There was, at the beginning of all things, a garden. There are gardens still, some six thousand years later, a great many of them the world over: some new and some ancient, as yet unwithered despite the passing of time. So much has changed since the beginning, with precious few things remaining constant.
Perhaps, Aziraphale thinks, this is why he has always felt at home in green spaces, Crowley too. Why even now that they have their own little picket-fenced Eden with its climbing honeysuckle and fragrant lavender they have a tendency to fill the cottage indoors as well as out with plants of all shapes and sizes, a veritable abundance of greenery in every room.
The florists in the nearby village never fails to tempt Aziraphale inside should he go for a stroll and happen to pass by, the little shop brimming with trailing leaves and colourful, sweet-scented blooms. Today is no exception, and he returns to the cottage with a generous armful of pink and white roses and a head full of thoughts. There’s a little round dining table in the centre of the kitchen, and Aziraphale gives the bouquet pride of place there; arranges it carefully in a glass vase, stem by thorn-starred stem, and takes a seat alongside it once satisfied with the arrangement. Crowley finds him like that some time later, still contemplating the roses in thoughtful silence.
“All right?” Crowley asks. He pulls out the opposite chair, folding himself down onto it in a lazy tangle of limbs. “Didn’t realise you were back yet. Nice flowers.”
“Mm? Yes, quite,” Aziraphale says. “The nice lady in the shop asked me if they were for a special occasion. I said they were just for us, and she said, ‘oh, your anniversary is it?’, and it occurred to me then that we don’t really have one, do we? An anniversary as such.”
He can’t recall the exact date they moved in together, nor any other milestone one could reasonably start celebrating. When one’s existence has spanned six millennia and more, it’s a tricky enough business remembering what year it is much of the time. They began referring to one another as ‘husband’ simply because everyone assumed they were regardless and it seemed fitting; a few months later spotted two darling gold bands in a quaint little jeweller’s window, put them on and never quite got around to organising a party to go along with it.
“Is this your way of saying you want a proper wedding just so we can put a date on things and celebrate every year?” Crowley asks him, evidently amused. “It’s fine with me, angel. Pick any day you like.”
“No, dear,” Aziraphale says, hopelessly fond. “That’s not what I meant, but it’s very kind of you to suggest it.” They’ll get to it at some point, he imagines. It’s not as if there’s any rush.
Crowley shrugs, unbothered. A creamy-pink petal flutters down onto the table and he picks it up. Rubs it absent-mindedly between finger and thumb, a burst of rose-oil scent in the air.
He’ll make them a batch of rose lemonade, Aziraphale decides — a pan full of petals, simmered and strained. A squeeze of fresh lemon and plenty of sugar, muddled in sparkling water. He’ll pour it over ice, two glasses, and they’ll sit outside on the old wood-carved bench overlooking the lawn and watch the sunset together. Tomorrow, perhaps, or the day after. When he gets to it.
“We’ll just say it’s our anniversary whenever,” Crowley offers, sprinkling bits of rose petal over the table like tiny flecks of confetti. “We’ll celebrate today, if you want. And again when we next feel like it.”
Aziraphale gives him a doubtful look. “I’m not entirely certain it’s supposed to work that way, Crowley.”
“When have we ever done things the way we’re supposed to?” Crowley says in hushed tones, leaning in conspiratorially.
He does make a compelling argument, Aziraphale concedes with a smile.
“Quite right,” Aziraphale says. “Today it is, then. We’ve left it rather late to get presents for one another, though, which is a bit of a bother. Not to worry — we could take a little trip somewhere, if you fancy. Or stay right here and enjoy the day together. I’m sure we can think of something special to do.”
Crowley folds his arms over his chest and rocks his chair back on two legs at a rather alarming angle as he mulls it over.
“There might be something I’ve always wanted to have a go at,” he says eventually, carefully nonchalant. Hesitant but clearly keen about it. “With you. If you’re up for it.”
“Oh?” Aziraphale says curiously, perking up.
“Not that sort of ‘have a go at’, you insatiable tart,” Crowley laughs, reading him all too easily. “S’more along the lines of the taking a trip idea. Sort of.”
Aziraphale tuts, discreetly rolling his eyes and tamping down a smile. Well, what is he supposed to think when Crowley gets all eager and enigmatic and phrases things with vaguely suggestive undertones? Smiling like that, wearing trousers like those. Honestly.
“A trip out sounds lovely,” Aziraphale says primly. “At no point did I think you were suggesting otherwise.” Crowley’s answering expression suggests that this lie has not, unfortunately, been bought. “We could go now, if you like,” Aziraphale adds, suddenly quite keen to see what Crowley has in store for them both. “I suppose I’ll find out where we’re going when we get there. It’ll be a surprise — how exciting!”
Crowley stands up decisively, flashing a grin and extending a hand out to Aziraphale. He draws him in to stand before him, his hands a warm anchor at Aziraphale’s hips. Holds him close and leans in to gently bring their foreheads together.
“Do you trust me, angel?”
“What sort of a silly question is that?” Aziraphale says. “Of course I — oh, goodness.”
It feels like flying and falling all at once. And then — they land.
They are in a garden. More specifically, in the garden, apple tree and all: it stands just a few short strides away, blossom carpeting the grass beneath its fruit-laden boughs.
Still a bit dizzy from their journey, Aziraphale looks down at himself; sees his old white robes, or some close approximation thereof, just as he wore when the earth was quite new. His wings feel blessedly free like this, out in the open air. Crowley too looks exactly as he did the first time they met, and for a moment Aziraphale can only blink at him in awe.
“You altered the fabric of the space-time continuum?” Aziraphale says, quite astonished as he takes in the breathtaking expanse of the garden all around them. “For me? Oh, darling, you really shouldn’t have.”
Crowley shrugs. Makes an evasive sort of a noise. “It was nothing, really. Thought it’d be nice.”
“Nonsense,” Aziraphale says. “It’s not nothing at all, it’s absolutely lovely. Frightfully clever of you, actually.”
He’d always wondered if such a thing were possible: parting time like pulling stitches from cloth and tumbling back into a little pocket of one’s own making. Unseen, unable to change anything even if they’d wanted to. Merely existing, for a stretch, in those old familiar surroundings.
In all his years he’d never once dared attempt the necessary miracles himself. Had no real need to do so and wasn’t entirely certain he could manage it if he tried. Crowley, though — Crowley can do so many things. Aziraphale can’t think of a more perfect gift than this: the two of them side by side, in surroundings as enchanting as these, revisiting where their story began.
Grass feels much the same underfoot as it always has done, then and in all the years since, even if the soft, springy sward they stand upon now is so new it’s never once known rain. Aziraphale had forgotten the sheer scale and beauty of the waterfalls; forgotten too that the air was once so perfectly pure. He inhales until his chest aches, letting the clean air and sunlight soak into the very feathers and bones of him where he stands.
Content, he turns to Crowley again. Looks at him, really looks at him, to see him as he was then. The wave of nostalgia he feels is a lovely, aching thing.
“Your hair was so long,” Aziraphale says softly. “When we first met, I mean. Wasn’t it?” He brings one hand up to run his fingers through it, teasing out the curls.
Crowley says nothing; merely smiles, warmth in the candle-flame colour of his eyes. For all that in many ways the Crowley he met back then is much the same as the one Aziraphale knows now, in looks he’s always been an ever-changing face: the fundamentals of him enduring, the foundations of who he is anchored as he shifts everything else around them to suit his tastes. His hair, his clothing, the little accessories and trinkets and jewellery he acquires and slips into until he gets bored and swaps them for something else.
He’s never once gotten bored of Aziraphale, who much of the time finds comfort in the familiar and clings to much-loved things for centuries or more with little desire to change them. Aziraphale isn’t sure what that means, really. Isn’t sure it matters, in truth, and is quite content with that.
“Will you take a turn around the garden with me, my dear?” Aziraphale asks, offering his elbow in invitation.
“Love to,” Crowley agrees easily, looping his arm through Aziraphale’s. He lets Aziraphale take the lead, falling into step alongside him as they take a winding path here and there, exploring wherever they feel most drawn to.
There are so many different plants and flowers here Aziraphale couldn’t begin to put a name to most of them. Crowley points out some of his favourites as they go; he always was the better gardener, knowing far more about these things than Aziraphale ever has. Some of the flora here Aziraphale hasn’t seen in millennia. A number of them extinct, he shouldn’t wonder. Others tucked away in far-flung corners of the earth he’s yet to navigate.
Many of them bear fruit in abundance, and Aziraphale can’t resist sampling a few plump, well-ripened berries as they walk, more instantly springing back in their place to replace what was taken. Crowley joins him gladly, taking Aziraphale’s recommendations on the sweetest and most delicious things to try. They give the apple tree a wide berth. It seems a little on the nose, Aziraphale thinks, to pluck from that particular source.
Sometime later, their circuitous path finds them back where they started. Crowley wordlessly unlinks their arms to take Aziraphale by the hand instead, tugging him in gently to stand beneath the dappled shade of a cherry tree.
“So — what are you in the mood for now?” Crowley murmurs, running his thumb over Aziraphale’s knuckles. There’s an inviting gleam in his eye as he lounges against the tree’s sturdy trunk, his wings a sleek, soft-down cushion at his back.
“I want to thank you,” Aziraphale smiles, stepping closer. He untangles their fingers; strokes his hands down over Crowley’s waist to linger on his hips. “For being kind enough to bring me here. I really am very grateful.”
“Aziraphale,” says Crowley, feigning scandal. “Are you trying to tempt me, here of all places?”
“You are the only temptation here,” Aziraphale says, cupping Crowley’s jaw and drawing a thumb admiringly along his cheekbone. “You know, the first time you spoke to me up on the Eastern Gate, I hadn't met many demons then. I assumed most of them must look like you. Can you imagine? Jolly clever of downstairs, I thought, to make demons so enticing you can hardly bring yourself to look away, but — it’s just you, isn't it?”
Crowley, looking a bit stricken under the weight of too many compliments, hurriedly pulls him in to fit their mouths together. As far as diversion tactics go, it’s a rather lovely one. He tastes of the berries they’ve eaten, scrumptious and sweet, and Aziraphale drinks him in keenly; feels as if he can’t get close enough, even like this, greedy for more.
“What do you want?” Crowley asks, his hand warm at the back of Aziraphale’s neck. “Anything. Say the word and it’s yours.”
“I’m supposed to be asking you the very same,” Aziraphale reminds him. “I am trying to thank you, after all.”
“Whatever you like,” Crowley breathes, well-practiced in asking for what he wants in his own roundabout, Crowley-specific way that’s less a request and more a vague suggestion he can pass off as Aziraphale’s own idea. The way he hooks one leg over Aziraphale’s hip, letting Aziraphale’s weight settle bluntly between his parted thighs, is so brazen an invitation that Aziraphale couldn’t possibly misconstrue it.
“In that case,” Aziraphale says, stroking along Crowley’s thigh and pressing a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “I’d have you right here, darling, if you’re amenable. I’d very much like to be inside you, and I’d rather not wait.”
“Definitely amenable,” Crowley agrees, his pupils big and dark and his breathing undeniably ragged as Aziraphale deftly unfastens the layered front of his own clothing and gathers Crowley’s dark robes higher still up his bare thighs. “Very amenable, me.”
With a murmur of a thought Aziraphale’s fingers are slick. It doesn’t take much to get Crowley ready for him, and then he’s finally sinking inside him until he has nothing left to give.
“I want,” Aziraphale says — and oh, he does, an all-encompassing pulse of desire as he draws back gradually then presses forth in a slow, inexorable slide home — “to take our time.”
He’s so focused on Crowley, the universe narrowed to every warm place their bodies align as they move together, that he doesn’t notice the gathering clouds. The flash of lightning and rumble of thunder finally catches their attention, just as the first few drops of rain begin to slip through the canopy of leaves above them.
“Did you know?” Aziraphale asks him, wide-eyed with wonder. “You took us back to our very first meeting. We’re up there right now, aren’t we?”
“I’d hoped,” Crowley says, justly pleased. There’s a gorgeous flush of arousal creeping down his throat Aziraphale wants to follow with his tongue. Wants to feel the searing heat of it against his mouth. “Wasn’t sure I’d got my timings right.”
“Gosh, you’re ever so clever,” Aziraphale assures him breathlessly. “Quite remarkable.”
Gripping at Crowley’s thigh where it’s hitched up around his hip, he pushes up inside him with an accuracy that makes Crowley’s eyelashes flutter, his head falling back with a hiss of a breath through his teeth.
Aziraphale shields him not with a wing this time but with his body, bearing him up against the tree with not a speck of space between them. They’re both quickly soaked through regardless, clothes clinging and the rain relentless, but Crowley doesn’t appear to mind. Aziraphale presses his mouth to Crowley’s neck; licks water from his skin and breathes in the scent of him along with pollen and petrichor.
His heart aches sometimes to imagine what could have been had Crowley not fallen. If they’d been angels both, all this time, no sides. There’s every chance though that they’d never have arrived at where they are now; never dared under heaven’s watch. Perhaps they wouldn't fit half so well, complement one another as perfectly as they do. Better not to dwell on it.
Aziraphale sees to him at a meticulous pace until Crowley is shivery and flushed and looks quite as desperate as Aziraphale feels. It takes little effort at all to bring him shuddering over the edge, and Aziraphale quickly follows; draws Crowley’s other leg up, both wrapped tightly around his waist as he drives into him a final time, Crowley breathing encouragement against his ear which has no right being as tender and as wonderfully, knee-tremblingly good as it is.
Afterwards, in no hurry to untangle themselves from one another, Aziraphale simply looks at him; feels content in himself and content in Crowley’s own satisfaction and so happy it’s as if he could burst. Perhaps this body wasn’t made for so much joy, he thinks. There’s just so much of it to contain and they are, in the grand scheme of things, ever so small.
“I'd like to stay right here for a while,” Aziraphale says, brushing his lips against Crowley’s and remaining there unmoving, breathing against one another. The rain is easing off, he realises distantly. Soon to stop altogether.
“Inside me? Not very practical,” Crowley murmurs, running his fingers through Aziraphale’s rain-soaked curls.
“Here in the garden, I meant, as you very well know,” Aziraphale says, amused. “Though inside you is rather a lovely place to be, I must admit.”
“Sun’s coming out,” Crowley points out, casting his eyes momentarily heavenwards.
“Ah. Well then,” Aziraphale says. “What do you say we go out and enjoy it? Just you and I.”
There’s a lovely, sun-soaked patch of grass not far from their tree which Aziraphale dries off with a quick miracle. Crowley cleans them both up, drying them off with a mere snap of his fingers, and promptly finds the most comfortable spot to lie down on his back, closing his eyes and basking in the warmth with serpentine gladness.
Aziraphale kneels beside him and adds little plaits to Crowley’s fanned hair, plucking daisies from the grass to adorn each braid. They’re probably a bit clumsy for lack of practice, but he doubts Crowley will mind.
“Balloons, you said,” Aziraphale muses, breaking a lengthy but comfortable silence to voice his meandering train of thought aloud.
“You came up to me after the whole temptation with the apple business and you said ‘that went down like a lead balloon’. What were you talking about, my dear? Balloons hadn’t even been invented yet. Humans had only just been invented. I hadn’t the faintest notion what you were going on about, you know.”
He’d been quite perplexed by the whole thing at the time, though he’d nodded along, of course. Just to be polite.
“Ohh,” Crowley says. “Yeah, one of ours, balloons. Well, one of mine. I invented them. Had to wait a few thousand years. Bit early for them back then and I forgot for a bit, but — yeah.”
One of the most extraordinary things about Crowley is this: after six thousand years, he still manages to surprise Aziraphale with astounding frequency.
“Don’t seem very demonic, do they? Balloons?” Aziraphale says, chuckling to himself as he slips another daisy into place, carefully weaving Crowley’s hair around the stem.
“Noisy, wasteful, send small children into a hyperactive frenzy? Course they are.”
Put like that, it does make an awful lot of sense.
“I like balloons,” Aziraphale sighs wistfully.
“Somehow I’m not surprised in the slightest,” Crowley says, eyes bright with good humour. “We should probably head home soon, angel,” he adds gently. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Aziraphale loves it here and yet — if he never sees this place again — that’s just fine, too. Finishing his final braid, he leans over him, pressing their lips together in an upside-down kiss before helping Crowley to his feet. Brushes grass and daisy petals from his robes before pressing close so Crowley can take them back to the cottage.
“I trust you,” Aziraphale says firmly, without prompting, just to see the honest, joyful surprise flit across Crowley’s expression as if even now, after everything, he still can’t quite believe Aziraphale could say such a thing.
“Good,” Crowley says at last. “Right. Hold on tight, then.”
They stumble back into their present-day hallway looking much their usual selves, though on closer inspection Crowley looks rather more tired than he did before they set off.
“Are you quite all right?” Aziraphale says. “You look a bit peaky, dearest. I do hope our little adventure didn’t take too much out of you.”
“M’fine,” Crowley waves him off. “Just need a rest, is all. No need to fuss.”
Aziraphale guides him towards the kitchen where Crowley sinks down into one of the chairs, looking utterly exhausted but nevertheless content.
“That’s it, you just take a seat right there,” Aziraphale says cheerfully, “and I’ll pop the kettle on. A nice cup of tea for us both will be just the ticket, don’t you think?”
He’s so occupied with fussing-but-pretending-not-to-fuss-over Crowley that it takes Aziraphale a moment to even notice that anything’s changed since they left the kitchen earlier. Three colourful, sparkling balloons tied to one of the dining chairs, each stating in a swirling font: Happy Anniversary.
Quite speechless, Aziraphale walks around the table to touch one with his finger, mesmerised; watches it bob happily back and forth on the end of the silver ribbon it’s attached to. His face crumples into a smile.
“Oh,” Aziraphale says softly, turning to Crowley. “I — just — goodness. The most charming, really rather splendid, most lovely — ”
“They’re only balloons, angel.”
“I am talking about you, dearest,” Aziraphale tells him, brimming with affection. “You romantic old fool, you.”
Tipping his head back, Crowley laughs, gentle and fond-sounding as the summer sunshine through the window catches his hair in a vibrant blaze of colour. The creases carved at the corners of his eyes when he smiles are the most devastatingly beautiful things Aziraphale has ever seen.
Aziraphale takes to his favourite seat in the house — that is to say, the inviting sprawl of Crowley’s lap — and Crowley meets him halfway when Aziraphale touches reverent fingertips to his throat, tipping his chin to bring their mouths together. Falls blessedly quiet so that Aziraphale might kiss him as he deserves to be kissed: thoroughly, deeply, wholeheartedly. As if they could do so for an eternity.