He nodded towards the door, and Aziraphale turned.

“Oh!” 

The angel chucked.

“It’s a lovely wreath, Crowley,” he said, “are we decorating this year?”

Crowley shrugged, looking sheepish.

“I figured, why not?” he said, “They were selling them in town, and they have carolers in the square, did you know?  It got me in the mood.”

Aziraphale looked speculatively between the pine wreath and the demon.

“Are they still there?” he asked, “The carolers, I mean.  We could go and listen for a while.”

“Really?” 

Crowley squinted at him through his glasses.

“It’s pretty cold out, and I know you’re enjoying your book.  We don’t have to.”

Aziraphale smiled placidly.

“The book will keep,” he said, “The world and people, on the other hand, have a tendency to move on while we aren’t looking.”   

He held out an arm.

“Shall we?”

Crowley linked his through the angel’s.

“Sure.”

Aziraphale stepped out fully into the chill, and shut the door behind him.  The wreath bounced slightly, green and cheery against the cherry wood.

Chapter Text

It was late.  A soft, cold drizzle fell against the windowpane.  Aziraphale was warm and snug in bed.  

Crowley was tucked into his side, radiating heat and completely dead to the world.  But unlike the demon, Aziraphale wasn’t sleeping—sleep was something that he could understand the appeal of, he supposed; the idea of resting comfortably in bed after a long day—but then, he was currently doing just that while reading, which seemed the far better deal to him.  Sleeping his time away when there was always something lovely to enjoy seemed like a waste.

Distantly, the grandfather clock in the hall chimed three, and Aziraphale turned an age-yellowed page in his book.  

From where his head rested on the angel’s thigh, Crowley snuffled.  Aziraphale looked down at him.

In the soft light of the reading lamp, and with his dark hair mussed and downy, the demon looked unbearably gentle.  Even after all this time, the sight made Aziraphale’s breath catch. 

Sometimes is struck him blind how much he loved Crowley, and in moments like these it was all that he could do to ride out the tide of emotion.  It felt simultaneously like dropping off a precipice and stepping, finally, into your own home after a long, cold day.

Aziraphale closed his book, setting it carefully on the nightstand, and slid down under the blankets.  He shuffled beside the demon until they were laying side by side.  Crowley huffed a breath, his face scrunching in his sleep, and Aziraphale watched it even out again before he tugged the blanket up, pulling it over their heads.  

In the dark cocoon of the quilt, he pressed his cheek to Crowley’s.  Their mingled breaths were warm and slow, and Aziraphale ached with something he couldn’t describe.  

This, right here, was what he’d been willing to stand against Heaven and Hell for.  This, this quiet moment with someone who he loved.  And he’d fought for this for everyone; not just for him and Crowley, but for the world and for humanity, who had taught him so very much about himself.

Against the dark, he closed his eyes.

Aziraphale didn’t sleep.  But he lay beside the demon who’d become his home, warm and soft and sacred beneath the blankets.  The breath of a moment hung in the air.  He rested, and let it pass.

Chapter Text

“Do you remember,” said Aziraphale, “the last time we made biscuits?”

He and Crowley were in the little kitchen of their cottage in the South Downs, and Crowley was cutting shapes into a sheet of gingerbread on the table.  At Aziraphale’s words, he burst into snickers.

Yes,” he said, looking up at the angel with mirth dancing in his yellow eyes, “How could I forget?  It was one of the few times that I genuinely enjoyed playing Nanny.”

“Hm,” said the angel, “I don’t suppose I have to warn you away from making gingerbread Cthulhus, or—or Gorgons this time?”

There was a pause in which Crowley looked down at his gingerbread cutouts.

“Er,” he said, “No?  I mean...no, of course not, angel.  Of course you don’t have to, since there are no diplomat’s wives to get offended in our house.”

Aziraphale leveled a stare at him from over his gold, wire-rimmed spectacles.  He placed his newspaper cut-out recipe on the counter.

“Dear, really.

His tone, combined with the judgemental expression on his face, was enough to tip the demon over the edge, and Crowley burst out laughing.

“You—you—your face!” he crowed, slapping a palm against the table as Aziraphale sighed through a smile.

“Angel—Ha!”  The rest of his words dissolved into laughter.

Aziraphale nudged the giggling demon away from the kitchen table and took over cutting the gingerbread.  And if he made just as many serpents as he did angels, well. Crowley was right; there was no one here to judge.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale and Crowley were in the living room, curled up together on the sofa.  Neither of them had yet changed out of their pyjamas for the day, and the fireplace in front of them was crackling lowly.  Crowley had pulled the collar of his silk robe up around his neck in an attempt to stave off the cold, but evidently it wasn’t enough; he had also pressed himself into Aziraphale’s side to absorb body heat through the angel’s navy terrycloth robe. 

Aziraphale looked down at the head of dark hair that had burrowed itself under his arm.

“You seem cold, Crowley,” he said dryly, sliding a bookmark between the pages of his annotated (by Aziraphale, it should be mentioned) History and Selection of Eastern European Poetry.

“Mmf,” said Crowley.

Aziraphale chuckled.

“Shall I make us some nice warm tea, then?”

Crowley looked up at him, his chin digging into the angel’s ribs.

“Stay here,” he said, “you’re comfortable.”

“I can’t be that comfortable, dear, you’re obviously chilled—oh, don’t pout.”

Aziraphale nudged Crowley’s arm.

“Will you allow me to move, at least?” he asked, “We can share my robe as a blanket.”

Crowley appeared to hold an internal debate over this.  Eventually, he conceded.

“Fine,” he said, un-wedging himself from Aziraphale’s side and wrapping his arms around his knees.  Aziraphale patted the foot on the sofa next to him, and shrugged out of his robe. He draped it over the both of them.

“Oohhhmmm,” said Crowley, snuggling down into the sofa.

“You see?” said the angel, “It was worth the effort of moving, wasn’t it?” 

It wasn’t really a question.

Crowley made a noncommittal sound, and Aziraphale turned on the sofa so that he was facing the demon.  Leaning against the armrest, he opened his arms.

“I do find myself missing having you so close, though,” he said.

“As you should,” Crowley huffed, but he slithered into Aziraphale’s arms and dropped himself halfway on top of the angel’s corporation.  

Aziraphale let out an “oompf” as the wind was knocked out of him, and then he tutted.

“Just for that, dear boy, you can serve as my book rest.”

And true to his word, Aziraphale leaned the spine of his book against Crowley’s shoulder, and continued where he’d left off, with nineteenth century Ukraine.

Crowley fidgeted with his phone for a while, and then said, “Read to me?”

And Aziraphale did.  His even voice flowed easily through the rhythms of long dead poets, and Crowley closed his eyes to listen.

Later, they would probably have to get up; Aziraphale would want to eat, and Crowley had some wine tucked away that he thought they might enjoy with dinner. 

But that was later, and right now, Aziraphale was threading an absent hand through Crowley’s bedhead; the demon briefly considered batting him away, but—what the hell—he hadn’t styled his hair yet, today, anyways.  And if he was honest, which he tried to be these days, the angel's touch felt downright pleasant.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale’s shoes scuffed lightly across the pavement as he and Crowley walked through town.  All around them, shops doors had donned wreaths and crammed their front windows with displays of toys and potential Christmas gifts.  Aziraphale was speaking.

“Adam is creative, though,” he was saying, “and as much as he and his friends would certainly enjoy those, um, those plastic guns that shoot foam pellets, creativity is something we should be encouraging.  Perhaps in addition to the more violent toys we should get him something nice, like an art set.  Last time we stopped in to check on him, he was telling me about one of his stories that he’d illustrated.  He’d like a nice set of markers, wouldn’t he Crowley…?” Aziraphale trailed off.  

“Crowley?”

He turned around.  Two yards behind him, Crowley had stopped in front of a shop window.

“My dear, are you all right?”

He placed a hand on Crowley’s shoulder and the demon looked up.  He seemed discomfited. 

“Hm, yeah,” he said, his gaze trailing back to the line of artfully arranged blinking and whirring toys, “Just struck by a memory, is all.  That toy robot does the same weird transforming thing that Warlock’s did.”

He grimaced.

“I've been feeling a bit bad about the whole mess, to be honest.  He was just a normal boy, and we accidentally twisted his mind something awful.  Sometimes...I guess I find myself wondering how he’s doing. Hope he’s all right.”

“Ah,” said Aziraphale, turning to look at the light-up robot as well.  

It wasn’t that he exactly missed the Dowling child—or even that he particularly liked him—the boy was, after all, something of a brat.  But he and Crowley had spent an awful lot of time with the boy, and he had definitely noticed Warlock’s lack once he was no longer around.  It was no wonder that Crowley, with all his fondness for children, had become somewhat more attached.

“If you’d like, we can check up on him,” volunteered the angel, and Crowley started.

“Check—Aziraphale, didn’t he go back to America?”

Aziraphale hummed.

“As I understand it,” he said, “that was only temporary.  Adam might think of America as a wondrous place, but he would never send someone away from their home.  I believe that Mr. Dowling recently returned to his post with his family after an extended stay with relatives.”

“Oh,” said Crowley.

“Yes,” said Aziraphale.

“You said you wanted to get Adam an art set?” said Crowley, and the conversation moved on.  Discussion of gifts aside, however, both the demon and the angel continued to plot.

Chapter Text

Both Crowley and Aziraphale were holding boxes.  Aziaphale’s were dusty and tattered, with cardboard corners worn through and bottoms that were water-stained.  Crowley’s were brand new plastic things, in neon green and red.

“It’s been so long since I put up a Christmas tree,” said Aziraphale, carefully tugging open the disintegrating cardboard flaps, “It must be nearly a century now.”

He withdrew a newspaper-wrapped lump, and went about pulling away the paper.  Eventually, a tarnished golden bauble was revealed, and he stood to hang it on the small tree that he and Crowley had set up in the corner of their front room.  

Crowley popped the lid off of one of his boxes, and dug in, grinning.

“Never done a tree,” he said cheerfully, “Wouldn’t have gone over well with the upper management if they’d found out—party lines, and all that.  Do have some nice decorations though, just had to keep them in storage—see?”

He held up something that might have been called an elf, if one was feeling generous.

“It’s hideous, Crowley,” said Aziraphale.

“Isn’t it?” said the demon, “I’m putting it right on the front,” and he hung it a little ways above Aziraphale’s bauble. 

Aziraphale stared at the atrocity on his tree.

“Look at this one!” said Crowley, unearthing another ornament, this one with twiggy limbs wrapped around something yellow that might have been a trumpet.

“Is that…?” said Aziraphale.

“Supposed to be Gabriel,” confirmed Crowley, watching the angel’s face intently.  He gave the little plastic angel a wave, and was rewarded with a twitch of lips which heralded a full-bellied chuckle.

“Oh, fine, you dratted demon, make our Christmas tree an eyesore; just know that you won’t be getting away with it next year.  It’s your first tree, so I’m allowing you to have your fun this time.”

“Very generous,” said Crowley, standing and making his way to the angel.

“Say,” he said, waving the deformed little figurine in front of Aziraphale’s face, “would you like to do the honors?  Hang his stuffy righteousness on our tree?”

Eyeing the angel’s expression, he pushed it closer until Aziraphale went cross-eyed.

“Look at him, angel.  Isn’t he lovely? The best depiction of Gabriel you’ve seen in all of history?”

Aziraphale snorted and swiped the ornament from Crowley’s hand.

“If you insist," he said dryly, "then I have just the perfect place for him.”  And then he went on his toes to put the little misshapen figure, with it’s sloppily painted face and sagging trumpet, right on the very top of the tree.

“Beautiful,” said Crowley as Aziraphale settled back on his heels.

“Majestic,” said the angel.

“Perfect,” said Crowley, and he came up behind Aziraphale to rest his chin on his shoulder and wrap his arms around his middle.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, now,” said Aziraphale, “We’ve only hung three ornaments, and we have boxes yet to go.”

Chapter Text

Crowley paused with his hand on the door.

“Hey, angel,” he called, “I’m going out!  You need anything?”

There was a beat of silence before Aziraphale’s voice echoed down the hall.

“We’re short on milk!  Are you going right this second?  I can check.”

Distant footsteps creaked across the floorboards, and Crowley put down his coat.  He trod back through the front room to the kitchen, where Aziraphale was already shuffling through the cupboards.  Around him on the countertop were various jars and containers.

“Oh good,” said the angel, looking up, “We could use some more honey and raspberry jam.  What are you going out for?”

“Nothing much; just running errands.”

“Hm.”

Aziraphale placed a tin of biscuits on the counter and came around to where Crowley was leaning against the wall.

“Are you hiding something from me, dear?” he asked, leaning into the demon’s space.  

Crowley grinned and tapped a finger on the angel’s nose.

“‘Course not.  ‘S just errands, you busybody.”

Aziraphale harrumphed, and followed Crowley as he made his way back to the front door.

“Remember,” he said, “Milk, honey and jam.”

“Raspberry,” Crowley agreed, nodding as he shrugged on his overcoat, “See you in a bit, angel.”

He pulled open the door, only to be assaulted by a harsh gale of wind which scattered his hair about his face.  Aziraphale gripped his shoulder.

“It’s dreadful out," he said, "Must you go?”

With Aziraphale’s hand on his shoulder and the angel’s warm blue eyes crinkled in concern, Crowley was sorely tempted to stay.  But he’d specially arranged for a delivery of poinsettias today, and he wanted to pick up some truffles for Aziraphale as well.  

Gently, he pulled the angel’s hand from his shoulder, briefly bringing the soft knuckles to his lips.

“I’ll be back before you know it.”

Aziraphale sighed.

“Thank you, then,” he said, “but at least take a scarf, would you?  That corporation of your has no substance to it; you’ll catch a chill.”

“I’ll be fine,” said the demon.  “And I left my scarf in the bedroom anyways; I can do without, promise.”

Aziraphale pursed his lips as Crowley grinned.

“Mine’s on the rack,” he said, “Just take it,” and he pulled the thick woolen scarf from the coat stand before tucking it neatly around Crowley’s neck with a warm brush fingers.

“There,” he said, “drive safe, now, dear.  I’ll have the fire going for you when you get back.”

“Thanksss,” said Crowley, stepping out into the cold, “Love you, angel.”

Aziraphale’s answering smile was terribly fond.

Chapter Text

The night was brisk and clean, and all around the park, the city lights were glittering.

Aziraphale and Crowley were walking arm-in-arm, heads bowed close together as their feet crunched over the frosted ground.

“I’m glad you had a good time,” Crowley was saying, his breath leaving puffs of mist in the air between them, “since it wasn’t our usual ballet company.”

Aziraphale laughed, swaying Crowley slightly as they walked.

“Perhaps we’ll have a new favorite,” he said.

Behind them, cars cast moving shadows through the trees, and the dark, familiar path wound along in front of them.  They followed it easily.  

After the ballet, neither Crowley nor Aziraphale had wanted to head home.  Melodies from the show had still been echoing in their ears, and the evening had been so lovely that they had meandered their way into the familiar park rather than the Bentley. 

“Maybe,” Crowley hummed, tasting the cold the air.  

They passed a copse of trees, and for a moment crossed through deeper shadows. Glints of light danced fleetingly through the branches. 

Beside him, Azriaphale’s footsteps slowed, and Crowley was tugged to a halt.

“Angel?”

“Oh, Crowley, look.”

The angel was gazing out towards the water, where against the deep black surface, shards of light glittered.  Above them, the partially covered moon was casting a white glow whose reflections mingled with the gold lights of the city.

Crowley leaned into Aziraphale’s side.  The angel's wool coat was scratchy under his cheek, but the shoulder was warm.

They stayed that way for a moment, drinking in the night: fresh and cold and sparkling.  Aziraphale tugged a hand out of a glove and laced their bare fingers together against the chill.  Beyond the park boundaries, the city bustled with life.  If they listened closely, they could hear it: the distant sound of someone laughing, and the rumble of cars going by, trailing music.  

“Well,” Aziraphale said after a time, “it’s late.”

“It is.”

“Would you rather drive home, or stay at the bookshop for tonight?  I’ll have to turn the heat back on, mind. It’s been some time since I stopped in.”

“The bookshop’s fine,” said Crowley, “I’ve missed the old place.  It’s awfully big and empty without the books though.”

“Mm,” said Aziraphale, “But the sofas are still there.  And I still have some wine and biscuits tucked away.”

There was a lull as wind creaked through the trees.

“Sounds good,” said Crowley, but neither of them made a move to go.  Then Aziraphale pressed a warm kiss to the ridge of Crowley’s cheek, and pulled away with a soft rustle of cloth.  He squeezed the demon’s fingers.

“Let’s get warm, hm?” he said, “It’s a beautiful night, but we’ll have more of them.”

Crowley drifted into motion, drawn by the angel’s hand. 

“I think I’d rather walk tonight,” he said, “the bookshop’s not too far.”

Chapter Text

Aziraphale and Crowley were playing backgammon when the lights went out.  One moment, the two of them were tallying up a millennia old score, and the next they were sitting incomplete darkness.

As they blinked into the sudden dark, Aziraphale said:

“A power outage?”

As if in response, the wind howled from outside, and Crowley slowly rose, making his way to the window.  Twitching aside the curtains, he peered out. Then he whistled lowly.

“Come and take a look, angel,” he said, and Aziraphale stood to join him.

Outside, snowbanks had formed dunes against the house and fat flakes fell in whirling blankets from the sky.

“Oh my,” said Aziraphale, “We’ll likely be without power for some time, then.”

He placed a brief hand on Crowley’s shoulder. 

“I’ll fetch some candles.  Then if you’d like, we can finish our game.”

Crowley smiled.

“Sure, angel.  You need help?”

“Oh, why not.  Many hands, and all that.”  

Aziraphale smiled at him, a small pale thing in the winter light.  And he was right; it took no time at all, between the two of them, to set a multitude of glowing candles around the cottage.  But by the time that they had finished, the lack of internal heating had begun to take its toll and left them shivering.  

Rather than return to their table, they ended up under a blanket on the floor in front of the fireplace.  

With backs toasty from the fire, they leaned into each other and watched the leap and flicker of shadows over the walls.

“I do not miss the days before electricity,” Crowley said after a moment, “but you know, this isn’t too bad.”

“Mm,” said Aziraphale, “it’s much more pleasant when there’s someone with you.  I don’t like to remember how cold it used to be.”

“Yeah,” said Crowley.

Outside, the wind rattled against the windowpanes and kicked up layers of snow; inside, the candles fluttered lightly, undisturbed.

“Do you remember that little town we stayed in in thirteen twenty-six?” Aziraphale said suddenly.

“The...the one with the goats?” said Crowley, “and the minister who was out to get you?”

“That’s the one,” Aziraphale chuckled.  “We weathered a blizzard out there, too.”

Crowley laughed outright.

“If by weathered out, you mean we barely survived by strategic application of miracles,” he said, “and I definitely like tonight much better.”

“Hm,” said the angel, “this is much more cozy than that shack was.”

“Understatement of the century,” agreed Crowley, taking Aziraphale’s hand under the blanket, “There were bloody holes in all the walls, and the snow kept getting in.  Not to mention, you kept blaming me for the whole thing.”

Aziraphale smirked, giving Crowley’s hand a squeeze.

“That’s because it was your fault.   The minister may have had a grudge against me for some reason, but you’re the one who got us both run out of town.”

Crowley laughed again.

“I still stand by my actions,” he said, “it was worth it.”

Aziraphale looked like he was holding back a grin.

“Well,” said the angel, “It did lead to us being stuck together.  So I suppose it wasn’t all bad.”

There was a pause.

“Could have just miracled the walls fixed,” said Crowley.

“Or the snow away,” agreed Aziraphale, voice dropping into a whisper, “but then I wouldn’t have been trapped in a shack with you, alone, in a blizzard, with no one else to overhear.”  

He punctuated this statement with a kiss to Crowley’s jaw, and the demon jumped at the cold brush of Aziraphale’s nose against his ear.

“C’mere, angel,” he said, releasing Aziraphale’s hand and opening his arms, “You’re freezing.  Stop torturing me with it.”

Aziraphale snuggled tight against the demon’s chest and sighed.

“You know, we could miracle the heat back on now, too.”

“Of course.  But you’re right; I think I like it this way.”

Chapter Text

“So!” Aziraphale said, placing the phone down into its cradle, “That was Madame Tracy.  She’s invited us up for dinner in a few days.  I told her we’d come.”

Crowley groaned, putting down his plant mister and rubbing the bridge of his nose.

“Did you have to?” he said, “You could have just said no.  It’s not like we owe the humans anything—and anyways, Shadwell’s been having us both on for years, and she married him!”

Aziraphale frowned.

“I wanted to,” he said decidedly, “She and I became—ahem—quite close towards the end of it.  And she’s a perfectly lovely woman; very kind.  Willing to see the best in people.”

“Fine,” Crowley grumbled, turning back to his poinsettia.  “I hope you didn’t offer to bring her any of our wine, though.”

Aziraphale’s expression turned shifty.

“Oh, you did, didn’t you, angel?”

Well,” said Aziraphale, “not exactly.  She didn’t want any wine.   She’s got enough of that, apparently.”

“What, then?” said Crowley, abandoning his plant to cross the room to where Aziraphale was guiltily avoiding his eyes.

“Er,” said the angel, and Crowley sighed.

“Oh relax, would you?  You’re being weird about this.  Just tell me.”

Aziraphale bit his lip.

“Well, she said that she could use something to liven up the house.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And she’s already got garlands and candles, she tells me.”

“Go on.”

“And, well, you did buy so many of those Christmas plants.”

Crowley stared at him; there was something distinctly nervous in the angel’s eyes, and it was the sort of look that usually made Crowley want to drop what he was doing and help —but despite it, an uncomfortable feeling was building up in the demon’s stomach.

“Well, you could have asked me first,” he said.

His voice was terse, and Aziraphale swallowed.

“Yes,” he said, “I am aware of that.  I suppose I didn’t think it through, in the moment.  I just offered, and I only realized after I’d said it that you might not be all right with it.”  

The angel paused and drummed his fingers on the table where the phone sat.

“I...I am sorry dear,” he said, “I just...I didn’t think.”

Crowley looked at Aziraphale’s pained expression and sighed through his nose.

“I like my plants, angel,” he said slowly, “they’re mine.   I share an awful lot with you, and I don’t mind it, but not the plants.  You know that.”

“I do.”

“Then you know that I’m pretty upset with you right now.”

Aziraphale winced.

“I had feared so, yes.”

“Good,” said Crowley, “As long as you’re aware.  Now, I’m going to pick a plant to give away, since you promised, and you are going to think of some way to make it up to me.”

“Of course,” said Aziraphale, earnestly, “And I am sorry, dear.  I suppose I’m just...I’m still very much used to doing things without having anyone to consult.”

Crowley looked away.

“I know,” he admitted, “That’s why I’m not as upset as I might be.  We’ve both been doing things by ourselves for a long time and we’ve got habits.”

He looked back up at Aziraphale’s face, and with a sigh, he leaned in to press a brief kiss to the angel’s lips.

“I’m still angry,” he said, “but obviously I forgive you.  No need to look like the world is ending.”  

He cracked a grin, and after a moment, Aziraphale smiled hesitantly too.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale said hello to the familiar waitstaff at the Ritz as he and Crowley were led to their table.  Crowley rolled his eyes at him.

“You know,” he said, “you don’t have to be polite to everyone all the time.  It’s okay to just enjoy things for yourself without putting on a show.”

Aziraphale gave the demon a fond smile.

“You act as though little things like this take any effort,” he said, watching the waiter’s back as he left, “Simply saying ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ can make someone happy, and it requires practically nothing of me.”

Crowley hummed, leaning his chin on one hand.

“I suppose,” he said, and then, with a glance down at the drinks menu, “I’m in the mood for a white tonight.”

“That’s fine with me,” said Aziraphale, “Go ahead and pick one, then; I trust you to choose well.”

“Mm.”  

The demon adjusted his sunglasses and ran a finger down the list as Aziraphale idly scanned the familiar menu in front of him.

They ordered swiftly, and tucked into their meals with vigor—or at least, Aziraphale did; Crowley ate more sedately, scanning the restaurant as he swirled his dink in his glass.

“D’you think I should try being nicer?" he asked, and Aziraphale’s head jerked up.

“What?”

“I mean,” said Crowley, “I’ve been obeying party lines for a long time.  Being, you know, casually cruel whenever I didn’t have to schmooze my way into something.  But I don’t have to be anymore, do I? I can just...do things that are nice.  Make people happy, instead of furious.”  

His face did a funny sort of shift beneath his glasses.

“I’ve just been focusing on my own freedom for a while, you know?  And I never thought at all about what that could mean for anyone else.

“Hm,” said Aziraphale, “well, why don’t you try it?  You don’t have to, of course; I wouldn’t want you to change yourself to fit some idealized image.  But you might come to like it, if you tried.  Being kind, with no benefit to yourself...I find that it feels very good.  It can make you happy too.”  

He took a bite of his dessert.

“Huh,” said the demon, scraping his fork across his plate, “That’s true enough, I guess.  I’ve kept up with psychology, you know, as it advanced—all the better to find ways to antagonize people, make it easier to get them to take it out on others for the sake of ‘catharsis’—and as satisfying as it is to do some evil, I know that it’s not great for me either.  There just wasn’t anything I could do about it ‘til now.”

He looked at Aziraphale through his dark glasses.

“I’m not really sure where to start, though.  Can...er, would...that is, do you think you could help me?”

Aziraphale’s face went terribly soft in a way that made Crowley’s stomach squirm pleasantly.

“Of course,” said Aziraphale, and then he leaned over towards the demon to whisper conspiratorially, “And you know, it doesn’t always come so naturally to me either; there are still times when I find it’s so much more satisfying to tell somebody to go do wildly inappropriate things to a horse than to resolve things.”

Crowley laughed.

“Maybe, but you’ve also always been able to be kind, right from the start.”

“And you have always been able to defy all expectations.  Don’t let some preconceived idea stop you now, if this is something that you want.”

Chapter Text

It was extraordinarily gray outside, from the heavy clouds in the sky to the deadened, sodden ground.  Crowley and Aziraphale were both glad to see the cottage come into view as the Bentley sped down the road.  

Clambering out of the car with parcels in their arms, the two of them pushed the front door open eagerly, and Crowley was quick to flick on the lights.  Aziraphale set his packages down and rubbed his hands over his arms.

“Could do with the fire on,” he said, and then wandered over to do it, setting the logs ablaze with a flick of a wrist and nudging them with a poker.  

Crowley set his boxes down on top of Aziraphale’s, and joined the angel where he had paused, kneeling, by the flames.  He held out his hands and rubbed them together before sighing.

“Lets not do anything else productive today,” he said in a groan, and flung himself down onto the rug.  He wrapped his arms around Aziraphale’s middle.

Aziraphale laughed, looking down at Crowley’s neat dark hair pressed against his chest.

“If that’s what you want,” he said.  “We have done rather a lot today. I’d say we deserve a rest.”

“Yeah,” said Crowley, peering up at him with his sunglasses dangling off his nose.  Aziraphale reached down to pluck them off, tucking them into his breast pocket, and Crowley smirked lazily at him.  

“Why don’t you tell me about that new book you picked up when we were in London yesterday?”

“If you want,” said Aziraphale, “Shall we move to the sofa first, though?”

“Hm, no,” said Crowley, wrapping his arms more tightly around the angel, “I like it right here.”

“You would,” said the angel, “Very well.  It requires a fair bit of backstory, actually.  You know that I have several illuminated manuscripts; however….” 

Crowley listened with contented interest as Aziraphale spoke briefly of an abbey where he’d stayed for a short while in 1567.  The angel spoke at length about the people who he had known, and how his interest in strange bibles had been encouraged, and how just recently he had come across the most wonderful thing.

Beside them, the crackling fire swept away the cold gray light with orange and gold; Aziraphale’s smile was just as warm, and his sweeping gestures charmingly expressive.  It was a joy, Crowley thought, to simply sit here and watch the delight that sparked across his face with every story that he told.  

Chapter Text

The cottage that Madame Tracy and Sergeant Shadwell shared was quite different from Aziraphale and Crowley’s.  For one thing, it was hardly evident from the decor that more than one person lived there at all—especially if the second person wasn’t also an older woman or a young girl with a preference for lace doilies.  Perhaps the only clue that Shadwell was there at all was the lingering smell of cigarette smoke around the front door...or possibly the cranky looking television set in the living room, although that could have belonged to Madame Tracy as well.  

It was Shadwell who answered the door for the angel and the demon, however, and he looked like he wanted to close it again when he saw their faces.  In fact, Crowley would be willing to bet good money that that was exactly what the old witchfinder was thinking. He grinned a bit wickedly.

“Hello, Sergeant!” he said in a chipper voice, stretching out a hand, “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  How’s the army doing these days?”

Shadwell looked down at Crowley’s hand as though it was something slimy that had crawled out of a gutter.  Aziraphale elbowed the demon.

“More importantly, how are you and Madame Tracy doing?” he said, smiling forcefully, “it’s been some time since we’ve had the opportunity to get together; now that we’ve all left the city, it’s become rather less convenient to pop by for tea.”

“We’re doin’ fine,” Shadwell said gruffly, and finally opened the door fully to let them in, “dining room’s in through there.”

“Thank you,” said Aziraphale, ushering Crowley into the other room and away from the retired witchfinder.  Madame Tracy met him with a smile, and the two of them embraced briefly and slightly awkwardly as she giggled.

“I’m so glad you could make it, Mr. Aziraphale, Mr. Crowley,” she said, “come, sit—and oh, is that a poinsettia!  It’s so lovely, thank you for sharing, I’ll put it right here as a centerpiece!”

She chivvied them all into their chairs, and soon a multitude of plates were laid out in front of them.

“It looks delicious,” said Aziraphale, and Madame Tracy blushed.

“Thank you.”

They tucked in, and even Crowley found himself enjoying the meal despite himself; Madame Tracy really was quite a good cook.

Soon enough, desert was served in the form of mince pies, and Madame Tracy said,

“So, Mr. Aziraphale, we haven’t had the chance to catch up, what with the hubbub of us moving one after the other; tell me, how are you and Mr. Crowley liking the domestic life?  Does it live up to everything you’d imagined?” She added an artful wiggle of eyebrows to the end of this.

Aziraphale blushed, and choked on his pie.

“My dear lady,” he said, and then coughed again.

By this point, both Crowley and Shadwell’s undivided attention had been piqued, and Crowley said, 

“Wait, what kind of expectations are we talking about here?  ‘Cause I’m getting the feeling that there’s something I’ve been left in the dark about.”  He raised an eyebrow above his dark glasses, and Aziraphale cleared his throat.

Never you mind, dear,” he said in a voice that was an octave higher than usual.  Then he fixed his narrow blue eyes on Madame Tracy, who was smiling innocently.

“And you?” the angel asked her, “how about your expectations?  You were telling me quite a bit about your hopes during our last visit.”

Oh, ” said Madame Tracy, with a side eye towards Shadwell, “I’ve found things to be even greater than I expected.”  And she dabbed her lips with a napkin.

At some point throughout this exchange, Crowley had abruptly remembered the exact nature of Madame Tracy’s previous occupation, and  although no one could see it, his eyes flew wide behind his glasses. Now, as Madame Tracy finished speaking, his eyes jumped towards the angel, and he began imbibing his wine at an astounding pace.  Shadwell, watching him, took this as permission to do the same.

Thus, by the time the evening had wrapped up, Aziraphale and Madame Tracy had moved to blatant insinuations over their drinks, alternately glaring and laughing, and Crowley and Shadwell had both drank themselves into a stupor.

All in all, Madame Tracy would conclude, it was one of the best dinner parties that she had ever thrown.

Chapter Text

The Bentley careened down the road.  It barreled through a traffic signal, took a roundabout at 60 mph, and narrowly avoided hitting a taxi.  This was normal.

This was normal, and inside of the car, Aziraphale was doing his best not to look out of any of the windows.  Instead, he was staring very fixedly at Crowley, who was fiddling with the radio.

“Eurgh, nothing good’s on!” said the demon, snapping the dial to “off.”  He fumbled in the glove compartment instead. 

“Maybe I’ve got a tape that isn’t too old—ah, ha!   This one’s new.  I bought it...er.  I dunno, but it is new.  Should still be all right.”  And he shoved the tape into the slot and turned the dial up.

For a moment, there was silence apart from the blaring of car horns, before Freddy Mercury’s voice burst into the car, declaring that another one had bitten the dust.

Crowley groaned.

“Every time,” he groused, yanking the tape back out, “Every tape!  For more than twenty years!”

Aziraphale patted his shoulder consolingly, and Crowley pulled a face in his direction.

“At least Queen is a good band,” said the angel, “A bit too loud for my tastes, but talented.  I rather thought you liked them; I remember when they first got popular, you would sing along to all these songs when they came on the radio.”

Crowley mumbled something too low to hear.

“Sorry, what was that?”

“That was then,” said the demon, “but it’s been decades, now, and yeah, it’s still good music, objectively speaking, but it’s gotten old.  I just want to listen to something different every once in a while.”  He sounded wretched.

Aziraphale pressed his lips together in the way Crowley knew meant that he was hiding a smirk.

“Yeah, laugh it up,” he grumbled.

Aziraphale’s eyes crinkled as he smiled—and then he had to brace himself against Crowley’s seat as they went around a bend.  Once the car steadied, he reached for the tape that Crowley had discarded, glanced at the label, put it down again, and then reached into his jacket pocket.

“I’m really not laughing at you dear,” he said, “I’m simply pleased that I managed to remember things correctly.”  And then he pushed something into Crowley’s hand. It was an identical tape to the one which had been left in the car for too long.

“What?” said Crowley, “How? What?”

“Well,” said the angel, “I was with you when you picked the first one up, and when you weren’t looking, you see, I purchased another.  It’s been kept inside the cottage until today, so it should still be what it claims.”

Crowley gaped at him.

“You’ve been counting down from when I got my tape?”

“Yes.”

“And you brought it with you today because you knew I’d forget and try to play the other one.”

Yes," said Aziraphale.  His smile was edging towards smug.

“Oh,” said Crowley.  He grinned. 

“Thanks, angel.”

“I assure you, it was my pleasure.  Now, let’s hear what modern cacophony you’ve picked out this time.”

“Right,” said Crowley.  

He put in the tape, and they drove the rest of the way home in relative peace—relative, that is, because at one point Aziraphale actually attempted to lurch across the car to grasp the wheel before they hit a barrier, and because, after reaching 70 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone, they also spent a moment pursued by the police.  It was only for a moment, though, because Aziraphale quickly handled them; he gestured towards the police car, halting it in its tracks, and muttered to Crowley all the while to look where he was going, please, lest they land themselves in trouble.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale and Crowley were four glasses each into a bottle of wine, sitting with their feet kicked up on the sofa between them. Nearby, the fire crackled merrily in the grate, and the room smelled like pine and paper and the tang of their drink. The radio was set to a late-night oldies station, and distantly, their grandfather clock ticked on.

Aziraphale's laugh still echoed in the air from a moment before, and Crowley was leaning towards him with his elbows on his knees.

"So you see," said the demon, grinning recklessly, "it wasn't really even my fault at all."

Aziraphale shook his head, still chuckling.

"If you insist," he said in a burbling voice, "then I suppose that I'll just have to believe you."

Crowley waved a dramatic hand, accidentally smacking the back of the sofa.

"Thank you!" he said emphatically.

In the background, the song on the radio ended, and a new one began. It was a familiar tune, one that diverted the demon's attention in a moment. His eyes lit up. He sprang to his feet, hastily putting his glass down on the table, and Aziraphale made an aborted motion as if to steady it.

"Crowley?"

Crowley had a smile stretched across his lips, and he spread his arms wide. 

"Don't tell me you don’t recognize this song, angel?"

Aziraphale paused.  The opening instrumental was familiar, yes, but it wasn't something he could place.  Then the voice joined in.

"Dance with me Aziraphale?" said Crowley, wiggling his fingers in the angel's direction.

Aziraphale looked up at him with wine-blushed cheeks, and set down his glass with a fond sigh. He stood, and Crowley gripped one of his hands in his and placed the other on Aziraphale's shoulder.

"Do you even know how to dance?" Aziraphale said dubiously, as Crowley hummed to the music under his breath.

"Nope!" said the demon, beginning to sway them, "but neither do you."

"True enough."

Crowley's movements were wild and a little bopping as he swung them onto motion.  He was singing under his breath, "when the world seems to shine, like you've had too much wine, that's amore!" And Aziraphale couldn't help but laugh as they stumbled about the living room and almost tripped right over an ottoman.

He leaned into Crowley and carefully slowed their haphazard dancing to a simple swaying in each other's arms. 

In the background, the song changed without them noticing, and Aziraphale bumped his nose against Crowley's as he leaned in to give a sloppy kiss.

When he pulled away, they both were grinning.

"Ready for bed?" asked Aziraphale, and Crowley blinked slowly at him.

"Mm, yeah," he said, "I think so. Getting hard to think."

"I believe that's the wine, dear."

"Maybe," Crowley agreed, and rested his forehead against the angel's shoulder.  Then he asked, "Hey angel, d’you want to learn to dance together? We could take a class or something.”

"Why not," said Aziraphale. It sounded like a lovely idea.

Chapter Text

Crowley and Aziraphale clambered eagerly into the Bentley from the cold. It had only been a short walk from the small Italian restaurant to the vehicle, but the wind outside was fierce.  

Crowley turned the car on, and immediately cranked up the heat.  The headlights cast bright spots of light onto the bushes in front of the car, and as the engine warmed up, he pulled off his sunglasses and turned towards the angel.  He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.

“Did you want to finish telling me about that Athenian debate?” asked Crowley, and Aziraphale stopped rubbing his cold hands together to look at him.

“Oh, there’s not much more to it,” he said, smiling with wind-flushed cheeks and ruffled curls falling into his eyes.

“I simply encouraged the young man to stand up for himself; gave him a few pointers on what to say, and things worked out fairly well.”

“Hah,” said Crowley, tugging his scarf down from his lips, “you just couldn’t help yourself, could you?  Had to meddle.”

“Well,” said Aziraphale, watching the red taillights of other cars go by behind Crowley, “It was the right thing to do.  And really, all I did was encourage him. You know the kind of power a few words from the right person can have.”

“Yeah.”

With the heat cranked up as the car idled, the windows began to fog up against the cold.  But neither the angel nor the demon paid it any mind as the dark outside was slowly covered up, and the nearby motorway dissolved into blurred streaks of light.

Aziraphale unbuttoned his coat, and scooted closer.

“Tell me, you were in...China?  At about that same time…?”

“Yeah, I think so.  You’d probably remember better than me.”

“Tell me, of all the people who you met there, were there any who stood out to you, like that young man did to me?”

Crowley tugged his gloves off.

“Yes,” he said slowly, “Actually.  D’ you remember that vase we have in the office?  Beside the Jewel Orchid.”

“Um-hm.”

Crowley looked slightly embarrassed.

“It was a gift, actually, from a young woman who I spent some time with.  Her family had run into some trouble, and she’d been left all on her own. I...took her in, sort of.  Gave her a place to stay until her boyfriend got his shit together. He was the one who made the vase, and she eventually tracked me down to give it to me.  That was...years later, after we’d met the first time.”

Aziraphale wrapped his hand around Crowley’s, squeezing their fingers together.

“My dear,” he said, “you are a singular person, you know that?  Back then, you were still denying that you had any kindness in you, even to me.  And yet you still did things like helping people in need. I don’t know how you ever could have doubted yourself so.”

“Ergk,” said Crowley, a blush forming high on his cheeks, “angel, please.”

Aziraphale chuckled.

“Sorry, dear.  I just can’t help myself sometimes. You are so very dear to me, and I wish that you could see yourself as I do.”

Crowley sighed.

“I’m...better at that, these days,” he admitted, “Honestly, I’m doing good.  I’m okay with how things have turned out, including myself.  And having you with me helps, even if you are like that about it.”

“Good,” said Aziraphale, and squeezed his hand again before pulling away to rub at the front window.  The lights from the roadway smeared into small stars against the damp glass, and Crowley directed his attention outwards, flipping on the defrost to clear away the fog.

“Car’s warm,” he said, “time to go?”

“Time to go.  I want to get into bed with a nice cuppa and someone warm to hold.”

“Sounds good to me, angel.”

Crowley revved the engine, and they pulled out onto the road.

Chapter Text

Crowley shuffled blearily into the living room to the familiar sound of bustling, and found Aziraphale on his toes in front of the fireplace. He was lining Christmas cards atop the mantle, and as Crowley walked closer, he noticed that the vast majority were yellowed with age.  Plucking one from the line, he peered at it, and his sleepiness vanished into bafflement.

“Why do you still have these?” he asked the angel, looking down at the card, and the dead bird depicted on the front.

Aziraphale cast a look at him, carefully straightening another card.

“What do you mean?” he asked, “they’re Christmas cards from old friends; of course I’d keep them.”

Crowley made a face.

“Okay,” he said, “Okay, I get why you would keep them, but why would you put them up?  Victorian Christmas cards were the worst.  And I thought you didn’t want weird decorations.”

Aziraphale hummed, looking at the card in his hand, which depicted children being kidnapped by Krampus.

“Sentiment,” he said softly, “can make me fold quite easily.  And besides, these cards were quite in vogue when I received them.  It’s only time that drove them out of fashion.”  

Crowley set his card back down and carefully arranged it the way it had been before.

“Right,” he said, skimming his eyes over the display above the mantle.  He stopped on one of them.

“Oh, I sent that one.”

Aziraphale gave him a secretive little smile.

“I’m aware,” he said, looking at the faded arrangement of flowers painted on the card, “That’s why it’s in the center.”

Crowley huffed, looking at the little painted flowers.

“I bet you saw right through me, didn’t you?” he said, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his robe, “I thought I was real subtle back then, but you always knew.”

“That you sent the card because you wanted to?  Of course,” said the angel.  He placed the final card in his stack, and stepped back from the fireplace to look them over.

“Very nice.”  

He turned to Crowley.

“What do you say to goose for dinner?  On Christmas, I mean. Traditional fare sounds good this year.”

Crowley blinked.

“Fine with me,” he said, stepping back to stand beside the angel.  There was a pause.

“Don’t suppose there’s any point in sending you a card now,” he said, “seeing as we live together.”

“Not really,” said Aziraphale, “Still, I never was able to send one to you, although I wanted to.”  He hesitated for a moment, as if considering.

“We could exchange cards on Christmas, if you’d like.  Make up for a bit of lost time. That is the only card you ever managed to send me, after all, and I wouldn’t mind having a few more of them to collect.”

“Collect,” Crowley snorted, “More like hoard.  But sure, let’s do cards. I’ll make sure to find one that can match your display up there.”

“I don’t doubt it,” said the angel, but his tone was just about as pleased as it was possible to be.

Chapter Text

Aziraphale had a slew of things spread out across the table.  There were boxes and ribbons and rolls of wrapping paper laid out in front of him, and he was running a finger over a small hand-penned list on notepad paper.  Crowley strolled into the kitchen and took the scene in for a moment before he approached to lean over the back of the angel’s chair.

“Getting things together, then?” he asked.

“Hm, yes,” said the Aziraphale, crossing something off from his list while placing a gold-wrapped parcel to the side.

“Need any help?  You should’ve gotten me.  I didn’t know you’d started wrapping already, and half of those are mine.”

“Oh,” said the angel, looking up, “I didn’t mean to start without you.  I haven’t touched any of yours, but I do have them written out.”  And he tapped the list, pushing it towards Crowley, who came around to sit adjacent.

“Right, thanks,” he said, and reached forward to ruffle through a stack of tissue paper, before pulling a box towards him.  Aziraphale tugged the list back towards himself, and they worked in silence for a moment.  Then Crowley said, “Oh,” and lifted something towards the angel.

“I know it’s not Christmas yet,” he said, “but, cracker?”

He was grinning lopsidedly, and Aziraphale took the other end of the cracker with a sigh.

“Just the one,” he said, “we are saving the rest for later.”

They tugged, and it came open with a pop.  Crowley unfolded the paper crown and dropped in lightly onto the angel’s curls.

“There,” he said, “now, allow me to read you some scintillating jokes.”

“Please don’t,” Aziraphale sighed, but he rested his chin in his hand to listen as Crowley cleared his throat.  He tolerated the silly riddles, and when the demon had finished, he pulled the crown from his own head and dropped it onto Crowley’s.  Crowley pushed it up from where it slipped across his eyes.

They shared a fond, lingering look before Aziraphale tapped the list.

“Right, right.  Wrapping.  Yeah,” said Crowley with a smile.  He looked across at the stack of presents. “I think we did pretty good, don’t you?  They’ll be happy with this, right?”

Aziraphale laughed softly.

“I don’t that anyone would be unhappy to receive a gift,” he said, “but yes, I think that we did well, dear.”  

He reached across the table for a spool of ribbon, and tied a neat, looping bow around his box. Crowley asked him to pass the scissors.  

Between the two of them, the wrapping took no time at all.

Chapter Text

“I am very tempted,” announced Aziraphale, “to go into the plum pudding.”

Crowley looked up from where he was tapping at his laptop on the sofa.  He smirked.

“You’ve been tempted for a month,” he said, “you can wait a few more days, can’t you?”

Aziraphale frowned.

“I suppose,” he said disgruntledly, settling himself on the sofa next to Crowley.  “I think I would like something sweet, though.”

“Oh!” said Crowley.  He sat up and set the computer aside. “I just picked up some mulled wine.  I was thinking we could break it out on Christmas Eve, but I could heat it up right now if you’d like.  If you’ll wait a tick, I can be back with it in a minute.”

Aziraphale’s round face slid easily into a smile, and he relaxed more comfortably into the sofa.

“Oh, would you, dear?” he said, “that does sound lovely.”

“‘Course,” said Crowley, “I’ve been thinking I could use something to warm me up, anyways.”  And he stood, and disappeared into the kitchen.  

On the sofa, Aziraphale pulled the small quilt from where it had been draped over the back, and set it on his lap.  When Crowley returned, he spread it over the both of them.

For a moment they remained in silence, warm drinks cradled in their hands and their shoulders pressed together.  Then Aziraphale said:

“It’s a bit counter to the season, but the taste of cinnamon always makes me think of sand and heat and sunshine.”

Crowley tilted his head.

“Egypt?” he hazarded.

“Mhm,” said the angel.  “It was the first time I’d had it, you know.  And of course cinnamon was quite expensive in those days, but I was always willing to splurge a bit on spices.”

“Yeah,” said Crowley, “I remember.  I suppose I’m always reminded more of Rome, myself.  Especially with mulled wine.  I’ve tried to recreate it the way they did it, you know, but I can never get the flavor right.”

“So many things we’ve lost to time,” agreed Aziraphale.  “I’m always glad when traditions manage to hang on.  It means one less thing I’m almost alone in remembering.”

Crowley leaned his head against Aziraphale’s shoulder.

“We’ll remember them forever, though,” he said, “or at least for as long as we’re around.”

Aziraphale leaned his head on Crowley’s.

“That’s true, of course,” he said.  “And I am glad for it, really.  I would always rather remember, even the unfortunate bits.”

“I dunno about that,” replied the demon, “but most of it was nice; I tried not to stick around for too long when it wasn’t.”

There was a soft, lingering silence, before Aziraphale said:

“I still do want a pudding, though.  The wine is lovely, of course, but….”

“But it’s not the pudding.  Whatever, angel.  If you want to go into them, then I won’t stop you.”

“Split one with me? I’d rather share.”

“Sure,” said Crowley, stifling a yawn with the palm of his hand, “That sounds all right.”

Chapter Text

Aziraphale and Crowley made their way down the steps of the British Museum, just having finished lunch.  Crowley was thumbing one-handedly through his mobile phone; his other hand was tangled with the angel’s.  

Mingling with the crowd on the sidewalk, the two made their way towards the Bentley, parked up on the kerb and bracketed on either side by No Parking signs.  It was as they neared the car that they passed a group of youths, each somewhere in that awkward, not-quite-child, not-quite-teenage stage.  And among them, amidst the loud and piping chatter, there came a familiar voice.  

Crowley was the one to catch it first, and stop to do a double-take.  Aziraphale quickly followed.

“Crowley?”

“Shh,” said the demon, squinting through his glasses towards the group, “I think…”

And what Crowley thought was: “I could have sworn that I heard Warlock just then.”  

And in fact, he had.  

Aziraphale put a suede-gloved hand on Crowley’s arm.  

“The one with the dark cap,” he said.

“It is him,” said Crowley, and then he hesitated.  “I don’t recognize any of the other kids.  He must’ve made new friends.”

“Mhm,” said Aziraphale, and then: “You want to eavesdrop, don’t you?”

Crowley shrugged.

“If you don’t mind,” he said. “I’d like to make sure that he’s not with a bad crowd.  You know when he was younger, the only friends he had were the children of his father’s associates, and that was….”

“Disingenuous?” suggested Aziraphale. “Shallow?”

“Yeah,” said Crowley, “that. I’m interested to see who he’s grouped himself with these days.”

Aziraphale sighed indulgently.

“Very well,” he said, “but do be subtle, dear.  Following children around….”

“Eurgh,” said Crowley.

They slipped through the crowd amongst the press of bodies until they were within eavesdropping distance of the tweens.

“Last year,” one of the boys, a stout dark haired child, was saying, “we went to Spain to visit my aunt.  But my mum doesn’t want to travel with my baby sister, so this year we’re just celebrating at home.”

“My favorite Christmases are all at home anyways,” said another boy, this one slight and fair-haired, “Traveling sucks, and all my aunts and uncles only want to ask about school anyways.  But the best Christmas was when it actually snowed, and my brother and I made snow forts in the park and didn’t come back ‘til dusk.  My sister had to come and bring us back for dinner, and my mum got mad we made her wait.”

As they spoke, both Crowley and Aziraphale couldn’t help but notice the way that Warlock bit his lip and hesitated.

“At least your parents care,” the boy sighed, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his downy coat. “Mine’ll give a ton of gifts, but they’re never anything I actually want.  They never listen when I talk, and just get me stuff that they want me to like, like...like stupid footballs—American footballs—and books ‘bout politics. I hate politics.  I’d like a book on physics or a fantasy, or something cool, or a computer game!”

One of the boys clapped Warlock on the shoulder.

“Sorry your parents are rubbish,” he said.

“They’re not rubbish,” said Warlock, “they’re just…just...too busy thinking about themselves or their important jobs.” He paused, and then perked up a bit.  “When I was little, though, I had this nanny, and for some reason the gardener too.  They always made Christmas fun.  Nanny would make Christmas biscuits in the shape of Transformers, if I asked her.”  He blushed a bit.  “It was great when I was five.”

Some of the other boys teased a bit, poking fun at Warlock’s obvious upper-class background, but they weren’t mean about it; they weren’t even carelessly cruel in the way that Aziraphale rather expected from boys that age.  And for that matter...neither was Warlock.  The child that he and Crowley had left behind a year ago had grown into an almost-teen who didn’t brag or whinge, or even shout more than the usual child.

He chanced a glance at Crowley.  Then he sighed, and placed a hand on the demon’s shoulder.

“Well…?” he said.

“Well, what?” said Crowley stiffly.  

“Well, what do you want to do?” asked the angel.  “I can see your expression.”

Crowley straightened, looking deliberately away from the group of boys, who were moving further and further away in the crowd.

“Let’s do it tonight,” he said, “Let’s not wait until Christmas.”

“Crowley,” said Aziraphale, “And lose the magic of it?”

Crowley made a frustrated sound, gripped Aziraphale by the arm, and tugged him back towards the Bentley.  Then he snapped his fingers.  Before their eyes, in the back seat, there materialized a heaping sack of presents.

“Well?” he said, “We can be Regular Father Christmases.  Don’t tell me you don’t want to.  You can never resist doing a little harmless good.”

“Well,” said Aziraphale.

“C’mon,” said Crowley.

Aziraphale pursed his lips.  

He refused to back down.

“It’s going to have to wait until tomorrow night,” he said, “the way we’ve planned it.  Tonight we’d said we’d look into dance lessons, didn’t we?”

Crowley sighed.

“Tomorrow, then,” he conceded.

“Just until tomorrow, dear boy.”  

Aziraphale patted his shoulder absently, and they climbed into the Bentley.

Chapter Text

The grounds around the Dowlings’ house were lightly frosted, and the brittle brown grass crunched lightly underfoot.  

Crowley was grinning.  Aziraphale leaned out of the Bentley, a pile of gift-wrapped parcels in his arms, and smiled back.

“Ready, dear?” he asked, his breath misting in the cold.

“Yep,” said Crowley, and the two of them crept together across the dark lawn.  

Up ahead, the house was dark, with window curtains drawn—except for the glittering lights of Christmas tree on the lower floor.  Approaching, Crowley led them around the back to the kitchen door.  He fumbled with the stack of presents in his hands.

“Let me,” said Aziraphale, and a moment later, the door sprang open.  

They crept inside, down familiar darkened halls towards the front room.  Occasionally, Aziraphale would mutter, “New painting, there,” or, “Oh, but what happened to the lovely little end table they used to have.”  Crowley tolerated this, although it rather ruined the mood—it was difficult to feel like he was engaging in serious espionage when the angel was muttering fussily about the decor beside him.

Stepping into the front room was a shift from shades of black and gray into a cast of red and white.  Aziraphale’s face round face fairly glowed, and the lights from the tree made caught on Crowley’s glasses, sparkling on the lenses.

Aziraphale opened his mouth.

“Sshh,” said Crowley.  He ambled over to the tree, and knelt to set out his array of packages.  Aziraphale followed suit.

Together, they set out the gifts amongst the stacks already present.  Then they stood.  Aziraphale snagged a candy cane off of the tree.

“Very nice,” he said, and then to Crowley, “shall we?”

“Sure,” said Crowley, and they crept out again, down halls that they’d once both regularly walked by daylight, and then out onto the grass and sparkling cold.  

It was with haste that they made their way back to the Bentley.

“See?” said Aziraphale once they were inside with the heating cranked, “Much more magical this way, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Crowley admitted.

“I do hope that he likes the gifts.  It’s almost a shame we can’t see him open them.”

“Eh,” said Crowley, “well.  I’d rather spend Christmas morning with you, personally.”

“True. And the joy of gifts is in the giving, isn’t it.  That will have to be enough.”

Crowley hummed in agreement, then shot the angel a smirk as he revved up the Bentley’s engine. “Though we make an odd pair of Santa Clauses, I’ve gotta say.”

“No beards,” agreed Aziraphale as they rocketed out onto the street.

“No reindeer.”

 “Not wearing red.”

Then Crowley grinned, and flicked his fingers.

“We can have sleigh bells, though,” he said, as a riot of silver bells appeared, hanging from the Bentley’s bumpers.  Then jangled discordantly as he went around a bend.

“I suppose we can,” Aziraphale said bemusedly, shooting a fond glance at the demon’s face.  “And there really isn’t all that much difference between a car and good old fashioned sleigh, anyways—besides the animals.”  

And then he sat back, and waited for Crowley to sputter his retort.

Chapter Text

Christmas morning wasn’t white; it was misty and gray and unappealingly soggy.  But Aziraphale and Crowley had seen an awful lot of Christmases—some with snow, but more without—and neither of them minded.  In fact, both the angel and the demon were quite content, tucked together on the sofa in their dressing gowns, with slippered feet propped up side by side on an ottoman.  Aziraphale’s head was pillowed against Crowley’s shoulder.

A few gifts had been exchanged earlier, and there were a few still yet to go, but the morning had arrived in a lazy crawl which neither of them wanted to rush.

Eventually, with a soft rustle of cloth, Aziraphale drew a pale envelope from his pocket and handed it to Crowley.  

“I believe we had discussed Christmas cards,” he said, tilting his face to look up at him.

“We did,” agreed the demon.  He blinked slowly down at Aziraphale, and ran his fingers over the angel’s neat handwriting on the envelope. Then, carefully, he broke the wax seal that held the paper together.  

The card that he pulled out was simple, with a printed wreath and song lyrics on the front.  But it wasn’t the card itself that mattered, really, and when he opened it, Aziraphale was watching closely.  

Crowley’s eyes flicked back and forth as he read, and with every word his cheeks began to pink. Finally, his mouth dropped open.  Then he tore his gaze away from the card to stare at Aziraphale.

“Angel,” he breathed, and Aziraphale felt the brush of Crowley’s jaw against his hair.  He drew back to meet Crowley’s eyes.  

“I mean it, you know,” he said. “Every word of it.  I love you very much, my dear.”  

He watched the way that Crowley’s throat bobbed as he swallowed, and how he sucked his bottom lip into his mouth—and then the demon was leaning forward across the space between them to press their lips together.

The kiss was soft and sweet, and Aziraphale laughed into it between the gentle brushes of lips.

“It’s nothing I haven’t said before,” he said, when Crowley finally leaned back, grinning sheepishly.

“I know,” said Crowley, “but seeing it—your writing...it’s so, so—so flowery.  Er.  Romantic.  It’s.  ‘M just not used to it, is all.”

“But you liked it?” said Aziraphale, one pale eyebrow creeping up his forehead as his lips curled up into a smirk. "Despite the fact that verbal complements leave you flustered?"

“Ah. Oh. Well, yeah, I suppose,” said Crowley.  He paused for a beat.  “And now you’re going to take advantage of that, aren’t you?”

“Of course, my dear,” said the angel.  “Who would I be if I let the opportunity slip away from me?  Besides—I’ve said it before, but you deserve everything that I can give and more.”

And now Crowley was blushing fully, bright spots of red forming high upon his cheeks. He busied himself with looking down, and then he thrust a hand out towards the angel.  Aziraphale looked at the envelope extended towards him. 

“For you,” said Crowley.  He looked away, only to immediately glance back again as Aziraphale opened his envelope.

The angel sighed into a chuckle.

“Of course,” he said, “you’d manage to find the tackiest card in all of existence.”

“Well, yeah,” said Crowley proudly.  “Open it.”

Aziraphale did, and then his face went very suddenly, utterly tender. 

“Oh Crowley, youyou have no grounds to call me sentimental.  Oh, my dear.”  And then he sighed, mouthing the words to himself again.

Crowley shrugged.

“It’s everything I wanted to put in the last card,” he admitted softly, “but that I felt I couldn’t.”

Aziraphale set the card down carefully in his lap and took both of Crowley’s hands in his, smoothing his thumbs across the demon's knuckles before raising them to his lips.  He pressed a kiss there, soft and brief, and then another.  Soon he was peppering Crowley’s fingertips and palms with gentle kisses.

Crowley made the sort of sound that might have been trying to be a word, but didn’t quite make it.

Aziraphale smiled, lips brushing warm and feather-light against Crowley's palm.

“It's only right,” then angel murmured, “to reward the beautiful hands which wrote such lovely things.” And then he peered up at Crowley through golden lashes, and Crowley’s breath caught.

“Ngh,” he said, “Aziraphale.”  

“Yes?” the angel asked, and Crowley huffed.  

“You really are insufferable,” he said, but his expression was as gentle as Aziraphale’s, and immeasurably fond. 

Rolling his eyes, he carefully extracted one of his hands from the angel’s.

“Got something else for you, you know,” he said, and leaned back to retrieve two presents from the floor beside the sofa.  

Aziraphale squeezed his hand again before letting it drop to accept the gifts.  These, he opened up to find a box of sweets from his favorite patisserie, and a tin of chocolate-covered almonds.

“Thank you, dear.”

“Course,” said Crowley, and was startled when Aziraphale handed him another parcel of his own.

“Uh, thanks.”

He pulled the ribbon away from the paper, and pried the lid off of the little wooden box inside.  Then he lifted it to take a closer look.

“Seeds?” he asked.

“Mhm,” said Aziraphale, “I did think I had a few still tucked away—I would have given them to you sooner, only I only just found them.  They were in the back of the bookshop behind some old things I'd forgotten.”

Brows rising curiously, Crowley prodded one seed with a finger.  Together, he and Aziraphale watched a sprig of green curl into life.

“Oh,” said Crowley breathlessly, watching the shape the leaves took, “oh!  But this has been extinct for centuries, how did you—?”

“You know that I hold onto things,” the angel said.  “I’m simply glad you like it.”

“Yeah. I do.”

With one last awed look at the plant, he set the box down on his lap and leaned his shoulder against Aziraphale’s.

“Happy Christmas, Aziraphale,” he said.

“Happy Christmas, Crowley.”

Chapter Text

Tadfield had had a white Christmas, of course, just as it had had one every year since Adam Young was born.  And so, when Crowley and Aziraphale pulled up in front of Jasmine Cottage in the Bentley the next day, it was to the sight of children pelting snowballs at each other, hollering and screeching madly as they ducked behind trees and low snow walls.  Crowley had to scramble to avoid a snowball that nearly hit him in the face.

“Oi!” he called once he had recovered his footing, “be careful! It’s not nice to throw snowballs at people bringing gifts.”

Immediately, the clamor turned from war cries into a different sort of shouting.

“Presents!” exclaimed Brian, clambering over the wall of his snow fort to race over to Aziraphale and Crowley.  “You brought presents?!”

Aziraphale laughed, and awkwardly dropped a gloved hand on the boy’s head to give his hair a ruffle.

“Of course we did, dear boy,” he said, “it’s Christmas.”

“What did you get us?” asked Adam, from where he was standing at Crowley’s elbow.

Aziraphale and Crowley exchanged a look.

“Well,” said Crowley, hefting a teetering pile of boxes from the back seat of the car, “why don’t we all go inside, and you can open them and find out?”

There was a flurry of kicked up snow as the children dashed ahead, shoving one another to get inside the cottage first.

Aziraphale sighed and lifted a stack of his own.

“Exhausting, aren't they?” he said.

“But fun.”  Crowley nodded as he spoke, kicking the car door shut behind him, and they followed the Them indoors.

Newt met them on the threshold, pulling boxes from their arms.

“Here, let me...no, it’s fine…right over here.”  

He led the way into the living room, where the children had all gathered by the tree, bouncing in their seats.

“Here you are,” said Aziraphale, setting his stack down alongside the others, and immediately the piles were beset upon by the rabid beasts that Tadfield called the Them.  

Settling onto the sofa, Crowley and Aziraphale watched the paper and ribbons fly, and then watched with gratified expressions as the children ooh-ed and ah-ed over the toy guns and model space ships and one particularly nice art set chosen for Adam.

Anathema cleared her throat, and handed them each a steaming mug of something that smelled sweet.

“Happy Boxing Day,” she said drolly, also looking towards the Them rather than at the angel and the demon.

“Oh, yes,” said Aziraphale, “Happy Boxing Day.”

Crowley took a sip of his drink, and then he sputtered.

“How much liquor did you put in this?!” he asked, and Anathema gave him a wink.

“Just enough,” she said. “But if you don’t want it so strong, I’ve still got a full pot of coffee.  I can top you off.”

Crowley waved the offer away. 

“Just caught me off guard, is all,” he said.

There was another sedate moment as the four adults watched the children pretend to shoot each other and enact dramatic death scenes.

“Oh,” Anathema said suddenly.  “I’ve got something for you.”

“Hm?” said Aziraphale.

“D’ you remember…?” said Anathema to Newt.

“You left it on the dresser,” said Newt.  “Hang on a moment.  I’ll go get it.”

“You really didn’t have to give us anything,” said Aziraphale, looking chuffed despite himself.  His cheeks were already rosy from the cold, and the Irish coffee didn’t help.

Anathema grinned.

“Oh,” she said “I didn’t.”

Newt came back in carrying a small, book shaped parcel.  Aziraphale’s mouth dropped open.

“No,” breathed Crowley.

“Agnes did,” said Anathema.  Her expression was both bemused and a little smug at catching them off-guard.

Chapter Text

The small dance hall was filled with couples. They stood in little clusters around the room, chatting as they waited.  

Crowley and Aziraphale were slightly apart from the others.  The angel was watching the ebb and flow of people entering, but Crowley was watching Aziraphale.

“Hope this place is good,” he muttered, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his slacks as he swayed slightly on his heels.

“Well, the reviews were very positive,” said Aziraphale.

“Mm, yeah,” said Crowley, “but it’s not like any of the people writing them were around when the Waltz really got popular—they might say they teach it just like it was done in the Regency period, but what do they know?”

Aziraphale patted Crowley’s arm.

“Relax, dear,” he said, “there’s no use worrying about it.  We’ll just have to wait and see, the same as everybody else.”

It wasn’t long at all before the dancing instructors came in: a pair of slim older women wearing light dresses and sensible shoes.  Then the class swung into business, and they were shuffled into place and corrected on their stances and the position of their hands upon each other.  

Aziraphale rested his forehead against Crowley’s as the teachers walked about the room.

“I rather like it so far,” he said.  “They seem to know what they’re about, and, well. I do so like being able to stand so close to you.”

Crowley grinned a bit, meeting Aziraphale’s eyes through his sunglasses.

“I think I’ll reserve my judgment until the music starts.”

And start it did.  Soon enough, their first attempt at dancing sent the two stumbling into each other.  Aziraphale stifled a laugh into Crowley’s shoulder as the demon trod on his foot.

“Ack, sorry angel.”

“It’s fine, dear.”

It didn’t take too long for them to find their rhythm, however, as they both turned their full and rather vast attention toward learning the steps.  And rather awkwardly, though accurately, they danced.  

The music was old and familiar, and if they ignored the tinny sound of the speakers, they could almost picture themselves in a scene two hundred years ago.  They could have been at a ball—a party hosted by some important figure.  Aziraphale imagined it: the flaring dresses, the smart looking suits and tails.  

He and Crowley would have met by chance, of course—perhaps they’d both be present, incidentally, in order to influence the same person.  

Aziraphale would catch sight of Crowley first: a sharp, dark-suited figure in the crowd.  He wouldn’t see Aziraphale watching him immediately, lingering as he was at the edge of the crowd.  Crowley would be engaged in conversation, and Aziraphale would watch the gestures of his hands as he spoke, and admire the way his dark glasses caught in the light of the chandelier.  And then, perhaps, Crowley would turn mid-sentence, and cut himself off.  His face would blank for one brief moment, before curling into one of his wicked, lovely smiles.  And he would mouth Aziraphale’s name from across the room.  

Aziraphale, of course would grant the demon a smile of his own, and perhaps extend a hand… and they would dance.  Crowley would sashay his way across the room in snakeskin shoes, and place his hand into Aziraphale’s....

“Hey, angel,” said Crowley, and Aziraphale raised his eyes to meet the demon’s through dark lenses; this close, he could see through them to the thin slit pupils that cut through the gold of his eyes.  

The music had stopped, and so Crowley had pulled Aziraphale to a halt as well.

“Sorry,” said the angel, “I got a bit caught up.”

“I could see that.”  

Crowley was grinning now, wide and soft and open, the sort of smile he nearly always treated Aziraphale to these days.  Impulsively, Aziraphale pecked him on the cheek.  Then he pulled reluctantly away to listen to the instructors speak.

Chapter Text

It had been late, and dark, and Newt, Anathema, Aziraphale and Crowley had all been awfully drunk by the time someone had brought up going home.  It had been Crowley, Aziraphale thought, who had mumbled something about getting on the road, and Anathema—Well. Anathema had thrown up her arms. 

“Absolutely not!” she’d said, slurring slightly in her speech, “No driving!  We’re all completely sloshed, an’ it’s not safe!”

Aziraphale remembered stumbling over his words.

“I’s—I’s not a problem.  I’m an’ angel, an’ he’s a d’mon, you—you know.  We can.  We can...always jus’ sober up.”

Crowley had groaned from where his face was smooshed into Aziraphale’s knee.

“Not sure I can sober up righ’ now,” he’d mumbled, and Anathema had accepted that as her rightful victory.

“Stay the night,” she’d insisted, and that had been that.  They’d gone to bed: Anathema and Newt retiring to the bedroom, and Aziraphale and Crowley put up on the sofas with piles of blankets.  Crowley, of course, had abandoned his own sofa for Aziraphale’s, and dragged all of the blankets with him.  He had fallen asleep in moments, draped across the angel’s chest, both of them warm from head to toe from all the layers.  

Aziraphale had stayed up, tangling uncoordinated fingers in Crowley’s hair as he slept, and let the night wear away his drunkenness naturally.  

By the time that the morning light peeked, pale and trembling, through the window, he’d felt much more like himself again.  He was also uncomfortably warm, and had been so for the past two hours, to the point that it had become nearly unbearable.  

Carefully, he shifted, trying to peel a blanket off without waking his companion, and for a long, satisfied moment, he thought he’d been successful.

Then Crowley muttered, “Wuzzit? Azir’phale?” and blinked up at him with muzzy golden eyes.

“Oh, dear,” said the angel, “go back to sleep.  It’s early.”  And he smoothed the demon’s rumpled bangs back from his forehead, and smiled down at him.  Crowley, the stubborn twit, just blinked at him and yawned, rubbing at his eyes.  Then he pulled himself up the angel’s chest until their noses touched, and left a sleep-soft kiss upon his lips.

“You’re awake,” said Crowley.

“But I am always awake.”

“Mm.  Maybe, yeah.  Doesn’t mean I can’t want to keep you company.”

His breath was warm across the angel’s face, and it still smelt like their drinks the night before.

“Hm,” said Aziraphale, “Well, if you insist, then I’d prefer you brushed your teeth first.”

Crowley laughed and pulled away, sitting up with most of his body wedged between Aziraphale and the back of the sofa.

“Fine, fine,” he said, and he miracled a toothbrush into being with twisty little gesture of his hand.  “I’ll be right back.  Don’t go anywhere.”

Aziraphale didn’t go anywhere.  He stayed right where he’d been for the last several hours, though he did sit up a bit, and almost desperately removed the blankets.

Crowley sauntered back in and dropped down onto the sofa beside the angel.  He leaned in for another kiss.

“Better?” he breathed, and Aziraphale grinned and pecked him quickly on the lips.

“Much.”

“Good.  Good morning, angel.”

“Yes, good morning.”  

Twining his fingers with Crowley’s, Aziraphale looked towards the window.  The light had gone from silvery to a striking orange that spilled across the floor in stretched-out rectangles.  There wasn’t the slightest breeze to move the tree outside the window, and distantly the snow was glittering.  Tadfield really was an idyllic place to live.

Watching gravity drag a flurry of snow off of a tree branch, he was struck with the intense desire to go outside and experience it all.  He was still a bit overheated, and the outdoors looked so chill, and lovely….

He looked at Crowley, and found the demon watching him.

“What are you thinking?” Crowley asked, his head tipped slightly, and Aziraphale couldn’t resist tucking an arm around his shoulder and pulling him into his chest.  Crowley made a happy sort of sound and snuggled closer.

“I was thinking that perhaps I’d like to go outside,” Aziraphale admitted, looking at the dark head of hair pressed against his collar, “but you seem far too comfortable here.”

Crowley raised his head.

“A bit,” he said, “but if you’d like to go outside, then I don’t mind.  ‘S a bit stuffy in here, actually.”

“It is,” agreed Aziraphale.  “And it can just be for a moment.  Would you join me?”

Crowley shook his head.

“D’ you even have to ask?” he said, “Obviously, I will.”  

And, seeing as they were already dressed in their clothes from the day before, they stuffed their feet into their shoes and pulled their coats on, and stepped outside.

They were met by a veritable winter wonderland.

The sunlight had gone bright and golden, and caught the surface of the ground, smoothed over in the night by another layer of snow.  All around them everything was white and bright, and the sky was clear and still dark with the morning.  The air was still and quiet, and their breaths formed frosty puffs in front of them. 

Aziraphale bumped his hand with Crowley’s, and the demon tucked it between both of his.  Somewhere, a bird rustled in a tree and sent another spill of snow spiraling towards the ground.  

Abruptly, Crowley chuckled.

“What is it?” asked Aziraphale, and Crowley untangled one of his hands to point into the yard.

“Those snowmen. The kids must have built them before we got here, but I didn’t see them yesterday.  That one’s got a coat hanger sticking out of its head.  Might be an antenna?”

“Oh,” said Aziraphale, leaning slightly to get a better look.  “And that one has...oh dear.  They’ve murdered it.  It has a rake lodged in its chest.”  He said this all incredibly dryly.  Crowley cackled.

“They did,” he said. “Of course they did, those maniacs.  Should take a picture; it’s a work of art.”

“You do that,” said the angel.  “I think I’ll go inside and put the kettle on.  I don’t know when our hosts will be up, but they might appreciate it.”

“Or they might be bothered that you messed around in their kitchen,” Crowley muttered to Aziraphale’s retreating back.

“Well, even if they are,” he said, “I want some tea.  And they can either accept my doing them a kindness, or make an issue of it with me.”  

He ignored the way the demon laughed behind him.