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The trouble is, there are no pictures in the stars. There are no stories there, no myths, no gods, no scales, no soldiers. There are only dead things, air and fire and void too interminable for any mind to comprehend. Whatever you see up there, it’s whatever you need to see. There you are, riding a rock hurtling through the endless night, gazing up. A soul, trying to make sense of eternity. 

It’s just to ensure Crowley’s doing it correctly, Aziraphale tells himself at first. To make sure he’s getting it right, it’s only responsible, given the circumstances. It’s not that he doesn’t trust Crowley, certainly not. However, he does expect to find his share of miracles divvied up from the Arrangement to be performed half-heartedly, perhaps with a dismissive air, magic fraying at the edges.

Here is what he sees instead. 

The First Miracle. A Village Near Wessex, 600 AD. 

It’s a cool night, enough of a breeze that Aziraphale’s presence outside the window could be mistaken for a passing wing on the wind. The cottage, though, is hot with the girl’s fever and the anxiety of her family, gathered in the kitchen as the man posing as a doctor stands over her. 

There’s tension in the line of Crowley’s jaw, in the branch-brittle bend of his shoulders. Aziraphale can feel the power brimming beneath the demon’s skin. The thought crosses his mind, to wonder if he hasn’t made a terrible mistake, if he hasn’t sent a monster in to do an angel’s job, if all the oysters and drinks and sunsets were a ploy, a plot leading to this very moment. The thought, however, occurs to him more because he feels it should, less because he actually feels it. Indeed, the very thought of not being able to trust Crowley feels like it comes from somewhere outside himself. Not since he stepped out of the garden has he known a world in which Crowley has not been a constant. Crowley, who has never once betrayed him. His hair is as red as the leaves that scatter past Aziraphale in the wind, the red of change, a shift in season. A ripening. That head is bowed over the girl, tossing and weak in her sickbed, and when Crowley lifts his hand, Aziraphale flinches so badly he nearly stumbles.

Oh, the love there. Oh, there it is, unmistakable, unfettered, desperate and fierce as hunger, brilliant as a nova and birthed from the same power that made them, novae and black holes too. Crowley’s palm passes over the girl. Her fever is gone in a breath, but the rippling aftershocks of the miracle wash over Aziraphale again and again. This is pure magic, pure angelic magic. Clean and enormous and employed so tenderly, as Crowley undoes and remakes the universe into one in which this particular child gets to survive it for decades more. 

Aziraphale gathers himself, peers as closely as he can through the window without being noticed, unable to look away. His breath comes sharp as a blade at what he sees there. 

Crowley’s face is breathtakingly unguarded in the aftermath of his miracle. His eyes have fluttered shut, lashes light there against the apples of his cheeks. His thin lips set apart so the angel can see the space between them, a dark wet line as dangerous and inviting as the sea. Stardust freckles stand out bright against his nose, those starmaker fingers still flexing where Crowley holds them at his sides, as if to say more, please. I’m not done yet. 

For that’s what he’s done, Aziraphale realizes, swallowing. He knows Crowley so well, he doesn’t think about it often (doesn’t let himself), but this, this is what Crowley was made for, once. To make miracles, to heal, to save. Here is his ancient power, unused for millennia, forced into the core of him, allowed at last to help, again, within the construct of this Arrangement. Aziraphale had believed him, when he said it was for convenience, to have a bit of fun, to mess with the order of things, and all that must certainly be true. But Crowley’s sun-gold eyes gleam like beacons when he opens them at last, and the softness in his gaze as he sees the child turn over peacefully in her healing sleep—in the moment before he pulls his hood over himself to hide his demonic markings, Aziraphale sees that softness, the ache there. Breathes in the love that’s filled the cottage like daylight. And he understands, somewhere inside him that’s curious and terrified at once, that Crowley had other reasons entirely for suggesting this Arrangement.

Aziraphale slips away before Crowley departs from the cottage, up to the clearing beyond the village. The night sky spreads like a blanket above him, and Aziraphale finds himself wondering. What else of you do I still not know? What of this world did you make, what of the night sky is yours? No demon should love to perform Heaven’s work, not the way Aziraphale just witnessed.

What else, what else is a lie?

Oh dear. I should know better (than to ask questions). 

And so he doesn’t, he turns his face from the sky and moves to the next village, the next assignment, the next miracle that is his. 

He cannot stop watching Crowley, though. The next time the Arrangement calls for it, and the next. An elderly couple in Glasgow, kept safe from a deadly storm. A blessing for a young boy who would grow to become an icon of peace and benevolence. For Aziraphale, blessings are rote. Charming and second-nature—well, first—but nearly chore-like, pleasant bursts of making the world a lovelier place. 

As the years tick by and he watches Crowley perform his miracles, however, an understanding shivers through him, one he keeps tucked between his ribs somewhere, one he knows he cannot let himself bring to light. What it means that Crowley loves to make miracles so dearly.

And what it means that Aziraphale can’t stop watching.

The Other First Miracle. The Greenwood, 1297.

This one is also Crowley’s, Aziraphale just having finished fomenting discord between rival shepherds in a nearby village. Crowley comes onto the scene towards what will become the end of the battle, doing his assignment of delaying skirmishes and dismantling trebuchets, while also taking on Aziraphale’s mission of allowing a number of soldiers to make miraculous escapes, and minimizing the injuries of those who don’t.

Aziraphale will tell himself, later, that he merely forgot Crowley was still there. He likes the Greenwood, more than he thought he would. It’s damp and muddy, mostly, and he doesn’t care much for the requisite armor he has to wear there (reminds him of other armor, which he was only too eager to shuck), but somehow it’s one of the loveliest places he’s found, in the wide world. Aziraphale has many favorite places, but this will always be one of them (it will become a park, much, much later. There will be ducks, and laughter).

The angel, laden in creaky steel-mail and chains, barely makes it to hide behind a nearby elm in the instant he catches a glimpse of that sunrise-red hair in the gloom. 

“There you are, Isaac, no harm done.” The voice is rough-edged as always, and warm. Like the elm-bark close to Aziraphale’s cheek, ragged but soft to the touch. Aziraphale would know it anywhere, could pick it out of a lineup, can tell it’s him even here within the cacophony of a waning battle. It’s accompanied by a now-familiar rush of love, coupled with a ripple of angelic healing. Aziraphale can’t see him, but oh, he knows this part by heart now, against every effort not to. Eyes bright beneath the armor, sure fingers steady and careful over the wound. Aziraphale has been thinking about those fingers, how all the saving should have been shorn from them, the kindness too, but instead he’s never known Crowley’s to be anything but gentle. On his shoulder, pouring him ale, working magic to heal and heal and heal. He knows Crowley does quite dastardly demonic work too, oh, certainly, but since Aziraphale’s been doing a good deal of it himself these days, it’s hard to find much outright evil in the temptations Crowley takes on. Fomenting distress, certainly, inconveniencing humans to set them on the path towards Satan, perhaps, but it was their choice in the end, and Crowley’s lovely fingers were only positing a sort of suggestion...

“But—my leg!” comes another voice, this one human, and weak with terror. Aziraphale shifts as close as he can to listen from behind his tree. “It was nearly ruined, I—how—”

“Oh, it wasn’t as bad as all that,” Crowley reassures, gently as can be. “Now lay back, lad, and get some rest. You’ve done well.” Aziraphale can hear the magic in his voice, more than merely the aftermath of the miracle. A frisson of angelic static, pulsing through—through—oh, goodness. Not only the young man beneath Crowley’s hands, but the entirety of the med tent. Aziraphale could feel that the heavenly work was done, that the battle was ending, that the souls had been saved, but Crowley wasn’t stopping. This instance of the Arrangement fulfilled, but Crowley spread his miracle further than he needed to, healing injuries, cleaning wounds before they fester—alleviating as much suffering as he can. 

Aziraphale feels something shift in his chest. Oh, that magic, that kindness, it feels—it feels—it shouldn’t, but it does, so fiercely it’s becoming painful to ignore. (It feels good. So good, truly, brilliantly good, like the world is becoming a better place for every moment the serpent of Eden—-the serpent of Eden! chooses to make it so.)

The truth is there, clearer and cleaner than any pictures any mortal could find in the spaces between the stars. A truth he doesn’t want to admit, what could it mean, for him, for Heaven, for Hell, for everything? 

“Checking up on me, are you?” 

“Oh, for—for someone’s sake!” Aziraphale hisses, stumbling against the tree with a crash. 

“Hello, Aziraphale.” Crowley has the visor of his helmet pushed up, same as Aziraphale, and he’s grinning. If there’s any part of him that’s irritated or dismayed that Aziraphale’s watching him from behind a tree, he doesn’t show it. Or, at least, it’s buried beneath the flood of love from the miracle that still fills the air and Aziraphale’s senses.

“Hello, Crowley,” he manages.

“Terrible weather, isn’t this?” Crowley comments brightly. He’s right, it’s been a series of storms and from the gathering clouds, there’s another on the way. “I’ve got a bit of premises a mile or so down, if you’d like to get a couple drinks in before you go.” Just like that. He doesn’t press Aziraphale on why he’s there, doesn’t call the trust between them into question, even though he’d have a right to. Aziraphale shouldn’t go, he knows it. He shouldn’t even be here. The thing is, his argument to himself—that he watches Crowley perform his miracles to ensure he’s not messing them up—has grown weak to the point of splintering. It did so a few centuries back, if he’s being honest. He clings to it, but there’s something else, drawing him in, calling to him. An answer to the questions he won’t let himself ask.

“All right,” he says softly, and they set off through the wood.

The smell of battle-blood fades as they clatter along together, replaced steadily with the scent of near-rain, the depths of the forest, thick fresh soil and the things growing wild in it. Presently, there is just them. Ethereal and occult beings, clasped in these strange, wondrous bodies, making their way through an ancient wood that’s so much younger than either of them. Their feet sink into the soil, the gray day sinking slowly into night. No sunset here, just the clouds low against the treetops, the mist rising from the wildgrass. The division between earth and sky, Aziraphale thinks suddenly, becoming a sparse and nebulous sort of thing. They meet, really. There’s parts of each that the other can’t touch, but they meet, along every spot of the horizon. The way the mountains rise up, the trees too, the way you can always count on the rain to come. He feels it more in here in the wood than most places, the scent of chlorophyll and lilies, dew and distant waterfalls, the many creatures thriving within the forest and the many things turning to rot.  

“I like it here,” Crowley says quietly. “Not in the throes of battle and all that, but I might have a kip for a bit, til the next assignment and all. Once it calms a bit. I like the cities, don’t get me wrong,” he says, picking his way carefully over a large fallen log, “but it’s nice out here. Good air and all.” 

“You’re not wrong,” Aziraphale agrees, breathing in the rich air. “I like it here too.”

Crowley turns and extends a hand. Aziraphale takes it in his own without thinking. Even through the thick leather gloves they’re both wearing, Crowley’s palm is warm in his. Strong and steady, and thank goodness for that, as Aziraphale tumbles nearly directly onto his face as he clambers over the log in his cumbersome armor. 

“Oh, blast,” he can’t help but exclaim as his foot hooks on a branch on its way down, forcing him to fight to regain his balance. 

“Easy there, angel,” Crowley says, but there’s not a hint of teasing there, even though Aziraphale must look ridiculous falling off the log. He reaches for Aziraphale’s other hand and catches him before he topples into the mud. “It’s all right, here we go. That’s it, I’ve got you.” 

“Oh, thank you,” Aziraphale says off-handedly, getting his bearings. And then he does, and realizes Crowley’s still holding both his hands. Dusk has settled in properly now. The woods are silver-soaked in mist, in the coming moonlight. There’s no one else around, only the caw and cry of creatures, searching. Only the rattle of wind through the branches, the grass trembling at their feet. Crowley’s watching him earnestly, unblinking. There’s a muscle in the demon’s jaw working, Aziraphale can see the tension there, but he doesn’t say anything. Aziraphale squeezes Crowley’s hands through the gloves. It’s only polite, is all. A gesture, not an uncommon one either. (When, when else would I ever get the chance? If this is all I get to touch you. If this is all we can get away with, I’ll take it. I’ll take anything. As much as I can without getting you hurt). “Thank you, my dear.” He stares into Crowley’s eyes, so beautiful with the visor pushed up, gold spread to the edges there, precious and lovely. Aziraphale loves that he gets to see them, when no human on earth will, not like this, at least, shown in full and willingly. Mine, thinks a greedy voice inside him, which he swiftly tries to silence, but it does feel right, horribly, with Crowley’s hands in his, with those eyes gazing at him, piercing but gentle too. Here he is in the middle of the forest with a demon, and oh, oh, Aziraphale has never felt safer in his life.

“Course, angel,” Crowley says at last, blinking. He releases Aziraphale’s hands, not with disgust or in a rush, but carefully, and Aziraphale could be imagining it but it certainly felt like Crowley gave them one last squeeze before letting them go. 

There’s time to think again, in the comfortable silence that spreads between them as they walk into the oncoming night.

(I like it when you call me that.)

It should sound the same as if he were to call Crowley demon, is the thing. It should sound like calling a human human, or a dog dog. What it shouldn’t sound like is my dear reflected right back him, but it does, and if that’s the case, Crowley started these terms of endearment long before Aziraphale ventured the phrase. 

(No one. No one else talks to me like that. No one else calls me angel, calls me my name, the way you do. Like it matters. You hold my name careful in your mouth, you’re always so careful with me. You say your name like you know me. What of me do you know?)

Night covers the forest before they arrive, but when they do, when they come to the little cabin nestled in the woods, Aziraphale can see there’s a fire burning merrily in the hearth there, lighting it up from within. 

“Here we are. Let’s get the armor off before we go inside, yeah? I’m afraid it’s not terribly enormous, don’t really have visitors and it does me just fine. We can leave it by the garden.” Crowley gets his helmet off and Aziraphale gasps before he can catch himself. “All right, angel?”

“Yes, yes,” Aziraphale blusters, getting his own helmet off, worrying the straps on his gloves, but he can’t stop his eyes from flickering back up. Crowley’s hair, free at last from the helmet, is nearly waist-length. Longer than he’s ever seen it, and he hasn’t seen it get even close for millennia. Lush, winedark curls pour from Crowley’s shoulders, shining in the moonlight against his chestplate. “You let your hair go long again,” he says faintly, fumbling with his glove.

Crowley pulls his own gloves off easily and looks up at him, his hair falling in front of his eyes. Aziraphale immediately wants to brush it away. He busies his hands with his glove again, which just won’t seem to unbutton. 

“You don’t like it?” Crowley asks, flexing his fingers and running one hand through his curls. They catch the light like lakewater, reflecting the glow of the moon. Aziraphale is dimly aware that his mouth is slightly open, he closes it hurriedly.

“I didn’t say that,” he murmurs. “I think it quite suits you.” There, perfectly tidy. Just a typical compliment, a lovely angelic thing to say, except when Crowley grins at him in response, something in Aziraphale’s chest soars. 

“Thanks. Here,” he says, and then his hands are at Aziraphale’s wrists. “Let me, I’ve already got my gloves off.” Crowley takes the helmet, places it next to his own on a stone bench by what appears to be a thriving garden-patch. There’s aster there, lilacs too, and ever so many roses. Aziraphale thinks he glimpses herbs, rosemary and basil, fresh and thriving, (is that what most demons get up to in their free time?) but then Crowley’s clever fingers are on him, getting one glove off, then the next, and Aziraphale isn’t thinking about the garden anymore. Crowley’s hands move, as if by instinct, to the straps of Aziraphale’s chestplate. “May I?”

I can get it myself, I do it all the time —the words emerge in his mind, and Aziraphale swallows them down. It’s late, after all, it’s been a long day. That’s all. Never mind that Crowley was here doing his miracle, what’s one more favor? He offered, anyway. He offers, he does that. A drink, a favor, a hand, he does that. What is that? (Please don’t stop.)

“If you wouldn’t mind, it would be such a help.”     

“No problem,” Crowley murmurs, and his hands are at Aziraphale’s waist. “So, angel. In town long?”

He knows I was watching, Aziraphale thinks miserably. But that doesn’t mean he always knows, certainly. Surely he would have approached Aziraphale before, were that the case. And even though Aziraphale has spent so many of these years hiding, he cannot, somehow, with Crowley’s hands on him undoing, Crowley’s cheek brushing the armor upon his shoulder, the moonlight and the garden there, lie. 

“It’s not that I don’t trust you,” he says in a rush. “I like watching, sometimes. I’m sorry. I know it’s strange, or a bother, but really, it’s not that I don’t trust you!” If he’s telling the truth, or a part of it, some part of it (the parts he can admit to himself), it’s important that this, at least, is understood. 

Crowley is silent for a moment, getting the last of the buckles undone. He moves to Aziraphale’s other side, starts working on the buckles there.

“That’s good to know,” he says at last. “S’what I thought, anyway. Or hoped, I guess. Ah, heaven, this one’s caked in mud.” 

“Sorry,” Aziraphale breathes, quite relieved that it’s gone over not too terribly, “sorry, sorry. I suppose that’s what comes from leaning against such a damp tree.” He doesn’t, strictly speaking, take excellent care of his armor. He doesn’t care for it much, and well. He usually miracles it off. He’s trying to break the habit, though, which is why he’s letting Crowley help. Yes, that’s it. That’s why, of course. And that it would be rude to refuse. 

“Glad I saw you, though. Oh, bollocks, it’s really—eurgh. Here.” Crowley sinks to his knees to get a better angle at the stubborn buckles there, and Aziraphale nearly swoons. 

“Thank you,” he says, and his voice only trembles a little. He casts his glance about, searching for another topic to focus his attentions upon as Crowley kneels there before him in the soil, making small noises of effort as he works the thick leather through the buckle. Oh, heaven. “Er. It’s a lovely spot you’ve chosen, isn’t it?”

“Thanks,” Crowley says, and with one last grunt of effort that has Aziraphale swallowing so hard it hurts, mercifully, the buckle is free. “There we are.” He looks up and grins at Aziraphale, and Aziraphale flashes a wobbly smile in return. (I can’t believe I’m not touching you. Can’t believe I haven’t reached forward and closed this small space between us, seized your curls and pulled you to me. What is this distance compared to the stars we made once? What could it matter? Oh, what am I thinking! I can’t, I can’t—and yet—it seems impossible that I don’t…)

“Alright, angel?” Crowley pulls himself to standing, lifts Aziraphale’s armor off him and removes his own chestplate with ease. He tilts his head, looks at Aziraphale with concern bright in his eyes.

“Yes,” Aziraphale replies, too faintly. Crowley’s lips are pink, parted with the effort of the walk and the armor. Between them, his mouth is damp and dark. They’re both clad in mere tunics now, drawstring trousers, thin bits of cloth. Aziraphale clears his throat. “Yes,” he says again. “Just been a long day, long walk is all.” 

“Sure, angel,” Crowley says. He peers at Aziraphale even more closely, but he doesn’t push it (he never does) . Aziraphale darts his gaze up to do anything, anything besides meeting Crowley’s sun-eyed stare. 

“Oh, goodness,” he breathes, his voice buoyant with sincere astonishment. There through the brush of leaves, the crook of branches, the night sky sprawls. The velvet depths go on and on, spill-bright with stars. The forest is quiet, but the sky makes it feels awake, aware, like Aziraphale can feel the earth hurtling through space, part of this enormous majesty and chaos.

“Looks different from down here, doesn’t it?” Crowley’s voice is low, pitched slightly as he cranes his own neck to stare too at the sky. 

“It does, it’s...it’s magnificent.”

“I like it too.”

Aziraphale glances at him, then glances again. 

The curve of that throat, the shadows there. It shines in the moonlight, slick with sweat and filth from the helmet. He’s darker than he was last time, sun-browned, and though he’s still impossibly slender, his gaunt form has thickened slightly, perhaps he’s been imbibing more wine in this era, indulging in the game of the forest. What else of you do I still not know? His gem-red curls flutter in the breeze, playing across the branch-angles of his shoulders, the ends whipping around his waist. The wind catches the edge of his tunic, revealing a sliver of cream-smooth skin there. Aziraphale shivers before he stops himself. 

“Right,” Crowley says, looking Aziraphale up and down. “It’s chilly without the armor, isn’t it? Come on.” 

“Yes, chilly,” Aziraphale repeats automatically, grateful for the excuse. 

“What’ll it be then?” Crowley asks, pushing the door open. “I’ve got some mulled wine going, I keep it nice and hot, but I can see what else I can scrounge up.”

“That sounds lovely, dear, I—oh…”

The cottage is far too cozy for its own good. Lit from within by a cheery fireplace that’s been miraculously going without tending to, as well as a number of other lamps in suspiciously snake-like sconces, it’s also home to several oil paintings, various chalices that seem to span century and continent, and a sizable pile of scrolls Crowley quickly miracles behind a blanket (he always has pretended to hate reading). It’s a haven-place in the night, spare and strange but impossibly warm, and not only from the firelight.

Aziraphale is...welcome here. He shouldn’t be, he shouldn’t, this is a demon’s hideaway, for Heaven’s sake! But he is, and he feels it. His pulse sings in his body, alit from within, and helplessly, helplessly he knows why. Crowley waves a hand and a squishy-looking fur-covered chair emerges in front of the table by the fireplace, while he pulls over a slender throne-like wooden seat for himself. 

He’s safe here. 

And that means both he and Crowley are in more danger than they have ever been.

Crowley chatters on about nothing, the war and their missions, and Aziraphale hears himself reply. I know the script, the back and forth, I know it as well as I know the night comes. I know our dance, how you’ll never take it a step too far, too fast for me, not when I don’t ask you to (I can’t ask you to). I know the event horizon, that desperate, ravenous line, the point I can never cross. The place that keeps pulling me in. 

He pours a generous helping of mulled wine into two goblets (bejeweled and nearly definitely stolen). Aziraphale raises his own to toast him, doesn’t even think of not. The wine is more delicious than it has any right to be, just warm enough and a rich, hearty red. 

It tastes like his hair looks in this light.

Aziraphale can see it now, the uncrossable line, burgeoning nova-bright before him.

In another world, his cruel mind asks hungrily, would you? In another universe, where the stars are just dust in the sky, and no one hung them at all, and there is no unfathomable chasm between us, in which I am not a holy thing unbreakable in your hands. Would you? Would you? 

Don’t ask questions. 

The wine is warm, fills Aziraphale’s mouth like mead, like nectar, spreads heat to the core of him like the oncoming dawn. It does not cloud his judgment, he doesn’t let it, and Crowley’s only sipping. He’s let the chatter fall into a familiar, comfortable sort of silence. To him, this must be merely the beginning of another long night of drinking with a companion, no need to rush.

Crowley leans back in his chair with a yawn, flinging one leg over the armrest, leaving his thighs parted. His shirt-collar slings low on his chest, revealing a scattering of red hair there. He wriggles lower on the seat, shifting closer to the fire-warmth. He runs one hand through his hair, which floats around him in a tangle of curls, a silky, too-inviting mane. The fingers of his other hand splay around the goblet, his thumb rubbing it lazily. 

I have seen you work magic with those hands. Good, pure magic. I have seen you heal, and bless, and save. Without praise, without agenda, without any purpose but to help. You can tell me you’re doing it to game the system, to prove that the stars can be rewritten, but that doesn’t change the fact of how you choose to prove it. 

What other miracles could you make, if I asked?

Aziraphale cannot look at him anymore. He’s a sun of a creature, too beautiful, too bright, his brilliance nourishing and deadly at once. Aziraphale casts his gaze about again, but lands on the one item of the cottage he’d been pointedly aiming to avoid.

The unmade bed is just there behind Crowley’s chair, lit by the fireplace. There are four pillows, eiderdown in softspun cloth, and there’s a dent in the center where Crowley must sprawl when he chooses to sleep. Aziraphale nearly never bothers, but he knows Crowley likes to, when he can, and it’s here that he does. Here that he lays his impossible body down, spindly and strong, evil (evil!) and healing, and tender, here where those long curls must fall, cloudsoft and tangling.

“You all right?” Crowley shifts in the chair, looking at him intently. 

“You make miracles,” Aziraphale blurts out. His words come wine-thick and foolish, too much truth trapped in his mouth, some portion of them had to escape. “You do it not just because—because of the Arrangement, but because you do them, you like to!” 

Crowley sits up, then stands. He places the goblet on the table, presses his fingers to his forehead. He is terribly slim in the firelight, he barely casts a shadow, and Aziraphale wants to know what it is to engulf him, to cover him, to press up against those angles, to ground him. This cottage is too cozy, too warm. It doesn’t feel like Hell, doesn’t feel like the antiseptic of Heaven either. It feels like Crowley, terrifying and safe all at once. 

“Angel,” he says. “If you say that again, we’ll both be in more trouble than—” than it’s worth? Than you can save me from? “—than anything. Please.” He looks at Aziraphale, and there is something like pleading in his eyes. “Please, don’t. Let me be a wily demon to you, let this be a manipulation, an earthly trick. At least out loud.”

I want to let you be good. You want to be good. There is nothing wrong with you, nothing broken, nothing missing, nothing spoiled. I know that. I want you to know it, to feel it. If that means keeping quiet, letting you make miracles for me, I will. I’ll do it, I’ll do anything. Let me give you this. I can give you this.

Aziraphale glances at his wine, flashes a shaking smile. He swallows it down, swallows so much down.

“Alright, my dear,” he says quietly. “But I’ll know it, you know.” 

There is a pause. Aziraphale watches Crowley swallow too, watches his throat work, there in the firelight.

“I know,” Crowley says. His voice just a shade above a whisper.

It’s not right, what they’ve made of you. How can Heaven look at you and see evil, a demon, a villain? I’m trying to see it. It would be easier if I were being tempted. So, so much easier. But all I see is you.

“I suppose I’d better be off,” Aziraphale says presently. His voice creaks in his mouth. I want to stay. I can feel it. I only want to stay.

Crowley bares his teeth, sucking the last of his wine down. 

“‘Course,” and his tone’s light, already taking them into their easy banter, their back and forth, making it safer for Aziraphale, always, always— “Let me help you get your kit on, or you’ll be all night.”

Aziraphale has already planned on miracling it. He could say as much, he should, he should get out as quick as he can, leave it, never discuss anything so close to the truth (and his want) ever again, let it be casual, Crowley would let him.

“Oh, thank you,” he says, and then they’re out together in the blanket of the night.

Somehow this feels nearly more desperately intimate than before, Crowley dressing Aziraphale in his armor. Highlights the facade of it, that they both know they’re making excuses to nearly touch. Crowley builds Aziraphale back up to look like a soldier, to look like the opposition, and he does it with careful, steady hands, he does it because Aziraphale had been without armor in front of him. And then Aziraphale stands before him, battle-ready, the soldier of Heaven that he’s meant to be, that he is, and they both know that he is, and they both know he’s something else, too. 

Or becoming it, at least.

I cannot. This is—this is blasphemy, at best—

“It’s parallax, you know,” Crowley says. He finishes doing up the armor, doesn’t let his hands linger, not even a moment. His voice is mild, even edged with a hint of his usual ridiculous swagger, and the frantic panic that had begun to fray within Aziraphale is, helplessly, somewhat soothed. Not entirely, though, because the starlight gleams off the rust-shine red of Crowley’s hair, making it look devilishly soft. Crowley isn’t wearing spectacles or eye coverings of any kind, like he often does these days, and his eyes glow like lighthouses in the night. A beacon. A warning.

“Wh-what’s that, my dear?”

“That distortion, in the stars. Parallax, I know you see it too.” He cranes his neck up to peer at the expanse. Aziraphale’s follows his gaze a moment later, just barely letting his eyes track up that lean, exquisite throat. “The way the stars look different when you look at them from different parts of the earth. How they catch the light, the shift in position.” 

“That’s fascinating,” Aziraphale says, and he means it. Tell me more. “Tell me more.” Some things must be allowed, certainly, some small impulses must be permitted. (Otherwise what larger ones might find their way?)

Crowley grins. Aziraphale flickers his gaze down to catch sight of it, to take in that quirk of thin lips that he knows Crowley imagines to be quite roguish, but is beautifully earnest instead. 

“Just a human term for it, of course, but I’m fond of it. A change in perspective, makes them realize just how far away those stars really are, how everything they know is subjective, based on where you’re standing. Based on how you look.” Crowley clears his throat. “How there are—fewer absolutes—than they were led to believe.”

Aziraphale stares up into the shifting, subjective abyss of night and hardly sees it. His heart doesn’t need to pound and yet it is, frantic as starlight in his chest.

You make your own light, what’s the human term for that? Whatever it is, it wouldn’t capture the extent of how you do it. How could it? How could anything? 

He has to leave. He must, he needs to leave. 

There is something of a spell here, deep in the Greenwood. The forest is alive, they are not alone, this is undeniable. But it’s a wild, curious sort of alive, rustling with promise. The wind curls through the cloudheads of leaves, the many thick scents of chlorophyll and animal heat catching through it. It catches Crowley’s curls, too, tugging them across the angles of his cheekbones, his jawline. The angel stands in his battle-armor, his rival in a tunic just there beside him, bright eyes turned to Heaven.

“Some things are absolute.” 

It comes out barely a whisper. 

Aziraphale very much needs to leave. 

“Aw, I know,” Crowley drawls, so mild and good-natured while Aziraphale is tormented that he could almost snap at him ( add that to the list of things I’d like to do) , “when you look at it with your Heaven sight on and all you can see the stars from whatever angle you like.” He scoffs, that grin broadening, and there’s a comet in Aziraphale’s chest, hot and thunderous, hurtling home. “C’mere, don’t be a spoilsport.”

“I am supposed to be spoiling whatever sport you’re—sporting—”

Crowley chuckles, moves to stand next to him, and sticks his thumb up against the heavens, out in front of both of them. 

“Here,” he says, his voice quiet, still edged in a laugh. “Close one eye. The mortal way now, go on.” Aziraphale does. Crowley’s thumb is so small there against the night sky, absurd against the enormous backdrop of stars. It’s knobbly, slightly crooked, dusted with thin hairs on the knuckle, a little lighter than the hair on Crowley’s head. Aziraphale wonders briefly what the hair on the rest of Crowley is colored like, almost insistently, because how could he not at this point, with that voice in his ear and that shoulder, bare beneath the tunic, nearly pressed into his armor. “And now switch, open it and close the other. See the way my thumb shifts? That’s one example of it. Generally, it’s used to measure the distance to a star, they calculate it by looking at the angle from different points in the earth’s orbit.” He turns to Aziraphale. “Well, they will, at least. Couple hundred years, give or take. They’re still on the thumb bit, really, might’ve gotten ahead of myself.”

Of course you did, you do that. You don’t let things go unquestioned. You don’t let stones go unturned, you figure them out, flip them over, bring them wriggling, writhing things into the light.

I am trying very hard to remember why that’s a bad thing.

“It’s wonderful, my dear,” Aziraphale says softly. “Thank you.” 

They are standing too close. The wood seems to sprawl forever, as infinite as the sky. The night is thick with the sounds of small creatures, searching, crying out for each other. 

Crowley drops his hand, his smile too. The comet in Aziraphale’s chest seems to have taken over his entire body, blazing through him, catching in his throat, searing his feet into the soil. Crowley stares at him, their eyes nearly level. His lips slightly parted in something like confusion. 

Like a question I cannot answer.

Already it has gone on too long, already Aziraphale knows he has pushed the line back further than it should go, no matter how you look at it. 

The comet rushes through him, heating his ears, parting his lips, his hands aching, aching to reach up, reach out, and answer, answer, but with it comes one indisputable, irrevocable thought.

They will destroy him.

No sooner does it crash through Aziraphale, does he open his mouth wider to take his leave, that Crowley reaches to take his hand. 

“You’ll make it back all right? Don’t need a lift or anything? I got a commendation week before last for excellent work, they’re hardly checking in on minor demonic miracles.” 

“N-no, thank you, I’ve got it.” Aziraphale is trying to reconfigure his senses into a semblance of normalcy while Crowley’s hand is impossibly soft in his. They’ve never touched like this before, and Crowley does it like it’s nothing. Is it, to him? Already Aziraphale knows he will remember the touch of Crowley’s thumb to his palm forever, it’s burned there now, indelible as a meteor strike. 

“All right, angel.” And Crowley bends at the waist, exposing the vulnerable back of his throat, his curls cascading over one shoulder, and he presses his lips to the back of Aziraphale’s hand. So brief, it’s hardly more than a brush. 

Aziraphale’s mind goes blank. 

“Until next time,” Crowley says, straightening up. He gives Aziraphale’s hand the quickest squeeze before releasing it, and turns to walk back into his cottage.

The Blessing after Edinburgh. Connemara, Ireland, 1616.

The island feels like the end of the earth in the best way, a grey-green cascade of hills that look gentle until you’re up close, and then they’re massive, emerging like ancient, waking giants out of the landscape. Distance works differently on land like this, Aziraphale finds, though he’s not quite sure he’d be thinking about it precisely this way had Crowley not started him on it. 

There’s just sheep and an ever-present rain, really, a tumble of villages and farmland, and it’s gorgeous. The damp air feels fresh, and as Aziraphale makes his way through it to the barn in question, he recognizes just that lovely tingling feeling of wild things, allowed to flourish. There’s a sort of magic to it.

He is quite sure the magic belongs to the landscape, but there is other magic here too, and he’s following it. Crowley lost this coin toss, he’s here to bless a handful of decent farmers who’ve had poor luck for the past few seasons. Aziraphale held off until the very last one. (He’s been doing that, as best as he can. Not this one, I’ll check on him the next. Two later, after that. Makes him feel like he’s been good somehow, that he’s only checking in. That he could stop, if he wanted. Crowley hasn’t caught him at it since.)

Crowley’s magic tugs him like a beacon. Over the hills, Azieaphale hitching his white shepherd’s robes to his knees to keep them away from the mud and long grass. Beneath the cloudstrewn sky, through trees nearly as old as the earth itself, a faint chatter of birdsong. Aziraphale follows the pull, sharp and stingingly sweet, and familiar. He could pick it out of a lineup now, could find the north star of Crowley’s power even if he had the whole sky to search for it. 

It’s midday, but the cloud and rain make it so it could be morning, or dusk. Out here, no one watching but the sheep and God herself. It’s a beautiful place, but there’s something desolate about it too, lonely in the way some things should be lonely. 

Fewer absolutes than they were led to believe.

As he draws near to the barn, Aziraphale stops. 

There it is.

There by the whispering willows, there where the river reeds sing in the foothills, there beneath the gentle, cloud-covered sun. 

Because he can’t deny it anymore. Crowley’s magic feels good.

It feels good, as in it doesn’t feel evil. More than that, though. Aziraphale had thought it felt purely angelic once, that Crowley’s power blurred the boundaries between demon and angel, but there’s something more potent to it, something very, very neither. Healing for the sake of healing, not for the sake of duty. Not a cursory blessing, routine paperwork to keep the gears of Heaven’s plan rolling, but pure light, gifted to make the short lives of a few mortals a little better, for a little while. Something chosen. Something risked. 

And it feels good as in it makes Aziraphale feel good. Crowley’s magic, pulsing, messy and strange. Unprecedented, demonic magic used for angelic purposes but not to bamboozle or prank, but because Crowley wants to.

Aziraphale does not look in the barn. He knows what he will see. 

He does not trust what he will do.

And as the resonance of Crowley’s magic frissons through him still, he turns to leave the island.

When Crowley finds him in Dublin later in the week, he will be more composed. He does not mention Connemara, or what he felt in that miracle, or the many, many miracles he has witnessed since then. He will give an easy laugh, have pithy retorts over several pints, and they will part with plans for the next time.

What Crowley does not know is that Aziraphale leaves the pub to rent a small room in a terrible inn very nearby. He only bothers with a trifling of miracles to make it more comfortable, cleaning the sheets and tartaning the pillows. He thinks about making it soundproof, but that seems far too traceable, too demonstrative, so he bites his lip instead as he does what he’s been trying very hard not to do since he was inspired to give himself an effort, shortly after catching a glimpse of Crowley’s preposterously spectacular one in Rome.

The angel lays himself out on the bed. There is a moment of hesitation, but he’s hesitated over five thousand years, surely that’s got to count for something, and besides, he’s too far gone. He’s still chasing the sensation of Crowley’s power, there in the farmland on the island. Now there are fresh images to go with it. Crowley’s cheeks, ale-stained blotchy red, clashing awfully with his messy braid. Crowley’s hand, brushing his as he passes him another pint. Crowley’s hips, swaying in his trousers as they strode out together into the night. He hasn’t kissed Aziraphale’s hand again, hasn’t come close to such an intimate touch, but he hasn’t made a point of pulling away either. 

Aziraphale hitches his robes up, then miracles them away altogether when he finds he doesn’t like how it feels when they’re rucked about his waist.

He’s hard. His thick, untouched cock throbs between his thighs, a bead of liquid pooling there at the tip. 

He doesn’t strictly know what he’s doing. Oh, Aziraphale knows it in human terms, understands the logistics, has seen a thing or two in the streets and bathhouses, but all he knows in relation to his own corporation is that he wants to, he craves it like a delicacy, only much more urgently. He has for a very long time, though he’s only recently known how to name it and much more recently convinced himself (almost out of necessity) that it’s hardly more of a sin than a spot of gluttony, especially when it doesn’t involve anyone else. Not a human, not an angular, careful, infuriatingly handsome demon, with that tongue that flits out to taste his ale, to wet his lips.

Aziraphale tentatively reaches down to squeeze his erection, and gasps aloud. It feels strange, sharp and peculiar but...appealing. He does it again, uncertain exactly how to move.

What would you do? If you were here?

He’s trying very diligently not to go down this path, but his cock twitches anyway, and what’s the harm, it’s already why it’s happening, what more could it do to just...envision…

Crowley would be gentle. The thought hits with such certainty Aziraphale releases his punishing grip on his cock. 

Crowley would—he would start with a kiss, that goes without saying. Perhaps he’d twine those long, knobbly fingers in Aziraphale’s hair, pull him close. He’d let his mouth move down, to Aziraphale’s throat, his—his chest, perhaps, that’s meant to appeal to some people, isn’t it? Aziraphale tentatively ghosts his fingertips over his nipples and lets out a surprised moan as the sensation goes straight between his legs. 

Yes, I would tell him. Like that. 

Gently, gently, he’d do it with his tongue even, if Aziraphale asked. And then he’d—move his hand down, perhaps, with his mouth still attending Aziraphale’s nipples. He’d let his fingers trace the length of Aziraphale’s arousal (and Aziraphale does the same, following the movements of his imagined Crowley). He’d tell me how good it felt, wouldn’t he? How he likes how hard I am for him? Because in the impossibility that they would ever be in such a situation, Crowley would have to want it just as badly. There is no other way. And it’s not happening anyway, so why shouldn’t I imagine he’d be good to me? Aziraphale can’t stop now, his body’s gone hot, precome dripping sloppily from him now, his bollocks pulled tight to his body. 

Crowley would take him in hand then, perhaps (and Aziraphale does, his own holy hand repurposed for such pleasurable filth and so inadequate in the face of the fantasy). He’d stroke him steady, not too rough, watching, making sure Aziraphale liked it. He wouldn’t even take his own cock out until Aziraphale asked for it, he’d stroke and stroke with a slick hand, kissing his throat and his nipples, until Aziraphale cried out, clutching for him, holding him close, and then he’d give Aziraphale his cock, if he asked. He’d let the angel push him down onto the bed and Aziraphale could take his magnificent length deep into his holy throat and taste him, and lick him, and suck him and suck him and his cock would be spilling too, and he’d love it, Aziraphale would hold him down and listen to his body and he doesn’t know how but he’d learn, he’d work his mouth until Crowley went weak, until his voice went high, until Crowley bucked his hips up and clenched Aziraphale’s hand in his and fucked his mouth until he came, and he would cry out Aziraphale’s name when he did, spilling hot pulses of come down his throat until he shuddered, shuddered at last to a stop.

Aziraphale barely has time to be horrifyingly ashamed at the filth of his own fantasy before it works, quite effectively. He just barely gets the pillow over his mouth to muffle himself as the searing, wondrous pleasure of orgasm crests through him, his furious fist working of its own accord, his body instinctively chasing the pleasure his mind instinctively conjured, and he comes and he comes, star-hot and brilliant, all over himself.

He lies there, panting in the aftermath, for just a few appalled moments before he miracles the mess away (all the sheets, in fact) and storms from the inn, off to perform a series of whatever good deeds he can find as quickly as possible, moving on unsteady legs. 

This is not the last time he succumbs to this fantasy. And others arise in its wake, in various rooms at little inns and hostels, forests, the occasional alleyway. Crowley deep inside him, awfully romantic, covering him with kisses. Working his fingers into Crowley, pressing up inside him until he begs for it. Crowley taking him rough from behind, holding him down and fucking orgasm after orgasm from him until Aziraphale can hardly remember his own name, much less his holy purpose.

He makes it a point not to seek Crowley out after that.

(Until he can’t help himself, and ends up in the Bastille.)

The Night After the Holy Water, 1862 

Holy water! Aziraphale is a bundle of nerves set on fire, hurtling through the chasm of space. Well, he’s puttering around his Soho apartment, pacing through his books, but it comes to the same thing.

Holy water. Holy water. After all this, after the Arrangement— how could you ask me for such a thing? 

Aziraphale thinks he believes him, that Crowley wouldn’t use it on himself, but only because Crowley has never, truly lied to him.

But he’s never truly harmed anyone else, either.

What does this mean? Pear-shaped?

(Does it mean you’d rather destroy another demon than stop seeing me?)

Or am I just a means to an end? A weapon, a tool?

But I know, I know there is good in you. I see it, I’ve tasted it in the air, I feel it in my spine, my wings, my halo, when you work to make the world better. 

So—then—

He nearly leaps in the air at a knock on the door.

It can’t be, not after that—

“I understand if you don’t want to let me in,” comes the familiar voice. “I’m not here to ask again, I promise.” 

Aziraphale’s heart is frantic in his chest. Cut it off. Pretend you’re not home.

But maybe—maybe we can just go back to normal—

He goes to the door, undoes the latch. 

Crowley has abandoned his top hat for the occasion, his hair in tight, terrible curls along his skull. He’s holding out a package, and Aziraphale’s eyes widen at the smell of it. 

“It’s crepes,” Crowley adds, needlessly. “The chocolate hazelnut, and that rhubarb jam one you liked so much. Blueberry too, with extra lemon.” He gives the package a little shake, and Aziraphale accepts it, very aware his mouth has fallen slightly open. “I don’t need to stay, I just, er. Didn’t want to leave it like that, angel.”

And something in Aziraphale snaps, something he didn’t know was strung so taut.

“Is that all I am to you?” he whispers. He can’t see at all behind Crowley’s thick, encompassing glasses, but he gets the sense the demon blinks at him. 

“What?”

Angel.” Aziraphale raises his voice, suddenly sickeningly aware that he is shattering something they’ve spun carefully, wordlessly, for millennia. I can’t do this anymore. “I—I thought I liked it,” he says, and watches Crowley’s throat work as he swallows. “But—holy water, Crowley? All this time—could I have been anyone? Would you have done this for any angel, is that all I am to you?”

Crowley’s voice, by contrast, is heavy and quiet with hurt.

“How can you ask me that?”

“I don’t know, Crowley!” Aziraphale clutches the crepes. “I don’t know what this is, I’m trying to figure it out! Is that what you’re doing when you call me that, drawing lines in the sand, taunting me, tempting me, reminding me of what I’m breaking, of what I am—”

“What I’m not!” Crowley exclaims. His voice is raised now too, though not as much as Aziraphale’s, his chest heaving, a scattering of sparks erupting from his fingertips, but Aziraphale finds he is not afraid. At least, he is not afraid that Crowley would hurt him. He has never been. But there’s another fear, a suspicion, burrowing inside him. “What I’ll never be—what I can’t take from you.”

Crowley lets the words hang in the air for just a moment before he turns and walks into the night, leaving Aziraphale holding a squashed packaged of crepes feeling nearly as confused as ever, and more than a little ashamed.

After the church, 1941.

Oh stars. Oh heavens, oh hell, frankly.

The chaos of Aziraphale’s mind is a blur of very unangelic curses, and not only because of Crowley’s awful driving as he barrels through the war-wrung streets.

The moment Aziraphale saw Crowley enter the church, he began to suspect he actually does know what this is. 

The moment he saw the books in Crowley’s hand, he was shatteringly sure. 

It should make it better.

You’re good. You’re good, in the ways that should count, and you want me like I want you.

But it’s somehow so much worse, because they never, ever can. Crowley as good as said it. 

What I can’t take from you. 

Aziraphale knows this, yet on the drive back to the bookshop, he can’t stop thinking about the latter half of that first part. He gets to finally let himself think it, and it feels fiercely, cruelly... right.

You want me like I want you.

He can still hear Crowley’s shut up, but he can hear his lift home, too. Not a question, just a fact of what’s going to happen next, even after all that.

The London streets are a chaos of the Blitz. Not so much ongoing warfare, Crowley’s bomb really was the only one to hit this end of town tonight, but the aftermath, the terror and anticipation. 

“Blots out the stars,” Aziraphale murmurs. 

“It does, yeah.” Crowley doesn’t need to ask, doesn’t take his eyes off the road.

“Sometimes the infinity of them feels terrifying.” The strap of the bag of books is hot in his hand, he must be gripping it very tightly. “Even for an angel. But not to see it feels so much worse.”

Crowley doesn’t speak, his eyes unfathomable behind his glasses.

“I suppose war is hell, and all that,” Aziraphale continues nervously, then flinches. What an idiot.

Sorry, that was so stupid. I’m still a mess of these books you saved, can’t blame me.

“She’s not, actually,” Crowley says, and he actually gives a crooked smile. “Still a nightmare, but I like her a bit better, truth be told. Though that’s not saying much.”

Aziraphale makes a sound that could pass for a relieved chuckle. 

“Know what you mean about the stars though.” Crowley glances up at them, which is its own sort of terrifying, as he’s barreling his Bentley through the rubble-strewn streets. “The expanse of it. Feels a bit overwhelming from down here sometimes. But they’re beautiful, angel.” They’re nearing the bookshop. “I helped build them, you know.”

“Come inside,” Aziraphale says desperately, yearning spurring his sorry tongue onward. “I—I’ve got wine.”

“Er—”

“I’d feel better.” He stares at Crowley, the books heavy in his lap. “Knowing you’re not out in that.”

Crowley pulls into a spot right in front of the shop.

“All right then.”

The wine goes fast, the talk of nothing too. Crowley’s easy sprawl over Aziraphale’s second-best sofa, the heady familiarity of this scene, brings it out.

“Thank you,” Aziraphale says over the rim of his glass. “For the books.”

“Come off it,” Crowley drawls, stretching out the come high and long.

“You did it without asking. A demonic miracle of your own, with no excuse, except—” Except for me. Because you know me. Because you want to make me happy. (You do. You could.) “And—you have been, haven’t you? Miracles. It’s not just about me.”

Crowley swallows a long drought of wine, bares his teeth there in the candlelight. 

“It’s not... not you.”

There’s something like a nova going on in Aziraphale’s chest, the birth of a star, or the death of one.

“Get your shoes off,” he says at last. He feels rather numb, and yet rather more alive than he has in centuries.

“What?” Crowley’s voice is pitched with disbelief. Whatever he was expecting, it’s not that. 

“I can smell your singed feet from here, and that’s my fault.” Aziraphale rises, goes to the sink that he remembers he’s got every so often, conjures a basin. “Come on.”

“Oh, angel, I—”

“Please. Crowley.”

And this, still, always, Crowley does not rebuke. 

Aziraphale holds the full basin, keeps the water cool. Gets a cloth over his wrist. One step at a time. And I know this step is coming next. Crowley stares at him through his glasses as he removes one shoe, then the other. There are no socks. Aziraphale wouldn’t even have been sure there were shoes, there often aren’t, but as he had suspected, Crowley seemed to have wanted at least one barrier between his flesh and the hallowed ground. The skin there appears unharmed, but Aziraphale can sense the divine punishment, the smell of burning. 

“Take those things off too, please. It’s just us.” Aziraphale places a sofa cushion on the hardwood before Crowley’s seat. Kneels like he’s about to pray.

“Angel, you really don’t have to do this,” Crowley says, but he’s already complying, placing the sunglasses on the shelf next to him. His eyes are very wide. They are beautiful. And Aziraphale knows that something, something in him is lost.

(No, not lost, really. Kneeling here, at Crowley’s feet. Anthony, Anthony, there are so many Anthonys he could have taken it from, he might have been the first, but Aziraphale can only think of the patron saint of the poor and the ill, the cast-out, and he knows Crowley would know he’d think it. Here at the feet of a demon who named himself after Saint Anthony, patron of the lost, Aziraphale feels found, instead.)

“It’s a holy wound. Miracles might just make it worse.”

“They’ll heal,” Crowley murmurs. “And this—won’t do anything, angel.”

“It’ll feel good,” Aziraphale says softly, refusing to break his gaze. “That’s something.” He takes one foot, then the other, gently by the heel, and dips them into the basin. 

Crowley hisses, and for a terrible moment Aziraphale thinks he’s made it worse, but then the demon sinks into the chair, flexes his toes.

“It does do that.”

“See?” Aziraphale says, primly, and Crowley nearly gets a scoff out but Aziraphale dips his hand into the water and takes Crowley’s ankle in his palm, tilting the foot to the side, exposing the sole, and Crowley swallows his retort. 

Aziraphale cups water in his hand, lets it spill over. Here in the bookshop, it’s just the two of them, just a small bowl of it, conjured to comfort. But the other waters they’ve known together seem to flow through Aziraphale’s fingers as he soothes the singed skin. 

The first rain to grace the earth, how Aziraphale’s first instinct was to shelter this creature who was meant to be his nemesis, how Crowley stepped into the shade of his wing. 

The flood he tried to justify to himself, the children he witnessed Crowley save from the waves, spirit to secret islands and grottos, working his saving miracles, even then, always. 

Aziraphale runs his wet fingers over the arches of Crowley’s feet, the heels, the toes. The demon shudders beneath his touch, something like a relaxing, a relief. 

The innocents he had watched Crowley guide through the winding ways of the Nile in the chaos of the plagues, the villages he’d shielded from typhoons, his own hair whipping his cheeks in the punishing wind. 

Crowley’s hand in his, guiding Aziraphale into a ferry along the Seine after a particularly delicious afternoon of crepes in the middle of the Revolution. 

Each of those acts was in direct defiance of God.

And each of those acts was good. They were good, they were good, they were good. 

“Crowley,” Aziraphale says softly. He does not look up. It takes all his power not to lean his head on Crowley’s knee.

“It’s helped, angel,” Crowley murmurs, his voice breaking slightly. “You can stop.”

I don’t want to stop. I want to get your trousers off, I want to run these damp hands up your calves, your thighs, your hips. I don’t want to bathe you because you’re dirty, I want to take care of you because I—

“All right,” he forces himself to say. He waves the bowl away, wraps Crowley’s feet in the cloth, makes sure it’s extra soft. He dries him slowly, carefully. Getting the fabric in the crooks of his ankles, the Achilles tendon. “Don’t say thank you, please.”

“All right,” Crowley says, and then Aziraphale’s cheeks are burning. He’s kneeling there, between Crowley’s parted thighs. Can practically feel the heat from between them, can smell him if he tries (he is trying very hard not to try). He doesn’t want to move. 

Well, he wants to move.

But not how he should. 

He does anyway. Dusts himself off briskly, hitches a smile to his face. Push through, it’s the only way. 

He’s already more than slightly appalled at his actions, at how far he let it go. So he says the first thing that enters his mind that he knows will diffuse the tension.

“By the by, I’ve been practicing my magic tricks again, you know! Been watching that Houdini fellow, I think I’ve picked up a few things—here, let me—”

Aziraphale reaches behind Crowley’s ear with a hand that’s only barely trembling, to reveal a coin in his palm.

“Would you look at that!” he says, more than a little too loud.

“Oh, angel,” Crowley groans, burying his face in his hands, “ not this again, I thought you left this travesty behind years ago—”

“I’m getting better, I swear it!”

“There’s no getting better when it’s something so positively asinine—”

And in this way, Aziraphale makes it through the night without losing the last bit of control he’s holding onto. 

After the car, 1967.

Anywhere you want to go.

Fuck. 

The bookshop feels colder than usual, with the Bentley pulled away. Aziraphale has no reservations about the holy water, not anymore, not really. 

I didn’t expect you to ask outright.

And that’s why Aziraphale had slipped, just a bit more than before. Go for a picnic. Dine at the Ritz. So demonstrative he’s half-surprised he hasn’t been smited already, though as there really hasn’t been any semblance of retribution whatsoever for all these centuries.

Tonight felt like something more, though. A promise, a desire, to be together outside of the Arrangement. Outside of keeping each other from being discorporated, outside of favors or miracles, outside too of holy water. Aziraphale had taken a step, and Crowley asked for another one in the same direction. 

And Aziraphale had not said no.

He slumps into his soft, head in his hands. Gives a groan, stands up and paces. None of his books hold any interest, it’s too late to go out to dine. He drops the needle on the gramophone, lifts it off (he’s got a Queen song stuck in his head, he’s trying not to listen to it).

Aziraphale is so tired of being torn like this. Of wanting to be the angel he knows he should, wanting to be the very best at it—but knowing, too, what he wants. When he feels listened to, truly seen, valued, l—

He scrubs his fingers through his hair. God, Crowley looked stupid tonight, with that preposterous rock and roll haircut everyone’s got these days. Lips damp, parted in surprise. 

Maybe we could go for a picnic. Dine at the Ritz.

Anywhere you want to go.

You would, wouldn’t you? You’d take me to the moon if I asked, the stars if I let you, you’d find a way (and I’d love it, and I would feel safe. With a demon, at the edges of the universe, I would feel safe, and I am so tired of not asking what that means).

I want to. I want to, I want to, but I can’t, you must know I can’t.

You go too fast for me. Because I couldn’t just leave it there. 

I might as well have said what I meant, I hope you heard it—

If there is another world (I should not, cannot wish there would be). Please come find me in it. 

Aziraphale stood, intending to head out into the night and perform a minor blessing or two to get his mind off things, when he—felt one. 

A blessing. The pulse of a miracle, not too far off. A few moments later, another, and another after that. 

He does not need to entertain the possibility of it being another angel, popped down to earth to do a good deed or two as occasionally happened ever other few centuries. 

He knows that magic, quite as well as his own.

It seems Crowley did not go far when Aziraphale stepped out of the Bentley.

Aziraphale swallows, his cheeks very hot. I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t, I shouldn’t, I left the car, I said no (I said later, please), I turned him down, I should leave him be, I shouldn’t make it worse.

He straightens his cravat, the looser fastening he’d purposely chosen to deliver the holy water (little changes, little shifts, nothing at all. Don’t think about how they make the big ones feel slightly less daunting, slightly more possible), and walks out the door.

It only takes Aziraphale a moment following the pulse of beautiful, familiar power to recognize the destination it’s pulling him to.

St. James Park is thick with night but bright with moonlight. Aziraphale follows the miracles off the pathways, between the trees and bushes. It is quite different from the deep, powerful Greenwood that once existed here, but the path isn’t too far from where Crowley’s cottage had been, once. From where Aziraphale had let the demon remove his armor. Places have a sort of memory. Some things cannot, should not be forgotten.

He feels another pulse of a miracle, clean and bright and holy, warm and full of the truest sort of love, and he nearly stumbles where he stands.

At this proximity, Aziraphale can tell what it’s doing, and his eyes suddenly feel damp.

There were, altogether, twelve policemen patrolling St. James Park that evening. There were also three men and two woman, ready to jeer and worse. Because—and Aziraphale tries not to think his own energy is very responsible for this, but it certainly has had a hand in it—St. James Park has become quite the spot for cruising, for queer folks to find each other apart from the vicious eyes of the law and their neighbors.

Each and every one of those fifteen bigots entered the park tonight with cruelty in their hearts. And each and every one of them is currently on their way out of it, on paths that will not cross any of the queer lovers. Some will return at some point in their lives, but more than half will not. 

And as for the ones who do, Aziraphale has a feeling this isn’t the first time Crowley’s performed this particular set of miracles. And that it won’t be the last.

Aziraphale isn’t human enough to be gay, but he always has a particular place in his heart for everyone who doesn’t identify as cis or straight. This is in part because he does tend to prefer presenting as a man and the being he cares about most in the world typically does as well, but Crowley isn’t always a man, and the larger part of it is deeper than that too. 

Aziraphale knows what it is to not fit in. He knows what it is to want something different than what you were told you should want.

To be in love with someone you’re not supposed to. Someone you’re not supposed to be able to love, someone you’re not supposed to consider. And what that makes of you.

And he knows that Crowley knows what it is to be cast out of a place that was once home, just for questioning why the system is the way it is, when it doesn’t work for everyone.

Aziraphale takes a deep, steadying breath as he moves towards the source of the miracles — and nearly laughs aloud.

“What’re you doing here?” Crowley calls down to him.

“In a tree, my dear? Honestly? Are you a serpent again, too?”

Crowley jumps down from the branch he’d been lounging on, stretches, pushes those awful glasses up his nose. He walks closer; but keeps his distance, Aziraphale can feel it, the space he’d asked Crowley to maintain. You go too fast for me. 

“Not anymore.” He cocks his head to the side. “Come on then, what now? Doesn’t look like you’re in trouble, did you need something?”

Why are you so good to me, still? 

“No,” Aziraphale says. “I didn’t.” He looks at Crowley through those glasses for just a minute, then miracles a picnic blanket and sits himself right down there on top of it on the grass. 

“What’re you doing?” Crowley says skeptically, raising an eyebrow. 

“What are you doing?” Aziraphale retorts. “You’re being wonderful out here, you’re saving lives—”

“Shut up,” Crowley hisses, scrambling to kneel beside him on the blanket. He seizes Aziraphale by the cravat and Aziraphale’s mouth falls open. Close enough to kiss you, my dear. Another world, another world, and we could be a couple just like the ones here in the park you’ve kept safe. You could push me into the grass, you could touch me, you could cover my body with yours, do you know how badly I want that? I want you everywhere, I’m so tired of wanting, I’d say anything to get you to touch me, even if it’s just like this—

“Fine,” Aziraphale says, when he gathers himself enough to speak. Crowley’s face is millimetres from his own. “Let’s talk about something else.”

Crowley releases him, lingering close for another beat before leaning back on his palms, groaning up at the sky.

“Whatever you like, angel.”

I don’t know, I don’t know. 

I know I’m running out of excuses, favors, schemes, games to play.

I’m just so tired of not being with you. 

“Tell me something else about the stars.”

Crowley gives a short chuckle, the angles of his shoulders jerking as he does. 

“You can hardly see them out here, angel.” 

He’s right, the light pollution from the city still a dizzying thing, new and strange. 

“It’s wonderful, sometimes, all the new electricity the humans have invented.” Aziraphale says. “Keeps the chill out a bit.” He swallows. “Other times, I’m still getting used to it. The way it clogs up the night. Blots up the stars.”

“It does do that,” Crowley agrees. 

Take off your glasses, it’s dark out. No one’s around, let me, let me see you. 

“Tell me anyway?” Aziraphale asks, quietly. Crowley turns to him, something unfathomable written in the lines of his mouth. “Tell me about some of the ones you made. If—if you’d like.” If it’s not too painful. But I don’t see the point in shying away from what you were. Because I’m here, now, with who you are. “If you’d rather not, of course, we could—”

“Perhaps one of my favorites,” Crowley drawls, pulling a bottle of Chateauneuf-de-Pape out of nothing, “would be Alpha Centauri.”

They sit like that until sunrise. No more talk of miracles, nor holy water. Nothing but the simultaneous torment and comfort of each other, of knowing that though it goes unspoken, neither would prefer to be apart.

After the World Doesn’t End, 2019.

Or, The first real miracle. 

The air outside the Ritz is humid with the fresh scent of growing things, trees and insects and, somewhere, cherry blossoms. Or perhaps it’s not infrequently this bright with scents and sounds, perhaps everything just feels sharper, wilder, more terribly beautiful now that it’s been entirely saved. 

Aziraphale’s very skin feels different. More alive, more present. The breeze rustling through the hairs on his skin, the pavement pressing against his soles. He can still taste what it was to be in Crowley’s body, there in the depths of Hell, to wear the demon’s long, slender frame like armor. He doesn’t think he’ll ever stop. His own soft corporation feels more right, more of a relief than ever, more his, but its demands feel heightened. He’s more aware of its wants, how savory the delicacies of the Ritz felt on his tongue, how the dusk air is clean and fraught on his cheeks.

“What would you like to do next?” Crowley asks, his hands jammed in his pockets.

Now there’s a question.

And you, are you? What are you feeling, wanting? What did you think when you wore my body, when you saved my life, when you saved the world? 

Our side, our side, our side. Our side.

Aziraphale doesn’t know how to answer, but he knows he doesn’t want the night to end, doesn’t want to part ways. 

“Would—would you fancy a bit of a walk, by any chance?” He darts a glance. Crowley’s eyes are unfathomable behind his glasses in the twilight, his face as familiar as ever. 

“A walk works for me, angel.” 

They meander past the Wolsley, along St. James Street, and, without talking about it, they find themselves in the cover of St. James Park.

“We did it, Crowley,” Aziraphale says quietly.

“We did.” 

“The next bit, it—it won’t be for a while now, I feel fairly sure. Don’t you?”

Crowley sighs, raising his shoulders, hands still tight in his pockets. 

“I wouldn’t put anything past them, but no, I think we’ve got some time. Think you’re right, angel, think they won’t want much to do with us for at least a couple centuries.”

The park is calm, as the sun sinks into the cityline. There’s only the faint bustle of the streets through the trees, the trill of a nightingale, the emergence of so many stars, revealing themselves there in the blankness, and Aziraphale’s heart pounds like a live thing in his chest. 

I can’t take it anymore.

The realization comes with the force of a nova, but it also comes like nothing at all, like a truth he’s always known.

“You’re good, you know,” he says, echoing his toast from earlier. That first broaching, it paved the way. The acknowledgment of the path they’re walking on, together, and this, this, this—might just be the first real step. And nothing is stopping him from taking it, not anymore, nothing but his own anxious heart. “In ways that matter.” Aziraphale swallows, worrying his lower lip with his tongue. Crowley tilts his head, watching. “And I’m—I’m not. In ways that matter just as much.”

“Angel,” Crowley interjects immediately, “just because you’re a bastard doesn’t mean—”

“It does, though,” Aziraphale cuts him off. “But if good is what was going to let the world end, then I’m—” his voice wavers, but he keeps going, keeps placing one foot in front of the other. “I’m quite confident that it’s worth bending certain immovable rules. Sometimes.”

Crowley pauses, then grins with one corner of his mouth. 

“Sometimes.”

“Yes,” Aziraphale says with a small smile of his own. 

Night has well and truly fallen now, and still they walk deeper into the park. Crowley leads them through the open pastures, veering from the footpath. Aziraphale lets him, for the first time. 

“And perhaps, er.” Aziraphale clears his throat. “Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective. Depends on how you’re looking at it. Parallax, you know.” He tilts his head skyward. “Fewer absolutes than I was led to believe.

Crowley stops walking. 

“Angel.” His eyes are unfathomable behind his glasses, but Aziraphale sees his fingers flexing uncontrollably at his sides. “You’re the best of any of us. That is not up for debate.”

“Crowley—”

“Shut up, it’s true.”

“I didn’t do it alone.” Aziraphale takes a step closer. “I wouldn’t have done any of it at all, if it wasn’t for you. That matters.” That matters more than anything. Almost anything. Oh dear. What is there to lose? Only one thing, only one thing, and I can’t stand not trying anymore. “That matters more than anything.” 

He’s begun saying what he’s thinking aloud. This is dangerous. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to stop.

(I don’t want to, I don’t want to, not anymore.)

“I’m—the thing is—I’m not—”

Crowley makes a series of sounds that evidence he has absolutely no rebuttal here, and Aziraphale is nearly sure he’s blushing beneath his glasses. 

They’re nearly exactly where they were, over seven hundred years ago. There’s no armor, now, but the stars are the same. The want sparkling in Aziraphale’s soul is the same. 

There are no stories in the stars.

You have to write your own.

“When you asked me to stay,” Aziraphale says quietly, in a rush, though it feels like it takes ages to get each word out, “I thought you meant forever.” There. On the bench. When we thought the shop was gone. But I don’t need to tell you that, do I? You’ve been thinking about it too?

They’re nearly exactly where they were, six thousand years ago. Perhaps not geographically, but that was a green place too, many growing things, an oasis in the desert, a park in the middle of a city. A wall’s edge, the brink of a thing.

It is Aziraphale’s turn to fall.

He is sure-—he is sure —that this won’t be a drop at all, but a rising.

“I meant whatever you wanted it to mean,” Crowley says, and Aziraphale thinks at first that he has never heard the demon’s voice so careful, but that’s not true at all, really. Crowley’s voice is always this careful. 

“But what do you want?” Aziraphale steps closer. Crowley moves as though to step back instinctively, and then doesn’t. “We’re done now, aren’t we? The Arrangement, the antichrist, all of it. They know we’re on our own side now. We get to choose what comes next, so, what should it be?”

“Freelance demon!” Crowley babbles, running a hand through his hair. “Right? Gonna make some mischief, finally, just how I’d like, nothing to report in—”

“Crowley.”

“What?” He says it very desperately, almost aggressively, pushing the word out of his mouth. 

“You’re—but what about—” Aziraphale takes a steadying breath. I have to know. I must, I have to know. “Do you want this to be over, then? Are you—are you done with me?”

And now, even through the glasses, even in the dark of night, Aziraphale looks at Crowley’s face and he has his answer.

“Thought you’d be done with me, is all.” Crowley murmurs. “Said as much, didn’t you? Figured maybe we get a respite, an encore, just to save the world and all, but then it’s back to it’s over, isn’t it, just like at the bandstand?”

“I was wrong,” Aziraphale at once, “and I am not done with you, if you’ll have me.”

“Angel,” Crowley croaks, his voice breaking, his brows knitting. Aziraphale reaches to remove his glasses, and gasps. There is no mistake in those guileless, brimming gold eyes, and Aziraphale feels Crowley’s uninhibited love thunder through him like magic.

“Crowley,” Aziraphale says firmly, and kisses him.

The world goes quiet, the universe too. Everything else becomes background, perhaps it always was. There is only the small, strangled sound Crowley makes as Aziraphale parts his thin lips with his own, and then Crowley’s kissing him back so hard Aziraphale actually needs a hurried miracle to keep them upright. He keeps his hands in his pockets, though, until Aziraphale flings his arms around Crowley’s shoulders, tugs him by the hair to hold him close, and Crowley seems to take this as permission and his hands go everywhere, everywhere, Aziraphale’s hair, his collar, his cheek, his waist, like Crowley can’t decide where to touch first. He kisses careful too, not flicking his tongue out until Aziraphale pushes his own into Crowley’s mouth, keeping his sounds quiet until Aziraphale moans into him, like he’s terrified it could be over any moment, like he’s trying to gather as much as he can before Aziraphale changes his mind but also trying not to do anything to frighten him away. 

“Er,” Aziraphale says into his mouth. Crowley pulls back immediately, panting, crumpled and forlorn, so obviously certain it’s over for good. Aziraphale cups his bladeboned cheeks in his palms, runs his fingers through Crowley’s soft, kiss-tousled hair. There is only, he thinks wildly, clearly, one question left. (And just like the rest of them, I know the answer already. I just need to hear it.) “I’m not going anywhere. That is—not without you. If you’d like.” He gazes into Crowley’s eyes, can feel Crowley not daring to hope, even now— 

In the chaos of the world, as the earth spirals into an endless night at the whims of an absent god, Aziraphale has finally learned. 

You have to make your own miracles. You get to write your own story, connect the nebulous, blazing dots of your life and choose what you want them to mean. 

And then you have to tell it. 

“I love you, Crowley.” 

Crowley hesitates in disbelief, the enormity and simplicity of this sinking in, his just-kissed lips still parted. This gives Aziraphale enough time to register that his own voice doesn’t sound like it normally does, it’s something breathless and bright now. Or perhaps this is how it always sounds, when he’s speaking to Crowley, and he’s just hearing it now, here in the world the two of them remade. Either way, it feels right. 

And then he’s being so thoroughly kissed he doesn’t think about anything else at all. Only how delicate and persistent Crowley’s mouth is, how damp and strange and perfect the act, how encompassingly good it feels to have Crowley’s arms around him, the heat of their chests and stomachs pressed together, Crowley’s breath on his cheek. 

“After all this time,” Aziraphale murmurs, between kisses, “I thought I knew every sound you make. Every whinge and squawk—”

“I don’t squawk—”

“— and groan and laugh. But I was wrong, wasn’t I, and—mmph—” he lets Crowley interrupt him with a kiss “—I’m quite pleased to be wrong about this, because you’re making the most marvelous sounds right now that I’ve never heard before, they’re so you, but they’re all lovely and soft—”

“I’m not soft,” Crowley interjects, and then proceeds to turn bright red, because, as Aziraphale can feel against his thigh, he’s not exactly wrong about that.

“I love you,” Aziraphale grins, kissing him again, nudging his thigh between Crowley’s and savoring the startled pleasure on his face, what a relief it is to—oh— “what a relief it is to say! Goodness, to not have to keep it in—”

“I love you ,” Crowley says, nearly tripping over the words, running his disbelieving fingers over Aziraphale’s flushed cheeks, “I love you, Aziraphale, fuck, fuck.”

“Now that,” Aziraphale says quietly, nosing the side of Crowley’s face before pressing a small kiss to the corner of his mouth, “is quite a lovely new sound indeed.” The relief feels like a live thing, like gravity unbound, a giddiness so bright that Aziraphale, Angel of the Eastern Gate, has never felt more powerful since he was created. 

“I love you,” Crowley whispers in his ear, mouthing at the soft flesh where it meets his throat. “I love you,” he bites gently into Aziraphale’s lower lip, “I love you, I love you, I—shit, this is going to take some getting used to.”

“I’m very much ready to start,” Aziraphale says, his voice slightly hoarse, and oh, Crowley smiles at that, a new genre of smile. He’s always been the most genuine when he smiles at Aziraphale, but this, this is a daybreak, a dawning of a shy, ready new hope, dizzyingly bright with joy. “We’re on our side, Crowley,” he says, partly to speak it aloud, write it into existence, do what he should have done at the bandstand (but no matter now, it’s all miraculously quite worked out), partly to watch that smile unfold even further and it does magnificently, crinkling at the corners of his lovely eyes, wrinkling his cheeks and his forehead.

Crowley kisses him and kisses him, making those soft, hungry sounds, his brilliant, healing fingers working over as much of the angel as he can reach until Aziraphale feels, quite for the first time, that he’s wearing simply too many layers. 

“Shall we, er.” Crowley, cheeks flushed, seems to have come to the same conclusion. “D’you want to go back to the bookshop, or something?”

Aziraphale opens his mouth to say yes, but he pauses instead. He takes in the sight of Crowley, earnest and wanting and his, at last, here in the starlight. The grass and soil beneath their feet, the nearby treeroots pushing deep, branches stretching up towards the cosmos. 

“Would you stay here with me? For a bit?”

Crowley arches a brow.

“Here? In...the park?”

Aziraphale bites his lip. He can’t seem to stop grinning, he can’t seem to stop anything, now that it feels like after all those millennia of believing it could never happen, it is. 

“Here,” he repeats, pulling Crowley in by the hips just so. “In the park.” 

“Oh.” Crowley’s blush deepens, and Aziraphale feels him push against his thigh like he can’t help but not. “Oh.”

“Mm,” Aziraphale nods merrily. He tugs Crowley to the cover of the nearest tree, not so close to the trunk that he can’t see the night sky. “You’ll make sure no one sees, won’t you?”

Aziraphale .” Crowley shakes his head in disbelief, but Aziraphale feels the telltale glow of his magic, knows the miracle has been obediently performed, the sort Aziraphale has been aching to ask him for, knows they’re as safe and secret as they’ll ever be. Crowley’s hands are fussing at Aziraphale’s bowtie already.

“I’m done waiting,” Aziraphale whispers. “I’m very, very done going slow.”

Crowley makes a sort of high, choked sound, which is nearly concerning, but then he miracles a large, thick, tartan blanket onto the grass and pushes Aziraphale down onto it, so it seems quite all right after all. 

“Tartan,” Aziraphale giggles, in between gasps as Crowley licks the curve of his throat, undoing his tie. 

“It’s red tartan!” Crowley tries to say this defensively, but the effect is rather lessened by the fact that he’s grinding helplessly against Aziraphale’s thigh, 

“It certainly is, dear,” Aziraphale agrees, kissing his temple. 

Crowley pulls back, bending over him. His arms bracket Aziraphale’s face, and his hair, short as it is, hangs over his forehead. There behind him is the expanse of the night sky, and there beneath Aziraphale is an entire saved planet, billions of lives and creatures and stories that get to go on because of the love between one angel, and one demon. 

The weight of it doesn’t sink in all the way, it’s too much, it can’t, but it’s starting to, beginning with the fact that they really get to do this, now. 

“I want everything with you,” Aziraphale says, not smiling at all anymore. “Anything you’ll have of me, anything, everything we can—do you—?”

“My angel,” Crowley whispers. “Fuck, yes, please.”

That little shift, that possessive that was always there, voiced. No longer a naming, a category, a demarcation of distance. It’s a bloody pet name now, theirs alone. It always was, but now it gets to be, aloud.

Aziraphale kisses him hard, now, shows him how much he likes it. Wraps his legs around him, pulls him close.

“I want you to know how much I want you. In every way.” 

Crowley swallows, clears his throat. 

“You—you know I feel the same, right? That’s probably the biggest understatement of the goddamn millennium, actually, that I’ve been in love with you before it had a name, that who I am when I’m with you? Angel—I want to be him all the time—”

“You are,” Aziraphale says firmly, running a hand up the ridge of Crowley’s spine. “Now, if I go too fast, if there’s anything you don’t want—”

“There’s nothing I don’t want with you,” Crowley interrupts. Aziraphale smiles, pressing another kiss to him, but continues sternly, because this is important.

“But if there ever is. I need you to know you can tell me. Because we’re starting something new here, and we don’t know all the rules yet, you don’t know what I like, I don’t know what you don’t. And we’re going to find out together, but only if we can be honest with each other, all right?”

Crowley’s beaming, still in something like disbelief. 

“Good fuck. Er, yes, absolutely, all right.” 

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Aziraphale says mildly, and pushes Crowley onto his back. 

He straddles Crowley’s lap and hums into the new position, taking it in, letting the weight of his body press down into Crowley’s, pinning him to the blanket. 

“Can I take this off?” he asks, toying with Crowley’s tie.

“‘Course.”

“And this?” he asks, thumbing Crowley’s jacket. 

“Angel, I’ll miracle my whole kit off in a second if you’d like—”

Aziraphale grins, shrugging Crowley out of the jacket, the vest beneath. 

“I’d rather do it myself, if you wouldn’t mind. Even though I’m quite eager to get you disrobed, I’d rather feel like I’d be missing something, if we rushed it. I’ve been thinking about this for so very long, you know.”

Crowley opens his mouth, closes it again.

“H-have you?” 

“Yes,” Aziraphale says, raising a questioning eyebrow at the button of Crowley’s jeans. “I have.” Crowley nods, and Aziraphale unzips him, peels the tight fabric down his skinny legs. He didn’t intend for the briefs to come with them, but they do, and then Aziraphale finds himself fully clothed while Crowley’s naked, spectacular body splays out on the blanket. 

“Hey, that’s hardly fair, angel, you haven’t even taken your coat off and I—Aziraphale?” 

For Aziraphale’s eyes have gone very bright. Crowley sits up at once, moving as if to reach for Aziraphale and then putting his hands awkwardly back down behind him on the blanket. 

“No—oh, my darling.” Aziraphale leans close, sloughing off his jacket, nuzzling Crowley’s cheek. Breathes in that perfect scent of spice and vetiver, a thin sheen of sweat. “I’m just very, very pleased to be here. With you.” 

“Oh.” Crowley sags with relief, and Aziraphale cups the back of his throat, lays him down against the blanket. 

“You’re so much more beautiful than I imagined,” Aziraphale breathes, taking in the sight of him.

“Well, thanks,” Crowley snips, but there’s no bite to it and Aziraphale’s shaking his head already.

“You know what I mean, I mean I pictured you gorgeous, but my dear, oh.” He traces the blade of Crowley’s jaw with his fingertip, the divot of his throat. The peaks of his nipples, the scattering of hair there, the rhythm of his ribs, the points of his hips, the small swells of his strong, thin thighs. “My imagination never could have prepared me for the sheer truth of you, like this, for me.”

“It’s nothing, really,” Crowley croaks, “it’s you, you’re the gorgeous one, please, angel—” and there’s an edge of desperation in his voice, enough to stay Aziraphale’s eager hand before he reaches for Crowley’s long, dripping erection. “Can I look at you?”

And Aziraphale can’t wait to touch, his mouth positively watering to taste Crowley, but at the sound of this request, he finds he does very much want Crowley to look at him too. 

“Yes, please,” he says hoarsely, and Crowley lets out another lovely sound of disbelief as his hands go to Aziraphale’s buttons. 

Aziraphale thinks somewhere in the back of his mind that he wouldn’t even bother to tell Crowley to be careful with his clothes. As much as he loves his outfit, he’d sacrifice it in an instant to get Crowley’s skin hot against his, but it turns out he doesn’t have to choose. Crowley makes quick but attentive work of his attire, not tearing a single thread, and then they’re pressed together, skin to skin. The late summer air is just cool enough that the heat of their bodies feels perfect, there together in the night.

“Oh,” Aziraphale says, eyes fluttering shut. Crowley’s hands move reverent over his body, his breath hot on Aziraphale’s throat as he caresses the curves of his chest, the rolls of his stomach, the heft of his thighs. “Oh, dear. I’m not going to want to stop this.”

“Good, ‘cause I don’t think I’m gonna be able to.” 

Aziraphale kisses him, loving the taste of his spit, the roughness of his teeth, the strange sticky sounds they make when they come together. He moves down Crowley’s body, trying instinctively to memorise, knowing he doesn’t have to, that he can revisit, that he’ll be welcomed back. 

“Hey--” Crowley protests softly. “You don’t have to do that.”

Aziraphale looks at him steadily.

“I certainly won’t if you’d rather I didn’t,” he says, and licks his lips. “But, er. I would like to suck you off. Very badly. If you’d let me.”

Something in Crowley’s face shatters. This is, indeed, going to take some getting used to.

“Oh, Crowley.” Aziraphale shifts up to kiss him again, to tuck his hair behind his ears needlessly. “Do you have any idea? Everything, my love, I want everything. I do. You’re going to have to believe me eventually. You have made me feel so good, you’ve been so patient, you’ve taken such good care of me, my love—”

“Gonna keep doing that,” Crowley growls. Aziraphale shivers, biting his lip.

“Oh, I believe you. And I’m very looking forward to it,” he reassures. “But please believe me when I say I’ve been longing to tend to you just as much.”

Crowley kisses him hungrily, bright and breathless. 

“Now,” Aziraphale says. “May I?” And this time, Crowley gives a small, hesitant nod.

Aziraphale doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he has been thinking about this for millennia, and when he settles himself between Crowley’s thighs and takes him into his mouth, they both moan.

Crowley is hot and hard on his tongue. He tastes like nothing Aziraphale’s ever had before, saltsour and an edge of sweetness. Aziraphale leans to take him to the hilt, burying his nose in the copper curls at Crowley’s base, and Crowley gasps, thighs going taught beneath Aziraphale’s palms. Aziraphale pulls back, grips him, and sucks on the head, running his tongue over the slit there, savouring.

“Oh my, you taste good, darling.” Aziraphale murmurs. “Tell me if you’d like something different, all right?” He tightens his lips around the head once more before taking Crowley so deep into his throat again, and again, and again. He listens to the sounds Crowley’s making, trying to repeat the motions that get Crowley to twitch and roll his hips up, but he’s moaning too, at the sheer pleasure of Crowley’s cock in his mouth, of Crowley’s precome on his tongue, his legs wrapping around Aziraphale’s shoulders. 

Oh, dear. I love this. Finally, finally, fucking finally, I get to have you like this, I get to give this to you, I’ve been so aching to and you feel so good in my mouth, I finally get to bring you pleasure and I get to taste you, get to have the heft of you on my tongue, get to feel you stretch me nice and rough.

“Aziraphale,” Crowley says, in something like a panic, “fuck, if you keep—I’m gonna—”

Aziraphale pulls his lips off with a pop and meets his gaze. 

“What?” Still staring at Crowley, he presses a kiss to the side of Crowley’s cock, drags his tongue along the length of it, grinning. “Have an orgasm? Isn’t that the point?” 

“But—”

“I’ll slow down if you like, darling, but I’m quite interested in you coming in my mouth. I just figured we wouldn’t be done afterwards, thought you might like to fuck me, but please correct me if I’m wrong and you’d rather we just—”

“Oh,” Crowley manages weakly, “ Christ. Fuck, all right then—”

“Suppose I’m going to have to get used to you blaspheming when I’ve got you like this,” Aziraphale tsks, and moves to take Crowley’s balls in his mouth, sucking gently. Crowley gives a choked gasp, his back arching, fingers scrabbling at the blanket.

“Y-you’re planning on having me like this again, then?” 

“My dear, I meant it when I said I’m not sure I ever intend to stop.” He wraps his lips around Crowley’s cock again and sucks him faster, tighter this time, caressing Crowley’s balls in his palm. Crowley turns hot inside him, the skin of his shaft tightening, his sounds quieting until—

“Fuck!” His cry echoes in the night. “Fuck, fuck, angel —oh!”

Aziraphale moans, delighted and overwhelmed, sucking him harder through it as Crowley comes hot and pulsing down his throat. Crowley’s gone rigid beneath him, hips jerking as he tries not to fuck harder into Aziraphale’s mouth but Aziraphale digs his fingers into the cheeks of his ass and pulls him deeper anyway and Crowley whimpers, shuddering. Aziraphale’s mouth fills, spilling over, and he swallows around Crowley again and again to try and take as much of it as he can. 

This is surely magic too, that I get to bring you this, that you get to fill me too. Let it be ours, just ours, not human, not holy, and not ever a sin. Just ours. 

“I love you,” Aziraphale says the moment he can speak, licking his lips. “I love you, I love this, oh, Crowley, was it good? Was it all right, please—”

“Get over here,” Crowley says gruffly, tugging at him. “Fucking hell, come here, you beautiful fucking creature.” His cheeks are very pink, his hair a mess where it’s been rubbing against the blanket, and Aziraphale dots kisses on his sweaty brow, his cheeks, his nose, until Crowley seizes him and kisses him on the mouth. “Not gonna have the words, really, you know that, right? ‘M not very good at them.” He swallows, shaking his head. “Still kind of can’t believe this is happening, y’know? But it’s hard to deny, after—” he gestures vaguely at himself, his barely-flagged erection. “Better than perfect, all right? ‘s more than I deserve, honestly—”

“That kind of talking,” Aziraphale cuts him off, “I am not going to tolerate. I know it will take a while—for me, too!—but not for one instant will I let you think you don’t deserve this when it’s nearly all I've wanted to do with you since the first time I saw you perform a miracle.” He traces his fingertip over Crowley’s tattoo, his demon marking. “Love you, that is. Openly, without apology. And I’m going to do it now, now that I know you want me to.”

“I want you to,” Crowley says, and pushes Aziraphale onto his back. “Now, would you please let me get my mouth on you?”

Aziraphale moans his assent, his neglected erection throbbing. 

“Do you know how long I’ve been dreaming of you asking me that?”

“Oh, fuck,” Crowley says hoarsely, climbing between his legs. “C’mere, angel. You’ve been wanting this? Tell me what you’ve been thinking about. Tell me what you’ve spent years wanting me to do to you.” He runs his reverent hands over Aziraphale’s thighs, pushing them back. He clutches at the meat of them, the heft, pressing kisses into the lines of his stretchmarks, sucking at the tender skin on the underside, until Aziraphale is furiously hard, precome dripping for him. “Promise that whatever it is, I’ve been wanting it too.” 

“Darling,” Aziraphale sighs. Oh, to be spread out here for you, on this earth of ours, beneath the stars. “I want to know what you want to do with me.” Crowley makes a helpless sound, and Aziraphale grins. You want more direction, don’t you, love? I want to get to a place where I know what it is you do that makes me feel best, I want to have favorites with you, I want to know how you can tease me, how you can drive me mindless with it. But we’ve got quite a while to learn that, don't we? “I want you to fuck me, and I want you to get me ready for it. Now,” he says, spreading his legs wider. “Go on. Show me.” 

Crowley flashes him a blazing look through his unkempt hair, and Aziraphale catches just the trace of a smirk before Crowley ducks his head and licks Aziraphale exactly where he’s been dreaming of it for centuries. 

“Oh!” Nothing, no fantasy, no practice by himself, could have prepared him for Crowley’s mouth on his entrance. This is… bliss, pure and searing. Encouraged, Crowley parts his cheeks further (just the feeling of his clever fingers there, oh), drags his long, wet tongue up the length of Aziraphale’s seam before nudging against his hole. He swirls the tip of his tongue around Aziraphale’s rim, sucks at it until Aziraphale’s trembling beneath him, bearing down. When he pushes tentatively inside, Aziraphale lets out a high yes, and then his eyes roll back, his back arches, as Crowley breaches him, his strong tongue pushing in deep, spreading him, caressing him where he’s never been touched. He starts to thrust, fucking Aziraphale gently with his tongue, lips pressed flush to his rim, and then he reaches up to wrap his hand around Aziraphale’s dripping cock and Aziraphale keens. 

“Better than—than anything, my darling, you have no idea—” Aziraphale can hardly get the words out but he knows Crowley wants the encouragement, and he does his best. “Your mouth is exquisite, your hand, I—oh!” Spurred on, Crowley evens his pace, timing the thrusts of his tongue with the strokes of his hand, gripping Aziraphale’s ass with his other. “Never, never have I felt pleasure like this, I didn’t know it could be this good, my d-dear, so encompassing, didn’t know I’d feel it in my spine and my fucking toes but it’s everywhere, you’re everywhere, oh it’s so hot and sharp and good and—Crowley?” 

He stops at once, looking up at Aziraphale with a dazed, giddy sort of expression, his mouth shining. Aziraphale grins.

“Fuck me?” 

Crowley growls, pushing himself up to kiss him. Aziraphale can taste himself mingling with Crowley’s spit on his swollen lips, it goes straight to his cock. 

“You’re sure, my angel?”

A thrill runs through him. I like this new name very much.

Aziraphale takes Crowley’s lower lip between his teeth, tilts his hips up so Crowley’s cock is level with his wet entrance. 

“Quite certain.” 

Crowley has his hands on either side of Aziraphale’s face, close enough for Aziraphale to tilt his head and press a kiss on the inside of his wrist, and he does, his mouth opening into a damp, wrenching moan against the soft skin there as Crowley enters him at last. 

He slides in carefully and Aziraphale feels it all over, their bodies joining at last, his own shifting, rearranging to accommodate.

“Tell me how it feels, please, is it—”

“It’s perfect, you’re perfect, it feels—it feels right, so right,” Aziraphale whispers, “please move, please fuck me, oh—”

“It does feel right, it does, oh, Aziraphale, you feel so good,” Crowley murmurs. Aziraphale pulls his thighs back to let him in deeper and Crowley moves so gently, just barely rocking in inch by inch, letting Aziraphale get used to every bit of the slick stretch of him. “You’re tight, and hot, and it’s like—it’s like you’re pulling me in—”

Aziraphale moans, wrapping his arms around Crowley’s shoulders. 

“I love the way you’re opening me up, darling, I love it. I love your cock in me, I love being open like this for you, you’re so thick and long and perfect and you’re so hard for me, for me—”

“Too right I am,” Crowley manages, rolling his hips, “just for you, angel, always you, you gorgeous, ridiculous, brilliant, perfect—

“You’re so good, my dear, you feel so good, every bit of you, and —oh!” For Crowley’s pushed in nearly all the way now, the tops of his thighs hot against Aziraphale’s ass, and his cock is pressed into a spot inside him that lights up Aziraphale’s entire body. 

“Is this okay?” Crowley asks.

“God, I love how you sound when you’re inside me,” Aziraphale says breathlessly, leaning up to crush a messy kiss into Crowley’s lips. He’s very aware he blasphemed, but all of this should count, really, and as they haven’t been struck down yet, he’s taking it as all the permission he needs. “All rough and ragged, it’s very dashing of you.” 

“Angel,” Crowley whines, but he’s blushing, grinning openly too.

“Of course it’s okay , it’s fucking magic, I swear, please, please, you can go harder now, right there, please—”

And Crowley moans as he does, drawing his hips back before thrusting in deep, and they both gasp as his cock rubs against Aziraphale’s prostate again. Now, Aziraphale lets himself get lost in it. He moves Crowley’s hands to his hips and flings his arms over his head, lets Crowley take over and give and give, until there’s only the sweet, brilliant drag of Crowley’s cock inside him, filling him, sparking that sharp and encompassing pleasure throughout his body, his heart full of love and his senses on overload, the scent of sweat and sex and the sounds of Crowley’s punched-out breaths, of the damp slap of their skin together, and before he can even reach for his own cock or ask Crowley to, Aziraphale’s spiraling in a pulsing, full-body orgasm, crying out Crowley’s name while Crowley thrusts even harder, faster into him in something like awe, the pleasure cresting like a new thing, like creation itself, he comes and comes and comes over his body with Crowley buried within him and he feels fucking remade in it, reborn, new to a world in which he gets to want this and be given this, here, himself at last, and together, with Crowley.

“Ohh,” Aziraphale breathes, when he can, his voice fresh and raw and wondrous. 

“Angel—?”

“Oh, oh, oh—” Aziraphale flings his arms about Crowley’s shoulders again and rolls him over, and over and over, giggling into the kiss as Crowley hurriedly miracles the blanket wider so they don’t tumble onto the soil. 

“You—er—you liked it?” Crowley asks, his gold eyes wide and hopeful, and Aziraphale kisses him so tenderly, tangling his hands in Crowley’s hair. 

“With luck, I’ll find the right words at some point, but for now let’s just say you’ve found something this body enjoys quite a bit more than sushi.” 

Crowley beams at him, the darling, and wiggles happily beneath him. 

“More than crepes, then?”

“Goodness, yes.”

“And those oysters you couldn’t get enough of, back at—”

“I’d like to fuck you, now, if you’re interested.” 

Crowley breaks off, his eyes widening.

“What?”

“Only if you’d like, obviously, I am—” Aziraphale closes his eyes, remembering the particular flavour, sensation—“ more than happy to suck you off again. But that just felt so good and I want to make you feel good exactly that way—would you like that?”

“Angel, I already—you already—”

“You’re hard again, though, aren’t you?” Aziraphale murmurs, gently stroking the evidence, watching Crowley sink into the feel of it. “Would you let me tend to you? This isn’t going to be one-sided, dear, not ever again. You’ve been taking care of me for far too long without me ever reciprocating, and I wanted to. I want to. So however you’d like it, I’d—”

“Yeah,” Crowley says, his eyes slammed shut. “Yeah, yes, all right.”

“Darling, only if you—”

“Yeah, I want it,” Crowley says, his cheeks gone pink again.

“Want what, dear?” Aziraphale strokes his marvelous cock with a strong, even pace, his other hand going to soothe over Crowley’s chest, his throat, the tautness in his jaw. “It’s all right, now.”

“Want everything with you too.” He opens his eyes, revealing pupils blown with desire and love, and Aziraphale smiles at him. “Want your cock in me, angel.”

“Good boy,” Aziraphale whispers. “And may I—”

“Please,” Crowley says with a groan, and when Aziraphale kneels, laps his tongue at Crowley’s hole, he feels the demon’s body shift, more relaxed than he’s ever been. “Ah!”  

That’s right, darling, Aziraphale thinks merrily, isn’t it good? 

Crowley tastes just as good here, feels just as perfect beneath his tongue, loosening steadily as Aziraphale sets upon him like he would a feast. He pushes Crowley’s thighs back and moans into him, slipping his tongue inside and reveling in the tight, tender heat of him. I’d stay here for centuries, my dear. Let me worship you, honor you like you deserve. He thrusts slow and as deep as he can, twisting his tongue, opening Crowley as carefully as Crowley did to him, until Crowley’s squirming beneath him in anticipation, his hands scrabbling for purchase on the blanket. 

“Please, please, now…”

Aziraphale moves to position his cock at Crowley’s entrance, giving it a few miracled strokes to get it slick. 

“I’m going to bring you off like that another time, you know that, right? That alone, perhaps with you on your stomach, rutting against the bed, but I think I can do it just—oh, darling.” 

Crowley is a wreck. He’s an absolute mess of want, dripping and straining, his hands alternating between reaching for as much of Aziraphale as he can and grabbing the blanket. And beneath the edges of the blanket, where there was only close-cropped grass before, Aziraphale realizes with a barely-suppressed smile that flowers are beginning to blossom, buds pushing up all around them, orchids and roses sprouting from the earth, apple-red carnations too. He didn’t even feel the familiar pulse of Crowley’s magic, that pull he’s been following for ages, because he’s surrounded in it now—he’s part of it.

“Aziraphale,” Crowley urges, and when Aziraphale enters him at last, he gives a sound of utter relief. 

“Fuck,” Aziraphale mutters, trying very hard not to come again immediately at the tight, exquisite press of Crowley surrounding him, “fuck, fuck.”

“Shit, you’re big,” Crowley groans, grinning at him through half-shut eyes. 

“I can—”

“Don’t you dare, I love it.” Crowley bears down on him, pulling him deeper by the waist, and Aziraphale watches a bouquet of lilacs bloom spectacularly behind the blanket past Crowley’s left ear. “Harder, I’m good and ready, angel, promise, your tongue got me right...”

“Let me—er—” Aziraphale makes some small, experimental thrusts, trying to focus on locating Crowley’s prostate and not simply sinking into the marvelous grip of him. 

“Just fuck me, please,” Crowley begs, a blush of honeysuckle bursting through the soil behind his head. “Please, take me home and do it slow next time, but just give it to me now, angel, I’m so— ah!— so close—”

“I’m going to fuck you silly next time, you know,” Aziraphale tells him, thrusting steady now. “Going to fuck you slow, until you beg me for it, and then I’m going to make you come over and over and over.”

“You bastard,” Crowley moans, grinning and breathless.

“And then you’re going to bend me over that ridiculous desk of yours and fuck me so good, won’t you, dear?”

“Yeah, yeah

A swell of forsythia is emerging, growing so swift and tall it nearly shades the moonlight. Aziraphale takes Crowley’s hard, slick cock in his hand and strokes as he thrusts deep inside him.

“And I’m going to tie you to that ridiculous throne of yours and ride you until you fill me up, and you’re going to eat me out underneath the dinner table, and I’m going to suck you off right out here again, right here in the park, in the—the garden  

Because there’s no denying it anymore, and Crowley opens his eyes and turns a deeper pink as he sees what he’s grown, the pure, strong miracles he can’t help but make. Not stars anymore, but something growing, bound to earth, to the world they saved together.

“Ah, fuck.”

“I love you too, darling.” Aziraphale pushes in as deep as he goes and he knows he’s found it, knows from the bloom of the oxeye daisies and from the throb of Crowley’s cock in his palm and the way he clenches, and gasps, and nods. “Since then. And more so every single day since.”

And then there aren’t any words left, not yet, not here. There are galaxies shimmering above them, and the earth they saved, and the garden their love is making of it. There are Crowley’s hands clinging to Aziraphale’s hair, their sweaty foreheads pressed together. There’s their shared breath, the ache in Aziraphale’s arms, the hard ground pushing up against his knees, Crowley’s thighs slipping against him. There’s Crowley open and pliant, surrounding him, reaching for him, welcoming him in. There is love, aloud, at last.

When Crowley comes, it’s like the world slows. He stretches his body as if in slow motion, arching spectacularly, his expression a wreck of release. He tightens, Aziraphale stroking his pulsing cock through it, managing to hold off his own orgasm just long enough to watch. His mouth parts soundlessly, desperately, as he comes hot over his own stomach and chest and Aziraphale’s too, and it’s this sensation that sends Aziraphale over the edge again at last. This orgasm is even more powerful than his last, perhaps because as he spills into Crowley, Crowley finds his voice and gives the most incredible moan, digging his fingers into Aziraphale’s hips so he can thrust deeper, harder, filling Crowley until he overflows, his entire body alight with pleasure, Crowley’s come covering his chest.

“My angel,” Crowley murmurs, his voice shaky and low. He gives a half-wretched, half-satisfied sound as Aziraphale pulls out of him, which turns to a chuckle as Aziraphale falls on top of him and kisses him and kisses him and kisses him, everywhere he can reach, until Crowley tugs him up to kiss his mouth and he curls up in Crowley’s welcoming arms. They lie there just like that, catching breath they didn’t have to lose, sticky and tangled up in each other, in the shade of the full garden of their love. 

“So,” Crowley says at last. “What now?”

“Whatever we want,” Aziraphale tells him. “But it’s going to include quite a lot of this, I’ll tell you that.”

“Good,” Crowley chuckles, kissing him on the nose. “Hey. I love you.”

“I love you,” Aziraphale says softly, and nuzzles into his cheek. They gaze up at the night sky. It’s still bright with stars, but it is at last just beginning to lighten.

“It doesn’t look quite as lovely from anywhere else in the universe, does it?”

“No,” Aziraphale says, kissing him. “No, it doesn’t.”

Aziraphale has spent many, many nights pining for Crowley, gazing up at the stars. 

Now, for the very first time, curled up together they get to watch the sun rise. 

(And thank goodness too, because when they get back to Crowley’s apartment, Aziraphale makes good on his promises, and they don’t leave again for another two weeks.) 

Epilogue: The Best Miracles, Devil’s Dyke, the South Downs, 2029.

There is, as it turns out, one question left. 

Aziraphale has been thinking about it for a while, but he’s not in any hurry. The days are too perfect to rush. The cottage is perched on the outskirts of a village big enough for Crowley to make mischief in when he chooses. Close enough to London that they can pop in to new restaurants Aziraphale wants to try, that Warlock and her friends can visit when her parents are being particularly annoying, but nestled in a swathe of greenery and a seashore nearby, nearly as old as the earth. 

The cottage itself is rather bigger on the inside than it would seem. There had to be several rooms for a library, though most of the books remain in the bookshop, which Aziraphale insisted on simply bringing with them and relocating in town. The bedroom had to be quite roomy as well, because they learned early on that both of them tend to manifest their wings not too infrequently when they’re fucked just so, and Crowley got tired of repairing the windows. The whole of the decor is a horrid sort of mix of tartan and old scrolls and the awful, random art that Crowley couldn’t bear to part with, sculptures and da Vinci drafts and so forth, but somehow, it’s all come together rather splendidly. And of course, out back, there is a sprawling, magnificent garden. Crowley gives it regular scoldings, and it’s coming on quite nicely.   

It happens on a night like any other. Aziraphale’s at his desk, planning their next excursion for a particular rare edition. Crowley’s making dinner. He’s taken to eating occasionally, but it’s mainly for Aziraphale—and because he seems to genuinely enjoy his time in the kitchen. Aziraphale doesn’t often say it aloud, but he knows it’s because Crowley so does love to make things, to grow things, to work the small, powerful magic of creating something good, wherever he can. 

Crowley’s just there, in an apron, preparing a salad to go with the oysters. He’s let his hair go long, which Aziraphale loves because he gets to wash it, and braid it in the evenings, and tug the braid loose after. That, he’d expected. He hadn’t anticipated how much he loves it when they’re kissing and Crowley pulls away to tie back his hair before he dips his mouth to tend to Aziraphale, so that now just the sight of Crowley’s hair ties is enough to make him squirm. 

Now, though, it floats around his shoulders. He’s in a black tank top and briefs, the well-worn pink apron strung around his waist. There’s gentle, classical music going on the phonograph, and Crowley’s humming absently along. The night outside is full of stars, there’s a fire going in the hearth. Alpha Centauri is up there amongst the constellations, and they don’t need to travel to space to have a story all their own. Crowley glances up, and when he sees Aziraphale watching him, he grins, and Aziraphale can’t wait anymore.

He marks his page, clears his throat, and stands. It must be a very particular throat clearing, because when Crowley sees him fussing with his jacket pocket, he groans.

“Not another magic trick, no, angel, come on, you remember how even Anathema’s kid laughed at you last time?”

“I’m doing it,” Aziraphale says, striding over to him. “Now, look, nothing up my sleeve, see?”

“Because the coin’s in your pocket,” Crowley whines, “this is embarrassing, honestly, couldn’t be more humiliating, I swear it just gets worse every time you—”

Aziraphale reaches behind his ear, and pulls out a gold ring.

Crowley drops the salad tongs.

“What’re you doing?” he whispers suspiciously, his eyes gone very bright.

Aziraphale sinks to one knee. 

“I want you to know I already feel like we have everything we need,” he begins, and Crowley swallows hard. “This is a very silly human custom, one which they really never needed to invent and has historically—ah, well, anyway. Well. The point is, I told you the day I first kissed you that I want absolutely everything with you, my darling, and I’ve been wanting this to be a part of it for quite some time now. I love you, more than anything, not just because you’re the best person I’ve ever known in all of Creation--you are, stop shaking that beautiful head--but because of everything you’ve given me, everything you’ve helped me become. And we don’t need a ceremony or a ring or any of this if you’d rather not, but I’d quite like to become your husband, if you’d let me. I like the sound of it, you know, and I’d like you to be mine, I’d like for us to be husbands, or partners, or whatever name you’d prefer, anything, I’d just very like to marry you if you’d—”

“Angel,” Crowley interrupts, a tear streaking openly down his cheek now, “shut up.” And he kneels to join him and kisses Aziraphale so hard he nearly forgets what he’s doing.

“Is that a—”

“Of course it’s a yes, yes, yes, my angel—”

“Oh, good,” Aziraphale sighs, and slips the ring onto his finger. Crowley wraps him in an embrace, right there on the floor of the cottage.

“This better not be part of the magic trick,” Crowley says, voice muffled from where his face is buried in Aziraphale’s shoulder.

“No, love,” Aziraphale reassures him. “No tricks. Just our own sort of miracle.”

 When they marry, it’s at night, beneath the stars, as they write their own story, theirs and theirs alone. They say their vows in a garden they grew together. It never, ever stops growing.