It was known throughout the city that Dante’s Oven was the very best bakery this side of London.
It could additionally be argued that in order to actually reach the bakery one most certainly did have to transverse the nine circles of Hell, if one took London traffic into account.
Customers came from far and wide to sample the bakery's wares, partaking in freshly-made breads, elaborate cakes, lavish pies, and the most decadently sinful pastries within ten miles of Soho. To add to the allure and sense of exclusiveness, the bakery only produced a set amount of goods each day—once they were out, they were out, and tough shit to anyone who had been waiting in line.
To the unassuming eye, the bakery was a seamless operation, the quirky-yet-personable Anathema Device functioning as the face of the shop while she managed the register and handled clients with an iron fist, ensuring that her boyfriend Newt didn’t get out of hand as he wrapped and packaged the day’s selections and orders. She kept things flowing smoothly up front and was singlehandedly responsible for the recent spike in orders Dantes had been experiencing. The shop itself was cheerily decorated, if rather unashamedly modernist in its design, and boasted a number of small tables where the more hedonistic patrons could sit and sample their wares.
Of course, the facade of organization and overall tranquility was only maintained by the doubly-thick door that separated the front shop from the ovens.
In the back, chaos reigned, cheerfully championed by one Anthony J. Crowley, owner and head 1 baker. New patrons always questioned the establishment’s name, incorrectly presuming the owner to be the bakery’s namesake—Crowley simply rolled his eyes behind their darkened frames and allowed his staff to launch into their standard spiel. He certainly couldn’t be bothered if the imbeciles gracing his establishment had an underwhelming background in classic literature. Not that he himself had much of an appreciation for it himself--oh, he'd read the classics back in the day, but ask him now and no, he most certainly didn't read.
No, Crowley kept to his ovens and mixing bowls, staggering into the bakery’s back room somewhere between the hours of two and four every morning, the previous day’s events typically determining whether he was simply “staying up late” or “coming in early”. The previous label was typically accompanied by a bottle of whatever alcohol tickled his fancy at the time and punctuated his continued reign as the only individual this side of the English Channel who could mass-produce a day’s worth of baked goods while completely blitzed.
Those particular mornings—or nights, rather—had lately grown to be rare occurrences, and had recently become all but extinct as the bakery’s reputation grew well beyond its original sphere of influence and their order load more than tripled. Dante’s Oven had surpassed Crowley’s wildest expectations, and now he was drowning in orders, catering requests, and a constant, unrelenting demand from the general passerby.
It was hell.
But, no one could say that hell didn't pay.
He had started out just making bread—slaving over a mixing bowl, his baker’s table, and the ovens where where he felt most at home—but as he delved further into it one thing followed the next and he suddenly found himself presiding over a small empire of baked goods and stretched ten different ways in order to ensure consistent production yields.
Now, more often than not, Crowley swaggered in after a solid few—or at least one or two—hours of sleep at his minimalist Mayfair flat a few blocks west. He lived close enough to the bakery that he could walk—indeed, he could have converted the upstairs apartment into a living space for himself, rather than filling it with the veritable Eden of plant life it currently housed—but instead insisted on driving his Bentley each and every day. The car was his pride and joy, sleek, black, and many decades out of production; there was exactly one parking spot available in front of the bakery, and Crowley’s early hours ensured that his precious Bentley always maintained its spot front and center.
His plants, too, occupied a deal of his time—somewhere along the way he had decided it was quite therapeutic to disappear upstairs for a few moments at a time to water them and ‘encourage’ them to grow. Given his rather gruff temperament, this predicability devolved into a one-sided shouting match with all sorts of philodendrons, ficuses, and the rest of his photosynthesizing collection. He would deny it until blue in the face, but he was actually quite fond of his plants, and in turn they maintained a level of growth and vascular health the likes of which most enthusiasts could only dream.
At present, however, Crowley sat at a tall stool at one of the counters not covered in decorating paraphernalia and flour, squinting at a two-tier cake iced in a garish magenta buttercream. “Who in the seven hells took this order?” he asked the world at large, long fingers steady as he smoothed the icing along the side of the cake. “Magenta buttercream, lime green shell border, ‘Happy birthday Tootsie’—“ he gagged, face contorting into a dramatic pained expression, and twirled the stand to finish off the buttercream. “We have got to start screening our customers better.”
“If I let you take orders,” Anathema snarked, catching the end of his sentence as she stuck her head through the door, “we would never have any.” Her eyes narrowed, taking in the wave of chaos that followed Crowley’s general path through the room. It started by the door, Crowley’s dark coat discarded on the chair in his half-open office adjacent to the emergency exit that doubled as his early-morning entrance, and radiated outward to incorporate massive floor mixer half-filled with flour, a water dispenser emitting a series of sad, neglected beeps, two masses of dough creeping further and further across the scarred and pitted baker’s table, and what appeared to be a veritable rainbow of icing (or an imploded unicorn, Anathema could never quite be certain) smeared across Crowley’s once-white apron. 2
Anathema pinched the bridge of her nose. “After you finish that cake,” she said pointedly, “we’re out of Italian bread, and production for the day allows for at least another ten loaves.” She flicked her gaze to the swelling mass of dough on the table, the edges bursting from the seams of plastic that currently covered it. “And judging from the looks of it, it’s about ready to bake itself if you don’t cut it now.”
Crowley snarled at her, eyes flashing even though he knew she could not see them. “I know what I’m doing,” he snapped.
“Yeah? Then why did you just write ‘Happy Birthday ‘Tootie’’ on that cake?”
Swearing viciously, Crowley slid a knife under the offending letters and removed the writing, flicking the offending icing at Anathema in retaliation. “Fuck, that’s the second time this week.”
His…friend?--he couldn’t quite just call her his employee, she had been keeping him from completely losing his shit far too often for that to be the extent of their relationship--slipped completely into the kitchen and scooped up the finished cake, sliding it expertly into a box and slapping the order form on top. “You need help, Anthony,” she said, looking down over the box to meet her boss’s shaded eyes. “Help in the back, I mean.”
Crowley’s protest died on his lips as a wave of exhaustion overtook him, and he sagged back against the wall, idly tipping his stool back on two tottering legs and waving one black-booted foot in the air. “Yeah,” he agreed, resigned, “I do.
“You have one hell of an enterprise here,” Anathema said, waving a vague hand in the air, “and Newt and I and those..other two temps you hired on...have it handled up front, but honestly, one man cannot bake all of the bread and pastries and pies and cookies and whatever else you come up with in one day and then turn around and decorate the bastards too. Jesus, you had two wedding cakes yesterday on top of everything else, and I know you didn’t even go home last night.” She cut off his protest with a pointed look at the cluster of empty wine bottles peering out from his open office door, raising one immaculately-groomed eyebrow. “We’ve been saying it for months, but you have to hear me—hire a decorator. You hate it anyway, and you know it. You’re good at it, but you despise it.”
This was most certainly true. Crowley prided himself on being a jack of all trades, a master of any and all baking skills—but his heart lay with his bread and his baking. He loved to make the cakes, but could care less about making them “pretty”. He only took on that skillset as a necessity, and despised every moment of it. The two wedding cakes the day before had been a veritable hell, his only saving grace the now-empty bottle of Scotch hiding under his decorator’s table to avoid Anathema’s discerning gaze.
“But they’re all stuck-up, pretentious divas,” he whined, running a hand through his shock of red hair and grimacing. “I’m enough of a bastard on my own, let alone if I have to put up with some self-serving prima donna trying to work herself—or himself—up the professional ladder until they can start their own business and string me up to hang.”
Anathema tutted. “This is why you can’t get along with people,” she informed him, gathering the cake box and holding it aloft. “You don’t give anyone a chance. Put out an advert and see where it gets you—it’s your bakery, you get to choose which poor sod you actually hire. I can guarantee they’ll be putting up with you as much as you will be them.” She waggled her eyebrows. “I can always hex them if they turn out to be awful.”3
This was how Crowley found himself, not four days later, faced with a motley crew of prospective decorators and nursing a terrible headache4
Interviews one and two passed without much incident, the first candidate passable at best, the second not even that. They could barely mix colors, had no idea how to make any flowers other than roses, and the second could not even write in script.
Crowley sent them off as politely as he could—meaning, naturally, that they both left in tears, fleeing through the shop and not even stopping to collect their belongings.
When Anathema sent the third potential hire to the back, Crowley took one look at her and shook his head. “No,” he snapped. The girl—a red-haired, dark-eyed bombshell with a rather obvious “come hither” air—huffed, turned up her nose, and stomped out without speaking a word.
“This is ridiculous,” Crowley muttered, burying his face in his hands. He knew he was being unnecessarily picky, but as it was his business5 he felt it was rather merited. He couldn't afford to mess it all up--but he also couldn't afford to not hire anyone. "What a fucking mess," he groaned into his palms.
A bespectacled face slid into the gap of the open door. “You alright back here, sir?” Newt was infinitely more timid—and therefore almost uncannily more polite—than his girlfriend, and was rather in awe of his dynamic, exhaustingly tempestuous employer. “We have one more for you.”
“Only one?” Crowley asked, restoring himself to some semblance of attentiveness and arching an eyebrow. “I had it on good authority from your girlfriend that they were ‘lining up down the block’.
“They were,” Newt countered, cocking his head, “until they saw the first two run out crying and the third stomp out basically spitting fire.”
Crowley sighed, wrapping his long arms around his lean torso and resting his head against the baker’s table for a moment. “Ah, they would, that.” He breathed out and then inhaled, resetting himself once more. “Very well,” he said, popping back up into his typical slanted slouch, waving a regal hand, “send in the last one.” Closing his eyes, he hummed a tuneless melody that somehow managed to morph into a rather maudlin rendition of “Under Pressure”.
Some moments passed, long enough that Crowley was quite seriously beginning to think that his final candidate had also turned tail and run, when a hesitant cough drew him out of his retreat. He jolt back to awareness, eyes flying open and spine snapping into place, ramrod straight, mouth parted in a startled ‘o’ of surprise. “Bless it, knock next time!” he swore, curling a hand into a fist as he attempted to regain his typically unshaken composure. He ran his other hand through his hair and peered at the interloper from behind his glasses, eyes sweeping up and down in a silent, thorough assessment.
The newcomer stared back at him with an awkward smile, hand half-raised in a hesitant wave. He was somewhere just shy of middle age and of average height, although a few inches shorter than Crowley’s six-foot-plus some. His build was slightly stocky, but comfortable—all round curves where Crowley was hard, lean angles—and he sported a shock of flyaway, white-blonde hair, a dress sense akin to someone’s grandfather from the bleeding fifties, and a tentative air matched with a pair of brilliant blue eyes.
“Erm, hello,” the other man began hedgingly, shifting from foot to foot under the hard scrutiny of Crowley’s obvious stare. “I’m here to interview for your decorator position?” His lips curved into a genuine smile, his entire face suffused with a sense of pure friendliness that was all but impossible to ignore, and held out his hand. “I’m Aziraphale—horribly incongruous name, but my parents were bible nuts so there you are.”
And Crowley, mumbling an appropriate reply and introduction, took the proffered hand—soft, manicured, slightly sweaty, and fitting perfectly within his—swore violently in his head as he met those blue, blue eyes, knowing full and well that if this man could decorate even a whit he was going to hire him. Mind distant, he led Aziraphale to the decorator’s table and set him about a task, stepping back to watch the other man work, noting the precision in his grip as he held the icing bag, the neat, quick strokes of his spatula against the buttercream as he smoothed the base coat of icing across a cake, the veritable army of roses, hydrangeas, mums, and damn it all, was that a lily?
Crowley crossed his arms, eyes narrowed, and kept silent vigil as Aziraphale calmly and quietly took every task set before him and excelled.
Finally, he turned to Crowley, absently biting his lower lip and twisting his hands together. “I hope you find that satisfactory, dear boy,” he said, standing and sliding the stool back under the counter. “I really would love the opportunity to decorate for you.” And then he smiled, that genuine, heartfelt, brilliant smile that Crowley had only seen once and yet already craved more than the most decadent bottle of wine.
In that moment, Crowley knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that Aziraphale was hired.
And, more than that, he knew that he was well and truly fucked.
2The apron was the only light aspect of the baker’s attire—he insisted, much to his dry cleaner’s chagrin—on wearing all black, all the time, regardless of the amount of flour and color in his daily forecast.
3Anathema fancied herself somewhat of an amateur occultist (“I am not a witch!”), and had her own shop that she manned at strange hours of the night and her two days off. Of course, her schedule at the bakery meant that her available days varied, so her sales were based almost entirely on her online page and home visits. She was a reliable worker and someone Crowley respected—and that was a number he could effectively count on one hand.
4and without the added joy of having partaken in any alcohol to acquire it
5 and really, his life, but he felt rather pathetic for admitting he had next to nothing beyond this little cluttered kitchen
Aziraphale settles into his new role in the bakery, and our boys play the "getting to know you game”...
...so this is the end result of a workday with FAR too much free time on my hands.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was remarkable how quickly Aziraphale fell 1 into place in the bakery’s routine.
He had been adrift for far too long, a free agent flitting between bakeries trying to find his niche. Well known as a decorator, he could never quite settle in anywhere—his mild-mannered personality and startling lack of ambition left him easily abused in an industry typically dominated by selfish and thoughtless perfectionists seeking the fast track to fame and fortune.
Aziraphale loved to make things beautiful, and he loved to make people happy—to him, his decorating was a marvelous means to just that end. He loved what he did, saw it as an art form and a delightful challenge, and all he sought in a job within the field was the opportunity to allow that to show through in his work. He didn’t want renown, or ungodly abilities. He wanted to create, to make lavish, decadent desserts in which people could indulge and celebrate.
Years of working in the decorating world had imparted a certain cynicism in his otherwise bright demeanor, but it could never quite manage to quench the bubbling spring of optimism that constantly threatened to overwhelm him. He was well aware it was not all sunshine and daisies and butterflies, but his silver lining nevertheless sat proudly in the sky, and he kept on even on the worst of days, content in his belief that someday he would find that place he was meant to be.
His interview at Dante’s Oven was nothing what he had anticipated, the prickly silhouette of A.J. Crowley a sharp relief of black and red against the otherwise sterile background of his stainless steel and white kitchen. The tasks had been straightforward, nothing Aziraphale hadn’t done before, but there had been none of the usual bullshit, if you would pardon his French. No inane questions about his goals, no time-wasting “getting to know you questions”, no “why are you here”s—the emphasis was on his skill and his skill alone.
Aziraphale was fairly certain this was the precise moment when he began to fall in love.
Crowley nodded sharply at the conclusion of the interview, met Aziraphale with a second, extended handshake and a decisively abrupt “You’re hired,” and gave him the entirely-too-vague direction to appear at the bakery’s back door at promptly four o’clock the following morning.
“Not too early for you, is it, cupcake?” the baker taunted as Aziraphale opened his mouth to reply, and the decorator turned his intended question into a fervent denial, shaking his head emphatically and managing to utter an unintelligible string of words indicating just the opposite.
Crowley’s mouth curled into a half-smile that had only the slightest hint of mockery and spoke rather much more strongly of exhausted relief. “Good.” he nodded, all but sagging back against the wall behind him and carding a hand through hair that already stood on end, looking for all the world as though it had come out on the bad end of an encounter with an electrical outlet.
“Pay is commensurate on experience,” he informed Aziraphale, tilting his head down to stare down his nose at his newest employee, “and we’ll sort out the logistics tomorrow, but right now I have bigger fish to fry, five more cakes to decorate and a mountain of bread dough that is threatening to engulf half of my kitchen, so…” His hand had fluttered idly in the air as his attention shifted, body already half-turning to take in the duo of impending disasters closing in around him, thinking wistfully of the half-full bottle of whiskey hiding in his filing cabinet.2
Aziraphale had stood for a long moment, taking in the disheveled baker and his scattered kingdom with a frown, his mind scrambling to catch up to the whirlwind of the last half hour the had comprised his interview, hiring, and the sudden realization that the curiously unique man before him could actually potentially need him, need his assistance and company and anything else he as a decorator could potentially offer. Finally, finally, a sense of Purpose grew within him, bolstered by the helpless way Crowley gazed around the kitchen at his overwhelming array of tasks.
He arched one delicately-groomed eyebrow and shucked his overcoat, seizing a starched white apron from its hook by the door and tying it neatly behind his back with a tight little bow. “Right,” he said, rolling up his sleeves and looking ridiculous in the apron and his khaki trousers, cream vest, and crisp white dress shirt, “Where do you want me?”
Curiously, Crowley had turned a light pink, a notable flush creeping across his fair skin as he jerked and turned around. “What?”3 When he realized his new employee’s actual intent, he let out an embarrassed whuff of a laugh and waved a hand at the rack of cakes awaiting much-needed attention, their order forms peeping out from beneath the cake boards. “See what you can do with those damn things, if you insist on staying,” he instructed, making a beeline for his precious bread and diligently avoiding Aziraphale’s eyes. “And don’t expect me to pay you for today—you still officially start tomorrow.”
Aziraphale gave a non-committal hum and a small smile, seeing straight through his contemporary’s obvious bluster, noting the rather evident release of tension from his lean frame as he had reached the wooden table and began hacking apart the enormous aggregation of dough with reckless abandon.
Something told him that he would be getting a lot more than he had bargained for by taking this job—and he couldn’t look forward to it more. He had known since first arriving for the interview that it was an enterprise rather unlike any he had ever known—he had decorated at small bakeries across the town, done time at some of the larger, more corporate-driven conglomerates, and even pulled a stint at a small supermarket chain a few months back when times got particularly lean.
Never, however, had he experienced anything like Anthony Crowley and Dante’s Oven.
Morning after morning, the aforementioned owner came swaggering in4 with his uniquely compelling stride, drawing Aziraphale’s attention time and time again no matter how often he attempted to train himself to resist. Crowley would nod at the fair-haired decorator, mumble something unintelligible, slam a twenty-ounce coffee from the insanely expensive, 24-hour place two blocks down, and disappear into his walk-in cooler for a solid ten minutes while he sorted through the previous day’s bread set-up. Aziraphale never let on, but he was well aware that somewhere between the coffee shop and the actual kitchen a sizable pour of Bailey’s entered the equation as well.
For his part, Aziraphale swept in promptly at four o’clock each morning, wide awake, immaculately groomed, and with not a hair out of place. He would set his satchel to the side of Crowley’s rather imposing filing cabinet, pull the order forms for the day from the small labeled bin on the desk, and begin sorting his day’s work. Some cakes he prepped the night before, for the larger orders and for those people moronic enough to list an early-morning pick-up time.5The rest he would pull from their freezer stock and set up. He had learned very early on in his time as a decorator that while most smaller bakeries certainly did bake everything from scratch, they also kept a rotating stock of basic cake layers and par-baked goods in the freezer to assist with production. Otherwise, maintaining the high-volume at a high-profile, minimally-staffed establishment such as Dante’s would be all but impossible.
Crowley himself was a legend among bakers and decorators alike, having risen rather grudgingly to his current fame some years back with the onset of his current establishment. Where he had been before no one could say, although rumors of years abroad dogged his heels, whispers of apprenticeships in Asia and time spent underground in Rome, and a full “lost” decade where all mutterings of his whereabouts simply died away.
Regardless of what “everyone” said, there were always three things about Crowley that remained consistent across the board, and to which Aziraphale himself could attest: he always wore black, he could be a right bastard even on the best of days, and he never, ever was seen without his sunglasses.
Aziraphale was blessed with more than a fair bit of curiosity, and he admittedly burned with the desire to peel back Crowley’s layers and delve into the enigma that was the prickly baker. Between the black attire, swaying hips, slouching pose, and affected “devil-may-care” attitude that actually belied an incredibly sensitive nature, A.J. Crowley was a walking puzzle—and one that Aziraphale, when he allowed his thoughts free rein, wanted desperately to solve.
That being said, at the end of the day Crowley was also technically his employer, and therefore even the thought of anything more was decidedly not a Good Idea.
Of course, that didn’t stop him from getting far too attached far too quickly.
He soon realized that Crowley took on far more than any one man should, working diligently to ensure his crew was spared the worst of the workload and all but killing himself to keep his production numbers well above the bar. “You aren’t open Sundays?” he asked in surprise, once he realized his one constant day off was one shared by all the rest of the staff as well. Crowley was pushing it already operating on a six-day schedule—he retained the services of a rather unique duo named Hastur and Ligur who manned the front one or two days a week to give Anathema and Newt a well-deserved break, and he himself worked every hour the bakery was open.
Still stuck on the uncharacteristic day of rest—because honestly, from what he knew of Crowley the man would work himself all day for the sake of the bakery he so obviously loved if he thought he could get away with it— Aziraphale persisted with his line of questioning. “Do you go to church, then?” And, oh, open mouth, insert foot. Aziraphale flushed and stared at the cake he was working on, floundering in chagrin as a very sudden, obvious shift in Crowley’s energy indicated he had inadvertently hit on a rather sensitive topic.
Only when the silence grew deafening did Crowley finally speak, and when he did it was as though icy daggers rained down from the ceiling, poised just above their heads and awaiting the final command to fall. “As if,” the other man snapped, hefting a piece of dough to gauge the weight, derision dripping from his words. “No, I just need a day to bake without people always interrupting.” He pursed his lips and lopped off a small portion of dough, slowly raising his head to meet his new hire’s eyes in a poignant stare. “Do you attend church, Mr. named-after an angel?” And, if the tone wasn’t exactly polite, Crowley at least didn’t sound like he was poised on the brink of rage as he had been a moment before.
Refusing to be offended, Aziraphale gave a hearty—if somewhat forced—chuckle and bent his head back over the border he was drawing, the heavy cloud that had settled over the kitchen gradually easing as he worked in long silence. “Hardly,” he finally replied, giving his stand a final twirl and admiring the finished project. “I’m religious without being religious, if that makes any sense.”
There was a significant pause as the flame-haired baker stopped work to stare across the room at his companion, one cynical eyebrow arching over the frames of his glasses. It was evident that was far from the answer Crowley had been anticipating, and Aziraphale wondered with a sharp pang just who it was who had caused him so much pain, and why it was this particular issue that set him off.
“No, not at all,” Crowley deadpanned, trying for levity and at least landing somewhere in the relative ballpark, his mouth twitching slightly as he shuffled back and forth behind his baker’s table. In any other man it would have been but the faintest hint of a smile, but for Crowley, it was practically a declaration of love. He tossed a dough ball in the air, idly juggling it between his hands, aiming for casual and falling far, far short. “So what, you believe in God but not religion? Does it even work like that?”6
Aziraphale shrugged, giving him that smile again. “It does for me,” he said simply.
Crowley mouthed the words silently, mockingly, but Aziraphale noticed the pensive wrinkles in his brow later and shared a soft, secret smile with himself, returning to his work with a lighter heart and the makings of a plan brewing in his brain.
The next Sunday a sharp rap sounded bright and early on the heavy emergency door just as a groggy Crowley slammed it shut behind him. He swore and launched himself a good two feet in the air, spinning around to glare at it accusingly with eyes that were not yet ready to face the day. “Whossare?” he slurred, his fatigue adding an unintentional hiss to his words.
The tart reply came quickly. “The milkman,” and if there had been one thing Crowley was least expecting it was Aziraphale’s soft, breathy voice, muffled though it was behind the metal door. “Are you going to let me in, my dear?”
And Crowley’s treacherous heart gave a great lurch despite the fact that Aziraphale addressed nearly everyone as such, despite the fact that he was realizing very quickly that Aziraphale had an infuriatingly endless well of empathy and compassion for all things great and small. Quickly, he schooled his expression into its default nonchalance. “Aziraphale,” he scolded in a long drawl, swinging open the door, “What are you doing here on your day off?”
Teeth flashing in the soft light from the office’s single bulb as he smiled, Aziraphale pushed past Crowley into the crowded little office, carefully folding his coat and laying it over the chair. “Same as you, I presume,” he chided, “which is not running myself into the ground by working seven days a week without sufficient assistance.”
When Crowley said nothing in reply, eyes wide behind his sunglasses, Aziraphale gave an awkward little half-shrug and slanted his gaze to the floor behind his contemporary, for the first time showing a trace of awkwardness. “I didn’t think it…fair…for you to be here slaving all alone,” and oh, those blue eyes were brilliant as they glinted mirror-like in Crowley’s lenses.
Crowley cocked his head. “There isn’t—there aren’t any orders,” he finally said, awkwardly scratching the back of his head with one hand, leaning back so he could stare at Aziraphale through his sunglasses. “I don’t have anything for you to decorate today, Aziraphale.”
The other man shrugged. “So? I have it on good authority that you are terrible with bookkeeping and anything else logistical that takes you away from your baking. I could…look at your numbers, if you like?” he hedged, tilting his head to the side in a silent entreaty to help, to offer his assistance and insist on its acceptance. His pink lips turned up in a genuine smile. “I’m quite good with numbers and books of all sorts. There’s more to me than buttercream and icing cakes, my dear.”
Crowley’s throat worked silently as he swallowed several decidedly inappropriate thoughts involving Aziraphale and buttercream. Finally, he regained his composure and threw up his hands, defeated.7 “Books are in the desk, inventory’s over there. I have an order due at noon for dry supplies and one at six this evening for anything perishable. Have at it.” And he was off, swaggering away with nary a look in his wake, taking it on good authority that Aziraphale would set himself to work—and definite not thinking about trailing his tongue down that pale throat, tracing the long line of the pulsing artery sitting just below that fair skin, and—no, most certainly not.
After that first day, their Sundays became a weekly routine.
In a way no one—but perhaps Someone—could have predicted, theirs was a unique rhythm, but it worked and worked well.
Aziraphale fit neatly into all of the little niches that Crowley’s dynamic personality and skillsets just couldn’t fill, sliding seamlessly into place and establishing himself as an integral part of the bakery and its odd little family. If Crowley was the heart, always there and always steady (if also often overcome by unpredictable fits of emotion), then Aziraphale was easily the lungs, breathing life into a world that had gone too long without.
It took Anathema all of two months to cotton onto the rather unique dynamic establishing itself in the back kitchen, and exactly three weeks following that revelation to begin reading far more into it than Crowley wanted.
“Soooo,” she drawled one afternoon, when Aziraphale had stepped out to collect a crepe from “that delightful little shop” down the street, “are you banging him yet?”
Crowley spluttered, his rolling pin slipping from his hands and landing heavily on the massive sheet of pie crust he had just finished rolling out to a meticulously-measured thickness. “What?” he yelped, “no, of course not! He’s—we’re not—no.” Baring his teeth at the unassuming pastry, he bore down upon it with the rolling pin once more. He squatted down so that he was eye level with the pastry, turning his head sideways to assess the divot he had left in the dough.
Anathema grinned, now having all the confirmation she needed. In the four years she had worked for Crowley, she had not once seen him this flustered. “Mmhmm,” she teased. “But you want to, don’t you.” She waggled a finger at him. “Don’t even try to deny it.”
Giving up on smoothing out his newly-carved Grand Canyon, Crowley cut out the offending corner and traced a series of wide circles in the dough, cutting out several crusts and flipping them into his waiting pie pans. He paused in his work long enough to stick his tongue out and gesture rudely in her direction. “Do remember who pays your salary every week,” he retorted, eyes focused on his crusts as his long fingers delicately crimped the pastry around the edges of his pans.
Her response was a loud snort. “Aziraphale pays my salary each week,” she told him, unimpressed. “Don’t think I don’t know he’s taken over all of your bookkeeping.”
“And does an excellent job with it,” Aziraphale chimed in from the office door from where he had snuck in through the back, beaming, brimming with false modesty, and clutching a bag bursting with what appeared to enough crepes to feed a veritable army. “I brought some for everyone, because Heaven knows none of you actually stop to eat around here.”
Delighted, Anathema clapped her hands together. “I’ll go tell Newt! There’s no one up front now, we’ll flip the sign and pop back for a bite! He’s been grumbling all morning about being hungry—I think the only thing louder has been his stomach.” Darting out the door, she paused mid-stride to turn and peer back at Crowley. “And you,” she lectured, gesturing with a finger, “don’t think we won’t finish this conversation another time.”
Crowley’s response was to chuck a carefully-wadded scrap of pie dough at her head.
Laughing, Anathema easily dodged the makeshift missile and ducked back up.
“What on earth was all that about?” Aziraphale asked, justifiably quite taken aback by the rather sudden violent turn of events.
“Oh, nothing,” Crowley dismissed his concerns airily, discarding his bench knife on the table with an exaggerated flourish. “C’mon, angel, let’s eat some of those crepes you so nobly went to retrieve”—and, oh—bugger—
“—angel?” Aziraphale asked softly, cocking his head as he savored the taste of the nickname across his lips.
Crowley stood stock still, heart pounding in his chest, throat burning as ten thousand words and denials and exclamations rushed simultaneously to his lips, tongue refusing to contract and contort to form the actual syllables required to laugh it all off as a joke.
“It quite suits me, doesn’t it?” Aziraphale said brightly, turning to Crowley with a grin. “Angel,” he mused, experimentally running the word through his mouth. “Yes, that will do rather nicely, I believe. After all, if the shoe fits—and my name certainly has a bit of sole to it, I would say.”
It was the bad8pun that finally pulled Crowley from his stupor, and he slid, serpentine in his grace, around to the front of the table, curling a careful hand around the handle of the takeout bag still clutched in Aziraphale’s rather sweaty grasp and relieving him of his bounty. “How about,” he said slowly, head cocked to one side as though listening to something Aziraphale could not hear, “we eat everything before Anathema and Newt get back here, you never utter a pun that terrible again, and then you get back in that uncannily immaculate apron of yours and help with with this massive fucking wedding order some asshat out of Westminster has ordered.”
Aziraphale swallowed, overcome by Crowley’s intense presence, and raised his eyes to his friend’s. “Very well,” he agreed, affected a long-suffering air to disguise the altogether not unwelcome surge of emotions flickering through his veins. “I’ll step in once again to save the day with a last-minute wedding miracle.” He grinned mischievously, one hand unconsciously moving to pat his stomach. “But first, lunch?” he implored, giving Crowley an earnest look. “After all, I did go to quite a lot of trouble to retrieve them.”
It was only after they were halfway through their food—a few moments after they were attacked by Anathema and Newt for diving in without them—that Crowley realized this was the first time he had actually sat down and shared a meal with Aziraphale. It also dawned on him that his silly little nickname, the one that had been his stupid secret for many a long week, had slipped out without incident and that unless he was very much mistaken he rather thought he had permission to actually use it.
Christmas could have come early with Saint Nick tap-dancing naked down the chimney and Crowley wound’t have noticed anything besides the man across from him—Aziraphale, angel, his angel, but he would damn well be certain that that particular possessive never slipped out. Why ruin a good thing wishing for more you could never have? What they were building now was more than enough for Crowley, for all that he craved so very much more.
Aziraphale, for his part, could not have told you what he had for breakfast that day, or which route he took to work, or any of the forty orders he filled throughout the course of the day. He couldn’t describe Anathema or Newt’s outfits, could not even picture the layout of the bakery—the same layout he saw each and every day for hours on end.
But, he could describe the appearance, garments, and expressions of one A.J. Crowley to a fault, could pick out every emotion that crossed his friend’s face that day. He remembered every trifling comment and passing conversation, and he most certainly remembered that delightful, unexpectedly-admitted moniker their marvelous little lunch shared across a cramped, improvised table in the back of the bakery—
—they had crepes.
1pun most certainly intended
2The piece of furniture in question actually didn’t hold any files, and instead contained at least half of Crowley’s personal liquor collection. He rather liked the irony of it, and kept the filing cabinet around to maintain appearances.
3At the time, Aziraphale’s wording had hardly seemed significant, but after later reflection upon returning home the decorator had flushed and muttered a rather embarrassed “Oh, dear”.
4like he owned the place, but as he actually did this was at least marginally acceptable in most circumstances.
5 Naturally, these were the customers who would saunter in closer to mid-afternoon to retrieve their precious desserts and bitch about it “not being fresh”
6 Crowley, for his part, wasn’t really certain what, exactly, he believed. He just knew that he had far too many questions about it all and blasphemed far too often for him to be even remotely welcomed by any organized religion.
7 and definitely not trying to hide the fact that he was blushing head to toe, no siree
8 terrible, awful, no-good, very bad and absolutely never to be uttered again in the presence of a living being ever again
Thank you all for such a wonderfully positive response to the first chapter!! I'm having a ball writing this, and even though at the end of the day that's what makes it fun, I also LOVE that you all are enjoying it so much as well!!
And their relationship moves forwards….slowly…
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
It was July, and Aziraphale had been working for the bakery for just under six months.
The weeks had flown by, passing in a whirl of orders and icing and unconventional conversations with Crowley, and Aziraphale could not be happier. Even when Crowley was at his tetchiest, or when Aziraphale sat up on his high horse and seemingly ignored reason in favor of his trite platitudes, each man found himself drawn further and further into the orbit of the other.
On this particular day in July London found itself a solid three days into an unrelenting wave of absolutely abysmal weather. Dark clouds had rolled in sometime Wednesday morning and had decided to settle in for a long kip, blanketing the city and sending down torrents of warm rain and relentless wind. Though long accustomed to grey weather and unpleasant precipitation, London at large was altogether fed up with the ongoing storms and had settled into the weekend with a surly sort of laziness, locals barricading themselves inside their flats and refusing to emerge until they could cross the street without sinking knee-deep into a puddle or getting blown sideways into a parked car.
This translated into an uncommonly slow track of days in the bakery, and one baker and one decorator were currently half a bottle of a delightful Chateau Lafite Rothschild into celebrating the unanticipated down time.1
“I don’t see how you can hate pumpernickel bread, angel,” Crowley drawled, rolling a wad of dough into a long oval and setting it neatly on the oiled pan beside him. “It has such a complex flavor, I thought you of all people would appreciate it.” He reached for the final remaining piece of dough, detouring temporarily to take a long drink from his wineglass.
“I don’t hate it, my dear,” Aziraphale demurred, squinting slightly as he dipped a strawberry into the molten chocolate in front of him, letting the excess slide down to drip slowly back into the double boiler. He set the fruit aside on a piece of wax paper to his left, reaching immediately for another berry that he this time popped into his mouth. “It’s just a bit strong for my taste, much better when it’s mellowed out with some rye in a marble loaf.”
Another sip of wine struck Crowley as an excellent idea, as the alternative was staring at the single pink drop of strawberry juice currently resting just blow the curve of Aziraphale’s lip. That was dangerous territory, forbidden territory—much easier just to take another swig of their dark red ichor and continue on with his bread.
He slid the pan of dough under a covered rack and began to wheel it over to his walk-in cooler. “I can give you that,” he conceded over his shoulder, launching the rack with no small amount of pleasure and letting it free-wheel into the cooler, careening to a stop as it slammed into the rest of the preparation for the next morning. “Oh, and rye takes out sourdough, that’ll leave a bruise…”
Tutting, Aziraphale swiped a gloved hand across his lips, collecting the strawberry residue on the latest before sliding the gloves off and discarding them in the nearby trashcan. “And you wonder why your racks are always needing replacement,” he chided.
“You’ll go so far with that holier-than-though attitude,” Crowley snarked, slinking across the room to slide into the unoccupied stool to Aziraphale’s right, slipping onto the seat and immediately tipping it back onto two legs. He leaned back and rested his hands behind his head for a moment before allowing his stool to fall back to the ground with a muted thunk. “Oh, fuck,” he complained, “I left my wine over by the bread press.”
“Don’t be such a ninny,” Aziraphale passed him the bottle, relinquishing his grasp on the neck with a flourish. “Here, dear boy, just drink from this. We’re nearly through it anyway.”
Crowley took a deep swig, sighing in satisfaction. For all that the latter half of the week had been overwhelmed by an incessant deluge and a dramatic drop in customer traffic, it had begun at full steam and had left the duo well in need of their current down time. One more day, one long, pain-in-the-ass Saturday, and he and Aziraphale could safely tick off another week down in the books.
The sudden creak of the front door caught his attention, and he fashioned his mouth into a halfhearted scowl to greet Anathema as she poked her head through from the front. “We’re tapping out for the night, you two need anything?” Her raincoat was already slung haphazardly about her person. It had once been Newt’s and looked ridiculous on her, the sleeves swamping her slender arms and the hem hanging nearly to her knees. Her eyes danced with a wicked light as she took in the sight of Crowley and Aziraphale sprawled out beside one another at the decorator’s station.
“No, no, my dear,” Aziraphale told her cheerfully, “You and your young man go on home. We’ll be quite alright.” His brow furrowed as he caught a glimpse through the cracked door of the rain lashing the glass of the shop’s front windows. “Do you need a ride home?” he asked worriedly. “I’m sure Crowley—“
The man in question frowned darkly, his brows snapping together. “No, no, absolutely not, the Bentley is not going anywhere near this onslaught.” He took a long sip of wine, giving the bottle in his hand a regretful look as he reached the bottom. “I left it in the garage today anyway,” he confessed. He shot Anathema what could almost have been considered an apologetic look. “You will be careful walking home, though.” He voiced it as a command, but both Aziraphale and Anathema could hear the underlying current of concern, and the other man bit back a smile.2
“Yes, yes, of course,” Anathema chided, fluttering her fingers. “Always am!” Fabric shifted as she pawed through one of the raincoat’s many pockets, emerging some long seconds later with a fist-sized spray bottle. “Beside, we have this!”
She was met with matching raised eyebrows, one pair flaming red, the other brilliant white-blonde.
“And that would be….?” Crowley drawled.
Anathema rolled her eyes. “Weather-repellant!” she said brightly, as though it were obvious. “Couple sprays of this and the effects of the weather simply slide right off!” She beamed. “I made it myself the other day—witchery is so much easier when you can simply check the weather channel and not have to predict it as well.”
Aziraphale looked intrigued. “And does it work?” he inquired, setting his wine glass aside to peer earnestly at her. “That could be quite handy in times such as these, or, oh—if you could mass-produce it on a larger scale it could work to repel tornadoes, or—“ He stopped short as Crowley’s hand curled around his wrist, long fingers snaking over the delicate bones beneath his pale skin, thumb tracing the fluttering vein just below the base of his thumb. His heart leapt to his throat and everything he had intended to say simply fled, his mind suddenly devoid of all conscious thought.
“Let her leave, angel,” he said wryly, looking over Aziraphale’s head to raise his eyebrows at Anathema and nod sharply at the door. She met his rude dismissal with a salacious grin and nod of her own and slipped back up front to finish locking up.
Reaching around Aziraphale, Crowley grasped the neck of the wine bottle and raised it to eye level, scrutinizing it from beneath heavy brows. “This was very good wine,” he purred, contentment mixed with regret as he leaned back in his seat and allowed his eyes to flutter closed behind their glasses.
“Mmmhm,” Aziraphale hummed in agreement, relishing the penultimate sip from his own glass and trying to think of something other than the hand Crowley had left curled loosely about his wrist. For six months he had diligently kept himself in check, maintaining a strictly professional work relationship3 and had refused to acknowledge the very real attraction growing between himself and Crowley. Every idle touch, every brush of their hands as they passed off order forms or ingredients, every passing glance across the kitchen when the other was seemingly not paying attention—he kept it all under wraps in a diligent effort to maintain the dear friendship that they already had.
Oh, and he thought he had been in danger at the start of their knowing one another—those first few weeks of fluttering attraction had nothing on the raw, overwhelming affection that now tormented him daily. Aziraphale adored Crowley, and he quite honestly could not say exactly when it had happened, only that it had—
—and dramatically so.
He spent far too much time at work, now: it was hardly an onerous task when one wanted to be there. He could work a job he loved, decorate and create and have free rein to experiment on his own creations—all while basking in the glow of Crowley’s company. The prickly baker brought a sense of joy to each day even when he was at his absolute worst, his occasionally boorish nature a carefully-erected persona Aziraphale never failed to see through.
Attraction aside, above all the admittedly heated glances and occasional lust that pounded through his veins, Crowley had become his friend and meant more to him now that perhaps any other person he knew. Aziraphale would be damned before he ruined that friendship simply to follow the base call of his hormones.
So, he took a shuddering breath, translucent lashes briefly kissing his pale cheeks, and took another sip of wine instead of curling his free hand about the fingers wrapped around his wrist.
Crowley, for his part, had fallen hard and fast, lost from the start and unable to do anything to staunch the overwhelming surge of emotions that threatened to overpower him every time he was in Aziraphale’s company. He’d been physically attracted to the man from the start, and infatuated with him not long after. Now, now, his emotions had taken a sharp turn off of their usual track, rocketing along a new course and veering dangerously toward lo—something he had refused to acknowledge for a very long time.
It had been so, so long, and he had cut himself off from any kind of lasting, emotionally-involved romantic entanglements that he didn’t even know where to begin if he were to jump in this time around. He didn’t want to mess up, didn’t want to scare his friend away, would sit in silent agony for the rest of his life if it meant he could keep Aziraphale in his life in any way. He didn’t even know if Aziraphale felt anything even remotely similar, or even whether he already had someone waiting in the wings—they talked about anything and everything, interests and hobbies and personal lives, but the topic of significant others and romantic interests had, ironically, never come up.4
Now, he sat in the near-empty bakery with his best friend in the world who also happened to be his employee, deep into a decadent bottle of wine5 , the pretense of work abandoned long before they actually finished working, fingers curled loosely about a wrist he hoped would never shake him loose. Aziraphale’s skin was smooth under his calloused palm, his pulse fluttering bird-like beneath his hand, and it took more self-restraint than Crowley had previously believed he possessed to restrain himself from firming his grip and dragging Aziraphale across the scant inches between them and into his lap.
“You want to…go somewhere?” Crowley finally asked, eyebrows visible over the tops of his sunglasses. “Somewhere not here?” His fingers tightened slightly around Aziraphale’s wrist.
“Oh!” the decorator stuttered, leaning back slightly and pressing his free hand to his chest, mind whirling with thoughts best left unuttered. “I…” he paused and let himself actually think about it, the possibility to go somewhere with Crowley that wasn’t the bakery, as beloved as it had come to be lately. “I suppose that would be lovely, actually,” he acquiesced with a small smile.
That smile had come to be everything to Crowley—he had it memorized. The curl and twitch of those plump pink lips, the flash of those unerringly white teeth, the sparkle in his bright blue-green eyes. It was a smile that radiated joy, caught oneself up in it and drew them in. Crowley had often been caught within its gravity, snatched up by the brilliance and enthusiasm of his angel and held in orbit around him.
In return, he offered a smile of his own, a genuine, fleeting thing that left tugged at his thin lips and bared his sharp teeth and perhaps far more of his soul than he ever would have intended.
“My place is rather…minimalistic,” he hedged, realizing with a jolt what he had implied and flashing guiltily to the stark cement flooring and modernistic architecture, the room full of even more plants and the cavernous living room filled with nothing but an overly-large television and uncomfortable leather couch, the stainless steel kitchen that was untouched save for the takeout containers stacked in the refrigerator.
Heart hammering a pounding beat in his chest, because if he thought Crowley was implying what he thought he was then this was a risk well worth taking, Aziraphale twisted his arm and caught Crowley’s hand in his, twining their fingers together. “I rather thought we could go to dinner, my dear,” he offered gently, tentatively raising his eyes to Crowley’s covered ones, “and if we feel up for a nightcap we could possibly stop off at mine afterward?”
Crowley’s hand clenched around around Aziraphale’s, squeezing his palm and tightening his fingers. “That—that would be good, yeah,” he stammered hoarsely.
They rose together, staggering up from the counter at which they had perched themselves. Regretfully, Crowley released Aziraphale’s hand so that he could sweep anything perishable into the trash. “Oh, like it wasn’t already sitting out far too long,” he grumped, catching his friend’s knowing smirk. “It just dawned on me,” he began, abruptly changing topics, his brows drawing together as he began picking his his way across the kitchen to the back office and heavy emergency door, “that it’s still raining like hell outside, and my car is back at the garage by my flat.”
“We could catch a cab?” Aziraphale offered, joining him at his side and peering halfheartedly out the door into the gloom of the alley beyond.
“What, in this?” Crowley replied acerbically. “Any lorry driver worth his salt is kipped out halfway across town by now, as far from this mess as he can be.” He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “We could always just stay here, I suppose.”
Aziraphale’s stomach rumbled in response, its owner turning bright pink at the sudden noise. “Oh, dear,” he apologized, giving his stomach a rather baleful glare, “I am a bit peckish…” Shameless gourmand that he was, Aziraphale seldom missed a meal when he could avoid it, and today’s shift, while quiet, had been aggravatingly bereft of a meal break midway through the day.
“We’ll just have to make a run for it, angel,” Crowley declared, seizing his long black raincoat and throwing it about his slim shoulders, the fabric bunching at the lean muscles developed from years at the baker’s table. He gave a long, languorous stretch, letting the dark material settle into place, and turned to Aziraphale with one long-fingered hand. “Ready?”
Snapping himself back into reality with a shake of his head—he definitely had not been staring at Crowley—Aziraphale settled his own coat into place, flipping the tan hood up over his head so that only the tip of his nose could be seen from underneath. “You don’t have a hood with yours?” he asked, giving Crowley what the other man could only assume was an incredulous look.
Crowley flipped his head like a diva in a shampoo ad. “Hardly fashionable, angel,” he said haughtily.
Aziraphale snorted, taking the offered arm. “And soggy, ‘wet dog’ hair is?”
Lips pursed, Crowley gave him an even glance. “Let’s find out, shall we? There’s a charming sushi place not three or so blocks over—perhaps this onslaught will die down some while we eat.” He gave a noncommittal shrug. “And, if not, they have an excellent sake selection….” He flung open the heavy back door with a dramatic bang, the effect heightened by a bright pulse of lighting high above in the raging sky. “Shall we?”
Grasping Crowley’s hand, Aziraphale allowed himself to be pulled out into the pelting rain, his body immediately assaulted by the cool wind and stinging raindrops. He followed along in Crowley’s wake, the other man carving a path down the flooded sidewalk like Moses parting the Red Sea, paying no attention to he debris whipping across the street or the overturned umbrellas from the cafe down the way.
“Sushi?” Aziraphale yelled incredulously into the wind, not even sure Crowley could hear him over the crash of the storm. “How far is this place, anyway?” He grunted as a particularly strong surge of wind blasted them both sideways into the concrete facade of a towering bank.
Crowley crowded close to him, pressing him up against the side of the building, his pale face pressed just beside Aziraphale’s, his fiery hair plastered to his forehead in wide bands. “Another two blocks that way?” he guessed, gesturing vaguely down the street.
“You don’t sound very certain,” Aziraphale accused, giving his friend a disapproving frown. He hesitated, toying with an idea that had taken root back in the bakery and had only just sprouted in the last moments since their departure. Making up his mind, he gave a sharp nod. “Right. Just—come with me,” he commanded, suddenly surging forward and tugging Crowley in his wake.
Surprised by the sudden show of force, the baker allowed himself to be dragged along in Aziraphale’s wake, adopting a swaggering, shuffling jog to catch up to his friend. Stocky Aziraphale might be, but damned if he couldn’t move when he put his mind to it. Crowley often admired his finesse as he worked in the bakery, his finely manicured hands moving with quiet precision as he piped icing in intricate patterns across their concoctions. Delicate, fine, intricate—but strong as well, with purpose hiding just beneath the surface of the prim and proper facade.
Suddenly they were stopping, the rain cut off by a tall awning, Aziraphale bustling Crowley up against the thick oaken door as he fished through his pockets for a key.
“What the hell is this place?” Crowley asked, eyebrows rising as he stared up at the high eaves and darkened windows of what appeared to be… “Is this a bookshop?”
Aziraphale’s blush was cast into sharp relief by another bolt of lightning. “I, erm, I might live in the apartment upstairs.” He ignored Crowley for a moment, shoving the key into the lock and turning the handle, the heavy door swinging open with a loud groan and spilling the two men into the shop.
Crowley was agog. “Is it yours?” he asked, peering around with no small amount of interest. Books sat on every available surface, ancient tomes and modern fiction alike, accented by an eclectic combination of decor from every decade of the last two centuries. Crowley knew his friend liked books, loved them even, but this—this was an entire life he hadn’t known existed.
“Oh, good heavens, no,” Aziraphale said, “I haven’t the time to keep up a shop like this and decorate.” He gave a light cough, steering them toward the back room and the set of rickety wooden steps it concealed. “I’m friends with the proprietor, though, and she lets me stay here for free in return for restoring some of her more delicate books—there’s a stairway out back so I don’t disturb the shop during its regular hours, but in this rain I thought it easiest to just steer toward the closer of the two.”
Thinking of his sky-high rent not ten minute’s walk away, Crowley pulled a face. “Your flat is rent-free?” he whined, struck by the unfairness of it all.
“Yes, and yours could be as well if you’d just move in above the bakery,” Aziraphale chided unrepentantly. About halfway up his stairway he realized his friend was not following him. “Are you coming up or not, Crowley?” he asked, managing a delightful expression somewhere between impatient and flustered. “I’m really quite famished and unless you eat paper there really is nothing of substance down here.”
The smell of leather and old books threatened to overwhelm Crowley, and he stood silently in place as he realized with a sharp jolt it was the aroma constantly hovering around Aziraphale that he always failed to place. It was as much a part of the other man as his subtle cologne, fresh cotton-scented shampoo, and that hint of sweetness from the confections he created that always seemed to linger. Crowley took another deep breath, his eyes fluttering closed, and realized that now that he had seen this part of Aziraphale it fit, was as much a part of him as the decorating—and he realized with a pang that he could just as easily envision his friend here instead of his decorator’s table.
He would just have to do his damndest to make sure his angel never wanted to leave.
Eyes flicking open—and goodness, wasn’t he grateful for the sunglasses that kept them hidden—he bounded toward the stairs with enthusiasm that was only half-feigned. “Lead on, angel!” he exclaimed, leaping up on Aziraphale’s heels.
Aziraphale’s eyebrows rose, but mercifully he said nothing about his friend’s polarizing behavior. “Ah, yes, very well…” He gave Crowley a small, secret smile and, taking a chance, reached back and reclaimed his hand. “Shall we?”
The top stair gave way to a cozy little sitting room, a well-worn couch nestled in a corner with a tartan recliner beside it to keep it company. The room was, unsurprisingly, covered in books, with an entire wall dedicated to a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and the two small end tables each covered in a towering pile as well. A stooped doorway gave way to a quaint little kitchen, the white appliances rustic but high-quality. A large, powder blue stand mixer was the only visible concession to Aziraphale’s choice of career, but Crowley had a sneaking suspicion that the many drawers and cabinets housed a veritable hoard of baking and decorating accessories. The opposite hallway led to what Crowley assumed was Aziraphale’s bedroom and bathroom.
“It’s not much,” the fair-haired man said, stopping in the middle of the kitchen, “but it’s home.” He twisted his hands together before him, tilting his head to look at Crowley, awaiting the inevitable judgement and teasing.
Cocking his head, Crowley strode into the kitchen, his boots rapping smartly against the worn wooden floor. Pausing in the center of the floor, he cocked his head, running a hand through his hair and giving each corner of the room a once-over. “Angel,” he drawled, slipping his hands into his pockets and turning to face his friend, “it’s very you.” His assumed austere expression softened into a good-natured, genuine smile. “It’s perfect.”
1 When Crowley had raised an eyebrow at the sight of the expensive vintage as it was pulled from the decorator’s cooler Aziraphale had merely offered a secretive smile and waggled his eyebrows. “Needs must, my dear,” he chuckled as he retrieved a corkscrew from its not-so-subtle hiding place amongst the decorating tips. Crowley wisely decided to just drink the wine and not question its origins.
2 Crowley, despite all evidence and several loud protestations to the contrary, Cared far more than he should. He routinely fed their stale bread to the ducks at the park, went out of his way to see their rarely unsold products were donated, and Aziraphale had caught him on multiple occasions making faces at (and slipping food to) the urchins who haunted their back alley.
3 With allowances for many late-night drinks once the day’s production had wound down, of course**
4 It could be said of lesser men that they were both diligently avoiding the subject.
5 so deep, in fact, that they had finished it and were both secretly pining for another
So this started going in one direction, and then these two dorks ran off in another. Apparently we’re going with very slow burn for this story—
—but it will be worth the wait when we get there!
Next up….what’s for dinner??
A sleepover, a reveal, and finally everything comes to a head… Note the rating change!
Thank you all for the wonderful comments! Wasn’t expecting such an enthusiastic following for this—it’s fantastic to have such a great response!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Well, I confess, I was rather expecting a gourmet spread after all the decadent food you’re bringing in to work every day for lunch,” Crowley drawled, leaning back in his chair and kicking his feet out wide beneath the table. “Beans on toast is hardly what I’d call suitable fare for someone of your more refined tastes.1
“Mmph.” Somehow Aziraphale managed to convey his disdain for his friend’s mockery around a full mouthful of food. He swallowed and dabbed at his lips with a cloth napkin—and really, who kept those in their homes now other than elderly ladies—reaching for his wine glass rather than reply. He took a long sip of the deep burgundy liquid and set the glass back on the table with rather more force than the moment required. “I hardly think it matters,” he finally said, folding his hands primly in his lap. “We both ate, it tasted good, and I haven’t had the chance to stop by the market in over a week because I’ve been busy icing cakes for someone.”
Even Crowley had the good sense to look abashed. “Look, angel, I didn’t mean anything by it,” he soothed, draining his own glass of merlot in a single, fluid gulp. “Anything home cooked is instantly miles ahead of my various and sundry collection of to-go meals.2
Gradually, Aziraphale’s demeanor softened, and he gave a nod of acknowledgment. “Apology accepted, dear boy,” he said graciously, sweeping out of his chair to scoop up his and Crowley’s plates and silverware.
They dithered for a moment, dancing back and forth as they argued over dishwashing and drying, and then soon enough found themselves ensconced in Aziraphale’s cozy little sitting room. Crowley claimed the couch, sprawled out in all his lanky glory, one black-socked foot dangling over the back as the toe traced patterns on the wall, the other resting on the far armrest. Aziraphale settled into the armchair beside it, leaning back and kicking the footrest out with a groan.
“It’s been a week,” he announced to the world at large, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back against the well-worn tartan upholstery.
Grunting his agreement, Crowley tucked his hands behind his hair and tilted his head back to take a rare moment to drink in the sight of an unguarded Aziraphale. He never stared too often or gazed too long during the day—it would be all-too-easy for his looks to give him away.
At home in his flat, the fair-haired man could relax his professional veneer, and did so with great aplomb, reclining in his chair in his white shirtsleeves and pants, eyes closed and face slack. He was a picture of innocence, all soft lines and smooth skin and a pale, luminescent glow that Crowley swore he could always see out of the corner of his eyes. Pale lashes brushed full cheeks touched with just the faintest blush of pink—Crowley couldn’t help but equate him to the angel he often teasingly called him.
It was all Crowley could do not to slip from the couch, slide to the floor in a tangle of long limbs and kneel at Aziraphale’s feet, to take those elegant hands in his own and brush a kiss across the knuckles and then guide them to his hair. He wanted to prostrate himself in supplication, he wanted to wrap his arms around his friend and simply curl up in his lap, pressing their bodies together to create as many points of contact as physically possible. He wanted to run his hands through that mess of fair curls, to trail his hands down the swell of that deliciously-rounded stomach, to mark that delectable neck with a trail of marks, to—
Crowley inhaled sharply through his nose, closing his own eyes. Dangerous thoughts, he told himself fiercely, dangerous, unnecessary thoughts about your best friend. He knew what he wanted, what he desired—and what he desired more than anything else, more than even the heady fulfillment and completion that would come from engaging in such acts with Aziraphale, was for Aziraphale to always Be There.
And attaining that goal, naturally, meant that he could not do anything to affect their dynamic. Things could stay as they were, slow and steady and oh-so-safe, forever if it meant Crowley could keep Aziraphale in his life. Who needed sex, needed lo—well, that kind of love—when everything else that made life worth living was already there?
No, it was most certainly safer to sit back in the shadows and bite his tongue, adjust his pants, and allow things to continue on As They Were.
No matter that he had been drawn to Aziraphale from the start. No matter that six months of spending over half their every waking moment together had not quelled that attraction at all. No matter that his friend filled his thoughts in those other waking moments—and the majority of his unconscious ones as well. No matter that, on the worst of days, he felt as though he were burning up from the inside out with the sheer, overwhelming force of all those nasty little feelings he kept so carefully bottled up.
So, Crowley pinched the bridge of his nose, wiggled back against the squashy arm of the couch, began mentally converting from metric to imperial and back again, and allowed his eyes to drift closed.
He came back to himself not too long after, when he felt the cushion by his feet dip down and a warm body settle in beside him. “Whaa’isit?” he mumbled, flailing around blindly while his brain struggled to catch up with his senses.
A warm hand settled around his ankle. “Only me, my dear, I had wondered if you were cold so I was bringing a blanket.” Sure enough, when Crowley opened his eyes, there was Aziraphale, sitting at his feet looking bashful, holding a thick tartan blanket between the hand not curled at Crowley’s foot.
Crowley blinked. “I fell asleep?” he moaned incredulously. “Of all the things I could have imagined happening this evening, that was the last thing on my mind.” Long fingers pulled wildly at his shock of red hair, eyes wild behind their glasses.
Scooting forward, Aziraphale dropped the blanket and caught Crowley’s hands, bringing them down from his head. “Only for about an hour,” he consoled, nodding at the clock on the mantle for further proof. Sure enough, the hands were only showing nine o’clock in the evening rather than the early-morning hour Crowley had feared.
“Ah,” he sat back slightly, shuffling until he was in a more upright position. “Well, that’s alright then.” Gently, he freed one hand from Aziraphale’s and adjusted his glasses, hyper-aware of the other man’s gaze as it tracked his every movement.
“I’ve never even thought to ask,” Aziraphale said suddenly, his eyes thoughtful as he focused on Crowley’s omnipresent sunglasses, “because they’re as much as part of you as the swagger and attitude, but—why do you always wear your glasses?”
It was an innocent question, one borne of long moments of contemplation, and innocent curiosity, and it was one that Aziraphale had refrained from asking for many long months. He knew even without asking the topic was sensitive for Crowley, for why else would he dutifully never mention it? The man was fashionable to the point of garishness, certainly, but derived too much pleasure from basic comfort to simply enjoy wearing lenses all day.3
Crowley flinched. “You know, I’ve been waiting for you to ask that.” He gave Aziraphale a self-deprecating smile. “You’ve been so annoyingly, wonderfully polite by not asking, but it’s only natural that eventually you’d want to know.” His shoulders fluttered in a half-hearted shrug. “Everyone decides they need to see at some point."
Aziraphale’s mouth drew together tightly, heart wrenching at the obvious tone of self-loathing. “You know I would never knowingly do anything to make you uncomfortable, my dear, don’t you?” Even as his curiosity flared to life, he was locking it away, tamping down on any urge to pursue their conversation and attempt to glean whatever it was his friend was hiding. Instead, he focused his thoughts on whoever it was who had obviously hurt Crowley so badly, who had cause him to believe so little in his own worth—they would have hell to pay if Aziraphale ever got ahold of them.
Crowley nodded, a sharp, jerking jolt of his head, “Yessss,” he replied, drawing it out into a hesitant hiss. “You’re the best of them, angel.”
Ever so gently, Aziraphale leaned forward to cup his friend’s cheek. “You know you can be yourself around me, and I will accept you regardless.” His thumb smoothed a path under Crowley’s eye. “With the glasses, or without. Forget I ever asked.”
Crowley caught his hand desperately, fingers curling around his wrist, anchoring it in place as he leaned into Aziraphale’s touch. He craved the warmth of that touch, chased the lingering sense of peace and security that only Aziraphale ever seemed to bring. Six months of having it, and he even now could not imagine a time without it in his life. He nuzzled into Aziraphale’s palm, sighing, and reached up with his free hand to seize the sunglasses.
“If there’s anyone I don’t mind seeing them, it’s you,” he muttered, slipping them off of his nose and setting them in his lap.
Aziraphale’s fingers whispered across the corners of his eyes, trailing lightly across fluttering eyelids.
“I suppose it’d help if I opened them.” Crowley’s lashes fluttered upward until he was staring at his friend with nothing in between them, chin dipped down toward the hollow of his throat in one final attempt to hide.
“Oh, Crowley,” Aziraphale whispered, his heart seizing in his chest, “they’re beautiful.”
“Bilateral coloboma,” Crowley muttered into his collar, seemingly not hearing anything Aziraphale had just said. “Hole in the iris.” He flinched as Aziraphale tipped his chin up, forcing the baker’s wide eyes up to meet his own.
“Beautiful,” Aziraphale repeated emphatically, cradling Crowley’s face between his palms. And, they were—brilliant amber irises, such an uncommon, alluring pigmentation. The addition of the coloboma made them unique, extending the pupil downward so that it resembled, to all points and purposes, the slit-pupil of a snake or feline. They suited Crowley, much as he might try to protest otherwise, bright and gleaming and expressive and completely and utterly unique.
Lips quirking up into a wry smile, Crowley grasped Aziraphale’s wrists loosely between his fingers. “You don’t have to lie to me, angel,” he chastised, blinking. “They’re ‘devil eyes’, unnatural, mutant, warped, demonic—“
“Shut up.” Aziraphale’s voice was harder than Crowley had ever heard.
He shut up.
“You are not defective, you are not a demon,” Aziraphale informed him matter-of-factly. “You are an amazing baker, a wonderfully kind human being, and my best friend.” Daringly, he leaned forward and brushed a gentle kiss across Crowley’s temple. “Whoever told you any of that nonsense can rot.”
Crowley shuddered, heaving great, shaky breaths and trying not to allow the moisture collecting in those unusual eyes fall.4
Silently, he bowed his head forward and buried his face in Aziraphale’s shoulder, closing his eyes and pressing his cold nose to his friend’s warm neck. “My family,” he mumbled softly, lips tickling the strip of exposed skin above Aziraphale’s collar.
“Hmm?” the fair-haired man asked, attention focused on the silken slide of Crowley's hair through his fingers as he carded his hands through the rich red strands.
“My family—bunch of religious bastards. Never thought I was worth keeping around with my ‘condition’, never really treated me like much of a person. So, as soon as I was old enough, I got the fuck out.”
“Oh, Crowley.” His own eyes treacherously bright, Aziraphale pressed his hands into Crowley’s upper back, cradling him against his chest. “I—it may be much too forward of me to say this, but—“ He stopped and took a deep breath, and Crowley could feel him straighten against him, staid and solid as he held him. “You’re the most important person in my life, my dear,” he avowed, thumbs pressing into Crowley’s shoulder blades. “Nothing as trivial as your eyes—which, incidentally, are beautiful no matter what you think—would ever be enough to cause be to walk away from that, or from you.”
Crowley did lose control at that moment, wetness trickling from his eyes and falling against Aziraphale’s neck. “Sorry,” he murmured, ashamed, wedging one hand in between them and rubbing at the tears. “Last thing you probably wanted tonight was your boss crying all over your shoulder.”
Aziraphale snorted. “I think we’re a bit beyond that point in our relationship, yes?” He drew Crowley into a proper hug, tucking his fiery hair beneath his chin maneuvering them so they were both laying back across the couch. “Now shut up and rest, you foolish man. You’re overworked and exhausted, which is why you’re so overwrought. I’ll set us an alarm for the morning, we’ll make it through tomorrow, and then we’ll be done with this fucking week. Yes?”
Nodding his assent, Crowley burrowed into Aziraphale’s chest, twining himself around his friend.
Aziraphale flipped through his phone and set an alarm for the wee hours of the following morning and then settled back, drawing the long-forgotten blanket over them both and allowing himself to curl his arms around Crowley and follow him into sleep.
After that evening, the dynamic between Aziraphale and Crowley began an ever-so-gradual shift toward Something More.
Crowley’s call of, “Pass me that knife, would you, angel?” would be met with a gentle surrender of the utensil in question and a lingering caress of his wrist as Aziraphale drew away.
Aziraphale’s request for chocolate ganache—courtesy of the large double-boiler in the back by Crowley’s baker table—would almost immediately be answered with a still-warm bucket of the stuff...and a few varieties of whatever fruit was on hand already coated in the stuff and ready for sampling.
Order forms had secret little notes penciled in the corners. Inventory and supply orders shifted from a long-suffering, “whose-turn-is-it-now” endeavor to a joint effort that invariably took far longer than it should due to the simple fact that they were very often accompanied by a few drinks and a much longer conversation.
Shifts became longer simply because of moments spent talking in the back, or sharing gazes across the kitchen throughout the day.
And yet, there remained some inexplicable, minuscule barrier, some infinitesimal gap between the two. Since that night, now two weeks ago, they had not met alone outside of work, and Crowley’s moment of weakness (his words) went unmentioned. If Aziraphale was uncommonly considerate during one of the baker’s almost daily snits, or Crowley suddenly relented in the middle of an argument as he recalled the soft caress of Aziraphale’s thumb across his eyelids, well, it was only natural to leave those moments in the shadows.
Finally, finally, one Sunday evening, the storm broke.
“There is life after bread, there is life after bread,” Crowley chanted, hands steady on his dough even as he bounced in place with restless energy from standing almost in one spot all day. His shoulders ached from the mixes he had run, but his feet were fresh, and he could almost groan from the sheer unfairness of the situation.
“You say that like it isn’t the same thing every week,” Aziraphale remarked lightly from somewhere over his shoulder. “You’re nearly done, though, that’s your sourdough, isn’t it?” He padded across the remaining few feet between them to peer around Crowley and assess the dough on the table.
Slashing at the dough a bit more violently than he should with his bench knife, Crowley rolled his eyes. “Yup,” he agreed, popping the ‘p’. “Thirty loaves to bake off tomorrow, just as many baguettes…” His voice trailed off, hands never stopping their movement as they segmented out the dough into even pieces. The loaves were already rolled, perfectly-formed rounds sitting on their screens on the rack beside him, the baguettes currently amorphous blobs on the table before him. “Do me a favor, angel,” he directed, “and change the settings on that sheeter, yeah?”
“Oh yes, because I clearly have nothing else to do.5 Nevertheless, Aziraphale swept over to the sheeter, adjusting the blade width and height.
For a long moment, the only sound in the bakery was the thunking of the sheeter as it flattened and rolled the dough Crowley fed it, depositing stick after stick of bread on the wooden table. Mechanically, Crowley seized each one as it appeared, deftly rolling it out and depositing it in cornmeal before arranging it on the empty fluted pan beside him. “Want to do these last ones, angel?” he finally asked, breaking the silence as he nodded to the final two baguettes.
“Me? Oh, I don’t know, I’ve never—“
“C’mon, it’s easy!” Crowley cajoled, grinning, and Aziraphale caved. Even though he had only seen Crowley’s eyes once, it had been enough—he knew behind the glasses they would be bright with his smile, gleaming and genuine and impossible to deny.
Rolling his sleeves up, he stepped around to Crowley’s side of the table. “Oh, very well,” he said huffily, flexing his hands. “Show me what to do.” While decorating was his career and his hobby, he knew next to nothing about baking bread6 and was all but starting from scratch when it came to demonstrating any bread-related skills. Standing in front of the baker’s table, he was hyper-aware of the space around him, could feel the swirl of the cool air-conditioning as it spiraled down from the ceiling vent. More than that, though, he could feel every scant centimeter between himself and Crowley as the other man pressed against his back, mouth just beside his right ear as he peered over Aziraphale’s shoulder.
“So grab it like this,” he instructed, fitting his hands over Aziraphale’s and guiding them to the baguette-to-be, “and roll it out—careful not to let the center get too thin—until it’s just this length, and tuck in the ends.” He pressed up more firmly against Aziraphale’s back, breath ghosting across his cheek as he leaned in closer, guiding Aziraphale’s hands through the motions. “That’s it, excellent! Then just dump it in the cornmeal with the seam down.”
Flushing at Crowley’s praise7 Aziraphale did as instructed, instantly mourning the loss of Crowley’s presence as he swept away to throw a cover over the now-finished rack of bread and slide it into the walk-in cooler. He slid the heavy door closed and had only half-turned before he found himself backed against the cold metal of that same door, Aziraphale’s body pressed insistently against his and his hands caged beside his head with Aziraphale’s fingers wrapped around his wrist. “Crowley,” and oh the way Aziraphale said his name, half in wonderment, half adoringly, and absolutely loaded with desire.
“Angel,” Crowley gasped, and that he was able to get out before his words were swallowed by Aziraphale’s mouth slotting insistently across his.
Crowley’s world exploded. He had spent months imagining every variation of his kissing Aziraphale, his imagined scenarios powering him through the longest shifts and the even longer nights alone that followed. His fantasies ran the gamut from sweet and innocent to explicit, playing on endless loops in his idle hours as he desperately tried—and failed—to force Aziraphale from his mind.
Never, though, not in all of his wildest musings, had he envisioned Aziraphale being the one to finally initiate contact.
He really should have known better.
His friend was professional, practical, mild-mannered and cooly distant with strangers, but—he was equally passionate and genuine and brimming with love and sensual pleasure and—
—and apparently had been repressing very much the same heady cocktail of emotions as Crowley.
With his hands pinned by his head and Aziraphale’s hips holding him in place, one thigh wedged between his legs, Crowley had very little of the control he so craved. He squirmed, the movement more for effect than an actual effort to break free, inadvertently rolling his hips against Aziraphale’s and creating some delicious friction between them. The lack of control should have unnerved him, should have left him uncomfortable and struggling to free himself from Aziraphale’s hold. He should have hated it.
He loved it.
Crowley tilted his head slightly to the side, lips moving against Aziraphale’s, drinking him in more thoroughly than any wine they had shared. His mouth opened slightly, lips parting in a sigh—of relief? pleasure? it hardly mattered—at the delicious slide of their skin.
Humming into Crowley’s mouth, Aziraphale swept his tongue into the gap his sigh afforded, taking everything Crowley was offering. His hands slid from Crowley’s wrists to his shoulders, one curling upward to slide into his hair, combing through the perfectly-styled shock of red and settling at the short, fine hairs at the back of his head. His second hand wrapped itself around the base of Crowley’s neck, thumb pressing gently into the hollow of his throat, feeling the heady throb of Crowley’s pulse beneath his touch.
“You…utterly aggravating—“ he gasped into Crowley’s mouth, withdrawing briefly for a few frantic, shared breaths, “teasing me like that, swaggering around the bakery all day, doing that with your hands—“ He dove back in, sucking Crowley’s lower lip into his mouth and worrying it with his teeth, coaxing a moan from Crowley’s throat so low he was almost convinced he had imagined it in the first place.
Crowley’s newly-freed hands fumbled between them for Aziraphale’s shirt, deftly undoing the top few buttons of his crisp white shirt and slipping between, tracing patterns on the newly-revealed pale skin speckled with a smattering of white-blond hair. Now it was Aziraphale’s turn to groan, and Crowley smirked into his mouth, sharp teeth pressing into his angel’s lips as he did.
“Like you haven’t been tormenting me,” the baker replied, mouth traveling across Aziraphale’s face and pressing fluttering kisses to the corner of his mouth, across the bridge of his nose, at his temples, before finally settling at the curve of his ear. “You with your delicate hands, those sinful sounds you make when you’re sampling something over at your station.” He nibbled at Aziraphale’s ear, tongue flicking out to curl around the lobe and suck it between his teeth. “You’re temptation incarnate, angel.”
And, with his hair utterly mussed, lips pink from their kisses, and a pink flush spreading downward from his cheeks, Aziraphale was the picture of utterly debauched.
Slowly, with the deliberate movements of one trying not to spook an easily-startled horse, Aziraphale raised his hand and slid Crowley’s sunglasses down his nose. “Beautiful,” he reiterated, ignoring Crowley’s flinch and leaning in close to press the softest of kisses to each eyelid.
Crowley shuddered beneath him.
“Azzzziraphale,” he ground out, half a gasp, half a sob. His muscles bunched under Aziraphale’s hands, and then suddenly the world was spinning and Aziraphale found himself pressed up against the baker’s table, the wooden edge pressing into the small of his back as Crowley wedged himself between his legs. “Angel, if I knew a little bread demonstration was all it took to get a rise out of you, I would have gone for it ages ago.”
It was the pun that did it.
In between groaning at the audacity of the wordplay and groaning at the feel of Crowley’s cock pressing insistently into his thigh, Aziraphale’s tenuous control snapped, and suddenly his hands were flying everywhere and Crowley’s shirt was gone, leaving the man shivering at the sudden assault of the cool air on his bare torso.
“Oh my dear.” Aziraphale traced a line from Crowley’s collarbone to his hip, delighting in his resulting shudder. He forced himself to focus, drawing his hands back up to Crowley’s shoulders, settling for a brief caress of the hollow of his neck. “Does this…are you certain this is what you want? You are my best friend regardless, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t desire you more than anyone else I have ever met in this world.”
Crowley shuddered again, scooting forward the remaining scant inches between them and leaning down to press lips against Aziraphale’s neck. “You’re my world, Aziraphale,” he confessed into his skin, and then withdrew enough so that those brilliant yellow eyes could bore into his friend’s bright hazel.
“This is everything I want.”
1 It should here be noted that despite his complaints his plate was clean as a whistle, and had been filled second time with just as much food as the first go-round.
2 It was not well-known by his professional contemporaries, but Crowley’s small collection of friends were very well aware that, despite being a top-notch baker, he could not cook to save his life. It didn’t matter that he could nurture any kind of baked good from flour and yeast and butter to a delectable finished product—give him a pot or pan or griddle and he would inevitably burn the food, himself, and, on those particularly fine days, the kitchen.
3 As anyone who has or has ever worn glasses can attest, after a while they just start to get irritating. And baking? Flour on the lenses, dough on the frames from an absentminded head scratch, cloudy lenses from the steam of the oven, an uncomfortable ten minutes digging through the freezer floor when they fell off during inventory—take the typical discomfort and multiply by ten.
4 It would absolutely ruin the “tough-guy” persona he had spent years creating around himself—although Aziraphale had long since seen past that anyway, so perhaps it was wasted effort
5 He actually didn’t, having finished his bookkeeping at least an hour before. He had in fact rather shamelessly been admiring Crowley as he worked for the better half of the last forty-five minutes.
6 Much the same way that Crowley couldn’t cook actual food to save his life.
7 And certainly not his proximity, nossir
Next up, smexytimes!
Also, coloboma is an actual condition. It typically results in a more teardrop-shaped pupil, but I took some artistic liberties with it.
Smut. Basically a smut and fluff sandwich.
Sorry for the delay in getting this chapter up—real life intervened for a bit, as it is unfortunately wont to do.
Have some smut as an apology! (That’s really all this chapter is…smut, a nice layer of fluff in the middle, and a healthy dose of smut at the end)
We’ll resume with some plot next chapter…
There was a poignant silence as Aziraphale stared at Crowley, eyes wide and brimming with a heady cocktail of affection and lust. His round cheeks flushed and a brilliant smile spread slowly across his lips. “Oh, oh my dear,” he beamed, pressing one thumb into Crowley’s sharp hipbone. His mouth opened as if to say more, but Crowley had other plans, darting forward once more to catch Aziraphale’s mouth.
It was a heady, sinful kiss, open-mouthed and filthy, Crowley diving in to sweep his tongue relentlessly through Aziraphale’s mouth as he mapped its every contour. Crowley had kissed before, and often. He wasn’t much one for relationships, per se, but he enjoyed sex as much as the next man. Up until today, he would have said he liked kissing well enough.
This, though, kissing Aziraphale, was in a category all of his own.
Underneath the lust-filled haze and the wet slide of their lips, the twisting and twining of their tongues as they learned each other in yet another new way, there was a sharp undercurrent of something so much more. Something that superseded basic attraction, bypassed the usual give and take of a kiss. Something that crackled between them, tangible and electric, binding them together with far more than just their mouths.
“You feel so good, Crowley,” Aziraphale gasped into his mouth, squirming delightedly against the contrasting textures of Crowley’s skin and clothing against his front and the hard wood of the baker’s table digging into his back. 1
“Angel,” Crowley all but hissed, eyes gleaming as he drew back and nipped at Aziraphale’s lips, “you talk too much.” His hands slipped between them to begin a ferocious assault on the remaining buttons of Aziraphale’s crisp white shirt and exposing a torso that was almost equally as pale. Inhaling, Crowley leaned forward to press a kiss to the center of Aziraphale’s chest, nuzzling his nose through the smattering of white-gold hair that adorned it. “Mmm,” he mumbled, gazing up at Aziraphale through dark lashes, “you smell good.”
That adorable flush spread downward across Aziraphale’s neck, and Crowley’s head shot up to chase it with his lips, laving a line of kisses along the tantalizingly smooth column of his throat.
“That…yes,” Aziraphale moaned, head falling back as he buried his hands in Crowley’s hair, tugging lightly as he directed his mouth, writhing in Crowley’s grasp as the other man nipped and sucked his way down to his collarbone. “Crowley, I have wanted this for so very long.” He inhaled sharply through his nose as Crowley bit down on his pectoral, sucking gently before soothing the bite with his tongue, eyes glinting as he wrapped his arms around his back.
“And you think I haven’t?” Crowley replied, slightly incredulous. He left another stinging bite on the opposite side, shivering as he felt Aziraphale’s skin twitch beneath his mouth. Crowley was overwhelmed by sensation—the taste of Aziraphale against his lips, the sound of his breathy gasps and deep, almost soundless groans, the smell of sweat and sweets and arousal rising around them. The smooth feel of Aziraphale’s skin against his hands was enough to send him into overdrive, and that without even considering the remaining heady cocktail of sensory inputs.
Crowley could feel the bunch of muscles beneath his palms, solid and strong beneath a soft layer of padding. He was all but wrapped around the other man by this point, coiled around his legs and torso and pressing him back insistently against the worn wood of the table. “Want you,” he murmured, sliding lower, mouth glued to Aziraphale’s chest, leaving a trail of wet, open-mouthed kisses along his abdomen as he worked his way down. His hands trailed down his shoulders and across his sides, agonizingly slow in their progress, and finally settled at Aziraphale’s hips. Crowley straightened back to his full height and gave those luscious hips a light squeeze, punctuating the motion with a slow, open-mouthed kiss. Then, carefully, calculatingly, he sent his hands skittering along the waistline of Aziraphale's pristine white trousers.
“This okay, angel?” he asked, peering down the extra inch into his friend’s eyes. Hazy as his own were with lust and affection, they were also sharp with an almost hypersensitive awareness of Aziraphale’s level of consent. Much as it would break him, Crowley would stop in an instant at even the slightest indication that Aziraphale was uncomfortable.
Heart pounding rapidly in his chest, Aziraphale managed a rapid, enthusiastic series of nods, curling his hands around Crowley’s where they had settled at his belt. “More than,” he breathed, beatific. “It’s been far too long—“
And whether he meant far too long in general or far too long before this had happened specifically between them Crowley could not say, for at that moment he gave into temptation and dropped to his knees before Aziraphale.2 Aziraphale could feel Crowley smirk against his stomach. “Crowley,” he gasped, biting back an expletive as his hips jerked forward despite themselves. He buried his teeth in his bottom lip as Crowley palmed the bulge at his crotch.
“Hmm?” the baker asked idly, slithering even further downward and deftly unbuckling Aziraphale’s belt, slipping it through his pants and tossing it carelessly over his shoulder.3 Lean hands dipped beneath Aziraphale’s waistband, the decorator’s stomach twitching at Crowley’s unnaturally cool touch as his fingers spidered across the waistband of his pants.
Head tipped back, chest heaving and flushed, and a look of absolute rapture on his face, Aziraphale was a vision of temptation. He reached down to swipe his thumb across Crowley’s lips. “Don’t you dare stop.” His breath caught in his chest as Crowley sucked the digit into his mouth, tongue curling about the pad, tracing each and every line before releasing it with a wet ‘pop’ and a lascivious grin. “Wouldn’t dream of it,” Crowley replied hoarsely.
Before Aziraphale knew what had happened, Crowley had stripped him of his trousers4 and shoes and was nosing him through his briefs, teeth bared in a wicked smile. “You are entirely too delectable,” he purred, sliding Aziraphale’s pants down his legs and discarding them on the floor. He wrapped his hands around Aziraphale’s ample hips, squeezing lightly and relishing his angel’s answering shudder. Crowley leaned back and took a long moment to sweep his eyes up and down Aziraphale, bare before him, his ass pressed into the side of Crowley’s chipped and well-abused5 baker’s table.
He was beautiful, angelic, his pale skin and white-blond hair all but glowing even in the stark light of the bakery, his skin flushed with ardor, dark spots from Crowley’s earlier explorations peppering his neck and torso.
Those golden, snakelike eyes blinked once at him and then suddenly Crowley was sliding forward, lips parting, and—
--oh. Aziraphale jerked forward at the wet slide of Crowley’s tongue against his cock, his mouth warm and wet and utterly sinful in its slide against his member. Crowley hummed, the vibrations making Aziraphale groan and buck forward, awash in sensation. “Nuh-uh,” Crowley teased around his mouthful, sliding back just enough to narrow those slit-pupiled eyes, lips hovering right at the head of Aziraphale’s cock, tongue flickering out to slide down the full length of the underside as soon as he finished speaking. His hands pressed harder against Aziraphale’s hips, and his fingers would almost certainly leave bruises, but who on earth could care when his tongue was curling like that, teasing and tasting and all but overwhelming Aziraphale with the sensual slick heat of it all.
He pressed his palms back against the edge of the table, burying his fingers on the underside, hands shaking as he forced himself to remain still as Crowley took him even deeper, swirling his tongue about the head and sucking, those beautiful eyes fluttering closed as one hand slid from Aziraphale’s hip down to his balls.
The friction was almost too much to bear, and Aziraphale whimpered, hips jerking in stilted movements as he strove to hold himself back, fighting every instinct that screamed at him to jerk forward and take Crowley’s mouth for his own.
Eyes flicking open, Crowley seized one of Aziraphale’s trembling hands with the one of his that was not currently engaged in working him into a frenzy, drawing it down to curl through his thick red hair. His gaze held a glint of something…more, and Aziraphale, catching on, gave him a decidedly unangelic look loaded with desire and jerked Crowley’s head forward, fucking into his mouth with a low groan.
Crowley took him deep, swallowing, and hollowed his cheeks as Aziraphale increased his pace, ever careful to keep from moving too quickly against Crowley even as he began to lose himself, that delicious, heady burn forming deep within him. His movements stuttered slightly, a soft whimper resonating from his throat, and Crowley gave a needy whine around his mouthful in response, his own hips jerking forward. “Crowley, I’m—oh heavens—I’m close—” Aziraphale gasped, tensing, his pleasure building in a great crest until it surged forward and engulfed him in fire and flame, crashing around him in a roaring wave and searing him from the inside out as he came in a series of stuttering jerks. His head tipping back, his throat bobbing soundlessly as he gasped nonsense into the air, Crowley’s hands still pressing tightly into his hips.
When he came back to himself, Crowley was sitting back on his haunches, wiping his mouth and looking entirely too smug, his lips wet and swollen and those brilliant eyes burning, always burning. “Angel,” he said, “my angel. You have no idea how much I have wanted to do that.”
Instead of answering, Aziraphale slid on shaky legs to the floor, kneeling clumsily before Crowley and pulling him into a sloppy kiss. “Darling,” he murmured, a thrill going through him as he tasted himself on Crowley’s lips. “My dear Crowley.” His hands found Crowley’s hair once more, carding gently through the silky strands as though silently apologizing for his earlier roughness. He pressed a kiss to one corner of Crowley’s mouth, then the other, shifting so that his knee slid between Crowley’s legs where he knelt.
Shameless, the baker ground himself against the offered limb, whining in the back of his throat.
“You must be aching,” Aziraphale cooed, cupping Crowley through his abnormally-tight pants6 and squeezing, offering just enough friction to drive Crowley insane.
Somehow gathering his wits, Crowley held himself back, tipping Aziraphale’s chin up and pressing a light, dancing kiss to his lips. “We’re already skirting around a fair number of health code violations,” he said hoarsely, looking far too satisfied and remarkably unrepentant about that fact, “and as fantasy-fulfilling as all of this has been and as many more ideas as I have7 I would prefer to continue this particular evening in a more comfortable environment.” His eyes were bright as he peered up earnestly into Aziraphale’s face. “Come home with me?” he entreated.
Aziraphale blinked, startled, and then smiled that brilliant, joyful smile that never failed to overwhelm Crowley with a responding surge of affection.8 “Of course I will,” he beamed. Startling them both, he jumped to his feet, pulling Crowley up with him. He slid into his discarded briefs and cast a glance about the bakery for his remaining clothing. Rolling his eyes, he retrieved his trousers from the pile of flour, sliding into them with a resigned, “well, at least they’re still white” and pulling his shirt out from where it had been thrown beneath the table. His belt he abandoned as a lost cause, fishing it out of the buttercream with a grimace and dropping it neatly into the trash can.
“Shouldn’t we clean up and close everything out?” he asked, scanning the now decidedly messier bakery with a raised eyebrow, his pulse still thundering in his ears from his earlier high.
“Eh,” Crowley shrugged, sliding his deep red shirt on and leaving it unbuttoned to hang open. “Everything perishable is put away, and it’s not like there’s anyone to call us out when we come back to open in the morning.” He waggled his eyebrows at his partner. “Besides, aren’t there better things we could be doing with our time?”
He yelped as he suddenly found himself swept into Aziraphale’s arms and borne across the kitchen. “We certainly do,” the other man replied fondly. He wedged open the emergency exit, stopping only long enough to allow Crowley to seize his keys, and then carried Crowley out into the alley and over to his Bentley around the front of the building. They both blinked in the still-bright evening light, and Crowley realized with a start that his sunglasses were still perched happily atop his sheeter back in the kitchen.
“Don’t worry about it, my dear,” Aziraphale said, dipping down to steal a quick kiss. “I’m the only one looking.” This was actually quite true, as all around them London bustled here and there, paying them no mind and continuing on as though absolutely nothing whatsoever had changed.
Aziraphale stopped beside the pristine black Bentley. “This thing looks like it does not obey the speed limit,” he remarked, pursing his lips as he reluctantly deposited Crowley next to the driver’s side door. “Or, at least that it doesn’t when you are driving,” he added teasingly.
“You have no idea,” Crowley agreed, sliding into the plush leather seat and leaning across to push open the passenger door. “Especially today.” He patted the seat beside him. “Get in, angel.”
A thrill of anticipation ran through Aziraphale like a wild current of electricity, and he ducked into the car.
A harrowing twenty minutes later found them falling through the door of Crowley’s flat, the Bentley safely parked, a moderate eight traffic laws violated during their trip to Mayfair, and Aziraphale only mildly scarred. “That was terrifying,” he gasped, scrambling to get his bearings, the world around him still travelling at a harrowing 80 miles per hour. “You drive like that all the time?”
Crowley shrugged. “Never seem to get caught.” He waved off Aziraphale’s concerns. “Besides, I had excellent incentive to get us here quickly.” He shut the door behind them with a decisive ‘click’ and pulled Aziraphale into a tight embrace, using their momentum to swing the other man around and into the door of his flat, molding himself against him.
“Well,” Aziraphale said halfheartedly, already losing interest in the argument as Crowley latched onto one of his earlier bite-marks, suckling the already-tender skin and causing Aziraphale to draw in a quick breath, “I’ll give you that one, my dear.”
Lightning-quick, his manicured hands shot up and captured Crowley’s wrists, pulling them down from where they had cradled his face and pinning them instead against Crowley’s narrow hips. “But, I do believe it’s my turn this time.” He scooted forwards, pressing himself insistently against Crowley, his lips tilting up just slightly to seek out his lover’s.
Now it was Crowley’s turn to inhale, his gasp turning into a squeak as Aziraphale combined a particularly dexterous roll of his hips with an insistent thrust of his tongue into his mouth. He shuddered in his angel’s arms, already beginning to come apart at the seams as his earlier frenzied state returned full-force with Aziraphale’s calculated caresses.
“Bedroom,” he ground out between gritted teeth, taking a shaky step back and pulling Aziraphale along with him.
Any other time and Aziraphale would have paused to take in Crowley’s apartment, that oft-mentioned, never-seen oasis of minimalistic concrete, lush green plants, and haphazardly placed personal touches scattered throughout. Tonight, though…well, tonight he had other things on his mind. There would be other opportunities 9 and so he chose instead to lose himself in the present and the intoxicating sensation of finally having Crowley in his arms.
They staggered through the door of the bedroom, Crowley falling back onto the dark grey duvet and pulling Aziraphale atop him, arms twining around his shoulders and holding him firmly in place atop him. “You feel so good, angel,” he mumbled, burying his face in Aziraphale’s shirt. “Like I’ve dreamed.”
Aziraphale’s warm hands slid beneath Crowley’s still-open shirt, sliding it down his arms and dropping it to the floor. “And how often have you dreamed?” he murmured, tipping Crowley’s chin up with a single finger as he fixed him with a knowing hazel gaze.
Crowley’s teeth glinted in the light from the hallway. “Constantly,” he admitted, rolling his hips up against Aziraphale’s, chasing the elusively satisfying friction that the other man continued to deny him.
Chuckling, Aziraphale dipped his head to map a pattern across Crowley’s lean torso, tongue flicking out to trace the lines of his abdominal muscles, to taste the fine sheen of sweat covering his skin. He nibbled his way down to Crowley’s navel and groaned. It was the same sound he made as he appreciated a fine chocolate or a well-aged wine, decadent and epicurean and absolutely loaded with desire.
Without warning, Crowley rolled them, pinning Aziraphale to the bed and fumbling at his clothing. “You’ve overdressed, sweetheart,” he crooned, lips brushing the curve of Aziraphale’s ear as his clever hands made short work of Aziraphale’s shirt and trousers. His pants he left, for the time being, hands roving wildly across the newly-exposed skin. He dragged his thumbs across Aziraphale’s nipples, grinning wickedly as the cherubic man shuddered. “Sensitive, are we?”
“Obviously,” Aziraphale snarked, gasping as he pressed upward into Crowley’s touch. Mustering his focus he gripped Crowley’s wrists and pinned his narrow hips between his legs, flipping him back against the grey comforter. “But this is about you, Crowley,” he insisted, eyes narrowing. He undid the silver clasp of Crowley’s thick belt. “Off,” he commanded, nodding at Crowley’s trousers.
Something in his tone had Crowley instantly tearing at his too-tight trousers, sliding them gracelessly from his legs to land in a jumbled pile at the foot of the bed.
“These too,” Aziraphale directed, hand flitting across the front of Crowley’s briefs and just barely brushing the hot flesh beneath.
Crowley whined, a high-pitched needy noise that he never knew he could make, and flung his pants somewhere in the vague direction of his hamper. Control gone, he reached up and yanked Aziraphale down on top of him, the larger man losing his balance and all but collapsing atop Crowley, pinning him to the bed. The extra weight on top of him was everything Crowley had ever wanted, comforting and controlling all at the same time. His hips shot up, his bared member brushing against Aziraphale’s and causing both men to groan.
Aziraphale’s eyes were darkened with lust, his bright irises all but eclipsed by wide pupils. His hands grasped Crowley’s narrow hips, following the trail of red hair down to Crowley’s erect cock. He stroked it once, twice, Crowley surging up into his hands with a breathless groan, his eyes fluttering shut. Those elegant hands slipped lower and around, following the gentle curve of Crowley’s ass, turning him half on his side and spreading his legs slightly. “Alright?” Aziraphale asked softly.
Eyes flying open, Crowley nodded his assent, throat bobbing as he swallowed. “Please,” he begged hoarsely. He nodded at his bedside table. “First—first drawer.”
Aziraphale gave him a radiant smile and pressed a searing kiss to his lips before reaching across to retrieve the small bottle and condom Crowley had indicated. “You’re so in control, every day,” he murmured softly, slicking his fingers. “Always the master of your domain, always putting on that front for the world to see.” His clean hand passed across Crowley’s brow, smoothing a tousled strand of red hair from his face. “Do you truly trust me so much to let go like this for me?” He worked one finger in, circling, adding a second and, later, a third as he felt Crowley relax around him.
“Yesssss,” he hissed through his teeth, grinding back against Aziraphale’s fingers. “Trust you, angel—only you.”
And Aziraphale’s heart swelled even as his cock throbbed in answer to Crowley’s response. Withdrawing his fingers, he chuckled softly at Crowley’s disappointed whimper and shed his pants, tearing open the condom and rolling it on. “Lie back, dearheart,” he murmured as he readied himself, “I want to see you this first time.”
Crowley sighed his agreement, lying back and spreading his legs so that Aziraphale could settle between them. They fit together like two puzzle pieces, made for each other and no one else.
Aziraphale slid into him slowly, working his way in until he was fully sheathed. They exhaled in unison, Crowley’s eyes rolling back in his head as he clenched around Aziraphale. “You feel so good, angel,” he ground out, eyelids fluttering. “Only one I’d ever let see me like this, do this.” He rolled up and then back, and they both groaned at the delightful friction and just sitting like that for a long moment until Crowley tipped his head back to give Aziraphale a lazy smile. “Now fuck me, angel,” he demanded, shifting again to take in as much of Aziraphale’s cock as he could.
Hand’s anchoring at Crowley’s shoulders, Aziraphale pushed back into him in a single fluid move. “Your wish is my command, dearest,” he panted, beginning a rapid, rolling rhythm. He drove forward relentlessly, gripping Crowley’s shoulders tight enough to bruise, cock lining up just right with that particular spot deep within that had Crowley seeing stars.
“I—I’m getting close,” Crowley whimpered, moving more insistently against Aziraphale’s driving thrusts. He could feel it building within him, insistent, ferocious, and tipped his head back against the pillows, baring his throat.
Aziraphale’s hips stuttered slightly as he leaned down to press his lips to Crowley’s exposed throat, biting gently and slipping a hand between them to slide wetly against his cock. “Crowley,” he breathed, repeating his lovers name like a prayer, hips and hand become sloppy in their movements as he neared his own peak.
One final, well-timed thrust from Aziraphale was enough for Crowley and he tipped over the edge with a hoarse cry, spasming beneath Aziraphale as he came with a groan. “Angel,” he whispered, again and again and again, reaching upward to card his fingers through Aziraphale’s messy halo of white-blonde hair.
Aziraphale drove home one final time, hips jerking as he found his own release, shuddering above Crowley as that heady rush of sensation overwhelmed him. His hands were everywhere, petting Crowley’s chest and stomach and finally burying themselves in his brilliant hair to draw his head up for a long, lingering kiss. “Oh dearest,” he murmured against Crowley’s lips. “Crowley.” He slipped from Crowley with a sigh of regret, leaving briefly to dispose of the condom and retrieve a towel from Crowley’s extravagantly-luxurious bathroom.
Falling back into bed, he cleaned them both up and then tucked himself in around Crowley, spooning up behind him.
“Th’ w’s’amazing, angel,” Crowley mumbled sleepily, reaching behind him to drag Aziraphale’s arm over his shoulder, cradling it against his chest. The other man’s presence was a solid weight at his back, a comfort he hadn’t known in more years than he could count. “M’be more t’mrrow?”
Aziraphale chuckled softly and pressed a soft kiss to the nape of Crowley’s neck. “Anything you want, my dear,” he murmured, carding a gentle hand through his hair and feeling his own eyes grow heavy. “Anything at all.”
1 And here a less subtle author might potentially make a badly-timed joke about another form of wood digging into his front.
2 And to his credit only barely failing to contain his wince as he landed on the rather unforgiving tile floor.
3 It landed neatly in the mixing bowl of buttercream Crowley had prepared earlier and not yet put away.
4 They landed flat on the floor in a pile of flour that had yet to be swept up.
5 Although until today, not this well-abused
6The joy of owning one’s own bakery, Crowley insisted, was being able to flex the dress code when he so desired, and he did so shamelessly, wearing a combination of designer shirts and pants that most certainly were not meant to be routinely coated in flour as they so often were.
7 And he had a lot, all of which he fully intended to act upon. He simply believed it wise to stagger such acts of bakery-oriented debaucher in order to prevent a sensory overload for himself. As it stood, he would hardly be able to look at his baker’s table without blushing for at leasta week.
8 And love, of course, but they were not touching that elephant just yet, no sir not today.
9 Or at least he desperately hoped there would be other opportunities.
Crowley and Aziraphale settle into the new aspect of their relationship, and some important words are exchanged…
Thank you all for all the wonderful comments; I don’t have time to reply to them all, but I do read every single one! It means quite a lot to know that a fair number of other people are reading and enjoying this incredibly self-indulgent adventure of a story I started on a whim, so thank you!!
You know how I promised more plot? Yeah, no, not so much….the fluff and smut bunnies had more to say this time around, so enjoy more of that instead. Plot and some angst are incoming next go-round though!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Aziraphale woke with a tickle in his nose and something soft brushing his mouth. “Mmmph,” he spluttered, spitting out several strands of loose red hair. It dawned on him that he was sprawled on his back, arms wrapped firmly around a warm something nestled on his chest. Eyes fluttering open, he chanced a glance downward, and of course it was Crowley—the events of the previous evening flooded back then, and a tingle of warmth shot through Aziraphale as he recalled the shared kisses and touches from the night before.
His hand swept across Crowley’s back—smooth with lean muscle and peppered with freckles—rising to trace patterns through the fine hairs at the base of his neck. Crowley snuffled softly and burrowed in deeper against the side of Aziraphale’s neck.
Limbs languid in a way they hadn’t been for far too long, Aziraphale sagged back against the pillows, eyes fluttering closed as he hovered in that delightful in-between state of sleep and wakefulness. He thought that perhaps he could remain like this forever, Crowley in his arms and not a care in the world—
Eyes flying wide open, Aziraphale had to catch himself before he bolted upright and dislodged Crowley. Instead, he wriggled slightly, extricating himself from his lover’s twining embrace with a pang of regret, and then dove gracelessly over the side of the bed to fish his mobile from the pocket of his haphazardly discarded trousers.
“Shit shit shit, what time is it?” he moaned quietly, swiping a thumb across the screen and blinking as the harsh light flared to life. All traces of sleep burned from his system, he squinted at the screen with a frown. “Oh, thank heavens,” he muttered, realizing it was just a hair after three thirty in the morning. He had been all but certain they had slept straight through the night, and he knew Crowley would never forgive him if they failed to open the bakery at its typical pre-dawn hours.
The sheets rustled, and Crowley’s tousled head poked over the side of the bed, the gleam of his yellow eyes just barely visible in the light of the phone. “Wha’s ‘smatter, Angel?” he mumbled. “’cha doing down there?”
Sheepishly, Aziraphale stood with a groan, stretching out his stiff back and shaking his limbs loose. “Checking the time, my dear,” he waved the phone in fron of Crowley’s face. “Thought it might be fitting for us to actually show up to work this morning.”
Crowley blanched, instantly jolting to awareness. “Shit,” he hissed, seizing the mobile and giving it a bleary glare. “Are we late?”
“Not if we get a wiggle on now,” the decorator replied, already halfway dressed and buttoning up his trousers.
“I’m sorry, a what?” Crowley froze halfway out of the bed, mouth agape and eyebrows raised nearly to his hairline.
“A wiggle on,” Aziraphale repeated slowly, giving Crowley a look that indicated he was questioning his hearing capabilities. He shrugged into his shirt and gave the wrinkles in his sleeves a sad look as he did his best to straighten out the many creases.
Crowley sniggered, sliding from the bed. “Yes, I heard you the first time. No one says that, angel.” He slunk across the room to the closet, sliding open the door and eyeing the line of dark pressed shirts and folded slacks with a furrowed brow. “Do you think navy today, or just straight black?”
Arms enfolded his waist and a soft chin slotted against the slight divot of his shoulder. “Mmm, you look divine in anything,” Aziraphale told him cheerfully. “Or in nothing, for that matter.” He mouthed lightly at a tender spot just below Crowley’s ear. “But in this instance, darling, I think perhaps something with a rather…high collar might not be remiss.”
Those yellow eyes blinked lazily, staring back at Aziraphale in the full, body-length mirror mounted on the back of the closet door. “Oh but then no one will know,” Crowley purred, tilting his head just so to allow Aziraphale greater access. “And I do not intend to put on some front for the rest of the world that doesn’t care about us anyway.” Anxiety moved across his face in a visible cloud, and his shoulders tensed beneath Aziraphale’s chin. “Unless…you prefer to do so?” he asked hesitantly, casting his eyes downward and visibly shrinking in upon himself.
“Oh goodness no, my dear,” Aziraphale cried, throwing timing and propriety to the wind and gathering Crowley in his arms, turning him into a full embrace so that he could tuck Crowley against him, resting his forehead against the other man’s and staring intently into his eyes. “I am delighted and honored to have you as my….” his nose scrunched as he thought, “boyfriend? Lover? Paramour? Beau?”
None of the terms seemed to fit the way they should, and Crowley chortled, skimming his lips across Aziraphale’s temple as he curled into his warm embrace. “Honestly, Aziraphale, most of those terms ceased to be mainstream a few centuries back.” His eyes turned thoughtful, and he slipped from the other man’s embrace to slide into a deep navy shirt and scoop a pair of briefs from his rich mahogany dresser. “But,” he added, as he sidled into a pair of sinfully tight slacks and waggled his eyebrows as his fingers skimmed along the zip, “how about we just say I’m yours?”
Aziraphale hummed thoughtfully, reaching forward to tousle Crowley’s hair, marveling at how neatly it fell into place. 1 “Yours,” he marveled, delight evident in his voice. “Yes, I like that very much. And I, of course, am yours as well, dearest.”
Crowley’s answering smile, rare and radiant and genuine, was answer enough.
They did in fact make it to the bakery on time, that morning and the many more that followed.
It was surprisingly easier than either had expected to slip from their slightly-more-than-friendly work relationship to an actual working relationship. It dawned on them both that they had been teetering closer and closer to that line than they had realized, for absolutely nothing changed in how they dealt with each other at work.2
After a week, they had successfully managed to split their time evenly between Crowley’s spartan apartment and Aziraphale’s cozy little nook above the bookshop. After two weeks, they had a schedule worked out.3
After three weeks, they were discovered.
“I kneeeeew it!” Anathema cackled, dancing around the bakery’s kitchen with her arms in the air wearing an uncharacteristically gleeful expression. “Can I call it or can I call it?”
“Yes, well—” Aziraphale attempted to interject, straightening his shirt from where Crowley’s wandering hands had bunched it up while Crowley pressed his fingers to the still-tingling spot at his neck.
“Knew it knew it knew it knew it knew it!”
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Crowley wrapped his arms around Aziraphale and rested his chin on his shoulder. “Just let her go at it for a bit,” he told him, tipping his head so that he could catch his eyes, “and get it out of her system now.” They watched in tandem as Anathema waltzed her way through the bakery, cackling.
“Will she be alright?” Aziraphale finally asked, looking slightly concerned.
Crowley waved it off with a flap of his hand. “She’ll be fine, angel, don’t worry about it. She’ll be absolutely impossible to live with for about a week, but after that she’ll settle down.” He closed his eyes for a long moment and inhaled, breathing deeply through his nose and allowing Aziraphale’s scent to flood his senses, allowing himself for just a moment to pretend that they didn’t have another eight hours of the day to go, that they were instead happily ensconced in Aziraphale’s bed (tartan bedspread and all, god help them) and wearing quite a bit less clothing.
Finally he drew away with a sigh, pressing a gentle hand between Aziraphale’s shoulder blades as he retreated. “Back at it, I suppose,” he lamented, adopting a long-suffering expression.
It was, of course, at that moment Newt poked his head through the door and took in the rather unusual dance taking place. “What…is happening?” he asked, quite poleaxed.
“They’re shagging,” Anathema exclaimed, looking quite delighted. “Doing the nasty, hooking up, making looooove—”
Newt blinked, eyes wide behind his glasses, and then gave Crowley a shaky grin even as the bakery shot Anathema a dark look. “Good on you both, then,” he congratulated, still not quite meeting Crowley’s eyes. “I’ll just…retrieve her, then, shall I?”
“That,” Crowley snapped, “would be ideal.”
Gulping, Newt darted through the door and seized Anathema by the elbow, hauling her back up front with a not-so-quietly whisper of “Do have some tact, why don’t you?” as they disappeared from sight.
Aziraphale snickered as they departed. “Bear with it, my dear,” he consoled, pressing his nose to Crowley’s cheek. “The day will end soon enough.”
And so it did, leading into the next one, and the one after that, until they began to bleed together and a regular little routine had developed, their work and home lives melding if not seamlessly than at least without too much incident.
Saturday nights quickly became “date night”, since Sunday offered a bit of flexibility with sleeping in and showing up to the bakery in a timely—or rather, not-so-timely—manner.
They started small, focusing first on just actually making it to the little sushi place that got left on the wayside that stormy day that seemed so long ago.
Aziraphale learned that Crowley preferred his fish cooked—or nonexistent—but would happily drink the place out of sake. Crowley discovered that Aziraphale enjoyed anything and everything resembling raw fish that he could find on the menu, from chirashi to Hamachi to uni.4
From sushi, they moved to Indian, Italian, and the lovely little dim sum place down the way. Aziraphale, glorious hedonist that he was, loved to eat and Crowley, selfish bastard that he was, loved to watch him. It worked out quite nicely, really, and it certainly didn’t hurt that most of these evening excursions ended up with them twined together in one bed or the other.
One thing led to the next, and eventually ‘date night’ found them rocketing down Picadilly after separating briefly after work, going their separate ways to change out of their flour-and-icing-covered clothes and into, as Crowley declared, “something befitting a fine dining experience.”
Naturally, Crowley settled into more black, but this time it was a slim-fit Armani suit and charcoal shirt that brought out every rich strand of color in his hair. Aziraphale had gone weak at the knees when Crowley showed up at his door, a smile quirking at his lips and a bouquet of red roses and carnations clasped in his hands. Distracted as he was as he bustled about for a vase, he also did not miss the way Crowley’s eyes executed their own appreciative sweep of Aziraphale’s tan slacks, tailored waistcoat, and outdated-yet-absolutely charming jacket that all but screamed of the 1950s. The decorator’s shirt was a powder blue that brought out the cerulean in his hazel eyes beautifully and Crowley felt his heart (traitorous little thing that it was) give an uncharacteristic lurch at the joy he saw there.
“Oh, Crowley, do slow down!” Aziraphale yelped, clutching the handle at the front of the passenger’s side.6
Crowley rolled his eyes, his apparent calmness a sharp contrast to the flashing scenery outside the vehicle. “Calm down, Aziraphale,” he soothed, executing a hairpin turn onto Arlington and sliding into the last open parking spot on the street. “We’re here.”
“And where is here, exactly?” Aziraphale all but flung himself from the vehicle as Crowley opened the door for him, lurching out onto the curb and staggering to his feet. He huffed, straightening his waistcoat and fidgeting with cufflinks as he worked himself out of his funk, hair falling in fair strands across his forehead.
Crowley said nothing, simply standing at his side, a self-satisfied smile playing at his lips as he waited for Aziraphale to regain his bearings. He did allow himself the luxury of raising a lazy hand and combing back Aziraphale’s wayward hair.
Finally, Aziraphale blinked and took in their surroundings. He gasped, eyes lighting up, and turned to catch Crowley’s hand where it still hovered at his hair, pressing a kiss to his palm. “Oh Crowley, the Ritz?” Everything about him resonated utter enchantment, from the bright glow of his eyes to the way he practically vibrated with anticipation as he gazed up at the hotel.
“So it would seem,” Crowley purred, oozing smug satisfaction. He tapped Aziraphale’s nose with his index finger and then gallantly extended his arm. “Shall we dine, angel?” he asked.
“I thought you’d never ask.” Aziraphale took the proffered limb with a sunny smile. “Lead on my dear, it would seem this is your show.”
And indeed it was.
Crowley had it all set up—a candlelit table nestled in the corner, just out of sight of the main dining hall and close enough to enjoy the piano. 7 The chandeliers glistened in the evening-lit dining hall, casting sparkling reflections on the towering marble columns and offering just enough-low level lighting to keep the park outside visible through the massive floor-to-ceiling windows. All-in-all, the effect was quite breathtaking, and Aziraphale certainly felt his breath was taken.
He had expected something unexpected, but this, this was—
“Crowley,” he murmured softly, awestruck, overwhelmed by emotion and affection and a blistering burning intent he could hardly quantify, “you’re a romantic.” He was delighted, practically levitating from his chair with the glee of his discovery.
Crowley, for his part, flushed a deep red and ducked his head, rubbing his nose and looking sideways across the room toward the piano. “Am not,” he muttered into his collar. He fidgeted irritably with the silverware, undoing and then re-creasing his immaculately-folded napkin.
Aziraphale had the grace to drop it, although it did nothing to ease the delicate smile that hovered just beyond physical perception for the duration of the evening.
By the time he came back to himself, Aziraphale had ordered8 and had them nicely set up with a bottle of Deutz, a lovely Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2010. The alcohol seemed to bring him back to himself, and he took a rather inelegant sip from his flute, allowing himself a slight sigh of pleasure as the bubbly liquid trickled down his throat. “Am I not allowed to spoil you, angel?” he finally asked, raising his eyebrows above his omnipresent sunglasses.
Aziraphale cocked his head, lips sliding upwards, just the slightest shift of angles and skin. It was a motion that said, tenderly, “Of course, my dearest.” It was a motion that climbed every mountain whilst singing out every thank-you and platitude in the book. It agreed and demurred and declaimed and delighted. Most importantly, it was a motion that told Crowley well and surely that yes, he could spoil Aziraphale just as much as he desired this evening, but that upon returning home oh how the tables would turn.
Crowley shuddered, eyes blazing hungrily even through his glasses.
Of course, that was precisely when their food arrived.
Crowley made it through two-thirds of his lamb before he gave up, settling back and crossing his arms and self-indulgently watching every mouthful of bass and courgette that crossed Aziraphale’s lips. Silver flashed as the fork rose, paused briefly, and then delivered the intended morsel of food, those soft pink lips wrapping around the tines in a manner that should have been criminal to enact in public. Burning from the tips of his toes to the roots of his hair, Crowley shuffled his foot forward, dexterously curling it up and around Aziraphale’s ankle, boot somehow managing to snake up and around his calf, curving alongside the solid muscle and caressing it beneath its khaki covering.
Aziraphale jumped, a nearly incoherent gasp escaping his parted lips, and then stared across the table at Crowley through narrowed eyes. Pursing his lips, he finished chewing and then set his fork down, folding his hands primly in his lap. “Patience is a virtue, dearest,” he preached, offering that singular smile that he used when he knew precisely what Crowley was about and was going to go well out of his way to thwart him.
Crowley stopped himself from sticking out his tongue—but only just.
“Dessert, angel?” he tempted, offering the menu. Much as he was ready to go—elegant and romantic as the evening was, he also had his sights set on a more…carnal…side of the menu, and was well past the point where he was willing to wait all that patiently—he did take ever so much delight in the joy Aziraphale derived from food. It also didn’t hurt that his love—ever a decorator at heart—took great delight in critiquing each and every dessert item to pass his lips and he was all but dying to know if the famed Ritz dessert menu passed muster.
“Oh, I shouldn’t….” Aziraphale demurred, already reaching for the menu.
“Yes, well,” Aziraphale hemmed, eyes scanning the menu, “How about the grand Marnier soufflé?”
They made it halfway through the soufflé before Aziraphale cracked.
“Time for the check, dearest?” he asked as Crowley’s foot crept even higher than before, and to his credit his voice only wavered the slightest bit.
“Why angel, I thought you’d never ask,” and just like that the foot disappeared and Crowley was summoning the waiter and paying their bill and whisking Aziraphale out the door. They were halfway to Crowley’s flat before Aziraphale had regained enough of his bearings to reach over and rest his palm on Crowley’s thigh, his slight squeeze and solid presence channeling as much gratitude as he could force from his own form into Crowley’s own.
They slid into the garage from Crowley’s building, only slightly staggering as they made their way into his flat. As soon as the door slammed shut behind them Aziraphale made his move, catching Crowley in a solid grip and bearing him back against the door, kissing him briefly and firmly before allowing his lips to travel across his face. They pressed fleetingly against each corner of his mouth, brushing over his cheeks and across his temples, fluttering down to his chin and leaving a dusting of brief caresses across the sharp line of his jaw.
Drawing back, he gazed up the spare few inches between them with the stars in his eyes.
“Thank you,” he began, tilting his head forward to press his nose to Crowley’s neck, leaning solidly against the other man and simply holding him, reveling in the still-novel freedom of being able to do so. It defied his wildest fantasies to stand here wrapped around each other, to claim and be claimed and love and be loved (though neither of them had yet to outwardly bridge that chasm). “Oh dearheart, tonight was so much more than I could have imagined—what a treat, and the food, oh the food, and—” He felt Crowley’s throat vibrate against his cheek as the baker chuckled, and Aziraphale flushed, round cheeks gaining a delicious pink tinge.
“Mm.” Crowley tipped his head down and caught Aziraphale’s lips with his own, pressing a series of lingering kisses to his mouth. He returned after each one for a longer taste, a vintner sampling his wares, drinking Aziraphale down like a particularly rare, coveted vintage. “You deserve the world, angel,” and the tenderness in that simple statement left Aziraphale trembling in Crowley’s arms, uncharacteristically still as he allowed himself to sag bonelessly against the other man.
“So do you,” he finally replied, lifting one hand to slide Crowley’s glasses from his face and set them down on the credenza by the door.9 He brushed a kiss to Crowley’s chin, hand returning to his face to tiptoe along his jaw and draw his face down level with his own. His gaze was sincere, eyes seeking out Crowley’s with an intensity that quickly grew from warm embers to a blazing conflagration, and that hand at his chin jerked, propelling Crowley forward those scant few centimeters between them and bringing their lips crashing back together.
There was nothing simple about this kiss, the gentleness of before now eclipsed by an all-out play of passion. Aziraphale’s hands rose to firmly grip Crowley’s collar, no sign of their earlier weakness in him now as he hauled Crowley lower and licked into his mouth, chasing the sharp points of Crowley’s teeth and smoothing along the slick underside of his tongue and igniting a series of sparks everywhere they touched.
They moved as a single unit, staggering across the room with an almost practiced ease until they were in Crowley’s bedroom, finery rather hastily discarded, and then somehow Crowley was in Aziraphale’s lap and Aziraphale’s mouth was at his neck and setting fires everywhere his breath touched Crowley’s skin. His tongue and lips and teeth latched on, worrying and soothing and teasing until Crowley could do nothing but whimper, held firm by Aziraphale’s hands at his hips and rutting up fruitlessly against the other man, barely gaining any friction as Aziraphale kept him anchored over his thighs.
Aziraphale mouthed at Crowley’s nipple, grinning against his chest as he whined, an unconscious sound in the back of his throat that sent a thrill of lust rocketing straight down his spine. “Patience is a virtue,” he quoted in a sing-song voice, hand dipping lower to trace just barely along the iron length of Crowley’s cock where it strained against his belly.
Crowley groaned, a low, wanting sound that came from some hidden place deep within, and jerked forward. “If you can tease so, angel,” he panted, nipping at Aziraphale’s neck in retaliation, “it would seem I am not doing my job half as well as I should like.”
“Oh my darling,” Aziraphale countered, taking pity on his overwrought partner and sliding his hands downward to knead at Crowley’s arse, “your only job tonight is to let me take care of you.”
Crowley yelped as one slick finger (when has he had time to manage that?) slid inside him, eyes fluttering as his body adjusted, his center of gravity tipping as he drove himself backwards against Aziraphale’s hand, seeking more, desperate, wanting anything and everything and oh—
Aziraphale added another finger, opening him up, his other hand curving around Crowley’s front to languidly stroke his cock, mouth slipping along his neck and latching onto the thick tendon at its base. Crowley panted, eyelids fluttering, rocking back and forth as his body struggled against the influx of sensory inputs. A third finger slid home, stretching him deliciously and fucking into him. Squirming, Crowley bit off a mangled curse as Aziraphale crooked his fingers and found that singular spot that never failed to turn Crowley into a writhing, boneless mass.
Finally, finally Aziraphale’s hands shifted, retreating back to Crowley’s hips and pulling a regretful hiss from between Crowley’s clenched teeth as they withdrew, his heart lurching in anticipation as Aziraphale lifted him, settling him into place, and there was that touch Crowley had been waiting for. He sank down with a groan and it was like coming home, Aziraphale under him and above him and all around him, arms shifting to cradle Crowley against him, allowing him to set the pace and drive himself down, seeking his reward and claiming and thanking and offering every bit of himself even as Aziraphale reciprocated in kind.
The air grew thick between them, Crowley’s breath coming in gasps, a thin sheen of perspiration glistening at his brow, and Aziraphale could hardly resist nosing up to catch it with his tongue, collecting the salty drops and pressing a gentle kiss to Crowley’s brow. The soft gesture was a sharp contrast to the rapid movements of their bodies and Aziraphale, feeling Crowley quake above him, repeated it, skimming his lips lightly along the elegant curve of Crowley’s cheekbone.
“Fuck, angel!” Crowley tossed his head back, gasping, fucking downward over and over again as Aziraphale reached between him and stroked. The sensory overload became overwhelming, and Crowley swore again and arched his back, body drawing tight as a bowstring, shuddering as he came between them. Gasping, his arms clutched desperately at Aziraphale’s shoulders, fingers digging into his skin.
He lurched forward to catch Aziraphale in a sloppy kiss, grinding down again and again and coaxing Aziraphale’s release from him in turn, continuing until Aziraphale’s tremors slowed and they were left pressed against each other, lungs filled to bursting and hearts pounding their chests, muscles quaking as they came down from their highs.
Slipping off of Aziraphale, Crowley gave a breathy, wordless complaint at the loss, reaching beside the bed for a towel and wiping away their mess as his lover slid down beneath the covers. Tossing the towel back over the side Crowley slithered up along Aziraphale’s body, fitting himself neatly against him with a sigh of contentment. “I love you, you know,” he said, and God he hadn’t meant to say it so baldly, but there it was, slipping out after mind-blowing sex like some stereotypical teenaged girl, and—
“I love you too, of course,” Aziraphale replied matter-of-factly, humor and contentment and love dancing in his eyes as he turned his head down to meet Crowley’s panicked gaze, and it was evident from his expression that he knew precisely what battles Crowley was fighting in his mind. He turned on his side, pulling Crowley up against him and spooning up behind him, blanketing him with his warmth and offering a solid, reassuring presence at his back. “I think I have loved you from the moment I met you.”
“Mmm,” Crowley agreed, tension leeching from him and leaving him boneless with relief. “I know I certainly have you.”
Aziraphale gave an answering squeeze and pressed his lips to the nape of Crowley’s neck. “What do you say we say fuck it to production tomorrow and just have a lie-in instead?” he murmured in Crowley’s ear, and the uncharacteristic profanity was enough to make the other man squirm around until they were nose-to-nose, Crowley’s mischievous eyes boring into his own.
“Why angel, what a filthy mouth!” Crowley exclaimed, darting in to press a loving kiss to those very lips. He shifted to sprawl out beside Aziraphale on his belly. “Sounds lovely,” he agreed into the pillow, eyes betraying him and growing heavy. “’ll hold y’to it.”
Hand sliding up and down Crowley’s smooth back, Aziraphale murmured his agreement and followed Crowley into sleep.
1 If current evidence was to be believed, it would seem that contrary to the current pool in the bakery he did not, in fact, apply any product to it whatsoever. Aziraphale was quite delighted by this fact on a number of fronts, as he was now free to play with this luxurious hair at his leisure and Newt and Anathema now owed him fifty quid apiece
2. We-ell…they did incorporate the occasional snog and one particularly memorable lunch break back in Crowley’s office, but that hardly counted at all when one really stopped to think about it.
3 Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at Aziraphale’s, and Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays at Crowley’s. They actually did just sleep quite a few nights, staggering in, shoveling in some food, and then flopping into whoever’s bed they were gracing that night. It hadn’t been so precise in the beginning, but then Crowley let slip that Tuesday and Thursday were when the local television networked aired his Golden Girls reruns, and, well, that decided that.
4 This would be sea urchin, or more specifically sea urchin gonads. When Crowley discovered precisely what it was he had just sampled, he promptly spat it back into his napkin and loudly declared there was only one set of gonads that would be going near his mouth, thank you very much. 5
5 Aziraphale’s adorably mortified blush had been well worth the cold shoulder he had gotten for the rest of their time at the restaurant.
6 Colloquially known in modern times as the “Oh shit!” handle.
7 And conveniently located just down from the sommelier.
8 Crab for an opener, sea bass for Aziraphale, and a decadent fillet of lamb for Crowley given his disinclination for seafood.
9 A stylish piece of furniture that would, in typical circumstances, be found in a dining room but in Crowley’s apartment that did not in fact have a dining room was instead used as a catch-all for various and sundry items that found their way into the flat over time.
Did I actually footnote a footnote? Yes, yes I did.
Did I pull up photos of 1936 Bentleys to determine whether they actually do have an “oh shit” handle? Yes, yes I did.
Also, I reference Crowley’s dislike of seafood in here—this is not canon, but is something I’ve picked up through my perusal of fanfics on this site. I don’t own that idea but have happily assimilated it into my personal headcanon.
For those that care about plant symbolism, red roses are romantic love (obviously) and red carnations are passion. That’s about as far as we’ll go with flowers here, though—there are plenty of lovely flower-based fics in the fandom and I’d hate to step on their toesy-woesies.
In which Aziraphale is both stern and a cinnamon roll, and Crowley is protective af. Featuring everyone’s favorite cocktail of fluff, hurt/comfort, and a wee bit o’smut to top it off.
Oh look, actual scenes in the bakery. It only took six and a half chapters…also, a wild Gabriel appears!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Oh, shit shit shit shit shit!” Crowley swore viscously, vaulting over the baker’s table in an effort worthy of an Olympic medal, throwing himself at the oven that had been chiming incessantly for the better part of the last minute. “Those are the fucking biscuits.”
“Well then get them out before they burn,” Aziraphale yelled across the room, swiping one sleeve irritably across his brow as he frowned down at the wedding cake that was his current project. “I need some as a garnish, remember, and this cake is going out for delivery on the next hour.”
Crowley scowled. “I’m working on it, angel,” he barked, seizing the hot pad hanging on the oven handle and flinging open the door. He darted in and grabbed the rack, wrestling it out onto the bakery floor. “No, no, nope, Satan no, passable, eh, well these are alright…” He worked his way down the line, squinting at the line of trays on his rack. “Bah, over half the rack is garbage,” he declared, flicking his hair out of his face with a toss of his head.1
One long leg reached over to his rolling table, dragging it over a few feet so that he could set a pan on the metal surface. “Garbage for you,” he sang under his breath, lifting the biscuits by the underlying parchment paper and tossing them into the large round bin to his right, “and garbage for you…” The next few tray’s worth of treats went the same way, hitting the trash bag before they even had time to completely set on the tray.
“Might want to check the bag, dearest,” Aziraphale said mildly, watching the ongoing circus with his head cocked to one side, decorating bag held limply in his hand.
“What?” Crowley blinked at him, then glanced down into the rubbish bin, eyes widening as they took in the gaping hole in the bag where the still-baking cookies had melted through the plastic. “Oh, fuck, really?” He pitched the rack with the remaining biscuits into the walk-in freezer to speed up their cooling and stomped over to the supply rack, fishing out a new bag and upending the contents of the biscuit-filled bin into it.
It was about that point in time the proving cabinet decided to chime in, its high-pitched beeping clashing garishly with the whir of the stand mixer and the quiet hum of the sheeter Crowley had left running as he rushed to answer the call of the oven.
Eyes flaming2Crowley flung himself over to the proving cabinet, resting his head against the metal as he reached blindly up to turn off the alarm. “I bloody hate Saturdays,” he muttered into the cabinet. He banged his head against the door once or twice for good measure, then swing it open to pull out his rack of artisan loaves for the afternoon. “Ciabatta’s still a bit small,” he murmured, prodding it with a finger, “but quite frankly I don’t give a damn.”
Aziraphale snickered. “Quoting ‘Gone with the Wind’ to your bread, my dear?” he asked. “You truly are having a bad day.” He turned slightly so he could offer an empathetic smirk, then ducked, yelping, as a rather large wad of dough bounced off of his head and landed neatly in his container of simple syrup, splattering him with the sticky liquid.
“Really, Crowley,” he chastised loudly, shaking out his sleeve and watching distastefully as the sugary water dripped down to the counter. “Was that necessary?”
Crowley pouted. “Yes.”
Tossing his gloves in the bin, Aziraphale walked over to the sink, wringing out his shirtsleeve as best he could over the basin. “Now I’m all sticky,” he complained, nose wrinkling in distaste.
A huff of air just behind his shoulder was the only warning Aziraphale received before Crowley caught him by the elbows and spun him, pressing him back against the sink. “And that’s an issue why?” The baker leered down into his face, a smile tugging at his mouth as he raised the arm in question to his lips, tongue flickering out to trace the underside of Aziraphale’s exposed wrist.
The decorator shuddered. “Because I have work to do,” he complained weakly, nonetheless allowing Crowley free rein, thrusting his arm forward against Crowley’s lips.
Crowley hummed, lipping Aziraphale’s wrist, tongue flickering out to trail leisurely along the blue vein that stood out against his pale skin.
Aziraphale shuddered, lashes fluttering against his cheeks, a low rumble building in his throat. “Crowley,” he whined, biting his lip, “we have work to do.”
Snickering, Crowley nipped at his fingers, sucking his index finger into his mouth and laving the pad with his tongue. “You’re delectable, angel,” he murmured, ignoring Aziraphale completely as he pressed up against the other man.
“Hmph.” Aziraphale rolled his eyes and reached up with his other hand to seize Crowley by the collar, drawing his face down level with his own and crushing their mouths together. “Mmm, so are you.” He drew back, smacking his lips. “Have you been adding Baileys to your coffee already, dear?”
Crowley smirked, slipping away to retrieve his next round of dough from the mixer. “Possibly,” he threw over his shoulder, a long hank of hair falling over one eye as he blinked coquettishly. “Would take another taste to know for certain, though.”
“Maybe later,” Aziraphale demurred. He distracted himself for a moment as he washed his hands, watching the syrupy water spiral down the drain with only a small bit of regret before returning to his cake. “We do have work to do, after all.”
The door separating the kitchen from the storefront sounded with three solid knocks. There was a brief pause, and then Anathema’s face poked through the door.3
“We’re decent, you ungrateful little shit,” Crowley snarked halfheartedly, lips quirking despite himself.
“You’d better be,” Anathema sniped in return. “I’m due out the door with that damn cake in ten minutes. You done yet, blondie?”
“Nearly there, dear,” Aziraphale murmured distractedly, shifting another rose onto the cake. “Just have to add the trim at the bottom and box it up and you’ll be good to go.” He sat back and gave her a worried look. “Will you be alright setting it up? You’ll have to add the topper when you arrive.”
Anathema gave him a genuine smile.4 “I’ll be fine, darling.” Affection and amusement slid toward a more genuine concern. “Though, I would feel better if someone were to mind the shop with Newt while I’m gone. He’s great at running the register and packaging bread and confections but….he can get rather flustered with customers.”
“Think nothing of it, my dear,” Aziraphale offered gallantly. “This is my last big order for the morning, I can most certainly spare an hour or two to man the front.” His face lit up in excitement. “In fact, I relish the opportunity. I haven’t been up front for some time, it should be a delightful opportunity to interact with our customers a bit.”
Regardless of what one said about Anthony Crowley5, he had an unquestionably acute sense of foreboding, and Aziraphale’s childlike grin and the exuberant bounce of his feet were more than enough to set it off. “Oh-hh, don’t you dare,” he began, spinning on his heel to pin Aziraphale with a hard glare.
“What?” the decorator asked innocently, carefully lowering the cake into the large box he had procured from a nearby shelf for its transport.
“If I see so much as one magic trick,” Crowley threatened, raising a finger, eyes narrowed, “then—“
Anathema’s eyebrows shot up behind her glasses. “Magic trick?” she cooed, all but vibrating with ill-repressed interest. “Now that has a story behind it or I’m a monkey’s uncle.”
“Well you do have a bit of a banana fixation,” Crowley muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
Anathema threw a box of gloves at his head.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Aziraphale closed his eyes. “Will you two behave?” he asked. “Anathema, dear, you need to get this on the road. Crowley, dear, you need to get that bread cut up before it starts channeling its inner witch and tries to defy gravity.”
“And you need to not try to pull coins out of people’s ears,” Crowley muttered defiantly under his breath, returning his attention to the bread he was scoring.
“Someone’s been to the theater lately,” Anathema sang, obediently loading the box onto a cart and wheeling it toward the back door. “Let me bring my car around and we’ll get her loaded up, and I’ll be off.” There was the brief sound of a scuffle as she passed Crowley and he attempted to shove a wad of dough down the back of her shirt in retaliation for the gloves.
Once the heavy door had swung shut behind her for the final time, baker and decorator exchanged a long glance.
“Such a pleasant girl,” Aziraphale finally said fondly, breaking the silence. “I do hope you pay her for her troubles.”
Crowley’s eyebrows shot up. “Troubles?” he asked incredulously. “She’s got it made, angel. Mind the shop, get people what they want, get us good PR, and get paid quite handsomely indeed. What troubles are there in that?”
“She puts up with you on a regular basis, and has for much longer than most.”
“You put up with me on a daily basis,” Crowley replied, affecting what on a lesser man might be called a pout.
“Yes, and I am rewarded quite…handsomely for my troubles.” It was absolutely criminal for Aziraphale’s voice to drop the way that it did. A shiver ran the length of Crowley’s spine, the movement not going unnoticed. “Finish your bread, darling, and get those pastries in the oven, and I’ll see if I can’t make it back here in time for…lunch.” Aziraphale’s bright smile should have been criminal.
Gulping, Crowley bobbed his head in agreement. He regained just enough awareness to offer his love’s back a firm expression. “Remember, sales only, no magic.”
“Pish tosh,” Aziraphale waved a flippant hand back toward the kitchen as he disappeared through the door. “I think I know what I’m doing.”
Aziraphale most certainly did not know what he was doing.
Oh, he was good enough with people, could converse and hold civil conversation and sell baked goods to individuals from all walks of life. But, he also had spent the better part of the last few years working in the background with cakes and confections, and cakes and confections were inarguably much better conversationalists than most humans. Icing couldn’t argue, fondant couldn’t offer attitude, and fudge most certainly didn’t attempt to haggle on set prices when the true value was posted multiple times right in front of its face.
“This is exhausting,” the decorator gasped during a lull in the crowds, sharing a despairing look with Newt as the two men sagged back against the counters.
“You’re telling me,” Newt replied. “At least you can talk to people without stammering. I get tongue-tied every time.”
Aziraphale shrugged. “People are people,” he replied, “although some of these people seem a bit more quarrelsome than others.”
Newt snorted. “Got it in one, mate,” he replied, hopping over the counter to clean a sprawling smudge of fingerprints from the display case.
The bright tinkle of the bell at the door brought them both to attention, and Aziraphale straightened, drawing himself up to his full height and squaring his shoulders, plastering a fake smile on his face. “Welcome,” he said, turning toward the door, “how may we—“
His breath left him in a sharp gasp, leaving him winded and staggering. “Gabriel,” he choked out, flinging out a hand to seize the corner of the counter in a desperate attempt to ground himself. “Sandalphon. What a…pleasant surprise.”
The two newcomers couldn’t have been more out of place in the shop, their starched off-white suits and plastic smiles almost obscene against the bakery’s welcoming interior.
“Aziraphale,” the taller of the two boomed, sweeping into the bakery’s shop with the other man following closely in his wake. “How wonderful to see you again.”
Aziraphale took a series of deep breaths and tried not to feel as though he had just been punched in the gut. “Gabriel,” he replied, mustering a farce of a smile, “What brings you here?” He was quite proud that his voice only very slightly wavered.
“Bit of business, you know how it is.” Gabriel stopped just before the counter, rocking back on his well-polished heels and crossing his arms at his back. “I hope I find you well, brother?”
“I—well—yes, of course,” Aziraphale stammered, eyes wide and darting frantically around the shop.
Newt gulped audibly and began edging back around the counter, surreptitiously making a beeline for the back door.
Gabriel ignored him, his attention focused wholly on the man in front of him. “I’ll give it to you simply, Aziraphale,” he said, leaning forward and resting his palms on the counter. “We need you back. You’ve played this ‘decorator’ game long enough. We let you have your fun, cut you loose for a while and let you stretch your wings, but it’s time to come back home where you belong.”
Frowning, Aziraphale took a step back, hands twining nervously together before him. “No, no, I rather think not,” he blustered, looking down before forcing his eyes up to Gabriel’s. “I’m quite happy here doing what I do, there’s no need for me to get back in the family business.”
Sandalphon grimaced in the background. “We need you, little brother,” he choked out, mouth twisted as though he had swallowed a particularly sour lemon. “Mother is stepping down, and we need all hands on deck to keep the corporation running smoothly.”
“I—“ Aziraphale floundered, his determination slipping at the mention of their mother. “How is she?” He shook his head, forcing his thoughts to stop spinning. “No, no, don’t—we said all we needed to say when I left—and when you told me good riddance.” Eyes flinty, he met Gabriel’s glare with one of his own. “I’m staying here, and that’s that.”
There were some things that Gabriel—tall, athletic, good-looking Gabriel—excelled at. Looming intimidatingly was one of them. He straightened to his full height and leveled his most severe glare at the other man. “And what does this place,” he sneered disparagingly, giving the shop an almost cursory glance of disgust, “have to offer that a multi-million dollar corporation, in which you have nearly a quarter share, does not?”
Lips thinning, Aziraphale cocked his head as though considering a reply. “Well,” he said slowly, “it doesn’t have you, for one.”
Gabriel’s eyes flashed. “Listen, you ungrateful brat,” he snapped, “we made you what you are. You had everything growing up, and you turned your back on it all for, what—this? Some small-time, barely-famous bakery where you work more hours than you don’t in a week and waste away days of your life cloistered away from the world? You could have it all if you just come back home—fame, fortune, your family.”
Aziraphale gave him a small, sad smile. “I already do,” he said softly, head tilting just slightly toward the back room.
“Oooh, he’s in love, Gabriel,” Sandalphon cooed, smirking. “I’d know that look anywhere. Remember Oscar? And Vincent?”
Flushing, Aziraphale mustered his sternest expression. “My personal life is none of your business,” he declared, “especially seeing how it no longer involves you.” Unknowingly, his eyes softened as he continued, “and if you think those flings were love, well, you clearly wouldn’t know love if it slithered out from behind a rock and bit you in the ass.”
His internal Crowley6 snickered and gave him a mental high-five.
There was a beat of silence before, lightning-quick, Gabriel lunged forward and seized Aziraphale by the collar, turning the light fabric of his shirt down just enough to expose the purple bruise lingering at his collarbone. “Clearly it’s been biting you,” the older man jeered unforgivingly. “Although why, I couldn’t say, soft as you are.”
Wrenching away from Gabriel’s grasp, Aziraphale ducked his head under the pretense of straightening his shirt, but not before he could completely hide the flash of hurt in his eyes.
“Maybe I am soft,” he muttered at the floor. “What’s it matter?”
“Nothing whatsoever,” a low voice purred, coiling out from the kitchen door and oozing out into the main room of the shop. “And I happen to like soft—love it, even.” Crowley slipped from the kitchen to settle into place at Aziraphale’s side, lacing their fingers together and giving them a gentle squeeze. “Alright, angel?” he asked, and Aziraphale couldn’t help but smile back at him, offering a slight nod in reply.
Squeezing his hand once more, Crowley allowed his arm to slip higher, wrapping possessively around Aziraphale’s waist and drawing him into his chest. “Good.” His amber eyes flashed dangerously. “Now, who they hell are these pricks, and why are they still in my shop?”
Gabriel’s eyes narrowed at the obvious challenge. “We,” he blustered, “are his brothers. We are here to collect him and bring him back home so that he can resume his role in the family business.”
“Family business?” Crowley mouthed, raising an eyebrow and looking down his nose at Aziraphale.
The decorator offered a resigned shrug. “Global intelligence software,” he muttered, lips canting into a half-smile. “We all have our sordid pasts, dearheart.”
Crowley pursed his lips and nodded in acknowledgement. “Fair enough, angel.” He gave him a Look. “You want to go with them?”
Aziraphale snorted. “Oh, hell no.”
“Right,” Crowley replied, nodding. “Get out.” All traces of humor evaporated from his voice as he stared down the bridge of his nose at the two other men, who had been standing in rather amazed silence throughout the duration of their exchange. The welcoming air of the shop grew icy, an undercurrent of abject dislike roiling through the room. “You’re not welcome here, and if you stick around any longer I’ll call the police.” His lips twitched. “They have an excellent response time to disturbances here,7 and I would truly hate to put that to the test, wouldn’t you? It would be quite the scandal for some big-time execs such as yourselves to get shunted off to prison, even temporarily.”
Gabriel and Sandalphon exchanged a look. “This was your last chance, Aziraphale,” Gabriel decreed, spreading his hands wide. “Up until now we’d kept your shares open, kept your spot on the board reserved—you turn your back now and there is nothing left for you with this family.”
Taking a deep breath, Aziraphale placed his hand on Crowley’s where it was curled around his arm. “Fine by me,” he replied, eyes steady as they met his brothers’. “From the way I see it, there wasn’t anything left for me there anyway.”
Tension crackled in the air until finally Gabriel gave one final, sharp nod and spun on his heel. “Right. My people will be in touch within the week about buying your shares.” He swept from the bakery without another word, Sandalphon hot on his heels, the door banging shut behind them.
Silence descended on the bakery, hanging low and heavy and coating the remaining duo in its sticky embrace.
It was Crowley who finally broke the silence, pressing a tender kiss to Aziraphale’s temple and giving him a gentle squeeze. “You okay, angel?” he asked, voice rasping in his throat.
“No, not as much,” Aziraphale said, sagging back into Crowley’s arms as all of the tension and adrenaline fled his body. His shoulders shook, and he kept his head down, pressing a broad hand to his face.
Crowley bit his lip so hard it bled, glaring daggers at the for to the shop and reciting the alphabet backwards in three different languages so that he didn’t launch himself over the counter and rush out after Gabriel.
“Newt,” he snapped, casting a desperate glance around for the timid young man.
“H—Here,” he replied, raising a shaky hand from his corner.
Fingers combing gently through Aziraphale’s fair hair, Crowley offered Newt a nod. “Thank you.”
Newt’s eyes flew open. “You’re…you’re welcome.”
Drumming the fingers of his free hand on the counter, Crowley checked the clock on the wall. “Can you keep the shop open for a while? I’m going to close up in the back, so when you run out of stuff to sell up here just close her up for the day.” He drew Aziraphale closer, holding the other man protectively against him. “We’re done here.”
Nodding in agreement as he looked at Aziraphale, Newt offered a salute. “Consider it done, boss,” he replied, and Crowley couldn’t help but be a spot proud at how serious the younger man sounded.
“Right.” Arms resting lightly at his shoulders, Crowley ushered Aziraphale back into the kitchen, settling him at the decorator’s station as he fluttered around the kitchen, stowing bread dough and flinging things haphazardly into coolers. He was halfway through staring daggers at the baking pastries in the oven—as though he could will them to bake faster simply through the force of his glare—when Anathema burst through the back door, hair plastered to her face and glasses askew.
“Newt phoned,” she exclaimed, “and how dare those bastards?! Cake was fine, by the way, but seriously, what asshats.” She wove her way over to Crowley’s side, muscling him away from the oven. “Get out of here, you dolt, and go take care of your man. I can finish closing up shop back here.”
It was a measure of how concerned Crowley was that he barely even argued, simply offering her a perfunctory nod and a squeeze of the shoulder before he swept Aziraphale up and around to the back.
The other man had remained silent the entire time, face a motionless mask. Only the flicker of his eyes betrayed him, a whirlwind of emotions churning behind his otherwise glass-like facade. He shook as though cold, trembling beneath Crowley’s hands despite the relative warmth of the humid bakery.
That was enough to make up Crowley’s mind. “Hngh, okay.” he muttered, steering Aziraphale to the back of the office. “Up we get.”
It was a little-known secret that Crowley in fact owned the entire flat located above the bakery as well. He had long since kept his plant collection up there; he had hallways of succulents and indoor ferns, an entire room of insectivorous foliage, and a veritable garden of crotons, calathea, and cacti in what would have otherwise been the kitchen.
It was an even lesser known fact that he had secretly been converting it into a somewhat livable space the last few months, for those rare days when he and Aziraphale couldn’t be bothered to make it to a horizontal surface after the close of the workday.
This particular Saturday, though, he was just grateful to have it as an escape.
“Up we get, angel, there we go.” Step-by-step, Crowley guided Aziraphale up to the flat, drawing him into the recently-furnished bedroom and settling him on the plush queen mattress. “Right. What do you need? Something to eat, something to drink?” He hovered, hands fluttering uselessly in the air as he dithered by Aziraphale’s side.
“No, I—“ Aziraphale’s face wrenched into a helpless expression, shoulders sagging. “Just you,” he whispered, passing a hand across his brow.
Crowley was already toeing out of his boots, kicking them to the side and tossing his tie after them. The mattress dipped as he settled into place, sliding beside Aziraphale and drawing him back against his chest, hands dancing tenderly through wisps of his hair. “You have me, Aziraphale,” he breathed into the top of his head, hands sliding to wrap around the other man’s solid chest and hold him tightly against him. “For as long as you want me, you have me.”
Silence crept across the room, punctuated only by an occasional sniffle from Aziraphale and Crowley’s deep, rhythmic breaths.
They’d shared snippets of their pasts, each well aware that there were things in each that were best left behind, never pressing, never pushing, content only to take what was offered. Crowley knew next to nothing about Aziraphale’s family, only that they were not on speaking terms and that he had walked away from them some long years before.
Clearly, it went just a bit farther than that.
He didn’t press, though, content to simply sit with his lover’s back to his chest, hands carding soothingly through his hair, offering the constant, comforting support of his presence.
“We were incredibly close growing up.” Aziraphale said softly some time later, lifting his head from where it had fallen to Crowley’s shoulder. “Despite everything now, at one point we were the best of friends. We just….grew apart, valued different things, loved different things, different people—“ He shifted, turning until his face was pressed into Crowley’s neck, tight enough that the other man could feel the flutter of his lashes and rasp of his lips against his skin as he spoke.
“Oh angel,” Crowley croaked, hand smoothing up and down his back in a steady pattern. He felt Aziraphale’s lips turn up in the semblance of a watery smile.
“I left, of course,” he continued matter-of-factly. “Mother begged me not to—she loves me still, but she loves us all and has the company to think of—but if I couldn’t be myself what good was it to stay?” He squeezed Crowley’s waist, shifting slightly in his lap. “And it brought me to you, so I cannot doubt and regret too much, can I?”
Fabric rustled as Aziraphale shifted, uncurling himself and stretching upward, leaning up toward Crowley like a long-dormant plant climbing toward the sun. One hand rose of its own accord to caress that thin cheek, thumb flicking out to trace Crowley’s plush lower lip before drawing him down into a gentle kiss. It was less a true kiss and more a sharing of space, the brush of lips and the exchange of air as they hovered, fleetingly, against one another.
Something crackled in the air, a live wire left ungrounded, a current left free of constraint and simply waiting for a single catalyst to cut it loose—
—the dam broke, and then Aziraphale was moving, frantic, fluid, fingers rising to Crowley’s throat and tripping along the long line of buttons along his chest. “Want—need—“ He floundered, words failing him, and instead tipped his head up, hazel eyes a brilliant blue in the current light and overflowing with desire.
“Anything,” Crowley breathed, dipping down to catch him in a kiss, slaking his thirst as he drank from Aziraphale’s lips. As those skittering fingers finally reached the bottom of his shirt, he shrugged out of the garment, flinging it across the room to land on a rather disgruntled-looking philodendron.8 His own hands rose in turn, fiddling briefly with Aziraphale’s buttons before simply ripping the blasted thing off. “Have I ever been patient?” he murmured against his lover’s lips, kissing away the irate response he could feel forming.
Aziraphale squirmed in his lap, hands gripping Crowley’s narrow hips as he ground down against those sinfully-tight trousers, his legs wrapping around Crowley’s back. “No,” he gasped in reply. He pressed his cheek to Crowley’s chest, feeling the rapid thump of his heart beneath his ear, a fierce staccato of beats that sounded out a rhythm for him and him alone. Fingers dancing higher, he skimmed his hands along Crowley’s ribs, leaning up another inch to trace his tongue around one nipple, smiling against Crowley’s chest as he felt the other man shudder. “Mine,” he breathed.
Crowley’s head thudded back against the headboard of the bed. “Yours,” he gasped in agreement, throat convulsing as he swallowed. His hands flew down to Aziraphale’s belt, sliding it off and discarding it, before undoing the front of his trousers. “Lean back a bit, angel,” he urged, shimmying the khaki garment down his legs, pausing briefly to mouth at the obvious bulge tenting Aziraphale’s pants.
Then the world turned briefly upside-down and he was on his back again, Aziraphale working down the fly of his trousers with his teeth, and—
“—oh fuck, that is the hottest thing I’ve ever seen,” Crowley exclaimed, writhing as Aziraphale forced the tight slacks down and off. He whimpered slightly as the other man slid back up along his lower body, pausing here and there to suck lightly at a spot on his mile-long legs, tongue flickering out to trace that spot just behind Crowley’s kneecap that never failed to make him tremble.
“May I?” Aziraphale asked, pausing as he reached Crowley’s pants, and without thinking Crowley buried his hands in that shock of moonlit hair.
“As though you ever have to ask, love,” he replied, serious even as Aziraphale’s hands danced and dipped along the waistband of his pants.
One smooth slide of fabric and they were gone, and Aziraphale’s mouth was hot around his cock, tongue curling around the shaft as he worked his way from head to base and back. He sucked briefly, tongue tracing Crowley’s slit, before shifting forward and taking him all the way in, hollowing his cheeks and humming.
Crowley gasped, eyes hazy with lust as he looked down at the blond head between his legs, the sight of Aziraphale’s pink lips wrapped around his cock obscene. His hands clenched briefly in that mop of silver hair, holding him in place but not directing, letting Aziraphale set the pace.
The decorator withdrew with a wet pop, tongue darting out to chase a trail of saliva from his lips, and then Crowley was surging forward, leonine, seizing Aziraphale and pinning him to the bed, claiming his lips and thrusting his tongue through the gap offered by Aziraphale’s gasp, chasing every taste of himself within his lover’s mouth.
“Tell me what you need,” he gasped into Aziraphale’s neck, grinding down against his thigh and causing them both to shudder. “Anything, everything—“
Gripping his shoulders, Aziraphale looked up at him, eyes luminous and slightly hesitant. “Would you—that is—“ He paused, blushing. “Would you fuck me?”
Crowley’s eyes flew wide open—this they hadn’t done before— and then narrowed, overtaken by lust. “Your wish is my command,” he replied, only the slight tremors in his hands where they pinned Aziraphale’s shoulders betraying his nervousness at this unexpected turn.
“That is—-you don’t have to,” Aziraphale said bashfully, flushing beneath Crowley’s heated gaze. “I know we usually—“
Crowley cut him off with a bruising kiss. “Believe me, you do not have to convince me,” he murmured, punctuating his words with a sharp jerk of his hips.
Aziraphale gave a high-pitched gasp and nodded, then reached down to shimmy out of his own pants.
Reaching over to the bedside table with one long arm, Crowley retrieved a tube of lube, slicking his fingers before shifting to nudge Aziraphale’s legs apart. “You’ll let me know if I go too quickly?” he asked, tracing one elegant finger around Aziraphale’s puckered hole.
Aziraphale jerked his head in assent. “Just need to feel you,” he ground out, shifting his legs even wider, “know you’re real, know you’re there, will always be there.” He gasped as Crowley’s finger entered him, squirming slightly as he adjusted to the intrusion, body flickering with the first gentle flames of sensation that flared into a full-grown fire as Crowley added another digit, teasingly working him open.
“Alright, angel?” he asked, brow furrowed in concentration, gaze clouded with lust and utter adoration as he watched Aziraphale squirm beneath him.
The other man gasped, futility seeking more friction as he ground down on his lover’s fingers. “Crowley,” he gasped, head tossing back and forth on the pillows, his hazy eyes lifting to pin Crowley in place, “shut up and fuck me.”
Those thin lips curved into a wicked smile, and Crowley withdrew his fingers, running a slick hand down his cock and moaning lightly at the sensation. “Your wish is my command, love,” he panted, lining himself up and pushing in. It was slow, torturously so, as he worked his way in, losing as much ground as he gained while he gradually eased his way in. Finally fully sheathed, he just sat, still and silent, overwhelmed by sensation. It was heaven, this feel of his lover wrapped around him so completely, a part of him in a way no other being could even come close to matching. “Angel,” he whispered reverently, smoothing a lock of hair from Aziraphale’s forehead.
Reaching up blindly, Aziraphale caught him by the back of the neck and pulled his head down, hips jerking upward as he panted into Crowley’s mouth. “Move,” he punctuated the command with another roll of his hips, and they both gasped as the motion triggered over-sensitized nerve endings and sent waves of pleasure rolling through them. “Make me feel, Crowley.”
And who was Crowley to resist?
Bracing himself on his forearms, he rolled his hips forward, beginning a moderate, driving rhythm. Panting, he pressed his forehead against Aziraphale’s, brushing his nose across his lover’s before peppering his cheeks with kisses, a hank of sweaty red hair slipping down to dangle between them.
Aziraphale’s hands shot up and buried themselves in the bright tresses, curling and knotting and tugging just this side of painful.
Crowley gasped and jerked, hips snapping forward and hitting that particular spot within Aziraphale, who opened his mouth in a silent gasp and shifted, clenching around Crowley as he drove himself again and again against his lover’s cock.
“You are everything, Aziraphale,” Crowley told him, breath hitching as he brought them together again and again, using every bit of skill and finesse he possessed to bring Aziraphale to as much pleasure as he could. “You are smart and sweet and kind and—oh—“ He paused, chest heaving, sweat sliding to dangle tantalizingly at the tip of his nose, feeling the brilliant stirrings of his orgasm. “You are my entire world, angel, and I can’t imagine a life without your light.” He canted his hips, hand slipping between them to stroke Aziraphale’s cock, matching the deft motion with the rapid cadence of his hips.
Aziraphale quivered beneath him, awash in the dual pleasures Crowley was enacting, his lips parting in an exultant ‘o’ as he felt his orgasm take him. “Crowley, oh—I—“ He shuddered, gripping Crowley’s shoulders, pressing their chests together as tightly as physics would allow, his hips stuttering and jerking as Crowley wrung every last bit of pleasure from him.
“I know, angel—“ Crowley gasped, “Me too.” He drove home one final time, hips snapping home against the cushion of Aziraphale’s padded hips as he released, filling Aziraphale to the brim. Exhausted, he slumped forward, forehead grazing Aziraphale’s throat as they both gasped for air. “That was—“ He shook his head, overcome, and gathered enough strength to scoot up the remaining few inches and slide his lips gently across Aziraphale’s. “You are loved,” he murmured, against those flushed pink lips, “so many, and by none so much as me.” Ever so slowly, he slid out of Aziraphale, who keened softly at the loss. “C’mon, angel, let’s get you cleaned up, and then we can cuddle.”
Later that afternoon, they sat tucked up together in bed and ignoring the world at large, Crowley spooned up behind Aziraphale and tracing constellations across the freckles of his back. “I mean it, you know,” he professed, dipping his head down to follow the lines carved out by his fingers with his tongue. “I love you, desperately, so much that it terrifies me.” He pressed his face into the nape of Aziraphale’s neck. “I need you, Angel, and I’m not supposed to need anyone.”
Squirming and twisting so that they were face-to-face, Aziraphale offered him that glowing, beatific smile that had so captured his attention that very first day, curling his index finger around a loose strand of Crowley’s hair. “And I love you, my dear,” he confided, grinning like it was some big secret just between the two of them. “Painfully, terribly, wonderfully—how I feel about you will never change, unless perhaps to grow even stronger.”
Crowley sniffed loudly and gave a watery chuckle, tugging the other man close and tucking him under his chin and pretending that he most certainly was not wet around the eyes. “Shaddup,” he rumbled, throat vibrating against Aziraphale’s cheek. “Didn’t I wear you out enough already?”
Aziraphale’s heart swelled and he let out a pealing laugh of his own, snuggling close and curling his arms around Crowley’s waist. “Oh most certainly not, dearest, this is just the beginning.”
He didn't just mean the afternoon, but, Crowley thought, grinning happily into the messy whorl of Aziraphale's hair, that was quite alright with him.
1 He had been growing it out the last two months after Aziraphale had let slip that he had a bit of a thing for running his hands through Crowley’s hair and currently had it stuck in that awkward in-between phase where it was still too short to put up but too long to stay out of his face.
2 Aziraphale had managed to convince Crowley a few weeks ago that his sunglasses were a bit redundant when it was just the two of them in the kitchen every day.
3 She insisted on “protecting her innocence” and had developed a series of coded knocks before entering the kitchen. One knock was a question and without a response would go without a follow-up. Two knocks indicated some urgency and typically meant ‘get your shit together’. Three knocks was a flat “I’m coming in no matter what sort of inappropriate shenanigans you are currently engaged in.”
4 Crowley had accused her of flirting with his lover, insisting that he never received anything but smirks and sarcasm from his employee. Her response had been to wrap her arms around Aziraphale’s middle and offer Crowley her middle finger behind his back while she grinned into the decorator’s shoulder.
5 “Smarmy, snarky, sarcastic son of a bitch.” “Asshole.” “Flash bastard.” “Terrifying” “Extremely talented baker but really—” “Delectable.” “Awkwardly adorable.” “Lovely.”
(admittedly, those last few were Aziraphale)
6 A phenomenon that had been occurring on a rather alarmingly frequent basis as of late
7 In no small part thanks to the inordinate amount of doughnuts Crowley slipped their way each morning. There was a lot to be said for a little bit of harmless bribery.
8 The only plant in the room, it was beginning to feel decidedly voyeuristic.
Well, THIS ran away from me.
One line was shamelessly taken and (very) slightly modified from Doctor Who…can you find it?
As always, thank you SO very much for all the wonderful comments; they absolutely make my day!!
And, enter the obligatory holiday chapter!
Sorry about the extra week in between chapters. I was ill for a few days, and then was busy goofing off at conventions and doing fun little things like meeting David Tennant (albeit briefly).
So, yeah, writing took a backseat for a few days but now I’m back!
Thank you all again for all the wonderful comments! They keep popping into my inbox when I least expect them and just make my day!
“Wedding cake, wedding cake, quinceañera, birthday, office party—fuck I hate the holidays.” Crowley paged idly through the stack of order forms in the Friday box, his eyes rapidly scanning quantity and event as he shuffled them into one of two piles on the white decorator’s table. “Wedding cake, ooh, ha! —they want four tiers and cupcakes, have fun with that, angel—another office party and shit, they want custom bread.”
He muttered darkly, flipping the innocuous form down onto the smaller of the two piles. “That makes three extra mixes for my rolls, another twenty pounds of sourdough I have to make, and ten fucking loaves of candy cane bread. Why did I even decide to promote that god-damned monstrosity?”
Aziraphale chuckled, picking up his designated order stack and flipping through it himself. His neatly-manicured nails were a sharp contrast to Crowley’s, which were currently bitten down to the nub.1“Perhaps because kitschy holiday gimmicks sell?” he suggested idly, arching one delicate pale eyebrow. “I seem to recall you raving about this very same bread just the other day, called it your ‘greatest moneymaking scheme of the year’, did you not?”
Crowley sneered. “That was last week, angel, this is today when people are actually ordering the stuff.”
“Oh, suck it up and start your mixes.” Aziraphale spared him no pity, scattering his multitude of orders across the table and beginning to meticulously sort them by time. There were far more than one decorator wanted to even attempt within the span of a single day, but, well, that was what he had signed on for, was it not? Sighing, he shuffled them back in order and spun to start fishing the corresponding cake layers out of the frozen stash they had prepped the weekend prior.
There was a beat or two of silence in which Crowley allowed himself the illusion of a smooth-sailing day, and then—
“Erm…” Aziraphale’s tousled blond head popped back around the door of the freezer. “Crowley, dearest….”
That tone of voice never brought good news. “What?” he groaned, all hopes neatly evaporating as he braced himself for the worst.
Aziraphale’s tongue darted out to wet his lips and he drummed his fingers on the heavy metal doorframe. “Remember two days ago when we took that last-minute order for an emergency anniversary cake that the Much Adough2messed up?”
“No no no no nooooo, the red velvet!” Crowley moaned, gripping his hair and spinning to fall dramatically against the side of his massive floor mixer. “We used the last of it, didn’t we?” Anxiously, he fidgeted with the chain he wore around his neck. “Aaah, okay, alright, we’ve got this, I’ll make more.” Lightning-quick, he darted into the walk-in cooler and emerged with an armful of butter, eggs, and milk. “How many layers do you need, Aziraphale?” Before the other’s name had even completely crossed his lips he was on the move again, not waiting for an answer and instead flitting over to the dry shelves and pulling cocoa, cake flour, baking powder and his other sundry ingredients. The salt he doled out of his bulk bin used for his bread baking, quickly whipping up a large, gooey mass of batter in the much-maligned stand mixer he kept stashed along his own table for just this sort of emergency.
Quickly, Aziraphale paged through his stack of pink slips. “Looks like ten nine-inch rounds,” he read off, “four nine-inch square, and two half sheet.”
“Done.” Once riled, Crowley was all business, sliding seamlessly from the overly dramatic persona he tended to adopt into the baker the rest of the world knew him as. He set out the pans and dished out the batter, tipping his head down to stare slantwise at them to gauge the level of batter. One satisfied nod later and they were rolling toward the oven on a tall rack, the donuts and other early-morning treats pushed to the side in deference to the more pressing emergency of the moment.
“Thank you ever so much, my dear,” Aziraphale gushed, reemerging from the freezer once more, this time bearing a stack of cake that towered well above his head. “Let me get these set up, and just yell when those layers are ready for me.”
They worked in silence for some time, interrupted only by the periodic chime of the oven, proving cabinet, or a mixer. It was often such, each finding his rhythm in the motions of the day and falling into a trancelike pattern, driven by the dull thunk of Crowley’s bench knife against his wooden table and the steady back and forth strokes of Aziraphale’s hands as he iced and assembled his cakes.
Before Aziraphale knew it, nearly an hour and a half of their morning had passed and Crowley was wheeling a now-cooled rack of cakes his way. “Cheers, angel,” he called, giving the rack an enthusiastic little push and sending it on its own way into the world with a flourish.
“Crowley!” Leaping up, Aziraphale darted forward to catch it before it went careening out of control. He made a face through the trays at his lover, sticking his tongue out and settling the rack beside his seat. “Was that really necessary, my dear?” Aziraphale asked, and then, catching himself, threw one hand into the air in warning. “—don’t answer that, it was rhetorical.”
Snickering, Crowley said nothing.
His eyes flickered to his watch and he swore. “First round is due up front in ten!” All but leaping over the baker’s table, he grabbed an armful of trays and began scooping up his danishes and pastries and donuts, arranging them in neat rows. “Muffins, muffins, where the hell did I put the muffins?” he muttered, dancing back and forth and ducking his head between pans to check each one.
“Bottom of the rack , dearest,” Aziraphale chimed, nodding even as he spun his cake on its stand to add the top border.
“Thanks, angel!” Crowley bounded up to the front, two long trays balanced precariously on each arm, and pressed a kiss to Aziraphale’s temple before sliding up to the thick door. “Anathema!” he bellowed, unceremoniously banging his head against the door, “Come get your crap.”
A string of expletives sounded from the other side of the door. “Hold your horses, you ass, I’m coming.” There was a series of bangs and one dull ‘thud’ and then the door slid open to admit a wild-eyed Anathema. She all but leapt across the threshold, scooping her bounty from Crowley’s grasp and dancing back up front with it. “They’re already lining up,” she threw back over her shoulder, “so you’d better get back on it!”
He sighed, pausing to ruffle Aziraphale’s hair on his way back to his bread. “Once more into the fray, angel.”
Huffing out a laugh, the decorator slid the cake from its stand with a flourish, already turning to throw out a veritable army of cupcake containers and begin stuffing them with an array of un-iced desserts. “At least this, too, shall pass,” he replied cheekily, hands dancing as he counted out cupcakes, dropping the last one in place with a flourish and grabbing an icing bag bursting with crimson buttercream.
“Could pass faster,” Crowley grumped, cracking a grin despite himself as Aziraphale performed an odd little dance around his station while he iced his cupcakes.
“Oh, shut up and bake.” Aziraphale chucked a cupcake at him, the vibrant red icing painting a garish brown streak across Crowley’s deep emerald shirt as it made contact.
“Oy, what was that for?” Crowley yelped indignantly, lips curling in distaste as he prodded the gooey spot. “That’s disgusting, angel.” He grabbed a towel and ran it under the sink, scooping the worst of the mess into the trash bin and dabbing at the rest. “You owe me dinner for that one.”
Aziraphale chortled, dabbing a bit more red paste into his bucket of buttercream. “Behave the rest of the day and I’ll cover dessert as well.”
They both knew he was not speaking of actual food.
Eyebrows rocketing skyward, Crowley drew a finger across his lips and made a locking motion, tossing the imaginary key behind him. “Consider me behaaaved,” he drawled, loping over to answer the oven’s insistent chime.
That lasted all of three hours.
Anathema reappeared just before lunchtime, beaming and dragging a cart behind her. “Load me up, boys, time for the mid-day rush!” She paused, opened her mouth, closed it, and sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Crowley, why are you not wearing a shirt?”4
“Hmm?” Crowley turned from the proving cabinet, cocking his head. “Oh, this old thing?” He pinched the dark grey fabric of the undershirt between two fingers. “Somebody saw fit to pollute my dress shirt with an overly-saccharine, gooey glob of buttercream.”
“Please tell me that is a literal statement and not a euphemism for something that most certainly violates multiple health codes.” Anathema was neither blind nor stupid, and would have had to have been both to miss the two mirroring marks that stood out starkly against the pale skin above Crowley’s collarbones.
Aziraphale twittered out a laugh, trying and failing to hide his grin as he ferociously airbrushed his current two-tiered order.
“Wha—no, you ridiculous woman, I’m being literal. He threw a fucking cupcake at me!”
“So?” Anathema crossed her arms. “It’s the season for giving, after all, and I know Aziraphale always gives as good as he gets.” She tutted. “Whatever happened, you deserved it.”
Crowley spluttered indignantly for a moment and then regained control of himself, a smirk slinking across his face as he peered down at her through his omnipresent glasses. “Maybe I did, and maybe I didn’t.” He took another step closer, his teeth flashing. “But do let me say that I will return it in kind.”
Anathema sighed. “We’ve talked about the blatant innuendos during work hours,” she chided, cutting a disappointed look at Aziraphale. “You’re each as bad as the other.” Rubber soles squeaking, she prowled over to the rack where Crowley’s recent bakes were cooling. “Speaking of giving,” she segued, shoving her cart at him, “give me all of the afternoon bread and baked goods. My people are piling up out there.” She crossed her arms, pinning him in place with her glare and tapping her toe irritably.
Crowley threw his hands in the air. “Needy needy. All you ever do is pester me for bread. Is that all I’m good for nowadays?”
Aziraphale’s half-formed witty retort died in his throat as a ferocious ‘bang’ resonated from the door, which shuddered and then slid open to admit a harried-looking Newt. “Look,” he snapped, irritably rubbing the lump forming on his forehead, “can you cut out the chit chat and just send the fucking bread up? I’m getting mobbed and I’d prefer to actually make it through the holidays alive, thanks.”
Seeing her opportunity, Anathema quickly gathered her bounty and fled for the door, pausing briefly to seize Newt by the shoulders and dip him into a searing kiss before dragging him back out to the front.
Crowley raised his eyebrows and exchanged a long look with Aziraphale.“Well, that was a thing.”
And the day had only just begun.
It was a whirlwind of nightmares, one after the next, a messy trail of orders winding and corkscrewing through the course of the day. The vicious onslaught did not relent until afternoon bled into evening-turned-night, the sun having long since set by the time Crowley and Aziraphale cast themselves out of the bakery and into the crisp darkness of early December.
“Hnnngh.” Crowley let his head fall forward with a dull thunk against the unforgivingly cold metal of the back entrance of Aziraphale’s little bookshop. “Is it January yet?” He let himself rest there for a moment, not a bit of his body that wasn’t aching, and groaned again. “Or, better yet, spring?”
Equally cold fingers curled up into his hair, threading through the locks that now fell to his mid-back and gently massaging his scalp. “Afraid not, my dear,” Aziraphale replied regretfully, hands slowly slipping through the flaming ribbons of Crowley’s hair down to his pocket. “We’ve a few weeks to go of this month alone.” White clouds puffed into the air with each breath shared between them as they stood shivering in the cold. Aziraphale fumbled the key into the lock, hand shaking even through his gloves.
The lines at the corners of Crowley’s eyes crinkled as he frowned. “Unfortunate, that.”
Tumblers turning, the door finally swung open and Crowley stumbled, all but falling through the doorway as he rushed into the warmth. “Blast, but it’s cold.” He peeled off his gloves with his teeth, shoving them into the back pocket of his dark pants.
“It is winter,” Aziraphale said mildly, following him inside and allowing the heavy door to swing closed behind them. Ducking in front of Crowley, turned on the light in the small hallway and started up the narrow little staircase.
“What the hell is all this?” Crowley asked from somewhere behind him, balancing the two promised takeout containers on one arm and toting his now-discarded winter coat over the other.3
“What is all what?” Aziraphale replied nonchalantly, pausing his ascent to peer down at Crowley with an expression of feigned innocence. Though the stair remained dark, the soft glow of white and multi-colored lights twinkled from the landing above, casting a cascade of colors across his fair hair and pale coat. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Eyes rolling skyward, Crowley loped up the remaining few steps, lanky legs carrying him between the narrow space dividing Aziraphale and the wall. “So your flat just randomly decided to decorate itself for the holidays, angel?” he asked drolly. “This tree just magically appeared, did it?” He snickered, depositing his armful on the coffee table and seizing a line of garland from the mantle, tossing it over his shoulders like a boa. “Look at me, being festive.” He plucked his sunglasses from his nose and sashayed back and forth across the cozy sitting room, chest puffed out and a ridiculous expression plastered on his face. “Didn’t know you went in for this tripe, Aziraphale.”
“Oh Crowley, you don’t have to be mean about it.” Aziraphale dove to rescue their food, which was teetering wildly at the edge of the table. “Is it such a bad thing to want to enjoy the holidays? It was something we used to always do at…home, before it stopped being such." Styrofoam squeaked as he fidgeted with their to-go boxes, a flash of hurt showing in his eyes before he angled them downward to study their Thai.
Suddenly Crowley’s strut wasn’t quite so much fun. He furled the garland back over the mantle, carefully tucking the string of lights he had displaced back around it with a rather chagrined curl of the fingers. “I didn’t mean it that way, sweetheart,” he soothed, swooping down beside his lover on the couch. He curved his body around the other man, nuzzling his face into the nape of his neck and and twining his arms around him. “Just never actually celebrated much myself, you know? Holidays are holidays, money is money, a day off is a day off.”
Aziraphale could feel the tensing of muscles as Crowley shrugged against his body, a delicate hitch of slender shoulders and a gentle tightening of his arms. “I never really had any reason to celebrate,” the baker mumbled, trailing off to nothing and hiding his eyes against the side of Aziraphale’s face. “No family worth mentioning since I was a wee thing, no close friends or fuzzy feelings or do-gooding on my docket.”
If his words bore more than a trace of bitterness, well, he could just chalk it up to the one hell of a terrible, horrible, no-good very bad day he had just stumbled through.
Setting his chopsticks aside, Aziraphale twisted on the couch to gather Crowley close, pulling him properly into his lap and tucking his chin atop that iron-hued hair. “Oh Crowley,” and the weight of the world sat heavily in his eyes, “you do now—you always will, now—but, if you don’t want to, we can take it all down and disregard the entire season except while we’re at work.”
Crowley shook his head, pressing himself even closer to his angel. “You obviously love it,” he denied, fingers flexing agitatedly at Aziraphale’s back, twisting and worrying the soft fabric of his shirt. Ever so slowly he drew back from where he had been plastered against Aziraphale’s front, the holiday lights twinkling brightly in the otherwise dark lenses of his glasses. “I could…give it a try, I suppose,” he finally bit off, face twisting painfully with the effort. “Make with the merry, jingle the bells, holly the jolly and all that.”
Chuckling, Aziraphale twisted slightly to retrieve his takeout container, delicately gathering some of his noodles between his chopsticks and bringing them to his lips. “You act like it’s the Apocalypse come early,” he teased, poking Crowley with one of the cheap wooden sticks. “It’s only Christmas, my dear.”
And finally, Crowley’s gloom broke, giving way to a genuine, if tentative, smile. “Bah humbug,” he intoned drolly, slithering out of Aziraphale’s lap and seizing his own dinner. He gave the decorator a sly look over the tops of his lenses, bringing a forkful of noodles to his own mouth and slurping them loudly.
“I am dating a child,” Aziraphale muttered, shaking his head sadly.
“Does that mean I get presents from Santa Claus?” Crowley replied in turn, cocking his head and grinning.
Aziraphale heaved a long-suffering sigh. “Perhaps,” he replied, drawing out the word, “if you are very, very good.”
Crowley gave one single, long blink. “I don’t do good,” he hissed lazily, eyebrows rising to kiss the soft waves of red that fell in staggered bands across his forehead. One hand reached up and grasped his sunglasses, drawing them slowly down his nose and letting them fall softly to the rug. Leaning forward so that he and Aziraphale were nose-to-nose, Crowley narrowed his golden eyes. “What if I am very, very bad?” he whispered, and oh, Aziraphale could drown in those eyes. He shuddered, one hand rising of its own accord to cradle Crowley’s jaw in the palm of his hand, thumb brushing whisper-soft across his cheek.
“Mmm, that depends.”
Crowley inhaled sharply through his nose. “On what?”
Aziraphale darted in to nip at Crowley’s lips, humming contentedly in the back of his throat. “Oh, I think you know,” he replied, shifting in one smooth motion to pin Crowley back against the couch, dinner forgotten as he anchored his shoulders down and began a ferocious assault on the blushing skin of Crowley’s neck.
Hands burying themselves in the decorator’s flyaway hair, Crowley tilted his head back as far as he could, baring his neck to allow Aziraphale greater access. “Perhaps,” he gasped, a delicious tingling thrill shooting through him at Aziraphale’s lips and teeth rasped across sensitive skin, “perhaps you could remind me anyway?” He squirmed up against the other man, seeking as much contact between them as physics would allow, legs wrapping around Aziraphale’s hips as he ground upwards.
Breathing heavily, Aziraphale caught Crowley’s wrists in a firm grasp and drew his arms up above his head, pinning them to the arm of the couch. Pink, plump lips trailed along the line of Crowley’s collarbone that peeked through the open button of his shirt, climbed higher to trail along the underside of his jaw, higher still as his tongue flickered out to trace the delicate shell of his ear.
Crowley whimpered, the layers of clothes that separated Aziraphale’s length from his own too thick to offer nearly enough friction as what he sought. “Angel,” he whined, writhing, still pinned by Aziraphale’s firm grip.
“There are still two weeks until Christmas,” Aziraphale chided, his blown-out pupils the only indication of how close he teetered on the brink of his typically stalwart self-control. His thumbs dug into the soft part of Crowley’s wrists. “It would serve you right if I just kept you here like this all night, singing Christmas carols.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
Aziraphale let out a great belly laugh. “I could, dearest, but I believe there are better things on the table this evening.”
Crowley’s eyes lit up. “On the table? Oh angel, you tempt me so.”
“Not the coffee table, it’s an antique!”
“Shaddup, you’re ruining the mood.”
Aziraphale released him and sat up, attempting to smooth his unkempt hair but instead just coaxing it into even wilder directions. “No but really, Crowley, this table goes back three generations.”
Crowley sat up beside him, his long locks in an equal state of disarray, a grumpy look of utter displeasure playing on his face. “Angel,” he whined, sing-song, “let’s just completely kill the mood, why don’t we? We don’t have to fuck on this table—or any table, although if you do want to I would definitely be game—but can you at least break the moment before I have a raging hard-on?”
Blushing, Aziraphale had the good grace to look rather abashed. “I’m sorry, my dear,” he apologized, taking Crowley’s hand. He slid a glance down to his partner’s crotch, where a very obvious bulge still strained against his rather tight trousers. His hand tiptoed along Crowley’s thigh. “I could…make it up to you. ’Tis the season for giving, after all.”
All cognizant thought promptly flew from Crowley’s head as Aziraphale flicked open the button of his trousers, lowering the zip in a slow drag as he tongued the hollow of Crowley’s throat. “So needy,” he murmured, hand sliding through the gap to palm Crowley though his pants. “So desperate, so wanting.” He shifted them, leaning back against the armrest and drawing Crowley against him, back tucked up against Aziraphale’s chest. One more deft motion had Crowley bared to the knees, his cock red and weeping for Aziraphale’s touch.
Whimpering, the baker bucked his hips, driving himself towards the hand Aziraphale held just beyond his reach.
Smirking, Aziraphale took pity on Crowley, taking his cock in his hand and swiping his thumb slowly across the slit before beginning an agonizing, leisurely assault on his aching member.
“Nnnnhgh, angel, you feel so good but I’m dying with this pace,” Crowley begged, writhing and wriggling back against Aziraphale.
The other man kept him him anchored in place with a solid arm across his chest, his other hand continuing to work Crowley into oblivion. “I don’t know,” Aziraphale hummed, slipping his hand lower and eliciting a high-pitched whine in the back of Crowley’s throat, “you seem to be quite close.” He lowered his head and nipped at the shell of Crowley’s ear, obligingly increasing the tempo of his hand around Crowley’s cock. “Teetering on the edge, no self control to speak of, just waiting for me to bring you over the edge.”
“Shit—I—Aziraphale,” Crowley bit off, eyes fluttering and chest heaving, and one sharp tooth sank into his plush bottom lip as he came, pushing through skin and drawing a bright bead of blood as he shuddered and willed his pounding heart to settle.
He barely even noticed as Aziraphale maneuvered him back against the cushions, slipping into the kitchen and returning with a towel to clean him up and tuck him back into his trousers. “What about you?” he mumbled, as Aziraphale slipped back onto the couch, wedging himself between Crowley and the back cushions and spooning up behind the lethargic baker. “You didn’t—“
Aziraphale shook his head and leaned around to kiss him, tongue darting out to sooth the ache of his punctured lip. “I’d rather just hold you tonight, my dear,” he confessed softly, tucking himself tightly around Crowley and closing his eyes. “Tomorrow will be here before we know it in all of its busy glory, and right now I want nothing more in the world than to lay here with you in my arms, ignoring the world and appreciating what we have."
“Sap,” Crowley mumbled, catching one of Aziraphale’s hands and dragging it to his mouth to skim a sleepy kiss across his palm.
“Unashamedly so.” The decorator sighed contentedly, giving Crowley a gentle squeeze. “I do love you so, my dear,” he whispered into Crowley’s mane of hair.
Crowley’s even cadence of breaths hitched, a shudder passing through him, and for a moment Aziraphale feared he had misspoke despite their having been saying the very same words for so many weeks already. But then Crowley relaxed, sinking back against him, and pressed a kiss to the wrist still resting near his mouth. “I love you too, Aziraphale,” he breathed, and it was as though no other time had ever mattered, the warmth and conviction and raw affection crammed into that single sleepy statement stripping them both bare and leaving them raw and exposed on that couch, twined together beneath the deceptively cheerful Christmas lights.
“Tomorrow?” Crowley asked some time later, on the brink of an exhausted sleep, context nonexistent and unneeded. He felt Aziraphale nod against him.
Christmas came many tomorrows later, far sooner than expected and without much to announce itself, as it is so often wont to do. The holiday eased itself onto the scene in a whirlwind of color and glitter and infernal consumerism, the twenty-fourth passing in a flourish of flour and fondant and caffeine and spiraling ever-downward into a bleak abyss of excessive hours and utter exhaustion.
“That’s the last of it, thank heavens,” Aziraphale said with no small amount of satisfaction, slamming the newly-washed tray into place on the drying rack and flipping the handle to let the water out of their industrial-sized sanitation sink. “Remind me why we are responsibly staying incredibly late and washing dishes on Christmas Eve, my dear?”
Crowley rolled his eyes, twisting his rag and flicking it at his partner, taking great delight at Aziraphale’s responding yelp. “Try Christmas Day, angel,” he drawled, crowding the decorator against the stainless steel sink, one long strand of hair slipping free from its ponytail to tangle tantalizingly in front of his face“We’re approximately, oh, five minutes into Christmas morning. And, we are here because some idiot took a late-night delivery order for a three-tier cake, eighty cupcakes, and twelve petit fours.”
He strolled over to the bin where they stowed dirty linens, tossing the rag and his quickly-shed apron with no small amount of satisfaction. “Aaah,” He shook out arms stiff from the rigors of the day, arching his back and causing the sleek fabric of his shirt to bunch around his shoulders. “Today was a day.”
“For once you are not exaggerating,” Aziraphale agreed, shucking his own apron and dropping it in a wad on top of Crowley’s. His normally impeccable uniform bore evidence of the wear and tear of the day emerald and red streaking across his sleeve near his wrist, a blotch of chocolate showing on his collar, and a smear of cream cheese resting just above his hemline.
If Aziraphale’s clothes were a skirmish, Crowley’s were a war zone. Flour and cracked and dried bread dough caked the sides of his trousers where he had agitatedly rubbed his hands, and three different flavors of pastry filling currently were vying for rent on his rolled-up sleeves. Even his pale forearms bore evidence of the day’s abuse, three thin lines marring their undersides where he had fumbled pulling a tray from the oven.
“Those look painful,” Aziraphale murmured, grasping Crowley’s wrist delicately in one hand and drawing his arm up to examine the angry marks.
Crowley waved them off with a diffident flip of his free hand. “Barely even feel them,” he said truthfully, for once not lying.5
“Even so…” Aziraphale brushed a light kiss against each of the burns, lips whispering across the afflicted skin.
“Mmm.” Crowley’s eyes fluttered closed behind his glasses, and he swayed dangerously on his feet.
Aziraphale jerked forward to catch him. “Steady on, my dear! Still have to make it home.”
Crowley started, jolting to awareness. “M’awake!” he exclaimed. A peculiar expression played at his lips and he held out one hand in invitation. “Why don’t we just spend the night upstairs?” he proposed. “I know you have your lights and tree and presents and quite a breakfast spread planned at yours, but we can always just roll in after a bit of sleep, yeah?”
Much as Aziraphale wanted to argue—he was rather an unashamed homebody when it came to any holiday—he couldn’t deny that the thought of the cold, dark walk back to his flat was terribly unappealing. “Very well,” he conceded, placing his hand in Crowley’s. “Your not-a-flat upstairs it is.”6
Lost in thought and struggling with his own exhaustion, he allowed Crowley to lead him through the office and up the darkened stair, standing patiently as Crowley opened the door and let them up into the sprawling upper level. “Oh, Crowley,” he gasped, stopping short just inside the door and gazing about in wonder. “When—how—you did all this?”
The open sitting room and kitchen had been transformed, garlands and wreathes garnishing doors and door frames, lights winkling from around the ceiling, a small Christmas village lining the mantle. Crowley’s usual collection of plants had been banished to a single corner by two of the large windows, sullen and silent as they glared across the room at the overlarge Christmas tree that had appeared along the far wall.
Without warning, Crowley swooped down and caught Aziraphale’s face between his palms, dragging his lips wetly across the decorator’s. “Merry Christmas, angel,” he said roughly, parting just long enough to take a rattling breath before claiming Aziraphale’s mouth once again, twining his arms about his shoulders and pressing his palms firmly against his sturdy back.
Aziraphale tipped his head up, hands flying to Crowley’s iron-hued hair, freeing the thick tresses from their tie and burying themselves in the fine strands at the base of his head. He tugged, pulling Crowley lower so that the angle was less awkward, thrusting his tongue into he baker’s mouth with a poorly-stifled moan. He had not expected, had not imagined, that Crowley had even remotely remembered anything about the holiday outside of their onslaught of bakery orders. After their talk so many days ago, he had remained mute for the most part on the topic, willingly subjecting himself to Aziraphale’s decor and traditions of carols and cocoa but seldom offering his own opinions.
This had taken time, planning, cunning. The garlands were good quality, the tree alive and well-watered, festooned with an assortment of gold and silver and red ornaments. There was even, if he had seen correctly before Crowley had distracted him, a cluster of…
“Mistletoe?” he asked, detaching himself from Crowley with a gasp, leaning his head back abasing the door to stare up at the ceiling above their head. His hands remained in Crowley’s hair, fiddling with the fine strands, running them through his fingers and tracing patterns against his scalp.
“Mmm,” Crowley arched his back, catlike, and butted his head into Aziraphale’s touch, twisting his neck to encourage additional petting as he plastered himself against Aziraphale. “Wouldn’t be fitting to omit it.” His golden eyes gleamed with wicked amusement. “All the better to kiss you, my love.”
Aziraphale chuckled, obligingly scratching Crowley’s scalp, a fond grin tugging at his lips as Crowley all but purred and nestled into the gap between Aziraphale’s neck and shoulder. “You know you never need a reason,” he chided, kissing Crowley’s cheek.
“Well yeeaah, but I figured with the season and all, what the hell?” With no small amount of regret, Crowley straightened, hands raising to catch Aziraphale’s and draw them down to his chest, pressing them against his heart. “Merry Christmas, Aziraphale,” he said again.
Aziraphale felt the solid, dependable beat of Crowley’s heart beneath his hands and marveled for what felt like the millionth time how he even remotely deserved to be keeper of such a delicate, invaluable treasure. “Merry Christmas, Crowley,” he murmured. He stared up at Crowley’s eyes, liquid gold in the muted light, and thought to himself that he could lose himself forever in those boundless depths.
“I know it’s unconventional, and I’ve got some gifts for you back at your place as well, but…” Crowley hedged, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth and drawing away slightly to fidget, “may I give you one now?”
And, sure enough, there was a small wrapped parcel resting under the otherwise-barren tree, a little box no bigger than Aziraphale’s fist covered in emerald paper and adorned with a gold bow.
Aziraphale opened his mouth, blinked, and then gave a jerky, stuttering nod, not trusting himself to speak without being overcome by emotion. He knew how much it had to have taken for Crowley to overcome his ingrained distaste for the holiday to do all of this, knew that Crowley would never have done any of it if it weren’t for Aziraphale.
And, it was for Aziraphale, all of it, a genuine, heartfelt effort to meet him halfway and attempt to embrace the holiday he so obviously loved.
Crowley nodded jerkily. “Right.” He swaggered over to the tree, the extra slide of his hips more from exhaustion than any concentrated effort on his part, and plucked the small package from the ground. Turning, he tossed it to Aziraphale. “Catch, angel.”
Caught unaware, Aziraphale fumbled it, bobbling it between his hands as he fought not to drop the present entirely. “Not breakable, then, I take it,” he tutted, more for something to say than out of any true desire to chastise Crowley for his manhandling.
Crowley pursed his lips. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that,” he muttered, ducking his head and watching Aziraphale from beneath the security of a thick curtain of hair.
It was a nondescript little thing, the wrapping peeling away to reveal a simple wooden box with a hinge. Opening it, Aziraphale cocked his head, reaching in to pull out a simple, nondescript key ring that bore a series of four keys.
“My flat,” Crowley said, louder than he intended, nodding at the key Aziraphale currently held pinched between his thumb and index finger. “The bakery and this flat,” he jerked his head at the second key. “The Bentley—emergencies only, mind you, not for joyrides.”
Aziraphale thought his heart might very well force its way out of his body from how it had so violently leapt to his throat as it expanded. This wasn’t just Crowley sharing his space. This was Crowley letting him in, literally and symbolically, in a manner that would seem trite by anyone else but when coming from Crowley was the most fervent, heartfelt declaration of intent to which Aziraphale had ever borne witness.
His eyes must have given him away, for Crowley surged forward and all but scooped him into his arms, cradling him tightly against his chest. “Don’t look at me like that,” he said wretchedly, voice thick in his throat, “’s not that big a deal.”
From the way he held Aziraphale to himself, though, it was clear that it was just as big a deal to him as it was to his lover.
Finally regaining some mastery over his voice, trusting himself at least marginally to not burst into affectionate tears, Aziraphale put just enough space between them to dangle the fourth key in front of Crowley’s nose. “And this one?” he asked, proud that his voice wavered only so very slightly.
Crowley’s eyes darted from side-to-side, apprehension rolling off of him in waves. “That…” He floundered for a moment, looking lost—hesitant, even—before squaring his shoulders in resolve. “You know I’ve had quite a bit of money tucked away for some time now, angel,”7
Aziraphale nodded encouragingly, knowing that if he spoke now he would likely derail Crowley entirely and reset the entire conversation.
“Well, I’ve been thinking, we don’t actually have a place that’s just ours, do we? Your flat is wonderful, but you do share it with quite a few books and customers down below. The bakery is the bakery, and much as I love it there are times where it is an absolute delight not to think about it at all. And, my flat…well, let’s just say it wasn’t getting much use even before I was spending my nights with you.”
Aziraphale still felt like he was staring down at this particular puzzle through a microscope. “And the key?” he prompted, brow furrowing.
“It’s got a little heart engraved on it, see?” Crowley directed, sidestepping the question and jingling the keys as he flicked the one in question. “Because you have it, you own it—my heart, that is. Everything that is me is yours, and…” He canted his eyes away from Aziraphale, rubbing at a spot on his nose that only he could see. “Well, you mentioned the South Downs the other month, and I thought ‘why the hell not’, and…”
It dawned on Aziraphale that perhaps standing there with his mouth gaping like a codfish was perhaps not the best response to Crowley’s stuttering attempt at an explanation.
“You bought a house?” he squeaked, flushing with embarrassment at the high pitch of his voice.
“We-ll, more of a cottage.” Crowley fidgeted, pinned in place by the white-hot, raw emotion that radiated from Aziraphale.
“You bought a cottage?” Aziraphale repeated himself with the correct word, rapid and breathless.
Crowley squirmed. “Yeah, but I’m sure we can return it, or…something,” he offered lamely, plastering his patented plastic expression on his face as his heart clawed its way down to his toes at Aziraphale’s lack of response.
He suddenly found himself with an armful of decorator.
“Don’t. You. Dare.” Aziraphale punctuated each word with a ferocious kiss to Crowley’s lips, yanking him down by his surprisingly festive tie8. “You bought us a cottage. A place for us. Ours.” He was all but vibrating with ill-contained joy, his love for Crowley threatening to flood out and overtake them both. “Oh, my dear, my love.” He laughed wetly, burying tear-streaked cheeks against Crowley’s soft shirt. “You sly devil.”
Crowley laughed in hoarse, startled relief. “Only the best for you, angel,” he declared, voice a low rumble against Aziraphale’s face, one broad hand rising to card through his messy blond locks. He trembled, and even now Aziraphale could feel his hesitation. “So, you like it?”
Aziraphale laughed once more, an ebullient, sparkling sound that resonated throughout the entirety of the flat. “Oh Crowley, I love it.” I love you.
It went unspoken between them, already uttered in so many different ways that to put it into mere English would almost do it a disservice.
Crowley tucked Aziraphale’s head beneath his chin, content to just hold him. “Come to bed, angel,” he invited, dropping a kiss to Aziraphale’s brow. “Come to bed, and then we’ll get up later in the morning and do all of your silly Christmas rituals and open the rest of our presents and wear stupid jumpers and—“ He paused for air, and Aziraphale seized the opportunity to lean up and kiss him again.
“Yes,” he replied, grinning foolishly. “Yes, to it all.” He twined his fingers through Crowley’s and tugged him along, bright with the promise of the morning and the effervescent glow of the glittering Christmas bulbs and the incandescent ray of light behind him that was purely and simply Crowley.
1Their length tended to be an accurate representation of Crowley’s current anxiety levels, which meant that Aziraphale had essentially not seen them since well before the start of December, and didn’t expect to see them for at least a few more weeks until the New Year had passed.
2Their only decent competitor within ten blocks, and Crowley’s long-standing self-proclaimed nemesis.
3That is not to say that he was currently coatless. Long accused by Aziraphale of being a reptile in human form, Crowley wore his clothes like a second, third, and even fourth skin. With the current temperatures, he sported a thick black overcoat when out of doors, supporting it with an almost equally-thick-if-shorter secondary jacket that seldom came off and a series of long-sleeve and thermal shirts.
4This was in fact a slight dramatization, as the baker was still wearing a tight-fitting v-neck undershirt. However, besides one rather mortifying encounter between all parties involved some weeks prior, it was still as least-dressed as Anathema had ever seen her boss.
5Any baker can attest that sensations of hot and cold tend to fade into the background after repeatedly exposing fingers and arms to hot pans and bread and the unforgiving bite of the freezer.
6He had been teasing Crowley for weeks about the flat above the bakery, having become very well aware of the fact that it was now fully livable and in fact contained more of Crowley’s effects than his actual flat—though, they would both agree that the bulk of Crowley’s belongings were in fact currently taking up space above a certain bookshop.
7And Aziraphale was indeed well aware of this, having shuffled a considerable amount of the salary Crowley allotted himself into a separate account not designated for living expenses.
8Splattered with a truly hideous reindeer pattern. It had been a gift from Newt the week before and Crowley had honestly only worn it because he knew Aziraphale would make it worth his while later.
Soft fluff in the cottage, silly snow shenanigans, and some (or rather, A Lot) of smut in the bakery.
I’m constantly blown away by the response this gets every time I update. The comments are fabulous and I read every single one (and, you’ll note throughout this chapter, take certain little requests to heart…see added tags). I’m also amazed at how many new kudos show up each and ever time….thank you all!
(Brief disclaimer, this chapter includes a very definite violation of health and food safety regulations)
This ship has made such trash of me and I regret nothing
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The first thing Crowley became aware of as he dragged himself back to a state of partial wakefulness was that he was surrounded by an unnatural sense of quiet. There was none of the typical grumble of passing traffic, no sirens blasting past the industrial windows of his flat or the too-loud hum of the expensive heating unit he’d had installed the previous year. Nor, as he had become accustomed to these last ten months or so, was there the soft whuff of Aziraphale at his side.
No, in fact, Crowley was quite alone. He l also quickly realized that he was incredibly cold. “Shit,” he swore, and gathered the thick down comforter closer about himself, curling into a tight ball. In his sleep, he had already bunched up the sheet and every accompanying blanket around himself, but cotton and wool were no substitute to the furnace-like heat of Aziraphale beside him. Burrowing under his makeshift fort, Crowley tucked his head under the blankets and closed his eyes again, content to still hover hazily and rather blissfully in between sleep and wakefulness.
Sleep evaded him, however, the niggling concern lurking in the back of his mind preventing him from listing himself to his rest. It was something he felt he should be remembering but could not, for the life of him, draw forward. Something about the afternoon light he could see trickling through the wide transom window….
Eyes flying wide open, Crowley shot bolt upright in bed, shedding blankets left and right. “The bakery—!” He leaped to the floor, lunging for work pants that weren’t there, and stumbled, flinging out an arm to catch himself againer the tall bedpost of their indulgent queen-sized frame. “No…” he muttered, flushing bashfully even though no one was around to see, “idiot, we’re on vacation.”
And it was such a foreign concept, something that Crowley had not indulged in until this particular point in time, that perhaps he could be forgiven his lapse in memory. An entire week off, away from the bakery, away from London, spent establishing their little cottage in the South Downs before having to return to the real world and the upcoming Valentine’s Day orders.
Three days in and Crowley still couldn’t believe they had managed to actually pull it off.
A sudden shiver wracked his lean frame, and he scrambled for the thick, black robe hanging from the cracked closet door, flinging it about his shoulders as he shoved his feet into a pair of heavy slippers. At present, the cottage leaned heavily toward “rustic”, and still employed a wood-burning stove for its primary heating unit1 . That translated into multiple layers even whilst indoors, and copious amounts of time spent plastered as tightly against Aziraphale as physics would allow.
Crowley yawned, stretching in a single fluid motion, his lanky body a long, lean line. All but purring with contentment—he ached in the most delicious way from earlier in the day—he paced out the open bedroom door and down the hall, padding toward the faint traces of noise2emanating from the bright, airy kitchen. “Whatcha up to, angel?” he called, poking his head through the doorframe.
“Ah, Crowley!” Aziraphale turned slightly from the stove, a brilliant smile on his face. “I thought since we were having a bit of a lazy day I’d cook for us, for once, instead of going out for a meal later this evening.”
Crowley arched one delicate eyebrow. He could count on two hands the number of times he’d seen Aziraphale cook—not that those times hadn’t produced delicious results, but more often than not they were too exhausted to even contemplate crafting their own meals. “What are you making?” he queried, crossing the kitchen to wrap his arm around Aziraphale’s middle, leaning down to rest his chin on his shoulder and peer down at the stove.
“Nothing fancy,” Aziraphale turned his head to swiftly press a kiss to Crowley’s cheek, “just something light for us to enjoy later if we get peckish.”
“That tells me nothing,” Crowley rolled his eyes at his lover’s poor attempt at deflection. Reaching around Aziraphale, he seized the spoon Aziraphale had been using to stir the pot and drew a mouthful to his lips, blowing on it slightly to cool it before slurping it down. “Mmmm,” he smacked his lips, “is that chicken soup?”
Aziraphale flushed and ducked his head, “I know it’s not fancy,” he muttered, “but you hate the cold so, and I thought it would be nice to have something to warm us up a bit—“ He bit off with a yelp as Crowley gripped him firmly by the shoulders and spun him, pressing him back against the stove and nuzzling in close, lips tracing the underside of his jaw.
“It’s perfect, angel,” he insisted emphatically, punctuating his statement with a fervent kiss, hands wandering down to give Aziraphale’s backside an enthusiastic squeeze. “Although, perhaps we can find some other way to warm ourselves up before dinner?” He cocked an eyebrow and shot Aziraphale his best attempt at a suave look.3
Nosing at Crowley’s cheek and snickering as he flinched from the cold touch4, Aziraphale reached awkwardly behind himself to turn off the burner. “I suppose I could be…persuaded.” The pot clanged as he twisted again, haphazardly settling the lid atop it, before turning back to twine his arms about Crowley. “Well?” He cocked an eyebrow, gazing at Crowley expectantly.
Aziraphale leaned in close, blue-hazel eyes stormy. “Persuade me.”
They awoke to snow.5
It was a real, proper snow, none of that wimpy ice-laden stuff—all white and glistening even beneath the heavy grey cloud cover that lingered in the sky.
“Oh, how beautiful,” Aziraphale cooed, shifting under the duvet until he was fully facing the window, Crowley still tucked up against his chest. “I do love the snow.”6
Warm air gusted across his throat as Crowley whuffed out a soft breath, his grip tightening slightly around Aziraphale’s torso. “Nnngh, too cold and wet.” This was said without even opening his eyes, the baker opting instead to flutter a kiss across Aziraphale’s collarbone and delve deeper into their nest of blankets, reaching around to tug them up to his chin.
Aziraphale brought his arms up to encircle Crowley’s waist, hands slipping up underneath his thermal sleep shirt and tracing patterns along the lean muscles of his back. His hands, like the rest of his body, were warm, dual furnaces leaving trails of delicious heat as they passed across Crowley’s skin. The baker groaned, burrowing even closer to his lover. “S’warm,” he murmured, and Aziraphale could feel Crowley’s lips curve up into a delighted smile against his neck.
Canting his head down, Aziraphale brushed a kiss across across Crowley’s brow, soft red strands of hair tickling his lips. “I’ll feel even warmer once we come back inside after an hour or two out in the snow…” he enticed, giving into a temptation of his own and carding his hands through that rusty red mane, drawing Crowley’s face out of hiding and smiling down into his sleep-clouded eyes.
Crowley sighed, forcing himself into a greater state of wakefulness. “You’re like a dog with a bone, angel,” he muttered, reaching up to tap Aziraphale on the nose.7 Sighing dramatically, he flipped over, sitting up against the headboard beside Aziraphale and ruffling his messy bedhead. “Very well, let’s go ‘play in the snow’.”
“Oh, do you really mean it?” Aziraphale gushed, as if it hadn’t been his idea all along. “We don’t have to stay out long, but I thought it might be fun for just a little while.” Clambering out of bed, he cut his eyes back to the mattress as Crowley audibly groaned, casting him an exasperated, if fond, glance. “Come now, my dear, it will be fun!” He shucked his long sleep shirt and began pulling on layers. “It’s not all that bad if you bundle up.”
“Speak for yourself,” Crowley grumped, slithering out of the bed. He seized a set of long underwear and slipped them on over his briefs, discarding his looser sleep thermal for the snugger, more insulated top. “I’m cold no matter what I wear.” He followed up this statement by donning a pair of jogging pants and a thick pair of jeans, and a long-sleeve shirt and heavy woolen jumper.
Aziraphale pursed his lips. “Once you add your coat, dearest, you’ll have on more layers than I do. I never thought I’d see the day!” Spinning on the spot, he swept Crowley into a hug, pulling him close and nestling into his narrow chest. “It really adds some bulk to you,” he giggled, poking at Crowley’s well-insulated torso.
Crowley caught his offending hand, drawing it to his lips. “Better bulky than cold,” he said practically, kissing Aziraphale’s knuckles and giving him a teasing smile. Leering, he leaned in close, eyes narrowed. “Besides, gives you more to…unwrap…later once we’re done outdoors.”
Aziraphale’s throat jumped as he swallowed, lust clouding his eyes briefly before he shook it away. “That…does add extra appeal to your choice of attire,” he admitted.
Crowley snickered. “I thought it might,” he murmured, now nibbling at Aziraphale’s wrist, tongue darting to flick teasingly at the blue line of his vein.
“Let us at least make it outside before we undress again, love.”
Soon enough, they each had donned thick winter coats and gloves and had forced the back door open, beginning a staggering, crunching march out across the thick snowfall into the little garden behind their cottage. Crowley had also tucked a thick black hat snugly around his head, masking the majority of his vibrant hair and sheltering his ears from the elements.
Aziraphale gave a bright smile, the gleam of his teeth challenged by the brilliance of the pristine snow. “Isn’t this lovely?” An admittedly brisk wind whisked through the little garden, ruffling Aziraphale’s pale golden hair, and he repressed a shiver. It wouldn’t do to display any sign of discomfort to Crowley—far too easy fodder for a smug “I told you so”.
Crowley, for his part, was uncharacteristically silent, stopping halfway down the little stone pathway and staring blatantly at Aziraphale. Framed as he was by the ivory snow, his cream coat stark against the cold background and his pale skin radiant in the cool light, Aziraphale glowed, radiating with an ethereal beauty that could not be contained.
“Crowley?” Aziraphale, suddenly aware he was walking alone, paused, turning back to peer quizzically at his lover. “Is everything alright?”
Crowley opened his mouth, blinked, and then closed it, shaking his head as if in a desperate attempt to clear it. “I love you,” he finally managed, in a shaky croak, staggering forward in an awkward slide to grab Aziraphale by the shoulders. “You’re perfect, Aziraphale, beautiful inside and out and I absolutely adore you.” His fingers tightened, breath hitching in his throat. “I don’t say it enough.”
Chuckling softly, wearing a look so achingly tender that Crowley’s poor heart could hardly bear it, Aziraphale stretched up on his toes to kiss him, working his mouth open in a gentle entreaty and bringing his hands up to curl about Crowley’s cheeks. “It should go without saying that I feel the same about you, my dear, my dearest,” he replied breathlessly against Crowley’s lips, panting lightly as Crowley’s spider-like fingers found their way into his curls, “but I will continue to say it nonetheless.”
If the heat shared between them were tangible, they would have long since been surrounded by a great puddle of water.
Mouth opening to reply with something—he wasn’t sure what, yet, but it most certainly would have been far, far too sappy for his affected demeanor—Crowley was spared the inevitable embarrassment by the unexpected and wholly aggravating thud of a large wad of packed snow splattering against his coat.
“What the hell?!” he exclaimed. He spun on instinct, eyes darting wildly about the garden. A second projectile smacked into the side of his head, sending his sunglasses flying from his face to sink into the snow at his feet. This time the missile was accompanied by a series of high-pitched giggles resonating from the large oak tree just beyond their little picket fence.
Crowley’s eyes narrowed as he acquired his targets. Cutting his eyes to Aziraphale, he gave a sharp jerk of his head toward the tree, kneeling to scoop up a handful of snow. Stealthily, they crept toward the unassuming tree until they were close enough to pick out a handful of brightly-colored parkas against the white-loaded leaves. “Fire!!” Crowley yelled loudly, and lobbed his armful of quickly-compiled snowballs one after another into the foliage. His missiles struck their marks with a series of satisfying thunks, and the lowest branch shook violently as four frozen faces flew into view.
“What’d you do that for?” asked the nearest of the group, giving Crowley a narrow-eyed glare.
The baker was unimpressed. “You got me first, you little brat,” he hissed, nearly tall enough to look the boy in his blue eyes.
White teeth flashing in a buoyant grin and the boy stuck a hand down in front of Crowley’s face. “Fair ‘nough,” he said agreeably, nodding. “You have one helluv’ an arm, mister.”
That was enough to startle a laugh out of Crowley, and he reached up to give the boy’s offered hand a shake. “Well, you never know when you’ll have to return fire in the middle of a snowstorm.” Peering behind the lad, he counted out three additional waifs, clad in a rainbow of hats and coats, their faces now quite pink from the cold. “What’s your name, Tree Boy?”
“I’m Adam, and this is Brian, Wensley, and Pepper.” One-by-one, they slipped from the tree, landing in a cloud of snow on Crowley’s side of the fence.
“And what were you doing up in the tree?” Aziraphale asked, leaning over Crowley’s shoulder to give the pile of children a rather bemused look as they brushed snow off of one another.
Adam grinned again, this time not so nicely. “Well,” he drawled, “we knew some new chaps had bought this place, and we thought we’d hang out and take the time to welcome you to the neighborhood.”
Crowley barked out a laugh. “Welcome us to the neighborhood indeed!” He shared a glance with Aziraphale. “I certainly feel welcomed, what about you, angel?”
Aziraphale nodded, ruffling what little of Crowley’s damp red hair was peeking out from beneath his hat. “Oh, certainly, my dear. You look particularly welcomed, though—perhaps we might go inside?” He had not missed the subtle tremors already beginning to wrack Crowley’s slight frame.
“Why’ve you got yellow snake eyes?” the girl—Pepper, or some such ridiculous seasoning—asked bluntly, staring up at Crowley.
He flinched. “Medical condition,” he mumbled, eyes sliding away and anchoring firmly to the ground. He felt Aziraphale’s gloved hand heavy on his back, and knew without raising his gaze that his over-protective lover was glaring ferociously at the children.
“Well, I think it’s cool,” Adam declared, and apparently that was that, as one after another each of the other children nodded their agreement, sliding into a gracious acceptance without batting more than an eyelash.
“I—“ Crowley looked up despite himself, chin retracing from his chest so he could squint down at the pile of pre-teens. “You do?” His voice was incredulous.
Adam scooped up Crowley’s sunglasses, offering them up to the rather stunned baker. “Sure! How many other people do you know who have such neat eyes? Mine’r boring, everyone has blue or green or brown.”
Words escaped Crowley, his mouth opening and closing soundlessly as he gaped like a fish.
Reaching up, Aziraphale neatly closed his mouth with a light hand on his chin, turning with warm eyes to the children. “Anyone want biscuits?” he asked, giving them a small smile. “I know for a fact we have quite a stash hidden away in the cupboards, and I think I could be persuaded to share some of my cocoa as well, if you all would like a hot drink to warm you up a bit.”
And that was how Crowley and Aziraphale found themselves with a kitchen full of adolescent youths happily devouring every single biscuit Crowley had baked the day of their arrival.8
Crowley just barely resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose in exasperation. He had hoped the afternoon would result in an entirely different set of activities—one that did not include a temporary home invasion, and rather involved him, Aziraphale, and their remarkably comfortable bed (and a notable lack of clothes). “Sorry, what was that?” he replied, raising red eyebrows and looking askance at Adam, mouth twitching as he took in the boy’s thick chocolate mustache and trail of crumbs adorning his collar.
The youth took a swig of cocoa and swallowed, washing down the remainder of his over-large mouthful. “I said,” he repeated, swiping a hand across his mouth, “are you two married?
They exchanged a look that veered somewhere between blind panic and sudden, extreme shyness. It was a su they had both carefully avoided, both still believing things to be too good to be true, unable and utterly terrified to rock the boat and broach such a monumentally earthshaking topic.
Crowley’s heart hammered in his chest, pounding on a steady mantra of yes, yes, yes that mimicked the words he wished he could throw out in reply. He ran a shaky hand through his hair, carefully avoiding Aziraphale’s eyes. “N—no, we aren’t,” he muttered, rocking back and forth on his feet.
“We just…live together,” Aziraphale added weakly, twisting his hands in front of him.
“Well, are you in love?” Pepper asked, pursing her lips. Without looking away from the two men pinned under her gaze, she slapped Brian’s hand away from the remaining chocolate biscuit and claimed it for her own.
This time Crowley and Aziraphale did exchange a look, a long, tender glance that spoke volumes and bordered on positively saccharine. “Well, yes,” Aziraphale huffed, as though it were obvious.
Crowley beamed, preening.
Wensley rolled his eyes. “Then why don’t you get married?”
And there was that awkward silence again.
“How about some cocoa to go?” Aziraphale finally said, scrambling to gather some disposable cups tucked into the far recesses of the kitchen and get the children settled and ushered out the door. They finally left, extra biscuits tucked into pockets, with the promise of a visit before the end of their holiday.
Closing the door behind them, Aziraphale leaned back against against the door, breathing as though he had just run a race. “Well, that was something,” he said, shooting for a light tone and landing instead somewhere far left field of flustered.
Crowley snorted. “Indeed.”
They stared at each other rather helplessly, because of course the idea of marriage had crossed each of their minds, of course they had each allowed themselves the luxury of that fleeting, evanescent, unreachable daydream.
Crowley felt like a fish out of water, floundering before Aziraphale for the first time in their nearly ten months together. He reached desperately for something to break the silence, grabbing at random for something, anything to shatter this glacier that had erected itself between them.
But Aziraphale, beautiful, warm, perceptive Aziraphale, who knew him inside and out, and indeed better than he knew himself, simply smiled, holding out his arms. “Come here my dear,” he murmured, and Crowley fell into his arms, curling around the decorator and bending to bury his face in his shoulder. “I know, I know.” Aziraphale responded to Crowley’s silence in a quiet murmur, passing his hand through those oxidized locks, well-trimmed nails scratching soothingly at Crowley’s scalp. “Me too.”
Crowley gave a shaky exhale, squeezing his eyes shut. “It’s not that I don’t—I do—I just don’t know how—“
And Aziraphale smiled, pressing his lips to Crowley’s brow, and gathered him closer, smoothing a hand down his back. “We’ll get there in the end, I think,” he whispered in Crowley’s ear. “But in our own time, not that of some biscuit-eating miscreants.”
That earned him the snicker he had been seeking, and Crowley pulled his head back enough to offer a rare, bona fide smile. “Yeah,” he said shakily. “Yeah, that sounds good.” Swallowing, he regained some of his earlier swagger, tracing the faint crow’s nests at the corners of Aziraphale’s eyes. “Now, I believe we had discussed some unwrapping earlier, did we not?”
Aziraphale chuckled and scooped Crowley up in his arms. “I believe we did indeed.”
Vacation passed far too quickly, as it is wont to do, and Crowley and Aziraphale soon found themselves back in the real world and enmeshed in an explosion of overly-romantic overtures in the form of orders for baked goods.
“Fuuuuck Valentine’s Day,” Crowley groaned, sinking down to sprawl out pitifully across the floor. A haze of flour fluttered into the air around him. Crowley scowled at it, then heaved a great sigh and fell back completely, back thunking into the unforgiving tile with a crack that made Aziraphale flinch in sympathy.
“That cannot be hygienic,” he muttered. Nearly cross-eyed himself, he shoved the last of the melting chocolate back in its box and pushed it to the opposite side of the counter with a flourish. “Good enough for tonight, I think,” he declared, pressing his forehead briefly against the wall.
Crowley grunted. “What time is it?”
Aziraphale knew the clock was just a bit to his left, but checking the time required effort, and energy, and he found he just couldn’t bring himself to care. “No idea,” he whispered, continuing to lean against his chosen support, arms hanging uselessly by his sides.
Crowley tipped his head up just enough to squint at the clock. “Nine o’clock,” he groaned, head falling back to the floor. The movement shifted the band holding his rust-red hair in place and it spread out in a delicate halo around his head. “What a god-awful day.”
Murmuring something—he wasn’t entirely certain what—in agreement Aziraphale dragged himself over to the baker’s table beside Crowley and slumped back against the wood. “Let’s not do that again any time soon.” He cut a glance down at Crowley’s prone form, admiring despite himself the sharp cut of Crowley’s rich purple shirt against his torso, the long line of his leg beneath well-tailored trousers. Even exhausted, sprawled out on the floor, and covered in flour, the man was a vision. “Are you going to stay there all night?” Aziraphale finally asked, the faint film of arousal coating his words not going unnoticed by Crowley.
Red eyebrows waggled, those sharp golden eyes cutting up to calculatingly asses Aziraphale’s icing-splattered profile. “Depends,” he replied. “Is there incentive to move?”
Aziraphale laughed. “My dear boy, it is Valentine’s Day.”
“Bah! Trite, overdone farce of a holiday. Too much pink by far, too much cheap romance.”
“Oh?” Aziraphale arched one delicate golden eyebrow. “Well then, I suppose I’ll just toss the surprise I had set aside in my cooler…”
Quick as a flash, Crowley was on his feet, fatigue magically melting away and pupils blown wide open. “Don’t. You. Dare.” he hissed, pressing his nose into the side of Aziraphale’s neck, lips latching on to a strip of sensitive skin and sucking, feeling a rush of heady satisfaction as Aziraphale’s pulse rocketed beneath his touch. He didn’t know what Aziraphale had planned, had never once considered Valentine’s Day even remotely significant, but he knew Aziraphale well enough to know anything spoken in that particular tone of voice would be well worth the effort indeed.
Aziraphale angled his head back to give Crowley greater access, clutching a fistful of shirt at each shoulder as he pulled Crowley flush against him.
Obligingly, Crowley left a line of bruising kisses down the pale column of his neck, hands flying to Aziraphale’s waist to pull his shirt from his belt and slide his hands up to the warm wealth of skin beneath. His splayed hands spanned the width of Aziraphale’s waist, sliding up to follow the contour of muscle and fat bunching just beneath the skin of his back.
“You’re freezing,” Aziraphale all but yelped, jerking away from Crowley’s touch and driving himself forward into his chest. He nipped at Crowley’s lips in retaliation, then suddenly seized him and lifted, settling him onto the baker’s table and pressing into him, bearing him down, down against the chipped and scarred wood.
In a sudden flurry of motion, Crowley’s shirt was gone, buttons flicked open with an ease borne of long familiarity, his sharp, shivering chest bared to the bakery. Aziraphale swept his eyes across that delicious expanse of skin, pulse pounding in his chest as arousal surged. He pressed his hands against Crowley’s ribs, pushing him back against the wood. “Stay,” he all but purred, slipping away out of sight.
Crowley squirmed, breath quickening in anticipation, the tightness of his trousers doing very little to alleviate his rather extreme state of arousal. He turned his head to the right, straining his eyes to track Aziraphale as he ducked down and fished something out of his cooler. “What are you doing, angel?” he whined.
Grabbing a small bowl from the double boiler, Aziraphale returned to the table with a cheshire grin, his arms full of various fruits and an icing bag. “We worked straight through supper,” he said innocently, spreading his haul out across the far side of the table, “and I am ravenous.” His blue-hazel eyes blazed as he read Crowley like a particularly entrancing menu. “I don’t suppose it would be too great a sin to begin with dessert, just this once.”
Crowley visibly shuddered, throat9 bobbing as he swallowed. “Sssshit,” he hissed, eyes nearly black. “Aziraphale, you—“
“Quiet,” the decorator commanded, dipping a finger into the warm, molten chocolate. He leaned forward, painting a line down the arch of Crowley’s neck. He ran out of chocolate somewhere around the stark line of Crowley’s collarbone. “Mmm.” Aziraphale dipped his head down and tongued the trail of chocolate, slipping his finger up to Crowley’s mouth and between his parted lips.
Crowley seized the digit, laving it with his tongue and sucking greedily, his hips bucking up against thin air as Aziraphale languorously cleaned his neck. “Not fair,” he gasped, releasing his mouthful with a ‘pop’. His hands rose to thread through Aziraphale’s wild hair, smoothing tawny strands away from his brow before catching and tugging in the thick mess at the base of his head.
Aziraphale placed one last, lingering kiss to Crowley’s neck before pulling back slightly. He shifted Crowley so that the line of his knees was flush with the edge of the table, lower legs dangling uselessly in the air. His eyes were bright with mischief as he opened his pint of strawberries, plucking a juicy, red berry and dipping it into the molten chocolate. Slowly, he brought it to hover over Crowley’s chest, a bead of warm chocolate falling to pool in between his pectorals. “I am going to devour you,” Aziraphale murmured, and the intensity in his eyes stole and silenced any words Crowley could have thought to utter.
He bit off a soundless, choking reply, giving the other man a gasping, wild look and arching his back in silent invitation.
Groaning low in his throat, Aziraphale lowered his hand, tracing the tip of the berry around one puckered nipple, coating it with chocolate. He moved to do the same to the other and then pressed the berry to Crowley’s lips, holding it in place until the baker took the offered fruit between his teeth, chewing delicately and then swallowing. Aziraphale caught him in a blistering kiss, licking into his mouth and tasting the delightfully sinful combination of sweet strawberry, bitter chocolate, and Crowley. Mouth trailing lower, he slid down the pale column of Crowley’s throat, grazing across the line of marks he had just made with a gentle lick, moving steadily down to ply his attentions on Crowley’s chest.
Mouthing over one puckered nipple, he took it lightly between his teeth, tongue flicking out to brush across and around it, going to great pains to gather every last trace of chocolate from Crowley’s skin.
The baker gasped, hands flying to the back of Aziraphale’s head, directing him over to do the same on the other side. “Sssshit, angel,” he exclaimed, fingers knotting in those white-blond locks.
Aziraphale chuckled, the vibrations of his chest against Crowley’s sending a bolt of arousal straight to his crotch. “Oh my dear, I am just beginning.” His hands trailed down Crowley’s sides, nails lightly scraping across his ribs, and settled at the waistband of his trousers. “May I?” He traced Crowley’s elaborate belt buckle with a single finger.
“Please!” Crowley gasped in reply, hips bucking up as far as his position would allow.
Now devoid of trousers and pants, Crowley felt more exposed than he ever had in his bakery, spread out on his table like their newest dessert—and apparently, as Aziraphale had just so explicitly informed him, that is precisely what he was. He whined as Aziraphale drew away, turning to retrieve the icing back he has set aside at the end of the table.
“Whipped cream,” Aziraphale enunciated by way of explanation, breath hitching in his chest as he turned back to Crowley laid out so delectably across the table. His fingers contracted, squeezing a slow stream of topping from the bag, drawing an elaborate white corkscrew across Crowley’s abdomen. He spared none of it, outlining ribs and the indent of Crowley’s navel with the cool white cream, humming in satisfaction as he ended with a light swirl just above the trail of wiry hair leading down to Crowley’s crotch.
Eyes gleaming, he selected another strawberry from the pile, dragging it languorously through the figure he had created. “Delicious,” he declared, popping the fruit into his mouth, eyes fluttering closed as he savored the sweet combination of the cream and berry. Suddenly, he surged forward, gripping Crowley’s razor-sharp hips, and nipped a line across Crowley’s belly, carving a path through the whipped cream with his tongue.
“Christ, angel,” Crowley swore, pressing his fists firmly against the table, “you’re going to kill me.”
“But what a death it would be,” the decorator replied wittily, sliding ever lower as he mapped out Crowley’s skin.
“Nnngh, you should’t be so coherent,” Crowley muttered, squirming as Aziraphale did something particularly clever with his tongue. “’s not fair.”
“Oh?” Aziraphale arched one eyebrow, then knelt and took Crowley’s cock in his mouth, swallowing him to the hilt.
Crowley groaned, hands flying to find Aziraphale’s hair once again, holding him in place but not drawing him closer, gentle as always even as Aziraphale shifted to press a series of sucking kisses along the length of him.
“Is this perhaps more fair to you, love?” the decorator asked mischievously, taking the head in his mouth and curling his tongue around the tip, smiling around his mouthful as Crowley jerked forward.
“Aah, fuck, yes,” he hissed. With Aziraphale’s hands pressed firmly against his hips, he had nowhere to move, unable to seek out that completion for which he found himself already so desperate. Writhing in place, jerked his hips first one way and then the other, growling in the back of his throat as Aziraphale’s grasp proved unyielding. “Aaangel,” he begged, face and neck flushed, “please.”
Aziraphale gave a wordless murmur in reply and took Crowley completely in his mouth, nose pressed against the fine rust-red hairs around his base, and began to suck in earnest, mouth hollowing as he slid Crowley’s cock along his throat, careful to keep from overwhelming himself.
So caught up as he was in the wet heat of Aziraphale’s mouth that the cool touch of a slick finger—and when had Aziraphale managed to do that—against his cleft had Crowley jerking forward in surprise.
“Okay?” Aziraphale asked, withdrawing and resting his cheek against the inside of Crowley’s splayed thigh, his ocean eyes threatening to drown Crowley in their bottomless depths.
Crowley gave a series of rapid jerks of his head and Aziraphale resumed his ministrations, slipping his finger in and slowly working Crowley open. He slid a second finger in, and then a third, relishing the breathy gasps and moans Crowley emitted seemingly without thought, his hands white-knuckled around the edge of the table, nails digging deep into the wood. He was impossibly close, teetering dangerously on the ledge, one well-timed push away from free-falling into that intoxicatingly enticing ravine.
Aziraphale crooked his fingers, adding a deft twist at the end of the motion, and slid his tongue across Crowley’s slit.
Crowley came with a gasp, hips hitching, Aziraphale drinking him down to the last drop. The world exploded around him, sight going black and ears going numb, the only thing registering within the scope of his awareness the feel of Aziraphale’s cool hands and warm mouth on his overheated flesh. For a long moment, he simply laid there, shuddering with the aftershocks, Aziraphale’s hands smoothing up and down his splayed thighs, mouth slowly sliding from his flagging prick.
Regaining some semblance of self, Crowley flung himself from the baker’s table and dropped to where Aziraphale still knelt, gripping him by the shoulders and puling him into a blistering, bruising kiss. “Fuck, Aziraphale,” he muttered, feverish, eyes blazing, gasping as he tasted himself on the other’s tongue. “You…I—god I love you.” He kissed him again and again, tongue sliding through Aziraphale’s parted lips, gathering and savoring every last lingering taste of chocolate, cream, strawberries, and himself as he crossed over and under teeth and tongue.
He could feel Aziraphale smile into his mouth. “And I love you so very much, my dearest,” he answered in term, arms wrapping firmly around Crowley’s middle.
Somewhere along the way they managed to stagger to their feet, Crowley backing Aziraphale against the now-infamous table, his hands making quick work of Aziraphale’s shirt, fingers trailing down to trace the contours of his chest and brush through the delicate smattering of white-blond hair that adorned it. “Valentine’s Day,” he marveled, pressing his nose to Aziraphale’s, kissing the tip of it before snaking his head left to follow the shell of his ear. “Of all the frivolous, ridiculous holidays to celebrate…” He paused to pull the decorator’s lobe between his teeth, giving it a delicate nibble, sighing happily as Aziraphale panted and shifted back and forth beneath the cage of Crowley’s arms.
Crowley drew back slowly, peppering a series of feather-light to Aziraphale’s cheeks and lips. Mischief glinted in his golden eyes. “But,” he hedged, drawing the word out, “I suppose celebrate it we must. I certainly feel incredibly well celebrated, but you, love, appear entirely too neglected.”
Grinning like a loon, he seized the entire container of now-cooled liquid chocolate and dumped it over the top of Aziraphale’s head, spinning to seize the remaining strawberries and pelt them at his partner. “Oh, would you look at that,” he tutted over the sound of Aziraphale’s most indignant yelp, “what a mess, love. It’s going to take all night to clean that up.”
Aziraphale spluttered, swiping his hand down his face, doing little more than smearing the sticky dark candy across his palm and cheeks. “Crowley!! What the fuc—“
Laughing, Crowley caught his mouth mid-swear, pressing his naked torso tightly to Aziraphale’s as he licked the chocolate from his lips. “Happy Valentine’s Day, angel,” he cooed, slip sliding his hands up Aziraphale’s sticky hips and leaving chocolate handprints across his back. He caught a strawberry from where it had stuck to Aziraphale’s shoulder and popped it into his mouth with an obscene smack.
Rolling his eyes to the high heavens, Aziraphale prayed for patience and then promptly thanked God for giving him such a ridiculous, gorgeous, attentive lover, and dragged Crowley upstairs to the little apartment on the second floor.
After all, they still had at least a few hours left in the day.
1After spending the first evening shivering even with Aziraphale tucked around him, Crowley resolved that this would be the first thing to go upon their return later on that year.
2And a decidedly delicious aroma.
3Between the thick fuzzy slippers, heavy robe, and rumpled bedhead, he fell far short of ‘sexy’ and settled neatly somewhere around flat out adorable.
4Self-generated body heat only extended so far when the kitchen was fucking freezing (as Crowley so eloquently put it.
5It would be more accurate to say Aziraphale awoke to snow, the uncanny cast of the morning light against the brilliant glare of white rousing him from his slumber. Crowley awoke, as he was prone to do, to the soft skin of Aziraphale’s neck, his face tucked into that gentle curve and one arm slung haphazardly across the decorator’s chest.
6Or, more appropriately, he loved the snow when he did not have to commute to work, deliver cakes, or spend an inordinate amount of time outside in it with no hope of a quick return to warmth and comfort.
7It should be noted that both Crowley and Aziraphale immediately conjured a series of inappropriate thoughts with that particular simile, but settled for exchanging a knowing, amused look rather than vocally expressing (or acting upon) such innuendo.
8Knowing Aziraphale’s sweet tooth, the baker had made good of some free time their first afternoon and whipped up a few batches of his favorites.
9And something else as well…
I am totally Crowley when it's cold.
In which Crowley has a bit of an existential crisis, much talking is done, and we reach an entirely new level of saccharine sap.
And so, dear readers, we are nearing the end. I think this will be twelve chapters, max, so we're gearing up for a (hopefully) graceful finish here in the last stretch. Thank you for being such wonderful readers!
“And so then I said,” Crowley slurred, waving one hand vaguely in the air, “that, that—“ He broke off with a frown, a crinkle forming at his brow as he gave his glass a quizzical stare. “What did I say again, angel?”
Aziraphale snickered into his gin and tonic. “I have absolutely no idea, dearest,” he murmured, taking a moment to peer out into the deserted bakery and ensure their “lunch” break remained uninterrupted.1 Seeing no one, he settled back in the barebones office chair currently serving as his perch and took a long sip of his drink.
“No matter.” Crowley dismissed his own question with a smirk and poured himself another glass of wine. “Must not’ve been important.” He took a long drink, lips smacking in satisfaction. Somewhere deep in the dregs of March, they now found themselves with an unexpected off-day thanks entirely to the dreary and unpredictable English weather—London was once again blanketed in an unforgiving and entirely unexpected mantle of snow, and only the bravest of the brave were out and about amid the weather. Thus, Crowley had declared the front shop closed, and had rung Anathema early that morning2 to tell her she and Newt could have the day off.
He and Aziraphale had read the forecast and opted to stay in the flat above the night before, so now he and his decorator were enjoying a leisurely day of catching up on production—or, rather, they had been before Crowley had slammed the freezer door shut and declared under no uncertain terms that it was, in fact, time for alcohol.
It hadn’t taken Aziraphale much to agree, and now they found themselves a few drinks deep and entirely unmotivated to do anything whatsoever.
Crowley, in particular, had taken to their respite like a fish to water. Eyes bright, he pulled his feet from where they had been propped on his ramshackle little desk and gripped the arms of his chair, kicking back from the desk with a whoop and sending the chair spinning in a circle as he rolled back toward Aziraphale. “Wheels on chairs,” he observed, bobbing his head in a nod as he came to a stop. “Brilliant.”
Aziraphale gave him a fond smile and shook his head. “You are ridiculous, Crowley,” he declared, nevertheless sending himself into an abbreviate spin of his own.3 Thus amused (and rather dizzy), they sat in companionable silence for a long moment, infused by the warmth of their drinks and shared company.
Finally, Crowley spoke, breaking the stillness that had settled around them like a warm blanket. “You ever wonder if we’re doing the right thing?” he asked pensively, raising his eyebrows and peering at Aziraphale over the tops of his glasses.
This was quite a change of pace from the levity of only a few moments prior. He leaned forward the scant inches between them and pinched Crowley’s glasses between thumb and forefinger, setting them to the side before scooting closer so that he might catch Crowley’s face between his palms. “The right thing?” he repeated, eyes wide and earnest. “With the bakery, you mean?”
Crowley sighed and nodded, sagging back slightly in his chair. “I’m just so tired all the time now, Aziraphale. We are here every day of the week, hour after hour, with only a few leftover here and there for ourselves.” He wrenched his face free of Aziraphale’s hands, turning away, and gave a helpless shrug. “It’s what I do, though, what I’ve always done. I’m a baker, I make bread and desserts and pastries and feed the ungrateful public. I love it, but…sometimes I wonder if there’s more out there, y’know?” He gave a soft laugh. “What good is renown and profit if you don’t have the time and energy to enjoy it?”
The uncertainty wavering in his voice caused Aziraphale’s heart to wrench painfully in his chest. “Oh Crowley…” He shook his head helplessly. “What else would we do? We wouldn’t have even have met without…all this.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” he mumbled, casting his eyes down. “I’m a baker, you’re a decorator. ’s’what we do.”
Aziraphale didn’t know what to say. He had known Crowley had been antsy lately, unhappy and absorbed with some ill of which he refused to speak. But this—to suggest that perhaps the bakery wasn’t enough for them, that there should be something more—it terrified Aziraphale. They’d met through the bakery, fallen in love there, all but lived above it and around it. What if, without it, Crowley decided that Aziraphale wasn’t enough? The thought was enough to shatter him down the the center of his very core, cracking that otherwise impenetrable facade and leaving him quaking, knowing full and well that any life without Crowley in it would hardly be a life at all.
Blinking back those decidedly unhappy thoughts, Aziraphale delicately reached around Crowley and plucked the nearly empty wine bottle from the desk and setting it down beside their filing4 cabinet. “I believe that’s enough, love. Are you even going to be able to get back to work after this?” It was a deliberate, overt change of subject, and he flinched internally at the harshness of his effort.
Pursing his lips, for Aziraphale’s diversion certainly had not gone unnoticed, Crowley rested his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair, the cheap plastic backing creaking ominously. “I’ll be fine angel,” he hissed, somewhat more bitterly than Aziraphale felt the situation merited. “I just like to play it up, you know that.” He rose on unsteady feet and wobbled over to the cabinet. “What’s the point of being the owner if I can’t take advantage of it every now and then?” He slid open the top drawer and plunged his hand inside, a look of calculated disinterest plastered on his face as he fished around for another bottle.
“No, Crowley,” Aziraphale stood up, his chair skidding backwards with the sudden movement, and slapped Crowley’s hand away from the bottle of bourbon it had discovered. “Enough is enough.”
In truth, he was more than slightly concerned by Crowley’s overzealous midday alcohol consumption and maudlin thoughts. While they did indulge in the occasional drink while on the clock to get them through the day, it had been nearly a year since he had seen Crowley even remotely close to being fully inebriated while at work—he took his baking far too seriously to allow for frivolous drinking, and had been, Aziraphale thought, in much better spirits5 since the onset of their relationship.
“I’m the boss,” Crowley snarled, brows drawing together in a dark glare. “I can damn well drink when and where I please, Aziraphale.”
Aziraphale blinked. With a few notable exceptions, he could not recall Crowley ever being so short with him over such a trivial matter. “Are you alright?” he asked tentatively, hand rising to follow the delicate curl of Crowley’s shoulder-length hair.
Crowley blinked furiously, mouth tightening at the corners. “Fine,” he spat, flailing around behind him to seize his dark glasses and throw them onto his face. “Just peachy.” He staggered to his feet, throwing out an arm to steady himself briefly against the wall, and then strode back out into the bakery and began throwing around bags of flour from their most recent order, heaving them into some semblance of organization with single-minded intent.
Aziraphale remained seated for some time following, his hands clasped pensively in front of him and his mind churning, listening to the soft whir of the mixer as it eventually started Crowley’s next batch of bread. He heard the freezer door slide open and closed as Crowley went in to retrieve something, and took the opportunity to slip across unnoticed to his station to the pile of cannoli shells that were waiting to be filled.
Crowley said nothing when he re-emerged, but Aziraphale could feel his frosty glare cutting across the space between them as easily as though he were immersed instead in the frozen air outside.
They worked in silence well into the afternoon.
Aziraphale kept his head down, looking up only to grab an icing bag here or a handful of fruit there, all the while acutely aware of the hole Crowley was burning in the back of his head. Finally, sometime after three, the decorator decided he could stand it no longer. He waited until Crowley had disappeared into the large walk-in cooler with his tall rack of bread and then made his move, rising and striding to hover just outside the sliding metal door and its insulating plastic flap. As Crowley reemerged, Aziraphale pounced on the unsuspecting man and dragged him over to his own stool. “Sit,” he commanded, his stoney expression leaving no room for argument.
“Now,” Aziraphale began to pace back and forth between the slouching redhead, twisting his hands together in agitation as he moved, “what the fuck is wrong with you, Crowley?” With anyone else, he would have seemed angry, disappointed even, but Crowley was too in-tune with his angel’s various emotional stages to be fooled by his harsh tone. Aziraphale was worried. Stopping directly in front of Crowley, he knelt before him, resting his hands on those sharp-bony knees and peering up into his face. “You have been…distracted, irritable, and distant these last few days. I feel like haven’t even seen you and we spend nearly every moment together. What on earth is the matter, my dear?”
Ah. He was caught, then, found out and pinned in place as well as though he were a specimen strung out across a petri dish beneath a microscope. Crowley’s thin shoulders shook as he took a series of great, heaving breaths, one long-fingered hand rising to cover his face. Wordless, he shook his head, striving to gather his thoughts enough to utter them into the still silence between them.
“Is it truly the bakery, my love?” Aziraphale pressed, swallowing his insecurities in the face of Crowley’s unhappiness. “We can sell it, retire to the cottage, anything—just tell me what you need.” His hands squeezed Crowley’s knees and then fluttered to catch Crowley’s free hand, head dipping down to skim a kiss across his knuckles.
Slowly, Crowley drew his other hand back from his face, taking his glasses with it and revealing tormented amber eyes. “Yeah,” he admitted, “it is, some, but—no, as well.” He twirled one long strand of oxidized hair around his finger, one sharp canine digging into his bottom lip. “I got a piece of mail, the other day—a death certificate.”
Aziraphale’s breath caught in his throat. Crowley never mentioned his past, never mentioned his family or anyone else from his youth. After Gabriel’s unsightly visit some months ago, they had delved into Aziraphale’s rather complicated family history, but had never never explored Crowley’s other than that one, brief mention of an unhappy home the night Crowley had revealed his eyes.
Since then, Aziraphale had not heard anything else of his lover’s less than pleasant past, had not pressed or cared whatsoever of what lay beyond the realm of the bits Crowley felt comfortable disclosing. Knowing not to press, Aziraphale said nothing, merely sitting patiently before Crowley with one long-fingered hand still gripped tightly in his fist.
Finally, Crowley swallowed drily and continued. “My—when I was a kid, my parents…I come from a family with a solid religious background.” He laughed bitterly. “You understand that, of course. So, naturally, they were less than thrilled when their son was born with nearly yellow eyes, and such a ‘unique’ pupil condition to boot. I was baptized five times, exorcised three, dunked in holy water more times than I could count.” He felt Aziraphale’s hand contract around his own and tilted his hand down, masking his eyes with dark lashes. “When that didn’t work, they basically ignored me, never spoke to me, never acknowledged me or even looked at me.”
He looked up, his gaze molten fire. “When I turned thirteen, I left. Packed up my clothes in a bag and snuck out the window one night. Course, I was on the second floor, slipped like a dumbass and fell—miracle I didn’t break anything. Still made it, though, got out and never saw those rat bastards again.” He gave a callous laugh. “Don’t think they even know I’m alive now, or care. Managed to make it a few nights on the street before a family caught me stealing from their restaurant’s dumpster. They could’ve called the police, but they made me a bargain instead—that’s where I started baking. They didn’t pay me much, if anything, but I got a place to sleep and people who at least didn’t hate me on sight.”
Aziraphale became aware that his mouth had fallen slightly open rather indecorously, and closed it with a snap. Never would he have suspected…
Crowley stared up at the ceiling, blinking. “The death certificate I got was for the owner—he was an absolute arse, don’t mistake me, and I left there soon as I turned eighteen, but…he got me started, y’know?” He gave Aziraphale a helpless, confused look. “Tall, dark-haired bastard…Everyone loved him, even though he wasn’t a good guy—wasn’t kind, wasn’t anything but demanding, but we all adored him even so, until I grew up enough to see the toxicity in that relationship as well.” He gave a violent, jerking twist of his head as though shaking off some unseen demon. “I shouldn’t be sad at all, for all that I despised him in the end, but for him to be gone—he was kind of the last living tie to anything I used to be before this, to my past.”
Pulling his hand away from Aziraphale’s, who allowed it to slip free uncontested, Crowley extended his arms out to encompass the entirety of the bakery.
“I worked the next twenty years to get where I am today, felt I had something to prove, someone I had to be. Swore I’d never go hungry again, decided baking wasn’t the worst way to go, had to be the best because why be anything else?” Yellow eyes shone lantern-bright amid the harsh fluorescent lights,. “But now, I have you, and I realize what it actually means to be happy, to be loved and actually love living. We’re all just mortal, aren’t we, why should we waste our time killing ourselves each and every day when we could be having more of that?”
Surging forward, Aziraphale gripped Crowley’s shoulders, thumbs sliding around to dig into his razor-sharp collarbones, and crashed their mouths together, desperate to communicate the conflicting maelstrom of sentiment stirred up by Crowley’s words. Breath heavy, he exhaled into Crowley’s mouth, lips caressing lips, tongue seeking tongue, humming and sighing and groaning as he poured every free-floating ounce of himself into their embrace. Finally he withdrew, drawing back ever-so-slightly so that he might lean in those scant few inches to press his forehead against his lover’s, one hand creeping up to smooth across the flame-red strands of hair cascading down the back of his neck.
“When you suggested the bakery wasn’t enough,” Aziraphale confessed, “I was terrified that meant that I might not be enough. You’re so dynamic, Crowley, wild and exciting and brimming with this unquenchable fire that I…just don’t have.” He offered a sad smile. “I thought that perhaps without this as our anchor, outside of this little world we have crafted and without the constant adrenaline of orders and deliveries and overwork, you might discover I’m not remotely close to what you truly thought I was, what you need me to be.”
Crowley’s head shot back, a horrified look in his eyes, and Aziraphale hastened to throw up a hand between them, pressing his fingers into Crowley’s chest, fingers five burning points of pressure against the rapid thump-thump of Crowley’s pounding heart. “That’s what I thought,” he stressed, continuing on in a frantic cadence, desperate for Crowley to understand. “I never said I was right.” Leaning forward, he rested his forehead against the crisp seam of Crowley’s dark shirt, nose pressing against one cool button. “You are my world, my dear, with or without this establishment, whether we work in a bakery or in a library or not at all.” His head tipped up to reveal a shy, angelic smile playing at his lips. “And you just made it quite apparent that you most certainly feel the same.”
Crowley let out a choked, gasping little laugh, arms snaking around Aziraphale’s middle and tugging him as close as was physically possible. “Oh, angel, for you to even think—“
“I know,” the decorator soothed, mouthing at the sliver of pale skin above Crowley’s collar. “I know. And, whatever you want to do, wherever you want to go, I’m with you.” Smoothing an imaginary crease from Crowley’s shirt, he pulled Crowley to his feet and dragged him into a tight hug, burying his head against the other man’s shoulder, one hand carding through that brilliant hair as the other pressed warm and solid into his back. “Let’s call it a day, why don’t we? I think there’s more to be said elsewhere, or at least enough to worry about without adding anything here to the mix today.”
As he felt Crowley nod his assent against his cheek, he smiled. “We can discuss it more, though, dearest, for certain—if you truly do want to leave, want to retire or find something else, we can do it. I think perhaps we can do anything we desire, so long as we go at it together.”
They talked well into the afternoon and evening, discussing what-ifs and wherefores with the irritating pragmatism and precision that was the unfortunate offspring of deep-seated anxiety and attention to detail. When they finally retired, they were no closer to an actual plan or decision, even, but had least run through the gamut of their options at least twice.
Now, ensconced in a fortress of blankets, Crowley lay in turmoil, his mind racing and sleep remaining an elusive fancy lurking just beyond reach. Thoughts, endless, boundless lurching thoughts still churned and rattled and ricocheted through his head, turning over and over in an endless cycle as he stared blankly at the insides of his eyelids. Nights such as these were coming more and more frequently, with fewer gaps in between, his long streaks of sleeplessness all but eclipsing the few hours of rest he did manage to obtain during the night. Their earlier discussion had certainly not helped, finally giving voice to all of the doubts and questions and possibilities that had been steadily chipping away at his subconscious these last few long weeks.
“Ngh.” He twisted in the sheets, flipping onto his stomach and buying his head in the pillow, fisting his hands beneath it and opening his eyes in an unseeing, blank stare. This did nothing but tangle the sheet in a knot around his calves. “Bah.”
Finally, Crowley gave up, flopping onto his back and glaring at the ceiling. A quick glance at his phone showed that it was just past the midnight hour, and the cool void on the mattress beside him spoke tellingly of Aziraphale’s absence.
Crowley launched himself off the bed with a groan, lurching out the door and down the hallway to the cozy little sitting room they had carved out of the main entrance hall of the flat. “Can’t sleep, angel?” he asked, gazing fondly at the blond on the couch, the sight of his lover momentarily eclipsing every hint of worry from his mind.
“You should talk,” the decorator replied, eyes trailing idly across the page in front of him. Aziraphale sat back on one side of the sofa, bare feet crossed at the ankles and propped up on the coffee table, elbows resting in his lap with a book held loosely in his hands. His white undershirt had ridden up slightly, exposing a strip of alabaster skin between the hem of his shirt and the waistband of his overlarge plaid pajama pants, and Crowley’s mind stopped twisting long enough to settle somewhere between blatant adoration and spine-tingling lust.
It was absolutely absurd that he could find himself still so enamored of Aziraphale even now, more than a year into their relationship, yet his affection and attraction only seemed to grow with time, a fine wine left to ripen with age. He shuddered, an infinitesimal shake of his slim shoulders, a slow grin snaking across his lips as he slunk across the room and flung himself down on the adjacent cushion.
“Isn’t that what we’re doing now?” he asked, oozing innocence, eyes glinting in the warm glow of the small lamp in the corner. “Talking?”
Paper crinkled as Aziraphale flipped another page. “Oh, is that what they call it nowadays?” he teased, taking in Crowley’s sleep-rumpled hair, deliciously bare chest, and distractingly-patterned boxers6 all without actually looking at him at all.
It was maddening.
“Oh, fuck it.” Crowley waved away their banter with a flippant shake of his hand and all but launched himself into Aziraphale’s lap, sliding the book from his hands with practiced fingers and setting it aside on the coffee table. He bracketed Aziraphale’s sturdy waist with his knees, spindly fingers slipping underneath Aziraphale’s thin white shirt and tip-toeing up his torso to tangle in the smattering of pale hair on his chest.
“Ass,” Aziraphale chided, capturing Crowley’s lips and laughing into his mouth, hands sliding down, down those sleek sides to settle firmly at Crowley’s narrow hips, pulling him more tightly against the rather obvious sign of his growing interest. He could feel Crowley smile against his neck, teeth nibbling daintily at the line of his jugular as he worked his way down to the edge of Aziraphale’s shirt.
They needed this after the drag of the day, needed a break in the doldrums of reality as sure as they needed oxygen. Love, lust, and the expression of such, coupled with the inherent easiness of their flow of affection and banter—those were the foundations of their relationship, not the worry and candor of their earlier conversations.
“We probably should talk more,” Crowley mumbled around his mouthful, hands busy lifting Aziraphale’s shirt up and over his head, fingers waltzing higher to curl through the smattering of white-blond hair across his chest. “Make actual plans, figure out the future and all that jazz, instead of just worrying about it.”
“Mm,” Aziraphale hummed in agreement, tipping his head back to offer Crowley greater access as Crowley worried the fine skin of his neck between his teeth. “Perhaps in the morning?”
He yelped as Crowley shifted tactics and blew a loud raspberry against his neck.
“It is the morning, angel.”
Cerulean eyes rolled skyward. “Actual morning, when breakfast and tea are involved, not middle-of-the-night morning when I could be having you against this sofa.”
Lime green fabric rustled against plaid as Crowley made his opinion of that statement known. “I suppose that is a fair…compromise.”
Laughing a bright, musical laugh Aziraphale deftly flipped them, rolling over so that now it was Crowley pressed against the back of the sofa, Crowley whose abdomen twitched and fluttered as Aziraphale teasingly trailed his fingers down to rest at the waistband of his ridiculous boxers. “I love you so, my dear,” he crooned into Crowley’s stomach, dipping his tongue into the divot of his naval and giggling at the resulting shudder. He moved downward, nosing across pale flesh bared by the swish-slide of lime green fabric, pressing nipping kisses to the delicate skin of Crowley’s inner thighs.
Clever long fingers loosened drawstrings, pushed plaid fabric down, down to crumple on the floor as those plush hips lifted obligingly. Aziraphale drew his tongue along the crease of Crowley’s thigh, then nearly shot out of his skin as he felt a cool, slick finger reach around behind him and trace his rim. “So that’s how it’s going to be,” he mumbled into Crowley’s hipbone. He pushed back against that delicious friction, taking Crowley’s cock in his mouth as he did, groaning in satisfaction as the thin digit slipped inside him even as Crowley bucked helplessly into his mouth.
They worked each other up in a stuttering staccato, the heady air of the sitting room punctuated by the occasional, breathy moan or deep-seated rumble of assent.
Sharp chin nearly pressing through his chest, Crowley gazed down at Aziraphale and watched him work his mouth around his cock even as he drove his fingers deeper and deeper into Aziraphale, crooking them just so so that his angel groaned around his mouthful and sent shudders of pleasure racing rapid-fire through Crowley’s already short-circuiting neurons. That cherubic face, locked in a look of such intense, painful pleasure, those sky-bright blue eyes slanting upwards to lock with gleaming gold—
“Fuck,” Crowley swore, his already-tenuous self control snapping rapidly in two. Serpent-like, he surged down, wrapped himself around Aziraphale and flipped them, pinning the other man to the couch and bearing down upon him, twining and coiling and pressing himself into the other, bringing them close, so close. He opened his mouth to say more, but eloquence failed him, leaving him with too-bright eyes and a screwed-up, furious look of agonized delight stole the very breath from Aziraphale’s lungs.
“Oh my love,” he murmured into Crowley’s sweat-slicked skin, shifting and maneuvering and taking Crowley deep within him self, pressing up and up and bearing down with hands and arms until they were nearly indistinguishable from one another. “How can I ever hope to live, now, having known you as I do? How can I exist, with your love around me, in me, so much that I can never not know it even when we are apart?”
Crowley laughed, a helpless, joyful sound wrenched from his lungs without his permission, mouth tipped down into the crook of Aziraphale’s neck as he took in the sound with a rapturous look. “Angel, can we ever truly be separate, now? Here, at this point, knowing each other as we do?” He drove down, hips pistoning, back and forth, an arm braced on the sofa back behind Aziraphale as he brought them together again and again in a sweet-slick slide of skin on skin. “We know what this is between us, how can we ever be capable of anything less?”
Aziraphale surged upwards and caught Crowley’s lips in a fervent kiss, tongues sliding and teeth clashing and everything surging, pulsing, furious in its intent and tender in its resolution. “Going for poetic, now?” he breathed into his lover’s mouth, shuddering as he felt the first faint stirrings of release creeping up on him.
“Mmm,” Crowley demurred, gasping, his momentum faltering as he struggled to find the words amid the pleasure-induced haze fogging his brain. Failing, he pressed once, twice, three more times into Aziraphale, twisting at just the right angle to tip his love over the edge, to watch him fall apart beneath him. “‘Ziraphale,” he ground out, regaining momentum and seeking his own release, grasping blindly for one manicured hand, gripping it tightly as he let himself go entirely and fell apart around and inside and above his angel.
He slumped against him, a warm weight, a comforting weight, still caught snugly within Aziraphale’s over-sensitized flesh, both of them groaning softly as he finally withdrew. “You’re so perfect, angel,” he whispered against that stock-solid chest, lips and words twisting and twining and carving tattoos upon flesh. “Everything I never knew I was missing in life, and I found it in you.” Drawn by gravity, he flopped boneless to the cushions beside Aziraphale, curling limply around him, drawing those sturdy, strong arms about himself.
“Oh, I think that goes both ways,” Aziraphale returned, grinning his bright-white smile, the endearing expression made all that much more appealing by the fuck-happy tilt to his lips, the haze of lust still working its way out of his cobalt eyes. Shifting, he scooped Crowley up in his arms, bearing him back down the hallway to their room. “Sleep now, I think, my dearest,” he murmured, depositing Crowley under the rumpled covers and sliding in beside him. He trailed a stil-shaking hand through the rats-nest they had made of Crowley’s hair, smoothing it tenderly. “There will be time enough for thoughts in the morning.”
Crowley mumbled something in agreement, already slipping gracelessly into sleep, eyes fluttering and only half-open, his hands grasping blindly for Aziraphale. The decorator slipped around him, spooning up behind him and curling his hands around Crowley’s chest, nuzzling a kiss to his neck. “Sleep, dearest,” he repeated, not fair far behind himself, “just sleep.”
And, finally, Crowley did sleep, unplagued by woe or worry or
They danced in that vague realm of uncertainty for some days, proposing and discarding plans with single-minded intent, never truly satisfied with whatever suggestion had been proposed that day.
“My orders get more and more unique,” Aziraphale commented to the world at large, one day about a week later. Lacking any definite plan, they continued to trundle along at their usual pace, throwing out bread and cakes and pies and confections rapid-fire and blowing break-neck through every day. “I can’t say if it’s the customers we attract, or if we’ve had their business all the while and they are only now deciding to get more creative.” He sighed, scrubbing an elbow across his forehead and mussing his already scattered curls. “And, the most intricate ones are always due at the exact same time. I have three terribly specific cakes due within the next half hour and only one actually finished.”
Crowley arched an eyebrow, leaving his biscuit dough to saunter over to Aziraphale’s workstation. “Oh? And how have the mongering hoard intrigued you this time?” he asked, unceremoniously seizing Aziraphale’s yet-to-be-addressed order stack and flipping through it with idle fingers.
“Give me those,” Aziraphale lunged for the papers, plucking them neatly from Crowely’s disorganized grasp and smoothing them back down on to the table, glaring as he sorted them back into order. He sat back in his stool, tapping his spatula thoughtfully on the rim of his overlarge bucket of buttercream. “But, take this cake for example.” He nodded at the just-iced cake resting on his turntable. "At first glance it seems to be your standard cake order: marble cake, buttercream icing, writing, and so on. But this person has gone and added not only a filling, but explicitly requests the flower type, a chocolate drizzle, and then goes and adds a proposal for the writing.”
He gave wry laugh. “Not only do I have a personal desire to make everything perfect, now I’m practically obligated so that I don’t mess up some poor customer’s attempt at a proposal.”
“Attempt?” Crowley’s tongue darted out to wet his lips, one sharp incisor showing in a bright smirk. “You think it wouldn’t work?” Lightning-quick, he seized the turntable—cake and all—and settled down at the empty stool beside Aziraphale. “Take the next one, angel, I know you’re short on time. My dough can hold for a bit while I wrap this up.”
Aziraphale blinked and then conceded defeat with a delicate shrug, setting up his next cake with almost robotic movements, mindlessly throwing icing between layers and setting up a base layer of buttercream. “I always forget you do like to decorate sometimes,” he teased, jabbing Crowley in the side with a fresh spatula before he began to smooth out his icing.
“Eh, I can do without,” Crowley replied, eyes narrowed in concentration as he whipped out elaborate rose after rose to set along the edges of his cake, “s’why I keep you around, love.”
Snickering, Aziraphale diverted his attention long enough to press a smacking kiss to Crowley’s cheek. “That’s the only reason, is it?” he drawled, tilting his head and scrawling a precise border around the base of the cake.
Crowley nodded. “Obviously.” His tongue poked out from between his lips as he drizzled a neat line of chocolate along the outer edges of his cake, careful not to catch his brilliantly red roses. Amid the gleaming confection, the scarlet buttercream was radiant, and Aziraphale’s breath caught as he took in the snow-white cake accented by rich chocolate and red.
“That actually is a rather convincing design,” he conceded, nodding at the order form splayed out in front of Crowley and the cake it described.
“Not done yet,” Crowley hummed, eyes agleam as he prepped a writing bag, this one, too, filled with brilliant crimson icing.
Aziraphale knew he should be working on his own cake—that was why Crowley had jumped in, after all—but he found himself hopelessly drawn to the deft motions of Crowley’s lean, spindly fingers as they pressed and directed the bag, the adorable look of concentration on his face as he leaned in so that his nose nearly brushed the icing as he scrutinized his writing. With a shake of his head, Aziraphale snapped himself out of his stupor enough to return to his own decorating, adding the top border and roses and writing in a daze. Finally, he turned to reach for a box and found one inches from his face, a grinning Crowley standing there with a knowing smirk.
“Looking for this?” he asked, dangling the disassembled box between two fingers.
Aziraphale harrumphed and snatched it, opening it and sliding his cake neatly inside. “What about yours?” he replied testily, “shouldn’t you have it boxed by now?”
“We-ell,” Crowley drawled, and was that a hint of trepidation in his eyes? “Mine is actually for a very specific order. Requested no box, personal delivery.”
“And you agreed?” Aziraphale relied, shocked. Crowley never never went out of his way to accommodate requests7
Crowley took Aziraphale by the shoulders and half-dragged him over to the adjacent station. “What do you think, angel?” he asked, and yes that was most certainly abject terror shining in his eyes.
The cake was stunning.
Snow-white buttercream covered black and white marble, masking the warring, contrasting flavors even as the chocolate coating the edges and sides spoke tellingly of the diverse interior. The border was an exquisitely-executed shell, with over-piping set across the top in swooping scarlet scrolls. And, sloping across and between the multitude of roses, were the words “Marry me?” in Crowley’s looping script.
“Oh, Crowley, it’s perfect,” Aziraphale gushed, overcome. He twisted to look at the baker, eyes bright, and faltered as his eyes swept across empty space, brow furrowing as his gaze trailed down to find Crowley on his knees.
The baker grinned sheepishly, raising one lanky arm, shaking palm extended, a discrete jewelry box resting in the center. “Well?” he drawled, his apparent nonchalance belied by his wide, white-rimmed eyes and the tremor in his voice. “Whaddya say, angel?”
Aziraphale’s mouth fell open. “Crowley—!” He scrambled for words, sense failing him, a rush of warm tears and staggering emotion threatening to overwhelm him. “Oh, my dear, yes.” Legs failing him, he crashed to his knees before Crowley, grasping blindly for him, hauling him close as the awkward angle would allow, the ring box pressing tightly into their chests. “A thousand times—a million times yes.”
Choking out a disbelieving laugh, Crowley pressed a shaking kiss to his lover’s—fiancé’s—wayward white-blond curls. “I know we still don’t have a plan, but I figure, fuck it all—no matter what we do, what we decide about our future, it’ll be okay so long as we do it together.” His hands skimmed up and down Aziraphale’s sides, chasing the creases of his shirt, an absentminded gesture he hardly noticed until Aziraphale stilled the restless motion by capturing Crowley’s hands in his own.
“We’ll be fine, my dear,” he murmured, breath stolen by the absolute perfection of this moment, ignoring the fact that they were on the bakery floor and he had one knee in a blob of fallen icing, ignoring the reality that they still had no idea where they were going from where. He gave a short, startled laugh, catching the ring box still clutched between Crowley’s numb fingers and flipping it open to reveal a simple, elegant gold signet ring etched fittingly with a pair of angel’s wings.8
“That’s my honor, angel,” Crowley informed him, regaining possession of the ring and slipping it neatly onto Aziraphale’s finger. They both sat in silence, staring at the gleam of gold against Aziraphale’s pale skin. Eventually Crowley stirred, catching that hand between both of his and bringing it to his lips, brushing kisses across the knuckles, along each finger, lingering at the press of that golden band at the base of Aziraphale’s knuckle. Their eyes met, a surge of electricity crackling between them--
And that, of course, was how Anathema found them when she burst into the back some seconds later, the demand for bread hovering at the seam of her lips dissipating as she took in the sight of the kneeling men and the glint of gold resting between them.
(The ensuing shriek was enough to wake the dead)
1Not that he would—for reasons soon to be mentioned, they were in fact the only living souls in the bakery that particular day.
2“Crowley, while I appreciate the time off—and the day’s pay, of course—could you maybe call me the night before rather than four o’clock in the fucking morning?
3A stunt he rather regretted as the combination of the rapid movement and the alcohol in his system did him no particular favours.
5No pun intended
6Lime green and patterned with various varieties of donuts.
7In fact, his rather unique and innate rudeness contributed heavily to the bakery’s overall appeal. Every new customer thought his or her order would be The One to finally crack the imperturbable baker’s stoney facade, and by this point the order backlog was so unrealistically ridiculous that Crowley had blatantly encouraged Anathema to begin physically beating them away with a broom to stave the incessant flow.
8Trite? Yes. Cliche? Yes. Suck it up and marinate in the over-saturation of fluff.