It started like this:
A boy, who was maybe the Antichrist and maybe not and maybe just a little bit human and maybe a lot a bit human - and aren’t we all just that, in the end? Just a mess of contradictions and compassion? - met an angel and a demon at the precipice of the end of life as we knew it.
We were about to hurtle downwards, or upwards, or truly, toward no place at all because it was doubtful either side would take us. We were about to cling to our humanity with the last of the strength that we had as the ethereal and occult ripped it away while they ripped apart one another with no regard for who once used to be a brother, a colleague, a friend.
We were about to be exterminated for the sake of a war we had no choice in.
(Then again, those who are most often exterminated in war rarely have the privilege of choosing it anyway. Perhaps there was a reason for that - perhaps this was the reason for that. After all, a frog boiled slowly won’t even notice it’s being killed. Does Heaven or Hell care enough to give us that mercy? Perhaps not, but someone in the universe tried.)
That being said, we did not hurtle. We did not cling. We were not exterminated.
The maybe-a-lot-of-things boy chose humanity instead, and we were saved. Our world was preserved. The boy fixed what had been broken - tikkun olam and all, he figured - and decreed that there would be no more messing around by those who did not belong to Earth.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t make a few minor tweaks to reality along the way.
He was of Earth, after all.
You might say it started like this:
The subtle temptation of a lunch date in Rome. The eager grin at the Globe. The bodies and books saved in a church where burning feet and whistling bombs could not keep them apart.
The towering monstrosity of an Ark only designed for a few. The base of Mount Sinai where they gathered, intertwined irrevocably for not the last time in existence but certainly the first. The changing of the seasons and the years and the decades and the centuries around them, as populations grew and shrunk and grew again. Borders changed, cities changed, but people didn’t really change all that much, and they frankly preferred it that way.
It meant they didn’t have to change much either.
It also, however, started like this:
A lonely Earth. Shoulders brushing while eyes gazed toward sunrise. Hands emptied - of a sword, of an apple. Hearts full - of love, of sorrow and anger. Words hanging in the air between them as if language had not yet figured out how to walk on the tightrope of longing, arms outstretched for anything to cling onto and failing, falling, to connect.
Regardless of where it started, here is where we all ended up:
It was a chilly October night. We were going about our lives, as humans tend to do, not necessarily noticing the little things that make us uniquely human and uniquely us. We are, for the most part, happy this way.
The boy had decided to be more human than not, and so he had school the next day and was thus safely asleep in his bed. He had done his homework, partly because he cared and partly because he did not want to stay in during recess to complete it under his teacher’s cruel glare. He had, for the most part, not regretted staying human.
The angel and the demon were drinking steadily - had been, actually, for quite a few hours now following a light dinner at the nearby new Japanese restaurant that the angel had had his eyes on for weeks. The demon didn’t care much for sushi himself, so his eyes had been decidedly elsewhere and carefully shaded, but he noticed where the angel’s eyes went and so had proposed the place to see them light up.
They were not quite happy, nor totally free of regret, but they were as close as two beings bonded through time could be with the concepts.
The not quite happiness came from the same place the miniscule drop of regret did - the distance between them.
For Crowley - that was the demon’s name, and it’s best to memorize it quickly, before he changes it yet again - knew that the angel would love him if he just asked, and Aziraphale - the angel, though there’s no rush with him, there never really is - knew that the demon would take him in with open arms if he just asked. It’s just that neither of them were good at asking things of one another.
“Care for dinner?” was one thing, a relatively safe one. “Another glass of wine?” was yet another, though somewhat more dangerous depending on how many glasses had already been drunk.
“Go away with me?” had been voiced once in many, many more words - it was a risk, and he had tried to save face by babbling as he usually did, tried to conceal his want beneath words that could never fully encompass the knot in his gut - but that question had been answered by an unequivocal no , except it wasn’t really a no, was it? It wasn’t a yes, though. Either way, the notion had been summarily retired.
“Love me?” was never to be said aloud. “Let me love you?” was never to be brought to the surface. The answer to both questions was, of course, yes, and they did love one another and they dined together and laughed together and drank together and tried to save the world together. They did not live together, but that was a minor detail, really, when they hadn’t quite gotten to the point where they could clasp hands without becoming unbearably overwhelmed like teenagers with their first crush.
So they drank and hoped nothing silly came out of their mouths as they threw themselves across couches and armchairs, nearly fingertips nearly brushing and the words on the tips of their tongues as if language had finally figured out that tightrope walk.
The boy - Adam is his name - had not known this when he met the angel and the demon. He had seen them bracketing him on either side, their bond impenetrable to the forces of Heaven and Hell. He’d seen the way they gazed at each other. He’d felt the love they felt for one another - had sensed the strength of their bond, warm and hot and cool and stable and fragile all at once, sort of like he was all sorts of things at once himself - and at that point, he’d been able to feel those things, and he was able to fix things like the angel’s bookshop and the demon’s car and -
Well, if he’d made some assumptions about what needed to be replaced, he could not be blamed.
Crowley, when drunk, was restless. Aziraphale, when drunk, was malleable. It worked out fine, most of the time, because a drunken demon was more than content to drag his drunken angel around the shop, or sometimes around the street for fish and chips, or once, notably, to the Thames for a quick swim where they had miraculously not gotten wet nor caught.
Most of the time, they stuck to the shop.
It was, in Crowley’s opinion, a veritable treasure trove, and not just because the angel was there.
He’d never be caught admitting it - and he was serious when he said he disliked he reading, found it boring and dull and unnecessary when he had Aziraphale to summarize any text to him, and besides, he liked the angel’s voice better - but he liked the history inherent in the rare bookshop. He liked to leaf through old tomes and find the rude notes scrawled in the margins. He liked to stare at paintings and knickknacks and try to remember their origins. He liked to regale Aziraphale with stories.
This started as one of those evenings.
It did not end that way.
The page was innocuous at first, hanging on the wall inside a dull wooden frame that had been worn rather than polished to smoothness. Set between two bookshelves in the back of the shop that Crowley didn’t often seek out - no fun toys to play with back here, after all - but had stumbled upon in his search for the signed copy of Sound of Music that he knew he had snuck into the collection quite a few years ago solely to annoy Aziraphale - he had the niggling sense in his gut that it was both new and not new at all.
He peered closer.
It was a ketubah.
It was rather simply made compared to others that Crowley had seen save for the intricate illustration of an apple tree creeping up the edges and corners. Gold was woven into its leaves; the ink still gleamed on the apple’s shine. Tasteful, he thought. The type of design he’d have liked, even with that bit of irony, had he ever the opportunity to get married.
Satisfied with the stylistic decisions, he frowned and searched the text for hints as to whose marriage contract Aziraphale might have hung in his bookshop. It wouldn’t be the strangest thing the angel had ever hoarded, but it certainly was unusual and Crowley was in the middle of wondering what poor estate was missing its ancestor’s documents when his eyes caught a familiar string of letters.
If demons could faint from sheer emotion, Crowley was fairly sure he would have. Instead, he miracled the rest of the wine right out of Aziraphale’s hand and chugged it.
“Are you absolutely certain?” Aziraphale asked, squinting at the ketubah, which was still in its frame and resting gently on his lap. He had reclaimed the wine from Crowley, who gave it up with only a little fight and was still quite too woozy to be having this conversation. “I mean - we’ve never - I’ve never -”
“If you think for a sssssecond, angel, that I would fake ssssssomething like that, ” Crowley mumbled miserably from his spot on the floor underneath the coffee table. He had retreated there shortly after he lost the wrestling match over the drink to sulk. “You’re - you’re -” Here, he lost steam and ended rather pathetically - “missssstaken .”
Aziraphale set the bottle of wine on the table - it shook slightly above Crowley, who scowled - and pushed the reading glasses that he didn’t need up his nose with his thumb. “Oh my, you’re drunk ,” he said with surprise, as if they had not been drinking steadily for at least three hours.
“Oh my, you’re drunk, ” Crowley mimicked right back. “Jussssss - jusssss look at the thing, won’t you?”
“I’d like to sober up first,” Aziraphale announced, to which Crowley muttered something that sounded like “bloody brilliant for you” in response. The wine bottle refilled. Crowley grabbed it and held it close, cradling it like a baby - which, he would remind you, he actually had a decent amount of practice with - and considered the pros and cons of hitting his own head against the bottom of the table repeatedly until he went unconscious.
It would probably be less agony.
Here is the issue: As mentioned before, Crowley had, in fact, asked Aziraphale to run away with him. He had received a no. He had also, previously, asked if Aziraphale would like a ride somewhere - to the bookshop, to the park, to a bed that they could both share, though that last bit went unsaid - and had received a quiet, too painful, “You go too fast for me” in response.
They had only just begun spending the night on one another’s couches, let alone letting the other catch them gazing as if the whole world was contained between them. A ketubah? Aziraphale was going to have a heart attack and discorporate and Hell knew Heaven wouldn’t give him a new body so quickly.
“Well, this seems fairly standard,” Aziraphale mused, lifting his wine glass to his lips again as if he hadn’t just expelled it all from his system. “I don’t quite understand why you felt the need to steal my - oh. ”
And there it was. Crowley gave his head a small bang for the hell of it. “ Oh,” he repeated.
“That’s strange,” Aziraphale went on.
“You really don’t need to,” Crowley pleaded.
“Well, it says right here -”
“Angel, please. ”
“Anah ben Beriyos! It’s just that you haven’t used that one in a while. I always liked that name, Crowley. Why did you change it again?”
Crowley mumbled something that would have sounded vaguely like “Use your brain for once, you clever idiot” had he been sober enough to make any noises that sounded vaguely like that.
Aziraphale seemed to understand. “Good point, my dear. So you’re right, it is yours. Hm, and who’ve you gotten yourself married to? ” he asked aloud musingly and Crowley, with no exaggeration, actually prayed for the Almighty to smite him in that moment and then, in a voice carefully devoid of emotion, the angel said, “Oh.”
Crowley dared to peek out at Aziraphale’s knee. “Found it then?” he asked weakly.
Aziraphale was staring at the frame in disbelief. “Ezraphael ben Olam,” he read aloud, his lips curling around a name he hadn’t used aloud in centuries. He looked pale and ponderous or placid or panicked - Crowley could not tell. “That’s me .”
Crowley sighed and rolled the wine out from his hiding spot.
He knew how to share.
“So,” Aziraphale said the following morning. They’d proceeded to get atrociously drunk again after the realization that they had been married, according to the ketubah, since the eleventh of Tevet, 5767. Since January 2007. Twelve years. Since before the Antichrist had even been born.
It was dizzying.
To cope, Crowley had downed an entire bottle of tequila that he absolutely snapped into existence because it was terrible and he’d never been quite good at creating wine, let alone other alcohols. He also remained underneath the table for the entirety of the night, and Aziraphale was sure he had slept there.
On the other hand, Aziraphale had switched from wine to hot toddies - rather strong ones - and spent the time that Crowley was blathering to himself something about stars and speed and discorporation on his old computer. He studiously booted up Windows 7, waited for Internet Explorer to load, and researched.
It was unfortunate, he supposed, that same-sex marriages had only been legalized in the United Kingdom as of 2014, especially considering both of their preferred corporations, but he decided that it was perhaps for the better. It would be an excuse to do it for real - actually sign the document himself and all. He appreciated miracles as much as any angel, but there’s something to be said about the human way, about pen and paper. Plus, Crowley would enjoy a party.
He’d have to go looking for a rabbi who would perform the ceremony, and perhaps they could book a spot in the park so the ducks could be there? That would be nice, to sneak away and steal a moment of quiet. He was fairly certain he had a chuppah he’d been gifted long ago by Rifka and Leah hidden away, and that would be a lovely addition. Dance lessons, he’d have to pick those up again if he was not to embarrass them both, and invitations, and of course, they needed to choose a date, and - well, he was getting ahead of himself.
It was a shame, he admitted, that he hadn’t the opportunity to propose properly . He’d quite liked the idea of that, and this discovery in the back of his bookshop had simply jump-frogged them over that step. Still, he supposed he could still find a ring and surprise the demon one day. He always liked the way Crowley’s eyes widened ever so slightly when he was shocked, the slits opening up as if to drink in the world around him even more hungrily than before.
That was how he looked that morning, sprawled out on the couch and cracking his spine with a yawn and a bleary expression. His sunglasses were conspicuously missing.
Aziraphale loved it.
“So,” Crowley echoed. The ketubah remained between them like a barrier that might burn them both. He was annoyingly sober, at this point, and with a raging headache to go with it. It seemed that Hell had decided to punish him after all by subtly diminishing the power of his minor miracles by a notch. Overall, it wasn’t a nuisance - but the hangovers were unfavorable at best.
Aziraphale passed him a mug of cocoa in sympathy. Their fingers brushed for a millisecond longer than usual and Crowley felt a roll of panic rise up in him. He pulled the mug closer and took a burning gulp to squash it down. “This is ridiculous,” Crowley said instead of all the other thoughts that were welling up in him like blood from a papercut. “We can’t be married.”
Aziraphale quirked his lips fondly. “Well, my dear, we did raise a child together shortly after this was signed.”
Crowley wasn’t sure if raising was what he’d call their shaky guardianship of Warlock, but the angel had a point as always. He scowled at the ketubah. “When did we even do this?” A shock of horror ran through his veins and he scrambled for his sunglasses so Aziraphale couldn’t see his eyes. “Did we consummate the marriage? Do you remember any of this?”
Aziraphale thought for a moment. “Not that I can recall. It was New Year’s Day,” he pointed out, jabbing a finger at the now-smudged glass of the frame. It was rather ragged - he thought it might have once held his most recent fire code inspection, which he’d never cared particularly about. A new frame was in order, then. “Perhaps we were still drinking.”
“So, what?” Crowley sipped from the cocoa again to earn himself time to think . “We managed to find a rabbi on New Year’s Day, seven years before two people who look like us could legally get married to each other, who was willing to oversee a wedding? That’s lunatic, angel.”
Aziraphale reached out a hand and Crowley wordlessly passed him the cocoa. “It’s possible,” Aziraphale said slowly after having taken a few thoughtful sips, “that we spoke with Rabbi Geller. Do you remember them? Around the block?”
Crowley groaned and buried his head in a pillow. “Yes,” he mumbled. “Yes, they would have married us. Thought we were - blerg - cute, didn’t they?”
“I imagine we were,” Aziraphale said, affronted. “And are!”
Crowley muttered something unintelligible before snapping a bottle of wine into his hand again. Aziraphale snatched it away before he could miracle the cork open.
“Angel !” he whined, but was cowed in a barely a moment by Aziraphale’s stern gaze. “Fine,” he said and crossed his arms over his chest. “So what do we do about this?” he asked, gesturing loosely at the ketubah. The shiny inky apples seemed to mock him. “Get a get? Stay married? Can we even get a get if we don’t remember the marriage in the first place?” he asked and hoped his sarcasm was stronger than his longing. These were more meaningful questions in a row than he’d asked since his Fall and he wasn’t sure there was much lower to go anymore.
Aziraphale seemed surprised at his tone. He blinked once. “Why, I suppose we ought to keep it up,” he said slowly. “It will make things easier, don’t you think?”
Crowley let out a shaky breath he hadn’t noticed he was holding. Yes , of course Aziraphale would see the practical side of things. They’d been discussing perhaps buying or renting a cottage in South Downings, and that would certainly be easier to arrange if their finances were combined - which in turn would be easier with a marriage. Not too fast at all, then - not if they wanted to move by summer.
“Yes,” he agreed and moved the ketubah out of the way to lean forward. He curled his fingers around Aziraphale’s and eased the mug back into his grasp, the touch warming him from the inside out. “I do,” he said.
(A piece of knowledge that is rather necessary to impart: Neither Aziraphale nor Crowley suggested they destroy the contract, which would have solved the issue quite neatly and quickly because no second copy existed. Eleven year olds don’t imagine that the angel and the demon he assumed had been married for his entire lifetime could ever want to destroy it.
It’s not necessarily that Crowley would not , in fear of moving too fast, have eagerly ripped it to shreds - it’s simply that he did not think of it.
Luckily, this thought did not cross either of their minds. Had it occurred to either of them while removing the ketubah from the frame, they would have undoubtedly noticed the name Elokeinu etched in gold in the witness’s spot, and thus been hit with the realization that they could not destroy a marriage contract that the Almighty Herself had signed with such ease.)
(Crowley probably would have retreated back under the table for the rest of eternity, so had Aziraphale known the fate they avoided that day, he would have been quite grateful.)
By the next time their marriage came up, Crowley had spent three nights on Aziraphale’s couch - not in a row, mind you, just three nights overall - and was almost convinced the ketubah had been an alcohol-induced hallucination. There was nothing to suggest it was otherwise; the frame was conspicuously gone from the wall, presumably stored somewhere far away from sight - not that Crowley had gone back to check every day for a week straight - and Aziraphale had still not initiated contact beyond the firm press of palms to one another.
It was fine. Crowley was fine. He thought he’d lost him the moment their eyes landed on the ketubah, the moment they were thrust into the fast lane, so this was - glorious . Perfect. Ideal, even. They were strolling through the park in the bright sunlight and their hands were clasped together, fingers intertwined, and it was more than Crowley had ever dreamed of, and -
He was getting lightheaded just thinking about it. He dared to squeeze Aziraphale’s hand just a bit tighter and was rewarded with a warm smile in response. The angel’s cheeks were pink from the chill.
Crowley smiled back, relieved all over again that the ketubah had seemed to disappear as suddenly as it had appeared. Losing this was not worth the risk.
Crowley suggested they duck into a nearby bakery for a pastry and a warm drink, boldly rubbing some warmth into the back of Aziraphale’s hand with his thumb. Aziraphale beamed and led the way.
“A cocoa for me,” he said to the young girl at the register with a blue streak through her hair who stared at them with the bored resignation of customer service, a smile plastered across her face. “And one of those chocolate scones, if you would, please. And - Anthony, would you like anything?”
Crowley was standing back a few inches, hands stuck in his pockets to resist the urge to reach out and hold again. He shrugged. “You know what I like, angel.”
Aziraphale made a sound - a soft sound, almost like a laugh, but fonder - and turned to face the cashier. “My husband will have a small coffee, black, only one sugar, please.”
“Not much of a sweet tooth, huh?” the girl asked as she punched in the order, her smile melting and shoulder relaxing as she looked curiously at the pair.
Crowley felt frozen. Aziraphale reached back and pulled him forward. “No, not much of one,” Aziraphale said. “More pastries for me, isn’t that right, dear?” He wrapped his arm around Crowley’s waist and tugged him closer.
Close enough to smell the newest cologne he was trying out. Close enough to feel the heat of Aziraphale’s hand through his jacket. Close enough to see the swirl of silver in his eyes, almost imperceptible to the human eye.
“You know,” Crowley said a few days later after he had recovered (read: gone home and submerged himself fully in the bath until he lost the will to keep the water comfortable). He was sitting opposite Aziraphale in a pub that had decent chips and better drinks. “You don’t have to - y’know.” He gestured between the two of them. “In public? Or ever, really.”
Aziraphale frowned and put down his pencil. He’d been scribbling idly in a tattered notebook since they’d arrived, his attention wavering only when Crowley pushed a garlic and herb chip into his hand. He frowned. “I don’t think I know what you’re talking about, my dear.”
Crowley gestured again. “ This ,” he said emphatically. “Us.”
Aziraphale merely blinked.
“You know,” Crowley said again, and lowered his voice. “Our marriage. You don’t need to -” He cut himself off, unable to bring himself to bring the words into reality. You don’t need to pretend. To give me all of you. To go too fast.
“ Oh ,” Aziraphale said, seeming to understand. He snapped his notebook shut and reached across the table to take Crowley’s hand between his. This was a new thing - Crowley felt like he was about to combust in infernal flames every single time - and it still sent jitters up his whole arm. “Of course I do, my dear,” he said firmly.
He was, naturally, referring to organizing a formal ceremony in which their marriage would be recognized by humans. This was what he was presently working on in his notebook. He had read online that wedding planning was unwieldy work, so he strove to be as organized as possible with it. It did not occur to him that he had forgotten to clue Crowley in on his plans simply because he had assumed they were on the same page from the beginning.
On the other hand, Crowley was fairly certain that Aziraphale was referring to their occasionally public acts of affection because he also had assumed they were on the same page.
You know what we humans say about assumptions.
Demons and angels, unfortunately, do not.
“Are you absolutely sure?” Crowley asked, his brow furrowing as he dug his nails into Aziraphale’s palm.
Something flashed across Aziraphale’s face - barely there, just a glance of fear - and disappeared again. “Yes, of course,” Aziraphale said softly, and something cracked inside Crowley’s chest to hear how his voice wavered with emotion. “Are you?”
“I -” Crowley was lost for words. He reached up to adjust his glasses, to make sure his eyes were completely hidden, but Aziraphale’s hand met his wrist. He brought Crowley’s hands together as if in prayer, cradling them within his own.
“My dear,” Aziraphale said gently. “If you’re unsure about this, we can talk about it.”
Crowley didn’t ever want Aziraphale to let go of his hands. He considered lifting their joined fingers to his lips, pressing them to Aziraphale’s ink-stained knuckles, holding them there. He shook his head, chasing the thought away. “No,” he said. “It’s all good with me.”
With Aziraphale’s permission - and Crowley caught himself blessing, genuinely blessing that permission, blessing that soft smile that had brought out the wrinkles around Aziraphale’s eyes, that slight squeeze of his hands within the angel’s - Crowley found himself unable to stop reaching out for Aziraphale. In the park, in the bookshop, even in the Bentley as he drove with one hand on the wheel and one eye on the road, the other hand tentatively draped over Aziraphale’s knee and the other eye watching his reactions carefully.
Aziraphale never once flinched away.
Crowley was sure he hadn’t managed to redeem himself in the eyes of Heaven, but he wondered, briefly, if this was a gift from the Almighty Herself.
They spent New Year’s Eve on the rooftop of Crowley’s building. He had threatened the landlord into lending him the key and then spent an hour miracling blankets and champagne and chairs upstairs, and then another three doing it the human way when it didn’t feel quite right. They watched the fireworks, shoulder to shoulder, shivering as perfect snowflakes fell around them and landed, unmelting, on Aziraphale’s lashes until Crowley reached out, hesitant and fingers shaking, to brush them away. He’d abandoned his sunglasses around the time the snow had started, the smudges annoying him more than his eyes.
They didn’t bother with the countdown. They’d lived through enough years that ten seconds here or there didn’t matter anymore. Instead, Crowley laid on the blankets and had what he was certain was a minor heart attack when Aziraphale began to run his fingers through his hair.
He couldn’t help leaning into the touch with a sigh, eyes fluttering shut. Aziraphale laughed.
“Thought you might like that,” he murmured. People were drunk down on the street, blowing on horns and screaming, but the two beings were in their own world. Midnight had crept up on them.
A lot of things somehow managed to creep up on this pair. The time. Their love. Their marriage. Once, notably, the beginning of the End of Days and also the start of them.
“I believe it’s our anniversary, dear,” Aziraphale said louder.
Crowley laughed. They hadn’t discussed their apparent marriage since that day in the pub, and he was quite satisfied with the arrangement they had going - lowercase arrangement, that is. They were taking it slowly - whatever it was - and playing up the husbands thing in public in case anyone from the realtor agency asked. He found it unlikely that they would, as all it would take was a little demonic interference to rid the humans of any misgivings, but he knew how Aziraphale liked to do things the human way, the right way - and well, he wasn’t going to complain. Surely Aziraphale would draw back as soon as he realized that this was a pointless exercise.
Not for the first time, Crowley considered giving Aziraphale an out, a way to gracefully back away. If he held him close - if he kissed him - if he expressed his love in words, stripped raw and unflinching so that Aziraphale could not layer his platitudes over the sentiment, so that he could not misunderstand - surely Aziraphale would turn on his heel and flee. He’d done it before. He’d have an excuse. Perhaps it was too cruel to let this go on, to let an angel tie himself to a demon with marriage.
But, Crowley considered, was it really cruel to anyone but himself? And would it be crueler to lose it?
(He had no way to know that the angel would hardly turn and run - no way to know that the angel would hold him tight and kiss him back and shower him with adoration. He’d never asked.)
So, instead of “I love you,” Crowley opened his eyes and smiled and shook his head. “You and your human traditions,” he murmured fondly instead.
Aziraphale still had snowflakes stuck to him. He smiled back, cheeks flushed from the cold and the wine. “You and your demonic wiles,” he teased back. The shouting on the street got louder, got drunker, and he wrinkled his nose. “Shall we go inside? Get ready for bed?”
Crowley yawned. “You’re gonna sssssleep?” he asked, surprised. Aziraphale, for all his hedonism, had never taken to sleep.
Aziraphale wrinkled his nose again. Sleep was an ineffective use of his time, he had always claimed, but the truth was that his brain simply worked too fast at night, spinning itself out of control, to bother trying.
“Well, no,” he admitted. “I have a book I’ve been meaning to get to. But you look like you need a rest, my dear.”
Crowley sighed. It was true that he was tired to the bone, but he didn’t technically need the rest and what he wanted more was -
He was too much of a coward to even think about how he’d have traded all the sleep in the world to sit like this with Aziraphale just a bit longer.
Mortifyingly, Aziraphale seemed to read his mind. “I’ll be here in the morning, Crowley,” he said soothingly, and it was terrifying how it seemed to work.
“You hate my couch,” Crowley accused through a yawn instead of bursting with relief. “You can’t sit on it all night, no matter how good your book is.” His eyes fluttered shut again as Aziraphale’s manicured nails scratched against his scalp, just lightly dragging across the nape of his neck.
Aziraphale sounded pleased with himself when he said, “Oh hush.” In one swift movement, he miracled their nest away, save for the blanket Crowley was laying on. In another, he swept the demon up in a bundle in his arms and made for the door.
Crowley considered struggling. He considered telling the angel off. He considered taking the opportunity to throw his hands around the angel’s neck and cling on for life.
Rather than any of that, he yawned again and burrowed his face into Aziraphale’s chest, breathing in the sunlight and sweet cologne and cocoa and dusty books, feigning sleep as best he could until it was no longer an act but drowsy reality. Aziraphale was steady as they descended to Crowley’s flat, his heartbeat a constant, soothing thrum against Crowley’s ear.
Crowley tried to stifle the whine that escaped his throat when Aziraphale released him, sliding him between the silk sheets.
And then the mattress beside him sank and Crowley’s breath caught and Aziraphale drew the covers over them both. “Let there be light,” the angel murmured. A page flipped.
“Very convincing show,” Crowley mumbled into the pillow, referring of course to their journey into bed. There were plenty of humans running around the building. It was very possible that they’d seen them return. “Should be an actor, angel.”
A page flipped. “Go to sleep, you serpent,” Aziraphale promptly gently. “I’m going nowhere.”
Crowley fell asleep with the Aziraphale’s fingers tethered in his hair.
A snapshot of accidental domesticity:
A crackling fireplace in January. A demon with his head in an angel’s lap, eyes shut tight, trying to revel in the moment before it slips away. A book balanced on the arm of the couch.
“I’m thinking about spring.”
“After Sefirat HaOmer, of course.”
A sleepy nod. A satisfied, fond smile.
Crowley didn’t know when they had begun cohabitating in earnest, but the fact of the matter was that by February, they were spending the night together more often than not. He didn’t mind, exactly - quite the opposite, actually. Waking up to Aziraphale beside him in bed, hunched over a book, was quickly becoming his favorite view. The way the angel would frown at the page as if puzzling it out, the way he bit his lip or even nibbled at his manicured thumb when he came across a particularly annoying bit - it was the stuff of Crowley’s wildest daydreams.
It was just - he knew a thing or two about torture, but he had never accounted for this.
When it ended - it would have to end, wouldn’t it? Crowley considered what he’d do when it did - he’d hide for a few centuries. He’d trudge off to Alpha Centauri alone.
It was an exquisite sort of pain, really, to know that someone could love you with all their heart and to also know they’d never entrust themselves to you, to know that they’d never believe you capable of it.
Too fast - he was always too fast for Aziraphale. Well, he’d slowed down and he’d done it willingly and happily and he’d do it again and again and again, but if Aziraphale decided it was not enough?
Crowley did not know if he could go any slower.
Love, he was capable of. But could he retract his touch? Lower his gaze again? He wasn’t as sure.
He could feel it coming to an end. It was at his fingertips and he was not ready.
“You’re quiet today,” Aziraphale commented over his damned notebook. Crowley couldn’t help feeling a curl of jealousy at the way Aziraphale fawned over the smudged pages, scribbling it seemed incessantly. It was unfounded jealousy - even he was not so far gone to think a notebook was prioritized over him, though he had his suspicions about a few of the rare editions hidden among the shelves. “Do you need to get out and do some tempting?”
Crowley set his jaw, braced himself. Best to get it over with. He tossed the envelope on the table between them, let the corner fall into a drop of jam. It had dropped through the mail slot just as he’d stumbled past, sleep-worn and face lined with the seams of Aziraphale’s pillowcase, practically dropped at his feet, and his blood had been cold ever since. “This came in the mail today,” he said hollowly. “From Heaven.”
Aziraphale looked up from his book, eyes wide. “Oh?”
Crowley didn’t say a word.
Aziraphale picked up the envelope, tentatively peeled it open. Peeked within. Crowley watched, wary.
“Oh,” Aziraphale said again, his shoulders loosening and his mouth spreading into a grin. “No need for concern at all. Just a response! A surprising one, but nevertheless.” He flipped through his book and made a mark, tucked the envelope into a pocket at the front, and glanced back at Crowley. “Now what’s wrong?”
Crowley was trying to breathe through his nose. It wasn’t a summons, then. Wasn’t a threat or demand to break it off with the demon. Wasn’t the end yet. “Nothing,” he said, his anxiety now aimless, ricocheting off his ribs like a poorly aimed ping pong ball. “Maybe I do need to go tempt a few people. Do you mind?” he asked as he kicked his chair out, summoned his jacket from the bedroom.
Aziraphale rolled his eyes. “You know I don’t, dear. I have some arrangements to take care of if you’d like to come, though.”
Crowley shook his head. He wasn’t feeling in the mood for miracles. He was already living in one.
Aziraphale smiled, shook his head fondly, flipped a page. “Just be home in time for dinner, then, my dear,” he said and bent back over his notebook.
Crowley didn’t make promises lightly, but with Aziraphale, it felt like they wouldn’t stop pouring out. It was like the swell of a grand crescendo, or a wave crashing against rocks, or a tightrope walker tumbling down from her perch. “I will,” he said quietly and slid his sunglasses over his eyes. “I promise.”
There is only so much a being can take of being touched and being loved and being completely under the belief that it is false before it becomes too much to handle.
So, it was only a matter of time, Crowley figured, before he cracked.
“Have you even looked at the directions?” Aziraphale asked, wringing his hands in his lap from the passenger’s seat. He had a sheath of paper balanced on his knees - MapQuest directions - and the edges were nearly worn already from his handling.
Crowley had both hands on the wheel this time, his eyes on the road, and he longed to reach out and touch, but that would require putting that damn map near his hand which was akin to losing. “Don’t need them,” he said casually, though he absolutely did.
Aziraphale hummed. It was a disbelieving sound. It also grated on every single one of Crowley’s nerve endings like sandpaper being rubbed against his fingertips.
“I don’t!” Crowley growled.
“If you say so, dear.” Aziraphale flipped over the top page of his notes. “Except that you’ve missed the exit.”
Crowley blessed, swerved, and bent reality just enough to get back to the exit without causing any major traffic incidents.
“Don’t need your holy instructions,” he muttered under his breath as they sped off the highway and into the countryside, knuckles white. The fields blurred by like swirls of paint, winter intermingling with spring as they moved into a wet March.
Aziraphale huffed, but said nothing.
By the time they made it to their appointment - only a few minutes late, albeit with a few minor miracles - and tumbled out of the Bentley, both Crowley and Aziraphale had a feral look around the eyes, one generally only brought on when Crowley managed to break the laws of physics.
The real estate agent - prim, proper, hair slicked back into a neat bun, vaguely reminding them both of Michael which was a Thought that made Crowley shudder - was waiting, foot tapping on the sidewalk and lips pressed together. She shook their hands firmly without releasing her iron-grip on her clipboard.
This was it, he thought. This was the end. Once they settled on a cottage, it would be over - no more touching, no more dinners where they brushed knees under the table, no more strolling through SoHo with their arms linked at the elbow. Maybe, just maybe, Crowley thought, he’d be able to keep falling asleep with Aziraphale’s hand in his hair.
He thought he might never sleep again if he couldn’t.
“Mr. Fell, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” the real estate agent said to Aziraphale with absolutely no pleasure in her voice. She looked Crowley up and down once and barely hid the way her eyebrows rose in surprise. “And this is your husband?”
Crowley gave a tight smile, both eager to get this all over with and never wanting it to end. “Right here, thanks. Have a name. It’s Anthony J. Crowley, by the way,” he said, reluctantly releasing his grip on her hand before it became inhuman. He took Aziraphale’s hand instead and settled into the sensation.
“Right,” the agent said. She glanced between the two nervously now, settling on Aziraphale who at least was managing to smile despite the hauntedness in his eyes. “Mr. Fell, you’re looking pale. Would you like something to drink?”
“Oh, I’m quite fine, dear,” he said, blinking once, twice, and then - he really was. “Just needed a moment. Anthony drives a bit too fast for me, is all!”
It was like being doused in holy water. Crowley dropped his hand to his side.
The agent didn’t notice. Her mouth quirked to the side as if she was mildly entertained by them in the way one might be mildly entertained by a bug trying to climb its way to the top of a table. “My husband is a speed demon, too,” she said, not quite sympathetically. “Well then. Shall we review your criteria again?”
She flipped a page in her clipboard. Aziraphale took out that blasted notebook. Crowley considered lifting his shades and seeing if he could scare some humanity into her. He also considered finding a table somewhere to hide underneath.
“Yes, yes,” Aziraphale said. “We’re going to need an office space - I’m a small business owner -” Crowley snorted “- And a backyard, because Anthony is just a bit of a gardener.”
The real estate agent raised her eyebrows high this time. “Is he?”
“Still actually right here,” Crowley muttered, but he had lost his heat. His mind was elsewhere - back in London, back in Heaven, back in Hell.
Aziraphale patted his elbow. “You wanted somewhere with a lot of light, too, isn’t that right? For the indoor plants.”
Crowley sighed, leaned away from the touch, and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Yes, please. If possible.”
Aziraphale frowned. “Is everything all right?”
This whole marriage facade would be over soon - they’d move after Shavuot and resume their quiet cohabitation and maybe it would be less painful when they could be frank about the reality of their situation. He thought about the ketubah for the first time in months and felt a stab in his chest - a pain that only rivaled his Fall.
He’d looked at it just the once, but he’d liked seeing their true names beside one another - Ahan ben Beriyos v’ Ezraphael ben Olam - woven into branches, woven into their history. He hadn’t seen it since. Had it been destroyed? Would it be? Had Aziraphale hidden it away, never to be found again? How could he have been so stupid to let it out of his grasp when he had it all for just a moment? Too fast. He always went too damn fast.
Crowley was drawn from his thoughts, sweat dripping down the back of his neck, by the agent tapping her pen against her clipboard impatiently. He said something to Aziraphale, something placating - he didn’t know what anymore, wasn’t sure if it was even in English - and let Aziraphale draw him closer. Just a bit longer. He had to take what he could get.
The real estate agent was running down her list. “You say you’re looking for at least two bedrooms?”
“Yes,” Aziraphale said immediately. The bedrooms had been Aziraphale’s idea - separate rooms, of course, Crowley assumed, because that’s how they’d always lived. He only hoped the agent assumed the extra room was for a guest.
She looked skeptical. “Children?”
It was too much.
A brief note: This was the moment that Crowley cracked open, shattered like glass underneath a dress shoe, an end and a beginning all melded together, splitting into fragments that could slice through skin and thought and love and fear.
Crowley blanched. “ No ,” he choked out before Aziraphale could register the enormity of that suggestion, before Aziraphale could run, before he could run, and then he was breathing too hard for a demon who didn’t need oxygen, too hard for a human who did, too hard and too fast .
Aziraphale’s hands were on him again, rubbing small circles in the small of his back and he was absolutely going to discorporate if Aziraphale didn’t stop touching him , his wires were too crossed to make sense of anything and his skin was absolutely on fire and everything was too fast and -
“We have a godson,” Aziraphale said shortly. “If you could excuse us for a moment?”
And Crowley was being manhandled back toward the car with kind, firm guidance, settled into the backseat, door open and legs hanging out, and Aziraphale’s hands were cupping his face and -
“ Crowley, ” Aziraphale was saying again and again but it was all a blur. Crowley’s hands shook in his lap and he thought about how he’d never even taken advantage of the opportunity to buy a ring, to even temporarily bind himself to an angel.
A water bottle appeared from nowhere and was pressed to his lips. “Drink,” Aziraphale ordered, his angelic voice coming through in a rare moment, and Crowley thought for a moment that he was so lucky to get to hear it again. He tried to gulp at the water, desperate to cool his burning skin, but Aziraphale pulled it away.
“ Slowly , Anah, slowly, ” he murmured. “You’ll make yourself sick.”
“Okay,” Crowley croaked and was rewarded with a hand through his hair and the bottle in his hands. He sipped slowly, let the water slip down his throat, let the world settle back around him.
Aziraphale was kneeling on the ground beside him, his hand having migrated from Crowley’s hair to his knee, his thumb going in circles in the flesh of his thigh. “That’s better, isn’t it?” he said softly, taking the water bottle when it was empty.
Crowley nodded numbly.
Aziraphale looked at him for a moment, glanced back at the real estate agent, sighed. “Would you look at that?” he said under his breath. “I believe a room just opened up at the local inn. Perhaps this can wait for tomorrow.”
Crowley shook his head. “No, no, angel,” he tried to say, but it came out garbled.
Aziraphale laid a hand over his and he pulled himself to his feet. “Sit tight, dear, I’ll be back in a tic.”
Crowley barely had time to spiral back into his own mind before Aziraphale had returned, hand outstretched. Crowley took it, let himself be pulled to his feet.
“We’ve been rescheduled,” Aziraphale told him. “Let’s take a walk to the inn.”
Crowley followed feeling both vaguely guilty and vaguely relieved to have his hand in Aziraphale’s again, if only for a moment.
“You called me Anah,” Crowley realized as Aziraphale shut the door behind them. The inn was small and quaint, but the rooms were bright and light, white cotton sheets stretched over plush mattresses. He was tempted to throw himself upon it and never get up.
Or, he considered, rolling underneath and never showing his face again. That was also an option.
Aziraphale left his shoes by the door and took Crowley’s hand - again, he was breathless, but the good kind now, the kind that made him feel warm - and tugged him toward the edge of the mattress. “Of course I did,” he said simply as if it was as simple a fact as you like cocoa or you do everything in your power to avoid selling books. “Am I not allowed to call my husband by his name?”
A jolt. Crowley sighed. It seemed he would have to say it after all, even as the truth eviscerated him. “We’re not really husbands, though, are we?” he said quietly, not daring to sit down beside the angel, not daring to get comfortable. “We’re not actually married.”
“Well,” Aziraphale said, tilting his head to the side. “Not in the eyes of the British government, no, not yet. But when has that ever mattered us? We’re bound in the eyes of the Almighty. Seems married enough to use my husband’s given name,” he said with a shrug. “To be fair, all angels and demons are somehow bound to one another in the eyes of the Lord, but - well - this is different. We have a ketubah.”
Crowley rolled his eyes, resisted the urge to throw his hands in the air. “Angel! That ketubah - it wasn’t real! It was - we were drunk. And - hold on, what do you mean yet ?”
Aziraphale furrowed his brow. “What do you mean, it wasn’t real ?”
“Hallucination,” Crowley said, waving the word away before it was even fully formed. “Fever-dream. Imagination. Whatever you’d like to call it. What do you mean by not yet ?”
“Well, the ceremony is only a few weeks away, you know,” Aziraphale said dismissively, as if that was something Crowley should absolutely know about. “Why on Earth do you think our marriage contract is a figment of your imagination?”
Crowley let his sunglasses slip down his nose. “Ceremony?” he choked. “What ceremony? ”
“Our wedding ceremony, dearest,” Aziraphale said slowly. “After Shavuot. You agreed that would be a good plan.”
“Crowley?” Aziraphale made to stand, hand outstretched carefully, as if ready to talk him down again, but everything hit Crowley at once and he jerked away with the force of realization.
“I thought you were talking about moving! ” he shouted. A picture frame fell. The houseplant in the corner shrunk away as if its faraway siblings had warned it of the demon’s temper. “Are you honestly telling me you’ve been planning a bloody wedding for -” He spluttered. “How long have you been planning a bloody wedding?”
“Early October,” Aziraphale said.
“You’ve been planning a wedding for nearly six months - since October - since - that’s when we found the ketubah,” he murmured. “And you didn’t tell me? ”
Aziraphale, to his credit, was unperturbed. “I rather thought I had, dear. We agreed to keep it up.” He frowned. “Hold on a tic, you thought this was all about getting a house in South Downing? You can’t think I care that much about human appearances, Crowley.”
“So this,” Crowley gestured weakly between the two of them, “was all for… you?”
Aziraphale took Crowley’s hand between his own and pulled him closer, pulled him between his legs, his free hand resting softly on Crowley’s hip. “You stupid serpent,” Aziraphale said, smiling up at him with a silver glint in his eyes. “It was for us. Because you’re my husband.”
Crowley felt faint. “Oh,” he said. A thought occurred to him. “Where is our ketubah, then? I haven’t seen it since -”
Aziraphale turned red here. “Oh. Well, yes, that’s on me, I suppose. I should have known you’d want to see it when a bit less drunk. I had it sent away to be reframed. It’s home, wrapped up.” His ears turned pink and he dropped both hands to lean back on the bed. “I haven’t opened it yet. Meant for it to be done - well, at the ceremony.”
“The ceremony,” Crowley echoed again. “I - yes, yes , I would, angel, but -”
Crowley worked his jaw for a moment. “Isn’t it… rather fast?” he asked hesitantly and shut his eyes so he didn’t have to see Aziraphale’s face before his heart was broken. He did not often ask questions of Aziraphale.
He did not want to Fall again.
And then Aziraphale’s hands were on his and the angel’s lips - warm, a little chapped, but gentle, so unbearably gentle - were pressed to his knuckles, almost reverent, and Crowley felt his knees go weak. “My dear,” Aziraphale murmured with such intensity that Crowley felt compelled to open his eyes, to meet the angel’s gaze. “We couldn’t go slower if we stopped fucking time."
They would talk later. They would have to, because despite prior evidence suggesting otherwise, Aziraphale was a smart angel, and Crowley was a smart demon, and even they knew they needed to talk about what it meant to be in love with an eternal being, what it meant to be devoted to one another, what it meant to ask “love me?” and receive a resounding yes, please let me in response. They needed to talk about how they’d been fools and how they’d been saps and they needed to orchestrate dramatic proposals that would make the other blush (Aziraphale) or slither into a bush until the next morning (Crowley).
They needed to plan the reception - together, now, because Crowley had thought he’d been getting asked about the tablecloths for their cottage - and they needed to finalize the invitation list and they needed to decide where to seat Gabriel, who had shockingly responded that he’d be present, as far away from the small cohort of humans attending as possible. They needed to go back to the baffled real estate agent and select a new home, and they needed to fight over moving trucks and plants and books, and they needed to drink copious amounts of wine because no one ever said that immortal beings had good coping mechanisms for stress.
But at that moment - just a moment, really, a blip of time - they laughed until they cried, Crowley’s head buried in Aziraphale’s shoulder, their limbs tangled as they fell back into the too-soft mattress and the cheap sheets, laughed until their words twisted together to become one.
It started like this:
An angel and a demon on opposite sides of an aisle, a chuppah raised between them, both walking toward one another and neither waiting.
Poetically, we could say it was because neither wanted to wait any longer. Realistically, it was because the Antichrist told them that if they didn’t stop arguing over it, he’d give the Apocalypse another shot and they’d never get their honeymoon.
Hands clasped, eyes met. Words hanging between them, waiting to be uttered aloud, balancing carefully on the tightrope they had carefully cultivated and strengthened and widened so that arms could rest when they needed.
You might say it started like this:
A press of warm lips that had been waiting centuries to meet, cheeks flushed and palms flat against them, the cool imprint of newly fitted wedding rings on hot faces, foreheads tilted toward one another in giddiness. The smash of a glass beneath their feet and a howl of pain when toes overlapped and a cheer from the witch in the front row who had, possibly immorally, made bets on it.
It also, however, started like this:
“Love me?” a demon whispered after the laughter subsided and evening had filtered in through the curtains.
“Let me?” the angel whispered back.
They both said yes.