Aziraphale’s words didn’t make much of a difference. Crowley cried anyway.
Aziraphale was emotional too, seeing your son in a cap and gown messed with any parent’s feelings, no matter how they tried to hide it. It was different. He saw Adam grow up slowly right in front of him, day by day, but these were the moments that made him realize that time actually passed. Adam was almost an adult, headed to university, ready to leave their parents and go live somewhere else.
Adam was leaving them. Crowley tried not to think about it. Even though they still probably had a couple of months together, Adam was leaving.
After the ceremony was over, diploma in hands, Adam was finally allowed to meet his parents for pictures. It was when Crowley hugged him that he started crying, weeping on his little boy’s shoulder, his eyes and cheeks red.
“I’m so proud of you,” Crowley kept muttering on his son’s back. “So proud.”
Before Crowley had Adam, pride was a weird feeling, one he tried to step away from when possible, but it changed. From when Adam first walked to now, when he graduated from school, it made him feel proud and happy he was feeling that way. It wasn’t self-centred, it wasn’t egotistical, it was only a feeling of happiness.
That was another that changed meaning for Crowley: happiness. It’s such a simple and basic word, happy. When compared to other feelings such as love and anxiety, happiness it’s often passed as something with no depth or complexity to it. To be happy was so vague to him it could almost be a void, but it that word found a new connotation in his life and it was deep, confusing and challenging, but it never failed to be kind. It wasn’t easy anymore, it took time and effort, but when you felt it, it was light, revigorating and even passive. It wasn’t the absence of sadness, happiness was a piece of hope in the middle of it.
And at that moment, Crowley was indeed happy.
“It’s just high school, dad.”
“It’s not. Shut up. It’s way more than that.” He held him tighter. When he felt Aziraphale’s hand pat him on the back, he opened the hug. “Come here,” he invited him to join. They embraced each other, the three of them.
It felt like a relief. It was all over, but it was all just starting.
“Congratulations, dear,” Aziraphale said as they fell apart. He held both of Adam’s hands.
“Let me see this.” Crowley grabbed the diploma of his son’s hand. He started to cry even more as his fingers brushed Adam’s cursive and golden name.
“It’s true. It’s not only school. It’s a big milestone for you, not everyone gets that opportunity. You dad didn’t, right, Crowley?” Adam didn’t seem that interest in them, he kept looking around for his friends. It was okay, he was a teenager. Of course he didn’t want to be with his parents, the rushing anxiety to go back and celebrate with his friends and most recently, girlfriend, was way more enthusiastic than a couple of dads sobbing uncontrollably and watering him with affection.
“Nah. Not for me. I’m dumb.” Crowley put his sunglasses back on even though the sun had set already. He kept the diploma.
“Crowley, we’ve talked about this.”
“Alright, I lack intelligence.” Aziraphale looked at him, not satisfied with the answer. “What? It’s true.” He gave up and continued his speech.
“Anyhow. It’s a big step, you shouldn’t disregard it. This represents the results of your dedication. We are both so proud of you, so much. ” Adam’s head kept going from side to side, his feet pressing him up. “Well, no reason to keep you here. Go talk to your friends.”
“Really?” Adam inquired, unsure if it was true that he had been released so early. “Thanks, pap. And…” Crowley had his hands covering his face. “Thanks, dad.” The boy ran to where his friends were meeting, all still wrapped in their gowns.
When Aziraphale looked at Crowley, he noticed how dishevelled he was. He had been so caught up on his emotions that it made him look like an emotional mess. Above all else, Aziraphale knew. Whenever he put his sunglasses on, things were bad on his head.
“Sweetheart?” Aziraphale’s hand massaged Crowley’s shoulder. “Hey, love.” He wrapped his arms around his husband’s neck and pulled him close. “I’ve got you.”
“I can’t believe Adam’s graduated already. He’s so old. I’m so old.” Aziraphale brushed his hair with his fingers, breathing in deep on his neck, taking in all of his scent. “I don’t want him to leave.”
“I know, sweetheart, me too.” Crowley sank his head on Aziraphale’s shoulders. The action got the fabric of Aziraphale’s shirt wet, but he didn’t complain. Instead, he hugged him tighter. “Me too.”
After a few more caresses, the hug ended yet they still remained tangled with each other. Aziraphale pushed Crowley’s sunglasses up and reached for a tissue he kept on his pocket. He patted the skin under Crowley’s eyes, turning it dry again. “Thanks,” Crowley said, pulling his glasses down and smoothing his clothes with his hands, trying to look a little better. “I hate myself. Why do I keep crying?”
“Because you should.”
“You’re not crying.”
Aziraphale smiled at him. “Believe me, I want to.” He leaned on the side of Crowley’s body, holding his arm. They both glanced at Adam, laughing and hugging his friends just a few feet away from them. He looked so effortlessly happy.
When Adam returned he was full with energy, walking too fast and breathing too slow. He practically jumped, relieved. Contrary to both his parents, his high school years had been a bliss. “We’re going now?”
“What?” Crowley asked. Both him and Aziraphale were puzzled.
“For dinner? Pap said we were. To celebrate and whatever.” Crowley looked at Aziraphale with curious eyes, intricately trying to understand what was happening.
“I said it, but dear, we both thought you’d like to celebrate with your friends and not us.” He answered both Adam and Crowley.
“No. Not today. I was going to celebrate with you today, you’re my dads, I wasn’t just going to leave you?”
“Azira, he wants to celebrate with us,” Crowley reaffirmed Adam’s words with a smile on his face. “He isn’t leaving us.” Deep down, Crowley knew it was a simple lie to himself, but it was necessary. He would in fact leave, but not that night. They still had time together.
“Well. Jolly good, then.” Aziraphale smiled with his teeth. Even though it didn’t seem like it, he might’ve been more emotional and glad than Crowley at that moment, all that joy and safety of being around his family, of going out for dinner with his husband and his son.
The word didn’t change the meaning to Crowley, as it didn’t even have one before, it simply created a new one: family. “Well…” Adam muttered. “You could drop me off on Pepper’s house tomorrow.”
“I’m not dropping you off at your girlfriend's house. No way. Not doing that.” Adam glanced at Aziraphale, pleading for support.
“Crowley…” Aziraphale said. “Give him a chance. He’s not a kid.”
“Yes, he is.”
“Alright, alright. Whatever. I’ll take you to your girlfriend’s house,” he complained. “Hate you, Azira.”
“Love you too, Crowley,” Aziraphale smiled. Adam glanced at him, thanking Aziraphale. Even though Crowley had always explicitly expressed his feelings about being the one in charge, it had always been up to Aziraphale in the end. He still couldn’t resist his sad-dog moon eyes and his rosy cheeks.
Although the word family had just created a meaning for Crowley, it changed it to Aziraphale. It didn’t feel like a prison anymore, in contrary, it felt like freedom. It felt like the place he could be himself and with people he loved, who he actually enjoyed being around. Family, for Aziraphale, was not something he had to endure anymore, but something he could cherish. Family was his husband and his son, no one more, no one less. So he looked at his family , the man who he had fallen in love with so dearly, that made him smile and laugh every day, and his son. His own son.
For a second, Aziraphale remembered how things had been in the beginning. Now it felt so natural, but in the past it had been a matter of constant discussion and confusion. The first time Adam called him “dad” was just 3 months after Aziraphale and Crowley explained that they were dating to the boy. Even though Aziraphale knew there was a possibility of growing responsibility regarding Adam, it was a surprise. One day, sitting on the table at dinner, Adam just said it. It came out of his mouth just as any other word did, easily and without much thought.
Crowley freaked out while Aziraphale just stood there, smiling. “But angel, this is serious. Really serious. It’s a huge bloody thing. Do you really want this?”
“I do, dear, I do.” So they decided. To make things easier, Crowley was dad and Aziraphale was papa. A year later and they couldn’t have thought of Aziraphale as not Adam’s dad. He was and he had been since the day they met, and Aziraphale loved him so very much.
He also wasn’t prepared to let him go.
Even though they both knew it was only university, that Adam would be back for Christmas and so forth, he was still leaving. He wasn’t going to be pestering around the house anymore, bringing his loud and curious friends over and waking them up when he ate cereal at 3 am. Crowley wasn’t going to take him to his girlfriend’s house anymore, Aziraphale wasn’t going to bring him the books he asked. Crowley wasn’t going to cook for three, he was going to cook for two. Aziraphale wouldn’t wash his bedsheets anymore, just theirs. They wouldn’t yell at him anymore for not doing the dishes, but they also would get to sit down and play The Game of Life on Sundays.
The house would be silent. Neither Crowley or Aziraphale were ready for it, not just yet. “Where are we going, then?” Crowley asked, trying to make the best of it.
Maybe things weren’t going to last, maybe he was simply avoiding the inevitable, but wasn’t that what he had done his whole life?
“I’ll choose,” Adam said, leading them both out of the parking lot. “I know a place.”
“Azira, he knows a place,” Crowley repeated. He wasn’t mocking, he was simply astounded. His son was so old that he knew a place.
“He knows a place,” Aziraphale confirmed, smiling at his husband and his son.
“I hate you both,” Adam said. He pouted his lips and put his hands on his pockets. “Let’s go.”
“Dad, you missed the turn.”
“I know.” Of course he did. He only needed a minute more, just one, just enough to gather his courage to ask.
Adam was all dressed up. The only time he did so was to see his girlfriend (who didn’t last to long, they had been better off as friends from the beginning. Adam always thought his dad partnered up aunt Ana and jinxed their relationship, but he would never know.) He had a button-down shirt, black jeans, clean sneakers (a miracle) and brushed up hair. Aziraphale had wanted to take a picture before he left but his request had been impatiently denied.
The Bentley hadn’t been the best car. It had been a dream of Crowley’s, but now, sitting on its hard seat and melting from the lack of air refrigerator he may have acknowledged that maybe his dream car was a proper Bentley, a collector’s one, not one he got for an suspiciously low price at some random store in the middle of the highway. It wasn’t so weird that it broke down every other day.
However, it definitely made Crowley feel cool, whatever that meant. It felt right to take his son to his girlfriend’s house on a Bentley, it felt right to ride a Bentley and it definitely felt good to listen to Queen’s Greatest Hits on his Bentley. He enjoyed it. It was his first car and he didn’t regret not a single bit (maybe only when it overheated when he was coming back from work. Not even for the fact that he had to wait and wait, but to get home and be confronted by an angry Aziraphale blaming the entirety of the fault on his Bentley.) . The only thing he did regret was somehow letting Aziraphale approve this girlfriend meeting and not even coming in the car with them. “ I don’t want you to have to come home just to pick me up,” was his excuse. Crowley knew he just wanted a couple of more hours alone at home to finish a novel he had been reading.
“Dad, you missed the turn. Again.”
“Calm your nerves,” Crowley said. “I’m avoiding traffic.” He wasn’t. He just wanted a couple of more minutes.
“I know you don’t want me to go, but… You’re gonna have to drop me anyways. You know that, right? I won’t make a difference.”
He knew. He “avoided the traffic” anyway. “I’m taking the best route.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Stop being so smart about everything.”
“Dad,” Adam’s tone grew serious. Crowley straightened his back. “I know you’re upset and whatever because I’m leaving, but it’s not like I’m abandoning you and pap, you know that. I’ll come back.” Crowley kept his eyes on the road, not taking a turn on giving an answer. “You get all weird when you’re upset, pap says the same thing. You keep doing this thing where you’re obviously very sad but will avoid talking about it at all costs and then suddenly burst into tears.”
“He said that?”
“What else did he say?”
“You wouldn’t want to know.” Crowley glanced at him, exaggerating how offended he felt. “No, but seriously. It’s weird and we don’t know what to do about it so I’ll just wait until you park and as you see me leaving you’ll start crying and say everything.”
It was, in fact, what happened. Even though Crowley was driving abnormally slow,a few minutes later they, unfortunately for Crowley, arrive at Pepper’s house. Adam waited on his sit, knowing what was about to come.
“Look. I know I can be a shitty dad, I’m not the best person in the world,” Crowley confessed, looking at his own lap.
“Dad…” Adam was impatient and very unwilling to have a deep conversations about his upbringing.
“I don’t know if you remember, but thing were really bad for a while,” he continued, nevertheless. “When you were younger. It was bad, really, really bad, do you remember?”
“Yeah, well.” He brought his head up and breathed in deep. “I… Look I…. I just want to…” Adam looked at him, waiting for a continuation. “I want to apologize, okay? For what we had to go through, for what you had to go through. It must’ve been confusing for you, even though now you understand what happened. I had a terrible childhood and I ended up fucked, so I didn’t want that to happen to you. I guess you didn’t have the best of childhoods either, so I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry. I really, really tried. I tried really hard to give you a good life, Adam.” Crowley swallowed a lump that had appeared on his throat, his last few words coming out higher than his usual tone. “Just… looking at you yesterday, at your graduation, it made me happy. At least one of the things I couldn’t do, you did. And you did it great. You got good grades and friends and… you’re off to university in a few months. I know it’s probably very annoying to keep hearing me say it, but I’m so proud of you, I really am. Even though you started school later, and it was all my fault, you graduated the same age as everyone else and…” He looked out the window, facing away from Adam. His eyes were getting wet, again. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry we didn’t have the best life” I’m sorry it had to be Aziraphale the one to buy you the bloody video game , “I’m sorry I didn’t manage to take us off it alone.” Crowley hadn’t let go of the video game, he never would.
“But dad…” Adam said, his hand reaching for his dad’s shoulder. “You didn’t have to do it alone.”
“But I wanted to.” He covered his face that was getting too hot and wet with both his hands. “I wish I had. I wish I did it all, but I didn’t. I’m sorry. It’s just… now that we’ve raised you, now that you’re leaving…” He held his breath. Crowley gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. “I just wanted to know if… If you forgive me. I want to know if you hate me, and it’s okay if you do, if you keep any hatred of me or of something I’ve done. I hated my parents, you know, even though I don't remember them, so I will understand if you do. If you keep any remorse of me, of anything… I’d just like to know, before you go off.”
“Dad…” Adam was ready to leave, but it was okay. He owed his dad a little more time. “ You… you have your flaws, but what happened wasn’t your fault. It was no one’s fault, no one we can blame, at least, so no, I don’t have any remorse. It wasn’t a bad life or childhood, okay? I honestly can’t remember half of the actual bad stuff that happened, it didn’t even impact me that much. You worry too much. We had a good life, really. I know you suffer a bunch because of me or whatever, but seriously, don’t worry. I’m fine. I have been fine. You didn’t ruin me.” Crowley was biting his lips, trying to keep the tears inside. “You made me and raised me alone with no money for quite some time. Not everyone could’ve done that, but you did. Thank you, actually, for everything you’ve done, because you’ve done a lot. You’re my dad and I’m glad about it, okay? You’re a good dad, if that’s your question. A great one, actually. ” The last sentence broke Crowley. “I love you dad, you know that, sorry I don’t tell you that more often.”
Crowley’s whole body hurt, but it was a good type of pain. His chest felt too tight, his throat too lumpy, his eyes burning, but it was okay because his son didn’t hate him, he hadn’t ruined his childhood and his life. It was okay because Adam was fine, he was great and so was Crowley. It was okay because Adam loved him, even after all he’d done. He didn’t feel like he deserved him.
Everything was okay because, after all, Crowley had been a good, no, a great dad. The final step to reach that was accepting. He was not a child anymore and, even though Crowley would always be his father, it was time to let him go.
“Go. Go to your girlfriend.” He gestured for the boy to leave the car, still hiding his face. He needed some time to cry, alone. “Tell her I said hi. Don’t have sex, but if you do, stay safe.”
“Dad.” Adam was already opening the door and stepping on the asphalt.
“It’s fine. Go. Have fun. I’ll pick you up tomorrow.” Adam just smiled and left Crowley on his own.
Crowley put his head against the steering wheel and cried one more time.
“Where have you been? I was so worried, you don’t usually arrive this late. You often arrive late, but not this late. Was it the car?” Aziraphale said as soon as he opened the wooden door. It creaked, as it usually did since the cottage was older than they could ever imagine, but it worked. It opened to welcome people in and locked to protect them inside. “Are you alright?”
Crowley closed the door behind him, turned the key around and moved his sunglasses from his eyes to the top of his head. “Hey,” he said, calmly, reaching for a brief kiss on his angel’s forehead, who accepted it annoyed, desperate for an answer. Crowley revealed, on his hand, a paper bag and a flower bouquet. He heard Aziraphale stomping his feet. “Brought you some gifts.”
“Crowley, how many times do I have to tell you to not bring any more flowers? You’re going bankrupt if you keep doing that.”
“We weren’t going to sell these. Promise.” He handed Aziraphale the bouquet, the plastic that covered it crinkling to his touch. Aziraphale idly stared at the flowers on his hand. “There’s also wine and chocolate. The one you like, from the homemade store next to Ana’s.” Aziraphale grabbed the bag and placed it on top of the counter, next to the food he had been preparing.
“They are beautiful.” He brought the bouquet closer to his nose and breathed in deep, capturing the perfume. “Thank you, dear.” He rushed to the kitchen and Crowley followed him as he took off his jacket and placed it on the green plastic chair.
The decoration inside of the cottage had been made mostly by Crowley, but Aziraphale was stubborn and insisted on the silliest things, yet he had an advantage: the home’s own personality, old and rural, that conflicted with Crowley’s sleek and modern taste yet synchronized with Aziraphale’s want for something cosy and homely. Their kitchen was a perfect example: cupboards made from virgin wood that had been there for ages were painted white, while the counters remained at their original colour, brown. The fridge was brought from Aziraphale’s London flat, simple and functional, but all the rest was Crowley’s desires in Aziraphale’s clutter: plants. Ceramic vases and terracotta, plastic and glass, nothing matching yet in perfect harmony. On the corner by the window, there was a small round white metal table and three chairs matching, where they usually had breakfast, where the sun shone brightly in the mornings. Today, however, there was a small basket on top of it.
“Don’t say I told you so but… The Bentley broke down on the way back after I dropped Adam.” It hadn’t. He was the one who had to take time to recover.
“I really don’t understand why you bought that old car.” Aziraphale grabbed a pair of scissors and cut the end stem of the bouquet.
“It was cheap.”
“Exactly. Cars like that aren’t meant to be cheap.” He grabbed a glass and poured some water from the mud filter.
“Whatever. It broke down, I fixed it, great as new.” Crowley took his shoes off and put them next to the door, he knew that if he just left it anywhere Aziraphale would yell at him. “What about you? How was your day off?”
“Well, as you can see, I made us a picnic.” He indicated the basket while he cleaned the little mess he’s made and placed the flowers in the middle of the table. For a second, he observed how it looked. He approved it immediately. Each flower had a different colour, a different shape and a different smell. They fitted perfectly.
“You did?” Crowley was indeed surprised, yet curious about what exactly he’s made. “You cooked?”
“I…” Aziraphale seemed uncertain about his answer, so he decided to rearrange the flowers while Crowley observed him. “I may have run very quickly to town and grabbed us a few fruits and snacks, but I did assemble the sandwiches.”
“You and your sandwiches.” Crowley smiled. Aziraphale didn’t know how to make sandwiches, he’d always put too much filling and not enough condiments, but it was alright, Crowley still loved how he wrapped each of the tightly with aluminium foil and wrote each of their names with a sharpie on top. He walked over to Aziraphale, who still had his back turned on him and pressed a kiss on his neck “Love you.”
“I love you too, but next time you should give me a call whenever you’re late.” Aziraphale wasn’t surprised by the kiss, but his body gave a little spasm anyways. He turned around and held Crowley’s arms.
Crowley remembered when they were laying in bed, late at night, and the words came out of Aziraphale’s mouth as simply was he could. It felt so heavily overwhelming, yet so fitting, it felt right. For Crowley, even though he knew he was in love a long time before, it took a while, but Aziraphale didn’t mind. He knew Crowley loved him, that the hardship of pronouncing three words looked so silly yet it was so complex and valid.
“I will, I will.” Crowley kissed Aziraphale one, two, three more times until Aziraphale recoiled and grabbed the basket.
“How was Adam?”
“Annoying, like always. He thinks he runs the world. We shouldn’t let him go out all the time.” You shouldn’t. Crowley’s feelings were still clearly sensitive.
“You’re only saying that because you dropped him at his girlfriend’s house.”
“No. I just don’t think he should be dating. That’s all.” Aziraphale smiled and started to walk away, trusting Crowley would walk after him.
“Too young. He’s a baby.”
“You’re a baby.” They walked through the living room until they reached the back door to the garden. “You’re simply jealous and afraid of letting him go. Remember when we decided he’d go to school? We had the same conversation.”
“Why do you have to be the cool dad? I’m the cool one, it’s annoying.”
“ Look, I’m Crowley, I’m so cool I want a pet snake .” Aziraphale made a bad impression of him, enough to get him annoyed. He smiled.
“And we’re getting a pet snake.”
Aziraphale turned around and smiled at him. “We are not.”
Their garden was the best spot in the house. Small, slightly cluttered but it was an open space, so it didn’t seem as bad, and definitely the place with the biggest amount of plants. Flowers, herbs, vegetables and even a little apple tree. A few wooden chairs, an umbrella and gardening tools everywhere. It was the safest place both of them could be.
The sky was always clearer than it had been in London and the sunset even gave Crowley chills sometimes. He felt like looking at a painting, a green screen as if that landscape wasn’t real. Crowley felt like he could tear the sky like wallpaper. Today was one of those days.
Apparently, Aziraphale had already everything in place: a tartan blanket, a CD player and a couple of mismatching pillows. Crowley sat down the minute they arrived, almost throwing himself on the floor. Aziraphale descended slowly and placed the basket on the middle. He had also brought the bag with wine and chocolate Crowley had just presented him.
When Aziraphale opened the basket his phone ran. He still had the same phone he owned when the two of them met, almost 10 years ago. It felt like 6000. He flipped it open and by his face, Crowley could tell the call was important. “Go answer it, angel, I’ll set everything up.” And so they did.
Sandwiches, berried, pears, caramel pastries, wine and chocolate. Crowley laid down and a couple of minutes later Aziraphale returned. “Who was that?”
“Mary. She’s at the airport.”
“Oh,” Crowley answered, genuinely surprised.
“Yes.” He sat down and took Crowley’s head on his lap. “She told me he was almost sure they figured it out, but she’s boarding now. I don’t believe they’ll find out where to, she didn’t even tell me , but I imagine she’s safe. She promised she’ll keep in touch.”
“And you really thought your family was normal? They’re literally hunting her down. And she’s on her 20’s, for fuck’s sake.”
Crowley reached for the chocolate box. “Well, let’s not talk about my family, alright? Not tonight.” He opened it and started to offer Aziraphale, piece by piece, by placing it against his lips until he opened his mouth. “Music! Let’s put some music on.”
“If you put Andrea Bocelli one more time I swear…” Crowley even liked it, but he had a reputation to maintain.
“I brought only the stuff you like.”
“Really?” Aziraphale reached for the CDs and gave them to Crowley. “You hate all of this.”
“I don’t hate it.” Aziraphale grabbed the two sandwiches, the one name Aziraphale stayed with him and Sweetheart was given to Crowley. “I enjoy the bebop one.”
“Bebop.” Crowley chuckled. He knew exactly which one he was referring to, even though it absolutely wasn’t bebop . “Bebop it is.” He put The Velvet Underground on.
The sky was gaining new brushes of deep blue and black as time passed and it didn’t take long for it to be splashed with darkness. As they had a bite of the sandwiches Crowley insisted on showering Aziraphale with little kisses, little hugs and big I love you s until Aziraphale turned red.
“You know what this reminds me of?”
“Our honeymoon. You were all over me, too.” There were so many stars on the sky that Crowley lost count. “I miss it.” Sometimes, Aziraphale meant so much his words that when they came out of his mouth he didn’t pronounce it, he felt it.
“I miss it too. Second best week of my life. First one has to be the one we went down to the beach when Adam was still young and we almost died.”
“That wasn’t fun, it was horrible. What if he had, indeed, died?”
“But we didn’t.” Aziraphale couldn’t be annoyed even if he tried, their honeymoon kept rolling like a motion picture in his head. The late-night strolling in streets they didn’t know, drunk enough to get lost on the way back to the hotel. The evening teas at small crepe shops on random streets, gelatos and kissed under the Eiffel Tower, holding hands and being the most disgustingly romantic couple in the world just to go back to their rooms and not being able to keep their hands to themselves for hours and hours.
They were happy now, but Aziraphale missed how happy Crowley was. Crowley wasn’t a person who usually smiled, but he smiled every single day on that trip. Right now, Crowley was smiling at him. He wished he could stay like that, forever. He was so beautiful when he smiled.
They had bought the little old cottage right after the marriage with all the money they saved working hard every single day, so now they could rest. They could lay on each other’s lap and kiss each other’s lips, sit on their backyard, on their home, right next to each other and share every little thing. They were finally safe, yet Crowley still seemed to worry.
“Do you remember the day we went shopping in Paris and you were gone for a while. I was so confused.”
“Nononono. That’s not nice. Stop it.” Crowley grabbed the strawberries and tried to make himself busy by eating it.
“And then when we arrived at the hotel you locked yourself in the bathroom. I thought you were sick.” Aziraphale observed Crowley, brushing his arms with his fingers.
“Angel. Stop it. It was bad.” He turned to the side, knowing he would get his cheeks full of blood at any moment.
“You cried so much, I’ve never seen you cry that much.”
“It’s embarrassing, stop.”
“I remember your words exactly: Angel, I need your help, but you need to keep your eyes closed.” Crowley gave up on trying to stop it, instead, he put his head against the ground, facing down. “ I need you to do one thing for me, I need you to unzip something. It’s stuck. I seriously thought you were up to no good at that point, getting me to make love to you in the bathtub or something.”
“We did, though.”
“Not the point.” Aziraphale sipped on his wine. “You were so handsome.”
“You promised me you wouldn’t open your eyes and then you did.”
“I don’t regret seeing you dressed like that.” Aziraphale kept caressing Crowley’s arm, up and down. “God knows why you looked so beautiful in that dress.”
“Stop it.” Crowley sank his head deeper. “I still can’t believe you made me wear that bloody thing the rest of the night.”
“I know you loved it.” He had. He just would never admit it. He had been the one who had bought it, after all.
Somehow, Crowley had to overcome the embarrassment that had inhabited his chest for so long, so he stood up abruptly, feeling dizzy as he did so. He stretched one arm for Aziraphale, offering for him to do the same as him. “Get up, angel.”
“You’re not making me dance again,” he protested, crossing his arms.
“I will. Until you don’t start going to those dance classes, I’ll make you dance.” It had been an arrangement. As Crowley got closer to Aziraphale, he finally reached the final picture, one that Aziraphale still loved to dance. One that he had never stopped loving it. He bought him classes, signed him up for every dance-related thing he could find and even joined it himself, hoping Aziraphale would come along, but it didn’t happen. It was a slow process, a wound from years and years ago, one that didn’t heal well and still hurt to the touch, so Crowley agreed to take it slower. By that, he danced late at night with the angel on their living room until they dropped on the couch, fatigued and with their hearts racing. “C’mon. Please?” he insisted, finally seeing Aziraphale’s eyes rolling back and his white soft hand reaching for his.
That day, however, he wanted to do things differently. Crowley had rested his hand on Aziraphale’s back, and received a hug back, on his favourite song of the whole album. “Oh, it’s my song,” Aziraphale whispered. It had turned into Aziraphale’s song the night Crowley was too drunk to function and said the song had been written to Aziraphale, to his pale blue eyes. Since then, that was the only song Aziraphale liked from them, the only one he actually cared.
They started moving their feet slowly, two steps to each side. Aziraphale’s head fell on Crowley’s shoulder as he pushed him closer and smelled his neck. Crowley gripped the skin on his hips a bit harder and began to synchronize their little dance with the beats of the song.
Crowley’s eyes closed. It was so much. Having the privilege to hug Aziraphale was something that became something so usual, so common that he felt that sometimes he didn’t pay attention enough to how much it felt like a blessing. He didn’t deserve any of it, none of Aziraphale’s overwhelming love and care that burned through his chest and stomach, that made his heart so full and warm, that made him so, so happy. It was a gift having Aziraphale so close, so willing to give love, it couldn’t be real, yet it was. He had Aziraphale and Aziraphale had him back. They were married and no one could take their love away from them.
No one but one. One frightful, dark and mysterious thing that lives in everyone’s minds, waiting to take over. He couldn’t help but think of what would happen if he died. Worse, what would happen if Aziraphale died first?
Crowley’s had was already aching from crying abnormal amounts these last days, even for him, but he couldn’t help but sniff a little. Aziraphale was there, on his arms, so close and so warm, but what if he wasn’t? What if that were taken away from him? How could he ever live like that? He started to make little sounds, tucking his tears in, afraid his head would explode from the tremendous pressure he had inflicted on it.
“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” Aziraphale held him closer, knowing exactly how to comfort him.
“Angel…” he murmured, trying to keep his tone steady. “Do you think God put us together? I mean, we met at a church and all.” Both of them chuckled.
Aziraphale took a minute to think of an answer. His faith had become so slippery these last years that he didn’t know exactly what to grasp. “Why do you ask that?”
“Do you think that…” He breathed, already feeling the cotton ball on his throat resurfacing. “If She put us together, would she take us apart?”
“What? What are you talking about?” Aziraphale unwrapped his arms from Crowley. “Are you leaving me?”
“Are you leaving me?”
“NO! Crowley, good gracious, no. I could never even think of that.”
“Yep. Me neither.”
“What are you on about, then?” Crowley’s leg started to sting. The pain gradually became worse throughout the years, but he could hold up normally for some time. At his work, he usually did almost all of his work sitting down and cooked the same way, but his cartilage was turning weaker and thinner each day. He signalled to the floor and sat down again when the music started to fade on his ears. Aziraphale repeated the action and laid by his side. They were facing the sky that had drastically turned dark with their fingers interlocked tightly. “How’s your leg?”
“Bad,” Crowley answered. Then, as a custom they also had created, Aziraphale sat up and put Crowley’s leg on his lap and started to massage it lightly, pulling and pushing his muscles. Crowley had explained many times to Aziraphale that his problem was on his bone, not his muscles, but Aziraphale insisted and Crowley didn’t complain. His hands, just like the rest of him, felt angelic. So soft, so warm yet he knew when to massage harder and more consistently. The thought came back to him: his legs hurting and Aziraphale not being there to massage them until he pretended he felt better. “It’s… I just thinking.”
“And what cruel thing did your mind make up this time that got you so upset?” His thumbs rubbed his skin lightly, what if they weren’t there. He looked to Aziraphale and his cautious eyes, what if they weren’t there. What if I were here alone. What if Aziraphale was gone.
“I was thinking about Adam and you.”
“Oh, you were?” He finished the massage with a kiss and returned to lay by Crowley’s side. “What about us?”
“I love you two. A lot.” Crowley received one more kiss on his forehead. “Like… I have everything now that I wanted, you know? I have Adam, healthy and bloody annoying.” They laughed. “But also smart and safe. And then… I have you. You and your perfect little nose and curly hair and I have your golden ring on my finger even though I hate golden things because they mess up my style, but I still love it.” Aziraphale pushed his arms under Crowley’s head, making his head lay on his chest. “And we have a house. A messy, cluttered, nice house that I really like with my plants everywhere. I have a job that I don’t despise and… the best part of it all…” He lingered purposefully, trying to invoke suspense. “I have the Bentley,” he chuckled loudly.
“I can’t stand you, Crowley. Really, “ Aziraphale responded, not surprised with Crowley’s words. “Is that what you were thinking? About your car?”
Crowley kept laughing and Aziraphale held him closer. It felt so good. What if Aziraphale was dead. What if he left you. “I was thinking that… I have it all now. We both do, right? It’s kind of weird. I’ve always wanted and needed everything, yet could have none. You’ve always had it all, but so horribly. I think we finally reached balance.”
“That’s right,” Aziraphale assured him, petting his hair.
“Do you remember, right after we met, you came over for breakfast and made me promise that if something bad ever came to my mind I would talk to you?”
“I guess I do. I brought chocolate cake.”
“Chocolate-cherry,” Crowley corrected, but Aziraphale didn’t pay attention to that. What if I can’t annoy him about the chocolate-cherry cake ever again. A few seconds later, he remembered it was actually just chocolate. “Anyways, I think there’s something bad that I should say.”
“Well,” What if you never heard his cute little “go on” again. What if his hand would never lace your hair again. What if you wake up tomorrow and he is not by your side. “For some time in my life, I really wanted to die. Like, I really didn’t care about life, about anything. But then Adam came along, you know? And I had to care because I had to be alive for him, to take care of him, but it didn’t feel like it. Even though I knew that I had to and genuinely cared about giving him a good life, some days I just felt like giving up on everything. I’d drink myself to sleep just so I’d stop thinking about it.” The burn in his eyes returned. “But now…” His voice started to get higher. What if Aziraphale isn’t here to hold you while you cry. What if all his kisses and touches are gone forever. “I care about it. I don’t want to die. Angel, I don’t want to die anymore and I’m so scared, I’m so fucking scared. What if I die? I can’t leave all of this behind. I can’t leave you and Adam and the house and even my bloody car. I’m so happy, I’ve never been happy before and now I really really want to keep living and I’m terrified.” His tears had returned, blocking his head from releasing any tension, pressuring it into his skull. It hurt, but Aziraphale’s hands were there, soothing the area and making everything more comfortable. What if. “I don’t want to die. But… but it would even be worse… I can’t… You can’t die, angel. You can’t. I can’t live anymore if you die, I can’t. I can’t wake up without you by my side knowing you’re gone forever. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. You can’t leave me. You can’t die before I do.”
Crowley felt Aziraphale’s arms pulling him harder, embracing his body as tightly as he could. Then, he heard little noises coming out of Aziraphale’s mouth, noises he wasn’t really used to. “You’re crying? No, angel, you can’t cry. I’m the one who cries.” Crowley turned to his side and saw the blue eyes being inked with blood. “Nononono. Sorry. Don’t cry. Please don’t.” Aziraphale giggled softly. As he did, his lids closed and let a tear slip from the corner of his eye. “Angel.” His hands found Aziraphale’s jaw and his thumb brushed his cheek. Aziraphale gently pulled it away and kissed his palm.
The sky was lit up like a Christmas tree. Crowley didn’t pay attention to it. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” he implored.
“Sweetheart.” Aziraphale smiled, just like he always did, even with tears falling on his curved lips. “I’m glad you told me that. It happens to be that… I think the same way, sometimes. We are entire opposites in so many things, but our feelings are so similar. I love you so dearly, so deeply, you don’t have the faintest idea. You changed my life entirely, love, you helped me in a way no one else could. I can’t think of myself and my life if something ever happened to you or Adam. You’re both my world and I’ll hold onto you both as tightly as possible, but I know that somethings might not be enough and it scares me. It terrifies me, actually. I’m utterly afraid that something will happen to you, it fills me with such anxiety and dread, but there’s nothing we can do about it, alright? We can’t let ourselves be carried by this thought, there’s no time nor space for it in our lives.” In midst of the things that got so customary, seeing Aziraphale cry was so unusual. His cheeks turned crimson, his eyes puffier and wider than what Crowley ever thought it was possible, but he still kept his smile. He squeezed Crowley’s hand tighter and leaned his head, making their foreheads touch. “You’re beautiful, you’re funny, you’re wonderful, Crowley. I could never imagine I’d love someone so intensely and persistently as I love you. Above all else, I could never imagine someone loving me back the same way, so thank you. Thank you for every little thing we did together, for each one of your words, for every fight and disagreement, but also for every smile and laughter. Thank you for not thinking I was a creep from start, for letting me in, for letting me take care of Adam. Thank you for almost getting us killed multiple times, thank you for kissing me so thoroughly outside that creperie in Paris in front of everyone and going back to the hotel and making love to me until we almost passed out,” they both let a smile slip on their lips. “Thank you for being you. For loving your stupid car and plants, for letting me in your life. Thank you for letting me love you.” Aziraphale pulled Crowley’s chin closer and kissed his lips.
The kiss was slow and tender, just their lips touching over and over. Crowley gripped Aziraphale’s wrist and they dragged the kiss for long minutes, letting only the tips of their tongues join now and then, simply allowing all that buzz, warmth and tingles travel their whole bodies as much as they could. Their tears mingled, making each other taste like the sea. When they separated, Aziraphale thanked him one more time. “I should be the one thanking you,” Crowley commented. Aziraphale shook his head in denial and kissed Crowley's temple. “You’re amazing. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I can’t lose you. I can’t.” The lump on his throat only became bigger and more agonizing.
“You’re not losing me, sweetheart.” He kissed his cheek and jaw. “I’m here.”
“I know, I know, but… I…” What if you’re not. What if you’re gone. “ I love you too much, angel. We can’t. I can’t die. You can’t die. We… I just wish we can have a happy ending, you know? We deserve it. I can’t have a sad ending, not with you. We deserve it.”
“You’re right, love. You’re absolutely right.” One more kiss on the lips. “But that’s not how the world works. There aren’t happy endings, there are only endings. When things end, there is no witness, no memory, no name. No one is left to decide if it’s a sad ending or a happy ending, the only thing that will be incontestable is that it ended. But we don’t need one, sweetheart, not yet. We don’t need to even think about it, do you understand? We still have our beautiful present. We have Adam going to university, we have to plan or next trip, we have many breakfasts and picnics to come. We have our Sunday mornings in bed, our dinners out on Fridays and we have our whole family for Christmas. You, me, Adam, Ana and Newt. We still have our lives and it’s only now, in these moments, that we can be truly happy.” Aziraphale’s hands brushed Crowley’s hair, also afraid of letting go. “When the end unfortunately comes, long years from now, when we are so tired we’ll be begging to be gone, we can only wish for our ending to be kind. We deserve a warm, soft and kind epilogue, one we can lay our heads on and wait for sleep to come. When it comes, you’ll be by my side and I’ll be holding your hand, just like now. We’ll fall asleep together, sweetheart, I trust that. You’re right, we’ve suffered enough, we can’t help but expect some love.”
Crowley was short of breath, trying to get the little air he could while he fought the tears running down on his face. “Fuck, angel.” He received a few more kisses from his angel and the tightest hug they had so far. “This feels like an ending.”
“Maybe it is one,” Aziraphale whispered on Crowley’s ear. “Maybe it’s an ending, an ending dedicated to bury our past and leave it all behind. Maybe it’s a start, or even both. It’s hard to put a line in between, don’t you think? Maybe this is the start of the rest of our lives, one where we are free from what made us back then and are simply grateful to be alive. So let’s try to make it kind.”
“But what if we have very little time?”
“So, this is both an ending and a start. And end to all these agonies and a beginning we’re we’ll make the best of it, we will live every day like it’s the end of our lives. Together, I can promise you that, I won’t let you go. We’ll breathe together until the world pulls us apart. ”