angel food cake.
The man on Youtube made it look so easy .
Crowley glared down at the bin where the remains of two not-quite-cakes were splattered. The first try - he still isn’t sure what he did wrong with that one, but he thinks he might’ve gotten the egg temperature wrong when he added them. Because, according to Youtube man, he was supposed to use cold eggs. Like it mattered . Except apparently it did, because the batter looked nothing like the one in the video, to the point where Crowley assumed he’d accidentally messed up something more serious than egg temperature.
The next attempt had been better, that had actually made it into the oven, but Crowley had come back a while later to find that one burned despite coming back to it at the exact time that the Youtube man had told him.
Crowley scowled at the instructions that were below the video. One hour, yes, he definitely -
He paused. Squinted.
“Cold oven,” he said to himself. “Put the cake into a cold - why does that matter. Isn’t it - you’re supposed to pre-heat the oven, right? That’s what they always say, pre-heating is supposed to be a very important in, in those stupid fucking cooking shows, with the basting and the flipping and the shouting, they’re always pre-heating-”
He bit down on his tongue. Made it forked for a moment and flicked it comfortingly around his mouth before returning it to normal, then smashed his phone on the countertop.
“Oops,” he said, taking a vicious delight in how many bits the phone shattered in before he miracled it back together and went through the recipe again and sighed.
He reached for the bag of sugar. At least he’d never gotten around to putting the ingredients away this time.
An hour and a half later, Crowley was whipping cream. It was more tiring than whipping the egg whites, and he was going to have to find something to do with all the egg yolks now, Aziraphale hated it when they wasted food. Which meant Crowley was eating a lot more than he used to, since he never really got much into it in the first place - drinking, absolutely. Sleeping, definitely. Eating? He could mostly leave it to the humans.
But Aziraphale was all about no-waste, and they were doing this crazy thing called ‘buying groceries and making their own meals a few days a week instead of buying every meal from somewhere,’ so Crowley had made some adjustments.
He sighed as he whipped the cream, imagining all the boring omelettes he was probably going to be having over the next few breakfasts. How long did eggs last after they were opened, anyway?
The cream finally got into a tolerable state and he had just finished covering the cake, moving to start chopping fruit, when the front door opened.
“No,” Crowley called, on a reflex. He grabbed the strawberry box and dumped it out on the chopping board - something else he owned after the world didn’t end. Like he was some kind of human.
Aziraphale’s footsteps paused in the hall.
“Definitely not,” Crowley called.
Aziraphale gave a very specific sigh. It was his Crowley, whatever are you doing sigh, but Crowley’s favourite version, which meant he wasn’t annoyed.
“Two minutes,” Crowley said.
“Can’t I just-”
“Nope!” Crowley went to miracle the strawberries, then stopped and started chopping like a madman instead. The slices went onto the cream-covered cake and once it was covered with fruit, Crowley stepped back and considered. Not bad. Not good , not as good as the Youtube man, who must’ve tossed out a lot of strawberry slices that weren’t the same size, but not bad.
Out in the hall, Aziraphale was tapping his foot.
“Yeah,” Crowley said over him.
Aziraphale shot him a look as he came into the kitchen. “Now, what was that about? I do hope you’re not inventing another monstrosity to terrify the plants while you’re not around, their poor nerves can’t-”
He caught sight of the cake and blinked.
“Oh,” he said.
Crowley waited. It sounded like a good oh . A confused oh , but also, hopefully, a good one -
Aziraphale looked at Crowley, then at the mess of the kitchen in increasing puzzlement.
“Did you-” Aziraphale kept going over the kitchen and Crowley tried not to wince. He’d maybe made more of a mess than was sensible, but he’d been righteously - well, not righteously , obviously, but the demon equivalent - spitefully angry since the first attempt had failed, and by the third he’d been all but throwing ingredients into the bowl.
Aziraphale looked at Crowley again. “Did you make this? Without - miracles?”
Crowley smiled. He started off with a grin but it felt too enthusiastic, so he forced it back to a smirk. Devil may care. There we go.
“What does it look like?”
“It looks-” Aziraphale reached onto the counter next to the cake and wiped a streak of flour off with his finger. “Like there was a minor natural disaster in your - our kitchen.”
Crowley forced his smile not to get strange when Aziraphale said our . Since the apocalypse-that-wasn’t, Aziraphale had moved in. After they’d had their body-switch adventure and gone to the Ritz, Aziraphale had made some comment about heading back to the bookshop. Crowley hadn’t said anything, but then he’d looked over and saw, to his surprise, that Aziraphale was looking at him with something like - like -
Like he wanted Crowley to say, You can come back to mine, if you want, one more time.
So Crowley did. And he’d kept saying it. Occasionally in the oncoming weeks, Aziraphale would say, I’d better get back to the bookshop, and Crowley would suggest he stayed. When Aziraphale would go to his bookshop, Crowley would tell him to come around for tea and then invite him to stay. Then, like every night, Crowley would go to sleep in his bed and Aziraphale would stay up in the lounge, reading books or undoing all of Crowley’s good work with his plants by being nice to them. And in the morning Crowley would get up and Aziraphale would have the tea done just as Crowley liked it, and they’d sit in the kitchen or the lounge and chat.
Well, almost every night and morning went like that. The first night - well, Aziraphale had looked so exhausted, and Crowley had suggested he actually try sleeping for once, and Aziraphale had stared at him for a bit before nodding shortly and heading for Crowley’s bedroom. Crowley had gone to magic up a bed but stopped when he saw Aziraphale reaching for the covers of Crowley’s.
Oh, I’m sorry, is this alright, Aziraphale had said when he’d caught Crowley staring.
‘Course, Crowley had said, trying desperately to clamp down on the onrush of something that had welled up in his chest. Then Aziraphale had miracled himself into some truly awful pyjamas that somehow made him more endearing and Crowley had lost himself to laughter for a good thirty seconds.
I think they’re stylish , Aziraphale had said when Crowley had just about got himself under control.
Oh, they are , angel, Crowley had said, still gasping. He’d miracled himself a matching pair, but his had horns decorating the fabric instead of angel wings.
He’d climbed into bed. Aziraphale had climbed into the other side. Crowley had forced everything that was vibrating inside him to shut up, and eventually fell asleep around 2am. To his knowledge, he and Aziraphale had never even grazed each other as they were in that bed together.
When he’d woken up, Aziraphale was fully dressed in the kitchen, waiting to give Crowley his tea.
That was refreshing, Aziraphale had said. The sleep, I mean. Thank you for the suggestion.
He hadn’t taken Crowley up on it since, which was - fine. Crowley was honestly happy for the company during daylight hours, even though he’d rather gargle holy water than admit it.
Anyway, the cake. Aziraphale was still looking at it like he wasn’t sure if it’d bite him or not, so Crowley reached up and patted his shoulder.
“It’s angel food cake,” he said. He waited. When Aziraphale did nothing but nod politely: “It’s funny, see, ‘cause-”
“No, no, I get it.” Aziraphale nodded again. “ Very funny.”
“Oh, shut up, it is- ”
“May I ask what brought this on?”
Crowley paused. Flickered his tongue around the inside of his mouth.
“Can’t a guy just want to try baking?”
“A guy can,” Aziraphale said slowly, “but I find it slightly suspicious that you would. Crowley, you hate making food. Remember that time in 1904, we were in that bakery kitchen after you tempted a delivery boy by pretending to be-”
“That was fun.”
“No it wasn’t, it was terrible . Anyway, we had some time to kill before we were due for our reservations, I thought it would be fun to try bread-making and you ended up throwing the dough into the street?”
Crowley considered. From what he could remember, it had been very annoying dough. Sticky in a way that seemed to stay even after he vanished it off his hands.
“Nope,” he said, just to make Aziraphale make that noise in the back of his throat. “Anyway, here you go.”
Aziraphale blinked some more. “Did you - is this cake for me?”
“Well, not only for you.” Crowley busied himself with getting forks and knives from the drawer - he owned cutlery now, who was he - so he didn’t have to take the full brunt of Aziraphale’s overwhelming gaze, which was all soft and surprised and pleased and 100% something Crowley couldn’t handle.
He cut them both a slice - a thin one for him, a slab for Aziraphale - and set them on plates, and watched Aziraphale take a bite. As Aziraphale chewed, Crowley wondered if he should’ve tried his first, just in case it wasn’t good after all -
He dove for his own slice just as Aziraphale made a loud, bright noise that usually meant he was eating something he enjoyed.
Crowley’s fork paused in mid-air.
“Oh, this is-” Aziraphale swallowed his mouthful. “Crowley! I can’t believe you made this.”
Crowley thought about playing it off, then said, “There are two attempts of this cake in the bin.”
“Well,” Aziraphale said, “Their sacrifice is appreciated. This is lovely .”
Crowley didn’t know what to say to that, so he took a bite from his slice. It was pretty good.
“Glad my efforts weren’t wasted, then,” he said, when Aziraphale didn’t say anything else, too busy with the cake.
“Not at all,” Aziraphale assured him. He glanced over at him another two times before asking, “Is there - an occasion?”
“What? No, just-” Crowley waved his fork at the cake. “Just. You always have tea out for me in the mornings, and. You said that it feels more - rewarding - when you make it from scratch. That it’s meaningful. Thought I’d… try it out.”
He didn’t dare look up from his cake to see if Aziraphale was looking at him, because he knew Aziraphale would be looking at him. Aziraphale’s gaze would be burning the side of his face, if anything about Aziraphale could be likened to fire. As it was, his gaze was beaming angelic light onto the side of Crowley’s face.
He ate his slice and tried to breathe normally. How did he usually breathe? Maybe he should stop. It would be annoying, but his breathing did have a tendancy to stutter sometimes when Aziraphale did something particularly impactful, which could give Crowley away as being stupid in love with him. Couldn’t have that. Also, not breathing made eating faster.
He held his breath for a chew and a swallow, until he remembered he did actually need to breathe to speak. Fucking bodies always ruining his plans.
“So,” he said, as casual as he could manage, “Two birds. Killing them, I mean. The birds. With a stone. As the saying goes. I mean, I tried the making-food-from-scratch thing, and the… thanking you. Thing. Both at once. Here you go.”
He helped himself to another slice and dug into it with gusto, adding, “This is pretty good,” hoping that would cover up that he was only eating it so he had something to look at and do with his hands.
Speak, you bastard , he thought at Aziraphale.
Then, as if the angel could hear his thoughts - which would be mortifying in a million different ways - Aziraphale said, “Thank you, Crowley.”
He said it the same way he had been looking at the cake: soft and pleased. Crowley risked a glance over at him and thought about the not-breathing thing when it faltered in his throat. How could one person’s face convey all that - all that -
Crowley swallowed, which was fine because he had a mouthful of cake. A swallow when one has cake in their mouth is very different than when one doesn’t. A swallow out of nowhere could indicate a lot of things that one didn’t necessarily want to show, especially the angel one has been reluctantly in love with since Eden.
“It wasn’t that hard,” Crowley tried. He finished off his second slice and picked a strawberry off the cake. “After the first two attempts. Did you know some recipes make you specifically not pre-heat the oven? I thought pre-heating was something all baking revolved around!”
“Ah. No, not always,” Aziraphale said after a second, like he’d had to catch himself and put his thoughts on another track. “The rules are never consistent when it comes to making food. There are always exceptions. It can be quite exciting.”
“It can be quite annoying,” Crowley replied, picking off another strawberry. How did Youtube guy get them all so evenly-spaced, and in a neat pattern? He picked off another strawberry, not bothering to eat it, and wondered why he didn’t think to place the strawberries on the cake in the shape of some demonic sigil, just to see Aziraphale’s I’m-not-disappointed-in-you-no-really-this-is-my-normal-face look. He always got a laugh out of that look.
“Well,” Aziraphale said. “In any case, I’m touched that you went to all that trouble for me, Crowley. Thank you.”
“You already said that,” Crowley said, shifting from foot to foot and then stopping himself.
“I did,” Aziraphale said. “And I’ll say it a third time. Thank you, Crowley. It - means a lot. To me. That you would think to do this.”
He gave another radiant smile, then ducked his head, first at the floor and then at the cake. When he spoke, it was towards the cake. “And, and did you find it - rewarding? More meaningful?”
“Uh,” Crowley said. He’d found it frustrating , to tell the truth. Even after he’d gotten the hang of it, the most he’d felt was the bitter triumph that came with succeeding after failing spectacularly several times. The only time he’d felt much of anything at all, when it came to the cake, was when the front door had opened.
“Yeah,” he said when Aziraphale’s face started to look like it might fall. “Yeah! Definitely, uh - different than clicking your fingers and having it appear. Really - demonstrates the fruits of my labour. Hard work and - oh, hey, fruits of my labour.”
He pointed at the strawberries, which wasn’t - yes, okay, wasn’t his best line, but he was all nerve endings at the time.
Aziraphale laughed. It only sounded a little forced, which Crowley appreciated.
“Fruits,” Aziraphale agreed. Absentmindedly, he reached over and took a strawberry that Crowley had picked off. Crowley watched it vanish into Aziraphale’s mouth, watched his jaw work, then his throat as he swallowed.
“Well,” Aziraphale said. “This was a lovely surprise to come home to.”
Crowley shifted so his hip was angled into the counter, pressing it hard into his hipbone, pressing until it twinged. Come home. Aziraphale, coming home to him. It had a nice ring to it.
“Don’t expect a repeat performance,” Crowley said. “One time thing, this. I did my experiment, and now I know - what I set out to learn. So.”
“I won’t expect a thing,” Aziraphale said, still smiling like Shakespare offered to put on a personal performance. “Thank-”
“Don’t you dare. No, stop it. Soon you’ll start calling me nice- ”
“It is! I’m a demon, I’m not supposed to be-”
That stopped them both. Aziraphale’s smile shrunk and Crowley caught himself, body posture tightening where it had just begun to loosen.
They were supposed to be a lot of things. They definitely weren’t supposed to be ‘coming home’ to each other.
“Not that it matters much now,” Crowley said. He meant it as a throwaway line, but Aziraphale’s whole face twitched. Crowley didn’t know what to make of it, and it didn’t seem like Aziraphale knew what to do with it either.
“No,” Aziraphale agreed quietly. “It doesn’t seem to.” He paused, then, half-jokingly: “You could make me angel food cake everyday and it wouldn’t matter.”
Crowley’s chest twisted. If he was human, he’d think - well. Anyway, spend enough time around them and all sorts starts to happen. Pick up their weird habits and then it’s their strange bodily functions - blushing, burping, the works. Crowley doesn’t technically have organs, doesn’t have a heart, per se, but -
I would, if it’d make you smile, Crowley thought, and found self-loathing spiral down after it. For Satan’s sake .
“Don’t get your hopes up,” Crowley said, instead of all the stuff he’d never dare let out from behind his teeth. His tongue flickered against the firmness of them, pressing hard.
“I won’t,” Aziraphale said. He held Crowley’s gaze for one second, then two, and Crowley concentrated on breathing slow and steady-
“Well!” Aziraphale broke eye contact and reached for his knife. “I think I’ll help myself to another slice and then go sit in the lounge to finish that radio show. Care to join?”
“It’s a podcast,” Crowley said absently. “And sure.”
He waited for Aziraphale to collect another slice onto his plate and then waited some more when Aziraphale eyed him expectantly. Crowley looked back just as expectantly.
“Aren’t you going to have some more,” Aziraphale asked.
Crowley looked over at the cake. It wasn’t even half gone, damn it.
“I’m good,” Crowley said. Then he grinned. “I’m not , but you know what I mean.”
Aziraphale gave him a Look and made a Noise, something sadder than Crowley had been going for. But all he said was, “Don’t hog the cushions this time,” and started out into the lounge.
“No promises,” Crowley said, and followed.
Crowley woke up at 5am with a shudder, and a shout he smothered with his hands. He kept them clenched over his mouth until they stopped shaking, then let go.
There was a moment of silence, then from the lounge, a tentative: “Crowley?”
Crowley hissed, more to himself than anything else. He cleared his throat, whispered I’m fine to make sure his voice is stable, then yelled, “I’m fine,” in a tone that he hoped sounds it.
Going off how Aziraphale didn’t follow up other than saying oh, good , he assumed he did alright. He lay there for another half hour, eyes closed, sweat drying on his skin from where he’d twisted and turned in bed, caught up in the usual nightmares.
He didn’t manage to fall back asleep. When he opened his eyes and spotted sunlight through a crack in the curtains, he glared. When the sunlight didn’t do the smart thing and hide behind the curtain, Crowley started thinking about The Thing He’d Been Considering Before Going To Sleep Last Night.
It still seemed sensible enough. They had all those yolks waiting in the fridge and Aziraphale always sighed that sad, put-upon sigh whenever they tipped out milk that had gone off or some fruit they’d forgotten to eat before it went bad.
Technically they could miracle it all fresh again, but Aziraphale insisted it was the principal of it all, and also that he could taste the rot under the miracle. Crowley couldn’t, but go figure. He assumed angels were better at sniffing out that kind of thing.
He pushed himself up, stripped his terrible pyjamas off - he’d kept the ones he’d miracled up to mock Aziraphale, purely to see the angel’s reaction - and got dressed in his usual black attire, sans leather jacket, at least for now. He donned his sunglasses. Then he headed for the kitchen.
Aziraphale’s head pricked up as he passed the lounge door, and Crowley paused. Pausing couldn’t hurt.
“You’re up…” Aziraphale paused and checked the clock. When he turned back, his eyebrows were raised. “ Very early. Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, angel,” Crowley said. He stretched, long and stretchy enough that he thought back fondly to being a snake. This form was pleasantly bendy, but not snake-bendy. There had been something satisfying about moving so fluidly, folding himself into a circle that overlapped. The overlapping had been fun, and - if he could admit it to himself- comforting. Maybe he’d do that later today. He hadn’t spent time as a snake in a while and he could use some comfort after that stunner of a nightmare.
Aziraphale still looked worried, if a bit distracted when he came out of his stretch, so he put on his best I’m-a-demon-and-nothing-effects-me face.
“I’m fine ,” he repeated, for - the third time this morning. The fourth if he counted the whisper, which he didn’t, so the third. Three instances that he was ‘definitely, absolutely okay, don’t worry about it’ before 6am was… not ideal.
“Alright,” Aziraphale said, and started to get up from where he’d been doing some arranging of the records - in some bizarre, obscure arrangements, Crowley was sure. He was also partly-sure Aziraphale did it to watch Crowley’s reaction when Aziraphale told him how he’d arranged it this time. Last week it was by ‘lead singers who wore the most to the least amount of orange.’ He’d even come up with a semi-plausible reason for it, though Crowley couldn’t remember what it was now. Mostly he remembered Aziraphale’s excited hands moving in front of him as he spoke.
“I’ll make tea, then,” Aziraphale said, and started for Crowley - no, the doorway. He started for the doorway, which Crowley just happened to be in.
“No,” Crowley said, before Aziraphale got halfway across the room. “I’ll do it.”
Aziraphale’s brow furrowed, then smoothed out. “You will? I thought I shouldn’t be expecting you to make-”
“It’s just tea, angel,” Crowley said, instead of everything else he wouldn’t let himself say.
Crowley set everything aside for the tea, honey and milk and boiled water and all of it, and pulled up the recipe on his phone. It looked like it’d require more pots and pans than he’d like, but he was a demon. He could handle it. He got out a pot for the eggs and another for the hollandaise sauce, filled them both with water - he had to re-fill the jug to have with the tea later - and put them on the stove. Then he turned around to do everything else, which was a mistake, because apparently everything needed to be done in a certain time limit for everything to come out at the same time.
Crowley figured this out around the time he figured that they really didn’t need steamed spinach, that was a waste of a pan and also of time spent tearing spinach that he could instead use to crack eggs into boiling water and also take that pan off the heat and turn the burner off and right, shit, check on the melting butter, why didn’t they have a microwave, and then he had to grab the spices from the cabinet, and then the toast , when was he supposed to do the toast -
He spent the next few minutes in the most silent frenzy he could manage. At some point the steam fogging up his glasses pissed him off enough that he took them off and set them on the counter to pick up after he was finished, which he almost was when there was a call from the lounge.
“That tea is taking an awfully long time, Crowley, are you sure you don’t need-”
“No,” Crowley yelled back when he heard footsteps. “Don’t - sssshit- ”
He dropped off into a hiss when the timer on his phone went off for the poached eggs. He lunged for the pot, very nearly made the eggs bounce out of it and only saving them with a literal miracle. He figured food was still made in the human way and therefore ‘meaningfully’ even if he tossed in a miracle, because saving-the-eggs-from-splashing-out-all-over-the-floor wasn’t really involved in the food making process.
He scooped the eggs out with a slotted spoon - another absurd thing he owned now, and still wasn’t used to - and put them on the chopping board when he realized he hadn’t gotten plates out. Then he turned the burner for the sauce off, checked to see it hadn’t solidified - it hadn’t, it was actually a very promising consistency, which was a surprise - and turned around just as the toast popped up, all four slices.
Crowley was buttering them when Aziraphale appeared in the doorway. He took in the sight of the kitchen with no small amount of surprise, but it quickly turned to a gut-churning amount of fondness.
“Shut it,” Crowley warned.
Aziraphale opened his mouth.
“What did I just say,” Crowley said, buttering the toast so hard he almost punctured it.
Aziraphale made a zipping motion in front of his mouth, but continued to smile irritatingly. Well, sort of irritatingly. There were other things about it, but it was definitely irritating, among those other things.
“You can grab the tea,” Crowley told him as he slid the toast onto plates, then eggs onto the toast, then sauce over the eggs and toast.
Aziraphale nodded and grabbed everything, but didn’t stop smiling, so Crowley refused to look at him until they sat down in the lounge with their breakfast on the coffee table.
“Ah,” Aziraphale said as they sat down. “One second.”
He went for the plants, which sat along the sides of the room. He bent and pinched off a dozen thin stalks of chives, giving a small, “Apologies,” as he did so, and pausing to pat the plant beside it before turning back.
“I told you, stop being so soft with them,” Crowley said. He made dagger eyes at the chives, which didn’t shiver at all. Very disheartening. Crowley got the feeling that the chives were spreading whispers of rebellion to the other plants, who had seemed less afraid of Crowley as of late.
Aziraphale gave him a look and returned with the chives, miracle-ing them into fragments that he sprinkled over both their breakfasts. Then he paused.
“Sorry, I didn’t ask if you wanted any.”
“Bit late now,” Crowley said, and then laughed when Aziraphale started to apologize. “The chives are fine. They’re good,” he added when he noticed that fine was about to turn into a recurring thing this morning and he wasn’t going to let it.
Aziraphale pushed his sleeves up his arms. “And you said we’d never use the herb plants. I think they’ve been wonderful additions to the home. There’s something so lovely about having a herb garden, I think. I’ve never had one before now - not that I have one now, what with just one chive plant and a small rosemary bush, but-”
He stopped, looking down at the breakfast. Then he looked over at Crowley, who prepared himself to be assaulted with feelings he didn’t want.
“I seem to remember you telling me I shouldn’t expect anything,” Aziraphale said in a tone that implied he was greatly pleased to be wrong.
“I said you shouldn’t get your hopes up,” Crowley corrected. “Which you shouldn’t. This is just ‘cause we had those leftover egg yolks from all the failed cake attempts. We actually still have some egg yolks, if you want to use them up later.”
He cut into his toast, egg and egg-sauce and forked it up to his mouth. It was okay. He was just happy everything was hot at the same time - it had looked dicey there for a while.
“Definitely don’t get your hopes up,” Crowley continued as Aziraphale started in on his breakfast. “This was just finishing up the one-time thing.”
“I will keep my hopes as low as my socks,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley narrowed his eyes. “You wear your socks-”
“Pulled up high, I know, I just realized how that came across. I meant that - well, my socks are very low, they’re at my feet. I’ll keep my hopes as low as my feet, how’s that?”
“Good,” Crowley said. He took a sip of tea, which Aziraphale had poured for him. “Keep them there.”
“I will,” Aziraphale said. He took another bite of his breakfast and made a gratifying noise. Crowley wasn’t sure if it was just to appease him or not. He hoped Aziraphale genuinely enjoyed it, then mentally slapped himself for hoping it. For a demon, he was such a fucking sap .
Crowley assumed that’d be the end of it, but Aziraphale kept shooting him glances throughout breakfast. Crowley had finished up and was skulling the rest of his tea when he gave in and said, “What?”
“Hm? Oh. Nothing, just-” Aziraphale motioned at Crowley’s face. “This is nice. It’s - it’s a good look on you, you should do it more often, not just when you’re drunk.”
Crowley frowned. When he was drunk? What -
He froze, then reached up to his face. His fingers grazed his nose, his bare nose, with no glasses covering it, and more importantly, not covering his eyes. His glasses - he’d left them on the counter because of the fucking steam , right, fuck -
He was halfway through standing before he realized it, and by then Aziraphale already had a hand on his arm and was tugging him down.
“No, no, it’s a good look! Not one that’d be wise to wear outside of the apartment, but when it’s just us-” he gave a small smile. “It’s nice.”
“Nice,” Crowley repeated, incredulous. “Wh - Aziraphale . You don’t have to do this.”
“Pretend-” Crowley waved his hands towards his face. “ You know. It’s fine.”
Stop saying FINE, he broadcast loudly at himself as soon as it got out of his mouth.
“I don’t,” Aziraphale said. “What, do you think they offend me?”
“Offend…” Crowley rubbed at the bridge of his nose, which felt very naked right about now. “Sure. That’s a word for it. They’re - it - I assume they’re not great to look at.”
“ I find them great to look at,” Aziraphale said. He blinked rapidly after saying it, like he couldn’t quite believe the words, but then straightened his shoulders and pinned Crowley with a so-there look.
Crowley made a face. He was very good at making faces. Demon-shapeshifting aside, he had a very expressive Everything.
“Thanks,” he said dryly.
“I mean it!” Aziraphale looked right into his goddamned eyes - literally goddamned, always literally damned, condemned eyes - and tried to follow Crowley’s gaze each time he looked away, stepping in the directions that Crowley looked.
“Oh, stop it,” Crowley snapped, grabbing Aziraphale by the shoulders and then letting him go like he was - well, like he was a demon who’d just grabbed something holy.
“You don’t have to prove this point to make me feel better,” Crowley said. “Or make you feel better, or whatever you’re-”
“They’re really a lovely shade of yellow.”
Crowley’s mouth stayed open, caught in mid-word. He forgot what that word had been and instead said, “Lovely what?”
“Shade of yellow,” Aziraphale said. “They’re like - like-”
He looked around, then, too triumphant: “Egg yolks! They’re a lovely shade of yellow.”
Crowley ground his teeth against his cheek. His tongue flicked.
Aziraphale seemed to be realizing what he’d just said.
“I mean,” he started, but Crowley was already off.
“Thank you so much,” he said. “You’ve really lifted that weight of eternal damnation, that really, truly- ”
“Do stop it, I was just-”
“Existence was a blight , but now- ”
“They’re much nicer than egg yolks!”
“Oh, they’re nicer ? Wow. I don’t know if I can believe that, angel, I really don’t, nicer than egg yolks , you say-”
“Would you take this seriously for one second,” Aziraphale snapped at him. He took a heavy breath and then, only hesitating for a second before doing so, took Crowley’s shoulders.
Crowley had to stop himself from shaking him off. Probably do more harm than good at this point. Better to put up with whatever was coming and then move on.
Reluctantly, he let himself meet Aziraphale’s eyes. He tried not to think about what Aziraphale was seeing - sulfur yellow, yellow like the pits that had drowned him, filled him from the inside out, dyed his wings black and corrupted his soul. Well, maybe not that last bit. Sulfur hadn’t corrupted his soul, nothing had done that but Crowley himself. Technically.
Whatever kind of yellow his eyes were, it was a yellow that Crowley had a complicated relationship with. Sometimes he’d find a mirror and just stare at his eyes - the long slit of pupil and the huge expanse of yellow around it, swallowing the white. His eyes had been different before, but he honestly couldn’t remember what they’d looked like. He remembered that his pupil had been normal, and he’d had the usual amount of colour around it, but he couldn’t remember what colour it was. Most days, when he could stand to think about it, he thought it might’ve been silver.
If Aziraphale was disgusted by his eyes, he hid it well. Oddly enough, Crowley didn’t think he was disgusted. He didn’t think Aziraphale could hide his disgust this well. So that was nice.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale started, and it was so sincere that Crowley’s skin crawled and he thought seriously about dissolving into a snake and hiding in the walls. See what Aziraphale did then .
“Stop it,” Aziraphale said, and Crowley realized he’d made a face.
“Crowley,” Aziraphale repeated. “I. I genuinely do like your eyes. And I’m… honoured, when you let me see them. You’ve been so guarded about them for so long, and it means a lot to me that you feel comfortable enough with me that you would let me see them uncovered. And I really do like them, aesthetically.”
“You do,” Crowley said, doubt creeping into each syllable.
Aziraphale gave a firm nod. “Yes.”
Crowley rolled his tongue in his mouth. Made it forked, then human again. He’d regret asking, he knew, but it sounded like such utter crap that he had to know: “ How .”
Aziraphale didn’t seem surprised. “Well, I suppose - they’re quite striking. Like a sunrise. Somehow they’ve always reminded me of the first sunrise. I don’t know why. And I, ah. I suppose they’ve become dear to me over the years. Since they’re yours.”
Crowley swallowed. He wished he had some tea to blame, but it was just him and his traitorous throat.
“Huh,” he said, and even to him it sounded strained.
Aziraphale gave his shoulders a squeeze. He kept squeezing for several long seconds, then seemed to notice that they’d been standing there staring into each other’s eyes for a while and stepped back with a sharp inhale.
“Well! That’s that. Uh, do keep it in mind.”
Crowley nodded jerkily. When Aziraphale sat down to finish breakfast, Crowey sat down and took his empty teacup back in his hand. The warmth was mostly out of it, so Crowley miracled it so it was warm again, so the warmth could leach into his hands.
Crowley got the idea after being snapchatted a series of pictures of Anathema making muffins with Adam. The process looked easy enough, like the angel food cake - bowl, ingredients, pan, oven. The two of them were having more fun than Crowley had, or at least it looked like it - they were arguing and laughing and there was at least one food fight Crowley got footage of, with a video from Anathema’s perspective and one from Adam’s. It might’ve been one food fight in different stages or it could’ve been one of many, and from what Crowley knew about the two of them, he bet it was the latter.
Crowley watched the two of them brandish their muffins fresh out of the oven, watched Adam smear one all over his face, not burning his tongue when Anathema absolutely would’ve - another perk of being the antichrist, apparently, it’s very hard to burn you when you were born out of hellfire, no matter how much you’ve rejected your inheritance - and sent a rare snapchat back.
It was a simple one: his ceiling, and a caption that read: what’s a simple recipe that someone w/ a sweet tooth would like. one that a beginner can’t screw up .
He sent it to both of them and got answers back in minutes. Adam sent CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES and CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS and JAFFA CAKE IT’S WEIRD BUT GOOD , all with closeups of his face. Anathema sent back a photo of her table and How about lemon drizzle? I loved that as a kid .
Crowley googled all of it. Chocolate chip cookies looked fine - simple, traditional - and Adam’s other suggestions looked good, but there was something appealing about lemon drizzle.
They didn’t have lemons, but Crowley miracled some up on his way to the kitchen and dumped them onto the counter. Then he had to stop all of them from rolling off of it, because that was what happened when you dropped a bunch of spheres onto a flat surface.
“Okay,” Crowley said, and checked the clock. Aziraphale was out negotiating his way to some rare books, so that meant Crowley had a few hours. That was definitely long enough to make a cake, provided he didn’t mess it up twice like his last cake attempt.
Crowley watched a Youtube video, then scrolled through multiple recipes which all, infuriatingly, said different things, before he snapchatted Anathema: what lemon drizzle recipe works best?
She sent back a link to the very first recipe he’d read, because of course she did, and Crowley got started.
For once Aziraphale didn’t interrupt him around the end of the process, so Crowley was left staring at his newly-drizzled lemon drizzle cake, sizing it up for imperfections, which he was sure were legion. It didn’t look awful, but it definitely didn’t look like the ones on the Great British Bakeoff, which he’d watched an episode of while the cake was in the oven, swearing to himself he’d never, ever tell Aziraphale how much he enjoyed it. Aziraphale had been trying to get him to watch this kind of stuff for months now.
Crowley cleaned up, set the cake on a plate and left it in the kitchen. Then he got antsy and brought it into the lounge with him, just in case - well. There wasn’t really a just in case situation that was plausible (a bird flies in the window and knocks it on the floor! The cake spontaneously catches fire!), but Crowley wasn’t taking any chances.
With time to kill, he got up - keeping the cake in his line of sight - and went to discipline his plants. He started by stalking around them silently, which was usually enough to get them quaking, but ever since Aziraphale moved in they’d been all but rebellious. They hadn’t been growing worse than usual - they weren’t suicidal enough for that - but they’d been markedly less scared of him, which he hated.
“Right,” Crowley said, and noticed with satisfaction that a tiny fern quivered. He stalked around, glaring at leaves and making disapproving noises even though there wasn’t a damned spot to see, even in Aziraphale’s herb plants, which Crowley had been forbidden to yell at. He’d even been forced to apologize to them when he’d yelled in their direction in Aziraphale’s presence, so he usually tried to stay away from them.
Eventually Crowley settled on the fern that had been quivering.
“And how are you growing,” Crowley said, with no little menace.
The fern’s quivering increased tenfold. Crowley grinned. That was more like it.
“Now-” Crowley bit off the start of what could’ve been a wonderful reign of terror when the front door opened. He turned around, zeroing in on the cake - still intact, no bird or spontaneous fire - and listened to Aziraphale bustle around the front door. He raised a hand to take off his glasses, then stopped. No, too much. Maybe not for Aziraphale, but -
“How was it,” Crowley called as he headed through the apartment for him.
“Crowley!” Aziraphale beamed at him as he appeared in the hall. “It was a very successful trip, if I do say myself-”
He brandished a sturdy bag of books at Crowley. “ Four first editions! I’ve been looking for the set for decades now and I’d never been able to track it down, it was very lucky that Devon’s ancestor got wind of my ad-”
“Mm,” Crowley said, who had absolutely no hand in making that happen, at all, he definitely didn’t call every E. Devon in the phonebook until he found the right one and pretend to be an interested citizen who offhandedly happened to mention Aziraphale’s ad and told him the newspaper he could find it in.
“I didn’t even have to strongarm him,” Aziraphale said. “I did think finding these books would involve some strongarming, you know, just to nudge him in the right direction-”
Strongarming was a phrase Aziraphale sometimes used instead of ‘threaten.’ Crowley supposed he liked to think of himself who didn’t threaten anyone or anything, from the lowliest ant to a whole live person, when Crowley knew that Aziraphale could threaten the pants off of a bunch of whole live people and then tell himself it was for the Greater Good instead of something to do with the bookshop.
Aziraphale headed to the bookshelf in the lounge, which kept getting bigger. Soon it’d take up the whole wall.
“You’re keeping them here then,” Crowley said. “Not in the shop?”
“No, I thought I’d do some light reading tonight,” Aziraphale said. He started to squeeze the four editions into the packed shelves, then sighed and flicked a hand to increase the shelf size. The shelves creaked agreeably and suddenly Aziraphale could slide the books in with no issue.
He stood back and brushed his hands off. “There!”
Crowley eyed the bookshelf. It might take up several walls soon, come that.
“How was your day,” Aziraphale said. He seemed to take great pleasure in asking that kind of thing, and Crowley started walking around the lounge so he wasn’t under the full brunt of Aziraphale’s smile. Domestic . That was what they were now. Crowley was appalled by how much he didn’t hate it.
“It went alright,” Crowley said, instead of I made you a cake, have some , because that would be too obvious. No, better to wait for Aziraphale to notice it. Which Crowley made easier by coming to stand next to the coffee table that the cake was on, bumping his leg casually into the table leg closest.
“Well, that’s-” Aziraphale brightened even further. “Oh my, is that a cake?”
There we go. “It might be.”
“Did you make it?”
“Maybe. Yes,” he relented when Aziraphale kept looking at him.
Crowley waited for some more I thought I wasn’t to be expecting anything , but all Aziraphale did was look flustered, then miracle them up some knives and forks. He handed Crowley a pair and Crowley said, “Thanks,” trying not to sound too fond, because like everything Aziraphale miracled up, it was so him . The fork and knife weren’t plain metal, no, they were silver and neatly decorated and there was an angel wing studded into the end of each.
Crowley rubbed a thumb over them and joined Aziraphale in sitting down on the couch.
Aziraphale said, “And what culinary delight are you gracing us with today?”
“No, no delight, no grace , stop it.” Crowley shifted on the couch. They were sitting very close - not enough to touch, but if he leaned over, that’d do it. Not that he was going to do it.
“Well,” Aziraphale said. He miracled up some plates and handed one to Crowley. “It looks heavenly .”
“Oh, why’d you have to go and say that,” Crowley said, but accepted a slice on his plate when Aziraphale held one out. He waited for Aziraphale to pick his up and tried not to be too obvious in watching him take that first bite.
Aziraphale made that stupid, lovely, oh-this-is-scrumptious noise. Crowley hated how invested he was in it, because he was very much aware that if Crowley ever made him something and Aziraphale didn’t make that noise, Crowley was probably going to throw the whole thing out as a failure, in an extremely dramatic fashion that Aziraphale was going to be annoyed by.
“Is this lemon,” Aziraphale asked.
“Drizzle,” Crowley said. “See, ‘cause there’s drizzle. Lemon drizzle.”
He waved at the cake, which was indeed lemon and indeed drizzled.
“‘S very good,” Aziraphale said. He paused, then bumped their elbows together. “Good work, Crowley.”
Crowley grunted and stamped violently on the butterflies that were turning over in his stomach. Gone native was right. Crowley was sure he never used to get all these human-ish feelings, at least not at the very start. 6000 years around humans surely did something to him.
“Anathema gave me the idea,” Crowley said as they ate. “For the cake.”
“Mm. Her and Adam made muffins today.”
It had been unexpected, the two of them spending so much time together after the world didn’t end. Neither Anathema nor Adam had seen it coming, according to the brief chats Crowley had with them - but then again, Anathema hadn’t expected to stick around in Jasmine Cottage. Being in the same town helped a lot with things like spending time together, and it wasn’t like Anathema knew many other people at first.
“Oh-” Aziraphale dabbed at his mouth with a napkin, then continued: “Did you talk to them?”
“Ah, yes. The-” Aziraphale mimed a camera.
“That’s the one,” Crowley said. “You talked to them lately?”
“Actually, Adam called yesterday. He says we should visit during his holidays.”
Crowley made a noise in his throat. “Hm.”
“Is that something we might be interested in-?”
“What? Uh, sure. We have time, I guess.”
“We do,” Aziraphale said, a little absently. Probably thinking about the same thing Crowley was - how they almost didn’t have time, how it all nearly ran out for everyone on the planet. Now they had time, all the time in the world, however long that ended up lasting.
“So when are the little Antichrist’s holidays,” Crowey asked, scraping up the last bit of his cake.
“He doesn’t like being called that,” Aziraphale reminded him. “And, uh. Not long away, I believe. A month?”
“I’ll check my schedule,” Crowley said.
Aziraphale dabbed his finger against his plate, collecting crumbs. “Lemon drizzle was a wonderful choice. I must remember to thank Anathema when we see her.”
“Uh-huh,” Crowley said, mind lighting up on any possible way their lemon drizzle conversation - if it could even be called a conversation - could implicate him for being in love with Aziraphale. When he didn’t come up with anything, he got out his phone and snapped a photo of - well, he went to photograph the cake, but Aziraphale posed with his slice so Crowley diverted the phone his way.
He smirked at the photo of Aziraphale smiling like a loon with his cake, and captioned it: cake turned out ok .
He added a photo of the cake afterwards. Didn’t want all the focus to be on Aziraphale anyway, when the cake was the star of the story. Or, he didn’t want Anathema to think the cake wasn’t the star of the story, and that the star was really the angel.
His phone vibrated less than a minute later.
“Millennials,” Crowley said as he clicked the app open. He tilted the screen to let Aziraphale see: Anathema had sent a photo back of her giving a thumbs up, with a bunch of thumbs up emojis to emphasize the point.
“Good job, me,” Crowley muttered.
“Yes! Good job you.” Aziraphale looked as if he was going to - burst into a cheerleading routine, or pat him on the shoulder, so Crowley pinned him with the most withering look he could manage.
Aziraphale wasn’t paying attention, of course. He was helping himself to another slice. He made a happy noise while starting on it, and Crowley resolutely told himself that he was not at all affected.
the reason crowley was partial to the lemon drizzle recipe is bc it reminded him subliminally of aziraphale lmao
It should’ve been simple enough, but Crowley had tagged along to Aziraphale’s favourite sushi restaurant enough times to know that his attempts were amateur at best .
Anything remotely close to what Aziraphale was clearly used to? Not by a mile .
Crowley binned the sushi and then miracled it into a public bin on the next street. Couldn’t have Aziraphale seeing evidence of his failures.
It wasn’t just the seaweed and rice, was the thing. No, the restaurant always had some other - things . Strips of contorted fish with rice and other sea-faring animals.
Crowley got out his phone and googled ‘types of sushi.’ Oh, fish eggs. Crowley hated fish eggs. Why were there so many kinds? More importantly, which ones did Aziraphale want?
Crowley considered asking him. He imagined how Aziraphale’s face might light up at the question - maybe he’d ask why Crowley wanted to know and maybe he’d drop it. He’d get that pleased little smile he’d been wearing a lot more often lately, and it was tempting to do it, but - well, a surprise was always nice. And if he was going to ask the sushimaker, he figured that guy would know all about what Aziraphale liked anyway.
Youtube was there, as always, but there were too many variables - quality of the ingredients and where to get them and all the nitty gritty bits that Crowley didn’t know the first thing about approaching. He could miracle the sushi and lie, say he’d made it, but he was sure Aziraphale would be able to tell. Crowley had a bit of a weak spot when it came to lying to the angel.
He sighed and got his glasses. The sushi shop wasn’t far away - a ten minute drive, which meant five minutes with Crowley driving.
With only a little demonic interference, the restaurant was empty when Crowley walked in.
“Hello,” the sushi man started, but Crowley cut him off.
“How much for you to teach me how to make sushi? Good sushi, I mean. And give me the ingredients to do it with. Or tell me how to get them otherwise. This place is going to be empty of humans for the next three hours, is that enough time?”
The sushi man made a long, confused noise, but then got with the program.
“Uhhhh,” he said. “How much do you want to learn?”
“As much as you can teach me in three hours. Just - teach me how to make a few of your fancy ones. Can’t be that hard.”
The sushi man blinked a few times.
“Sure,” he said, in a tone that implied that Crowley was a small child saying that the moon was made of cheese and while he knew the truth, he didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
“You’re Mr. Aziraphale’s friend,” sushi man said.
“Yup, that’s me,” Crowley said. “Now-”
“Is price no object, like with him?”
Crowley’s mouth twitched. “You betcha.”
“Okeydokey artichoke-y,” sushi man said. “I’m Paul. You guys usually get served by my dad, but he’s out of town and said I’m practiced enough to run the kitchen today. Come back around that door.”
Crowley went into the door where the man was pointing, where he was met with a man and a woman who did a double-take when they noticed him. Both looked towards Paul when he walked in from the front.
“You two can come back at 3,” he said. “Apparently. You’re sure?”
That last bit was directed at Crowley, who nodded.
Paul nodded back and clapped his hands. “Alright! See you guys later. Mr. Crowley, follow me.”
The things I do , Crowley thought to himself, and determinedly didn’t let himself finish the last two words of that saying.
“You can’t tell Aziraphale,” Crowley said around hour two, after he’d properly memorized all the knife types. There were so many parts to making these tiny things and Crowley hated it.
“My lips are sealed,” Paul said. “Now. It’s best to fry the shrimp in this specific type of oil, because other ones cook at different temperatures-”
Crowley wished he’d taken the guy up on his offer of a notebook. But he’d said he was fine and he was going to stick with it even if he had to sear the information into his brain. He could probably do it - he’d never done it to himself, but he’d had it done to him and he’d done it to others so it couldn’t be too hard.
“There’s too much damn temperatures involved in making food,” Crowley said, effectively cutting Paul off. “Other than just - turning on a stove or putting something in the oven. This stuff used to be so much simpler . Put something over a fire until it won’t kill you to eat it, then eat it. Why’d all that have to change?”
Paul didn’t seem to know quite what to say to that. He looked Crowley up and down like maybe Crowley had weapons hidden in his coat, or a secret government ledger sewn into the hem.
“Because making food is important,” he said finally. “And not just for survival. Food is, uh - culture, and family, and - good memories and history. And love.”
Crowley put a big production into rolling his eyes, enough that the guy had to be able to tell even behind the sunglasses.
“Yeah, okay,” Crowley said. “Whatever.”
“It is, no matter what you say,” Paul said mildly. He shook the shrimp around the pan.
“No, I get it. That wasn’t - I know .”
“Good,” Paul said. He took a small sieve-looking thing (Crowley hadn’t learned the name of every kitchen instrument, just the knives) and got the shrimp out of the pan. “I figured you would, if you’re putting all this effort into learning to make some yourself. Can I ask-”
“No,” Crowley said, and thought seriously about causing an oil fire. Just a tiny one. Barely injure Paul at all.
Twenty minutes before the three-hour mark was up, the door to the restaurant opened.
Crowley frowned. He’d been so thorough. Humans weren’t supposed to notice the place was there .
Then Aziraphale called, “Hello? I’m dreadfully sorry, are you closed?”
Crowley hissed hard through his teeth. Did the angel have a honing signal on Crowley when he was making food?
He grabbed Paul by the shirt and pulled him close.
“Do not tell him I’m here.”
“Done,” Paul said, too unfazed for Crowley’s liking, so he made sure to give him a bit of a shake before letting go. Paul brushed his shirt down until it was smooth.
“Coming, Mr. Aziraphale,” he called, and went out the front.
Crowley was left to question his life choices. He pressed his ear to the wall:
“You’re awfully quiet for a Saturday,” from Aziraphale, and then Paul saying, “Ha, yes, it seems like it. We’re actually busy preparing something out back - an event, you see - so the quiet is a good thing today. Were you thinking of dining in, Mr. Aziraphale?”
“Well, if you’re busy , I wouldn’t want to-”
“That’s so kind of you, sir. In that case I hope to see you again soon.”
Crowley realized he’d been biting his fist. He let it drop out of his mouth as Paul came back into the kitchen.
“What was that ,” Crowley whispered. He could just imagine Aziraphale standing there all appalled without his sushi.
Paul shrugged, voice low. “Three hours is almost up. Can’t leave you hanging, not with you paying me. Mr. Aziraphale will be pissed, but he loves this place. He’ll forgive us.”
“You-” Crowley pinched the bridge of his nose. “Don’t you think he’d be suspicious? The empty place, telling him to leave-”
“I didn’t tell him to go, he said he didn’t mind - ”
“He was lying ! He’s not about to say outright that-” Crowley pressed his forked tongue into the set of his teeth. “Go back out there and serve him.”
Paul leaned against the counter. “You sure? You’re wasting valuable-”
“I can make this place empty for longer,” Crowley threatened, and Paul raised his hands in surrender and headed back out the door.
With a raised voice that made Crowley roll his eyes again, Paul said, “Mr. Aziraphale! So sorry, we absolutely can serve you, what were we thinking? Come, sit. I’ll get right on your order. Will you be having your usual?”
Then he was back in the kitchen, clapping his hands.
“Looks like you’ll be making him sushi sooner than you thought,” Paul said.
Crowley made a face at him before pausing. “Who said it’s for him?”
Paul shot him a look. “Get the shrimp on, Mr. Crowley.”
As tempted as he was to sit this one out and let Paul do the work, it was good practice. Crowley cut the slices as best he could - which wasn’t great, but he mircled them a little to help the process, it was the thought that counted - and tried to remember what the hell everything was called. He couldn’t keep calling it the pink dry stuff and the pinker, dryer stuff with the weird texture in his head.
It didn’t take long, but that was because of Paul, who glided around the kitchen with the ease of someone who’d been doing it since birth. From what Crowley knew of the guy’s dad, he probably had.
“Good work, Mr. Crowley,” he said, ignoring Crowley’s warning look at saying his name aloud with Aziraphale in the next room. “What? I was quiet.”
“I despise you,” Crowley told him.
“Aw,” Paul said. “You’re still paying me, right?”
“Then I’ll live,” Paul said. He smoothed a slice of red fish onto a circle of rice with more grace than Crowley had done anything in his life, then sprinkled it with a dust of seeds.
Finally the series of dishes were done, and Crowley crossed his arms tight as Paul carried them out. Then he noticed he was doing it and made his arms drop to his sides, elbows leaning against the counter behind him. Cool. Casual. Not at all worried.
Then, of course, he went and pressed his ear against the wall.
“How’s your friend,” was the first thing he heard out of Paul.
“ Paul ,” Crowley growled as quietly as human and demon-ly possible. He allowed himself a very soft head-bash against the wall.
“He’s well, thank you.”
“Good, good. I actually ran into him recently.”
“ Paul ,” Crowley whispered, in a low, loathing tone.
Aziraphale asked, “Did you really?”
“Mm-hm. Very recently, in fact. We got to talking - he mentioned you two had been spending a lot more time together.”
I am going to rip your spine from your body , Crowley mouthed. Slowly. Then the rest of your bones, even the tiny niggly ones, all ripped from your skin -
“Did he,” Aziraphale said, pleased. “Well! That isn’t like Crowley to - uh, talk to people about his life. Yes, we have been spending more time together lately. We’ve - moved in together, actually.”
“Oh! Congratulations. The two of you obviously like each other very much.”
Aziraphale made a short noise of confirmation but otherwise didn’t reply. Crowley pressed his ear to the wall with enough pressure that it hurt.
“Is marriage on the horizon, then,” Paul asked, and that got something out of Aziraphale, though from the sounds of it, ‘something’ was a bit of sushi he coughed up.
“Oh, good heavens, no. We aren’t - we don’t - we’re friends, is all.”
“Really? I just assumed. You’re so very fond-”
“Mm,” Aziraphale said. When Paul took a breath that sounded like it was the start of another word, Aziraphale said, “So how is your father? It’s odd to see him out on a Saturday, is something wrong?”
Nice work, angel, Crowley thought as the conversation diverted. He stood there with his ear against the wall until Aziraphale had finished up - which was considerably faster than he expected - and was saying goodbye to Paul, who quickly appeared back in the kitchen.
“Should we get back to it,” he asked.
Crowley sighed. “No. That’s it for today.”
“Okay. Want to come back later?”
Crowley considered. “I’ll keep you posted,” he said. He miracled up a series of hundred-dollar notes into his pocket and took them out.
Paul took them with eyes that weren’t as wide as they should be.
“Thank you,” he said quietly. He stared at the money for a second, then at Crowley’s sunglasses. “Forgive me for asking…”
That was politer than he was used to getting from this guy. “What?”
“Are you…” Paul took a breath and pocketed the money. “My father’s been serving Mr. Aziraphale for a long time. He hasn’t - he hasn’t aged , and there have been things, strange things - impossible things, kinda...”
He trailed off. Shook his head. “Anyway, are you Something, too?”
Crowley considered some more. Paul kept looking at him, not expectant, not much of anything, just waiting. That was mostly why Crowley took off his sunglasses, met his eyes and grinned.
“Oh,” Paul said, voice ratcheting up several pitches. “Okay. Cool. Is, is Mr. Aziraphale-?”
“Don’t worry about him,” Crowley said, fitting his sunglasses back on. “Mr. Aziraphale is something completely different.”
“Okeydokey,” Paul said, voice very thin and unsure, like he didn’t know if that made things better or worse. Then he cleared his throat and it went mostly back to normal. “Well. Let me know if you want any more lessons.”
“Will do,” Crowley said. He waited for the angel’s presence was far enough away and then headed for the front door.
“Are you going to let people come in again,” Paul called after him.
Crowley clicked the door open in front of him and walked out of it. The employees from before, plus a small crowd, were headed for it before it had the chance to swing shut.
Crowley gave it a week, then surprised Aziraphale with dinner.
Aziraphale made the usual noises and glances and Crowley did his usual pretending-not-to-be-affected by them.
“Are you sure you didn’t just order these,” Aziraphale asked on his second piece.
“Very sure,” Crowley said. “These are made from my own sweat and blood.”
Aziraphale’s forehead scrunched. “I never did care for that expression. Most unappealing, especially food-wise.”
“My own effort , then.”
Aziraphale smiled. He picked up a seaweed thing that Crowley had spent minutes tying, those little seaweed strips were fiddly .
“You know, these are all some of my favourites.”
“Are they,” Crowley said mildly, staring intently into the soy sauce bowl.
“Mm. How on earth did you know?”
Crowley rolled his forked tongue around in his mouth. “Didn’t,” he said finally. “Just a good guesser.”
“Oh,” Aziraphale said. Then he made a noise like an email notification and rummaged around in the bag at his feet. “Uh, speaking of - food, I got you something.”
He emerged with a cookbook, which he held out to Crowley tentatively, as if worried that Crowley would - well, not push it out of his hands, but maybe mock it a little.
“Ah,” Crowley said.
“I thought, since you seem to be enjoying yourself - but if you don’t want it-”
“I didn’t say that,” Crowley said, reaching out and taking it after realizing that Aziraphale had been sitting there holding it out for probably too long. He thumbed the edge of it: it was new, pristine. A bow was tied around it.
“It has a very good section on cakes,” Aziraphale said. “If that’s the sort of thing you were interested in.”
“Thanks,” Crowley said. He slid a finger over the bow, undoing it carefully. “I’ll, uh. Take a look at it.”
“Do,” Aziraphale said. “Only if you want.”
Crowley snorted. “I want , angel. Stop worrying.”
Aziraphale stared at him. It hadn’t made him relax, which was what Crowley had been going for. If anything, Aziraphale’s shoulders were even tighter than before.
Crowley opened his mouth to try and fix it, but then Aziraphale said, “Good,” and turned back to the sushi.
Well then , Crowley thought, putting the cookbook next to his feet for later. Good .
pink champagne cupcakes
Crowley didn’t touch the cookbook for a week.
To be honest, he avoided it. He’d put it on his bedside table, then in the desk when it had continually caught his eye as he’d been trying to fall asleep. Something about it stressed him out in a way that made him want to turn into a snake and spend some comforting hours curled up in a ball.
Then a week in, Crowley found himself not-so-accidentally around a bakery that Aziraphale was known to frequent.
“Hi,” he said, and then zapped the girl behind the counter. She stopped in mid-greeting, her face going blank.
“Aziraphale,” Crowley said. “What kind of baked goods does he like?”
The girl blinked lazily.
“Aziraphale,” Crowley tried again. “Thought he was on a first name basis - are you new?”
“‘Course you are. Right - Aziraphale , dresses well, bowtie, has this overcoat he never takes off, would rather die than have bad posture, folds his hands in front of him whenever he’s not doing anything with them-”
“He likes the cupcakes best,” the girl said dreamily.
Cupcakes. Okay then. Crowley had assumed he’d go for the actual cakes, of which they had slices waiting in bright glass cabinets. Would his cookbook have a section on cupcakes? Would Aziraphale want them in the first place, if he was getting them semi-regularly from this shop?
“What kind,” Crowley asked.
The girl hummed. “He’s especially fond of the pink champagne cupcakes.”
Pink champagne , Crowley mouthed. Oh, angel.
“Great. Uh, you’ll now wake up after having a vaguely disturbing dream about being back at school in your undies for a test you haven’t prepared for.”
He snapped his fingers and left the girl to shudder herself awake behind him.
The book did, mercifully, have a recipe for pink champagne muffins. After getting back from the shops with the champagne and cherries that the recipe called for, he did a thorough check of the egg temperature - room temperature, which was annoying, he ended up miracling the egg until it was okay to go into the bowl. He didn’t have to do everything the human way, and he already went to the shops for the food instead of willing it into existence, so miracling the egg temperature was definitely allowed.
He also miracled up a muffin cooking tray, which was a new experience. Much more time consuming than just dumping cake mix into a pan, no, he had to spoon out each cupcake individually. Then, when they were in the oven, he miracled up a piping bag and then a spout, so the icing would be in little frills like the ones in the photos.
He stalked around the house and yelled at the plants a little - careful to direct it away from Aziraphale’s herb plants, which were thriving in a way that was absurdly frustrating - before it was time to take the cupcakes out. He stalked around the house some more, flipped through the cookbook to check what else he could possibly make later, and then iced the cupcakes, which proved harder than he thought. He ended up miracling the icing back into the bag and re-doing at least half the cupcakes to get the frilly loops of icing right, then miracled up some pink, glittery sprinkles. If Aziraphale asked, he’d say it was to mock him. It was kind of true. Pink champagne cupcakes, honestly .
After it was all done, Crowley took a moment to sit back and survey his work. There was a niggling stab of something, not quite shame but not not shame either - he was appalled with himself, perhaps. That sounded about it. Here he was, months and months after the end of the world, living with an angel and making him cupcakes . So he’d be happy .
Crowley made a mental note to do something demonic later. He didn’t have to do anything now, not with Hell turning its back on him, but he felt like he needed to do something to make up for all this sweetness.
He considered dumping the cupcakes out the window onto the heads of unsuspecting commuters. Then he sighed, miracled up a basket and started placing the cupcakes in it.
Aziraphale, like he always did when he thought a customer was coming in, looked annoyed when Crowley sauntered through the front door. The annoyance bled out of his face when he saw who it was.
“Ah, hello, what brings you-” his eyes lit up on the basket, which was stacked full with cupcakes. His face did a complicated series of moves. “Crowley, did you-?”
“What, these?” Crowley heaved them onto the desk that was separating them. “Nah, found these in the street.
, I made them. Figured you could - give ‘em to customers. Really draw them in.”
Aziraphale’s delight faded back into annoyance for a second, like he was actually imagining it.
Crowley grinned. He hopped up on the desk next to the basket. “So! How are things at Ye Olde Bookshop?”
“Oh, you know.” Aziraphale waved a distracted hand. “Shelving. Inventory. Customers sometimes coming in.”
“The nerve ,” Crowley said. “Customers, coming into a bookshop. Really, we should’ve let the world burn.”
Aziraphale let out a sharp laugh at that, then tried to cover it with a cough. “Let’s not go that far,” he said. He plucked a cupcake from the basket, tilting it around as if to admire it.
“What,” Crowley said.
“Nothing,” Aziraphale replied. “Just - not quite your usual style.”
“I make anything work,” Crowley said. “Even pink glitter.”
Aziraphale made an amused noise and bit into it. Crowley pretended to be interested in grooves in the desk.
“Oh, marvelous,” Aziraphale said. “Pink champagne, is it?”
“You don’t know what kind of cupcakes you made?”
“Fine,” Crowley said. He started to pry a screw from the desk. “It might be pink champagne, I just did the first recipe I saw after opening the book.”
“You’re using the book!”
“Mm. It’s there . Might as well.”
Aziraphale took another bite. It looked hard to chew around that smile. “I love pink champagne cupcakes,” he said quietly after he swallowed. “Did I mention it to you?”
“Must’ve,” Crowley said, and then noticed how that could implicate him in making pink champagne on purpose. “I mean, I don’t know. If you did, I didn’t pay attention.”
Aziraphale looked less than convinced, so Crowley really started digging at the screw in his desk. Aziraphale swatted his hand away almost absentmindedly.
Crowley was looking around the shop for something to ruin - nothing big, just something to break the tension - when a customer emerged from the stacks and gasped at the basket.
“Ooh, glitter,” she said, and laughed. “Are those for customers?”
“Yes,” Crowley said, the same time that Aziraphale said, “No.”
They looked at each other. Crowley raised his eyebrows. Aziraphale raised his back.
The customer hovered uncertainty near them.
“Um,” she said.
“Take one,” Crowley told her.
“Don’t,” Aziraphae said right after.
Crowley snorted. “You can’t eat them all , angel.”
“I can and I will,” Aziraphale said as indignantly as he could through the last mouthful of cupcake. He reached for a second one and Crowley tilted the basket towards him.
“Sorry,” Crowley told the woman, who was looking between the two of them like she wasn’t sure if she should laugh or not. “Staff only.”
“All… right,” the woman said. She looked back at them no less than three times as she left the shop.
Crowley waited until the door closed, then turned back to Aziraphale. “You should set up a bucket.”
“A bucket,” Crowley repeated. “Over the door. Then when a customer opens the door, they’ll get doused with whatever you want to put in the bucket. See if they come in after that .”
Aziraphale stared at him. He wiped a smudge of glittery icing off the corner of his mouth.
“I’m not going to douse customers, Crowley.”
Crowley pushed his sunglasses further into his face and leaned in. “Look me in the eyes and tell me some part of you wouldn’t enjoy it.”
Aziraphale sucked in a breath to answer.
Crowley bumped his eyebrows at him.
Aziraphale blew out the breath.
“Yeah, there we go,” Crowley muttered. He sprawled out over the desk, ignoring Aziraphale’s put-upon sigh. “So, you excited for Tadfield?”
“I am,” Aziraphale said. He shifted a paperweight out of the way when Crowley’s elbow came close to knocking it over. “I was thinking, shall we bus or drive down?”
“Drive! Why, you worried about my driving?”
“I’ve only hit one person in all my years driving. And she hit me , really, so all in all-”
“I only wanted to check. So, we’ll be driving.”
“Well.” Aziraphale polished off his cupcake and went for another one. “It will be good to see everyone again.”
“Yep,” Crowley said. He wasn’t much paying attention at this point. Or, he wasn’t paying attention to the Tadfield conversation - he was always paying attention to Aziraphale. He watched the angel bite off a swirl of icing, glitter sticking to the corners of his mouth.
Crowley’s fingers itched to wipe it off, so he sat on his hands. Aziraphale had that napkin of his, he didn’t need Crowley reaching for him.
red velvet cake
They were at Anathema’s house - or just Jasmine Cottage as she kept calling it, skirting around the idea that this was her real, actual House now - when she brought it up.
“So… how did you two meet?”
She asked it like she asked them a lot of things: with the incredulous air of someone who was thinking how on Earth did I get into this situation . Which, Crowley knew, was fair. Having a quiet afternoon tea with an angel and a demon months after the world was supposed to end was probably not how Anathema expected to spend a lazy Tuesday.
Crowley and Aziraphale looked at each other.
“ Well ,” Aziraphale said, and Crowley cut him off with: “Eden.”
“E...den. Eden ,” Anathema said. “Like-”
“I was the snake,” Crowley said, and grinned. Let his tongue flick through his teeth, making it particularly more forked than usual.
“So… Aziraphale tried to thwart you?”
“Nah,” Crowley said. “Not that time, anyway. We just had a chat.”
Anathema stared. She took a very long sip of her tea. It was berry-adjacent, it had never seen an actual pomegranate or raspberry or whatever it was masquerading to be, but it had the flavouring, so close enough.
“Right,” she said. “I’d expect there to be some thwarting.”
She looked to Aziraphale. “Aren’t you an angel? If I was an angel and the snake - Eden’s snake - slithered up to me - wait, did you know it was him?”
“Oh, yes,” Aziraphale said.
“So why didn’t you thwart?”
Crowley’s mouth twitched. After so long, he found something funny about the word. It’d passed out of serious use, after all, so everyone who said it always did it with an air of irony. Also he might have some fond connotations linked with it. Some of his best memories had come out of Aziraphale thwarting him, even if the attempts had gotten more and more half-hearted over the millennia.
“Oh, I just-” Aziraphale paused, took a sip of his tea. Early grey. Very sensible. “Well, he was just doing as he was told. It had to happen. It was the Ineffable Plan. And Crowley - or Crawly, as we called him then - didn’t come up at me swinging, so I didn’t want to be rude by trying to - to smite him.”
“And you just… went from there?”
“Well,” Aziraphale said. “We kept running into each other, you see. Eventually we decided we should try to schedule the times we ran into each other. And then there was the Arrangement-”
“Yes, where we-” Aziraphale stuttered to a halt. “Um.” He glanced over at Crowley with help in his gaze.
Crowley rolled his eyes. “Sometimes we couldn’t be bothered hopping a country over to do work for the higher-ups, so we got the other one to do it for us.”
“Wh…” Anathema’s eyes widened. She put her tea down on the table, because she didn’t have a saucer. Americans. “You mean-”
She pointed at Crowley and Aziraphale in turn. “ You did the blessings and you did the - temptings? Damnings?”
“Temptings,” Aziraphale said, grimacing. “Damnings is so-”
“Accurate.” Crowley grinned.
“Oh, hush,” Aziraphale said.
Anathema stared at them both for a while. She kept hovering on the edge of speech, then pulling back.
“How’s Newton,” Aziraphale said.
“What? Uh, he seems fine. Last I heard he was doing well at his new job. He’s very excited about it.” Her mouth did something complicated and twitchy against the cup she was sipping from. She looked up at Crowley. “He’s also been experimenting with baking, if you want to get in touch and talk about that.”
“I’ll pass,” Crowley said, as Aziraphale sat up excitedly in his chair.
“The lemon drizzle! We almost forgot. Anathema, Crowley wanted to thank you-”
“-for giving him the idea, and the recipe. It was heavenly .”
Heavenly , Anathema mouthed, with some very judging eyes. Out loud, she said, “Always happy to help a demon come up with baking ideas. Speaking of, Adam-”
The back door banged open.
“Fuck,” Crowley said under his breath, “We summoned him-”
Aziraphale nudged him in the ribs. Crowley nudged back.
Adam came tearing into the kitchen, bouncing to a stop at the table they were sitting at. He had a twig in his hair, dirt smudged down his face and a dog at his heels that ran around his feet in excited, happy circles, barking madly.
“Hey!” Adam beamed at them. “You guys are here!”
“Yeah, we did say we would be,” Crowley said. He gave a little wave and Adam returned it with gusto.
Crowley snorted. Human incarnate. They could’ve done worse, Antichrist-wise.
“You’re taller,” Aziraphale said.
“I am?” Adam looked down himself. “Cool. Anyway, we made this really cool treehouse out in the woods, you guys want to come see?”
“-after we make something, of course,” Adam finished.
“...Right,” Crowley said. He looked over to Anathema. “Make something?”
“Yeah - Dog, cut it out.” Adam bent down and scooped Dog into his arms. Dog gave his face a lick before settling comfortably against Adam’s chest.
Crowley watched, face twisting. He’d waked past that Hellhound’s cage countless times over the years. When Dog looked his way, Crowley had to stop himself from ducking his head.
“We’ve been making all sorts,” Adam said. “And since you’ve been learning to bake, too-”
He nodded towards Crowley, who cursed his choice to ever get Snapchat.
“-we thought it’d be cool,” Adam finished. “So? Can we?”
All eyes went to Crowley, who felt that someone, above or below, had to be laughing at him right now. He opened his mouth and wavered for a second, going from Adam to Anathema and then, lastly, to Aziraphale. It was the angel, of course, that was the straw that broke the demon’s back: those blue eyes would be Crowley’s weakness until the end of him.
“I suppose,” he said, and was immediately cut off by Adam’s whoop.
“Great! Anathema, can we do something now or-”
“Give them a second,” Anathema said, but Crowley was already getting up and rolling up his sleeves. Best to get this over with.
Aziraphale stayed seated. At Crowley’s questioning look, he said, “Am I invited?”
“‘Course you are,” Crowley said. “Why wouldn’t you be?”
“You seemed to like to cook alone.”
“I,” Crowley said, and floundered again. He glanced around the room - okay, this would be his first time actually making food with other people. Hadn’t thought of that. “I wouldn’t mind not being alone.”
Fuck, could’ve said that differently, he thought as Aziraphale’s face did something smiley and weird and Crowley fought to keep his own face casually blank.
“Well then,” Aziraphale said, standing. “In that case, I’d be honoured.”
Crowley made a noise in the back of his throat that might’ve passed for a okay then and high-tailed it to the kitchen.
What the fuck .
They decided on red velvet cake.
Or, Crowley decided on it by yelling it over Adam’s many, many suggestions that got increasingly complex, all of which Anathema egged on - at first jokingly, then thoughtfully, then seriously as she considered that having supernatural beings around would make it easier to get strange ingredients. Not so much a calming influence as Crowley had hoped.
“Red velvet cake works,” Anathema said when she caught Crowley’s expression. “Yum.”
“I haven’t had that,” Adam said. “Do you have to light anything on fire to make it? When you make creme bru-lee you gotta-”
“Nothing’s getting set on fire,” Crowley said.
“Except the inside of the oven,” Aziraphale added.
Crowley pointed at him. “‘Zactly. Anyway, do we have a-”
“Already have it pulled up,” Anathema said, waving her phone.
“Great.” Crowley stalked over and looked at it, then at Anathema. “We are not doing cream cheese icing.”
Aziraphale started saying, “Oh, it’s actually very good,” as Anathema said something of the same and Adam pulled the same face Crowley was pulling.
“We can figure it out when the cake’s in the oven,” Anathema said. She tried to clap and then seemed to remember she was holding her phone at the last second and stopped. “Okay! Adam, to the cupboard.”
“To the cupboard,” Adam repeated with the dedication of a military man being given an order, and raced for it with much less grace than one.
Crowley came to stand next to Aziraphale as Adam loaded the ingredients onto the counter.
“Might want to roll up your sleeves, angel.”
“Hm? Oh, yes.” Aziraphale paused, then shed his jacket, draping it neatly over a nearby chair. Then he unbuttoned the tiny buttons at the ends of his sleeves and pushed them up to his elbows.
Crowley blinked. When was the last time he’d seen this much of Aziraphale’s bare arms? He kept things so buttoned up, quite literally - the most skin Crowley glimpsed was usually when Aziraphale took off his bowtie and undid one, maybe two buttons on his shirt, and that was usually only when he was three glasses into a bottle of wine.
“What,” Crowley said absently. He raised his gaze to Aziraphale’s face, which was doing some strange twitchy thing that struck him as familiar. “What?”
“Nothing,” Aziraphale said. His face smoothed into a smile. He nodded past them towards the cupboard. “Perhaps we should - grease a pan. Be helpful.”
“Right,” Crowley said. “Pan. Grease.”
“Cupboard,” Aziraphale said.
“Cupboard,” Crowley agreed, and started for it.
They only ended up miracling some buttermilk. Other than that they were fully stocked, and honestly, Crowley and Aziraphale didn’t end up doing much.
“We’re offering moral support,” Aziraphale mentioned when they found themselves waiting near the oven with a newly-greased pan.
Crowley laughed and then tried not to let it get too loose.
There were a few detours as they put ingredients back where they came from, but other than that they stood near the oven and googled icing recipes and gave the occasional ‘good job’ to Anathema and Adam, who were having an Experience. Adam kept trying to put in ‘new and exciting’ things like tabasco sauce or macha and Anathema had to talk him out of it and every time it turned into a weird, tangential conversation about customs of other cultures or politics or Ripleys’ Believe It Or Not books.
“There isn’t a time limit on the mix, right,” Crowley asked Aziraphale as they watched a witch and the Antichrist argue over the coolest kind of body modification. “That happens, right? With… baking soda?”
“They haven’t put it in yet,” Aziraphale said.
Adam dumped in the teaspoon of baking soda and started to stir, then stopped to yell something about split tongues.
Crowley sighed. “Hey, Adam.”
Crowley made his tongue forked and stuck it through his teeth.
Adam had a shitfit . After that Aziraphale had to step in, do the last of the mixing and pour the result into the pan, because Adam kept jumping around asking Crowley if he could manifest some piercings or some under-the-skin implants that made it look like he had horns and wait did he have horns and what did he mean he didn’t have actual horns, he was a demon -
Crowley ended up turning into a snake just to shut him up. He balked when Adam immediately scooped him up in his arms.
“Oh, no, he doesn’t like that very much,” Aziraphale said, pausing in the middle of putting the pan in the oven.
“Sorry,” Adam said, first to Aziraphale, then to Crowley, before bending down and putting him back on the floor. “It’s just so cool . Can you turn into other stuff?”
Crowley shook his head.
“What kind of snake are you?”
Crowley looked towards Aziraphale. Anathema was also looking at Aziraphale, but only because she was holding the oven door open for the cake and Aziraphale kept making like he was going to put it in but kept getting distracted.
“He’s Crowley,” Aziraphale said.
“We’re letting the heat out,” Anathema said.
“Hm? Oh.” Aziraphale slid the cake into the oven.
Crowley flexed his body against the smooth kitchen floor. He usually only turned into this form when he was stressed out and needed some good snake time. Being a snake always made him want to curl up on a sunny rock.
Adam made a disappointed noise when Crowley started forming back into a man.
“Aw,” he said.
“You’ll live,” Crowley told him. “Okay, me and Aziraphale looked up icings, because all of the websites say we should do a cream cheese one but we’re not doing that.”
Anathema started, “If the websites say-”
“It’s cream cheese. There are a million other kinds of icing that isn’t cream cheese .”
“I hate cream cheese,” Adam said.
“There we go,” Crowley said. “ So . Lemon icing, anyone?”
Everyone had a lot of opinions on that.
Anathema and Aziraphale ended up in a heated debate over fruit-based icing over cheese based icing, which Crowley would assume was a no-brainer but apparently had a lot to work through, so he went to sit out in the garden. The snake brain was still at the forefront as he sat back against a bench and closed his eyes against the sun.
He opened them again when someone joined him.
“Hi,” Crowley said. “They’re still at it, then?”
“They’ve narrowed it down to a few choices,” Adam said as he hopped up beside Crowley. “We have ages, though, since we only have to put the icing on once the cake’s cooled.”
“Huh,” Crowley said. “Grand.”
He tilted his head back and let the sun touch his neck. He should’ve turned into a snake a while back, blown off some steam, but he’d been putting it off. Soon, though -
“You should tell him,” Adam said.
Crowley looked over. “Tell who what?”
Adam opened his mouth, then looked over his shoulder before turning back.
Danger, Will Robinson .
“Tell him what,” Crowley said slowly.
“You know ,” Adam said.
“I really don’t.”
“You really do,” Adam said. He tugged his legs up on the bench. “You’re as old as the Earth, right?”
“Whatever. I thought that meant you’d be smart.”
He said it with a steady look in Crowley’s direction that felt almost like a dare.
Come on, then , the look said.
“I have my moments,” Crowley said. He was considerably stiffer than he was thirty seconds ago, none of the ease that came with the aftermath of becoming a snake, all his limbs going liquid.
Adam sighed. “Alright then. Be dumb.”
He fell silent. Crowley let it happen for a good minute before he gathered up everything he’d buried since he met the guardian of the Eastern gate and learned that he gave the flaming sword away and said, “I don’t think he’d-”
It came so fast it almost gave Crowley whiplash.
“He… would,” Crowley said, very slow.
Crowley flexed his shoulders, wishing for a lack of shoulders and a big long body instead, one that he would twine into the trees, hang from branches.
“I don’t want to lose,” Crowley started, and then couldn’t finish it. “Even if I don’t lose him, I don’t want his - pity . And - and if he doesn’t - I mean, if he feels-”
It gagged him. Everything jumbled together and solidified into something he couldn’t choke out.
Adam seemed to get it anyway. He nodded, did that thing where he looked 11 and also a thousand years old - which never got less unnerving - and shifted his feet on the bench.
“Don’t worry about it,” Adam said.
Crowley swallowed. It took a few tries.
“Yeah,” Adam said.
Crowley took a second. “He would…”
“He would,” Adam nodded. He opened his mouth again, then paused. Frowned a little, like he didn’t know what to say, or how to phrase what he did want to say. Eventually he just said, “I’ll go see if they’ve chosen a good one. I’ll try not to let them make the cheese stuff,” and hopped off the bench, leaving Crowley to the clamouring storm of issues he’d been stamping down on for the last 6,000 years.
Crowley went snake again. There wasn’t anything else he could do.
He draped himself over and around the bench and let the sun fall against his scales. Being a snake was simpler, it dulled things down so they were manageable. It didn’t numb them exactly, just dumbed them down, made the hurts - and everything else - less sharp. It blunted all their edges.
Sometimes Crowley felt that he was made up of sharp edges.
It wasn’t long before Aziraphale found him. If Crowley was man-shaped he’d make a run for it or snap at him, but he was a snake, so he just lay there comfortably.
“Hello there,” Aziraphale said, surprised. “I haven’t seen you like this in a while. Well, except for back in the kitchen, but-”
He waved a hand, which could indicate any number of things. Then: “May I?”
Crowley didn’t have to think about it. He made enough space for Aziraphale to sit.
“Thank you,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley flickered his tongue in and out of his mouth. He waited for Aziraphale to say something about icing, but Aziraphale just sat there and looked around the garden.
It was a nice garden - trimmed but not too much, just the right amount of lush, untamed plants around. Crowley and Aziraphale always had the same taste in gardens - not too prim, not too wild. Just right. Like Goldilocks and her porridge.
“The cake’s cooling,” Aziraphale said after a few minutes.
Crowley didn’t respond. Couldn’t if he wanted to. He let the calmness of the snake mind wash over him with the sunshine.
He would , Adam had said. Crowley couldn’t begin to wrap his head around the possibilities of that, so he didn’t.
“We might want to head inside,” Aziraphale said after another few minutes.
Crowley wasn’t ready. He didn’t think he’d ever be - would it really be so bad, being a snake for the rest of whatever time he had left? He could stay in the garden. He could bask on rocks and slither up trees. He could stay here and not bother anyone, and - and -
Aziraphale was waiting for him.
Crowley sloughed back into his man-shape.
“Oh, good,” Aziraphale said. He sounded - not nervous, but not at ease. This wasn’t altogether new for Aziraphale. “It might be awkward trying to eat cake as a snake.”
Crowley forced a laugh. It sounded as dry as it felt, scraping up his throat.
He opened his mouth with no idea what he was going to say.
Adam’s words beat a tattoo in his mind. He would - he would - he WOULD -
“We didn’t meet in Eden,” was what came out.
Aziraphale blinked. “We met on the wall-”
“No, I mean we met before Eden happened.”
The implication sunk in. Aziraphale’s next breath came fast.
“You mean we spoke before you…”
“Yes.” Crowley aimed a smile at him. It probably didn’t come across as very convincing, given the smile that Aziraphale sent back to him was as weak as how he liked his tea.
Aziraphale sighed. “I’m sorry, I don’t-”
“I know.” Crowley crossed his legs. Then crossed his arms. Considered going snake again and tying himself in one big knot to match his whirling mind. “It wasn’t exactly a conversation. We just talked in passing.”
“What did we talk about?”
“I don’t remember,” Crowey lied. He unknotted himself and started to say something like come on then, let’s head in when Aziraphale socked him in the chest with:
“I don’t think that God meant to condemn you.”
Crowley’s breath left him in a rush.
For a second he just stared. His mouth formed a few words, none of them very coherent, but he didn’t voice them.
“Or that she regets it now,” Aziraphale continued.
“ What ,” Crowley managed, finally. “Angel, that’s ridiculous .”
“Well, it’s what I think!” Aziraphale worried his hands together in his lap. “She must at least regret it.”
“Because by this point I’ve done much worse than you did as an angel and I still haven’t fallen!”
Crowley couldn’t come up with anything to say to that, but he definitely had something to say when Aziraphale started listing them: “Gluttony, absolutely. Pride-”
“Come on, angel, you’re not-”
“I rebelled against heaven,” Aziraphale said, dropping to a whisper. “If that isn’t condemnable…”
That sat in the air for a few heavy seconds.
“So I think She’s changed since She made you Fall. I think that if She did make you Fall on purpose-”
“How could it have been an accident? It’s God .”
“-and She works in mysterious ways, maybe some of them are-” Aziraphale cast a look skyward. “-mistakes. If She hasn’t condemned me, then She must forgive you, Crowley. All you did was ask questions and hang around with people you perhaps shouldn’t have.”
Crowley squeezed his eyes shut and wished for eyelids that closed sideways instead of the human up-and-down. Being a snake would make all of this so much easier . This conversation would’ve been intolerable at the best of times, much less after that trainwreck of a talk with Adam -
“You’re so,” Aziraphale started, and then paused. “You have such a good heart.”
“No, it is a good heart, Crowley. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t…”
Crowley imagined being strangled. He imagined being stamped in the chest with steel-tipped boots. He imagined being shoved underwater and held there. He imagined Aziraphale’s hands on his face, tracing the line of his cheek -
He said, “Wouldn’t?”
“I would never have been your friend,” Aziraphale said, with a smile that didn’t feel unlike a blessing, but Crowley was a demon. Blessings wouldn’t stick to him. He didn’t get blessed, because who would bless him anyway, and even if they did it’d probably just sting. The smile felt less like a sting and more like holy light, searing him to the bone and beyond, annihilating him until there wasn’t even ash left. Pure.
Aziraphale was waiting for him to speak, but he couldn’t. He just nodded. He looked at his hands, clenched them against his knees.
Good heart. What the fuck was he supposed to do with that?
Then Aziraphale said, “Crowley,” as soft and unsure as his smile, which was gone now, and Crowley closed his eyes. Holy light used to be healing, back when he was an angel. He’d bask under it like a snake in the sun. It felt right and true. It felt like he belonged, like he was right where he needed to be.
“Yeah,” he croaked. He cleared his throat. “Hey, we should - uh, we should head inside. Cake’s probably cool enough to ice. What’d you decide on, anyway?”
Aziraphale paused. There was something going on behind his eyes.
“Cream cheese,” he said, and Crowley couldn’t even bring himself to laugh.
“You’ll like it,” Aziraphale continued. “I promise.”
Crowley didn’t move. He hadn’t felt holy in a very long time, and he still didn’t, but he felt closer to it than he’d been in 6,000 years.
He would, Adam had said. Like it was obvious, like it was a rule of the universe. Gravity existed, Crowley could turn into a snake and Aziraphale would - he would, if Crowley finally told him, he’d- he’d -
Crowley didn’t let himself finish the thought. Instead he said “If you say so,” and got up, and waited for Aziraphale to do the same. He didn’t dare meet his eyes, just started for the house.
They headed into Jasmine Cottage side by side. If Crowley was in the frame of mind to notice these sort of things, he would've heard their steps falling in perfect sync.
devil’s food cake
The rest of the Tadfield trip was - fine. They had dinner a few times at Adam’s house, which was fine. They spent some time with Adam and his friends, which was fine even though it very nearly ended up with serious injuries only avoided by Crowley doing some quick thinking and miracle-working, without which all the kids would be in the hospital and a neighbourhood house would still have holes in the ceiling.
Okay, that time was more than fine. But everything else was just that - fine. It was alright. Crowley spent most of it trying not to vibrate out of his skin and avoiding the looming topic of Adam saying that Aziraphale would and acting normal when people asked him if he was okay, which was a lot , because apparently Crowley didn’t do a very good job at acting normal. By the time they left Tadfield Aziraphale had developed a new, irritating habit of glancing over worriedly at Crowley at least twice every half hour. More when Crowley had to focus harder on avoiding thinking things that he couldn’t afford to think at the moment.
“Quit it,” Crowley said as he was driving past the Tadfield town sign.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Aziraphale said, but looked away obediently. Then he immediately looked back.
“I’m fine ,” Crowley insisted.
“Alright,” Aziraphale said. “Don’t tell me.”
Crowley considered doing the exact opposite and telling him. After all, Adam had said that Aziraphale would - that he’d take it better than Crowley thought. He’d even implied - well.
Crowley reached for the radio. Queen blasting through the car would be comforting.
The radio clicked on.
“ Dining at the Ritz, we’ll meet at nine precicely -”
Crowley let out a breath. He tapped his fingers against the steering wheel, starting to mumble along. He got to oooh, love , until Aziraphale’s gaze got too heavy on the side of his face. He turned up the radio until the tape deck rattled.
Crowley gritted his teeth and turned it back down. They drove back to London with Queen blaring, but the ride felt damningly silent anyway.
Crowley was fully prepared for them to slide back into what had become their new version of normal, but Aziraphale ruined this pretty quickly by leaving in the evening and coming back with a small shopping bag, coming to stand right in front of where Crowley was sitting with his most rebellious plant.
“Yes,” Crowley said when Aziraphale just stood there silently.
“Get up,” Azirphale said.
Crowley slung his feet up on the coffee table.
Aziraphale rolled his eyes. “We’re going to bake a cake, so do get up, will you?”
“We’re going to-” Crowley eyed the plastic bag. “What’s in there?”
“Chocolate. The good kind, we’d run out.”
Crowley looked up at Aziraphale. He had his determined face on, but it was softer than his usual determined face. Less do-this-now and more pretty-please-go-along-with-this , which -
Crowley sighed. As if he ever stood a chance against that face.
Aziraphale’s determination gave way to an exuberance that Crowley watched him try and fail to beat down when Crowley put his plant on the coffee table and stood.
“What’re we making?”
“Oh, um.” Aziraphale worried at the bag’s handles. “I thought we could give devil’s food cake a shot.”
Crowley snorted. “Yeah?”
Crowley looked him up and down. It was raining out - drizzling, really, and Aziraphale’s hair was slightly damp at the ends from the short trip it took to get to the shops. His waistcoat, too, was speckled with water, but otherwise he looked as put-together as he always was.
The way he was holding himself was another matter. He looked like - Crowley didn’t really know what he looked like, he’d never seen Aziraphale like this before, and that was worrying all on its own. He didn’t know if he liked it.
But the smile seemed real enough, albeit tinged with nerves, so Crowley said, “Alright, then,” and started for the kitchen.
He was rolling up his sleeves by the time Aziraphale got in behind him.
“What do we need,” Crowley asked.
“Right! One moment-” Aziraphale snapped his fingers and a cookbook - Crowley’s cookbook, the one Aziraphale gave him, like there’d be any other - and flipped it open. “Let’s see, where - ah.”
He lay it out on the counter.
“Looks like a chocolate cake,” Crowley said.
“It is,” Aziraphale said. “Well, it’s a sort of chocolate cake.”
“Why don’t they just call it a chocolate cake?”
“I don’t know,” Aziraphale said. Crowley waited for him to add something witty but he just went to the cupboard and started getting out the usual suspects, flour and the like.
Crowley checked the ingredients and went for the fridge.
“Had a craving, did you,” he asked as he gathered the milk, eggs and butter and carted them to the counter. He dumped them down next to the bowl, then glanced over the recipe again. Pre-heat oven. Yes, like you were supposed to do. That was what you did when baking.
“I’m liking this recipe already,” Crowley said as he crossed their tiny kitchen to switch the oven on.
“Yep. Pre-heating the oven like good recipes should. And the eggs don’t have to be a certain temperature.”
Again, he waited for Aziraphale to have something to say about it, but Aziraphale just gave a laugh and started spooning flour carefully into the measuring cup.
Crowley leaned against the oven and watched. After a few more spoons he said, “You know, it’s a measuring cup for a reason. You can scoop the flour. In the cup.”
“What?” Aziraphale glanced at him over his shoulder.
“The cup,” Crowley said. He made some cup-like motions. “You don’t need to bother with all the spooning. Just cup it.”
“Right,” Aziraphale said. After only a small hesitation, he pushed the cup into the flour bag and then shook it gently until it evened out at the top.
“Have you baked much,” Crowley asked when it was clear that Aziraphale wasn’t going to say anything.
“Not really,” Aziraphale said. He looked over at the cookbook. “Oh, I’m supposed to sift - do we have a-?”
Crowley went to the cabinet. Unfortunately, the one he needed to open was being blocked by Aziraphale’s legs.
“Budge over,” Crowley told him, and Aziraphale was doing just that before he stopped speaking. “Thanks,” Crowley said, and opened the cabinet door, rummaging until he found the sifter he’d picked up just before his foray into cupcakes.
“Lovely,” Aziraphale said. “Do you mind holding it as I-?”
“Go ahead,” Crowley said, and held the sifter over the bowl.
Aziraphale smiled gratefully before starting to tip the flour into the sifter. Crowley started to shake it carefully, and flour drifted down into the bowl.
It was more of that as they went forwards. None of the chaotic mania that went along with baking with Anathema and Adam - this was quiet, seamless, with both of them checking the cookbook and then carrying out the next order in sync. It would have been calming if Crowley wasn’t picking up the vibrations of nervousness from Aziraphale, who seemed unable to meet his eyes for more than a few seconds without being overcome with a fit of something and looking back at the bowl.
Now who’s being weird , Crowley thought, both relieved he wasn’t the only weird one and terrified at the possible reasons why he wasn’t the only weird one.
He made himself sound as casual as he could and asked, “Did Adam say anything... strange to you in Tadfield?”
Aziraphale frowned. “Adam? Not specifically. A lot of the things he says are… well, odd, but only in the sense that he’s a child. And the Antichrist. So, not really. Why? Did he say anything to you?”
“No, no.” Crowley cleared his throat. “Just. A thing. It wasn’t that strange now I think about it. Nevermind, angel.”
Aziraphale didn’t stop looking at him, so Crowley said, “Eggs.”
“Eggs,” Crowley said, pointing. “Time to - eggs.”
“Right,” Aziraphale said. “Yes.”
Crowley watched Aziraphale crack the eggs into the bowl with angelic grace and tried to think of a time he’d done a worse job at misdirection. There had to be one, surely. He’d just come up with it later.
The cake cooked agonizingly slow. At this point Crowley wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and sleep for longer than humanly possible in an attempt to escape whatever was going on between him and Aziraphale, in the hopes that when he woke up things wouldn’t make him want to run away at top speed.
But the cake had to be iced and eaten, so Crowley stuck around and eventually they were allowed to get it out of the oven and they started on the icing, which had to be done on the stove.
“What’s the chocolate for,” Crowley asked as he read over the ingredients.
“Grating on top,” Aziraphale said.
“Right,” Crowley said. “Of course. Do you want to whisk or shall I?”
“I think I’ll defer to your expertise.”
“I’ve baked less than five things in my entire existence, angel.”
“Well, that must be more than I have. And your experience is more recent, anyway.”
Crowley opened his mouth to say something about shirking duties. Then he just took the whisk Aziraphale was holding out and said, “Pass me the milk.”
Aziraphale did. Crowley poured it into the pot.
“Could be worse,” he said as he followed it up with flour. “Could have cheese in it.”
“You liked the cream cheese icing,” Aziraphale said.
Crowley had. It would have been infuriating if he hadn’t been out of his head from talking with Adam about Aziraphale. As it was, the frustration about liking the stupid icing paled with everything else that was pounding through his mind at the time.
They poured the thickened milk-and-flour mix into a bowl and then miracled it cool. Aziraphale made a disapproving noise, but Crowley said, “Just want to get to bed faster,” and the noise stopped.
Beat for ten minutes , the recipe said. They added the rest of the frosting ingredients and took turns: a minute on, a minute off. Five rotations of that and the icing was done, the cake was cooled and only a little miracled into being cooler than it could reasonably be.
Aziraphale and Crowley got a butter knife each and began to slather the icing onto the cake. It was oddly satisfying, the icing business. Crowley thought that he could get more into it.
“Right,” Crowley said after the cake was iced and the butter knives were in the sink. “Well, hope that turned out well after all the icing effort, I’ll just be heading to bed-”
“What? You can’t leave before you’ve tasted it. You helped make it, after all.”
“I-” Crowley fumbled for an excuse and failed miserably as Aziraphale’s damned (blessed) eyes won out. “I’ll have a slice, I suppose. Isn’t sugar before bed meant to give you bad dreams?”
Aziraphale paused in the middle of cutting a slice. “I have heard that, yes.” He finished the slice and eased it out onto a plate that hadn’t existed a second ago. “You’ll just have to - miracle the bad sugar-dreams away.”
Can’t do that with regular nightmares, why should I be able to do it with sugar ones? Crowley didn’t say it. It was bad enough that Aziraphale knew about the nightmares, he’d rather not remind him they existed, though from his tone of voice Aziraphale hadn’t forgotten in the least.
Aziraphale handed Crowley the slice. “Here you are,” he said, all twitchy smile that set Crowley’s teeth on edge.
“Thanks,” he said, and picked it up. He was already chewing a bite when he noticed that Aziraphale hadn’t looked away from him. Actually, the angel was staring intently at him.
“What,” Crowley said. “Something on my face?”
Aziraphale shook his head. “No. I - do you sense anything in it?”
“...No,” Crowley said slowly, eyes going down to the cake and back up. “ Should I?”
Aziraphale seemed unsettled. “Nothing at all?”
“No,” Crowley said, putting down his own slice, feeling oddly ready to run. “Really, should I be sensing something in the cake? Did you slip something in when I wasn’t looking?”
“No,” Aziraphale said, and sighed. “It’s just - well, I always sense something in the food you make me. I’m - I sense it now.”
Crowley eyed Aziraphale’s slice, yet to be touched.
“Do you,” he said.
Aziraphale nodded. The ends of his hair had curled at the edges when it had dried from the rain earlier, so the curls bobbed with his head.
“It’s - you know how, in Tadfield, I said it felt like-”
“The opposite of spooky,” Crowley said, a chasm opening up in his stomach. He couldn’t say the other thing. Fuck, why couldn’t he be a snake right now -
“Yes,” Aziraphale said quietly. “It’s - I thought I was maybe just projecting, but I’m… certain now. Everything you made me, Crowley, there was so much love in it. It was overwhelming.”
Somehow, all Crowley can think of it a repeat of a grandma holding out a pie and croaking I made it with love! It was definitely from an ad he’d caught sometime, and it reeled over and over in his head like the stupidest fucking thing he’d ever done.
Adam’s words were there, too, but only at the edges. Mostly it was all panic and grandma.
“Yeah, well,” Crowley said, and had to swallow. Then again. Too dry - human biology always backfired at the most inconvenient times. “Sorry, angel.”
He started to say I know I go too fast for you , but before he could say fast there was a set of lips against his. It took a second for Crowley to connect the neon dots: Aziraphale’s mouth, soft and firm and pressing.
Crowley’s mouth parted. He might have been gasping, he wasn’t much sure what all his body parts were doing at the moment. For a second he lost track of his breath, his eyelids, and all four limbs. When he noticed them again, his hands were up at Aziraphale’s elbows, and Aziraphale -
Aziraphale’s hands were on his face. Palms on his cheeks and chin, thumbs at the edges of his jaw, stroking softly. There was such fierce fondness in his gaze that Crowley wanted to both cower and bask in it.
In a very distant part of his mind, Crowley thought he should probably say something. He opened his mouth, which was very slightly damp from Aziraphale’s tongue. He tried to find something appropriate to say, something that articulated how confused and relieved he was -
“Aziraphale,” Crowley breathed. It sounded not unlike when Aziraphale had appeared in front of him at that bar when Crowley thought he was dead.
Aziraphale thumbed some more at the line of his jaw. His hands were utterly uncalloused, soft and wonderful and familiar. Crowley knew every inch of them even though he’d barely been able to touch them over the millennia.
“I’m sorry it took me so long to act on it,” Aziraphale said. “It took me so long to figure it out, and then I did my best not to think about it in case something happened - if either of our sides found out , they’d - well, you know - and I suppose I’m used to having so much time to think over things before acting on them. You know how it is, and - and our new arrangement was so tentative, I didn’t want to disturb things, and I did like spending all this time together. But I wanted to - I wanted - Crowley, are you alright?”
Crowley found his eyes had slipped shut. He opened them. Aziraphale was peering at him worriedly.
Crowley realized he was holding his breath. He let it out, then said: “When did you figure it out?”
Aziraphale paused. “Ah. 1941.”
“ Nineteen forty- ”
“When did you?”
“Eden,” Crowley said, and winced. Insufferably raw and honest.
“Since then?” Aziraphale’s fingers paused in stroking down Crowley’s face. “Oh, Crowley…”
“I know , I know. It’s pathetic.”
“I was going to say it was impossibly sweet,” Aziraphale said. He reached up and slid Crowley’s sunglasses off, and Crowley tried not to blink like a newborn deer seeing the sun for the first time.
Aziraphale placed the sunglasses down on the counter and returned his hands to Crowley’s face.
“Just like you,” he continued.
“Oh, fuck .” Crowley meant it to be a laugh but it came out more broken than he’d like. He still managed the laugh, however shattered it might be. He leaned into Aziraphale’s hands and Aziraphale took his weight easily.
They stood there like that for a while. Aziraphale leaned forwards until their foreheads were pressed together, and Crowley closed his eyes and let himself bask like a snake in the sun, the heat of Aziraphale’s forehead, his hands against his face, Aziraphale’s body pressed up against his - it was a nourishing warmth.
Eventually Crowley made a noise.
“I do remember what we talked about,” he said. “Before I Fell.”
Aziraphale’s eyes came open. “You do?”
“It wasn’t exactly a conversation,” Crowey admitted. “I didn’t even say anything. We just ran into each other and you said - you said oh, hello. ”
“You didn’t say hello back?”
“No.” Crowley laughed. It was just as shaky as his last one. “I was - shit, angel. You were - I just stared. Your eyes, they were-”
He tried to conjure it up: him, still holy and unworried, unburdened by it all, those embers of curiosity that would damn him only just starting to burn.
It was a normal day before time had officially started when he’d narrowly avoided bumping into another angel. The angel had stopped and gave him a smile and said oh, hello , as if Crowley mattered out of the tens of thousands of other angels, even though they’d never spoke before. And the angel’s eyes were a colour that Crowley had definitely seen before, because he’d been there when colours were created, but there was something behind the eyes that made something in Crowley wrench itself loose and never get put back. Aziraphale’s eyes had reminded him strangely of the galaxies Crowley hadn’t finished yet, which didn’t make sense - Aziraphale’s eyes were solid colour where galaxies were a whirlpool of it. Still, the feeling they produced was the same: pure wonder, the kind that made him want to sit down and stare.
Crowley tried to say it. His mouth opened, but all of it choked at the back of his throat. He tried again -
“They’re - much better than egg yolks,” was what he finally managed.
Aziraphale blinked. A laugh burst out of him, loud enough that it startled them both. “Oh, you - you’re never letting me live that down, are you? Egg yolks . I was under a lot of stress, I’ll have you know -”
“Never.” Crowley was grinning. His cheeks burned with the force of it. “In another 6,000 years I’ll still be bringing it up.”
Aziraphale softened. “I look forward to it,” he said. He leaned their foreheads together again, a fast hard press that turned into a soft, even pressure. Then he bumped their foreheads, very gently, and leaned back.
“Now,” he said. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to try our cake.”
“Go ahead,” Crowley said. His voice was absurdly fond and he went to cover it out of habit, but stopped himself just in time for it to seep through. He was never great at hiding it anyway.
Aziraphale gave him a smile that was just as absurdly fond as Crowley’s voice and then reached down for his slice. He broke a piece off with his fingers and tucked it into his mouth.
Crowley kept staring at him. He couldn’t stop. Aziraphale didn’t seem to mind, he was staring right back.
“Good,” Crowley asked.
Aziraphale swallowed. “It’s lovely.”
Lovely . Crowley glanced down at the cake.
“What’s it like,” he asked. “The - you sense it, the - my-”
“Oh, it’s…” Aziraphale grasped his elbow. “It. You know how you can sense things sometimes, if something is particularly-”
“Yes.” Holy things, Unholy things. Holy: a bright, clear, burning presence not unlike bleach. Unholy: acrid, heavy scent not unlike smoke.
“Well, it’s like that. It’s-” Aziraphale floundered. Ducked his head, then looked back up. “It’s you , mostly. Familiar and warm and, and concentrated down - I don’t quite know how to describe it, it’s less something you can taste or smell, it’s more a feeling than anything else - oh, do stop looking embarrassed, it’s not embarrassing-”
“It’s a little embarrassing, angel,” Crowley said. “Wouldn’t you be embarrassed if you were accidentally broadcasting your - your feelings for me at me, and didn’t even notice?”
Aziraphale paused. “I rather thought I was, at times.”
Crowley had to look away. Sap . Sometimes he’d catch Aziraphale gazing at him with such an expression that Crowley would allow himself to hope. And now - fuck, now-
“I do feel a bit sorry that you can’t sense it in the food I make you,” Aziraphale said, frowning down at the cake. “Maybe if I make something just by myself-”
Crowley wound his arms around Aziraphale’s waist. “Hey. Don’t worry about it.”
“But you’ve made me all these wonderful-”
“Yeah, because you like that kind of stuff. You don’t need to - make me things. I’m low-maintenance.”
Aziraphale didn’t get any less unsettled. He leaned into Crowley for about a second and then leaned right back, meeting his gaze with wide eyes.
“I’ll knit you a sweater,” he said. “Or something. How’s that?”
Don’t worry about it , Crowley almost said, but Aziraphale looked so damn hopeful, so instead he said, “Sounds great, angel. I look forward to it. I’ll be bitterly disappointed if it doesn’t have a design on the front.”
“I’ll do my very best,” Aziraphale said. He reached down for another bit of cake.
“Now,” he continued, chewing, “Don’t be angry.”
“I promised Paul that you would come in sometime in the next few weeks. He’s very much looking forward to giving you another lesson - no, stop it, you are not going to hurt him -”
Crowley quit grinding his teeth. “I know, I wouldn’t , I’d just - burn him a little . What’d he do, call you right after I left? Did he put on a slideshow? Did-”
“He just slipped it into conversation the next time I was there,” Aziraphale said. He smoothed his hands up and down Crowley’s shirt. “It was incredibly sweet of you to go to that much effort-”
“Oh, come on- ”
“Okay, but you don’t have to-”
“Show my appreciation for an impossibly thoughtful thing you did for my benefit?”
Crowley closed his mouth but kept scowling. It ticked and then vanished when Aziraphale pressed a kiss next to his mouth.
“Get used to it,” Aziraphale said. Then: “So you’ll go and see Paul? He seemed very eager to have you back for lessons.”
Eager to torment me, more like , Crowley thought. “Yeah, alright, I’ll go see Paul . Cocky little shit.”
“He’s a good young man.”
“Good at annoying me.” Crowley made a mental note to scare the kid when he turned up for more lessons. How was he so damn calm all the time? He’d just rolled with everything, even when Crowley had flashed his eyes at him. Even Anathema, who was a witch , had needed more time to go ‘oh, okay, demon-’
Then Aziraphale kissed his face again and Crowley forgot all about him. He glowered a little when he noticed Aziraphale noticing - this was definitely going to be used as a weapon against him.
Crowley opened his mouth to warn against this when Aziraphale interrupted him with a gasp.
“Oh, I should knit your snake form a sweater, too. Wouldn’t that be adorable?”
Crowley tried to glare, then gave up. It was a lost cause at this point.
“Probably,” he admitted.
Aziraphale grinned. Kissed him again, this time properly, on the mouth. Then did it again, lingering, drawing back with such a look that Crowley forgot to look anything but dazed.
“Right,” Aziraphale said. “How about we have some more of this cake and then we head to bed?”
Crowley’s mouth shaped the word before he said it: “We?”
“Yes. I think I’d quite like sleeping if it was next to you. If you don’t mind?”
“I don’t. Mind. I’d, I’d like that.”
“I hoped,” Aziraphale said. “I did notice you were - you were quite, um, cuddly on that first night here. I wondered if that was because of your snakeish tendencies, or-”
“Or,” Crowley said. “And please never ever call me cuddly again.”
“Why? It’s accurate.”
Crowley cut himself off. It was hard to have a proper fight when he was so stupidly giddy like this. He accepted the slice Aziraphale pressed into his hand but mostly he watched Aziraphale eat his own slice, making his usual pleased noises as he made his way through it.
When Aziraphale gave pointed looks towards the slice in Crowley’s hand, Crowley deigned to eat it. As he chewed, he tried to think back to the cookbook Aziraphale had gave him, which was still on the bedside table - there was a recipe for pancakes that would make for a good breakfast. Blueberry?
“Do you like blueberries,” Crowley asked.
Aziraphale paused to swallow. He wiped his mouth neatly. “I like all kinds of berries.”
“Alright, but which do you like best ? Specifically, in pancakes?”
Aziraphale tilted his head, considering. “I think - blueberries, for pancakes. Yes. Why, what are you planning?”
“Take a wild guess, angel,” Crowley said flatly.
Aziraphale beamed. Crowley thought fleetingly of galaxies, of sitting back in absolute wonder and watching them swirl.
“I look forward to it,” Aziraphale said, not for the first time that night, and Crowley’s mind went from galaxies to the years that passed since he crafted them into shape with his hands - another 6,000 years of this .
He pictured waking up, making tea, stirring honey and milk into it. Miracling up some berries or getting them from the fridge - maybe they’ll start going to the farmer’s market like they’d been talking about - and starting up the stove. Mixing the ingredients, pouring a circle into a pan, watching it spread. Flipping it. Getting better at flipping it - maybe in a few years he could do it without a spatula, like those chefs on the TV. They had time. Crowley could get good at cakes and muffins and whatever he wanted - he could try soups. He could make bread, the good kind that took a tedious amount of time and effort. He could get so good at sushi-making Paul finally broke out of that calm exterior and tried to fight him out of wild jealousy.
Anyway, pancakes - he’d bring all of it to Aziraphale and watch his face as he cut into the stack, tasted blueberries and sugar and - love, apparently, whatever that tasted like. Big , Crowley assumed. If ‘big’ could have a taste. If love could, then ‘big’ definitely could.
Aziraphale with him, always. Sleeping in his bed, if sleeping was something he decided to stick with. Living with him, at the very least. Coming home to Crowley every day. Eating something that Crowley made for him each morning.
He watched as Aziraphale pressed a napkin against his smile and reached for a second slice.
I look forward to it, Crowley thought.
paul def comes to their wedding, when it finally happens.
also re: their future interactions, paul is unruffled as he always is and once he realizes how angry it makes crowley, he puts a LOT of effort into being as unaffected as possible. partly bc he's naturally a chill dude, but mostly bc because of how much he low-key enjoys pissing crowley off. it doesn't take crowley long to catch on to what he's doing. after that it's the both of them trying to outdo each other, crowley trying to freak paul out and paul doing his darned best to be the most zen guy in the world. they eventually become grudging friends but would rather die than admit they like each other as people.
(also pssst i still have that donation button on my tumblr page)